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Monday, July 19, 2010

Thanks Lopa!

Lopa from 'Life as it goes on...' had passed on an award to me about a month and half back and the lazy girl (kicking myself here) saw it now..:). Thanks thanks and many many thanks..:)
I will pick the first award: "How ya goin?"

Answering the questions to this award:

1. Why you made your blog and did you expect it to be popular?

Well, just like anyone I created my first blog to vent. The first one was a private blog which if anyone happens to see, would think I am a psychopath who hates the world! :D

This current blog I started because I always had a thing for writing. I had started the blog more for fun while living in Canada but took it up more seriously after coming to the Netherlands as I had so much new to see and digest.

Blogging is such a great way to express! I never expected anybody to read it but for a few friends and family members whom I bugged to read (it still mostly remains the same I guess)! But I must admit that as much joy and motivation it gives, it does make me conscious when I know that there are people who actually read my blog. I try to do a decent job and not crap around too much! :D

2. Exact date of the start of the blog

April 21st 2008! Wow I din't realize it has been over 2 years! :)

Thanks a lot again Lopa! :) Made my day!

The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga

One other book I purchased at Dubai Airport was The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. It is a co-incidence that out of the 3 books I purchased, 2 had tigers on their cover and 1 had a dog..:). This one though has nothing to do with an actual tiger as such.

Winner of 2008 Man booker Prize, The White Tiger in the story is Balram Halwai a school drop out who wants to make something out of his life. The story's narration is so absolutely straight forward and honest about the way parts of India is today that I sometimes hope the author is exaggerating - simply Brutal! Balram Halwai or Munna is a smart kid, but as in all cruel stories, he is forced to drop out of school and get into the work force to help his family survive.

As he just slightly climbs the ladder in life, he realizes how years of servitude towards rich landlords makes slavery still seem almost honorable and natural to him. Working as a car driver to his masters in Delhi, the stark difference between life in his village and the country capital jumps right out at him. But the irony is not lost on him as his life style is still at the same level - that of a lowly servant.

Desperation forces this village simpleton to do the unimaginable. Worse still he changes into one of the Them and regrets nothing.

An eye opener in some sense. A scary image of India I must say!

Life of Pi - Yann Martel

I purchased a few books on impulse at the Dubai Airport while traveling to India. One of them was Life of Pi by Yann Martel, the winner of the 2002 Man Booker Prize.

This is one of the books that I had seen so often in book stores that I decided that the book must be worth the money. It is sort of hard to classify the book into a specific category. In wide terms the story is on adventure, religion, zoology, zoo keeping, India and small extents of Canada. :) Yes it is that diverse! In small ways I am even reminded of a Paul Coelho's way of writing.

The story begins with Pi Patel an Indian teenager born in a liberal minded family, who strangely though is ardently religious. Not just on Hinduism but also on Islam and Christianity. Pi lives in a zoo owned by his father in Pondicherry. While his parents struggle to cope with Pi's strange belief's, situations force them to migrate to Canada. As the whole family crosses the Pacific on a cargo ship along with their zoo animals, the ship sinks. All that remains in a life boat are Pi, a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and Richard Parker - a 450pound Bengal tiger.

The rest of the story is about how Pi beats the odds and survives his cast away life for 227 days! The final version of his story though is heart wrenching.

Life of Pi made quite some impression on me. I even had tigers in my dream for a couple of nights :). I can actually re-read this book. Good one!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

South Indian Eatout in Eindhoven

Sri Ganesh

The "News"spread like wild fire. Within a week most of the Indian population came to know of a new Indian restaurant in the city. The only other one in the city "Touch of India" is a touch too expensive for most of the student folk. So we had given up on eating any Indian food outside. Well, things have changed now. I went there 3 times last week :D.

On a Friday about 10 of us made a reservation and as I went in, I realized I knew most of the people inside. The place is run by a Sri Lankan family. The service was completely messy and the staff were totally caught off-guard by the jam packed crowd that bombarded the place. With constant chatter, babies crying and a Tamil, "mrudhangam" (drum beat) playing in the background, it felt close to home. We waited for 2 hours for the all of us to be served! But ah! it was their first week so we decided to give them few more chances.

Check out their funny way of spelling some of the Indian dishes. We had such a laugh :)
The food is very very nominally prized and tastes pretty good for that money. Imagine, Masala Dosa is 4.5 euro!! Within 10 euro you can have a grand meal! The place is open from Tuesday to Sunday 11am to 11pm. If you are in Eindhoven, a must visit at Kruisstraat 92a.

P.S - No, they did not pay me to do the advertisement..:)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

To my incredibly amazing mom with her ocean of patience and love, to my sis, who seems to be creating new oceans for my nephews ;) and to all the mothers in the world, a bouquet, is not enough, so I dedicate a field of flowers to you!

The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Here and there...

