Thursday, 26 November 2009

Quick Movie Reviews: Sunset Boulevard, Nosferatu

A 1950 Hollywood drama, directed by Billy Wilder, about a struggling screenwriter and a forgotten delusional actress who gives him a job. She believes he'll play into her fantasy (or reality) while he just wants to make a quick buck out of her, but wrestles with his conscience.

Pretty good. An excellent commentary on obsession, isolation and the loneliness of Hollywood. The closing scenes of the movie really take the cake; they make you feel like you're watching an epic human story.

A 1922 German silent movie based on Dracula. Watchable only if you enjoy following the evolution of cinema and look at the movie in this context. Otherwise it can be really boring.

Have you seen either of these movies? Do you have any thoughts about them?


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Numerical Singularity in Himachal

It was my second day in both Himachal & Old Manali and I had decided to explore one of the roads leading out of the town, heading north. You can peruse the entire write-up of that little adventure here, under Day 21.

I started in the morning and, some time in the afternoon, left the road at a point where I felt I had walked far enough, crossed over a bridge taking me to the east of the Beas river, and onto NH 21, specifically the section linking Manali and the Rohtang Pass, and then headed south back to Manali.

Here's where it got interesting, for the highway was dotted with shacks on both sides selling winter clothing to tourists visiting Rohtang. In fact the entire NH 21 stretch from Manali to Rohtang was pretty congested, with Sumos and Scorpios full of Indian families hungry for a glimpse of snow, shuffling back and forth between the pass and the various hotels in and around Manali.

Now, each shack had a number, which was usually in the 3 digit range. And as I passed them it crossed my mind that there must be a shack somewhere around there with the number one. However, I felt my chances of finding it would be quite slim. Imagine my surprise when I finally did chance upon it. I took a  picture as soon as I could (see above).

All the shacks on this stretch of highway were selling snowsuits, jackets and heavy duty gloves, the kind you'd need around these parts in winter, and this one was no different. It was the end of May though, and not too cold; a light jacket or simple sweater would do, even at the top of the pass. Maybe the tourists just aren't used to the cold, not that I saw many people stopping to purchase or rent anything, in which case their display seems to be more out of desperation on the part of the shack owners.

Have you visited Manali and Rohtang? Have any interesting experiences you'd like to share?


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Quick Movie Reviews: 3 Iron, Blazing Saddles

A 2004 Korean film about a man who breaks into people's homes just to eat and clean up. He meets a battered housewife who joins him in a wordless relationship.

A totally missable movie. Nothing of note here. Yeah , I guess you'd like it if you're seriously into serious movies, but I found it slow and quite meaningless.

Mel Brooks' 1974 meta parody of the Wild West genre. Out of date gags. Nothing of note apart from a good theme song. Another totally missable movie.

Anyone else have any opinions about these movies, particularly contradictory ones?


Monday, 23 November 2009

The Best Thing About Flights

I had taken a 10 day vacation to the South in January this year, and day one saw me on an early morning Mumbai to Bangalore flight. Now I don't like flying but I try and make the best of it. It certainly beats long boring train rides.

And there are other perks. For example, you get to see one of the world's most crowded cities shrinking away before your eyes as your plane takes off; people, vehicles, buildings, streets and slums alike growing smaller and smaller until they resemble specs of dust.

What you see below is my attempt to capture this experience with a series of continuous pictures that I took from my window seat on this particular lift-off. Watch the city fade away. Let me know what you think.


Friday, 20 November 2009

And Off I Went

The first photo of my 38 day journey - classic Mumbai traffic

I decided to go on sabbatical earlier this year.

Work was slowing down; I was told in February that I wouldn't have much to do for the first quarter of the new financial year i.e April-June. This period coincides with the Mumbai summer, which, for those of you not in the know, is very very hot. Daytime temperatures regularly cross 35 C, and humidity levels are at their highest. It's also the perfect time to leave the city and travel somewhere cooler. And so in March I discussed the possibility of going on sabbatical, with my colleagues and superiors. I was lucky enough to be let off for 7 weeks (38 days), beginning April 20.

My first few days of freedom were, however, spent indecisively, planning my trip. You see, I had a general idea where I wanted to go (Kashmir/Himachal) but not a specific plan in mind. Also, I was not too keen on travelling alone, having never done it before, and was researching the possibility of joining a group. Some of my deliberations during those first two weeks have been noted here.

