Monday, December 31, 2007

Adios 2007

Another year has gone fleeting by. Wow. I remember vividly the uproar for the millennium -- 8 years ago! Doesn't it scare you how time flies? It petrifies me.

Anyway, bottom line is that there is nothing we can do about that but realize it and make sure we are making the most of our time.

2007 has been a very eventful year for me:
- I moved to Madrid
- I got my TEFL certification
- I taught English
- I passed the intermediate DELE (official Spanish language exam)
- I blogged and vlogged
- I started writing for Vagablogging, Gadling, Written Road, European Vibe and Map Magazine
- My blogging contract for Gridskipper ended
- I presented a video for a Jon Spencer concert
- I went to Galicia (Northern Spain), Barcelona, Valencia, Granada,Paris (twice!), Malmo (Sweden), Copenhagen, and Rome.
- I joined a writer's group and a Vipassana (meditation) group -- both I made a point of staying in contact with
- I worked on the European Radio Awards in Barcelona
- I did some web consultancy for an online marketing strategy firm
- I was interviewed on Write-to-Travel blog
- I was featured in a travel e-book
- I salsa'd A LOT and started to (well, tried to) learn Tango
- I went through 4 pairs of dancing shoes
- I got mugged of 20 Euros
- My parents visited, and so did 3 of my close friends
- I dated a Spanish boy, and started dating an American one
- I watched the Rocky Horror Show
- I learnt how to make curry! (Yeeeeeeeeehaa!)
- I pierced my nose (TODAY!)
- I became an aunt
- My brother moved to Texas
- My grandmother died of lung cancer
- My grandfather's second wife died of a heart attack

What does this all mean? How do I feel? How have I changed? What is in store for 2008? Bugs Bunny knows.

Resolutions for 2008? I'm still letting 2007 sink in for the moment.

Thank you and cheers to all those people who have been reading my blog. I hope you stick around in 2008!

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2007

It's OK, it's the festive season

If there is anyone out there who is not pigging out this festive season, still exercising and therefore still looking great in tight jeans, how do you do it!? How do you resist indulging in sweet and savory delights put in front of you, begging to be eaten? Answer: you don't.

This week (and I presume the next one too) has seen me relieving my year's nonsensical preoccupations (what am I doing with my life, why am I in Spain, I have a white hair (!), when am I going to clean the cobwebs in my room, etc etc) by eating full-fat food and dessert, nonstop. No exercise. No real work. Lots of sleep. Lots movies. Lots of unproductive thinking. Lots of nothing.

It's great to have these days but it's hard to really enjoy them when you don't have a proper job. I feel guilty; like I have no right to take time off. Of course that's not true. Everyone has the right to take time off. Even if they don't have any concrete achievements to justify hours of absolute lethargy.

Much needed conclusive note: Come January and it's going to be crazy again, so sit down and enjoy every morsel of that molten-chocolate-whipped-cream cake.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Winter Smells

Has anyone realized how good people smell in winter? I'm a sucker for people who smell good. There is nothing more momentarily pleasurable than someone walk past you and you get a fresh whiff of perfume, cologne, soap, cream, or even hair gel.

I have an 8:30am class to teach every morning. When I get into the metro, I'm so busy identifying smells I can't concentrate on the newspaper I have to read. Palmolive honey, Pleasures for men, Davidoff Cool Waters, Loreal Wet Look Moose, Johnson's Baby Cologne, Axe for men and sometimes I even smell the peppermint freshness of mouthwash! (Yes, I have a super sensitive nose). I identify the smell and all of a sudden I see him/her doing his/her morning getting dressed routine and all of a sudden I feel like I know them. Is that sick?

People stink in summer. They sweat and they stink. Winter has that perpetual morning freshness. The temperature is cool, the wind is cold and minty. Everyone seems clean. Everyone smells great. This might be the only reason I don't mind winter.

Happy winter!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I feel ugly

Ever had one of those days where you wake up, look in the mirror, and go "ugh"? You feel worn and exhausted. All your facial imperfections seem magnified. You see countless blackheads and scars on your skin that has never seemed drier. Your lips are chapped and blood-red from the wine you drank the night before. Your eyes are puffy, you have dark circles -half from being tired, half from the black-eyeliner that you never take off properly; your hair seems listless, your nail-polish is chipped, you feel fat.

Today is one of those days for me. It's been a long time since I had one of these days. I'm not depressed or anything, it's a day that resonates how you cannot afford to stop exercising, you should not drink every night, passive smoking is as bad as smoking yourself, you need 8-hours of sleep -- at least a few times a week, you cannot live on Chinese food and coffee, and that you are totally responsible for your physical and mental well-being.

Lately, I have been working hard and partying harder. I have been having a great time but today when I woke up I was momentarily disturbed as I looked in the mirror and asked myself, was it worth it!?

I think I need to balance things out a bit. Sometimes you don't have to seize every moment, most of the time there is tomorrow, so you just need to chill more often than not.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Saying goodbye and moving on

Some thoughts that have been looming in my mind lately -- subject of my latest post on Vagablogging.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Quote from the Jay-Z of blogging

"I always believed that those of us who were creating personal media online would win. I still hold out hope that when we do so, it's not because we were willing to fight dirtier (or work cheaper) than the media that inspired us, but rather because we could do a better job of making media than the legacy media does today. Congratulations to everybody involved for being willing to indulge in a little bit of the most positive sort of creative destruction." -- Anil Dash, Vice President at Six Apart (makers of Typepad, Moveable Type, LiveJournal and Vox)


Monday, December 03, 2007

Some friends you just can't do without!

M: So will you miss my wisdom when I move to the US?
Me: Why, you won't have electricity or a computer?
M: Yes, but our time will be so different.
Me: It's super cheap for me to call the States.
M: OK, you can reach me on my 1800-GODS-GIFT-TO-WOMEN Number

Hahahah. What would I do without you!? :D

Question of the day

How personal should your blog be?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dating: The Three-Month Twitch

I have been in the "dating" sphere for the last 10-years, and I have not been able to keep a man in my life for more than 3-months at a stretch -- a consistent end post the damned if you do, damned if you don't theory.

Various reasons for this, all bullshit, but reasons nonetheless -- or excuses rather. For example:
-"You are too good to be with a jerk like me." (huh?)
-"I respect you too much to be dating you casually." (did I say I wanted a serious relationship!??)
-"You are the type I would take home to my mum, and right now I just want to get laid." (dude, I don't want to meet your mum!)
-"How can you want to date me knowing it's not going to last? What is the point?" (Urrr...nothing lasts forever, and whatever happened to enjoying the present?)
-"I am scared of commitment." (I don't want to marry you!)
-"It's not you, it's me." (My all time favourite cliche :)

I've had the odd "I'm really still in love with my ex" thing, which is fine and acceptable -- but the boys have not had the balls to tell me that whilst breaking-up. The odd mutual break-up "we like each other but not enough to keep dating" shpeal has been the cleanest cut-out.

However, what might be interesting to note (as I choose to humiliate myself publicly on this blog) is that all these guys went on to have serious relationships after me. I don't know what to think of that, and I rather not. I do wish they would have told me the truth though. I've been half-tempted to ring them all and ask them "what did I not do right?"

Maybe I was too easy. Maybe I should've played those stupid games that everyone plays. Maybe I gave too much too soon. Maybe I didn't give enough. Maybe we shouldn't have gotten involved in the first place. Fuck knows.

Anyway, so I'm currently involved in something. I don't want to tag it, there is no point. (Oh, I also recently learnt that "dating" is different from a "relationship" -- I didn't know that. Yeah, I'm pretty clueless when it comes to men. And I'm sick of trying to figure this whole being with someone concept. It's overrated and it gives me a headache.)

So post my confidence being shattered a million times and my therefore assumed vulnerability, my dating mind frame has evolved into this: I date someone because I'm enjoying myself. The minute it's more painful than fun, you get out.

Coming back to my point: it has been 3-months since I have been with someone now and that momentary realization (that I don't want to dwell on which is why I'm ranting it on this blog) has made me think about my past hook-ups and how pass this duration and within a week it's over.

I know it's not fair to compare your relationships. Each one is completely different, they have nothing to do with each other. But, when the pattern repeats itself on numerous occasions, you can't help but wonder.

It's like the guys had a timer that started beeping come the 3-month mark and were afraid that what they are involved in is nothing but a bomb waiting to explode.

It's not like I'm consciously counting days, but it's hard not to be aware of this possibly apocalyptic phase of my dating life.

I don't know what that says about me. Did I just compare myself to a bomb waiting to explode? I really don't know what that says about me. Sigh.

Anyway, there are a few thoughts that help me deal with stuff like this:
- You can't make anyone do anything they don't want to: if someone doesn't want to be with you there is no convincing him into it.
- It's all about personal growth: whether in or out of an involvement with someone, as long as you've grown in some way (together or apart), it was worth it.
- Nobody dies of a broken heart: you fall, you get up, you dust off, you move on.
- Everything happens for a reason.

