Thursday, January 14, 2016

Goodbye Professor Snape!

For a very shy kid of twelve, who found her bearing (literally) in the magical world of Harry Potter, Severus Snape was her first frenemy. As much as she loathed the character, it was he who kept Philosopher’s Stone gripping till the end. The book was a page turner and as its climax neared, she remembered telling her cousin excitedly how she couldn’t wait for the face-off between Harry, her beloved hero and Snivelly Snape, the vindictive Potions Master. But JK Rowling would not have been JK Rowling if twelve year olds could predict her plot twists. Snape refused to fit into her black and white boxes, instead evolving into the complex antihero who could put Heathcliff to shame. He was broken in love but never let himself be reduced to a pitiable figure. There lay his courage. You laughed with Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs when they presented their compliments to the Professor. You hated him when he barged into the Shrieking Shack. You felt terrible when he was bullied as a school kid and you knew what Dumbledore was asking him for when he said Please. Severus Snape could take care of himself, thank you very much. And thus, despite his flaws, you couldn’t help but grudgingly admire him.

When the movies came out, you saw Alan Rickman become him, donning the role to a T. Now Snape had one more dimension to his personality. Swagger. And he could elicit one more reaction. Awe.  As you slowly fell in love with his rich baritone and Brit accent, you wondered how he had ever managed to annoy you. Maybe it was a different time zone.

An era had already ended but today, when I heard about the very sad demise of the veteran actor, it felt like even the friendly ghosts of half a decade past were deserting.  Much before Snape found his redemption in love in the books, he had found it in Alan Rickman in the movies.  RIP Sir!

Friday, April 03, 2015

She Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

She wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er malls and mills,
When all at once she saw a shroud,
Alas, her recent credit card bills;
Beside the shelf, her pace did cease,
A pair of boots glanced up to tease.

Polished as the rings that shine
And twinkle on a sunny day,
They stood tall proud black sublime
Along the lines of Tudor bay:
Ten thousand saw she at a glance,
And other heels did strut and prance.

The shoes beside them winked; but they
Out-did the song routine in Glee:
A heel pad could not be but gay,
In such a soleful company:
She cried – despaired – but little thought
What joy the shoe to her had brought:

For oft, the taste of apple pie
In a stomach crying out for food,
Glides down the tongue to say goodbye
To hunger and a sullen mood;
And then her heart with pleasure fills,
And casts aside the scowling bills.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Summer Love (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here

11th morning, with baguettes, juice and flakes for breakfast, we set out to explore the lesser known Luxembourg gardens. Quaint and expansive, it surrounds the imposing Palais du Luxembourg and in my humble opinion deserves better than relative anonymity. Host to the Medici fountain, it's a perfect retreat for the solo traveller with a book for company. It's also quite perfect to grab sandwiches and fries and enjoy a lazy lunch, perched on one of its many benches.

At walking distance from these gardens, is the famous Pantheon (modelled on its Roman cousin) and La Madeleine, a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene. From history, we proceeded towards economics- the Galaries Lafayette department store, which according to Wiki, earns some billion odd euros in a year. Here, we met Shibani's aunt, who very sweetly extended to us an invitation to her place for the day after. Later in the evening, we were joined by my mom, who despite eight hours of flight on her, bravely agreed to cover the Eiffel by night with us. The Eiffel by night, like by day, is a sight you should not miss. If the day fills you with a warm and fuzzy feeling, the night will make you contemplative and wondrous. Barely into day 3 and Paris was already growing on us.

12th was to be long and packed. My mom was leaving the next day for Copenhagen and we wanted to squeeze in as much as possible in her tight schedule. So beginning the morning with the same hostel breakfast (decent food but sorely missing eggs), we headed straight to the Louvre. One word for Louvre is massive. Once inside, I felt like a philistine. I knew of no painting other than the Mona Lisa and no structure other than the pyramid. I looked hopefully towards the English audio guide but alas, it covered barely one twentieth of things on display. Perhaps it was for the best, for if you hope to cover Louvre inch by inch, you'd need a minimum of two days. The painting that struck me more than the Mona Lisa was La Belle Jardiniere by Raphael. I was transported back to college, attending lectures, learning of implicit religious imageries, explicit facial expressions and the overarching inevitability of death and could feel goosebumps on my arms.