But after a lot of thought and consultations with friends, I made up my mind, finalised my plans, bought a backpack & guidebook, and plucked up the nerve to book airline tickets online (which was the point of no return). I then felt happy, relieved, as if a great burden had been lifted off my shoulders. For I didn't have to worry about planning anymore. Everything from that point on would happen on a day to day basis, and I would take each day as it came (forgive the cliche).

And so it was with excitement and not trepidation that I woke up on the 8th of May, ate breakfast, and caught a rick to the airport. The journey across the Western Express Highway, from Borivli to Santa Cruz, was surprisingly quick - about half an hour. I remember a time in 2005 when that same journey on a weekday took over twice as long in a traffic jam and I almost missed a flight.

I took a picture (above) during that rickshaw ride. It was one of the most satisfying photos I've ever taken in my life.

Do you have any photos that represent satisfaction at something? Leave a description and link in the comments section.


Tuesday, 17 November 2009

5 Irritating Types Of People

People irritate me. I've listed 5 types below. Perhaps in time I will create another list.

1. Non-Vegetarian Vegetarians

I have nothing against vegans or vegetarians, but I don't understand why egg eaters claim that they're vegetarians.

Look, you're not a really a vegetarian if you eat egg, so why do you keep referring to yourself as a vegetarian, and then, when found eating egg, say that you're actually an eggetarian instead of a vegetarian? Why can't you just lose the charade and refer to yourself as an eggetarian in the first place?

2. People who Don't Read and Ask Dumb Questions

If you don't read, please don't bug me with your asinine comments describing how you think The DaVinci Code is the greatest contribution to literature ever. It's not my fault you don't read more, ergo I shouldn't have to suffer for your ignorance.

And you then have the nerve to ask me where you can get hold of a copy of Angels and Demons? Really? Never hear of a bookstore or library before?

3. People who use Management Speak

Please. Don't.

The more I hear you talk about 'touching base, getting ballpark figures and focussing on leveraging core competencies to integrate, execute and transform processes and emerging infrastructure for better collaborative functionality in order to get buy-in to implement streamlined deliverables and end to end, end-user centric, customer focused, out of the box solutions for the new, cutting-edge, Web 2.0 paradigm shift', the greater the temptation to dedicate the rest of my life to humiliating you in public.

4. People who break open date rolls because they don't know what they are

If I offer you a date roll, and you, not being schooled in the finer points of confectionery, don't know what a date roll is, I won't hold it against you if you ask me, instead of breaking it open to find out.

It may be embarrassing for you, but that's still better than you using your nails to break open a roll and then discovering there's a date inside and then putting it down because you don't like dates. No one else is going to touch that date roll now because you've messed it up.

5. People who don't know how to use a loo

On second thoughts, this is an obvious one. My solution is to have automatic locking doors that don't let you out of a stall until you flush and don't let you out of a loo until you wash up. Tadaaa!

Do you have any pet peeves? Feel free to use the comment section to rant.


Thursday, 12 November 2009

Yeoor Hills Drivethrough Part 2

Continued from Part 1

Part Two - Night of Debauchery

And so, at 10. P.M, we wait outside what is now our favourite brain restaurant (for two of us at least) , picking each other's brains for a while, whiling the time away. I hit upon the idea of visiting the large park behind Mindspace, so off we go again. It seems like we're travelling in circles tonight.

Unfortunately, the park is closed at this time. It even has two security guards. For what, I wonder? For the park? Are they afraid of someone stealing the grass? Or doing stuff on the grass? Or doing grass? But then, if there are guards, why not let people in?

We wait there for a while until the mosquitoes announce their presence. Mistake number two of mine is forgetting the odomos. At 11.00, we soon get fed up and decide to leave, hitting a bar midway to buy water *gasp* and ending up at a Gokul. Our final angry threat call to the more-than-fashionably late group member number 4 has her abandoning a family reunion in haste and meeting us here.

She has two other people joining us, she tells us, and we decide to meet them at the JVLR flyover. Before they arrive, she asks us to be nice. We promise her of our neutrality in the event of a bike breakdown on their part, followed by a leopard attack. That's about as much as we can do. 

They arrive, with a lose brake part, which they stitch up with tape. I like them already. We ride to Thane, the only uneventful occurrence being that every person we ask for Yeoor hills has a different pronunciation for the word Yeoor. There's 'Ye-oor', 'Ye-oar', Yay-oor', 'Yay-oar' & 'Your', among other weird delicious sounds. 

We finally take a turning that slopes upward, through a dark curving road lined with forest on both sides. The forest looks like typical SGNP territory. But it's higher up, and we catch glimpses of the midnight city lights below us through the trees. It's cool here at this speed and time. Weaker members of the human race might need the comfort of a light jacket here.