Someone once told me that you attract what you are ready for. Maybe subconsciously this is all I have ever been ready for? Or, all I am ready for at the moment?

Is this normal or is there something seriously wrong with me? Do I need to see a psychiatrist?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Parents Check In Madrid

Every time I swear that I need to blog here at least once a day, something happens and I land up not blogging for days.

Normally, I don't have a good excuse: tired, not inspired, too much blogging other places, hungover...but this time I have a very valid excuse: my parents were here!

Yes, they came to see what on earth I am doing with my life here in Spain. We spent 5 action-packed days in Madrid, together at all waking hours and we didn't want to tear out each others eyes. :)

I don't think I have spent so much time with my parents in the whole 5 years I lived at home in Dubai. It was superb.

Although their million dollar question of where will what I'm doing right now take me later wasn't answered, they appreciated the way I live and understand why I don't want to change my life yet.

Was sad to see them leave, only because I don't know when I will see them again.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Harta

"Andas sola?"

(estamos bailando)

"Si" le dije. (normalmente miento por que siempre conozco por lo menos 5 personas cuando voy a bailar, ayer no vi nadie y era poco difícil a mentir)

"Tengo coche, te llevo a casa luego si quieres"

Que no! no te conozco de nada, porque voy a sentar en tu coche a las 4 de la mañana!?

Llevo bailando casi cinco años, y aun no he encontrado un grupo/persona con quien consistamente puedo quedar a ir a bailar.

Con respeto de los chicos: algunos quieren llevarte a casa a...sabéis por que...y si no te interesa, ellos no les interesa a ir a bailar contigo. Y los grupos -- si no sales con ellos fuera de pista de baile, se alejan u ofenden, y no te llaman cuando salen.

Los chicas guapas que bailan bien, 99% tienen pareja de baile con quien salgan, o novio -- y normalmente es difícil conocerlas. Yo como no bailo profesionalmente, y tengo mala suerte con chicos con quien salgo -- no estoy en este 99%.

*sigh* y sigo yendo sola.

Ahora hace un frió que te cagas y es muy dificil animarte ir a bailar a la una de la mañana cuando vas sola. Y ahi tienes que contestar este mierda pregunta te chicos ascerosos "andas sola?"

Es una putada.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My first travel-writer interview!

I must be doing something right!

Check it out here!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Home is where you lay your hat

Dealing with the idea of "home" is the latest subject of my Vagablogging post.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Perm Days...UGHHHH!

You know how you look at old photos and go, OH MY GOD, what was I thinking!? Why did I do that to my hair!?

Well a dear friend decided to post this on Stalkbook today, and of course he tagged me so that everyone can see! (Thanks Jo :)

I had permed hair for almost 2-years. Yuck. Never again.

The photo is from my days in Australia...I used to live with these two and I think we were on our way to Sydney. Wow. That was atleast 6-years ago.

After that, I cut it super short and spiky -- I liked that -- I even dyed it partially blonde. (YUP!) Then, sick of looking like a teenage boy for about 3 years -- I decided to grow my hair back and had to pass that awful in between growing stage; everyone used to call me Mogli (Yes, from Junglebook) OMG.

Yeah...I've had many bad hair periods. Now it stands long, very straight and natural brown. And that's how it's staying for a while.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Life. And Death. And My Brother.

Something awful happened to my brother a few weeks ago.

On a calm autumn night, as he was walking a friend to her car, a teenager fell out of a 4-storey building and died right infront of him.

He and his friend were the only witnesses. They had to call 911, examine the body and narrate what they saw to the police.

He has finally been able to write about it -- you can read the whole story here; it's just like a movie -- the sad thing is that it isn't.

Scary. Unnerving. Unfair. No-one should have to go through that.

How life can be shocking, so out of our own control, and so freaking unpredictable gives me the shivers and nausea.

It is not uncommon that you read stuff like this in the newspapers and you think 'holy crap', but never fathom that it could happen to someone you know.

I feel terrible that my brother had to go through something like this. He is only 17 for goodness sake. But I am so proud of how he handled the situation.

Anish, hats off to you. I love you.

Martian wake-up call


10 months in Madrid, and I've finally invested (a whole 8 Euros) in an alarm clock (who needs those in Spain anyway!?).

I had bought this 1 Euro alarm from a Chino around the corner, which kinda did the job -- even though it kept ringing randomly, and never said the correct time; as long as I reset it before going to bed, it was ok.

Well almost ok. Being late to my 8am classes for the last 2 weeks (it's hard to wake-up in winter!), I was in desperate need of a good one and this is what I bought.

Doesn't it look like it's fallen straight out of space? It's cute and it has radio -- BUT -- it also talks!! YES! IT TALKS! When the alarm goes off, it says the time "son las dos horas y catorce minutos" in an annoying female nasal voice. Why couldn't they put a deep, soft and sexy male voice so I could wake-up in different glory?

Oh well. I guess atleast I'm not going to have problems waking up now.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Facebook group of the day

I Dont care How Comfortable Crocs Are, You Look Like A Dumbass.

This one made me laugh out loud. As of this moment, it has 680,240 members haha.

Thought of the day

"If you want to kiss the sky you better learn how to kneel" -- U2, Mysterious Ways

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Superstitious India

Pandit encourages man to marry his dog, to redeem himself of killing two dogs 15-years ago. This is the subject of my latest Gadling post.

Funny how a lot of stories can be found in 'Oddities' sections of online publications. Sad thing is that in India, these things are anything but odd.

(Photo: Boston Globe)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New dancing shoes!


I bought what I first thought was the ugliest pair on the rack.

They are gold and silver with a butterfly pattern, not me at all -- even trying them on was out of the question. Then the shop owner said that it was her best selling model because of the way it fits and that I should try them on, especially because I have super narrow feet.

And I did and I bought them! Euro 109 *gasp* definitely the most expensive shoes I've ever owned.

They hug my foot perfectly and my toes don't stick out the front! To find shoes where my toes don't stick out is almost impossible unless I get them custom made, but I never have the patience for that.

These actually don't look bad when on -- they do not appear not as gaudy-goldy as they look. Besides, they are a dancing shoes -- they're supposed to be jazzy and all! I can't wait to wear them. My other three seem like the dogs have eaten them; they are going into the bin tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Nails gone Gothic

Hmmm. I am liking.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Back to blogspot

Yeah, that whole Tumblr experience didn't last too long. It's a great program, and honestly I'd like to continue on it -- but a few things have brought me back here:

-- People cannot interact with me unless they email me. They cannot leave comments, nor can I measure traffic, nor can I link to other people, nor can I transfer all my archives to Tumblr, bla bla bla -- that's enough reasons to come back here I guess. I felt like I was writing to a wall on Tumblr.

Also, I can do everything I do on Tumblr on Blogger, and I feel like it's home on Blogger so yeah, I'm back! :) Maybe I will juggle the two, I dunno -- but Blogger will stay my home.

For those who checked me out on Tumblr, what did you think? (Please, someone tell me they saw me on Tumblr?)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tumble Mumble

Well, in effort to not let my personal blog die, for the time being I'm switching to a Tumblog! It's easy, effortless, and makes your most invalid post seem valid! :)

So, until further notice, I'm going to be tumbling at www.abhamalpani.tumblr.com so do check me out there!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Why don't they have dustbins!?

I'm currently in Barcelona working for the European Radio Awards. Am staying at the swanky Hotel Arts, in quite a swanky room.

But the one thing that has made me swear more than 50 times in the last two days here is that my room doesn't have a dustbin!

It has a plasma screen with 3 remotes, a CD rack with a selection of music, a weighing scale, enough chocolate to feed a classroom of 4-year-olds, 3 pairs of bathroom and bed slippers, lots of lovely containers with potpourri, more than a few empty bowls on my sink in the bathroom (to spit in?), but no freakin' dustbin!

Don't people who stay in swanky hotels use dustbins? where do they throw their rubbish?

So I've been using my plastic bags to throw stuff. But since these dudes come to clean your room twice a day, I don't have any plastic bags left.

Oh, and 3 times in the last 2 days has some house-keeping person rang my doorbell, not waited for me to open, and walked right in. WHAT?! Anyway...(DEEP BREATH)...am not going to rant about that.

A "why the f*** don't you have dustbins" note is definitely going into their complaint box.

Curry night...

...for those who care to know: it was fine. The food almost got over, so I'm going to take that as a "Abha you can cook" signal, and leave it at that.

I didn't take pictures. For a few reasons:
- I felt it rather vain to take pictures of my own food. There were too many people in my house when I had finished cooking, so it was hard to do it without getting some smartass comments I really didn't want to deal with.
- The food didn't really look nice.

Oh well, next time!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My First Curry Night

So I'm cooking curry for the first time for...urrr...12 people tomorrow night. Holy shit.

