Friday, September 05, 2008

Moved!

Finallllyyyyyyyyy to my OWN domain (and to WordPress)

www.abhamalpani.com (YAAAAAAAAY)

Still work in progress, but this will be my new space from now on. I'm going to miss you blogspot :(

You will see that my custom header kinda sucks. Need to fix that, and am requesting some designer friends to help out. If you are a designer and want to help design that space, write me!

abha[dot]malpani[at]gmail.com
(Full credit will be given :)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Is the Western dating system flawed?


Excerpt from Marrying Anita, by Anita Jain:
"For years, I never questioned the Western dating system. The tenets on which it rests seemed perfectly sound: after meeting a man or woman through work or friends, one gets to know him or her, and if one likes what one sees, one continues to deepen the commitment, which sometimes leads to marriage. What surprises me now is how much this system leaves to chance encounter, to a kind of fate or fortune. For a decidedly unmystical society that seems to have the answer for everything else -- the best medical care, cutting-edge technology, superhighways, and space shuttles -- it seems odd that people are left to their own resources, casting around for another lonely soul, for what is arguably the most important decision of their lives."

Just for the record: I'm not reading this book and nor do I want to go to India to find myself a husband. I still believe in marrying for love (if at all!), or not.

My mum is thrilled that I read this piece and I think it's a thought provoking read. Marriage -- whether arranged or love, is a gamble. So I don't believe that you must get married for the sake of it and that in the long term you will be thankful, because marriage is not the foundation for your life, nor is it the solution to save you from a lonely existence. A good marriage or relationship should be a bonus in your life, which incase you don't have, you will still be fine.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Snails. On face. UGH.

She broke the world record by having 25 snails crawl over her face. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

On a separate note, apparently the trail they leave has anti-aging substances so it's often used in creams. You could try this to get the real deal. :-)

It's a great photo though. Full story here.

[Via Boing Boing]

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quote for the day

"Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a starter home. Choose dental insurance, leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose your future. But why would anyone want to do a thing like that?" -- from the movie Trainspotting.

The weight of sign-offs

I think when you write someone (a personal note), the way you sign-off says a lot. Just those few words before your name at the end of a note can change the whole tone of a message.

There are some so neutral that I wonder why people bother writing them at all, like "Best", "Cheers" (I hate that one), "Regards".

Then there are those that are friendly but still pretty neutral (however better than the above): "Take care", "See you soon", "Till later", "Stay in touch", in Spain "besos" (kisses), or "abrazo"(hug).

Then there are the common but warm ones that no matter how unoriginal they are, it's just awesome when you read them at the end of a personal note: "Love", "Much love", "Lots of love", "I miss you", "Fondly", "Thinking of you", "Pxx", "Yours" -- one of my bosses when I wrote for Gridskipper used to sign off with "Yours". Coming from a boss (who I'd never met), I first thought it was weird, but then I grew to like it and it opened my relationship with him. In Spain you have ones like "amor" (love) and "con cariño" (with affection). I'm not much of a romantic but I'm a sucker for warm sign offs.

Then there are the creative ones -- which no matter what they mean, or are meant to mean -- are just awesome (well, most of them anyway). My brother signs off his emails to me "Lovelove" (I've stolen that from him and use it often too). There was a time in my life where I used to sign off "squillions of thoughts". Yeah...ugh. I think I also used to put a smiley face next to it. Super ugh, eh? (Oh do you know on my old passport my official signature has a smiley face under it? Omg. So embarrassing when I had to sign documents in the bank, or cheques, or anywhere.) Other ones like "missing you like madness"and "craving you" hit the spot but of course, they're very special sign offs.

I have a co-worker who signs off "Chaufa". Chaufa is chinese fried rice in South America, and since it sounds like "Ciao", a pretty novel way to sign off, I like it and use it often too.

Lately I've been receiving emails from somebody who always signs off differently and like nothing I've received before. "Baisers" (best kisses in French?), "Inspiration 'n colors", "Tenderness 'n flavors". Yeah...oooooooooooooooo. I'm not thinking much of it but I think creative sign-offs are awesome, the more original, the better.

Have any creative sign-offs to share?


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another "life is short" reminder

From Gadling: "Dave Freeman, the co-author of 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Travel Events You Just Can't Miss unexpectedly died on August 17. He fell and hit his head in his own house. He was only 47."

Crap. So sad.

You can read the full post here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Quote for the day

"Procrastination isn't the problem, it's the solution. So procrastinate now, don't put it off."
-- Ellen DeGeneres

Yaay? :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Live. NOW.

Two days ago, a Spanair flight from Madrid to the Canary Islands swerved off the runway, caught fire, and blew up. 153 of the 173 people on board died. I've covered most of the factual details on Gadling and PlanetEye.

I'm quite shaken from the news of this accident. I could have been on that flight, just as much as everyone else I know in the city. It puts back into perspective your life and how you're living it. And the wrenching thought that when it's your time to die, there is nothing you can do about it.

As I wrote on PlanetEye: One minute you are boarding a plane to go on vacation, the next minute your body is found burnt, bleeding and dead. Makes you think about your life and how you are living it. When people quote me "life is short", as much as I agree, the optimist that I am, I like to believe that life is long too...but perhaps I'm wrong.

Conclusion: The only thing we have is Now. Now. Now. NOW.

So guys, live and love. NOW.Don't wait till tomorrow. You might not have it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

12-hours with Timothy Ferriss

The September issue of the The Men's Journal runs a feature story on Timothy Ferriss, one of the most inspiring men I've come to know about lately. A must read when you have some time.

I've read his book "4-Hour Work Week", and was blown away. As I wrote on Vagablogging: "For those not familiar with the book: it inspires you to be part of the “new rich” who work 4-hours a week, are independent of location, and earn enough money to do whatever they want to, e.g. travel the world, speak Chinese, etc. It shatters the notion of the conventional rich, who slog their whole life to earn mountains of money, only to retire old and unfit to do anything they wanted to. A BMW is bought with their hard-earned money, the rest of which stays in the bank as the owner wiles away his retirement vegetating and getting fat on some beach, on the road to ultimate boredom."

A quote from the article in the Journal: "Nothing bothers me more than sloth. The objective is to fix mistakes of ambition and not make mistakes of sloth. I work my ass off." Read it!

Plurk!?

What, now "plurking" is the thing to do? I can't keep up with all this new stuff! I'm just going to stick to Twitter for now. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Condom ring tone: Seriously?

2.5 million people in India suffer from HIV/Aids; using a condom is taboo (I didn't know that -- I thought it was the lack of sex education that was the main cause). Anyway, what's a good way to spread awareness? A ringtone that sings "condom, condom." Really? Yes, really.

