Sunday, 31 May 2015

When sick and in bed.......

I was down with fever for a whole week a while ago. The easiest way to entertain yourself in such situations is to watch movies. I ended up watching quite a few very nice movies. Two of the best movies I watched were as follows.

1. A Separation- 

It is a 2011 movie by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. The movie is about how different people can perceive the same situation completely differently and how it can lead to very complicated scenarios for everyone involved. A very tight script, executed brilliantly by the director, it will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. There are underlying themes of religion, class-bias, woven in very beautifully into the script, therefore adding many layers to the story. The father-daughter relationship is depicted beautifully in the movie and was one of my favorite bits of the movie. Its a movie of brilliant performances too, but the performance of the teenaged daughter Termeh, takes the cake. The movie very easily has made into my favorite movies list. I had watched only one Iranian movie before this, this was my second Iranian movie and I am definitely hooked and waiting to watch many more.

2. The grave of the fireflies-

A heartbreakingly beautiful tale of a brother and sister's struggle to survive during the World War II in Japan. Seita takes care of his little sister, Setsuko like a parent would, when their mother dies during bombing and their father is away at war. It is an animated movie and the animations may have been used to dampen in some way the pain and suffering shown in the movie. The animations are done in the typical Japanese style and lend an element of innocence to the whole story because the storyteller happens to be the elder brother Seita, talking about his little sister Setsuko. The film leaves you thinking about how a war can or had affected the lives of people in the past.

I watched two other movies made by directors closer to home, and will write about them in the next post.....

Friday, 13 February 2015

Five really nice movies that I watched in the last one year.

Disclaimer: This is not a list of must-watch movies that released last year. These released at different points of time in the past, just that I happened to watch them in the last one year. Also, the movies are not listed in any particular order.

1.The lives of others, 2006- A brilliant German movie about how experiences can change people, the experience in this case being, watching over a writer and his lover in socialist East Germany as a secret agent. The film has the right mix of drama and suspense , garnished by the right amount of beneath-the-surface- emotions. The setting and the details are very authentic and beautifully recreated.  The kind of movie that would make one believe that even the most ideologically hardened individuals are more than what they seem and a little bit of scratching beneath the surface might reveal some very, very unexpected emotions and different people.

2. Loins of punjab, 2007- Indian crossover cinema always fascinated me. But, I always thought that the portrayal of the Indian diaspora was over-the-top and the characters were deliberately made caricaturish. That is until I moved here to the US. This film is a tongue-in-cheek look at the Indian diaspora in the US with their aspirations, frustrations and the entire package. I was ticking off check boxes in my mind while watching the movie, comparing the characters in the movie to the Indians I have met during my stay here. Believe me, the film is not trying to be funny, it just ends up being funny! Enough said !

3. Ernest and Celestine, 2012- I am not a big fan of animated movies. But when the animations seem like they stepped out of a children's fairy tale book (my favorite kind of books) , I'm more than just happy. With animations that seem almost poetic and a theme of unlikely friendships, beneath which lies the universal theme of love, it is pure visual delight. The kind of movie that leaves you feeling warm and happy.

4. Gone Girl, 2014- Quite the opposite of the last movie, I left the theatre with a shudder , thinking about how many layers each individual has and is hiding. It has a brilliant ending that takes the cake for this movie. The wife goes missing on a couple's anniversary and the husband is accused of murdering her. The series of events that follow, leave the viewer completely taken aback and wondering about the extent of the complexity of human minds and thoughts.

5. It's a wonderful life, 1946- A typical feel-good Christmas movie with a beautiful message.  Best watched on a cold winter evening, with a cup of hot chocolate. When we often question the meaning of our existence in the larger scheme of things, we often forget what life would be like for those people whose lives we have touched in some way or the other. An angel is sent down from heaven, to make a man contemplating suicide, realize that how he has touched the lives of so many other people in his small little town. Garbed in the disguise of a feel-good classic, the movie does end up teaching some valuable life lessons.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The culinary gem that is Omaha

I moved into this tiny spot on the map of the United States called Omaha last fall. Little did I know that I was tumbling into a foodie's paradise. I thought food in the Midwest would be all about beef and potatoes and big chains that we are anyway very familiar with back in India. But Omaha has very pleasantly surprised me with all its little culinary secrets tucked away in its nooks.
The people of a town make the place. Omaha has a huge immigrant population from Africa, Asia and Mexico that has contributed very significantly to the food scene.
Here are some of my favourite culinary experiences with pictures-

1. Greek Island

The moussaka is to die for. The food is so good that I forgot to take any pictures. Their desserts are very interesting with very big, difficult to pronounce German names. My favourite was one with cream cheese within a pie crust covering , covered with powdered sugar. Divine !!!!

