Sunday, 30 December 2007

Happy New Year

Another year comes to an end, and what a wonderful year it was. 2007 began with the most important moment of our lives; our wedding. The ceremony and the reception that followed couldn't have been more perfect. Our relatives and friends had fun, and I gracefully eased into the role of coy (atleast i tried) bride, after months of adorning the mantle of "bridezilla".

The ceremony went without a hitch. The flower girls walked ahead of me like veterans, carrying their tiny flower baskets, wearing adorable outfits. The family choir gave the ceremony that special touch, as did the pastor who gave us a sermon we'd all remember forever. We did have our share of minor bloopers, even though I didn't trip and fall (courtsey: high heels and heavy saree). I was the smiling bride, who'd forgotten to cover her head (not so coy was I?), and when it was time to place the manthrakodi on my head, Ro merely passed it on to his sister. Traditionally, the manthrakodi saree is placed on the bride's head to symbolize the groom's promise of always clothing his wife. Now that his sister had performed that task, we often joke about how clothing me is now her responsibility.

The reception that followed was as much fun, despite having to pose for a zillion photographs with a lot of people we didn't know. Every smile and frown (they didn't make it to the album ofcourse) was captured, and it felt like we were being mobbed by the paparazzi.

*
The year that followed went by so quickly. Three weeks in India, and we were off to London. From being used to the Chennai heat, I suddenly found myself in snowy UK. Covered up in thermals, sweaters, gloves, and a heavy coat (just me, not Ro), we toured London, before eventually settling down in a comfortable apartment, where I began my culinary experiments. We were touristy in London, even venturing out to nearby holiday spots. We played hosts to our parents, made new friends, and before we knew it, it was time to head back, and our family was getting bigger.

How has life changed otherwise? Last year this time, I was announcing to my parents that this year i'd be out on New Year's eve, partying with Ro. Little did I know then that I'd be home, enjoying my expanding belly, preparing for one of the biggest changes in my life.

Truly, what a wonderful year it has been!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

After a long slumber

The "ocassionally i come alive" blog promises to be "completely inactive", a month from now. Atleast then I'd have legitimate excuses for not updating my (errm..our) blog. I'm being promised sleepless, tiring nights, and a lot of nappy changes. Strangely enough, despite them, I'm looking forward to holding the little one. And yes, if I might be honest, I'm looking forward to having the baby out, so I can feel the "lightness" that many romanticise.

The pregnancy has been both good and bad, but mostly wonderful. From being someone who was mortally afraid of the needle, I now manage some small talk with the technician, while he retrieves vials of blood from my arm. I have discovered new methods of dealing with my morning sickness (something that never limited itself to my mornings alone during the first three months). Then there was an aversion to certain foods, that was soon taken over by these insatiable hunger pangs. So that meant, a sensible diet (most of the time), walks (most of the time), and those seemingly easy antenatal exercises (well...ocassionally). The rest of the time, I merely read, watch re-runs of sitcoms, catch up with the latest flicks (nothing scary or emotionally disturbing), and listen to a lot of music with the baby. Yes, the little one responds to music. A pretentious mother-to-be, I tried to get it interested in Baby Bach and Baby Mozart, only to give up when I felt excited flutters everytime Shakira danced to her "Hips don't lie." I'm also walking around feeling special (and who wouldn't) because the baby recognizes my voice.

Ro continues to display all the traits of being a wonderful father. He sings and talks to my active belly, and monitors much of what I watch and eat. He is also very tolerant towards to my changing moods. Yes, the hormonal changes make you either deliriously happy or irritably moody. However, it hasn't only been an expanding waistline, changing moods, lots of throwing up, and those annoying aches and pains (whoever knew of those painful, expanding ligaments along the hips)! Pregnancy came with its perks. The bigger the belly, the bigger the perks.

I began noticing these privileges on my flight back home. People weren't just throwing me friendly, interested smiles. They were also keen on making sure I was comfortable. So I could cut queues, expect to be seated immediately, and be pampered. This treatment got better once I was home. In addition to getting pampered at home, I could walk into any crowded room knowing someone would get up and offer me their seat. Even the long wait at the vodaphone outlet was cut short because a considerate employee wanted to spare me the wait. The hospitals were no less considerate. If there was a long queue for a blood test, and a longer one for a container to pee into (yeah, we pregnant women endure a lot of urine tests), I was allowed the privilege of breezing in and out (okay okay..waddling in and out), irrespective of how many were waiting.