According to AP: "A ring tone is a very public thing...it's a way to show you are a condom user and you don't have any issues with it."

An initiative by the BBC World Service Trust (funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) the ring tone was launched on August 8 and has already been downloaded 60,000 times.

And guess what, shockingly, IT'S AN AWESOME ring tone. It's just the word "condom" sang about 50 times. Full points on creativity for the composers. You can listen to it here.

No I would never use it as a ring tone. Nor am I sure if it will serve a measurable purpose. But I still think it's awesome.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quote for the day

"I love the detachment of cats, their willingness to be loved but not to respond beyond a certain, very clearly defined point; no cat ever gave its entire heart to any human being."-- Bernard Levin in "On Becoming Fearless" by personal idol Arianna Huffington.

I hate cats. They're losers. And evil.

Off to Murcia this weekend. Back on Monday.
Enjoy your weekend. Don't be good ;-)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Is Phelps Superhuman?

In five days 23-year old American swimmer Michael Phelps has won five races and set five world records. He now has 11 career gold medals making him the most "medalled" Olympian of all time, i.e. since 1896.

From Fox Sports: "I figured out Michael Phelps. He's not from another planet. He's from the future. His father made him and then made a time machine. Sixty years from now he is an average swimmer, but he has come back here to mop up."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Trip To The End Of The World

I wrote this about a trip I took over a year ago. I don't think I ever posted it anywhere, or did anything with the piece -- so thought I'd put it up here.

------------------

There are some trips I do for the sheer ‘that would just be cool’ sake of doing them. My trip to the end of the world was one of them.

Yes, there is a place called the ‘end of the world’ or Finisterre. Located on the western most tip of Spain, it’s part of the Galician province. Apart from pilgrims who land-up there to throw their boots into the sea after doing the ‘Camino de Santiago’, it’s a secret well kept.

As you can imagine, with the name like ‘the end of the world’, the place hypes itself. Identified as the end of the world in medieval times before Columbus came and changed that, it’s hard not to still consider it just that.

So while pilgrims with worn out feet arrived to Finisterre after days of walking, I got off the bus from A Coruña, munching a Snicker.

Arriving at 2:00pm, I disembarked at the port of what seemed like an unexciting, ugly, village. A few houses, a port, lots of construction and tourists, were all I could see. Not allowing that to disappoint me, I immediately began to walk towards the lighthouse at the tip of Finisterre.

The walk is about an hour from the port; it’s along a highway which runs on the ‘Coast of Death’. The walk is pleasant with a spectacular view. You will pass a church, a cemetery where the graves look like wardrobes facing the sea, and a fresh water source where you can stop for a drink. My excitement soared when I saw the lighthouse approaching. This was it; I would be at the historic ‘end of the world’ in less than a few minutes.

And there I was.

But it was dead. The lighthouse was ugly. The view was fine, but nothing I hadn’t seen on the way there. And there was a steel boot. Fixed on a stone overlooking the coast, it represented the pilgrim’s shoe that is thrown over sea so that its owner can be redeemed of his sins.

I sat there for 5-minutes to ponder. Not inspired, all I could think about was the elaborate 6-type recycling system they had put at the ‘end of the world’.

The next bus was in an hour, I decided to catch it back to A Coruña where I would go to the captivating Torres de Hercules for a walk and an ice-cream.

On a concluding note: go to Finisterre only if you want to say that you have been ‘to the end of the world’, otherwise, don’t bother.

-End-

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

From a salsera to a salsero, with love

Dear Salsero,

We girls love dancing with you guys, but there are some things that we cannot bear which is why we choose to avoid dancing with you again, and you call us salsa snobs. Here are some tips that will change your luck on the dance floor:
  • Cut your nails. They HURT when you hold our hands and scratch us while dancing.
  • We don't care if you sweat, but it's a big problem if you smell. Use deodorant, carry an extra shirt, and PLEASE chew gum.
  • Listen to the music and enjoy it while you dance with us.
  • We don't care how many complicated steps you know. Don't experiment dance-Twister with us.
  • We are more delicate than you realise. Don't treat us like rusted machinery that needs to be pulled and rammed to function. Be gentle.
  • Try to realise when you step on our feet, and acknowledge it -- that makes it OK.
  • Do not throw us up in the air. WE HATE THAT.
  • No more than 6 spins please. And after those spins, don't let go of us -- we are slightly dizzy and may fall.
  • It is fundamental you protect us from being hit and stomped on by other dancers close by. In other words, if there is limited space don't use us to make space.
  • The first time you dance with us, keep a wee bit of personal space and don't try to shove your leg between ours. Odds are the second time we dance we will let you do that willfully. However, that does NOT mean we want to go home with you or even talk to you.
  • Don't try to feel us up, we are not stupid and we will tell the rest of the girls not to dance with you the creep.
  • Don't try to give us a lesson while you dance with us. If we want lessons we go to classes.
  • Lastly, look at us when you dance.
Happy dancing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

How will India perform at the 2008 Olympics?

Abhinav Bindra just won India its first individual gold medal at the Olympics, and the first gold in 28 years since the Men's Hockey team won the gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Is there more hope for India? Or will this be a repeat of the 2004 Olympics where India came back with one silver medal?

As India is booming economically, dominates the world technologically, scores a nuclear power deal with the US, has already conquered the world of feminine beauty (5 Miss World titles and 2 Miss Universe titles), as well as film (Bollywood is one of the largest film producers in the world and the largest in terms of number of films produced), why is the country so dead when it comes to the Olympic Games?

Here's a great article in Asia Times that gives some insight.

John Mayer: Free Falling

From his new album: "Where The Light Is", cover of Tom Petty's "Free Falling". Very Dave Matthews, but awesome. Check him out playing it live here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Me Time Thoughts

It's been a while since I've had a lot of time to myself. Pure, selfish, alone time. It's almost been liberating in a way. Like I'm allowing myself to be in a perpetual daze as I look for my "quan". (Oh how I love that word).

I'm a very gregarious person. I love to meet new people, I love to go out, I love to be doing a million social things at a time. But these days I'm just so content being with myself. And that doesn't necessarily mean being alone all the time. I've met more people in the last few weeks than I have in ages, and even transcended into new and special levels of friendship with some. But at all times, I've very much been with myself. It's like I've entered this pensive phase that I'm reveling in, and I know that I have to revel in it to get out of it. Dare I say it's been glorious in many ways.

Madrid's calmness in August helps.

I'm also realising that midst the beauty of change, how awesome it is to have a few permanent things. They won't always be permanent, but are for the time. I refer to them as permanent because they are very deeply and strongly rooted, hence not easy to change. There's a very warm and safe feeling about those things, and now I'm taking refuge in them by reconnecting and just being.

