Sunday, April 05, 2015

Art

I have a long way to go - perfecting my well bent lines into perfect verticals, but it is a journey into your soul. When I do get into my zone, I'm transported to another world. Art does that to you - she draws you with such power, it is seductive.

I love line works, but it is mentally taxing and with my level of competency, makes it arduous and draining. For now, I have decided to concentrate on getting my basic drawing and tones to an acceptable level.

The following sketch is from my travels,  Kerala, one of my favourite destinations. 
I will post the next one soon, realised there was a lot of corrections when I verified my sketch against the original photograph.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Luncheon Reunion at The Kitchen, Raintree

We had been planning this for quite a while. But like every other plan, this simple luncheon was taking its own sweet time to materialize because of our own individual commitments on weekends. The choice of venue took the greatest time since we both lived on opposite ends of town. So finding a middle ground on a restuarant that appeals to our food taste, price and transport was tricky and terribly time consuming. Finally, we decided to meet at the Raintree - The Kitchen for a lunch buffet. Reviews seemed good and the spread was great. 

We were meeting after almost seven years and we had changed a bit physically, plumper than before. We got past that quickly and caught up on our good old days which was refreshing and nice. I was not aware how talented my friend was until she gifted me a beautiful painting of Jesus carrying a lamb in bright watercolors. I was blown away by her thoughtfulness - it felt like a blessing. 

For appetizers and starters, we were served a lovely warm soup followed by vegetable grills and non-vegetarian menu for my friend. We had a variety of chaat items and salads as well. One of my favourites was a delicately done stuffed brinjal in tomato sauce, which was fantastic. We were already feeling full and the thought of missing a beautiful and colorful dessert me
 
nu felt unforgivable. She loved her seafood main course while the vegetarian course seemed just alright - there was no Wow factor. After a good meal, we walked over to the dessert counter to see the choices for ourselves. A decision was made to give our gluttony a break over a good conversation and other plans. 

The dessert selection was fantastic and we shared every piece so the calories can be evenly spilt. Everytime I think I do not have a sweet tooth, an event like this comes along to remind me how inaccurate I am about myself. On that note, we wrapped up the bill and went outside to see her new car. It was a limited edition with a nice body in an navy blue. She then mentions that the valet ran over to the Audi coming up behind her and left her with her car
in the driveway. So we marched over to the lobby manager to bring this ghastly behavoir to his notice.  

Overall lunch was good and priced on the higher side which is expected. The interiors are bathed in white with a natual light and glass door panel flooding through. So when you step in to the Kitchen, it feels gorgeous. Nevertheless I thought they could pay much better attentions to the furniture and cutlery. Service was great and brownie points for dessert.

Over a warm hug, good memories and a promise to meet again, we drove away to into reality.

Call of the Hills, Ootacamund

My colleague's wedding was coming up and the venue was a great excuse for a few of us to escape to the hills. Her wedding was in the plains,  but the drive to Ooty-Conoor was just a few hours away at the hills. Chennai's rising mercury was an excellent need to climb over 7500 ft above sea level and chill out.

While the drive from Chennai to Coimbotore was braving an unrelenting heat wave inspite of the air conditioner, as we eased into the hills, we had the windows down and enjoyed the blast of cold breeze on our sweaty tired faces. The drive is terribly scenic, with lush green foliage, tea gardens, and beautiful view points overlooking the catchment area. The bride suggested we visit the lesser know Avalanche lake and Emerald lake, which is slowly opening up to tourists. Some of my friends who had been visiting Ooty for over 30 years barely knew of these two beauty spots! I was excited to get away from the noisy city life and incessant work schedule. 

After a tizzy spell, we reached the very quaint hotel which was cut away from the Ooty town. At any time, you can wake up to the sounds of the sparrows and mynas and other birds that visit the property for its innumerable flora and fauna. I knocked out for a few hours grateful for a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

We drove over into town to explore the place on foot. It was amazing to see how much Ooty had urbanised - Dominos pizza, Cafe Coffee Day, Subway and other famous food joints had cropped up. In the same breath, I might also add how appalling it was to see how dirty the streets had become with the influx of tourists. In India, the lack of civic sense and need for maintaining clean hygienic spaces is severely lacking. While people do not mind throwing garbage on their own streets, while abroad, they comply to every possible rule including segregating waste. Why this indifference?

For dinner, we headed over to the much talked about Shinkows, a Chinese restaurant in Ooty that has been around for a very long time. It is known more for its non-vegetarian menu such as crispy rabbit, so my vegetarian offering was not too great. The price was reasonable. After a long time, I had the Casatta for dessert, while appetiser and starters included the pepper soup and vegetarian spring roll. We split the main course with a dry vegetable noodles. After chatting around with the staff, we took a walk and then headed over to the hotel in preparation for the exciting visit to the lakes in the morning.

The next morning was misty and chill. It had rained the previous night, so the weather was cozy and cold. I was praying it would not rain. The driver to the lake was through the town of Avalanchi and took us almost 2 hours to get to the forest area, but it was a beautiful drive. You also need the Forest Department's permission to drive through the Forest and stop at the Eco-tourism pick-up point. You are better off getting there early since the tour takes another 2-3 hours into the Avalanche lake area. The government has worked with the Todas tribal community who inhabit the place to act as the preservers of the ecosystem. 