When I told my mum, she said: "Why!?" (I've never cooked curry in my life, and I'm not particularly a good cook). I've hardly ever cooked for my parents either, so this reaction is not uncalled for.

My ex-flatmates from Valencia are coming for the night to Madrid, so it's in their honour. 15 months in Spain and it's kinda over due, don't you think?

"But you don't know how to cook Abha," says my flatmate Javi most innocently. "Should we bring some pizza backup?"

Guys I'm going to make this hot-ass curry, you will be begging for more.

(I wish!) *sigh*

I'm still quite excited though, but am freaking out a bit too. It's a lot of pressure to cook for a dozen people.

I have been making visits to the Bangladeshi spices shop for the last three days, to make sure I have the right stuff. I have been asking him for his opinion on what mixes are better than the other, then cross checking with my mum, stuff like that. He can't stop smiling as he speaks to me. I think he thinks I like him.

*sigh*

Menu is: chicken curry. gira-aloo. raita. gira-rice. and bhel! yeah can you believe it? bhel!? hahaha.

Will take some pics and post them, whether it works out or not.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My life lately...

I've been swamped writing a million things, but enjoying it just the same.

Panadol, Red Bull and Dorito's have become part of my staple diet, am averaging 5 hours of sleep at night, but that's ok -- perhaps I should work at getting 6 at least, then I'll be more than rocking.

I'm young, I've got blood in my veins -- one day the rush will die, so for now it's cool.

Have also started vlogging (video blogging), will share my silliness on camera at some point, even thought it's quite embarrassing.

Am off to Barcelona next weekend to work on the European Radio Broadcasting Awards, am excited about that (although I have no idea what I'm gonna be doing, but that's ok!)

Anyway, all for now -- stay tuned.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Quote of the day & off to Rome

"Don't worry if you can't sleep, there's always play dough."

It's been a while since some quote stuck with me for more than a few minutes! :)

Off to Rome in 5 hours for the weekend - ah the pleasures of living in Europe!

Will be seeing a close friend of mine I used to live with in Australia -- haven't seen her for 5 years! Plan is to eat lot's of pasta, drink lots of toxic lemonchelli, see some ruins, gossip and reminisce.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Otra razón por que me encanta España

Conversación en una panadería:

Dependiente: “Buenas, que te doy?

Yo: “Tienes Red Bull?”

Dependiente: “Si, claro.”

Me da una bota de algo rojo con letras en color negro y plata que se llama: “Torro XL”

Yo: “Pero eso no es Red Bull.”

Ella: “Es igual, y mas barato.”

Genial :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Writing for Gadling

All my incessant mindless blogging has finally borne fruit -- as of today I have started writing for Gadling, one of the hottest travel blogs on the blogosphere; I am thrillllllllled!

If you are even remotely interested in traveling and you don't read Gadling, shame on you! Read Gadling -- it's one of the top 1000 blogs according to Technorati.

So, yes now I'm blogging for a bit more than just beer money! YAAAY :)

Check out my first post here!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Explaining what I am doing with my life...

...this was something I really had to tackle when I decided to quit my job and move to Spain. Before Spain came through, the original idea was Costa Rica -- which amounted for bigger explanations to everyone from my my boss, my friends, my parents to my turtle, my watchman, our cleaning lady, the supermarket delivery guy and long lost uncles in New Jersey.

This is what my latest post on Vagablogging deals with, read it here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Tango Slap

I went to my first Milonga (tango gathering) yesterday.

To my delight, although I was sitting quietly in a corner, I was quickly swept up to dance. But this is all I heard.

"Abha don't move your hips!"

"Contain all your energy inside you and maintain your body stiff."

"Your energy needs to be kept in balance with your body's axis, this isn't a free dance -- don't let go."

"Do not move unless you feel forced to by the man you are dancing with; submit to him completely."

"Tango has nothing to do with any of the Latin dances you dance; you need to forget everything you have learnt in salsa, chacha, merengue and bachata."

So I got demoted to a beginners class. I didn't get up to dance again.

For someone who has been dancing for the last 4 years, being told you can't do a particular dance is acceptable, but nonetheless a huge dent to your ego.

You become so used to being a rockstar on the dance floor that when suddenly told all the above, that feeling of being a novice again, isn't fun.

It was my first tango social, and I was quite surprised how entirely different the tango ambiance is to the salsa ambiance. The people were older, dressed in (mainly black) elegant dresses as opposed to provocative slinky salsa stuff. People dance with an intensity that doesn't even permit them to keep their eyes open; in salsa if you don't look at the person and at least smile whilst dancing, it is an insult.

Tango is the opposite of every reason I choose to dance. I dance to let go, to be silly, to feel free, to laugh, to disconnect. Tango is everything but these things.

I still liked being there though. I felt the need to be able to dance like that, if only -- just to be able to.

But but no way will it ever replace my salsa dancing; at least while I am still young, energetic and flexible.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Trying Tango Again


A few years ago, with utter ganas of getting back into a dance class, I went to a tango lesson.

As a salsa dancer who had a salsa instructor as a boyfriend and taught with him for a significant period, I don't have the patience to go to a salsa class anymore, I also find it below my dignity now. Yes, give me a black star for having said that out loud. Unless it's a super-advance class where you have guys who are actually advance dancers, you learn nothing and you feel like an idiot. For those who didn't realize, all the advance dancers are on the dance floor, not in an academy; so that's where you need to be to get better if you are a seasoned dancer.

Anyway, so in my first tango class a few years ago, I loved the dance. It had this profound seduction that took no time to win me over. But the problem was the music. I couldn't stand it, nor could I follow it. It annoyed me and stressed me out. I felt rigid and restricted. Also, the seriousness of the dance got the better of me, I couldn't handle it. I could never go back.

Recently something stirred in me and I decided to give it another try. And this time I loved it -- music, seriousness and all. To the extent that I have decided I want to learn all of it, and maybe even perform one day -- something that has not appealed to me in 4-years of dancing salsa. Perhaps it's because I'm older now. (?)

Tango is the complete opposite of salsa.

In salsa, all your energy is out there -- wild, fun and sexy. In tango, you have to contain all your energy inside you -- to feel powerful, intense, smooth and seductive. Your look alone should have the power to kill.

There is something very appealing about having the power to do that. About being able to channelize and balance all your energy in the centre of your body so as to be able to give-in gracefully to the man you are draped around while you are dancing.

My impatience wants me to conquer the art NOW. Will need a few months to begin with though. I'm excited.

I'm already imagining myself with a high-slit black dress and red stilettos circling the dance floor with all my energy centred for the man to take control of.

As someone who loves to be silly, I just need to learn how to keep a straight face when I have to give my partner that piercing gaze that kick starts the dance.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sometimes you just need a cry

I walked home this morning on a crisp and sunny autumn day in Madrid. I felt the cold and minty-fresh breeze on my face, and through my clothes. I had goosebumps. It was early, so it was still quiet and I could hear the fallen leaves crunch under my boots.

I was cold, I had a headache; yet I felt the day to be beautiful. The newspaper boy smiled to me as he handed me todays paper, the street musicians were tuning their instruments to begin earning a living, I smelled coffee and churros as I passed a few old-man cafes. And suddenly I realized how much has happened in my life over the last 8 months in Madrid.

I started getting flashes of all the good times, and all the down times; of all the wonderful people I have met and personal relationships I have made that I know will last me a lifetime; of how hard I have worked, of how little money I have earned, of how I'm lucky that I don't have to give a shit about my income at the moment.

Of family - deep gratefulness,love and longing to feel home; of lovers - ecstasy and heartbreak; of friends who have never let me feel alone, and of friends who have disappointed me.

Of how much I have achieved and grown personally in the last year. Of how much I love my life, yet of how much I still feel very alone sometimes, although I have no good reason to. Of how insecure I get, of how much I want to share, of how my walls stand higher than they ever have been.

I thought your life only flashed before you when you are dying.

Anticipation, excitement, fear, solitude, independence, happiness, disappointment, vulnerability -- I felt all this in the same instance.

Funny how a bad nights sleep and an early morning autumn walk can ruffle-up all this. I was abruptly overwhelmed so I sat down and started to cry.

Sometimes you just need a cry.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I'm in a travel-writing book!

Helen Leggatt from So Much World found me a while ago and asked me to write her something on being an aspiring travel-writer and my views on writing for free. I sent her some words, and the eBook (Writing About Travel For Fun And Profit) she was going to use it for is now out -- and I have a page dedicated to me (pg 59), photo and everything!

Other people quoted in the book are hot-shot travel writers who have worked for the likes of National Geographic and Conde Nast Traveller, so I was pretty kicked to share a book with them.

The book is a wonderful no-frills guide to making it as a travel-writer, so if you are even remotely interested in the idea, you can download it here for free.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Now I see it...