I'm talking a completely different language today, eh? Well it's different to me too, and too darn vague for comfort. But I'm not rattled.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Teaching English in Japan :)


Ok, ok, I know, we're all going to hell.


Emirates A380. Whoa.

Although the news has been impossible to miss, for those of you who have missed the hoo-haa over the new Emirates A380, here's a great post with pictures and videos of the new aircraft. Pretty effing awesome.

I've lived in Dubai for 6 years, my parents still live there, yet I've never flown Emirates. Sacrilege, eh?

Gigolo?

I met him on a train to Valencia about a year and a half ago. I was given the privilege (?) to be seated next to him on the way to AND from the city.

A madrileño, 32-years old, multicoloured piercing in chin, pop-rock singer/guitarist, filmmaker, novelist, and Osho follower, he was visiting his girlfriend in Valencia. He was decent company, and we had lots to talk about. We talked and talked. After about 8 hours of conversation, of course we exchanged numbers. Turns out he also lived down the road from me. What are the odds!

Back in Madrid, he begins calling me. He calls and calls. And calls and calls. And calls and calls until the only way to stop him calling is to answer (super-pesado as you would say in Spanish). The number of calls turned me off; I would answer one in 10 calls, and I never returned the others. Of course, because I was trying to avoid him, I would often bump into him at the post office, or tobacco shop, or local bar, where I would make a million excuses for not answering his million calls. I really didn't care though.

A year of dodging his calls and bumping into him, a few months ago I ran into him with his girlfriend at the time, in the metro. We exchanged pleasantries and somehow ended up deciding to start playing tennis together.

Getting back into the game has been the best thing I've done in a while. He makes for a great tennis partner; often annoying, but overall tolerable. The tennis works. He often brings friends to watch us play. Weird, but I don't care. They all seem nice and don't interfere. He keeps trying to get me to hang out after tennis, but honestly I have no interest.

But his calls don't stop. He still calls and calls. He calls until I pick up. He speaks at a supersonic speed on the phone and I never understand what he says. I get sick of asking him to repeat himself, and after realising that he doesn't really say anything of consequence, I pretend I understand him and leave it at that. His conversations are normally about a movie he watched, tennis, his upcoming mini-vacation, and something about an "agency".

Yesterday, slightly bored, when he called I decided to listen. He was on a job on behalf of this "agency" in Alicante, in a luxury villa, in a jacuzzi, with 3 girls. I was all ears.

Me: "Who are these girls?"
Him: "Ah, some girls from the agency."
Me: "Urrr...ok."
Him: Yeah, I have to look after them and entertain them. They are really nice girls, so it's fun.
Me: "Right."
Him: "Why don't you come here for the weekend? It's a great place, lots of room. I have lots of time to chill, so yeah, come hang out."
Me: "Urrr...thanks for the invite. I will let you know if I fancy it. But didn't you say you are working?"
Him: "Well, yeah, but it's not really work you know. It's easy. And it pays well. It's helping me pay off my debts."
Me: "Cool. Well I hope the girls are hot atleast."
Him: "Yeah, they're young and pretty. In fact, you should consider being part of this agency."
Me: "Right."
Me: "I gotta go. Call me for tennis when you get back."
Him: "Cool. Have a great week."

I hang up with him and try to understand what he's just told me. And then it registers, but with doubts, of course.
Is he a male prostitute?
Is he a pimp?
Is he looking after female prostitutes, or "luxury escorts", while they're on a job?

He is a nice person. He isn't good-looking, or well-built, and is often on sedatives. He is a bit weird and moody at times but not threatening, or unpleasant. I am no one to judge him. If it works for him, good for him. I'm just happy I have a tennis buddy.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

My Wordle



This is my Wordle. A word-tag-cloud-design thing made from the most frequently used words in my blog. Yup, procrastinating bigtime.

It's not clear at all though :( I wish I used cooler colours and font. I saved it in haste and there's no edit option. Argh. Anyway, if any of you are bored enough to want to look at this image more closely, click on it!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Story of Stuff

Here's the link to a 20-minute animation called "The Story of Stuff" you must watch. It talks about what we, as a disgustingly consumerist society, are doing to our planet.

It's a straightforward yet powerful presentation, which after watching (if you have any conscience) will stall you from shopping for a while, and hopefully make you think seriously about what you can do to help the dismal state of our Earth today.

So get a cup of coffee and sit down to watch it. It will probably be the 2o most constructive minutes of your day.

(Thanks Daveeeed for the link!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Who said you can't be the successful product of your own business?


I've been reading a certian Julia Allison's blog religiously for about 2-years now. I've always found it entertaining -- both on an intellectual and emotional level, and the fact that it's so effing personal has kept me hooked. Call it a girl thing, or whatever. She updates her blog every day a few times and upto 20 times a day on Twitter, both of which I check on a daily basis after I read the news. And sometimes I even check her stuff a few times, she's great to procrastinate with. Yup, totally sucked in, and I'm not the only one.

Check out a recent article documenting her self-promotion that has lead to her becoming an internet celebrity, even though she is a nobody. (Ouch. Harsh but true. Good for her.)

I suppose her tremendous virtual tangibility is what keeps me hooked. Now she has her own business/website (Non-society) with her two best friends, where they document the minutes of their life. It's brimming with constant updates, photos, videos and publicity stunts, and the initiative has lead them to get their own reality show. Whoa.

It might not be your thing, but she's a great case study.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Quote for the day

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Economics of Love

"In love, the data is even clearer. Stay with high-quality human beings. And once you find that you are in a junk relationship, sell immediately. Junk situations can look appealing and seductive, but junk is junk. Be wary of it unless you control the market." --- Ben Stein in the NY Times

Monday, July 14, 2008

Back. Kinda.

I've been off here for a while, but only because lots has been happening. Between going to Dubai for a month, coming back to Madrid, friends visiting, and still blogging for the other blogs I'm financially committed to, my blog has taken a back step. But I want to fix that, I miss ranting on here!

A lot happened in Dubai. Lots of things shook on a personal as well as professional level. I think I'm still digesting it all, hopefully I'll be done with that stage soon, and it will all come out. (Ok, not the best metaphor but you know what I mean).

Although I'm still a bit homesick, it's great to be back in Madrid. This city just rocks. Now it's hot and everyones happy (yes, and frisky ;) that it's summer.

My next immediate goal is to get my professional life back on track. I see a few legal obstacles, but I'm working around them.

I've started Pilates. OH.MY.GOD. It's the best thing I've done since Salsa. Back to gym and tennis too -- so all this after 5 weeks of being a complete couch potato, my body is currently broken. But all good.