From here, we left for Versailles. A palace constructed many times over, it is slightly reminiscent of the Dolmabahce. Both grand, both ornate and both leaving you with a vague sense of emptiness. I was actually hoping to learn more of the notorious Treaty of Versailles but they pretended it never happened. If only erasing history was that simple. What remained were barren rooms, lush gardens and whimsical royalty. I confess I was disappointed. Disappointment, though, has little room in a place that gives you sunlight till eight in the night. So off we went to Eiffel again. Mamma could see it in the daylight and we could sit on the steps and enjoy Friday night dance performances and parodies by some really talented local groups. It was also the first evening we explored one of the many pretty cafés of Montmarte (the significance of this will emerge later). A long day's walk and a good night's meal lulled us into a very restful sleep.

Saturday, the 13th: Morning ritual followed and we were ready for Notre Dame. I made a mental note to walk straight that day. Notre Dame by the bye is the centre of Paris, something we learnt once we'd left the place. We sat by the station, sipping hot cups of chocolate and admiring a particular little brat begging for money to buy wine and weed (he had a placard, no kidding!). Mamma left in the afternoon and later we acted upon the invitation of the aforementioned aunt. She had the cutest little kid who baby-talked in French and I realised with a start that I couldn't keep up with babies. After a hearty lunch and armed with new information, we headed back to Notre Dame to unearth the centre of Paris. Unearthing was fun. It was right there and yet inconspicuous. We might even have stepped on it without realising. Rumour goes that if you step on the centre, you are sure to visit the city again. It reminded me of the Taj Mahal. You look back once and you'll be coming back again. Since we had time to kill and were yet to cross Sacre Coeur off our list, we headed there (the postponement can be attributed to its proximity to our hostel). Several steps, scenes of Queen and mild annoyance at my brother later, I could appreciate the beauty of the basilica.

It was our last night in Paris and we weren't willing to turn in just yet so we sat again in one of the inviting cafés overlooking the street. And who may we find sitting on the table next to ours? Mr. Hunk-a-doodle-do, straight out of an Austen novel, eating by himself. As if that was not enough, when he opened his mouth, Brit accent came out. And so we talked. I pretended to at least, trying very hard not to ogle. At the end of our almost two hour long conversation (to prolong which, he'd order more wine), we realised he was a fairy who at the stroke of midnight, disappeared into thin air. Of my memories of Paris, this will hold a special place. You see, both of us were grinning like lunatics long after he was gone.

14th and 15th was about Amsterdam. And Amsterdam has a ground rule - what happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam. And who are we but mere mortals to disobey such ordinance? I can only thus tell you the bits and pieces. Amsterdam is beautiful, tolerant, fun and offers some great walking tours. You also have to try their traditional food which is like Indian khichdi with veggies, meat and gravy. It's really delicious. Wash it down with a glass of rose wine and you are good to go. Just watch out for them, bicycles. You can shop till you drop in their limitless arcade or watch bands perform with perfunctory pride near Museumplein or simply enjoy a hot dog by dam square. It's a free country. But don't take that statement too literally. The same laws apply here. The only difference is that Amsterdam will look the other way if you leave its 3 core principles intact - learn to camouflage, don't harm anyone and be good for business. Also, if you can, visit the Anne Frank museum. The 14 year old in you will thank you for it.

16 September - I had not planned on this but I ended up spending my birthday in THE most beautiful place with THE best people. The night before, we'd left Amsterdam for Geneva, where we were joined again by Mamma and my two aunts. At 12 in the night, my mother's friend (at whose place we were staying) made me cut Swiss cake and uncork champagne. I was to later discover that both she and her husband are among the warmest people one can have the good fortune to meet. My mother had spent the previous day running from pillar to post to get me the perfect birthday jacket and that day in question, had planned a trip to Interlaken.

Interlaken! My words will not do justice to its beauty, nor to its picturesque train journey. So I'll just focus on the food. We went way up to the very summit to enjoy a concoction of cheese, eggs, chicken and potatoes along with iced beer. I was, without the slightest hint of exaggeration, on top of the world.

Home beckoned on the 17th and Mamma, Mami, Shibani and I travelled back to Paris to spend a half day too little. Mamma finally got to see Champs Elysses and Arc de Triomple and we all went to see the Tuileries gardens. Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye. But when it's Au Revoir, it's never goodbye. 

It's till we meet again. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Summer Love (Part 1)

Like the beginning of all stories, this one too began on a fine sunny morning in May. Yours truly had just returned from home, was in the other city that she was increasingly calling her own and was seated at her office desk, doing nothing in particular. An SMS was to change things.

It was her friend. Jet Airways had introduced new flights and were offering trips to France at throwaway prices. As was merited, the enthusiasm was considerable. Some shrieks were exchanged, plans made and tickets booked.