I seem to be having many a over-blogging and under-blogging phases these days.

Phases of being swamped, uninspired, hungover; phases of my eyes wanting to bleed from the number of hours glued to the screen; phases of sitting those number of hours and watching the best of YouTube leaving me tired and brain numb — an excuse not to write.

But with the ultimate goal of writing something worth being read, elation and oomph has occasionally overtaken and produced some work I am happy with...(read the rest here)

Cold Chicken and Computers

Cold grilled chicken (which actually tastes great by the way), coffee, Chinese food, Doritos, Cookie Crunch, coffee, diet Coke (which I only drink because I think normal Coke is way too sweet), beer, Martini rojo (which if you still haven't tried, you're a loser of the first degree), coffee, Chinese food, Doritos, Cookie Crunch, coffee, diet Coke...has been my staple diet over the last week or so.

I officially establish this as my never-filling-therefore-keep-eating writing diet that has shockingly served to be very productive. I have been writing heaps this last week, so come time to write my blog unless I have cold chicken left, it's not happening. I think it's the size of the cold chicken and it's utter feel good deliciousness has helped me stay glued to my computer until I finish the whole animal.

The ends justify the means. I still weigh the same so it's all good.

(Thought this was an important detail of my life that you'd like to know.)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pet Planning

"Hey, do you like pets?," my flatmate asks me as she runs into my room, jumping up and down with the biggest smile on her face.

"Yeah, sure I do. Why do you ask?," I say.

"Well, we are planning on getting one for the house!!," she replies, still jumping up and down.

"Cool," I say, intrigued to figure out what she had in mind.

Her smile and grin gave me the idea that it wasn't going to be a 'normal' pet.

"What, a dog? A cat? A mouse? What do you want to get?" I ask with a straight face, knowing that it's definitely none of these.

"Noooo. Everyone has one of those, I was thinking about getting a turtle," she says.

I think, ok, not a monkey or a rabbit, a turtle - I can live with a turtle.

"Do you like turtles?"

"Not particularly," I say meekly. (It's a reptile!!!)

"But they are adorable! Small, slow, easy to maintain."

To which I say: "Fine, get one -- it'll have to live in a bucket of water though in one of our balconies, right?"

"Well, we are thinking of getting an earth turtle that doesn't need water, and we don't want it caged -- it will be allowed to walk freely in the house, and it's home will be your balcony."

"First of all who is "we", and what do you mean it can walk freely in the house!?"

"Everyone is fine with it, I just need you to be ok with it. Of course it will walk freely, why would we want a pet if we wanted to keep it in a cage? Do you have a problem with that?"

Umm... YES. I DON'T WANT A REPTILE WALKING AROUND THE HOUSE. WHY WOULD YOU WANT A REPTILE WALKING AROUND THE HOUSE!? HOW IS THAT HEART-WARMING IN ANYWAY? HOW DOES THAT MAKE OUR HOME A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE IN?

That's what I was thinking, but all I could muster was: "I'm scared of turtles. One walking around the house freely would freak me out."

So I was a party pooper, and because of me, no free-walking reptile in the house.

WHY WOULD YOU WANT A FREE-WALKING REPTILE IN THE HOUSE!?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Writing for Vagabonding!

I read a book about two years ago that was key in changing my life to live the way I live now.

The book is Vagabonding -- An Uncommon Guide To The Art of Long Term Alternative Travel, by Rolf Potts.

And guess what! Today I have started blogging for Rolf at Vagablogging!

How often do you read something, get inspired by the writer, and then get to write for him!?

I'm thrilled!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Raksha Bandhan


"Hi didi! Happy Raksha Bandhan crap," said my brother when I called him yesterday, on this day where brothers and sisters in India celebrate their love for each other.

It's one of the Hindu festivals that I actually think is bonito, and holds much meaning. "Raksha" means protection, and "Bandhan" means bond; the festival takes place every year in July or August, depending on when it's a certain full moon.

On this day the family gets together, all siblings and cousins. Sisters tie a 'rakhi' -- a pretty band made of colourful threads and tassles -- on the wrists of their brothers (both real, and cousin), we do their aarti (yes, a kind of worship that totally goes to their head :), then we feed them a ladoo (an Indian sweet) and get money, or a gift.

The rakhi is supposed to be something that will protect the person who is wearing it. Through this mini-ceremony the sister gives her brother this charm in return for which the brother reassures and promises her that he will always protect and take care of her.

How nice ay! *Sigh*

Apparently the festival commemorates how God Vishnu helped the wife of Indra, god of the sky, to aid her husband in his fight against a demon who had driven Indra out of his celestial kingdom. Vishnu gave Indra's wife a silken thread to put on Indra's wrist as a lucky talisman. It enabled him to defeat the demon and regain his kingdom.

Not sure how if it began between a married couple, how it transcended to be between siblings. The rakhi is supposed to symbolize any form of bond built on respect, trust and protection, so it is not uncommon to see people who are not brothers and sisters exchange this promise. Anyway, there are a few varying stories of the legend behind this festival.

So, even though Rakhi is a Hindu thing, it has spread across religions and holds more of a national spirit because of it's meaningful sentiment. It is a very happy and emotional festival, and is wonderful to be in India on this day.

It's also interesting to note that our National Pledge starts with the sentence "Indian is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters." It roots from the sentiment that brotherhood is the depth of how we should be loving our fellow countrymen.

Another interesting thing is that on this day, you can make someone your brother by tying him this thread.

In school it was an excuse to be close to a boy without people thinking we are messing around. If you have tied a rakhi to a guy, and then you are spotted arm-in-arm with him, it was OK - we're brother-sister guys! It used to be a competition amongst the guys of who had the most rakhis. Yeah, slight abuse of the concept, but the intention was good and almost genuine. :)

But on a serious note, the rakhi is actually taken quite seriously -- even if he is your 'accepted' brother. Guys take it with pride and take joy in being considered not only a friend, but a brother of someone he cares about, and will care about for the rest of his life. 'Accepted' brothers automatically become part of your family, and are treated as such by all members.

My family has been out of India for 10 years now, and it has been ages since we coincided a trip with other family, let alone Raksha Bandan. So every year, our mothers would buy us rakhis, make envelopes for our brothers and get us to write a note so that she could post them and celebration of this day would still be upheld in some traditional way.

These days with the whole family in different corners of the world, it's become difficult to do all the rakhi stuff.

"Children, just to let you know that today is Raksha Bandhan so please get in touch with each other!" Was the email that my mum sent around.

I called my brother, and Facebooked my cousins.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Deadline

In a few days, I would have been in Madrid for 7 months, and officially unemployed for 15 months.

Summer is over in Madrid. It's not long before I will be 28. It's not long before I need to start running around figuring out how I can stay legally in Madrid for another year. At least I know now that that's what I want (well, for the moment anyway).

When you live abroad, especially with an Indian passport in Europe, you need to be extra careful as to your legal status, or you could be forever banned from the continent.

Only recently did my student resident card come through, and it's almost already time for me to reapply. Just the thought is so unsettling. Ok, I have about 3 months - but the speed with which time is flying doesn't make that long at all.

So in 3 months I need to apply to renew my legal status for a year; but I will not know if it will actually happen till perhaps a month (if I'm lucky) before I have to exit the country -- to exit legally, should my papers not come through.

So all of a sudden it's like I'm on a deadline. Gosh how I hate that word.

A deadline to start wrapping up things, as I might have to relocate back to fish knows where; but then again I might not have to leave - in which case I'm OK. But what if I do?
Super unsettling thought.

Having passed the 'half-time' mark, it's the stress of being prepared for unwanted change (leaving Spain) that has started to bother me. I have just got my feet sunk into things that I love doing, and I have already started to worry about it all being uprooted.

Yes I know I have time to figure it out, 3 months is not that short, and I really have no reason to worry - renewing a student visa isn't that difficult. But I have the nature to stress about stuff like this.

I also believe in what is meant to happen will happen, no matter what you do -- and with immigration authorities being the decision makers, much is not in my control. It's hard to really accept that though when you really want something to happen.

I love being Indian, but sometimes I think I was born the wrong nationality for doing the things I am doing now. So many legal obstacles just for having an Indian passport.

Maybe I should marry my flatmate. Lesbian marriages are legal here, and my situation would be regulated forever! (If we don't get busted for a fraudulent marriage, that is). I wonder what my parents would tell the rest of the family. Now that would be book material :)

Sigh.

I'm loving life, but am hating how quickly time is passing by.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Book Review: The Rules

Book: The Rules: Time Tested Secrets For Capturing The Heart Of Mr Right
Authors: Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider

Yes, I am absolutely ashamed of having bought this book, to the extent that I didn't even manage to take it on the metro to read, just incase someone saw what I was reading.

I was even more devastated when I read that it was 'one of the best self-help books on the market today'. WHAT? this was my first self-help book? I am embarrassed.