Oh, and I've joined the Twitterati! (aaaaaaaaaahhh SUCKED-IN!). I'm having issues writing sense in lots of 140 characters, but I guess I'll get there.

So that's a quick update on me.

I need to go get my dose of chocolate for the day.

Friday, July 04, 2008

He's given birth!

Talk about confusion at an unprecedented level: this man was born female, had a sex change, got married to a woman, then decided to impregnate himself, and has just had a normal baby girl.

Holy gonzoly.

Why do people do this to themselves!? Ok, yeah, I know, to get onto Oprah! LIKE DUH!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Movie Review: Sex And The City ***/*****

Yup, I've finally seen it. From a person (urrr...me!) who LOVES the series, and has watched all seasons, multiple times, I was overall disappointed.

**(Warning: a few spoilers!)**

Firstly, it was just.too.long. 2h15 minutes of forced laughter and focussed "oh, that's the mushy bit I'm supposed to gush at", just didn't cut it for me. I laughed out loud at very few things I'm pretty sure were not meant to be funny (e.g. Charlotte screaming and yelling at Big after the most serious part of the film was just hilarious). They totally over did it when they highlight one of the funniest parts as being Charlotte pooping in her pants after drinking some shower water in Mexico.

The romance, the butterflies, the desire of women to be in love, the trials and tribulations so accurately detailed and concluded upon, the so called "connection at a deeper level" that all women can relate to in the series, was not there at all. No, let me rephrase. It tried to be there. It tried very hard, but remained superficial.

The script was weak and the execution felt desperate.

On the other hand, the girls are great. Aged 40+, they all look fantastic, and boy, when I'm 50, I want to look like Samantha! The essence of their amazing friendship we are so familiar with because of the show, still held it's high and is the main strength of the film.

Jennifer Hudson was introduced as Carrie's PA, who for me was the gleaming rainbow of the entire film. She plays a young, hopeful, fresh, honest girl who comes to NY to find love, and she does, just not in NY. Perhaps a little straw to hold on to for youngsters who believe in love, finding "the one", and all that crap.

There are some good messages in the film. Things like: relationships are difficult, the older you get the more complicated they are, if you want to find love you will, there are two people in a relationship and any problem is both their fault, and the biggest message of the film is the importance of forgiveness. But while it tries to give you all these learnings, it also constantly gives you mixed notions: e.g. you may or may not find love, you may or may not have the fairytale ending, leaving everything bittersweet. Perhaps that was the point?

I may sound naiive, but I really couldn't predict the ending. A few incidents in the film made me question what I imagined the ending to be. Maybe I was waiting for a twist-surprise ending, but this ain't no Usual Suspects, so I guess I was thinking too much about nothing.

The movie attempts to be a grand-finale of a world-class series that, in all honesty, cannot have a finale that does justice to it. I felt that they tried to deal with too many issues at once, so a lot was left floating. Perhaps they should have kept it more focussed, like each episode, but that's almost impossible. The sheer popularity of the TV series does make you want to know how these four stunning New York girls end up; that desire the movie satiates, but in a "like duh" kinda way.

Worth watching only if you are a Sex and the City fan. Even then, wait for the DVD to come out and have a couple of other things to do while you are watching. Really.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Bollywood vlog experiment -- episode 1


Bollyficial Episode 1 from Bollyficial on Vimeo.

I've always wanted to be a VJ. As a child I used to stand in front of the mirror for hours, pretending I was on MTV. I don't know why I never followed it through. So, for what it's worth and to get some presenting experience, my brother and I put together a Bollywood show for the fun of it.

We shot it at home in my bedroom with a bedsheet for a green screen. My bro co-directed, produced, and edited the vlog. Hope to do some on a regular basis, will keep posting!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Love Mail

Since I've been blogging across a number of travel-blogs, I've often been victim of abundant love mail. Here are some of my favourite comments:

"Seriously can you have Abha write less articles that are about some messed up viewpoint and have him focus on travel related thing? I like reading about adventures and all things travel but he's not very good at this." (I'm often mistaken for a man)

" Wow, great - another useless column by Abha." (Yeah, it's really encouraging to write you know)

"This truly takes the cake for the most BS article ever. Abha really should stick to his/her other hobbies." (Why do you keep reading me!?)

"Yes! Another negative article from Abha. I leave for two weeks to Cambodia, and this is what I get? I'll be back in another two, maybe he/she will have been replaced." (Nope, SHE's not replaced yet)

Hmmm...actually, I thought I had way more stuff (I probably do but I need to hunt for them). I will make sure I save them in a separate folder now on so I can have a meatier such post in the future.

Thoughts on "The Love Guru"

I recently wrote a post on Gadling about Hollywood and its misinterpretations of foreign cultures, with the just released movie "The Love Guru" as the main subject. It's created a bit of a hoo-haa with strong arguments on both sides...check it out here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Being home: Clarity, bias, confusion...

...is the subject of my latest post at Vagablogging.

Documenting the life of phone sex operators

“I’m 60 years old, have a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University, and married for 25 years. I have a son in his last years of college who lives at home. He’s a 4.0 with a double major in English Literature and Religion. Men call me for an infinity of reasons. Of course, they call to masturbate. I call it “Executive Stress Relief.” It’s not sex; it’s a cocktail of testosterone, fueled by addiction to pornography, loneliness, and the need to hear a woman’s voice. I make twice the money I made in the corporate world. I work from home, the money transfers into my bank account daily. I’m Scheherezade: If I don’t tell stories that fascinate the Pasha, he will kill me in the morning.”
Photographer Phillip Toledano wanted to talk about something in society that is known and talked about, yet hidden; phone sex workers fit the bill perfectly. In his book, he has shot portraits of 30 such workers and given us an insight into their lives -- some of which you can see and read here. Reading their stories gave me goosebumps.
Like he says in his interview, what surprised me as well was how most of these people loved what they did (unlike in other forms of prostitution), as they truly felt like they were helping others discover a part of themselves, and in turn, even they would discover something about themselves.

"We all stumble. We all have setbacks...

"We all stumble. We all have setbacks. If things go wrong, you hit a dead end—as you will—it's just life's way of saying time to change course. So, ask every failure—this is what I do with every failure, every crisis, every difficult time—I say, what is this here to teach me? And as soon as you get the lesson, you get to move on. If you really get the lesson, you pass and you don't have to repeat the class. If you don't get the lesson, it shows up wearing another pair of pants—or skirt—to give you some remedial work."
- From Oprah's commencement address at Stanford

It's a good speech, but I expected more from it -- a lot of her lessons sounded like clichés to me. You can read the entire transcript here.

Nothing compared to Steve Jobs 2005 commencement address at Stanford. I must've read it a 100 times, and it's moved and inspired me every time (thanks Riff!). If you haven't read it READ.IT.NOW.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Twitter blocked in Dubai...

