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


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 :)


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 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... 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.


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.

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