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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

India Diaries - Christmas in Kolkata


After a long time, I spent Christmas in Kolkata. This one was a really special one because my wife was with me and so were my parents and in-laws. We spent Christmas Eve at Park Street, Kolkata’s ancestral downtown area. This area is always spruced up during the Christmas-New Year week and this year was no different. All the trees and shops were lined with neon lights and people were just thronging the streets. Loud music and people’s voices and shouts greeted us at every step. Of course, we could hardly move around too much because of the tremendous crowd. In spite of thAis, we managed to barge our way into Flury’s to get the traditional Christmas cake, have dinner at Kwality’s and of course, have the Egg-Chicken Roll at Kusum’s. Christmas day was spent in a much quieter way – all of us went to see a movie at the Inox at Forum – Kolkata’s multiplex cinema hall. The movie was Dosti and well, we were not disappointed with the movie. Of course, the best part was the whole experience – the hall, the people, the festivities, family etc – all of this made for some heady combination. We spent the evening shopping at Shopper’s Stop and then headed home early for dinner.

All in all, it was a wonderful Christmas and one that I shall remember for long. Here are some snaps to relive the experience.

Merry Christmas to all !
Thyaga

Saturday, December 24, 2005

India Diaries - Durgapur : December, 2005


I had never been to Durgapur, Susmita’s hometown, ever since my marriage. Durgapur is the place where Susmita was brought up and the place which had a lot of memories for her. So, I was very thrilled when I boarded the train (Black Diamond) early in the morning at 6:00 am for Durgapur. Appa had come to see me off, in spite of me telling him that it was not required J. When I landed in Durgapur, I was given a rousing reception by 2 wonderful and beautiful ladies – my wife and my sister-in-law. After settling down at home for sometime and chatting with my mother-in-law, we (me, Susmita and Mini Dei) headed for our first mission – to see the places in Durgapur.

The first place was actually walking distance from the house – the Kumaramanglam Park. We spent some time walking in the park and Susmita was a little sad that the park was not maintained anymore. My mother-in-law had prepared some sumptuous lunch. After lunch, it was time for the matinee show – Bluffmaster. This experience was a dampener – the movie was bad and worse was the theater itself (Anuradh). After roaming about a bit at Benachitti market (the biggest market in Durgapur) in the evening, we headed home, had dinner and then went off to sleep.

The next day, we went to see the the Durgapur Dam. We had an interesting experience with a police constable there who was furious that we were taking photos, where it was prohibited in the first place. After cajoling the constable that we wouldn’t do the same mistake again, we took a small boat ride in the reservoir and finally, ended our trip by taking a walk along a road that took us along some green fields. It was really quiet and it was wonderful to enjoy the tranquility. We came back home for lunch and then decided to rest for a while. In the evening, I went for a small run in the nearby ASP stadium – the stadium was good and so was the runJ. In the night, we went to the nearby town of Bidhan Nagar to see the Ram Mandir. The temple was good and we watched the Aarti to our heart’s content before leaving for dinner. We had food at a 4-star restaurant – the Peerless Inn. Although the restaurant was 4-star, the food was not expensive at all. The best part was that even my mother-in-law had joined us in our evening trip and so, it was a great family outing.

Here are some snaps to relive the experience :).

Although 2 days were just about ok to see Durgapur, I think, I shall go for a longer time next time. I would like to just go and sleep and do nothing :) - of course, I can do that at home too, but then that is also my home – ha ha.

Cheers !

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

India Diaries - Miffed with Jet Airways

I always believed that Jet Airways was one of the better airlines to travel within India. However, a couple of experiences this time have left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Firstly, when I boarded the flight from Delhi to Trivandrum, everything went off quite smoothly. As expected, they enquired about the excess baggage but then after informing them that I was an international flight passenger, they allowed the package to enter. In fact, this is normally always the case whenever I have to go to Trivandrum for business. However, when I arrived in Mumbai, the first signs of chaos and confusion struck me. Initially they told all passengers that the same flight would go to Trivandrum (as should have been the case) and so, we didn’t need to disembark. However, after a short while, they suddenly came into the flight and hurriedly took us out of the flight and whisked us away to another terminal, which meant, another security check, another frisking, more hassles etc. Then I came to know that the flight from Mumbai was 2 hours delayed. At first, I couldn’t believe my ears – I landed on the same flight from Delhi and it was dot on time. So, why the 2 hour delay to go to Trivandrum – fill in petrol, fill in food and you are on your way, right? WRONG! - I went to the lady at the counter and asked her why the flight was delayed. She told me that the flight from Delhi had not arrived because of “dew”. I told her that I came on the same flight and it was right on time, she obviously appeared a little flustered and embarrassed. Anyway, I knew it was no pointing fighting about these things, especially when they happen in India. But I was surprised that it had happened with Jet Airways.