...can anyone explain to me why?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Do you care what your flight crew looks like?

The High Courts in India have ruled that if you are an air-hostess and your airline thinks you are too fat to fly, they have the right to keep you on the ground. This ruling comes after 5 Air India hostesses appealed to the courts when they were grounded for breaching the airline's weight limits. It's not clear if it's enough to dismiss a flight attendant, but being transfered to the ground for weight issues is humiliating enough.

Air India has a weight scale chart that specifies what weight their hostesses are expected to be. For instance, an 18-year old girl, with height of 152cm cannot weight more than 50 kilograms.

Now, being fat is one thing and being over the airlines specified weight limit is another. An 18-year old girl, with height of 152cm will look fine even if she weighs 52-55 kilograms; not being exactly 50 kilograms does not justify someone being grounded or fired. You would have thought their personal hygiene, working ability and way of dealing with customers took the upper hand.

Air India is known to not have particularly good-looking hostesses, with most of them being old and motherly more than anything else, but as long as they are good hosts and pleasant to deal with, I personally don't care how they look.

I just took a flight with KLM from Amsterdam to Dubai and one of the stewards was this older rolly-polly guy -- big belly and podgy arms -- but he was one of the most pleasant hosts I've encountered on a plane. Should he be grounded or fired just because of his huge belly? I think not.

I understand that Air India is facing tough competition from newer Indian airlines as well as international ones, both of whom generally hire young hotties, but being slightly overweight should not put your job at risk, and who chooses to fly an airline basis the way their crew looks anyway?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Better

Considering how I felt yesterday, today I´m much better. I had a wonderful evening and a warm night´s sleep, and today I´m smiling and even slightly excited now!

Thank you to all who read and commented on my last pathetic post, you guys really gave me a boost. I guess I just needed to let things out before I leave.

I have a pretty full agenda in Dubai, lots to do, and I reckon I´ll be back in Madrid before I know it! I will be blogging, so stay tuned.

Besos and abrazos!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Emotional Fog

I'm going home tomorrow for 3-weeks after 18 months of living in Madrid. I should be on an emotional high but for the last 3-4 days, I've been an emotional wreck. I don't understand why and that's just adding to feeling low.

I've been crying over nothing. Snapping at people for no reason. Getting upset at people for no reason. I've been quiet and kept to myself. I've had a perpetual headache and no appetite.

I've always considered myself a strong person, but today I'm ashamed of feeling so weak and fragile without being able to think why. The feeling seems invalid because I can't find the root. I just want to crawl into a warm shell. I'm not okay. I feel this ridiculous need of wanting to be taken care of. But nothing has happened! My life is the same!

Perhaps all my trapped emotions over the last year are now flowing out at once. Perhaps I'm subconsciously stressed about going home, about talking about my life, about talking about my future, about confronting how I feel about Dubai when I get there, about confronting how I feel about Madrid from outside it. About all the uncertainties in my life, about all the instabilities in my life.

But how can a short trip home after a long period of time trigger such a strange and strong feeling of being overwhelmed? I really don't get it.

I hope to find that warm shell on my parent's couch.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Status Report

Blogging has been scanty the last few weeks. Not only on here, but on other websites too.

Alot of distractions have not allowed me to focus much: last week of classes before summer, brother arrived from Texas yesterday, another cousin arrives tomorrow, we hang in Spain for a week and then we go to Dubai on June 4 for 3 weeks. My first time back ever since I moved to Madrid.

It kinda feels like the end of an era -- but it's not the end of anything really. I will be back in Madrid in 3-weeks and my life will resume as normal, with a fresh mind, new thoughts, new projects, new aspirations...well, that's what I hope, anyway.

So I'm a stew pot of emotions on many levels right now. I'd like to blog about them but I feel that since the emotions involve many other people and plans, and are rather profound, they are too private to share publicly. I'm more worried about the people involved reading about it than anything else, and I'm not good at writing sparsely or discreetly, so I rather not. I don't want to deal with other people reactions to my emotions -- so it's better this way.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, in the beginning I used to be more carefree about splurting out how I feel, and often found solace imagining that I'm being listened to -- even if it's by random strangers. I think it's what made my blog a joy to write, now I'm more guarded about opening up publicly -- not sure why. Perhaps that will change. Perhaps not.

I will be posting, but not as frequently. I hope you stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Am I about to experience "reverse culture shock?"

Going home in a few weeks and I have a scrambled feelings about it...this is the subject of my latest post on Vagablogging -- check it out here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Question of the day

To all those married and on Facebook:

"Why do you communicate with each other on Facebook?"

Sunday, May 04, 2008

From Argentina to India to me

Docu-Madrid (a 2-week documentary film festival) has just started and yesterday Boyfriend and I watched 5 films -- yes we totally doc-ed out! :)

My favourite was one called Fotografías, which is the autobiographical story of an Argentinean man who has an Indian mother. His mother ran away from her traditional, suppressed household to be free and see the world; she landed up marrying an Argentinean man and moving there.

Her life in India prohibited her as a women from doing anything, it represented her imprisoned life and she wanted to be as far away from it as possible, both physically and mentally -- so unfortunately while his mother was alive, he was never really exposed to India.

The movie is his quest to discover his mother's life in India, understand her legacy, and explore his Indian bloodline. His story begins in Argentina as he looks through childhood photos, speaks to an Indian guru living in Buenos Aires, and studies the life of an Hispanic author who was the first Argentinean man to go to India in 1911. He speaks to everyone who knew his mother, and befriends an Argentinean who spends most of his time in India as a tour guide.

With this background and many a told stories, he heads Madras in India, to see his mother's birthplace and reconnect with that side of his family.

The film documents the story of this Argentinean man, who because of his mixed-blood and estranged family in India, is lost about the other half of his identity. Realizing his ignorance and wanting to find a part of his identity he knows nothing about, triggers his endeavors to fill the gaps by finding his mother's side of the family, therefore finding himself in some way.

His story is beautifully told, full of emotions ranging from feelings of emptiness and confusion that lead to deep curiousity, resulting in him finding a life of his he never knew existed. He unravels his story, layer by layer, and takes you on this mysterious journey that begins in Argentina, dips deep into traditional India, and ends up back in Argentina. His discoveries give him a new family, a new understanding of his mother, and of his Indian bloodline.

Although my life story is not remotely mysterious, nor confusing, as and Indian who has lived in 5-countries over 28 years, I could relate to his identity-crisis. Not knowing enough about where you come from or where you belong, can often leave you perpetually drifting, and sometimes even hollow. You don't know what to be patriotic about, you can't relate clearly to your home-place: you know you belong there, but you are not sure what you'd do if you had to move back there...things like that.