I just got my ass kicked! Literally! I lost 6/7 games in badminton and that too with my office colleagues. :( My friends who play better than me have let me down rather gently I think...Today I just kept looking right and left whilst the birdie just kept zipping past me. Several times it landed on my face. Anybody watching me would have had a good laugh. :D

On a side note, we had a Dutch swimmer, Olympic gold medalist Marleen Veldhuis working in our office for 3-4 months as an intern and we had no clue, until after she left! Talk about dumbness, but this time, actually none of us knew. I could have taken a picture with her...

Work and travel have been keeping me occupied...but I would be lying if I said I had no time to blog! Just need to manage my time better.

How do I motivate myself to keep fit? Any suggestions on time management books?I could certainly use one now. :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Keukenhof - the blossoming paradise (almost)

Since I have been in the Netherlands, a lot of people have asked me if I have visited the tulip gardens. Last year somehow I missed out, so this year I wanted badly to visit this place. A couple of weekends before two of my college friends from India had visited me. Meeting them after several years this trip was very special to me. I was not exactly sure if it was the right time to visit Keukenhof yet (1st week of April), but being among the only 5 people traveling in the bus from Schipol to Keukenhof, it didn't take long to figure out that we were rather off.

But here is the funny thing with trips. You can be travelling on a cloudy/rainy/moody weather which decides to get sunny while on your bus trip back home, with barely few flowers in a garden which is supposed to be world famous for the same, and still have a great time. I hadn't laughed so hard and so much in a loong time. :) Catching up with old silly stories from the past and pulling each other's legs was absolutely great.

Pictures of the few flowers that got lucky to see me ;) -

The gardens are open 8:00 - 19:30 everyday from 18th March to 16th May. The entrance tickets are 14 euro and do take the bike ride around the fields. Totally worth when you will visit the place at the right time (which is now!). Visit the website for more information.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bruges in a day

Bruges is one of the most favorite west European tourist spots with a medieval outlook. So keeping that in mind, after traveling for over 4 hours by train, we were quite surprised to find the place so serene and barely crowded. A perfect spot for a weekend and bit of a stretch for a day trip (which is what we did). What is great about the place is that once you reach the city center, you can see quite a bit without walking to the extreme ends of the city.

We began with the Onze Lieve Vrowekerk (there seems to be one in every major city in Europe!), which has one of Michaelangelo's pieces - >Madonna and Child.

Before the weather got fussy, we got into a Canal cruise, my very first after coming to Europe. It is indeed a relaxing way to see things.

At the absolute center of the city is the Markt, a large square flanked with huge monuments on all sides.

Around the Markt area lies several important places. Belfort, a world heritage site is a 366 steps, squeezy climb up a tower. The view from the top is worth the effort. Just around the corner are also Gotische Zaal, a hall with carvings and murals depicting the city's history and Brugse Vrije, containing an immense chimney piece.

We next visited the Heilig-Bloedbasiliek (Basilica of the Holy Blood), getting its name from a relic containing Christ's blood.

We took a break at the highly recommended Craenenburg Cafe for cappuccino and waffles. A much deserved break! At last we visited a chocolate museum Choco Story. I just sat down watching a demo of how to make chocolates mostly! :D

Oh and did I mention plenty and plenty of chocolate stores, all over the place! Simply the best I have had so far!

For the rest of the evening we sat down at a corner, watched the people buzz by and relaxed! We wanted to somehow get to this highly recommended restaurant for dinner and got lost a bit. After going a complete circle, it turned out the place was just behind the corner bench we were sitting on :). And as we happily set two steps into the place, the waitress came to us to tell us that the place was fully booked! We walked back to the station and on the way spotted a Thai restaurant. The food in the end turned out to be just fine.

I slept most of the way back home. Even with 8 hours of travel, I had a grand time.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown

One of the books my father urged me to read. You will like it if you are the 'Da Vinci Code' reading sort of person. Robert Langdon ( the same geeky guy from Da Vinci code) takes us on an incredible adventure again, this time across Washington DC. I would have never known so much history existed in the capital of United States of America.

Dan Brown talks about Freemasonry and Neotic Science in detail. The crux of the book is to understand spirituality in a scientific manner. Okie, I already see people giving the raised eyebrow look. :) Thankfully he delivers very well in a fast paced, nail biting story line.

Fast read!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Carnaval in Maastricht

With snow falling almost the entire day we braved our way to Maastricht on Sunday to watch the Carnival parade. We saw 0 people dressed up as we marched our way to the Eindhoven station. I almost thought perhaps they had canceled the whole thing. Getting into the train leaving to Maastricht, we were all slightly relieved that our 'costume efforts' had not been a complete waste.

The entire train load that got off in Maastricht was probably walking towards the parade. I actually spotted some other friends and colleagues from Eindhoven. The whole city was in such festive mood. What I truly love about the carnival is that its not a festival for a category of people. Young and old, everybody is on the streets celebrating wearing some crazy costume. A lot of people do take it rather seriously and the dressing is elaborate. The city looked like an animation movie with all characters ever created running wild!