2. Marrakech

This experience was pure delight coupled with pleasant surprise on a cold ,windy April evening (yes, Aprils are cold here in the Midwest). Surprising were the Morrocan version of the samosas with a beef filling (these completely swept me off my feet ) and delight was the Lamb Tagine. The experience was absolutely complete with the sweet crepes as dessert.

3. Gusto Cuban Cafe

Cuban food uses plantains very generously in their food. Their chicken dish was very flavorful and I suspect that some spices used in their food are common to those used in Indian cooking. They had a very interesting wooden wall where you could scribble things . Unfortunately they had run out of markers to write with , otherwise, my scribble would have said - "Shreya loved this place" :)

4. Lalibela

This has got to be one of my most fun food experiences. I had what is called the combination platter which had a combination of meat, vegetable and lentil dishes served on their soft Injera bread. It reminded me of our n-course Indian lunches that we are used to on special occasions :)

5. Lisa's Radial Cafe

One of the most wonderful breakfasts I've had ever since I moved here. Its a tiny hole-in-the-wall place next to a neighborhood church. What adds to the character of the place is the interesting and eclectic mix of people that come here. Even the thought of the chicken florentine omelet I had here makes me salivate :)

I hope to discover many many more such places in Omaha. :)

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Artist Quentin Blake (who himself is an alumnus of Cambridge University) created a series of cartoons to commemorate the 800th year of Cambridge University. This one is my favourite. It conveys so many things, really ...... :)  Its just how you look at it !!

Saturday, 16 June 2012


As a kid I imagined Kerala to be a snake shaped ,really green state and as far as the traveller in me can remember, I have always wanted to go there. I read “The God of Small Things” earlier this year  and the desire to go just intensified and I decided I just have to go to Kerala this summer( monsoon,actually )
And so I went and was completely bowled over ……….. Here are 10 reasons why I loved Kerala……. Excerpts from my diary that I wrote during my trip…….

1)    The Countryside is so green and absolutely gorgeous. Even the Avomine -headed –Me refused to doze off during the drives because I simply couldn’t keep my eyes off!!! The vegetation is unique. I haven’t seen Coconut and Jackfruit trees at altitudes of 3000 feet above the sea level ever!!!

2)    The Terracotta tiled sloping roofs of houses – All houses have   roofs like these and they look so charming in that landscape . It is basically a necessity in those climes because of the rain. Imagine a green landscape dotted with blue, yellow houses with brown tiled sloping roofs…….

3)    The palaces in Kochi- The Cochin Palace and the Dutch Palace are beautiful . The modest exteriors belie the gorgeous interiors with intricate carvings on rosewood panels and a colourful mosaic flooring with geometrical patterns. The rulers were all called either Raja Verma or Rama Verma or Kerala Verma and no, they didn’t have initials next to their names indicating the order !!!!

4)    The Men’s clothes- I felt like going up to them and giving them a high-five for sticking to their traditional mundu and veshti.It is the equivalent of a shirt and a white or coloured lungi/wrap-around. One could see people from all walks of life wearing that and it just reflects their easy and laidback attitude towards life . Everywhere else in India, Men have happily abandoned their traditional garments for the more (apparently) comfortable western  wear, but this was one place where I saw Everyone wear it Everywhere. Commonsense tells me it’ll be more comfortable than a trouser!!!

5)    The Sarees, the Saree shops and the hoardings for the same would put any saree shop in the metros to shame !!! What enormous collections of sarees of every imaginable type and every big celebrity endorsing the shops. Me and my mother were blown away by the collection at a famous shop called ‘Jayalakshmi’ and ended up blowing away all our money !!!! Same can be said for the jewellery showrooms. I particularly loved the traditional Kerala sarees with golden borders.