I think I bought it out of sheer curiosity, not to mention it being mascoted by Julia Allison -- besides I thought, if it's absolutely awful, I can still blog about it, right? :)

Anyway, as the name suggests - the book promises to make you win the heart of that Mr Right, not only until you get that ring on your finger, but to keep the ring FOREVER.

Now all those lovely single girls out there, wouldn't you just die to know what the f*** is written in a such a book!?

Well, save your money -- I will tell you right now.

The book reads like an annoying infomercial for these 'rules' that have become a phenomenon that you MUST live by religiously, not only live a healthy suffering free love life, but to really be able to live your life fully.

The rules go back to the Victorian ages where:
- the woman never calls
- the woman always hangs up first
- the woman never makes the first move
- the woman does not agree to a date on Saturday night if she is called after Wednesday
- the woman is never easily available
- the woman never pays
- the woman must be mysterious etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc...

There are 35 of these....you get the idea?

Basically, it's the whole: live your life, look good, feel good, play super hard to get and the guys will not only come running after you, but will treat you right your whole life.

If you do the rules and a guy doesn't start dancing to your tunes, he's just not that into you! (Hmmm. Where have I heard that before?)

But, if he is -- THE RULES are the miracle formula, the 1oo% guarantee of a happy love life that us modern 21st century girls forget about as we like to be fierce, ballsy and independent; as we like to go after what we want (including men) -- this is our fuck up.

So follow the rules, all 35 of them and you will have a ring on your finger in no time.

Is there psychological evidence in the book? no

Is there scientific logic? no

Are there real life examples? not any credible ones

So how do we know they work? because the book says so and knows so.
C'mon! They got these original tips from Melanie, who got them from her Grandmum.

(What do I hear you say? "Who is Melanie?"
I have no idea, but she's their source of wisdom. Seriously.)

The way the book is written is an insult to anybody with a brain.

You will feel stupid reading the book as it gives you tips on how to putter on dates, eat your dessert, and leave Mr Right begging for more.

........

WHAT? and this was a NY Times bestseller!? HOW?

........

Now, the funny bit is: even though it's pretty pathetic in everything: content, language and credibility, I read all of it.

AND...I realized that I do NONE of those 35 rules. NONE. I never have.

AND...everything that I have been doing in relationships are written in this book as big NO NO's, "THE SINS" -- signed off with a further slap that concludes for me -- this is why you have had shit relationships and are single, honey!

En fin: the book is a waste of money, and time. But, I'm still gonna try THE RULES. ooooooooh yeah.

If they keep a guy in my life for more than 6 months, I have got my value for money back.

Hmmm. Of course I would need to find a guy to try them on first.

Shish kebab.




Monday, August 20, 2007

My first 'tangible clips'!

Yes, in print, on paper, in a magazine, in the travel section.

Check them out here:
-Travel Spain: Roadtrip to Jerez, Andalucia
-Travel Europe: Bavarian Beer Bang

Yes, in print, on paper, in a magazine, in the travel section.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Occupation 101

I just saw a fantastic documentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - something you must see when you have some time.

Those hazy on the subject will clearly get to grips with what has been going on in that territory, and those clued on will see some exceptional footage from the devastating situation in the 'Holy Land'.

In our modern world's 21st Century quest of so called bigger and brighter things on it's agenda, the fact that this has been happening in the Middle East (and continues to happen with no foreseeable stop) made me feel sick to the stomach and more useless than I have in a very long time.

I suppose being super-optimistic has lead me to be pathetically naive and stick with an idealist vision of the world and it's future direction.

My belief that yes there is shit happening everywhere, but there is hope and things will change - be it hunger, war or environmental disaster - took a serious blow as I watched this documentary snug in my bed in uptown Madrid.

It has left me feeling low and annoyed with myself as to what I selfish life I lead and why I haven't gotten my act together to make a drop of a difference to anything that really matters.

I take back my call for TLC.

Call for TLC

A recent flu, a wretched cold, 'that time of the month', blistered hands after painting a 4-bedroom house, a bumped head and twisted ankle from falling and knocking over things whilst painting, not to mention cleaning the puta house afterwards, left me with just about enough energy to put a frozen pizza in the oven and the dire question: where is my share of TLC!?

(Yes, I'm being a prat. I feel like it)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Red Martini...


...is my drink of the year.

For someone (me) who hates gin, I'm quite astonished how much in general I like Martini's, especially with olives; however it was only until recently that I discovered Red Martini - and that's the only thing I have been ordering ever since.

A simple beer drinking girl, I'm quite ignorant when it comes to the composition, brand or image/status of an alcoholic drink (I also don't give a f***), but out of sheer curiosity when I tried to look up Red Martini I found squat.

A bit more probing lead me to discover that it is Italian. Hmmm.

Anyway, it's this sexy red-gold colour and is to drink straight with ice. It is quite strong, but so delicious you won't find it tasting of raw alcohol, and it has this super twist of olive flavour that makes it just spanking.

Yes I'm sold on this drink, so if you haven't had it yet - order one next time you are out. Martini Vermut is apparently one of the best brands of this Martini, but it really doesn't matter; it's a drink that no matter how cheap, it cannot taste bad.


Granada


If I had to describe Granada in one word, enchanting is the first thing that would come to my mind.

Granada, in the Southern province of Andalucia, is everything you expect from a little town that used to be the capital of the Moorish kingdom some 700 years ago. It was the last Muslim town to fall to the Christians in 1492 and used to be one of the only places where the Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony (well, somewhat).

The town is made of myriad narrow and winding cobble streets where you can loose yourself, but never really get lost. Small, royal and red furnished Arabic tea and sheesha joints are everywhere alongside Moroccan artifact sellers, trying to give you the best bargain.

People are friendly, laid back and always smiling. And the tapas!? Order a beer and you get a free hamburger, half a grilled-chicken, or an entire fried cod-fish; order 3 beers and you won't be going for dinner.

Being a university town, the party scene is pretty hot. The bars are open till about 2, after which you have some time to go home and change, as discos don't seem to pick up until 3-3:30am (!!!).
Yup, that's the life ay.

Last but not the least, justified to be the sole reason you visit Granada, is the Alhambra.
(see pic above)

The Alhambra - is the 'Red Fort' is where the Arabs ruled from, and is based at the bottom of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Here you will see the palaces of all the Muslim sultans who reigned. As you can imagine, the humongous palaces, courtyards and gardens are stunning with grand yet intricate Arabic architecture. You will also see the (not so stunning) reformation done by Spanish King Carlos V, who took over the palaces and Granada when the Muslim rule fell.

About 8000 people visit the Alhambra everyday, so you need to book your tickets way in advance. It was up for contest as a new wonder of the world, it's a shame it didn't make it.

Brimming with Muslim, Christian, Jewish - and not to mention Spanish - culture, Granada is a fantastic place to visit.





Thursday, August 09, 2007

A much needed blah

The last 2-weeks have flown by way too fast for me to register what happened.

Between teaching double time, visitors, house being painted, writing for Gridskipper, Map Magazine, European Vibe and Written Road, meeting Edelman Madrid, meeting officials at the Indian Embassy, trying to meet lawyers, doing a documentary on the Bangladeshi community, researching Universities, working on my London School of Journalism Course, dancing, going out, and running in vain attempt to feel remotely fit -- blogging and anything else seems to have taken a back-step.

With all this networking, and as the time comes to begin thinking of sorting out paper work to stay longer in Madrid, myriad thoughts have been spinning in my head.

From this, have sprouted many a profound rants waiting to be vomited, but every time I have thought of putting them to blog, I have chosen to put myself to sleep instead.

Have a look at my basic yet convoluted thought process these days, and it might just explain why choosing to sleep has been a saner option:

What am I doing with my life? But I am so happy! Am I really happy? Why am I so happy? I haven't really achieved much. Do I want a stable job? No way! But maybe I should try to see if I can get one. I haven't pitched a single story to any publication since I've come here. I want to be a VJ. I want my own TV show. Maybe I should get back into TV production. But I don't want to be picking up camel shit again. TV show -- that's the answer. But I look crap on video. Video blogging, I need a VLOG! I need to give back to society, I should work for a NGO. I should move to India if I want to work in an NGO. I miss Indian food. I'm so lucky to be in Spain. I want to make this place home. But can I? Legally it's a pain in the ass. Maybe I should look at buying some property here. But I don't have that kind of money. And would I have a future here? I don't want to be a poor English teacher all my life. I should do that masters degree in NY. But I'd have to move, again! But I guess I could move back here. But then would I want to move back after a stint in NY? Look at my brother, he is 18 and has it all figured out. What does that say about me? Will I always be a lost person? But that's what has brought me here, so maybe that's a good thing.....ARGH.

I could go on and on.

I hope my parents don't read this because they will tell me to meditate.