When I was returning from Trivandrum, I went to the check-in counter and that started a real nightmare for me. Firstly, they said that the flight was delayed for 2 hours (reason unknown) and so, I wouldn’t be able to catch the 4:40 flight from Mumbai. Instead, I would have to catch the 7:05 flight from Mumbai. As if that was not enough, they then told me that my baggage was over-weight. As usual, I took my Singapore Airlines ticket and showed it to them. But they said that the domestic airlines ticket was bought at a discount and so, they could not do what I asked for. When I said that I just came from Delhi using the same excuse, they said something like that Delhi employees probably paid it for me!!! – I was just a little perplexed and shocked, to say the least. Anyway, in the end, I had to shell out Rs 2400 for the excess baggage. I am not complaining that they made me pay – what I feel bad about is that they never mentioned it in Delhi. So, the same airline has 2 different rules in 2 different airports. What should a traveler then feel – obviously miffed! I have filed a complaint against this to Jet Airways – hopefully, something good will come out of this.


So, for people who are doing domestic travel in the midst of their international travel in
India, PLEASE do confirm with your travel agent what the baggage regulation is for domestic travel for your ticket.

Cheers,
Thyaga

India Diaries - Aaru : Violent for your senses !

Whenever I visit Trivandrum, the India team makes it a point to take me to a movie and mostly, it is a Malayalam movie. Although I don’t understand the language very well, yet its resemblance to the Tamil language helps me to last through the movie. Of course, I do not understand the jokes/colloquial slang that are used in the movie. Nevertheless, we make it a point to go for a movie. This time, we wanted to go the latest Mohanlal movie that was released. As expected, there were no tickets available. In the end, we went to see Aaru, a new Tamil movie starring Surya. Oh boy! – the movie was so violent that it was actually quite unbearable. Every 10 minutes, there was a fight and some of them were just plain unnecessary. Needless to say, I dozed off for the last 20 minutes or so – I was very tired and the movie was just not worth keeping the eyes open. I guess, they had to “eyes wide shut” :)

In short, avoid the movie.

-- Thyaga

India Diaries - No Frills Airlines in India

India is now a booming economy and one market that is doing well and is poised for terrific growth is airline travel. As a result, a bunch of private airlines have come up such as Air Deccan, Kingfisher Airlines, Spice Airlines etc. Some of these airlines, such as Air Deccan are No-frills airlines. (similar to Southwest Airlines in USA). As a result, their tickets cost less compared to other airlines. But in reality, do they really cost less? – I was reading a report in Times of India today that an Air Deccan flight from Mumbai to Bangalore was delayed by 5 hours as a result of a technical snag. This was informed to all the passengers AFTER they had checked in their baggage and had got their boarding passes. Also, since they don’t serve food on the flight, they didn’t even give any sort of food or drinks to the already harassed passengers at the airport.

When I was boarding the flight from Mumbai to Kolkata, I overheard an announcement on the public speaker system that some Air Deccan flight was delayed and they were sorry for the inconvenience caused. That is not a good thing to happen. They are low-cost airlines but that doesn’t mean that they can afford to be late always. Also, it is not that passengers are traveling for free on the flight – they are also paying their hard earned money to buy the tickets. If time could be equated to money, then the 5 hours of flight delay added to the actual cost of the ticket would come out to be the same as any other airline, I guess.

However, I must say this - what Air Deccan has done in the low cost airlines segment is worth applauding. They have made flight travel so cheap that an average middle class person in India can afford it at least once. In fact, their brand logo is “The Common Man”, the cartoon character of R.K.Laxman. But to keep their lead in this market, they need to continuously prove to be good and consistent in their service. Regular flight delays will only make travelers wary of traveling in them and in the end, they are the ones who will suffer.

-- Thyaga

Sunday, December 18, 2005

India Diaries - Ayurveda Massage

Kerala is famous for Ayurveda massage. I had already experienced it during one of my previous visits to this place – however, I decided to give it another shot to relax my aging muscles and relax a bit. Last time, I had been to a place called Dhanwantari and the cost was Rs 350 for a 1 hour massage. Today, I went to Sanjeevani and the cost was Rs 250 for the same 1 hour massage. However, I must say that the place was not as clean as the one at Dhanwantari. Also, I felt more conscious of being “massaged” here than at Dhanwantari. As they say, if you are in a car and you are “conscious” that you are being driven then the driving is not good. Ditto for massageJ. However, at the end of the hour, I did realize that I had dozed off a bit. When I woke up and had a shower and came out, my body felt relaxed and I was ready to hit the bed and go off to sleep.

