Aug 29, 2011

London Diaries (2) : London from the London Eye !

There is joke in London that the British Airways (they were one of the initial owners of London Eye before Merlin Entertainment bought it) was earning so much from the London eye that they planned to give up their Airline Business!There might be some truth in this statement as London eye is one of the biggest tourist attractions in London. Also, The setting for it is perfect. It’s on the south bank of the river Thames and just across the river you can see the iconic Big Ben and the Houses of parliament. Needless to say, London eye was the first place I decided to visit in London. But I had not accounted for the capricious London weather. The day dawned extremely dull and grey. It was raining and even the roses in my aunt’s garden seemed to be shivering under the cold wind. I dropped the idea of spending a day outdoors and I decided to take myself to the British Museum where I could potter about and look at the exhibits in comparative warmth and comfort.
My aunt however had other plans. The weather bureau she said, had promised a warm and sunny afternoon in spite of a wet morning. And since sunny afternoons are as rare as unicorns in London it must not be wasted by staying indoors. As the saying goes, we must make hay while the sun shines! I for the life of me couldn’t imagine how this miserable rainy day would turn sunny in a few hours but my aunt" faith in the weather Bureau was unshakable. Sunny they had said so sunny it would be! So I reluctantly agreed to go to the London Eye with her.
By the time we were walking towards the tube station (as the underground in London is called) the rain had stopped and the sun was feebly trying to peep out from behind the clouds. I became a little hopeful. The weather Bureau might be right after all. But my hopes were dashed as soon as we reached our destination and emerged from the bowls of the station. It was raining again and the sky had turned a morose grey.Buttoning up our jackets and cursing as we tried to control our umbrellas in the chilly wind we made our shivering way to the London eye.
London eye was a magnificent sight even on a dull day. This giant Ferris wheel, standing at 135 m, is quite an excellent piece of architecture and design.

 I had no intention in to join the serpentine queue of people buying tickets to get in it. After all, there is no point going up to see a panoramic view of London when the whole damn panoramic view would be hidden from you by mist and clouds is it! My aunt was still adamant that the sun would come out if only I would have the patience to wait. So to put my time to good use I decided to explore the area around the London eye. This area,known as the South Bank starts at the Westminster Bridge, where the London eye is situated;and goes up till the Waterloo Bridge.Westminster Bridge is rather quaint and probably the most photographed bridge on London. It has the South Bank Lion at one end and the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben at the other end.

I took a few rather dull looking photographs !

As you can see from the first snap, the Westminister Bridge is painted a rather garish green. (apparently because the seats in the House of Commons which is just across the bridge are also painted green). Most of the tourists usually walk across it to reach the House of Parliament etc.I decided to keep my walk across the bridge for a sunnier day and wandered about the South Bank instead.

South Bank is a very artsy and eclectic part of London. As you walk along the river from the London eye, you cross many theaters and cultural venues such as the London Film Museum, The royal festival hall, Hayward art gallery etc. This area has some fantastic restaurants and bistros where you can take you food outside and enjoy the view and the river. Inspite of the cold wind I rather enjoyed my walk along the river. Infact as I would discover later, walking along the Thames is actually the best way to see London.

I passed my time pottering about, clicking snaps, watching the tourists and at the same time keeping an eye on the weather. The weather gods were definitely out to test my patience. They really couldn’t make up their mind. It would stop raining, the sun would start shining but as soon as we started to make our hopeful way towards the London eye, it would become cloudy and dull again ! It was exasperating to the extreme ! But around 1 o clock,as if by magic the sky started to clear and within half an hour we had a blue, almost cloudless sky.
I took a pic of the London Eye from the Westminster bridge. Compare this snap to the above pictures that were taken just an hour back !

It made me wonder if there was some harry potter like magic going on in the weather bureau !