What followed next is the actual start to the story. Now, if you are on your own for a given period of time, and in your mid twenties, you tend to take certain things for granted. One of them being the belief that your parents think you capable of taking care of yourself. However, some myths were to be dispelled. The picture of two girls on their own in a foreign land did not inspire much confidence in daddy dearest. A phone conversation later, he was convinced that we weren't going. Why? Because he said so. With a loud and emphatic NO. Now here's the tricky part- my role as a dutiful daughter almost rivals that of Queen's Rani (aside: my brother still thinks that the movie has been our primary motivator). So it's only natural that I became the rebel with a cause. Little did my unsuspecting father know that the non-refundable tickets had already been bought (my only defense here being that I'd genuinely not anticipated such fierce resistance to what in my head was a legit plan). So not going was really never an option. In such situations, I do what I've always done, turn to my mother. She wasn't too happy about the plan either, I could tell, but was at least willing to listen.

Another aside would help here. Our initial plan was to go in August (best weather and all), but at the time of booking, tickets were getting sold out like nobody's business. So we ended up booking for the second week of September, incidentally my favourite and birthday month.

So given the background, when she came up with a suggestion that only moms can come up with, I more than welcomed it. She would join us for the trip in parts and also be there for my birthday. Papa couldn't object now and all would be good with the world.

Or so I thought. The trick with the written word is that often, you can't detect the tone underneath. It was a long fought battle for my friend too. Earning the trust of your parents is never an easy task. She had managed to do the impossible and had booked in the knowledge that I'd done the same. So when it went from being a girls only trip, to an escorted by a parent trip, she was naturally ruffled. Now, not ever having felt more conflicted in my life, and understanding the valid sentiments on both sides, I knew what I had to do- concentrate on mutter paneer.

After much ado about some things, everyone finally came around (full credits here to the long gestation period, my ever thoughtful mom and my amazing and large-hearted friend who decided that she did not wish to murder me after all).

All energy was diverted back to planning and executing a successful trip that would hopefully restore our parents faith in us as reliable, independent women made of sterner stuff. The itinerary was fixed. My friend and I were to travel on the morning of the 9th and reach Paris the same evening. My mom would then join us on the evening of the 11th and leave again by 13th afternoon to visit her cousin in Denmark. We, on the other hand would travel to Amsterdam, 14th morning, and come to Geneva, 15th night, here to be joined again by my mom and aunts traveling from Denmark with her. 17th morning, we'd leave for Paris and in the evening, catch our final flight back to India.

While it all sounded wonderful on paper, as the dates drew nearer, our anxiety grew. However, the feeling that we'd soon be on our own in a country that spoke a different language was surreal.

All necessary arrangements had been made. We'd booked hostels, copied necessary routes from and to stations/airports, taken print outs of maps and made a list of must-see/do places and things. Also, and most importantly, the visa had arrived.

At the cost of an ever lengthening write-up, I shall tell you the visa story because it's worth sharing. I shall also do the other thing which I could have done before, call my friend by name.

So, Shibani and I, on a very rainy Mumbai morning, decided to go to the visa office. The night before, I had gone to her house for a sleepover (read mouth-watering, home-cooked food) where we checked and cross-checked that all documents for the next day were in order. We had given ourselves plenty of time, accounting for visa processing and delivery, so that we'd have 'em ready comfortably before travel. Drenched individually but without a drop on our double plastic sheathed papers, we emerged triumphantly from the auto-rickshaw, all set to conquer the world. Waiting patiently in the lobby inside, our number was called and we rushed to submit bag and baggage. Alas, one dratted little document, mentioned nowhere on the requirement list was missing. I beseeched the guy on the other side to see reason. The permanent address proof on my passport was for Noida. I was applying from Bombay. I had been working here for 2 years and documents from my office attested to that. So, unless I was doing up and down from Noida every day and secretly hiding the fact, there was really little reason to disbelieve my story. But the guy was adamant. So we had no choice but to return disheartened to our respective offices, taking solace in tomorrow being another day.

The next day came, the last formality was completed (with my office coming valiantly to my rescue) and all we had to do was wait to hear from them - 3 weeks we'd been told. It was Tuesday when all our documents for visa application had gone, it was Friday, when our respective visas arrived. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

I return now to the 9th of September. Backpacks in tow, we were finally inside the aircraft, our composure belying our racing hearts. 3 movies (Roman Holiday, Moulin Rouge, West Side Story - had not seen any before and would now recommend all 3) and Rosesh's shaayari later, our flight
descended on French soil.

