February 18, 2009

Travelogue - Darjeeling!

I just realised that I have done fair bit of travelling within and outside India.. Lots of places, some famous and some remote.. So, I am going to share my travels in India and outside... So, watch out for posts on these as I hit my memory button.. I promise to give a different, personal touch to all the places I've been, with little anecdotes of my own..

I'd like to start with a short trip we made to Darjeeling while we were at Kolkata!

Darjeeling is a quaint hill town... and has tea estates to boast, not to mention the breathtaking view from Tiger Hill - the Kangchenjunga part of the Himalayan range. On a clear day, apparently one can even get a peek of Mount Everest! We were not lucky at all... it was misty and we could barely make out the Kangchenjunga range.. We were told that its a clear day for about a maximum of 10 days in a year!! Don't know how true it is but I sure felt better!

Our stay was at an even more quaint place - the Windamere... Oh what a beautiful place. I just loved the ambience, the tea room - all sunny with a piano and friendly old maids serving hot muffins and apple strudles with Darjeeling Tea! I have never felt such warmth from waiters and waitresses in any hotel before and after. They were all middle aged, some really old, but so friendly and warm and welcoming..

Our trip was way back in 1996 but I still remember every bit of the trip. I also remember that they were booked completely for the New Years Eve of 1999 - 2000, the turn of the Millennium. Apparently, its a big hit with the British tourists and the joke around Windamere is "You can find the true last Englishman here". Its a very small place and the main bazaar area had so many posters on Tibet at that time and I remember taking a few snaps of some of the humorous ones...

We combined business with pleasure and had to visit some of the Tea Estates around Darjeeling and Dooars and we also stayed at one of the Tea Estate Managers' house. Its a dream house, the kind of house I have always dreamed of owning.... a bright and sunny house with large glass doors around the drawing, dining overlooking a sea of Dahlias, roses and all the flowers of that grow in the region, in a riot of colours... The house by itself was perched right on top of the Estate giving a panaromic view of the Estate (apparently all tea estate managers' homes are so designed). The family were charming and the food delicious. We had the most amazing tasty English breakfast with them with freshly baked hot buns with honey (home grown) and everything was so English, not to mention the large rooms and bath and the whole house was laid with teak floors including the stairs and bannister!! We were told it was built in the 1880s..

A visit to tea factory completed our trip and I learnt all about CTC and orange pekoe, broken pekoe etc which is how tea is graded and priced.. Check out the pics in the link provided

February 8, 2009

High Forex Reserves Can Worsen Recession

Some posts ago, I had mentioned a couple of columnists I enjoy reading.. Today's Swaminomics column in TOI was simply brilliant.. Very educative and insightful... He speaks about the need for Asian countries to curb shoring up on Forex reserves or the Recession would turn to Depression, he prophesies... I tend to buy his argument and think its a very thoughtful article. I am copying the link here as its imperative policy makers read this and one of the ways is to circulate it on the net...

February 3, 2009

Slumdog Millionnaire

Finally, got to see the movie with friends. Awesome movie. For a regular review, check out other sites.. I 'm gonna give some reflections, not a review, I had from the movie...
The movie brought back memories of my childhood days in Bombay, the dirt and filth in the slums, the drudgery of the have-nots.. But its an immensely positive film and portrays the protagonist as an eternal optimist.
His successes in life and on the game show were so real and poignant. It was a novel idea to explain how Jamal got his answers right, not from books he didn't read, not from the school he didn't go, but from his own personal life's tribulations of living in a slum and eeking out a livelihood as a kid. On a more philosophical note, Jamal begins to play the game with total abandon... not to win... he simply enjoys being there... (actually he joins the show to touch base with his loved one)...
All in all, its a must see for a movie buff and all Mumbaikars!

February 2, 2009

My Dad - a tribute

Its natural to be fond of parents and I am no exception. This past month, memories of little events in my life with my father has been flashing far too often. Yes, he just left us and has left a big void in my life... Looking back I realise how big an influence he has been on my life. We are 3 siblings but my sister being 6 years older got married and left for Delhi when I was in class IX. So, most of my formative years have been with conversations with my dad and mom as my brother is a silent types...

Its with my dad that I debated on current affairs and issues of the World. I remember our long conversations and debates ranging from Ethics (Reliance vs Express) to reservations (Mandal Commission) to Communal tensions (Bombay blasts). Appa travelled frequently and I used to long for him to get back and have our talks.

He was such a perfect dad, always sacrificed his comforts for the sake of family... he drove 25 Kms each way in Bombay, just so my school was walking distance.. But come weekends, and he would drive us to Juhu, Gateway, Powai temple, Worli seaface, whatever my fancy... Never did he say no to me.

While we lived in luxury and got all we ever wanted, he taught me the value of money and the need to respect it. If, today, I am a good girl (well, that's how I am), its because of little things he taught me... from roughing it out in Bombay trains and BEST buses and not be chauffered about. He had an amazing ability to bring me back to reality.. I remember this particular scene of coming home with my M.Sc results, I had topped the Univ, I said. Appa, had that smile and twinkle on his face and said, "Oh, the others in your class are worse than you?".

Appa had a great weakness for sweets;-).. this is probably an understatement. Many times, he would joke that he simply had the dessert spread at parties and skipped the main course!! So, he would take the trouble of discovering the best, local sweets in the city he was in, and buy it for all of us home.. I surely have taken after him for sweets.

As is customary in our family, it was time to get me married and my parents were dead keen to do so before I started my doctoral prog. That was so tough on me and him. Even to this day, I feel almost guilty for leaving home... because that meant appa had not anyone to speak and share his thoughts... apart from mom ofcourse... So, off I left my dear home and city of Bombay to set up home in Madras. Life is so unfair, parents shower their love on children and then promptly send them packing after marrying them off, and both find the separation so tough.. My parents missed me and so did I. But my inimitable dad promptly retired in 10 months and came off to Madras. He claimed it had nothing to do with me being in Madras but come on, we all knew what was on his mind.

Life is different once you're married and soon it was time for me to leave Madras as husband got transferred in office. And so life went...

Well, simply put, I owe my life to him.. the values he brought me up with, the discipline he imparted, the shlokas classes we had in the evenings and the impatience he showed when I didn't get the Sanskrit pronunciation right.... the jokes he shared from his office work... Oh, I miss appa. I realise I've been very lucky to have such a great dad...