Off course we made a beeline to buy our tickets for the London Eye. By the time we were standing in the line to board the London eye our jackets were off and I was sweating even with just a T shirt on. Needless to say the view from the top of the eye was simply spectacular. It was warm sunny and totally cloudless. The sky was a bright dazzling blue !

Here are a few snaps that I took!

The House of Parliament from the London Eye

you can see St Paul's Cathedral in the distance

The view from the top !
coming up next - Trafalgar Square - Where have all the pigeons gone !

Aug 28, 2011

Bombay Duck is a Fish - Book Review

Author - Kanika Dhillon
Publishers - Westland Publishers

"Bombay Duck is a Fish" is Kanika Dhillon’s debut novel. Kanika is a scriptwriter at Shahrukh Khan’s Red Chilly Entertainment so perhaps it is not surprising that she has chosen Bollywood as the setting of her novel.

The book traces the journey of Neki Brar who leaves her Amritsar home for Bombay with dreams of becoming a Film-Maker. Neki is an MBA and is on the brink of a spectacular career in the corporate world, but she throws it all away to follow her Bollywood dream.

Once in Mumbai, she lands a job as an assistant director to one of Industry’s most famous directors. There is no typical bollywood struggle for livelihood here, Neki lands her job pretty easily. Rather Neki struggles in a different way as she faces cut throat competition, deceit and back stabbing at her job from day one.
Bombay Duck is a fish is an insider’s tale about the real Bollywood that the world doesn’t get to see – The struggle, the despair and the heart break behind the smiles and the deceit, debauchery and the ugliness behind the glamour.

Infact Kanika uses the topic of the book “Bombay Duck is a Fish” as a sort of metaphor for the world of Bollywood. In the book Neki actually thinks that Bombay duck is a duck and not a fish as she later discovers. Similarly through her journey in Bollywood, she learns the stark and often sad reality behind the facade of Bollywood.

The book is written in a very interesting manner. Most of the narration is in the form of Neki’s entries in her diary (she calls her diary Nano) or through her letters to her mother back home in Amritsar. The entries in her diary talk of her love for an upcoming actor, the ego clashes and even the humiliation she faces at work and her own ruthless ambition to succeed at all costs. The letters to her mother, on the other hand paint a very rosy and often untrue picture of the kind of life she actually wishes to live in Mumbai.

Sayings and phrases from Herman Hesse’s book Siddhartha also run through the book. Siddhartha was Neki's father’s favorite book and Neki could never understand why he liked it so much. Now as she struggles to find a foothold in her own life, she sort of understands why her father uses the book as the philosophy of his life. She learns to look at life as different shades of grey rather than being always black or white.

"Bombay Dick is a Fish", is a gripping tale of ruthless ambition, betrayal and dreams gone awry.I rather expected the book to end in the different way betrayal that it actually did.After all we are used to Bollywood films where things always turns out well in end. But perhaps that is what Kanika has been trying to tell us all along – That in Bollywood dreams don’t always come true !

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Aug 13, 2011

The enigma called Brothers !

A few months back we had a blog meet. Me, Shail, Abha and Ritu got together to spent a fantastic afternoon where a lot of good food was partaken of and the art of blogging discussed and ruminated upon.

But the star topic, a topic on which we continued to debate for a long time and have finally agreed to disagree on is the entirely unfair and bossy attitude of an elder sibling over the younger one. Ritu had also brought along Kid#2, her younger son, an extremely delightful young fellow who enthralled me not only by his quick wit but also because we both agree unanimously on the fact that as younger siblings we are poor downtrodden, long suffering souls.
Everybody else seemed unanimous on the decision that elder brothers or sisters are gifts from heaven (and in Shail`s case – elder siblings are not at all Bossy but rather gentle benevolent souls) but we both stuck to our guns. After all we were speaking from years of experience!

In my case my Brother is around 8 years older than me. Now 8 years is a rather long gap. Too long for us to be playmates but just right for him to boss me around.

