Mar 29, 2005

Break from routine........

Don't you need a break if you work continuously for 6 months? I definitely need one but I cannot afford the luxury of taking a week off since my accumulated leave is very less because of the 3 week off for my wedding in August 2004. Good Friday was definitely a "good friday" for me. We (My hubby Karthik , my appa and my brother, Sudha and ofcourse me !!!) planned to take a trip to Kerala over the three day weekend. Kerala has been one of my favourite holiday destinations from my childhood. I was pretty excited about the trip. Karthik and I boarded the Kanyakumari Express from Bangalore on March 24th. Appa and Sudha took a train from Chennai.

We(Karthik and I) couldn't sleep well in the train as there were lot of disturbances around, people swarming the ticket collector to get a seat for their waitlisted tickets. Somehow we managed to get some sleep. We woke up around 7.45 am to find ourselves in God's own country. A coffee vendor greeted us with some kaapi. Sipping coffee while watching the welcoming coconut groves and banana trees is a wonderful feeling.We reached Ernakulam town at 10 am. Appa and Sudha were waiting for us. We took an auto and reached a hotel to stay. It was a good place to stay for a day. When you visit a place, you just spend the night in the hotel and spend the rest of the day going to different places. Why a huge amount be spent on an expensive hotel ?

KTDC (Kerala Tourism Development Center) organizes a nice 3 hr boat trip in Cochin which takes to different islands. Unfortunately, this trip was cancelled due to Good Friday. Quickly, we grabbed some breakfast and went to KTDC . The narrow canals trip was fully booked as well. We had to change our plans for the day and booked the tickets in advance for the next day. Sudha wanted to just get back to the hotel and watch India - Pak test match. But I insisted to go to Allepey. As always, my words stood out and we took a bus to Allepey. We reached around 2.45 pm. Time for lunch. We searched for a good restaurant and landed up in a place called "Cafe Venice". Attractive name, though !!. We sat in a place besides the back waters and ordered for some fried rice. Half an hour, we waited patiently. Appa got very irritated, wasting so much time. I commented that the cook has gone to buy vegetables. I was admiring a small beautiful boat and wanted to take a ride on it.

I'm a very responsible person by nature (Can I say so??). I hate people who drop their garbage right in the middle of the road or spit and paint the walls red. I get really furious if people drop papers and plastic cups in water bodies. Sudha took the bus tickets from his pocket and wanted to throw in the back waters. I advised him that he shouldn't pollute the earth. A heated argument was going on between us while my father tore the tickets and put them in the waters. Karthik burst into laughters watching the scene. I didn't speak anything after that incident.

While all this is happening, we heard the whistling of the pressure cooker. Wow....We rejoiced, Our food is going to be delivered soon. We didn't realize the disappointment that was waiting for us. The food was pathetic with half cooked vegetables and tomato sauce stuck to the end of the bottle. Karthik had to put in so much of effort to pour a few drops of the sauce. Sudha ordered for fruit salad and he got a cup full of dried fruits and lots of jam. I asked him to check for the expiry date and then taste it. All of us had icecreams and the delivery was pretty quick. We admitted that it would have been better to just have icecreams in that place than to try that non palatable fried rice.

I believe that whatever happens in life happens for a purpose. Am I sounding too philosophical? It proved to be true once again that day. After a terrible but fun filled lunch, we came out of the restaurant. The lady sitting in the reception asked us if we want to go for a boat ride. She pointed out to the same boat I was admiring and said that the rent would be 200 per hour. Can it get better than this? We took the offer immediately for 2 hours and rushed to the small boat. Bought a bottle of Bisleri and snacks as it's going to be a long ride.

Moving slowly and steadily, the boat took us through an exciting trip. I clicked a few snaps of the huge number of houseboats spread over the lake. Heard from the boat driver that the rent is 5000 per day on a houseboat. A cool breeze had made us feel so calm and relaxed. We stopped over for a cup of tea and then continued the ride. Spending the evening on a boat in backwaters is THE best.

A bus was waiting to take us back to Cochin. We expected to reach Cochin in 2 hrs. But we missed the bus stop and had gone 10 kms ahead. There were no sign boards to Cochin which were present so far. Appa confirmed with the bus conductor who was a rude fellow if we had gone ahead of Cochin. We got down and took another bus in the opposite direction. Everyone was so hungry by that time. Had dinner at Woodlands. A very good restaurant, indeed. We went back to our rooms and jumped onto our beds. Had a sound sleep..... Day 1 was very tiring.