My best friend arrives in 8-hours. So all these thoughts will just have to take a serious halt until he leaves. Can't you just wait to read my next post!?


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Social Exhaustion

Two months of continuous visitors, a 30-hour working week, 4 trips away, dancing when I should be sleeping, constantly eating out (aka drinking), has left my blood toxic, me mentally and physically exhausted, and overall feeling like crap.

Although I cannot put a finger on exactly what I have achieved (the story of my life ever since I moved to Spain), I feel it has been a productive two months; feelings are all I go on these days. Loads of highs and no specific lows, so it's all good; it's what 'being young' is all about. Right?

Also, I woke up today and looked at my list of things to do from two-weeks ago. Nothing has been crossed out, so the aim for last few hours of the day is to cross at least two things off - and one of them is blogging :)

So today as I sit to blog -- basically out of sheer guilt of not blogging for a week -- this is about all I can muster for the moment.

Hmmm. Bad excuse huh?

Yeah. I think so too.




Friday, July 27, 2007

Vindaloo Masala

I decided to go eat on my own for a change at my newly discovered Mr India restaurant down the road from my house.

See, when you go and eat Indian food with non-Indians, you don't get the real stuff. Things are modified, especially spice wise, so that customers don't run to the bathroom holding their stomachs or leave with smoke coming out of their ears.

"Namaste Madam," says Ramu the Bangladeshi dude as I enter, and asks me in Hindi if I was expecting anyone to join me.

"How did you know I was Indian and spoke Hindi?," I ask.

"Madam, you come here often, we know our people," he says.

Hmmm.

I order a chicken vindaloo, garlic naan and a King Fisher beer.

"Very good madam, I will make it apna style (our style)," he says.

Yippee. Finally a good authentic meal was on my way, my mouth was watering already.

After watching 6 Best of Aishwarya hits on the telly in the restaurant, my fragrant chicken vindaloo arrived with a steaming garlic naan and chilled beer.

The first bite was heaven. The spicy and hot curry touched my taste buds like they haven't been touched in a while.

Mum, I missed your curry; dad and bro, you would have loved this.

But, it seemed to get spicier by the bite.

The more I ate, the more my mouth burned, the more it blistered my throat, and later my ears began steaming, and shortly after it seemed to start scorching out through my eyes.

My beer was long over, and I couldn't taste the food anymore. I was stung badly by this chilly.

I started to feel dizzy as the spice molecules accumulated and aggravated my palate.

"Madam, are you ok?" asks Ramu.

"This is killing me. What have you put in this!?" I ask.

"Madam, you are one of us. I told Harvindarji (the chef) to make it as if he was making it for himself. Maybe you cannot handle it, let me take it back and add some yogurt and make it mild for you."

What was happening? Where had my taste buds gone? Was I losing them to Madrid? I don't want to turn into those 'firangs' who cannot handle chilly. But how could that be? I am...(well was...) queen of eating chilly.

It was intolerably spicy and I bet even Harvindarji wouldn't have been able to eat it.

Well, that's the story I'm going with anyway.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

An uncategorisable relationship...

He doesn't affect my current life in any way, yet I think of him everyday. I would love to see him, yet do not crave it.

I remember vividly every conversation, every chat, every outing I have had with him.

I wake up sometimes and smile because I remembered something he said to me, maybe 5-years ago. I have messages and emails saved from ages ago. Just because.

I take refuge in whatever little time I have spent with him. It has all been pure, expectationless and nurtured little by little.

Not seeing him often has not distanced me - as physically being in his presence has been the least part of the relationship. He has always managed to move me in some way.

I have seen him strong, overpowering, overwhelming; charismatic and fierce.

I have also seen him weak and crawl into his shell.

Although only momentarily, I have seen him discouraged and defeated.

I have seen him exposed as he narrates to me nothing but the naked truth - a vulnerable side, that has only increased my respect for him.

I have learnt from him, been encouraged by him and pushed by him.

I used to be this silly little girl trying to be around him, hungry for guidance, lacking self-confidence.

Today, somehow I cannot recall feeling more like a woman but around him.

I'm not sure what I have with him, yet I don't fear losing it, as I believe I never will.

It's not love, yet somehow it's been unconditional - at least from my end.

It's not an affair - not emotional, or physical. Never has been, never will be.

Perhaps I'm living in my own bubble that will see this relationship in no other way.

I have no fucking clue; that's why I love it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Book Review: Freakonomics

I was elated when I found this book at the airport in Sweden. A regular reader of their blog, I've had my mind on this book for a while; the one copy left at the shop made me feel like it was meant for me.

As the name suggests, it's about freak(y) economics. It takes the relatively dry subject of economics and sexes it up by using it to explain interesting, most random yet totally valid questions.

For eg: Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? Why do drug dealers live with their mums? Does your name effect your success in life? How crime rates and abortion are directly related...What do school teachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? things like this.

It's written by crazy economist Steven Levitt who in his university days hated calculus and wasn't particularly clued onto conventional economic theory. But his attention to detail, ability to ask great questions and analyze data in ways that just didn't occur to others, is what made it all happen. A Harvard graduate and an economics professor at University of Chicago, he was recently listed as one of the '100 People Who Shape Our World' by Time Magazine.

The Freakonomics idea sprouted when Stephen J Dubner, award-winning author and journalist who regularly writes for the NY Times and The New Yorker (and who was first published at the age of 11!), interviewed Levitt for the NY Times. With Levitt's crazy economic thinking ability and Dubner's writing expertise - voila, you have the book Freakonomics.

Written in lay man's language, it's an easy and intriguing read - and made me go 'what?!' more than a few times.

However, the only problem with the book is how it is a bit too disjointed. Filled with lines and lines of fascinating conclusions, as the information intelligently rolls off one after the other, it's not difficult to wonder how when you were reading about onions, how you are now reading about pig's ears (metaphorically speaking, of course).

I read most of the chapters with ease and perpetual curiosity, just wanting to know where he is going with his theories, but there was the odd chapter that dragged on way too much, and the odd chapter I skipped after reading a few pages.

It's written very sincerely though, and its bonus material at the end was my favourite.

The stuff you will read in the book will probably not affect your life in any significant way(as it says); you will not necessarily agree with his analysis, but nor will you be able to challenge it.

But, what it does do, and why it is worth reading, is because it will (as it says) encourage you to challenge conventional wisdom eg what we read every day in newspapers, or hear on the news. It encourages you to use your intuition and instincts to think beyond what you see on the surface, because most of the time what we see or hear, is not necessarily true.

Start off by reading this interview of Levitt by Dubner in the NY Times; it's a super prelude and summary of the concept of Freakonomics. If you enjoy the interview, you will enjoy the book.

Map Madrid

So in my attempt to write as much as possible, and get exposure as much as possible, and network as much as possible, I have started to contribute to Map Madrid - a cool Madrid based cultural, social, political and simply fun website.

I was lucky with my first piece, as they chose to feature something from my blog I had written last year - one of my favourite pieces actually - check it out here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Friday the 13th

I fly to Paris tomorrow: on Friday the 13th. A detail I only realised a few days ago.

For those who are wondering what the big deal is, Friday the 13th is known to be the most unlucky day in the world. I forget why, and honestly I couldn't care less to find out.

I'm not superstitious at all, but there's something with this date that allows something uncomfortable to linger in your mind.

(Random recollection: many buildings in India don't have a 13th floor because the number is considered so unlucky that real estate agents never manage to sell apartments on that floor! Now how's that for super superstition!)


Anyway, good news is that in Spain it's Tuesday the 13th that is deemed fatal - so I suppose I'm in the clear.

Lot's of posts in the backlog, am back Sunday night - stay tuned.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Movie Review: Cheeni Kum**




So India seems to be in this whole 'let's talk about taboo or unconventional subjects, that'll give us a hit' mood - and voila, we have Cheeni Kum.

{FYI: I've found a little Bollywood video club close to home, and was ecstatic to see that they had the latest (though fake) films, but no problem - as long as it's watchable I don't give a shit about piracy}

Anyway, 64-year old hottie Amitabh Bachchan falls in love with 34-year old Tabu. Big controversy. Tabu's father Paresh Rawal goes on a hunger-strike in protest. That was all of his role, quite an insult to his talent actually. Bachchan gives him some super filmi dialogue. They get married. That's all it was and it was 2-hours 20 minutes long.

Very average film with mediocre script that didn't do much justice to the film's superb actors. The humour was cheesy and the small details in the film were overthought:- e.g. Tabu asks Bachchan to run to the closest tree and back to see if he has stamina to do more than touch her hand. HUH?

I found the side-kick with bad teeth called 'Colgate' the funniest part of the film. Oh and I couldn't keep my eyes off Bachchan's pigtail. It was the ugliest and most distracting pigtail I have ever seen. Why did they have to give him a puny pigtail?