When I was born, I suppose he had reached a stage where he was comfortably enclosed in his world of toy warships and cars and playing cricket or football and having the entire family revolve around him. Enter younger sister into this idyllic existence and he suddenly didn’t know what to make of me and how to fit an always whining wailing (his version not mine!) sister into the scheme of things. I guess the first few years went fine when I didn’t intrude too much upon his life but when I started school all hell broke loose. He was deputed to mind me for a few hours every week when mom had to work late and boy did he hate it! Like a lost puppy I always tagged along behind him and his friends and the poor fellows tried their level best to shake me off.

I guess somewhere while growing up, from hardly paying me a passing interest Bhaiya suddenly grew very much aware of my existence and discovered that I was the one person on this earth he could boss around. I mean mom and dad told him off when he was not behaving and I guess it rankled that he in turn had no one to boss over. Then his eyes fell on poor me! And there I was a sitting duck to all his lectures on how one should behave and study and generally act. I got a bit of respite when he went away to college but the interrupted program resumed during holidays. Not one act of disobedience or one stray remark would pass without a sermon. In my case it was really the case of “The Big Brother is watching you!”No wonder I was such a goody goody kid. With a teacher for a mother and a brother like him where did I stand a chance for doing anything naughty?

Off course we had vague notions of brotherly and sisterly love and affection for each other but I don’t think we connected very well as kids. There was simply too much of an age gap and the camaraderie that siblings closer in age have with each other as missing. Sometimes when I See siblings play together I feel a little bad, because I never really shared that with my brother.

So why am I moping around on this Rakhi? Why am I so upset that he is not here with me. I thought I had become used to sending him Rakhi through post and not actually tying it since we live in different countries.

Because somewhere down the line as you grow up, without you realizing it or consciously making it happen, Elder brothers somehow become the mainstay of your life. From berating you on lapses in good behavior they actually turn into someone you always go to first when you need a shoulder to lean on. You look up to them like a father figure, you ask their advice and horrors of horrors you actually follow it! And as much as you may deny it, a few words of praise or encouragement from them mean more to you than what anyone else could say.

They may not always be the first ones to call you on your birthday or to shower you with gifts or hugs all the time. You are still being scolded, you are still at the receiving ends of their moody spells, but then you realize that beneath all this is a love that nothing can ever ever break. You realize that there is so much more to a brother sister bond than just getting into escapades together. It’s a deep intrinsic bond, that can’t be explained. It’s just there. Like the air we breathe. It’s just there and it can’t be denied or ever broken!

He may have never told you how much he loves you or what an adorable sister you are, but deep down in your heart you know that when you need him, he will be there. And in the end, that is all that matters. Really !

Aug 12, 2011

London Diaries (1) : Of Jetlag, Michelin star restaurants and Musicals

Cold, that was the first word that came to my mind when I got off at Heathrow. Yes, I was naive enough to expect the British summer to be actually warm! In the coming few days I was to learn a lot about the treacherous London weather! Cold also applied to the rather stern faced immigration officer who scrutinized my visa for what seemed like an eternity and asked me innumerable questions till he was satisfied that I was not going to add to the number of illegal immigrants in his country.

London was hidden behind a sleet of rain as I looked out bleary eyed from my cousin’s car window. Then in classic English weather fashion, the rain stopped as suddenly as it had begun. A very feeble sun peeped out from behind the clouds and I had my first glimpse of the city that was to be my home for the next two and a half weeks. The first thing that struck me about London was the architecture. All major cities in the world are usually characterized by modern buildings and sky scrapers but not London. London is a paradise for architecture and history lovers. This city has managed to keep its history alive by simply preserving its different architecture styles and by still using them. I am sure there must be high rises and apartment blocks in London but frankly I hardly saw any. We mostly passed residential areas and I simply loved the way the houses were constructed in different architecture styles – Elizabethan to Tudor to Georgian. They were a pleasure to look at, especially with the little neat pocket handkerchief size gardens in front and the colorful flower boxes in each window. Being summer, the gardens were a riot of colors.
The pictures here don’t do much justice to the houses because they were taken from a moving car.Honestly I don’t think the stiff upper lipped Londoners would take kindly to a stranger getting out of a car to click random pictures of their beloved gardens! The next few posts are going to have a lot of pictures though!