We drove past the Cauliflower shola forest, which gets its name from the tree bunches which look like the cauliflower from a distance. I thought we could even add broccoli to the description. We then stopped at the Upper Bhavani reservoir source. 

It was home to the beautiful Goddess Bhavani who is the protector of the area. Right by the temple, the river was flowing into the deep trenches of the forest. We got off the bus and offered our prayers and admired the pristine beauty of the place. I enjoyed the cold fresh spring water mingled with medicinal plants. We drove through fields of gold - beautiful meadows of yellow flowers glistening in the sun mingled with the rain drenched greenery of the forest. 

Finally we reached the beautiful Avalanch elake. The first glimpse will make you think it looked like a miniature version of the Grand Canyon, though the latter is nature's great wonder. It was a breathtaking view - untouched except for the hoof prints of the wild animals that come to the lake bed for water. We were hoping against hope to experience an encounter in the wild, but our Toda drive Prabhu Raj corrected us saying the wildlife is aware of our presence and come put late in the evening when the sun goes down. One of the unique traits of the place is the presence of the trout fish which inhabit the lake. The trout fish jump up in water and thrive only in fresh cold water.  This concluded our trip to Avalanch and we were dropped back at our pick-up point. 

We then drove over to Emerald lake which is enroute - reminded me of Pottstown lake in West Chester, which my friend took me to in the Fall. The lake was beautiful to watch over the sunset. We took a short walk through the wooded area to see the backwaters of the lake. That wrapped up the most important part of the stay. 




Misson accomplished, we headed over to Mohans Bhojanalaya, supposed to be a Gujurati vegetarian place for dinner. While the rotis were good, the side dishes were soaked in oil and I made sure I expressed my unhappiness to the staff. Post dinner, we stopped to buy the famous Ooty tea snacks, Varki and home-made chocolates from Modern Stores. On the way back, we experienced the unexpected - a huge mammoth size bison in the night. We were a little freaked out since these guys are unpredictable; even the local folks on two wheelers were wondering how to get past him. Since we were driving, we honked to scare the big guy and drove past. It was a life time experience! My wish came true. The hotel staff had a hearty laugh since the bison was a regular feature in their life. They treat him like their pet poodle!

With all the excitement, we drove back to Chennai through Conoor-Wellington and drove through the oldest and prestigious Madras regiment. You are not allowed to take photographs once you drive into the secured area. We watched the officers training for the parade and it filled our hearts with pride.

On the way, we quickly made a pit-stop at our friend's wedding reception and were off to Chennai braving the heat once again.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

PK (2014)

We caught up with the PK (pee-khe in Hindi, means drunk) fervour, primarily because it was an Aamir Khan movie and second, the title seemed to create a buzz and third, it opened to great reviews. Ofcourse, the controversial poster of Aamir chisled naked body with a tape recorder covering his private did half the trick. Seriously? Leading ladies dance around half-naked to raunchy numbers and lyrics, leaving nothing to imagination - but lets gloss over and turn the spotlight on the leading actor in question. Anushkha Sharma, the journalist and Aamir Khan's love interest had us in splits with her botched lip job, and a bad choice of haircut only heightened the Donald Duck resemblence.

Directed by Rajkumar Hirani, the film explores a much sought out topic in Inida - that of God and godmen; blind faith versus practical approach. PK was a much more humorous attempt to bring together a rather heavy and sensitive topic. PK an alien who lands on Earth (in Rajasthan) on a mission is duped by a theif and loses his medalion, which helps him stay connected to his spaceship. His search brings him in contact with humans and their way of life who refuse to beleive him, and ask him "pee-khe aye ho kya"- hence assumes his name as PK. His journey of faith in search of the medalion traveses all the different religions, with each religion emphasizing faith and prayers in the Almighty to make his wish come true. He stumbles upon a godman who displays his medalion as a spiritual treat and PK with Jaggu's (Anushka Sharma) help decides to expose the godman's identity. PK is subjected to a verbal national duel by the godman, the price being the medalion. In between all this, PK experiences love, but realises, Jaggu was in love with Sarfaraz a Muslim and decides to unite the two through practical wisdom.

Overall, PK was a decent bet. The need for the Hindu-Muslim love net was absolutely unecessary and the much anticipated debate should have been the clincher, instead it ended on such a soppy note. My mind was screaming for the movie to wrap up. Oh My God was a well thought out movie that hit home run with its direct approach on the subject. However, kudos to the writers in pulling off a tough subject with ease.

Calvin's CLoud




The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that is has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only.

- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables





Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Happy Deepavali 2014

Wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous Diwali. Have a safe one!





Sunday, October 12, 2014

Calvin's CLoud

The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. 
Never fear what will become of you. 
Depend on no one. 
Only the Moment You Reject all Help are you Freed.     
    