There is a cute little girl in the film called 'sexy'. 9-years old, she plays Bachchan's best friend and is dying of cancer. In the beginning I thought it was a well thought out detail of the film, but it bypassed all the nerves and died (literally) too soon.

The scenes were trying too hard to be funny. Tabu's pet name was Tangdi Kebab, and Bachchan's Ghasspoos. Funny. Bachchan did manage to pull it off gracefully though, and looks good.

Tabu had the corniest dialogues and too many scenes walking as if she was doing a Sunsilk commercial; Zohra Segal who plays Bachchan's mother was typically Zohra Segal so she was a joy to watch.

Thank God there was no kissing scene, I would have barfed.

Oh and I forgot to mention a very important character in the film: Bachchan's umbrella. The movie has more umbrella than song, can you believe it?

Other than the focus on Paresh Rawal being a diabetic, and Tabu finding the rice in Bachchan's restaurant too sweet, I didn't quite get the sence of the film's 'less sugar' name either.

Hmmm. I can't help thinking I missed the plot of the film. The message was interesting and valid, especially for an Indian society, but it's depiction was pretty lame.

Wait for the DVD to come out - and that too only if you fancy some cooking tips (Bachchan is a famous Chef in the film), but otherwise it's quite a waste of time.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I've got the giggles...

...the unacceptable, annoying, need-to-be-slapped type giggles.

Anything anyone says to me: be it about Carlota's new diet plan where she will loose 10 kilos in 5 weeks, or Linus is ill because of inhailing too much smoke from when his house caught fire, or how Maria's day at work was shit because Raul spat in her face, to Stephen's travel plans, or my student explaining to me how to cook duck in wine - I cannot not feel like laughing. If not laughing, I have a perpetual smirk on my face that I feel like slapping myself.

And this has been going on for atleast a month now. Thank goodness for being able to perpetually bite my lips. Pretty pathetic really.

The most problem is with people I know well, especially my flatmates - I'm definitley getting a shouting or a slap from one of them soon.

And the bigger problem is, I don't know what is causing this adolescent behaviour on my part. There is nothing funny about what anyone is saying to me. Infact, the more serious something seems to be, the more I want to fart a laugh.

When they talk, everything turns into a caricature style comic and my imagination starts running wild, and I can't take anything seriously.

This has happened to me before, but never for more than a day or two.

I keep telling myself it's a phase. Whatever it is, it needs to stop. NOW.

Help?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Laugh for the day

This made me laugh out loud this morning as I was reading the IHT.


Check out more here.

Sweden and Denmark


'Blonde and sausages' would be pretty close synonyms for these Scandinavian countries I visited last weekend. Other descriptive words would include: super sophisticated, quiet and vodka.

I land in Malmö and immediatley feel the absence of a city's hustle and bustle, alongside the exposure to language with dots and circles above characters. The airport is spick and span, looks expensive; it smelt of expensive perfume.

People spoke flawless English with a strong American accent (thanks to the undubbed American television rage in the country), and dressed very well.

The bus ride from the airport into the city gave me a good summary of how green the country is. The expanse of land is tremendous and it is all deep, rich, healthy green with perfectly manicured fields - something I gawed at from the plane too.

I was visiting an old friend from Dubai in Sweden - and thanks to him and his silver card, I got to crash with him at the Hilton for free! I had come there for the Midsummer's Day celebrations on Friday, June 22 - which is a national holiday in the country.

Midsummer's Day is the longest day in the year in Sweden and is celebrated with much gusto behind closed doors (ie in people's homes). I suppose that explains why a walk around the city Friday morning felt like walking in a movie set. Beautiful, colourful houses, small quaint streets, churches with pointy oxidised green copper roofs, and not a soul to be seen.

I felt strange even talking loudly, afraid I might wake someone - where was everyone!?

We were lucky to be invited to a Swedish style fiesta for this day - which is when we realised everyone was inside filling glasses of strawberry cider whilst preparing the sausages and flower tiaras.

Soon a small dance in the garden would take place during which a decorated flower cross would be stomped into the soil, promising a rich harvest for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, thanks to the rain - we had to skip this step and begin with the food.

We ate raw herring (which is also a fish by the way), and I don't know how this Sashmi type food entered a sausage and meatball cuisine - but it was the speciality of the evening. During the meal, we stopped every 10 minutes to sing a song in Swedish, after which we had to scull down a shot of Vodka Schnaps. Topped with a huge bowl of strawberries and cream, I felt like a spoilt drunk princess - I wish I had the flower tiarra.

3-shots and two wines later, I was eating raw fish, playing Swedish games and singing Swedish karoke till the wee hours of the morning. After 10 hours of these sacred Swedish Midsummer's day rituals, our contribution to Sweden's good harvest was complete and we set on home.

The next day was bigtime recovering from hangover day. As we head out to get some greasy hangover food - yet again we saw noone on the streets. Where was everyone today? I think the Swedes need to learn to leave their Ikea furniture alone for a while.

The next day we needed to get out of this no-people city so we made a trip to Copenhagen in Denmark. This is where it seemed all the people were.

Similar style to Malmö, yet bigger and busier - Copenhagen had a pleasant and more 'happening' scene. Here you could actually talk at normal volume without fear of waking people, and there were signs of life on the streets.

A long walk with a Danish friend and two hot-dogs later, we were ready to head back to Malmö as we had no Danish money left. I don't understand why they are part of the EU - and don't have Euro yet. Was very inconvenient and the exchange service fee was ridiculous.

All in all, the cities were quite typically Scandinavian -- Hansel and Gretal (yes I know they are German!) is what I was reminded of. As a brown-skinned, black-haired girl I stood out amongst the Swedish barbie dolls, and although I enjoyed experiencing these Nordic countries, I am quite happy to be back in Madrid.

Although totally disorganised, you can check out some photos here.

(Blog photo - shows the dancing around the cross ritual of Midsummers Day in Sweden courtesy: www.sweden.se)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Movie Review: The Namesake ****


Movies like this make me proud of Indian cinema. The life and emotions of an ABCD (American-Born-Confused-Desi), or as a matter of fact, any Indian child brought up abroad, couldn't be captured better.

Parents go abroad to live the 'American Dream' - have children who grow up torn between two radically different cultures - tragedy strikes - realisation dawns - children brought back to their roots - they manage to find a balance between their 'modern' life abroad and the profoundness of their Indian culture.

Although over two hours long, the movie is super fast and cuts straight to the chase, without over-dramatising.

Although I haven't read Jhumpa Lahiri's book, I can't imagine the movie to be a disappointment for those who have.

Phenomenal acting by Tabu, Irfan Khan, and Kal Penn; the music by Nitin Sawney starts and ends the movie with perfect harmony; the colour palette evolves with the story and the shots are asthetically brilliant; there are nudity and kissing shots that seem natural rather than eeky for a change; all-in-all Mira Nair deserves a big round-of-applause.

India has been depicted wonderfully through the colours and craziness of Calcutta alongside the joyful and warm, yet turbulent lives of Indian families. When the film zooms into New York - the radical divergence of lifestyle is bluntly evident, allowing you to not only understand but feel the differences of culture.

I'm not an ABCD, but something quite close. Having moved to England when I was 3, then back to India when I was 10, then Dubai, Australia and now Spain, most of my 'developing years' have been spent outside Mother India.

A 7 year stint in India and regular visits have kept me rather grounded to my roots, yet the frequent confusion in morals and 'sence of belonging' I feel that stems from (perhaps) over-exposure to the western world, is reflected in this film with biting accuracy.

One of the best things in the story of this film was the Indian-dates-American-but-marries-Indian bit.

After being in love with an American blond-hair-blue-eyed girl, a sudden gravitational pull towards his Indian-ness leads him to marry an Indian girl.

This Indian girl has been brought up abroad too and has the perfect mix of western ambition/sex appeal and Indian culture - so all seems hunkydory at first. Then she lands up cheating on her husband with an old French lover, which leads to their separation. A message for all Indian parents who believe that their Indian children MUST marry other Indians: it will not secure a long and happy marriage.

A must watch for all Indians living abroad, and all Indian parents with children living abroad, and anyone else who wants a true peek into the lives of a modern Indian family today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Una conversación...

...con una niña de 11 años

Ella: Tienes novio?

Yo: Si...

Ella: Como se llama?

Yo: Raúl

Ella: Es guapo?

Yo: Si, guapisimo

Ella: Te gusta mucho?

Yo: Si, claro

Ella: Vas a casar con el?

Yo: No!

Ella: QUE? y si no vas a casarse con el, porque es tu novio?

Yo: Caemos bien, disfrutamos el tiempo juntos, me hace reír...

Ella: Entonces? porque no vais a casar?!

Yo: Somos diferente, no va a funcionar

Ella: Hmmm.

Ella: Has tenido mas novios?

Yo: Si...

Ella: PERO QUE LIGONA ERES!

Yo: Que no! es normal, desafortunadamente no es fácil encontrar alguien que quieres por todo tu vida.