The one instruction my cousin had given me was that I better sleep on the plane since we were to go out to lunch and then to a musical later. Now I am a notoriously light sleeper who will wake up if I hear water dripping somewhere in the neighbors’ house so you can imagine how well I would have slept in a flight packed with paranoid flyers as well as small kids all trying to outdo each other in crying and screaming matches. (I am sure the poor kids couldn’t help themselves but the paranoid flyer definitely needs a separate post) Any ways,I straggled out of the plane half dead, bleary eyed and looking like something the cat just dragged in.On top of that the restaurant we were going to was Chapter One; a Michelin star Restaurant where one is expected to dress very properly and formally. Any how,some strong coffee and a cold shower managed to restore my equilibrium and we headed out to lunch.

Chapter One definitely deserves its Michelin star. The food was positively ambrosial.The menu had enticing items like “Poached & Roasted Loin of Rabbit Wrapped With Pancetta”, “Compression Of Pig's Head”, “Treacle Cured Loch Duart Salmon With Leeks” “Pressed Terrine of Foie Gras & Smoked Duck Breast” etc etc. I tried the rabbit and wild mushroom pie with parsnip puree and it was so succulent that the meat simply melted in my mouth. For dessert I had the Hot Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Ice Cream and honest to god it was one of the most delicious deserts I’ve ever had in my life. It was positively sinful. I dream about it at times.

I suppose this is where I am supposed to insert mouth watering pictures of the food we ate, but honestly I was too busy enjoying the food to click any snaps !

That afternoon at my cousins’ I was also introduced to a popular English summer drink– Pimm's. It is cool, tangy drink made from liqueurs and fruit extracts. A few glasses of that on top of the heavy lunch and I was drowsing away in my chair hardly paying attention to the conversation! (No snap again – sorry! Heres one from Google just to show you what Pimm's looks like!)

In the evening we went to West End to see a musical called "The Blood Brothers". Now if you are a theater lover London’s West End is the place to be! Most of London"s well known theaters are there and its vibrant and lively at all times, especially in the evenings.The cafes and sidewalks were choc -a-block with theater goers. I passed theaters showing famed musicals that I had only heard about till now such as Billy Elliot, The Lion King, Priscilla the Dessert Queen, Mama Mia etc.The Londoners love their theater and the adverts for the Musicals are everywhere – as you can see!

The Blood Brothers is a play about twin brothers who get separated in childhood but their paths keep crossing in life. Finally their story meets a tragic end. (A bit like our Manmohan Desai films – except that Manmohan Desai always showed us happy endings!). Musicals are always a delight to watch and I was really really excited because this would be my first Musical at the famed West End. But the jetlag finally caught up with me and to the horror of my cousins I slept through the entire second half. I am sure half of the crowd must be looking dagger eyed at the lady who had the nerve to fall asleep in the midst of a famed musical. (Such bad form I say, what have things come to?)

I don’t really remember the return journey except that my cousin kept trying to explain the London underground network to me while we were on the train but I was too fuddled by the lack of sleep to really understand. I fell asleep the moment we reached home and resurfaced only the next afternoon as brisk and bright as a squirrel and ready to begin my rendezvous with London!
More to follow …….

Aug 11, 2011

Thursday Challenge # 3

This weeks thursday challenge is "EMPTY" (House, Room, Playground, Glass, Container, Chair,...)

My entry is the famed red telephone booths from London. I saw many of them scattered all over the city but I never saw anyne making a call from them. They were always empty !

Aug 10, 2011

Wordless Wednesday # 12


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