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:

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...


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.
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