If this was wonderful, it gets better. In India, neighbours and friends just need the whiff of a pregnant woman, so they can busy themselves in their kitchens to whip up meals. Yeah, for once, everyone is concerned about your cravings and not so much the calories. I'd just whisper, "I feel like eating a dosa today", and I'd be driving to a restaurant immediately, for my fill of dosas. A neighbour I was seeing for the first time made it a point of coming home everyday with something different to eat. Luckily I was well past all my aversions.

It's been an eventful 8 months, and now I eagerly await the arrival of my baby. I wonder if I'll be a good enough parent, but Dr Spocks assures me that all parents learn with experience. Life sure has changed a great deal, and promises to change even more. But I think I'm ready now, and I look forward to it.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Back at Home

Just feels like yesterday when we moved to London as newly weds. We found a spacious flat that would house future guests as well, and filled it up with everything we would need. The tube station was just across, and whatever we needed was just a station or two away. After a week of settling in, this new house eventually began to feel like home. I began my culinary experiments on patient Ro and our pots and pans, while Ro went to work. We travelled a bit, explored a lot of London, and spent several hours watching movies and enjoying sitcoms. And before I knew it, I was back in India, expecting our first child.

This move seemed to come abruptly, maybe because I wasn't really ready for it as yet. The experience as been bitter sweet, for though I was looking forward to being back home, I miss Ro and London. Friends ask me what I will miss most about London the most. "A lot of things", i answer. I will miss having high-speed inter connectivity, the ceremonious service at St Paul's Cathedral, Magic 105.4 radio, ancient buildings brimming with history, traveling on the tube, the library just across the road, parks with swans, ducks and horses, huge shopping malls, the fresh air, pedestrian paths, all those colorful flowers, polite bus drivers and postmen, the human statues and street performers at Covent Garden.......the list is endless.

However, despite everything I will miss, the chaos and commotion back home is quite the welcome sight. The sight of those muddy unkempt streets and the cows lazing on them oblivious to the honking traffic makes you realize you are finally where you belong; home. The familiar sounds of neighbours chatting, the clanking of pots being washed, the sweeeping of leaves outside, the chatty relatives and friends, the familiar aromas from the kitchen, and regional television brings about a certain "homey" feel that I missed for so long.
It sure is good to be back. Now for a two-month wait before Ro is back too!

Monday, 9 July 2007

One Night Of Hope

I'd be lying if i said I was a Joel Osteen fan. The name brought back distant memories of an unread book at home that someone had given Mom, but I had never heard his sermons. A devout Joyce Meyer loyalist (still am one), Ro introduced me to Joel Osteen a while ago, while we were flipping channels. Months later, we were at the Wembley Arena listening to the man, and what an inspirational moment it had been.

The trip to Wembley was tedious. We took three trains and walked 10 minutes to get to our well positioned seats (in front). The crowd trickled in gradually at first, and by 7.30, we had a packed auditorium filled with people from all nationalities. The show (is that what you call these events?) began with songs by the worship leaders from Osteen's Lakewood church. Singer Cindy charged the audience with her vocal range and heart felt lyrics. Everyone was at their feet singing along and clapping. Even the coy indulged in some foot tapping and mild dancing.

Before long the man we'd all been waiting for arrived on stage, amidst much clapping. What struck me most about him, was the joy he seemed to exude. He seemed happy and in peace, and so comfortable imparting that obvious that a lot of us had been so blinded by.

"The enemy isn't after our money or relationships. He is after our joy", he announced. It was about the right attitude, and I couldn't agree more. His sermon centered on praying for God's favor, and he explained it with a series of light hearted anecdotes. "God wants to be involved in your every day lives", he assured us. So if you needed guidance or merely space to park your car, all you needed to do was pray. These prayers wouldn't always be answered he said, but then we could always praise him for the fact that we were well, healthy and able to walk. Key was in never forgetting to praise God and enjoy all his blessings. Almost immediately all i felt was blessed, because there was so much to be thankful for.