Day 2 had started at 6.30 am. We had to reach the boat jetty by 8.45 for the boat ride. Had a quick shower and got ready by 7. I went to the other room to see if appa and sudha were ready. No so surprisingly, I saw sudha still asleep and appa brushing the teeth. I hurried them to get ready soon. We then had a quick breakfast and reached the jetty at 8.30. Many tourists were waiting already. We wanted to enter the boat first and take seats on the top of the boat as we could get a good view from the top. Apparently, we got the seats we wanted.

There are 3 stop overs in that ride. First, we got down in a place called Fort Cochin. St.Francis Church, the oldest church in India was our first destination. Vascodagama was burried in the same church. The guide was telling us so many facts about the church but I hardly remember anything now. On our way back to the boat, we had a look at the Chinese Fishing nets. These nets are so large that 3-4 people need to pull them back.

Our second stop over was Mattancherry or Jew Town. Once this place was fully occupied by Jews. But now only 4 Jew families with 11 people remain. We visited the Jew Palace, now an archealogical museum. I didn't find anything interesting apart from an incident. A mother who was also a tourist was explaining to her 8 year old boy how India was captured by many different countries, who owned East India Company etc etc while the boy was looking elsewhere totally disinterested.

Our last stop over was Bolghatty Island. We couldn't visit the Bolghatty Palace since it is taken over by KTDC as a resort. Karthik went for a horse ride in the island while Sudha was having another icecream, appa - another coffee.

Had a sumptuous Kerala cuisine lunch and went back to our hotel to pick our luggage. Summer has already started in Kerala and it was so hot that we had to consume a lot of fluids. A 4 hour long ride to Guruvayur. We reached the place, tired and exhausted. Booked a room in Hotel Elite and took a cold water bath. We got dressed in ethnic wear, men in dhotis and me in a saree. There is a never-changing rule that you are not supposed to wear pants or salwar kameez and enter the temple. This rule doesn't make sense to me. You just need to have a pure mind and pray with devotion while you are in a temple. How does wearing a particular dress make a difference in one's prayers? With this question in mind, I entered the temple. It wasn't very crowded and we had a quick darshan.

Day 3, again in traditional dresses, we visited the temple to take thulabaram(a ritual where you sit on a physical balance and weigh your weight against any offering like banana, coconut etc) for me and Karthik. Since it was a Sunday, the temple was so crowded that we had to wait for 90 minutes to take a glimpse of Lord Krishna.

I'm a firm believer of God. But I don't accept the fact that you had to wait for so long, crowd pushing you from behind, the priests forcing you to move fast inside the sanctum and then just take a glimpse of the God. I don't find peace praying to God in this manner. The Ganesha temple closer to my house in Bangalore is so free on a Sunday that I can sit and meditate peacefully. I derive a lot of satisfaction in small but uncrowded temples.

In the evening, we visited Malampuzha dam in Palghat. The sight from the ropeway ride was amazing. There is a beautiful garden where we sat besides a fountain and just relaxed for a while.

I'm so scared of snakes. When a snake moves, I feel it's moving over my body. So I was very apprehensive to go to the snake park. But Sudha insisted and so we all went to see venomous snakes like king cobra. Scary creatures!!!! It was getting dark and we had to leave for the railway station. Sitting in the bus, I pondered over the trip. What a lovely trip it was ! Although it was very exhausting, we visited so many places.

"Only when you push yourself, you will realize your full potential." This was the quote that came to my mind.

We boarded the train and slept well. The next morning, we had reached the IT capital. People were rushing on the stair cases of the railway station and hurrying to reach their workplace. Welcome to the fast moving world of Bangalore.

Mar 22, 2005

Books - definitely worth reading

After glancing through one of my friend's article on his pastime, I came to know that we share our favourite interests - reading. Although our tastes in terms of authors and subjects are different, in the end , both of us enjoy reading.

From my childhood, I always had a fascination for books. I preferred quiz books rather than Panchatantra stories, dictionaries rather than colouring books. During my college days, I heard the names of Hardy Boys and Enid Blyton. I regretted that I couldn't read their stories when I was a child.