We come to a little village in the forest, and a little after, restaurants and places to stay. All through our journey, we can see other bikers leaving for the night. We've just arrived. We come to a main junction with two turns. We take the left one, for one of our two new companions has been here before. We are in the dark forest again pretty soon, with only occasional lights from  the occasional buildings at the sides of the road. 

And then the lights & asphalt end, and a dirt road begins, narrow but wide enough for a bike. A car would have a hard time squeezing through here. And it's seriously off-road, a rocky sloping winding path with huge rocks everywhere. Still, we take the bikes down, risking punctures, until we come to a nullah criss-crossing our path, where we break and look around.

It's beautiful, and haunted. No lights here at all, except from our bikes. We feel eyes upon us. Who knows what mysterious creatures they belong to? We take pics, and double back to asphalt soon after, then more pics and more doubling back to the main junction, where we take the right turn this time for a place to eat, all the other culinary establishments on the way having closed. It's 1.00 A.M.

We find one restaurant/bar that's open and we get a nice cosy little eating room all to ourselves. We get comfortable, chatting for the next two hours. I watch the others eat and drink. Our two new acquaintances work at the airport, and they have interesting stories to speak of. We discuss a possible affiliation with reference to video footage of said stories, which will prove to be of financial merit to us both.

One of our new friends has a lot of personal stories to tell us - true stories involving gangsters, prostitutes & life in the city. At one point nothing surprises me anymore, but I guess that's just the sleep deprivation talking. 

We leave after 3.00 A.M, travelling to Borivli via Ghodbunder, where we face our final adventure of the night, for there's a huge truck jam on the highway. Somewhere near the toll booth half a kilometer in front of us, there is a slow truck on the left lane, and another slow truck on the right trying to overtake it. Add the other numerous lumbering meandering 18 wheeler giants behind them and you have a colossal pile up. We'd have been stuck here indefinitely if it weren't for the fact that we're on bikes. It's scary, the sight of all these massive load carrying machines, and us weaving in and out between them. Unnerving. Quite an experience.

I get home at 5.00 A.M. NS pens down his experience of the trip the next day. Read it here, with photos.

Do you have any interesting adventures at Yeoor that you'd like to share with us? Please do so in the comments section.


Monday, 9 November 2009

Yeoor Hills Drivethrough Part 1

Part One - Dinner at Mindspace

O.K so I know I haven't been updating the blog with accounts of the last few trips I took, so let me make amends by making a feeble attempt at describing the latest one - a night trip to Yeoor hills. The other 3 trips deserve more detailed write ups.

The last week of October was pretty terrible - a combination of me being really sick, losing my glasses, and being swamped with work. The long weekend, and my subsequent birthday, helped rejuvenate me to some extent. Still, I had nothing planned for this weekend except more rest, when I got a call on Friday night asking if I'd like to join a two bike, four person night expedition to Yeoor hills, Thane. 

I said 'yes' immediately, for it is in my nature to believe that any activity outdoors makes for a better story than an activity indoors, though I had my doubts about the amount of adventure one could have in the dead of night, in a dead area with nothing but forest. Still, I went ahead, wondering all through Saturday if I had made the correct choice and if I should not perhaps allow for some sort of sudden scheduling conflict to annul my plans, if this was indeed going to be as boring as I felt it would. But since we were going to be meeting for dinner, I decided to at least do that, since nothing bad can come of a meal with friends.

So off I went to Jogeshwari to meet NS, famed travel and food blogger extraordinaire, who, much to my dismay, upon meeting me a tad late at our designated rendezvous at Jogeshwari East, described in detail his most immediate encounter with the city's traffic problem, and it's effect on our common meeting point in Andheri. It was henceforth decided that we meet the remaining biker at Jogeshwari West instead, which we did soon after. It was then decided that, for want of decent nightly nourishment aka dinner, in Jogeshwari West, we might be better off travelling to Malad to fill up and meet group member number 4. 

Unfortunately, traffic is what you would expect on a Saturday night in Mumbai. Fortunately, our two biker heroes come from only the finest biker lineage, and I can say with almost absolute alacrity that the only vehicles they succeeded in scraping or being scraped by were each others bikes. But do not be alarmed , dear readers, for is it not in the biker handbook to strive to always attempt to be close to your fellow biker? I was almost inspired, and I would have been, if it weren't for all the petrol fumes wafting around.