Interspersed with more songs, a testimony by his mother, a talk by his wife, a verse by his song, and a song by his 6-yr-old daughter, the event ended on a positive note. We prayed, we sang, we listened, and we left feeling positive. Truly an event worth being part off.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Wicked, the musical

After numerous attempts at recovering from a bad case of writer's block, i've finally returned. Through this period, Ro was undeniably supportive, given that he was struck by the disease as well. Infectious i guess.
We've both been well, and we were leading a pampered existence for as long as my parents were here. A week after their return to Chennai, we are reeling over the fact that life is back to normal, and reminicing about the fun things we did while they were here. On of those fun things, was a broadway musical, Wicked.
When we got to the theater, we were welcomed to the sight of some elaborate sets. A dragon on talk, machinery on either side, and the map of Oz in the center.
While the audience crowded the theater looking for seats, excited children they were accompanying, and the right spot for a picture, we sat patiently, waiting for the show to begin. And almost immediately, the music came on and this elaborate set came to life. A group of monkeys (actors ofcourse) climbed down the rusty stairs, pulled up the map of Oz, and welcomed us into the world of Wicked.

"Let us be glad
Let us be grateful
Let us rejoicify that goodness could subdue
The wicked workings of you know who..."

..sang Glinda, the Good, to a group of people who were as dressed in elaborate, exquisite outfits as she was. An amusing theatrical song later, she begins telling the untold story of the witches of Oz. In the next 2 hours, we witness the unfair circumstances that aid in labeling a misunderstood, powerful witch, the wicked witch.
When they met, they couldn't have been more different. While Glindawas the popular, much-loved, slightly dim-witted blond, Elphaba was green and therefore viewed with apprehension and disgust. Her latent power and her eagerness to study impressed the teachers, but she remained unpopular with the students; even her own sister.
However, these rivals soon became friends, even finding a common attraction towards a fun-loving, mischievous Fiyero. You'd think life is going well, but it isn't. The evil Wizard of Oz is plotting in the background, so he can use Elphaba's powers to read a magical book. She refuses, and the revered Wizard tarnishes her image by labeling her evil. As Elphaba gets more and more powerful, the people of Oz fear her even more, making her the most powerful wicked witch of Oz.



This tale of magic, treachery, good Vs evil, and misunderstanding meets with a glorious end, one that you have to watch for yourself. Worth every pound, the elaborate sets, the use of props, the changing lighting, the exquisite outfits, the lively music, and the storyline made Wicked seem larger than life. See if you can....!

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Guru


Guru; a visionary who leaves behind his simple beginings, to create the biggest polyester business in the country. Armed with his grit and determination, and guided by his dreams, this ambitious man leaves his village with two shirts, his wife, and his brother-in-law. He is incorrigible, easy-to-like, pushy even, and confident. He is a definite winner, and when his honesty refuses to pay off, he takes the crooked path. He makes money, and becomes one of the most successful businessmen in the country. However, since he is also responsible for much of the corruption in the country, a newspaper decides to strip him off his status and hard earned success.

The plot has the makings of an inspiring rags to riches story. Who wouldn't relate to a man who wanted to make it big? It is easier, when that man is the charming Abhishek Bachchan. He is endearing and so likeable that even his decision to marry Aishwarya for her dowry brings a smile. You recognize his dreams, applaud his every successful moment, and stay loyal till the end.

This period film is then interspersed with some interesting songs, and several dramatic moments that i'm sure generated a few claps in theatres. However, despite these ingredients, the film was a huge disappointment.

For me, the plot wasn't realistic enough. Guru's success isn't gradual, it is instantaneous, and though we see him as a humble, honest individual in the beginning, his hand in corruption comes as a surprise. The audience doesn't see him as wayward businessman till much later, and once this guise is taken off, he is shown to be only source of trouble in society. Where were all the gangsters, corrupt politicians, and drug peddlers you wonder. Why was "The Independant" focusing merely focussing on bringing down Guru? Why were its owner and reporter wearing cloaks of righteousness, when they were concocting stories about the man themselves? Were Guru's presents, and the fact that he patronized their newspaper for his side of the story, reason enough to antogonize them?