Ayurveda Massage in Kerala is highly recommended. As for the place, if you have to decide between Dhanwantari and Sanjeevani, you already know my choice.

Relaxing,

Thyaga

India Diaries - 4th Umpire

During the course of the cricket match telecast match between India and Sri Lanka, they have this program called 4th Umpire, where there is a lady (don’t know the name) who talks with Mohinder Amarnath and Kris Srikanth on the game, the strategies, the policies, the decisions etc. Although these are good things to discuss, I believe that you can get all this information in TVs, magazines, web sites etc. It is ok to discuss it once in a while but the discussions are always stereotype and some of the questions are plain stupid. For example, what is the use of asking “Mohinder, do you think that SL will want to win this Test?”!!! The answer is so obvious – any team, any game, any part of the world will want to win ALWAYS! – whether they are 1-0 up or 10-0 up, they will still want to win. So, it is imperative that SL will be wanting to win this game. So, it is no point asking this question just to fill up the time and torture the audience. There are so facets to a cricketing game how should Murali bowl to the right handers, why does Yuvraj struggle against spin, why does Gambhir always get out LBW etc. Answers to these questions will only help the audience to understand the game better and also make them more interested in it and groom the youngsters better so that they become better cricketers in their lives.

Wish they did something about the quality of this program.

Cheers,
Thyaga

Friday, December 16, 2005

India Diaries - Sania & Mohanlal's ad for Malabar Gold


Sania Mirza endorsing Malabar Gold

I could not believe it when I saw an advertisement today on a Malayalam channel where Sania Mirza and Mohanlal were together advertising for Malabar Gold jewellery. For one, Sania Mirza looks totally out of place paired with Mohanlal. To make matters worse, she is wearing a Saree and is decked in heavy jewellery. I don’t really mind stars endorsing products – this is a way for them to make money. But at least, let us have some sanity in what products people endorse. The ad is still playing in my mind – it will take me a while to get over it.

Cheers,
Thyaga

Thursday, December 15, 2005

India Diaries - Delhi : December, 2005


Here is a summary of our Delhi Trip (Dec 11th - Dec 15th, 2005). For a photograpic journey, click here :).

Day 1
====

We landed in Delhi after a long flight from SFO – Singapore, on time at 7:30 pm on Sunday night (Dec 11th). After standing in a pretty long queue for immigration, we came out and were more than pleased to see the happy face of Anshuman, my brother-in-law. The only thing was that he had anticipated that we could all fit in along with our baggage in his car – obviously, he had forgotten that we were doing international travel and half of the luggage is usually filled with gifts J. Anyway, he promptly got a pre-paid taxi for us. While waiting for the Taxi to arrive, I noticed quite a few cows roaming near the airport. I wondered why they couldn’t do anything to clear that – if I, having born and brought up in Kolkata, could feel irritated by that, just wonder what a foreigner is going to feel. But I didn’t want to dwell too much into that – for I knew that I WAS IN INDIA and that was what mattered. The trip to Noida from the Delhi Airport was a little long but the roads of Delhi were fabulous, a fact that struck us over and over again.

Day 2
====

We woke up early the next day and then we headed off to shopping at CenterStage Mall, the shopping hub of Noida. After spending some time shopping, we met up with Sandeep, who is also working in Noida. He took us to a wonderful restaurant (forgot the name). After that, we went to Anshuman and Smita’s office (Atrenta), where we were greeted by the news that Anshuman’s PhD works was now patented! After that, all 4 of us headed to South-Ex’s Shopper’s Stop. After shopping for a while, we went to visit Smita’s parents and then to Pampa’s (my cousin sister-in-law, who recently got married). After that, we went to Sandeep’s house to stay overnight. After a brief session of Scotch and cricket and movies, we called it a night. Sandeep and I had made some interesting plans for the next day morning.


Day 3

====
Sandeep and I first dropped Susmita off at Anshuman’s place the first thing in the morning. After that, we went for a small run at the nearby Noida stadium. I was really impressed with the stadium and the way, they have maintained it. Returning home after the run, Susmita and I then went out to pick-up Pampa to go to Greater Kailash area for shopping. In the evening, we had a nice get-together dinner at a new restaurant at Noida called Desi Vibes. That was a nice experience and it was wonderful to see all the family together.