A week before, I had had the bright idea to subscribe to a basic French language course. Apparently, the idea wasn't too bright because by the time we landed, I could only recall a few stock phrases. However, our anxiety was unfounded. Paris not only manages well with English, it can also boast to have among the nicest, best looking, best dressed people you can find anywhere in the world. It is also pretty evident that they take the mantle of being the fashion capital of the world seriously.

We had booked a hostel in the Montmarte area, of the infamous Moulin Rouge. The area was perfect, epitomising Paris for us, with it's well connected metros, it's extremely pretty cafés, red berries and a safe haven to dump our stuff and take off.

Our roommate was an Argentinian chemical engineer who was traveling on work and pursuing a PhD. She directed us to the best metro map in the hostel and that was pretty much all we needed.

So take-off we did. With the map tucked neatly in our pockets and with weather that looked customised for our trip, we set out to discover what turned out to be a beautiful, very well planned out city.

10th was the day of Eiffel Tower. Shibani freaked out because it has featured on her list of must see places since forever. I freaked out because her enthusiasm is contagious. We took the Tour de Eiffel tickets and began to climb a very long set of winding stairs. Always carrying food in our bags, on the second level, we paused to eat theplas. Delicious home-made Gujarati theplas smack in the middle of Eiffel tower. Nothing can beat that experience.

Once full, we resumed our sojourn towards Trocadero gardens. In Paris, the Eiffel is pretty much everywhere and this knowledge hits you specially when you've taken off your shoes to relax in the sprawling greenery that beckons lovers, families and friends to forget their troubles for a day and just bask in the glorious sunlight. Bask you do and up you look and you see the Eiffel greeting you with a warm hello. Every negative feeling in the world eludes you. I speak from experience.

Pont Alexandre III
Post Eiffel, we decided to grace Arc de Triomphe with our presence. All we had to do was study the route to the nearest metro station and then, within two steps of the sortie (exit), be amazed by the gigantic structure standing tall in all its glory. This was a feature that held true for most places of eminence. The exits were located so close to the destinations that it looked tailor made for tourists and residents alike. The Arc stands on one end of Champs Elysees, the famed avenue that lends Paris its fashionista status. Here, you see long queues of people thronging outlets like Louis Vuitton. You'd be forgiven to think they were selling vada paaos by the dozen.

Hunger struck again and this time we decided to sit in one of the many brasseries and try the inviting tarts and macaroons. Once seated, we sated our eyes more than our tummies. Every second person looked like he had a ramp to hurry to. Same was the case near the Grand and Petit Palais. By the bridge of Pont Alexandre III and situated near the river bank was the most happening area of the city. It was a frequent of the office goers done for the day. One look at their smart black suits and charming smiles, and your heart would never feel more inconstant. With the sun slowly setting, we reluctantly bid goodbye to what was a veritable feast for the eyes.

To be continued...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Love Bites

The heart wished for you
Logic disagreed
Sarcasm played truant
Cupid decreed

The arrow was struck
Wreaking havoc in its wake
Subverting resistance
Of your wonders it spake

My mind now muzzled
I approached you with care
Swearing deathless devotion
To a love that was rare

I held you, caressed you
Took a whiff of your air
Then gulped you with coffee
My big muffin bear!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

It's been half a decade...

And I've realized how I've completely neglected my blog... because you know... life happened. Sigh! Not yet but some day, I hope to be back with a vengeance!!

Happy 5th My World!! :')

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Knight’s Tale

I gallop forth, head held high
Valiant, Proud, Stout, I sigh
In my dreams, a wishing star
Whispers softly from afar

A single caress, oh so sweet
That fair maiden of the street
I wave and bow, I kiss her hand
Until I spot her wedding band

She blushes, pulls her hand away
Nudges me, I gently sway
‘Twas but just a dream
Stifling my urge to scream

I look about ‘tis her I seek
Neither crimson, shy nor meek
Feisty ‘stead, bravest of all
Takes onus o’ the castle’s call

And guards too, both left and right
Black and white, melded in might
Street pawn no more, now royalty
Rags to riches- just fine by me

Oh possessor of my heart, my queen
Was my love for thee unforeseen?
Your bewitching eyes had me deceived
Affection in them I had perceived

I’m just your average knight
Shining armour burning bright
But all I really want to be
Is Protector of Her Majesty

And though I’d rather slit his throat
To him I my services devote
That wretched fool, we call him king
And in his honour, ballads sing

One step in time might save nine
But my daft man, where is your spine?
Fight your battles on your own
Not send your wife to guard the throne

If not for her you’d long be gone
Exiled or dead, crown forgone
So show more grace and trust your fate
And will her freedom to choose her mate