The acting was fairly okay. Abhishek Bachchan displays traces of his father Amitabh, in his demeanor. Though overly dramatic in some scenes, he gives a decent performance. Aishwarya Rai as his wife is understated. As with the women in the Maniratnam movies, she has spunk, and is strong-willed. A silent force behind her husband, her performance was perhaps the most subtle and believable. Mithun (remember Disco Dancer) as the owner of The Independant, is refreshing. He isn't loud or dramatic. You believe in him, and respect his strong moral ethics. However, you wonder why he supports the path chosen to fight Guru. Madhavan as the reporter chosen to destroy Guru, seems like a forced presence. His undivided attention on Guru, and his unethical means makes Guru more of a hero than he already is. He is paired opposite Vidya Balan, whose presence seems unnecessary. She doesn't help with the plot, and isn't one of the important characters. Even without her, you get a peek into Guru's soul. However, if not for her, you'd miss the only kiss in the movie.

These performances are aided by Rajiv Menon's camera work, and A.R.Rahman's music. I'm not a huge Rahman fan anymore and except for Na Na Re and Tere Bina, I found the other songs weird. The biggest disappointment however was Maniratnam himself. Though in comparison to most other Hindi films, Guru fares well, in comparison to his own films Guru proves to be a disaster. Perhaps he should stick to Tamil cinema?

Friday, 18 May 2007

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

On Popular Demand

A rare picture of us together.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Conversation in Church

Friendly Pastor: I'm sorry, I didn't get your names.
Ro: Rohit
Friendly Pastor: Robert
Ro: Rohit
Friendly Pastor: Robert?
Ro: Rooohit
Curious bystander: Robert?
Ro: R-O-H-I-T
Friendly Pastor and Curious bystander (hesitantly): Ro-hit
Another person walking by: Robert is it?
Ro: Yeah
Friendly Pastor (turning to me): And you?
Me: R-O-O-P-A, Roopa
Friendly Pastor: Roopa. Alright! See you both next Sunday, good bye.
Ro (to me): Call me Bob

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

The Haunted City - Day 3

We were most productive on day 3, because we'd planned the day well. We started at the Castle museum that I was most fascinated by. Here we found living rooms from different periods and regions, the oldest vaccuum cleaners, toilets from different times, detergents and soaps from different eras, baby clothes, coffins, wedding gowns, receipts to burial plots, a magnificent clock, and a street from the past with shops, shopkeepers, a school, and a prison. We were in another time.
Victorian sitting room
A living room from the 1950s
Interestingly, all of these rooms came with accompanying sounds. In the second room the radio was on, and on the shelf an old picture was displayed. In another room from the Yorkshire moors, you could hear the breeze outside. Inside, a rabbit hung from the ceiling, and the room was scattered with some basic wooden toys.
An old vaccuum cleaner

Two old toilets

An old washing machine
A funeral (the family is visible behind)
Moi standing beside a horse carriage in the model of a Victorian street
After the museum, we ran towards the river Ouse, where we took a boat ride. While on this trip, we were given the history of the places we passed. We also passed a rowing club, where a lot of excited youngsters were competing against eachother.
After this trip, we were off to find the York Brewery. Thanks to our York pass, we were getting a tour of the brewery, but the incentive was the free beer. We crossed Dame Judi Dench walk, and followed the signs leading to the brewery.
However, as we were too early, we decided to check out the Nicklegate Bar museum first. A place that has witnessed numerous crimes, it is most well known for displaying the skulls of people who were executed. Though they aren't real now, i thought it was morbid. However i was fascinated by the wooden stairs and the museum keeper. I asked him if he'd seen any of the ghosts that supposedly haunt the museum today. A chatty old man, he explained the ghosts were responsible for his white hair. On a serious note, he added that he often sensed Sarah (a girl walking around with a key)'s presence. He even told us about a visitor who said he smelt cooking on the first floor. Incidentally it was there that a woman poisoned the food she was cooking before killing a group. He admitted to having heard footsteps from time to time, before asking me if i'd had any ghost sightings. When I said "no", he proceeded to tell me about a house he nearly bought, in which his daughter saw the man who'd killed himself in the house. Spooky!