Day 4
=====

I didn’t feel all that great the next day morning. Probably, exhaustion, too much of roaming about, too much of eating out was getting to me. Susmita was also feeling the same jitters and we decided to go easy on the last day of our stay. Also, apart from shopping and catching up with relatives, we had not visited any “tourist” destination in Delhi. So, we first went to Connought Place, had ice-cream there at Nirulas. Then we stopped for a brief while at Khan Market, had gol-gappa (upset stomach? J) and then finally visited India Gate and Amar Jyoti Jawaan. That was a majestic site indeed. We came back early because we had to pack our bags and call in an early night because we had an early flight to catch the next day.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Salaam Sachin


FINALLY ! - Sachin crossed the 35th Test Century barrier. Sachin went one up ahead of Sunil Gavaskar in the all time century makers list and boy! - I feel really thrilled about this. I have been a great fan of Sachin ever since he walked into the Indian cricket team. His passion and dedication to the sport is something that one should be inspired by - if we can have some of that passion in our daily life and work, then we would go miles. Anyway, today is not the moment to talk about ourselves. The day belongs to Sachin - so, let us take a bow for the man who has provided the whole world unadulterated joy in his cricketing achievements - a man, who, in spite of his fabulous records, still remains a humble man.

SALAAM SACHIN !

Cheers,
Thyaga

Friday, December 09, 2005

Coming to India ...

We are leaving for India in a few hours time and I feel really really excited. It has been a really tough year for both of us and we are really looking forward to this vacation more than anything else. I still have to pinch myself a bit to convince myself that we are going for a vacation in a short while :). I guess, untill the time we check in and then sit inside the plane, it will not sink in completely.

Just in case, some of you might want to hook up, here is our itenary:

Dec 12th - Dec 15h : New Delhi, India
Dec 15th - Dec 22nd : Kolkata/Trivandrum/Durgapur
Dec 23rd - Jan 2nd : Kolkata

Cheers,
Thyaga

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

End of the Fall Quarter, 2005

Today, our Fall Quarter came to an end - phew! - I feel so relieved after it. There were so many things happening during the last few months that I really wanted this quarter to get over with so that I could look forward to the vacation with my wife. During the last few months, my parents were here, my wife shifted to another group within Intel, I had to deal with a lot of stuff at work and also, there was so much of group work in the Marketing Course. But all in all, it was a good quarter and I think, I learnt quite a few things - especially related to Finance. I hope it will keep in good stead.

So, for the next 1 month, I am not going to think about classes, assignments, group work etc. I am just gonna chill :)!!!

Cheers,
Thyaga

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Some interesting movies ....

The last couple of weeks, we have been lucky enough to check out a couple of interesting movies - surprisingly, these movies didn't do all that well at the Box Office. Main, Meri Patni Aur Woh is a story of a man who loves his wife immensely but always feels that he is not the right man for his wife. He suffers from an inferiority complex which mostly stems from the fact that he is shorter than his wife and he overhears people saying that he was lucky to "get" her as his wife. Rajpal Yadav as the diminutive husband plays the role to perfection - I feel really happy that people like him are getting roles that are suited for them. What a performance. The surprise packet was probably Rituparna Sengupta, the Bengali actress, who looked extremely gorgeous and acted wonderfully. All in all, it is a wonderful movie - something to really watch out for.

We also watched David Dhawan's latest flick - Shaadi No 1, another movie with a theme similar to Masti and No Entry. Dhawan goes one step further by introducing 3 more heroines (3 heroes + 6 heroines) and yet the audience is never confused. The script is well controlled and you are sure to laugh at some of the jokes, however old they may be. Dhawan is a master of comedy and he makes sure that you remember that. If you want to watch a movie where you don't have to think, then this is it ! :).

The third movie is actually an English movie - War of the Worlds. I hadn't read the book but boy! - this was so wonderfully directed. The scenes of the aliens invading earth and the aftermath are just mind blogging. He is a genius director indeed. I was also amazed at the talent of the little Dakota Fanning. She is 10 years old and she acts as if she has been around for ages. A wonderful talent who is bound to do wonderful movies in the future - at least, I hope.

Happy Movie Watching !
-- Thyaga

Friday, December 02, 2005

Why in Chennai?


I cannot understand the workings of the Indian cricket board ... EVER! How can anyone in their sane minds ever grant a match to Chennai at this time of the year when they know very well that there is going to be rainfall. Even the little boy who walks in the streets knows this. We have had 1 one-day international washed out and the first test match seems certain to be washed out without a single ball being bowled. It is time BCCI stops thinking only about filling in the coffers of various state boards and starts thinking about the public !

Anyway, it is a pain-staking wait for Delhi now !

-- Thyaga