6)    The Food- They use coconut and coconut oil in cooking and it adds a lot of flavour to the food . A nice twist to the tale were Shawarmas with coconut in the filling. Me and my brother particularly loved those .

7)    The sheer delight of watching wispy, white clouds waft through lush green tea gardens in Munnar. I like my mountains Green and it couldn’t get any greener than this. Add to it the monsoon and with it clouds and you get some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever come across. One of the perks of travelling in what they call the “off-season”.(It rained and so far I’ve had my nicest travel experiences in the tourist off-season).I stashed away the memory safely in my mental hard-drive. Even as I’m typing this, I close my eyes to imagine the scene.

8)    The Churches and the Jewish Synagogue-  I love quaint, little churches tucked away in tiny little corners of the world. And we saw a church almost every five minutes , on our way through the countryside. The beautiful Jewish Synagogue in Kochi was like the icing on the cake during the walk through the Jew street. I fell in love with the place and its (teacup-design)blue tile lined floor,its Belgian glass chandeliers and its old- world charm.

9)    The Kathakali performance was spectacular. With dramatic hand and eye movements and their colourful costumes ,the artists performed a story from the Mahabharata and did a fabulous job of it .

10)          Finally, the Houseboat stay, the highlight of our trip . It was a wonderful experience cruising through the beautiful backwaters in Alleppey. What really amazed me was that, the advent of tourists from all over the world throughout the year hasn’t really affected the way of life of the people living in these tiny fishing villages. By villages, I mean tiny strips of land in the Backwaters. They continue to go about their daily chores, washing ,fishing ,going to school in a boat ( how exciting!!! ),completely unperturbed and it was charming to observe their way of life from the houseboat. We bought Tiger prawns from a small shop in a village and our cook cooked it for dinner ( the Prawn lover in me knew I was not going to get prawns as large as those in a long time to come and so I enjoyed to my heart’s content )J

And so I am back home now, dreaming of the backwaters ,the tea gardens and the prawns (!!!) and getting over my holiday hangover by writing this.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Why all that aggression, women?

First things first, the title has not got anything to do with the hit song Kolaveri di!!! After I had conjured it up, only then did I realise that it does resemble the English translation of Kolaveri Di. But here I maintain, neither the title, nor the post has got anything to do with the song!!!

Coming to the point, WHY do educated, urban, accomplished women constantly feel the need to prove a point to the world, WHY do they think they need to match up to the men in society ??? By doing that one is acknowledging the superiority of the opposite sex .

Men don't try to be like women, so why are women trying to be like men.....Trying too hard , to top it all!!!

Along with their Independence, they seem to also have acquired Aggression. Meaningless aggression serves no purpose. Speak out when you should, not when it is unnecessary !!! It is one thing to be Assertive and a completely different thing to be Aggresive. But the modern, Indian woman seems to have mixed it all up!!!

And what's all this talk of women "wearing the pants" in their relationships, in the boardroom, everywhere??It all boils down to men being the yardsticks for confidence, success and the like!!!

I'm more that happy being feminine, loving the way I am ......And I'm very sure,a lot of young girls and women out there would agree with me on that....

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

My dream house

I figured, I love Solitude. I love these quiet winter evenings, with books and a steaming cup of hot chocolate to give me company :)
I also love the silence in these evenings.
As much as I love the hustle and bustle of the city, my favourite place still remains Talcher, a small little town in Orissa, where I spent some very beautiful years of my life.
My love for open spaces can be attributed to the big lawn that we had in front of the house, with colourful flowerbeds which were my mother's pride.My earliest Botany lessons come from there. Many a hot summer evening was spent in the lawn playing with the garden hosepipe and getting thoroughly drenched. We also had encounters with strange snakes in the lawn, who would occasionally come out of their holes for their summer evening walk!!!!
Then there were the cycling expeditions I had with my friends on the tree lined roads of the township. Me and my friends would discover new places in the township on our cycles. The thrill and excitement of discovering a new , little used road or a place was unmatched and used to be the secret topic of our discussions for very many days after that...
My sixteen kilometer ride to school was through lush green fields  and picturesque little villages.
These were some very impressionable years of my life and probably, that's why my dream house still is a little white house, with blue doors ,and a large garden , nestled in one, little corner of the world, far-far away from the lights of the city :)