The film made me want to go back to India and travel. I have traveled a lot of the world, but not enough of my own country, that's quite sad. It's funny how I don't feel like I belong in India, nor am I patriotic -- yet I am proud of my country, I feel Indian, and I take it for granted, yet I don't really know enough about my country, not physically, not historically. Everything in my mind is confused about my "Motherland". My only solid connection is my family there and my memories from high-school in Aurangabad -- a small town near Pune.

Anyway, I'm delving into a subject that doesn't really have a conclusion, nor does it need one. Exploring my country should be the next priority on my list of things to do -- that should take care of many things, no?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Off to Prague!

Am off to Prague for the next 5-days -- a much needed break from Madrid and my computer!

Stories when I get back!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

How Important Is Blogging For Your Career As A Travel-Writer?

This is the latest subject of discussion at Written Road. I was lucky to get some great input from some of the best travel-bloggers/writers/editors/authors in the industry. Check it out here!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Quote for the day

"The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it." -- A Bend in the River; 1979 novel by V. S. Naipaul.

Ouch.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Career Advice From A Manga Comic

A short attention span is the main peril in the quest of trying to achieve anything these days, at least for me.

My attention span these days is a whole 15 seconds; if you can't keep my attention for that long when telling me something, I'm mentally off to Neverland. If I care about you, I'll make the effort to listen, but otherwise -- forget it.

Same goes for reading (books, online), movies, studying, planning, what have you. This is not helpful at all, and is seriously affecting my productivity -- especially because what I do is on my terms. The pressure I have is from me, and only me, so it's not hard to prolong things, or simply invent a million things to do to keep yourself mentally stimulated. This is a problem I'm working to fix. Avoiding multitasking, making short concise lists of things to do etc etc, are my baby steps towards getting things done by paying focused attention to them until they are done.

Anyway, I digress. I had to laugh when I saw on Amazon books, career advice for those with a short attention span. It was a consolation realizing that I'm definitely not the only one and better off than others; I'd actually read a good career book in full, without it having to be a comic. Obviously many can't even do that, hence a market for this book.

The promo for the book written in form of a Japanese Manga comic made me chuckle, this is how it ends:
In the 70's and 80's, people asked "What Colour Is Your Parachute?"
In the 90's, people asked "Who Moved My Cheese?
Now a new generation is asking the question about their work: "WTF?"
The book is called "The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need", check it out along with its promo, here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Just what every woman wants to hear...

"A man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her."
-- Oscar Wilde.

Some quotes should just not be allowed to get famous.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Does blogging kill?

Well, I certainly hope not.

If there is any job description you can give me, it's that of a blogger. That's what I am, that's really all I do. I've just started blogging for another site called Planet Eye, that will make it a total of 6 sites I blog for regularly (including mine).

Across all, I churn out at least 50 posts a month -- at the end of which many times I just want to scream, or pick up my laptop and throw it out the window. The latter I can't afford to do at the moment :)

But anyway, a friend sent me a link today with the subject "be careful". The link pointed to a story in the NY Times that reports a feature on the death of two prolific bloggers, and the unhealthy lifestyles of other well-known bloggers.

Of course, blogging cannot be called the cause of death but the lifestyle it warrants is unhealthy enough to cause serious mental and physical problems.

Blogging can often get the better of you. I have spent days locked in my room blogging and felt the depressing side-effects of it. It is a lonely, isolating, tedious, and often frustrating profession.

The only way to stay sane as a blogger is to not compromise on social activities, but when you get paid per post, it's hard not to just stay in and write instead -- after all you do need to pay bills.

I'm happy to say that although I do fall into that trap sometimes, I'm good at dragging myself to go out, even if it's on my own. You'll find that being away from your computer and socializing will give you small bursts of very productive time blogging. I'm out with people at least 3-4 times a week, and at least once on the weekend. I hate teaching English, but it gets me out and makes me speak to people, a good paid break from the computer screen. I play sport, run and salsa to keep me physically healthy.

So, I'm not worried about "dying as a blogger". It's probably because I'm not as addicted or obsessed with it like many others. Also, although I thoroughly enjoy blogging (probably because I do it in large but controlled doses), over this year I have realized that I cannot be a full-time blogger. I don't love my computer enough and am far too much of a social being. This article, nonetheless was an interesting read, one that every blogger will be able to relate to.

Fellow bloggers: be careful!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Aamir Khan's Blog?

As I was updating myself on the China-Tibet issue I stumbled upon Aamir Khan's blog today (he's one of the torch bearers for the Olympic games). Now, I have stumbled upon many celebrity blogs -- both Indian and international -- but they have obviously been blogs for pure PR purposes, most definitely written by people hired to blog on their behalf. That's enough to never want to go back to them.

But when I saw Aamir Khan's blog today, I read a good number of posts and you know what? -- I ACTUALLY THINK IT'S HIM!

He writes like he speaks, he gives life updates that could only come from him, he has spelling mistakes (surely a paid writer wouldn't DARE have typos if he was writing for AAMIR KHAN!), and he has over a 500 comments on every post he has written.

I'm trying to think why I got so excited about this discovery. Aamir Khan is one of my favourite Indian actors; not only is he a phenomenal artist but is also an active social worker who has more often than not, used his fame to make a difference in needy societies. He has a strong and powerful personality that particularly shines through because in public he is very down to earth, he doesn't act like he is a hotshot superstar.

So, I suppose the fact that I can now read stuff that seems like it's totally written by him(?) got me looming.

If any of you have time and the remote desire to help me figure this out, can you read his blog and tell me if you think it's real? Or is it just a great attempt by Aamir Khan's PA?

Friday, April 04, 2008

El Canto Del Loco new disc launch

Yesterday I went to my first press conference as a journalist. It was for the launch of El Canto Del Loco's (one of Spain's most popular pop boy bands) new album - so it was obviously a big and "important" one.

I have probably organized and attended 15o press conferences, but only as a public relations professional, it felt strange being on the other side.

But honestly, it's so much better attending a press conference as opposed to organizing one. I felt like that one hour I was at the conference was worth it because I was there to listen and to learn about something new; after which I'd have to write about it and I would be a mouthpiece for what I saw and grasped.

It also put into perspective what I did when I was in public relations. So many hours of work for one simple press conference: designing and producing press packs, writing and translating the press releases and backgrounders, photographs for the press packs, captions for the press packs, venue set up, venue branding, podium, mics, projector, teleprompters, menu for the event, press invites, press confirmations, press list, follow-up calls etc etc -- all that work for something that wouldn't last more than an hour and leave me wondering, what was all that for exactly?

