Archive | January, 2013

How we can all help Kamal

31 Jan

Its shocking – A states ( read 1 person) ego is causing a brilliant person to go bankrupt. As usual a few leaders make lip service comments – Shinde says we should follow the constitution and Manish Tiwari says he want comment since the matter is sub judice. They at least came and spoke – rest of the leaders across political class stayed quiet. Not a word from the BJP ( why upset a potential NDA ally) The Narayan Murthy’s , Adi Godrej , Assocham , CII  – all are quiet. The opposition in TN tries to score some browny points. Anna & Arvind Kejriwal are quiet. One word to describe this – SPINELESS.

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This is not the first movie which has talked of Terrorism and its links to religion. A movie approved by the Censor Board , good to see in so many states and TN bans it ? Would they have dared to do this if it was a Rajni movie ? All hell would have broken lose – this does prove that Kamal is not Rajni. But he is still a great guy – a brilliant actor who has entertained us for well over 40 years.

We can all help in our small way. Here is what I propose.

The movie costs 100 Crores. An average tickets costs Rs 250.  So roughly you need to buy 4 M seats. Lets assume that across the US / UK / Singapore and some states in India 1 M seats will get booked. That leaves a a balance of 3 M seats.

I just went online and bought 3 tickets – yes the movie is not running in PVR or Cinemax and I am struggling to buy tickets at Goapalan as the online engine does not work – but I still bought 3 tickets from a hall far away from home where the movie is running. I may not even go there and will give the tickets to my driver & maid – but I still helped fill 3 seats. Even if you have watched it once – just do this small contribution and buy tickets a second time.

If 1 Million of us each spend 750 Rs apiece and buy 3 tickets – we can help make the movie a success. We can help Kamal from becoming bankrupt.

We say we have over 100 M Internet users and 75 M facebook users in this country – cant we have 1 million of us show that we the common man can stand up for what is right ?

So guys do your bit – and lets make this happen !

What would you like to be re-born as ?

29 Jan

A data point I recollect is that there are more women on FB than men. As I start this blog something tells me that it will evoke strong reactions from this majority. But then you write on something you feel strongly about.

It all started with a simple question in our small group of 4 over a drink at our favourite haunt – If you were born again what would you like to be born as ? And one of the 4 mentioned without a blink – “A Housewife in our Building Complex”

He explained – If you have 2 – 4 maids , a driver , unlimited spending power on your credit card , a few hrs in the gym every day , a private trainer , an evening walk with some tasty gossip, a weekly visit to the Spa , a party & a movie every fortnight, and a lovely group of friends who at 40+ dress and act like they are 30+,  thats the lifestyle you would kill for.  (That is the lifestyle of many a women in the top 50 apartment complexes of Bangalore, NCR , Mumbai ….. )

How has life changed for women in the last 30 years ? At least for some of them thankfully.

Life has indeed changed – there was a time 30 years back without Maids , Mixies, Washing Machines – you cut the veggies, cooked , cleaned , washed  clothes , ironed them , stitched clothes, made pickles & chips and still had time & energy to make the weekly sweets.

Circa 2013 – it’s now hard work to store the stacked & ironed clothes the laundryman delivers at home. 

Life has indeed changed – 30 years back a school project for Kids meant poring thru books & encyclopedias hunting for the answer and that elusive picture in some magazine.

Today its all available at a click of a button – thanks to Google. 

Life has indeed changed – as family & friends descended unexpectedly ( no Phone / no SMS) you managed to put together a great meal with whatever you had at home.

Today you call the restaurant next door. 

As I made this argument to two women – I got bashed up. The arguments were emotional (without data) – the key thing I grasped was “Look at the pressure we go thru. We have to go to the school to meet the teacher (once a year) , take care of buying all the grocery & vegetables, manage the maids, pay all the bills online “There is so much of work and so much of pressure – 30 years back our mothers did not have to do all this ?

I rest my case – and I say enjoy it, you have earned it , but appreciate it and say  – Thank You God once a day.

Because as my friend said ” We would all love to be reborn as a housewife in our building”

Paris in 48 Hrs

8 Jan

Family holiday’s are both a Holiday & a Project. When you have kids, 6 + pieces of luggage , you shortlist restaurants based on the cleanliness of their restrooms, are constantly worried that everything goes as per plan  – you come back after many a holiday happy , relieved & TIRED.

While I am on business travel almost every week – I was yet to take a holiday all by myself. So when the next business review at London came on a Mon I planned a weekend at Paris – all alone. The Schengen Visa was already there and Christophe my good friend was all to keen to host me and show me around.

Jet has a convenient flight from Mumbai that lands at Heathrow at 630 AM – you can clear immigration in less than 30 min (if you have a fast-track card) – and reach the rail station St Pancreas by a cab in another 45 Min (The Heathrow express is cheaper but it’s a hassle to change to a cab at Paddington – especially if you have luggage). The check in & Passport control is simple and you can complete all formalities in less than 30 min and enter the Eurostar. I had booked 3 months in advance so my rate was 60 GBP (One way). Its efficient – a high end Shatabdi which covers the London to Paris distance in 2 Hrs. 15 Min (Peak speed is 350 Km / Hr, Rajdhani Peak speed is 125 Km  / Hr). Point to note each adult is entitled to 2 large bags – no weight limit.

Eurostar

Christophe met me at the Paris Nord station at 2.45 PM on Fri and stayed with me all through till I took the Eurostar back to London on Sun at 7 PM.

Day 1 Fri from 3.30 PM Onwards : Walk , Walk & Walk – smell the city , feel the pulse, enjoy the environment

We walked past the Pompidou Center down to Seine river then to the Prefecture de Paris building facing the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral.