By the time this tour was over, the brewery was open. We got a beer each before the tour, and another one of our choice at the end of it. I'm not too fond of beer, so while I made pretenses of drinking the beer, Ro finished up mine as well. He is now a fan of the Yorkshire Terrier. The tour of the brewery was boring. I barely understood the bartender's accent, and he seemed disgruntled about having to explain the process to different groups over and over again. Ro was paying attention though, because I caught him asking questions. After the tour and all that beer, Ro was full and happy, but I still needed to get some lunch. So we went in search of food.
After lunch, our next destination was the Roman bath. Another haunted spot, we were welcomed to this site by a guide dressed as a Roman soldier. Escavated in 1930, a modern steel walkway suspended above the ancient remains, takes visitors through the Tepidarium (warm room), Caldarium (hot steam room), and the Frigidarium (cold lunge pool). What I found most interesting however, was the sponge attached to a stick that the romans used to clean their butts, and the armour that we could try on. I tried a pathetic imitation of the Romans. From here, we wandered into Barley Hall, a magnificent medieval town house. Here we stepped back in time to the late 1480s, to discover what life was like in the busy household of Lord Mayor of York and Goldsmith, Alderman William Snawsell. Much of the restoration process is still ongoing in this house, but we did wander through the house, and see some beautiful tapestries.
Then we went to our last destination, the Treasurer's house. Named after the treasurer of York Minster, this magnificent house nestled behind the Minister came as a huge surprise. I didn't expect such grandeur and magnificence. Home to business man Frank Green, who lived in the house with his staff, the contents of the house have been displayed as they were during Green's time. One of the first houses acquired by the National trust, it was also one of the first few houses to have electricity. The house that once housed Prince Edward and his wife during a holiday, is proof of how wealthy green was. He was also a man who was immensely interested in decorating his house. The color schemes, the curtains, the designs on the furniture, and the furniture itself were all careful chosen by him. When the house was handed over to the National Trust, he asked that nothing be moved, and threatened to haunt the house later if it was. Of all the houses i'd been to, this was the most grand, and I was in awe, as I walked up the wooden staircase into the different rooms that now displayed huge beds with exquisite curtains covering them. The audio guide gave us information on each room. However, there was a guide in every room, so we could ask them any questions about the house or Frank Green, the loner who lived in the house with his staff, a parrot, and a dog. These guides breathed life into him, making him a real presence wherever we went. We'd come in too late, so we weren't allowed into the ghost cellar, where there have been sightings. So we left disheartened that we hadn't witnessed any ghosts during our stay in York.
After all this history, we decided we needed to get back to the present. So Starbucks it was. We had our coffee and walked back to our bed&breakfast. The holiday was finally over, but what a holiday it had been. Undeniably one of the most interesting places I'd been to, York had proved to be a memorable holiday.

The Haunted City - Day 2 (contd)

From York Minster, we wandered into the Shambles that are narrow, winding medival streets housing quaint little shops on either side. It's been in existence for 900 years, and if not for a few designer labels, you'd think you'd been transported to the past.

We encountered numerous street performers here.

We got ourselves some lunch, checked the map, and walked in the direction of the York DIG. We crossed the amusing Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate, which is the shortest street in York. Known in 1505 as Whitnourwhatnourgate, it was later changed to its present name. According to local legend, this is where men whipped their nagging wives (hence Whip-ma-whop-ma). This place turned out to be Ro's favorite spot!We also found the home of Margaret Clitherow, who fought for the abolition of slavery and for women's rights. She was martyred in York, and later canonised in 1970. Then, we were off to the Dig, where we found "real" archeologists who proudly displayed the results of their five years in the site. We saw tiles, pipes, tanks, and bones; all from the distant past.
A few minutes later, we were out again, looking for the York dungeon. Along the way, we crossed the famous Black Swan, a 15th century house that supposedly houses a few ghosts today. It belonged to William Bowes, who was the mayor of York in 1443.

Right across is a church where interesting christenings take place. The church has two doors, one that is normal sized so people can enter, and the other, a small door to let out evil spirits.Notice the small door towards the right.