After I started working , my reading has become very aggressive. R.K.Narayan has been my favourite writer till date for the fact that his way of portraying down-to-earth characters and the depiction of a simple life of a person in a typical Indian village has touched me so much. Swami and Friends takes everyone back to the childhood days when we played pranks on our friends and found so many lame excuses to bunk school. An unputdownable book, indeed. The Bachelor of Arts takes us to the next stage in our lives, the memorable college days. Many of the people, whom I interact with say that this is the best work of Narayan. You can find his style and touch remaining the same in The Guide, The English Teacher and Financial Expert, all of which I strongly recommend.

When I go to a bookstore, my legs always take me to either Indian writer section or self improvement section. Robin Sharma has become a very common name in the corporate world today. I read the monk who sold his Ferrari which definitely brought in a lot of motivation. Somehow I prefer stories which has some good messages interspersed in between. On the same lines, I liked Paulo Coelho's Alchemist. A story with a sensible meaning to follow your dreams. Shiv Khera's You can Win and Arindam Choudhary's Count your Chickens before they hatch contain motivational thoughts with some good examples which impressed me so much. These gave me many ideas for my prepared speeches in Toastmasters (Toastmasters, one of my interests - soon to feature in my blog).

I have a liking for newspapers as well, especially The Hindu. Whenever I find time in between my work schedule, I go to the reading room and take a glance at The Hindu.

"Miles to go before I sleep.............Pages to read before I sleep". This is my mantra. I make it a point to read atleast a few pages of any book before I go to sleep every night. I'm also planning to write reviews after I complete a book and update my blog. So keep watching.

Sports - definitely worth watching

I've been a serious cricket, WWF and Formula - 1 fan from the age of 15. Thanks to my brother, who used to surf Star Sports, ESPN and Ten Sports as soon as he gets back home from school. I had to literally beg him to get the TV remote to watch my favourite music channels. After a while, I gave up and started watching sports channels with my brother. I still remember the day when I first watched a cricket match. It was the 1996 Wills World Cup, the qualifying match between India and West Indies. India was chasing an achievable score of around 220 (don't remember the exact score !!!). A short, smashing batsman scored 70 and won the match for India. None other than my favourite sportsperson of all time, Sachin Tendulkar. I got so addicted to cricket and Sachin's batting that I started to enjoy this sport very much.

The next qualifying match for India was against Australia. Again, India chasing a big total of 250. Again, Sachin smashed all the bowlers round the stadium. When everyone was expecting a century, he got out on 90 and apparently, India lost. Tears started to flow down my eyes that night. A sport stirred my emotions as well as my patriotism.

I followed the statistics so keenly for about 2 years. I should admit that I lost a bit of touch after that. Now I do read in newspapers and get the score from rediff when India plays. But I don't really know about the matches played by other countries.

Speed fascinated me, at least in terms of watching racing F-1 cars. It suited my time perfectly as F-1 races are held only on alternate Sundays. These races are far better to watch than a Sunday evening regional film. Since I always tend to like people who are the most successful in their fields, it wasn't a surprise for anyone to know that I'm a fan of Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. Should Schumy take a 2 pit stop or a 3 pit stop strategy, Who will win the qualifying rounds next week, Which tyres are better - Bridgestone or Michelin -- Some of the questions which pondered in my mind and are keen topics of discussion with my brother on a quiet Saturday afternoon lunch time.

What happened to cricket happened to F-1 as well. I didn't really follow the game in the whole of 2004. But I decided to watch in 2005, not just because of Michael, but India's new racing hero Narain Karthikeyan. The last 2 races were very disappointing for Schumacher but quite satisfying for a newcomer like Narain. I'm sure Michael will bounce back and get the championship.

Many of my friends couldn't believe that being a girl, I watch WWF. The reasoning was nonsense. Why can't a girl watch WWF? It's way ahead in terms of entertainment it provides than a typical Hindi cinema. I especially liked when Kurt Angle and HHH were fighting for Stephaney McMahon. How can I forget Bret Hart and The Undertaker? Not bulky fellows like Yokazuna or Rikishi, but still their sharp shooters and choke slams were amazing. Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogun, Lex Luger, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin many wonderful wrestlers. Many of them have retired now while some of them keep coming and going. But this game is definitely a fantasy for many kids like me.

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