Ella: Mi padre era el primer novio de mi madre, y se enamoran y se casaron.

Yo: Tu madre tiene mucha suerte entonces. Idealmente tiene que ser así.

Ella: Como puedes amar mas que una persona?

Yo: Estos días no salimos solo por amor.

Ella: Que? (con una cara serena y totalmente confundido)

- dejé la conversación aquí.

And there he was...

His salt-&-pepper hair was turning grey, but the cool Richard Gere way. He had the refined look that comes with maturing and understanding more of the world around. His eyes were as blue as ever, he was as fit as ever. He still loved his dessert, and whipped it up like a child. He could still make me laugh.

I have loved two men in my life, and he was one of them. Immature, naive, puppy love perhaps, but stemming from a strong friendship, deep none-the-less. Back in the days, I would have died for him.

Fiercely successful, world-traveller-investment-banker he was today. His arrogance and aggressiveness hated because of envy by most - but an explosive magnet for me - today made him a ruthless yet clean and sharp businessman, with the world at his doorstep.

Working hard. Very hard. But loving every second of it and soaking in all it's rewards. He radiated success.

So did his girlfriend. Perhaps made of the same lust, together they shone.

I could still see the boy I knew 6-years ago though. The clear-cut, go-getter. Crazy yet logical, strong yet vulnerable. Sensible yet spontaneous. Sometimes as cold as ice, but warm as a big blanket when he needed to be.

I never understood why we broke-up. Was part of his painfully practical attitude. Or perhaps I was carried away and mixed-up my feelings with the truth, like I always do. It's a convenient thing to do.

With fond memories that no-one can steal from me - life goes on. And that's just how it is.

Old-times in Paris

Just got back from a super weekend in Paris. Went on a whim to see old friends I went to university with in Australia. Hadn't seen them for 4-years but when we met, it was like we met yesterday. That's the beauty of genuine friendships.

I've been to Paris 3 times before, but going from Madrid to Paris was a whole different ballgame. Made me feel like I went from a humble town (yes, Madrid) to "the" epitome of all clichés a European society stands for.

Flawlessly stylish clothes, families that seem to have walked right out of a catalogue, posh culture, expensive coffee and uhh let uz not forget zi accent.

Far from being tall-blond-hair-blue-eye-porcelain-skinned, I felt like I needed a twirly mustache and French hat to fit in. I also must have been the only one on the street in flip-flops without pedicured feet. But I had the 'get lost I'm from Madrid' attitude going on; my saving grace. And I speak Spanish, oo wantz to zpeak French anyway.

With their conventionally yet perfectly correct lives, everyone seems to have their act together in Paris. Another reason that shook me a little bit. Young, beautiful people, viciously successful, living the upper-class good life.

Call me demented but nope, I wasn't envious. Not the least bit.

The slimy snails, caviar and frogs legs don't go well with me either. I much rather devour a crepe (or 4!) on the street.

I missed Madrid, and glad I chose Spain rather than any other country in Europe.

Don't get me wrong, Paris has it's own charm. It's a beautiful city.

But my bias towards Spain has begun. I'm turning into a Madrileña.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Indulgences and Summer

The sun is out, the wind is warm and pleasant, dresses, shorts and bikini's are out of the closet and I'm on an inexplicable high.

Yet at the same time I feel lost and anxious; perpetually preoccupied about fish knows what.

I have been buying crap. Cheap, disposable summer clothes that I know I won't land up wearing, music that I will listen to only on a whim, and am eating lot's of ice-cream. Must start running.

The Matador boys have gone, I hardly know them but it feels weird and kind of sad that they have gone. Was a pleasure to have them over, who knows if I will ever see them again. They came and went in a snap. Man, there are not enough hours in a day, and it's already June.

So what? I don't know.

Crazy month coming up for me. Am off to France on Thursday for the weekend to see some close friends. *Thank goodness I'm getting paid tomorrow*

Then am here for a while and then I go to Sweden to hangout with another friend. And then June is over!

Sheesh kebab.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Matador Travel in my house!


So the boys from Matador Travel are in Madrid and have been crashing at my house (although they have a crazy schedule and I have only seen them once so far :)

Travel-writing was what got us in contact and we have been in touch since the beginning of the year, but met for the first time a few days ago.

For those who aren't familiar with this site, it's a website with some great written content, aiming to bring travelers together and encouraging people not only to travel, but to make a difference when they do. Pretty cool sentiment I think, do check it out when you get a minute.

Ross(L) and Ben(R) - founders of the site, have quit their day-jobs and are working full-time to make Matador happen. They already have over a 1000 users from everywhere, doing all sorts of things, everywhere. The boys are currently traveling around Europe and Asia marketing their website.

It's been a long time since I met some people with similar ambitions, full of energy and life, working fearlessly with passion - for their passion. Working very hard - but playing hard too; yet down-to-earth and chilled-out gentlemen. It's very refreshing to come across and get the opportunity to hang with people like this.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

Answers to some the eternal questions we have when we are in the beginning of a relationship:

Q. He called yesterday, when should I call back?
If you call back too soon, you are desperate; if you don't you're not interested enough.
Answer: It doesn't really matter, you are screwed both ways.

Q.We had dinner last night, he said he'd call me Monday. It's Tuesday and he hasn't called. What should you do?
If you call him, you are the one who wants him more - ego crap; if you don't and he never lands up calling, you will never know what would have been.
Answer: It doesn't really matter, you are screwed both ways.

Q. He makes plans with me all the time, should I always be available?
If you play hard to get, he might say, screw this; if you are always available to go out, do anything as long as you're hanging out, (irrespective of the fact that you really just like him and are generally not fussed) you get walked over.
Answer: It doesn't really matter, you are screwed both ways.

Q. You slept with him for the first time, and he didn't call the next day. What do you do?
If you call him, you're the desperate one ('it's-the-guy-who-has-to-call-the-next-day-crap'), if he calls you after three days and then you don't answer, you have begun a stupid ego game; if you do answer, it's like you were waiting by the phone.
Answer: It doesn't really matter, you are screwed both ways.

Q. Talking about how you feel. When can you start sharing your feelings without losing too much of your dignity?
If you say what you feel, you put yourself on the line - high chances he will not say what you want him to and you will feel like shit. If you don't, you are accumulating a whole lot of shit inside you that will come out horribly another day.
Answer: It doesn't really matter, you are screwed both ways.

Q.I feel uncomfortable in the relationship because I think he may be seeing other people - how soon is too soon to confront him about this without seeming like an inquisitive nag?
If you ask him in under two months, you are in too deep and need to get a life; if you don't, and he is seeing other people, it will continue and when you find out it will be too late.
Answer: It doesn't really matter, you are screwed both ways.

Q. Be clear about what you want. How much do you adapt to being who the other person wants you to be?
Don't try to change yourself to suit what the other person wants - and you are selfish and stubborn. Change and give-in - you will be the one hurting later.
Answer: It doesn't really matter, you are screwed both ways.

Q. Do you give him the benefit of the doubt?
If you don't give the guy you are dating the benefit of the doubt - what's the point of dating him when you have negative thoughts? If you do, you land-up believing exactly what you want to believe, which is rarely the truth.
Answer: It doesn't really matter, you are screwed both ways.

Q.The relationship was great, but you both want different things, so saying adios is the healthy option. Can you still be friends?
If you choose not to change to 'friend mode', other than the sex you didn't value rest of the relationship - how could you not want him in your life anymore? if you decide you can be friends, you are easy with anything - all those other feelings didn't have much meaning.
Answer: It doesn't really matter, you are screwed both ways.

On a positive note:
Lesson Learnt: You might as well do exactly what you want, because the consequences will probably be rather similar.

*Phew* it's almost relieving to realise that all the nonsense pondering we do over stupid stuff like this is really not worth it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Frugal Traveler in Dubai!

The NY Time's Frugal Traveler Matt Gross finally made it to Dubai. And wrote a brilliant piece.

Other than it being an enjoyable read, what I really appreciated about this piece is how he managed to see beneath Dubai's glittery shit, and talk more about the few 'normal' things you can do there.

Those familiar with Dubai will understand why I had the biggest smile when I saw the 'what to see' recommendations included:
-Al Mallah
-Saj Express
-Club Africana at the Rush-Inn Hotel :)

(They are probably some of the best places to go, but you will never hear about them in Dubai's publicity)

Some extracts:

"It's probably very normal for people to wake up in Dubai, realize they have money in their pockets, and set out to spend it. But for the Frugal Traveler, it’s a rare and nerve-wracking moment...

What I wanted from Dubai was not preconceived amusements but the accidental by-products of globalization — like Club Africana, or the happy clash of cultures at a house party. Not only were they cheaper, they felt more truly Dubai than the multimillion-dollar attractions, and I counted myself fortunate my low budget had driven me to seek them out."
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