So we made it to Mindspace, my home away from home, a place I shall always have the fondest memories of. Now despite the world's notions about my perceived perfection, I would like to assure my readers that I do make mistakes, though these are so rare, they tend to become the stuff of whispers and legends, the kinds that evolve into those 'Once upon a time in Mumbai...' tales, which might even one day become excellent children's bedtime story material.

But getting back to my dinner adventure before my Yeoor adventure, I advised said bikers of the high probability inherent in finding good food at Evershine Nagar, and further advised them to take the back road, the one that runs along behind Inorbit, all through to the Mindspace Paradigm buildings, and parallel to Link road. A quieter quicker road, but where we ended up missing all the more cost effective restaurants on Link road, and eventually scouring the Evershine area, three hungry individuals on an ever frustrating quest for cheap food. 

We decided to go back to Mindspace, but via Link Road this time, where I spotted a familiar establishment by the name of Rasoi. My previous culinary experience at this particular eatery had only been at it's Borivli branch, but it was satisfactory. However, NS, the foodie that he is, insisted that we go to Dum Laga Ke, a Mughlai/Biryani theme place that he had been to before but whose location he hadn't the good sense or memory to remember. His sumptious review of a sumptuous restaurant can be found here

The main points I took away from the experience are - 

1. I loved the Bheja Fry. It was some sort of butter garlic concoction and was tastier than any other brain that I've tasted any other place, and for Rs 170,  was a good starter for it's taste and quantity.

2. The tables were high and the seats were low. This phenomenon, while irritating, gets a 5/5 for making me feel like a child at a restaurant all over again, especially while I rested my elbows on the table.

3. The Biryani's were filling. One was just enough for two, and at Rs 150/biryani, were suitably priced, their only fault being not containing enough prawns in the prawn biryani, and having Chicken Tikka that didn't taste like Chicken Tikka in the Chicken Tikka biryani.

The damage came to 200/head and we waited outside for a while snapping away and mulling over our next move. Group member number 4 was otherwise engaged, and our waiting for her will hopefully be mirrored in your waiting for the next half of this enlightening wondrous little story, dear readers. Soon.


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Funny Observation in Google Reader

This Google Reader screen shot that I took yesterday might tell more than it intends to.


Monday, 2 November 2009

5 Suggestions For Facebook

So here are a five suggestions I recently sent to Facebook.

1. Favouriting -

Could you please look into a 'favourite'ing feature for FB? You know, like they have for feed readers like Google Reader?

The problem that most of us face right now is that we come across a lot of great items (videos, articles) that friends post on their walls, but we have no way to save them for future reference. This means that they simply float away in time as the wall gets refreshed with newer items and we have no quick way to access them except by going back down the common walls, or going to a friend's page and going down their wall, neither of which is convenient.

True, we do have an option to share the item ourselves, so it appears on our wall, but that seems like a lengthy solution to an easy problem. Also, we shouldn't have to be forced to share an item to view it later, not that it helps much either, as the item will just float down our wall sooner or later.   

This is a major issue that a lot of us would like to see fixed. We'd be really grateful if you could work towards some sort of parallel wall or page where we can view at any point of time all the items we've chosen to favourite.

2. Sharing -

And while we're on the subject of parallel walls or separate pages, how about one dedicated to friend's items that we've chosen to share, as opposed to the current scenario, where both shared items and our own posted items are presented on the same wall?

3. Minimizing -

And going further, maybe a way to minimize our wall items, be they present wall items or (hopefully in the near future) shared or favourited items, so we can see them in a quick list with an option to view each item in expandable form, rather than the present situation where we have to scroll down each and every item in a wall, complete with descriptions, thumbnails and all?

4. Feed Reading -

Could you please include some kind of RSS/Atom feed subscription facility for FB. I'm not just talking about subscribing to other people's FB links in the form of a feed, but using FB itself as a feed reader for third party RSS/Atom feeds.

5. Friend Mapping -

Lastly, and I know this is a complicated and more of a futuristic-nice-to-have rather than a must-have feature, but could you please look into the possibility of creating some kind of friend mapping feature for Facebook?

It would prove to be really helpful, and would work sort of like a mind map or semantic network (and be presented in the same way), letting us see how each of our friends is connected to us and to each other, but not on an individual scale as is currently the case, but on a grander scale, with all connections and connectors displayed simultaneously for all friends (or friend groups if that's easier). This might need to be in 2D or 3D form, on a separate dedicated page that could be linked to from the 'Friends' tab on the menu bar.

I've included a link below for reference -

If by some small chance you do find any of my ideas appealing, viable and of potential usefulness, please don't hesitate to send me some small token of appreciation, an iPod touch perhaps, or an iphone? :-)