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Final Hug

My grand aunt passed away at the grand age of 83 early morning yesterday. She was suffering from cardiac related issues over the last two months. With a 90% block and no chance of a surgery at her age, we were told she is a walking time-bomb. The end came peacefully. She passed away in her sleep around 4.00 am due to cardiac arrest.

While on the road to recovery, her daughter fell terribly ill with a viral attack and was critically hospitalised for a week. I was worried that she would not make it and worse still, was anxious for my grand aunt. They were both stuck to each other like glue having lived in the same house for many years. Both survived and came home a few days ago, much to everyone's relief. 

Yesterday was mom's birthday and we had planned to visit Thiruvannamalai, one of the most holiest shrines in south India. The phone rang at 4.45 am and I had no idea who could be calling at such an ungodly hour. I heard the home care girl, a 19 yr old Priscilla weeping and let me know that my grand had passed away. God willed us to serve them that day instead of visiting Him. Such is His graciousness. 

When the end is destined, nothing can stop it. The nurse told me my Grand aunt who usually spends 5 minutes by the window everyday looking at the temple in the apartment complex, spend more than 30 minutes staring at the shrine with a lost look the day before. She dressed earlier than usual, had all her medications on time without a fuss. Her daughter was so fatigued from her medication, she decided to rest instead of lighting the lamp or drawing the kolam, both which are considered auspicious in every Indian household. To add to this, she allowed my grand aunt to eat whatever food she wanted in her last week inspite of adhering her to a strict diet for two months. My grand aunt also spoke to so many of her relatives late into the evening. She also spent a lot of time laughing and joking with her daughter. Both had survived critical ailments and in that moment of relief and happiness, she got a big warm hug from her daughter. The latter decided to lie down next to her, incase her mom wanted something during the night. At 3.00 am, my grand-aunt's pulse was normal. My cousin heard my aunt moaning, but thought nothing of it, since she was in deep sleep. Around 4.00 am, when she put her arm on my aunt, she screamed out. My aunt's body temperature had become stone cold. Our guess was my aunt was moaning because of the cardiac pain. She looked peaceful, almost relieved. 

By 6.00 am, everyone was informed. By 3.30pm, her final journey had begun amidst chants of the Divine to ensure her a safe journey to the other world. 

None of us could believe it. 

She had a zest for life, loved shopping and had a sharp memory. No guest can ever leave her house on an empty stomach. I have enjoyed fabulous luncheons and dinners many- a- times. Her collection of sarees and sense of fashion, was both amusing and enviable across all ages. Infact, I was planning to gift her one for the navratri season, but changed my mind later, since her attire had changed after her treatment. Her immense mental strength saw her through her critical days in the ICU. When we were prepared for the worst, she sat up and told the doctor she was fit to be discharged! It was her sheer will power that held her together until her daughter was discharged, back home. To everyone, it seemed as though my cousin was being slowly prepared for the eventual. She was taken through the whole process step-by-step. More importantly, inspite of my aunt's heart condition, she was never bed-ridden. Every little blessing counts in such tragic circumstances.

The apartment has now become deathly quiet. 

The life of the dead is now placed in the memory of the living.
-Marcus Tullius Cicero

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Calvin's CLoud

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.
 - Audrey Hepburn

Dinner at Little Italy with Bestie


My best friend and I had not met a long time and we made plans to try and catch-up for dinner. After much planning, we finally settled on a restaurant closer to home, since we both had our respective evening classes, where she was teaching classical music while I was pursuing classical guitar classes. Having finished our respective roles as teacher and student, we were ready for dinner and catching up. 

Surprisingly, our immediate vote was for Little Italy  at Besant Nagar which was a short distance from our respective locations. I was not too sure if this was a great choice after my poor experience at their Nungambakam branch. My friend had already dined there and she assured me that it was quite nice.

I got there on my rusty bike in time. The ambience was nice and inviting, so was their courtesy. While I was waiting for my friend to join me, I flipped though their menu getting thoroughly confused and hungry as well. Finally, she made it and announced she was trying to cut back on weighty issues, so choices were easier. For appetisers, we started with the Zuppa di Broccoli (Broccoli soup), which was served chunky. I was a  little surprised it was no creamy as is the usual consistency, nevertheless enjoyed its freshness. 

For starters, we had the Funghi Alla Trapaneze, which was a plate of lovely glistening mushrooms tossed in olive, garlic and lemon dressing served with warm bread. It was absolutely lovely and perfect for the evening. I am not  a huge mushroom fan, but this one had me completely bowled over. 

For the mains, we split a Al Pesto Genovese, with a choice of penne pasta in my favourite pesto sauce, served warm. I fell in love with the pesto sauce at Wawa, while putting my sandwich together. It was down right delicious. We both like our pasta cooked evenly, so this was just perfect for us. The only downer was the dessert was decapitated and we settled for fresh juice to sweeten our palate.


Overall it was a great dining experience, but the portions were small in comparison to their prices, approx around INR 1500 inclusive of taxes. Their Feedback app was also quite funny. For age groups, it had images of an old man, old woman, young boy and young girl. I thought it was really biased. What about the most happening crowd that fall within the working group? I did make a mention of it to the floor manager including my feedback. My friend was quite amused, while the bewildered floor manager looked on.