I felt like a princess at this press conference. I was there for my brain, as a guest -- what I do with the experience afterwards is up to me -- it was strangely empowering and I felt better after that hour than I ever have after any press conference I've organized. Weird huh?

Anyway, those who care to know about El Canto Del Loco -- they were really pleasant, down to earth, and approachable for how big they are. I was shocked that it started on time -- something that rarely happens in celebrity conferences. They were happily mingling with the crowd after -- you could get all the kisses, autographs and photos you wanted. All the press -- print, TV, and radio alike -- got all the footage, photos and quotes they wanted, with no hassle or drama at all. I went on behalf of European Vibe and will be doing my write-up soon.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I wanna go to The Next Web Conference!

In my quest as a prolific blogger to become a more efficient one and get my geek juices flowing more vigourously, as I look for web conferences out of pure curiousity, I was thrilled to find one in Europe for a change!

The Next Web Conference

April 3 and 4 (shucks, that's like NOW), The Next Web Conference will be held in Amsterdam. They have an orgasmic list of speakers, who are mainly incredibly talented web entrepreneurs, including:
  • Garret Camp: Founder and Chief Architect of Stumble Upon!
  • Erick Schonfeld:Formerly editor-at-large at Business 2.0 and currently co-editor at Techcrunch.com.
  • Werner Vogels: Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Amazon.com
  • Jessicah Mah: A 17 year old serial entrepreneur, blogger, and sophomore in college.
It's an expensive conference but, in support of bloggers, they have a blogger's discount (YAAAAY) which I'm desperately trying to get, and if I do -- I'M GOING TO TAKE THE NEXT FLIGHT OUT TO AMSTERDAM!

Well, probably not. The discount is for industry bloggers, argh, but oh well -- no harm trying, eh?

All I need to do is write a post (which is this) put a badge (which you can see on this post) and email "babette"(I have no idea who that is so I'm going to email some Patrick instead).

I'm pushing my luck, but if you are a tech blogger in Europe and want 500 bucks off the conference pass, you still might be able to get it.

My story of trying to be a travel-writer...

...in case any of you are interested, I have posted my katha here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Calling all Indian bloggers!

I 'm pretty impressed with the budding blogging scene in India. Wait a minute, is it budding? I find that hard to believe, India being the technology capital of the world and all. I don't know why but I perceive that blogging in India is relatively in its nascent stages as compared to the so called "international" scene. I think I feel that because I don't see many quality blogs, nor do I see much integration of India-based blogs on popular international pages such as Technorati, Del.icio.us., Stumble Upon, Twitter etc -- but then again, maybe I haven't been paying enough attention.

Anyhoo, there are numerous attention grabbing Indian blogs, but the two that stick out for me are a)Sepia Mutiny b) Mutiny. Fine writing, intelligent and knowledgeable insight, and witty. It's the kind of stuff I'd like to write. I'm just so all over the place at the moment I doubt I'd be able to give grounded commentary like they do, but then again, I've never tried. (Maybe I will write them and see my chances hmmm). A must read for any Indian -- do check them out if you haven't already.

On that note, I thought I'd mention the India Blogathon that begins next month. As it aims to bring together Indian bloggers from all over the world to talk about issues affecting us locally and globally, I'm quite excited to see what comes of it and have all intentions to participate.

It's a 7-day event where a certain topic will be posted every day. You can participate by leaving a comment or re-posting an entry with respect to the topic on your own blog, and the best bloggers will be identified by a jury (not yet announced). Details are a little sketchy on their website, but it's really simple, you don't need much more information.

Happy Indie blogging! :P

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bacon-Chocolate Cake

Is there something wrong with me if I find this extremely appetizing?

[Via American Madness]



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spooky Post

Two of my best friends who send me post and gifts EVERY month are Sanitas (my medical insurance) and Bancaja (my bank).

Also, since I've started writing for so many blogs, I often get emails from writers/publishers who would like to send me books (for free!) to enjoy (and of course review -- but that's my call). I send them my details and within a week I normally get a package.

Receiving expected post is great. Receiving unexpected post is AWESOME! (hint hint to all those people I religiously send postcards to). Except when it comes from a company you don't know.

Yesterday a book called "A Voyage Long And Strange'' by Tony Horwitz came knocking at my door. First I was ecstatic to receive a package; I opened it excitedly to see it was a book, I then impatiently opened the letter to see who it was from and was more annoyed than happy to see that it was from Henry Holt and Company in New York.

It's a good publishing house, the author is well known, and the book looks interesting -- BUT HOW DID THEY GET MY DETAILS? In Spain!?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. My life is an open book. Google me and you can trace me back to my school days. However, I don't remember making my postal address in Spain public. I suppose my details were sold and I can't help but feel so vulnerable: people I don't know in NY, know exactly where I live in Spain and are sending me stuff to my doorstep.

On a positive note, it's a travel book not a free subscription to porn so I'm not too worried. Also, the book will hit the market on April 29 this year, so I'm one of the privileged lot to get my hands on it. That's pretty cool.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A reason why I love my brother...

Bro: Didi, what's that salsa song that was always played in salsa class that goes "Sexy...na...naaa...na...naaa"?

Me: Huh. Are you serious?

Bro: DIDI! how can you not know -- how many English salsa songs exist with "sexy" in the lyrics!?

Me: Urrr....a million!

Bro: Oh, Ok.

Anish, you crack me up :))) [note: this was a typed conversation!]

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How long should you travel and live abroad?

I've talked about this to death with my family: answer? It's time to go back to University, as a means of getting back to a "normal" life. That's what I'm working towards (eeeeeekkkkk), let's see what I actually land up doing.

Dad, would you freak out if I decide to move to the Dominican Republic where I will open a little bar and write? OK OK relax, I am still studying for my GRE :)

This is the subject of my latest post at Vagablogging. A little discussion has started, you can check it out here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

GO AWAY FACE!

Is anyone as annoyed as I am with this face? I SEE IT EVERYWHERE ONLINE. EVERYWHERE!!




Sunday, March 09, 2008

What it's like to fall in love with an assassin

This is by far the best story I have read in a while. War photo-journalist Jason P Howe travels to Colombia on a mission to document images that would narrate the country's political history bound by terrorism. He falls in love with a Colombian woman who turns out to be a cold-blooded killer.
[Excerpt]:
"The woman I had only recently begun sleeping with was a hired killer and there was a gun on my bedside table.High on a combination of the heady tropical climate, local rum, grade A cocaine and in the arms of nubile 22-year-old, fantasy and reality became blurred. It felt like I was living in a Quentin Tarantino movie."
Truth is far more interesting than fiction, it's a shame that so many stories remain untold. This one is beautifully written and the blatantness of the story gave me goose bumps. A must read.
A movie is planned and his book "Colombia Between the Lines" will be out this Spring.