York dungeon was mere entertainment. We were led into a makeshift dungeon filled with moving skeletons, a door that screams when you attempt opening it, and several actors dressed as ghosts. The children ahead of us seemed to be enjoying themselves. They were cheeky with the actors who worked hard at scaring us, and laughed aloud when the actor glared at them angrily. I was perhaps the most easily startled. I held on to Ro's hand, and jumped screaming when a skeleton screeched into my ears. Phew! Here, we got a peek into what the plague did, the dead, the torture chamber, a court that sentenced people for the smallest crimes, and the hanging of Dick Turpin. The entire exercise was entertaining, but it had eaten into our time. There was little else we could do.

However, we still had time for Clifford's Tower. The remains of the York castle, this is where William the Conquerer first built a wooden castle in 1086, overlooking the river Ouse. It was burned down by the natives and this second castle was built. The castle has witnessed some of the most horrific moments in history, such as the massacre of the jews in 1190. We climbed up the winding stone steps and went on top to view the city from it.


By the time we were out, there wasn't much we could do. All the other museums had closed for the day, and we had time to ourselves. We were tired, so we got some fruit juice at an interesting little joint called Le Place Verte. Adjacent to the river, this tiny place once had the machinery needed to open up the bridge next to it, whenever a vessel had to pass.
By the time we were done, it was only 6, and we weren't too keen on going back to our bed&breakfast just as yet. So we decided to walk along the city wall. We began at one end, and before we knew it, we were close to where we were staying. We couldn't believe just how small the city was. However, before we began this walk, we marked out places on our map and planned the Day 2. We wanted to see as much as we could, and waste little time.
I'm glad we planned day 2, because we managed to see a LOT more than we did on day 1.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The Haunted City - Day 2 (York Minster) - Part 1

After a traditional English breakfast that consisted of an egg, bacon, brown hash, baked beans, mushrooms, baked tomato, sausage, and toast, we were out with our cameras. Our first stop was the station, where we got ourselves the York pass. For 27 pounds, the pass that is valid for two days gained us free entry into various tourist haunts. As we were still new to the city, we decided to begin with the discounted (again coz of our pass) tour bus ride. During the 45-minute tour, we drove past various churches, museums, and shopping areas. Only then did we realize just how small the city was. We actually could walk through the entire city, guided by a simple map and the city signs. No buses, no taxis, and no tube. We got off at Exhibition Square, to visit York Minster. After walking past Bootham Hall and several quaint little shops (expensive though), we were in the magnificent presence of the Church. Built in the shape of a cross, the church that took over 250 years to build, was exquisite. The stained glass and carved stones had crosses as well, and the architecture was detailed and awe-inspiring. We didn't go for service that had already began, but walked all around the church. An artist was busy at work outside. After admiring his work, we went into St Micheal Le Belfrey. the older church next to the Minster. There have been Christians in York since the Roman times, and church buildings in this area since the year 627, when Bishop Paulinus baptised Edwin, king of Northumbria. Saxon burials discovered in Petergate prove that St Michael's is of early origin. This church was rebuilt between 1525 and 1537, during Henry VIII's break with Rome. John Forman, the Minster's master mason buit it in the Tudor gothic style with renaissance influence. Much of the stained glass in the church has survived from that era. Interestingly, this is also the church were Guy Fawkes was baptised. After exploring this church, we walked on further, till we found a grand statue of Constantine. The statue finds place here, because Constantine was proclaimed Roman emperor here. He recognized the faith of his subjects and soon converted to Christianity as well, thereby establishing the foundations of Christianity in the region. From across his status is a tall column. This Roman column once stood within the great hall of the headquarters building of the fortress of the sixth legion, in the 4th century. It was found in 1969 during the escavation of the south transept of the Minster, lying where it had collapsed.
Then we moved into the Minster. Service was on, and the entire church was filled hymns.
While the choir kept busy, we used our York passes for entry into the undercroft, treasury, and crypt. With the aid of an audio guide, and exhibits from the different ages, we learned the story of the Minster through the ages. We found the remains of the Roman fortress, Viking Norman and medival carvings together with treasures and jewels of archbishops. The crypt is still used for special services, and it is also the final resting place of St William of York. By the time this amazing tour ended, it was time for lunch. We still had a LOT more to explore, and our day had just begun.