We were extremely cold in a few hour's time. As the snow fell continuously, my feet and hands went numb. The parade showed no signs of stopping so we decided to move on.

Interestingly, the names of the cities are changed for 3 days before the Ash Wednesday. The name given to Eindhoven is Lampegat which means a Lamp hole from Philips' association with Eindhoven. I found it rather funny actually to name a city Lamphole...:)

Picture Courtesy - Vinaya Sekar, Abhinav Rohit

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dutchiness part 2: Carnival

Vastenavond or Carnival is almost on us. It is hard to believe that it has been over a year since I lived in the Netherlands, for it was among my first posts on my life here (link). Carnival is a celebration of indulgence and merriment before the fasting period begins. Seven weeks before Easter, the weekend before the Ash Wednesday, begin the festivities or rather the craziness. The name Carnival is derived from 'Carne' or meat which the Christians give up during the fasting period. In the Netherlands, Carnival is celebrated mostly in the Catholic prominent southern provinces - Noord Brabant and Limburg.

Okie, enough with the history of it, the Carnival as I understand is about getting as crazy as possible. On Sunday, the mayor of the city passes the keys of the city to the fake Prince or the jester in charge of the hullabaloo. From Sunday to Tuesday is the parade consisting of really fancy and weird large shaped floats, people dressed in the strangest of costumes (everybody is dressed up, if you don't then you must be a foreigner for sure!), the thumping oomph- oomph music and humongous amounts of beer everywhere on the streets. The all but deserted places in the bitter winter become suddenly warm and crowded over the weekend. A one week holiday for the students, a lot of the university crowd goes 'bar trekking'as they call it, skipping from one bar to another all night.

Breda, Maastricht and 's Hertogenbosch have the most elaborate celebrations. Last year I went to the one in Eindhoven. A large group of us are planning to go to Maastricht tomorrow to catch in on this year's parade. A much needed change to the cold weather here. More pictures and details later. :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

And I love Chennai...

I just cannot continue with my other posts without completing my India series..

Home is where the heart is and no matter where it is and how it is, there is something that draws you towards home. Well, these are a few of my favorite things...

1. Filter coffee: I know how picky everybody is about coffee, but I have almost quit coffee since I left Chennai. It has to be this good else no thank you! :) Served traditionally in a steel 'tumbler' and a 'dabara' bottom.

2. Tender coconut: You get this about everywhere in south India. The refreshing sweet water in a tender coconut makes it a health and useful drink in summer (which is what Chennai weather consists of all year! :))

3. Food: A traditional meal on the banana leaf to its modern version on plate, I love them all. This could be a typical lunch or dinner. Our breakfast is only slightly less complicated!

4. Mehendi: Ok I cheated, this is typically not from Chennai, but I still get the henna tattoo done every time I am there. I did this design on a friend's palm.

5. Knick- knack shopping: The perfect place to shop those tiny things you always wanted but could never find. Ah! the joy of shopping on small alleys and the art of bargaining (or the lack there of :)).

6. Movies: There are more movies released in India per year than in the rest of the world. Oh no! I am not even trying to compare their qualities, but we Indians loove to watch movies. Chennai has several multiplexes and theaters for such crazy people. I watched this amazing movie called "3-Idiots" this time with 9 of my family members.

7. Marina beach: One of the best places to hang out in Chennai for free. Preferably in the mornings, to watch the glorious sun rise before the city awakes. This place has just so many memories.

8. Nature: The Vedanthangal bird sanctuary is a much needed breather. About two hours from our home you reach this wonderful gift of nature where birds from all over the world migrate to, during the winter.

9. Silk sarees: These drape around piece of cloth is among the most prestigious possessions of a women. The grand onces are worn for special occasions, but simple ones are worn everyday. You must try wearing one! They are one of the most elegant pieces of garment for a women.


10. More elephants: I just love them..:)

Picture Courtesy:

Bandipur to Mysore

Continuing on my vacation in India, from the serene Bandipur forest lodge, we moved on to Mysore for 3 days. We visited sooo many places in this wonderful city that I am just going to pick the pictures that I loved the best from every place.

Nanjundeshwar temple

Brindavan Gardens

Chamundeshwari temple

Nandi: the bull

The Mysore zoo: two of my favorite animals :)

Mysore Palace: one of the most famous tourist spots

St Philomena's Church

Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary

Tipu Sultan, one of south India's famous and powerful emperors; his summer palace

Gumbaz, the tomb of Tipu Sultan

Sangama - meeting of 3 rivers: Kapila, Kabini & Kaveri

The city had such variety to offer in terms of food, places to visit, shopping, and what is best is that the cost of living here is much lesser than the metropolitan cities. Mysore, a good trip.
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