View across the Siene

Then across to the Concièrgerie (a palace where Marie-Antoinette was held captive before her fatal execution during the first French revolution in the late 18th century).

France has over 9000 varieties of Cheese

Cheese bar

We then wandered across the Seine (saw a bridge full of locks – a symbol of lovers locking their love for eternity) had a quick wine and cheese stop-over in L’Écluse and entered the Latin Quarter (south bank of the river)

A lovely wine bar

Wine Bar

Day 2 – Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower , War Museum

We started day 2 (Sat) by visiting the Grand Palace of Versailles. It’s supposedly the second most visited tourist spot in the world after the Vatican. The palace is located about 30 Km from Paris – and was built when the King wanted to leave the madness of the Paris. Palace opens at 9 AM. We spent 90 min here.

Palace at Versailles

On the way back we stopped by the town of Versailles and then headed back to Paris for a ride up the Eiffel tower to get a great view of the city. (An even greater view is to se the Eiffel tower sparkle with lights for 10 min at every hour in the evening) – The Q for the lift can be long – Minimum 1 hr. There are 3 levels to which the lift goes and at the peak  it’s impressive.

Eiffel Tower

After lunch we visited the memorial of Napoleon (A Hospital that has been converted to a war museum) and spent some time at the war museum that has exhibits spanning the Napoleon Era, WW 1 & WW 2.

After so much of walking we managed to stop by for a quick foot massage and dinner then headed to the Notre Dame for an evening service. And finally ended the day with a drive past the Moulin Rouge all the way to Sacré Cœur in Montmartre. This is a beautiful Church located on top of a hill with a lovely view of the City.

Day – 3 , Sun – Louvre

We started Day 3 (Sun) with a visit to a Open Air Market in the outskirts of Paris  – fresh vegetable, fruits , meat and a stew that looked like Alu Dam.

Open Market

Aloo Dam 3

We finally visited the most spectacular piece of Paris The Louvre. A palace converted to a museum by spending over 10 B Euros (A grand Vision of Francois Mitterrand). The Louvre is grand, breathtaking , immaculate, perfection – I could go on and on. Its so large that a student of art may spend weeks, and even a tourist will need at least 1 full day to do justice to the grand display of paintings and artifact’s. The entry fee is 11 Euros – but on a Sunday the entry was free.

800px-Paris_July_2011-27a

Yes it houses the most famous painting of the world “ Mona Lisa” (La Jaconda) and there are signs that direct you towards it (and most tourists do make a rush to get there first) but I personally felt that here were  many more painting that outshine the Mona Lisa. The lady in Red also painted by Leonardo Da Vinci is equally impressive but sadly unknown.

Girl in Red

Eyes

There is also an interesting statue in the Egyptian section that resembles a Indian Priest. the statue is over 4000 years old.

Scribe - Egypt 4000 Years Old

Post lunch we walked down the Avenue des Champs Élysées leading to the Arc de Triomphe and then trudged our way back thru the Avenue de l’Opera crossing the magnificent opera House, the statue of Joan of Arc and the CAX.

Back at Paris Nord by 6 PM for the 7.13 PM Train to London.

What else could one have done – well there are many more museums to visit and the famous Moulin Rouge Cabaret. You can attend a show at the Opera House or watch a play. The cultural life is very busy & of course visit the Disneyland.

I stayed at a nice bed & breakfast on the outskirts of Paris facing a serene lake located  very close to Versailles.

IMG_1266

Few Quick points for Travellers from India

  1. Unlike London you will need to hunt for an Indian restaurant (Yes they exist but in specific localities dominated by SE Asians)
  2. Most restaurants are local mom & pop stores – even the Pizza Huts and McDonalds are rare to find (I saw 1 Pizza Hut & 2 McDonalds in the 2 days I was there). In most restaurants Veg food options are very limited.
  3. French specialty can sound  scary to vegetarians – I was shocked to see my friend relish Steak Tartare (Raw minced beef meat with a mustard dressing) and at the table next to us our neighbor was  enjoying Andouillette – a very parisian delicacy. (Sausage composed with a selection of Pig entrails. It is does smell a bit).
  4. Malls & Large Chains – Tesco, Carrefour, Metro exist but are difficult to find in the city. They are located in the suburbs.
  5. In Paris people understand English – but without a local like Christophe it would have been very difficult. In the suburbs it becomes even more difficult to communicate in English.
  6. Cabs are difficult to find. Did not see too many buses. But yes the city has a Metr0.
  7. Most cars are small (mainly French Brands – Renault, Citroen) and parking space is a hassle.
  8. Entry rates to most attractions vary from 5 – 10 Euro’s. The car parking is more expensive. Meal for two in a decent place with a few glasses of wine can be Euro 50.
  9. Paris is expensive – This short break ( 2 Night , 3 Day) can cost you  ~ 35 K INR  Ex London (This includes the cost of Eurostar tickets ) – I was lucky that my friend was taking me around all these places in his car – if I had to use a Taxi maybe I would have spent an additional $ 500.

In conclusion a wonderful 2-day break – and this would not have been possible without Christophe. It takes a lot to spend your entire weekend and be such a gracious host. Not just by accompanying you  – but also in providing  a wonderful commentary on all the interesting insights, helping me understand the culture & history of the place. Most importantly this was my first holiday in many years ( probably since I was a kid) when there was no responsibility and somebody was taking all the decisions. Sometimes it feels so good to sit back and relax.

Christophe

We have started planning our next trip – both of us are WW 2 buffs and maybe the next trip will be to Warsaw to see how the Nazi’s operated their concentration camps at Auschwitz. Here is hoping that the next QBR is also on a Mon !

And finally a parting word to all men – women have Wanderlust, its time you did something for yourself and planned a few days once in a while all by yourself. Get some free space – you owe it to yourself.