Howe's photography from Colombia, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kurdistan is phenomenal too, you can see his work here.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Walking 9000-miles without money...

...is Mark Boyle's execution of the Freeconomy Movement -- a movement that is working on creating a world without money. This is the topic of my latest post at Vagablogging. Check it out here.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Japanese "We Are The World"

I haven't been able to stop watching this video. Check it out here!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quote of the day

" The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!”
--- Jack Kerouac

A blog bit of melodrama

Today I woke up nice and early, ready to work, ready to seize the day. I opened my computer and started looking at my RSS feeds and burst out crying. I'm not PMS-ing, nothing cry-worthy has happened.

I hate it when I get emotional for no good reason. It makes me more upset than the actual reason for which I may be crying. My persistent efforts to remind myself how lucky I am and how strong I am (or should be) help me not complain about anything and reinforce that I have no reason to be upset. Over the last year or so, I have been a sponge, absorbing many strenuous conversations of friends with "real" issues; issues in light of which my "issues" are so stupid.

So if I feel low I don't really let anyone know; putting things in perspective makes me feel ludicrous about my emotions. I lift myself up by realizing that compared to other people's mountain size problems, my so called problems are not even the size of an ant. So I shut them down and distract myself by taking a walk or going dancing.

I think that mindset, although most of the time holds, occasionally cracks to reveal a weak and vulnerable me, a me that I feel has no right or reason to surface, a me that I'm embarrassed to show to friends, a me that only my family will understand.

To add to that, what I think is only now rising from deep inside my subconscious is: nothing I am doing in my life really matters. Not to me, not to the people in my life, not to the world. All my time and energy is being spent unwisely; my ability to contribute, my immense capability to give, is being wasted.

It's a strange feeling of being deep and hollow at the same time. I don't like it. I don't want to talk about it. As is stands, it's frivolous and until I can add more context to it or come up with a solution, it's a pointless conversation.

All these ridiculous and uncalled for emotions have resulted in me being selfish with the strangers or acquaintances I have been meeting these days. Just like I'm selfish when I write on this blog.

It's easier to let your guard down with random people because you really don't care how they feel (you hardly know them), and they -- for some reason -- want to know how you feel. It is them whose time you are willing to take without worrying about the time you give them. How messed up is that.

I suppose, as I've written about before, sometimes you just need a cry.

Anyway, I feel better after writing this. To anyone who has bothered to read through -- thank you. Now I will get back to work.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bamboozled again by Richard Branson...

...as he comes up with a coconut-oil and algae solution for cleaner skies.

I love this man.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Frivolous Cravings

The plan for 2008 was to notch-up the content of my blog. I have a few readers who I bombard with my mindless rants, so I thought it's high time I write on topics of more consequence.

The more I think of that, the more frivolous posts come to my mind, many of which I have been avoiding. With the million things I need to get my mind into, a blog with regular earth-shattering content does not seem likely -- so in the mean time I will continue with the meaningless points I regularly bring to this blog.

I'm embarrassed to say that the two things that I have not been able to get my mind off these days is Cherry Ripe and Bisto Gravy. Not hunger in Africa nor the state of street children India, but a chocolate and meat gravy have been occupying my thoughts.

For those of you who don't know what Cherry Ripe is: it's the world's best dark, cherry, coconut, and rum filled chocolate. Actually, it doesn't have rum, but the cherries are so fermented and their mixture with dark chocolate give it a strong taste of alcohol. Rumour has it that if you eat a bar and take a breath test, it will come positive for alcohol. Seriously! It used to be my staple breakfast when I lived in Australia; it is, sadly, not sold outside the country. I had an Ozzie friend in Dubai who would annually bring me back a dozen extra-large bars of Cherry Ripe. Pure, cheap, joy. Sigh.

Another craving that began in winter is for Bisto gravy. Yes, instant, chemical-filled, brown powder that when mixed with hot water turns into thick, delicious gravy. In the UK and in Dubai, our cabinet always had Bisto gravy. Other than with steak, vegetables and mash potatoes, I would eat it with the chicken from my mum's Vindaloo, rice, bread, and noodles. I LOVE Bisto gravy and am shocked that it is not available in Madrid.

When I go to Dubai this time, I will bring back Bisto gravy. Cherry Ripe *deep sigh* I'm just gonna have to live without. Life is tough, eh?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Varying Perspectives

Sarina: Hey, Abha! How was your birthday? What did you do?

Me: You know me, not a birthday person. Was quiet and nice, Chinese food with boyfriend, nothing special. How was your birthday? What did you do?

Sarina: Ah nothing much either. Quiet and nice, I went to the Maldives with boyfriend, nothing special.

Me: Right.

Oh universal energy that surrounds me, don't ever let me be so inappreciatively blah about things.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Perspectives: Homeless in Madrid

I spent my afternoon yesterday walking around Madrid city centre with a group of people, distributing sandwiches to the city's homeless.

I went with much ganas. Prepared to feel a lump in my throat, prepared to listen to terrible life stories, prepared to give them time and a smile.

Although I appreciate my life, I often feel that I lose perspective as to exactly how lucky I am; small, stupid problems often get the better of me for no good reason, so I also took this as a personal exercise to regain perspectives.

Run by Kelly, the activity falls under a group called Oasis (although affiliated to a church, you are not expected to be or do anything religious to participate) whose unofficial motto is "make poverty personal".

The idea came from the fact that in Madrid, there are enough social services and charities that take care of basic needs: food, clothing and temporary shelter, but nobody takes the effort to relate to the homeless, talk to them, build friendships. This is their focus that has the ultimate goal of getting them off the streets. Talking and building relationships gives them dignity and encouragement to feel normal and perhaps motivate them towards a better life. Awesome people, great intentions, a beautiful thought.

The group has a route across the centre and they know all the homeless they meet by first name, that was heartwarming to see. A bag with sandwiches, juice, fruit and a muffin is an excuse to approach them.

What was interesting about my experience was that I felt everything but sympathy towards these homeless people. Majority of them were smart, literate and physically fit -- no good reason to be on the street.

For instance: there was an ex-chef, Spaniard who lived in London for 10 years and spoke fluent English with a posh accent; a Cuban dude who has traveled the world, who was capable of having a political conversation and talked to me about Rabindranath Tagore; and a middle-aged lady with a mentally ill husband who had the audacity to ask us for a fragrant soap for her face!

A handful of them had no interest in our sandwiches. "We are not hungry now" was the main reason. What about dinner?

Of course, I understand that nobody wants to be on the street and their personal reasons as to why they are I may never comprehend, but I couldn't help thinking that these people aren't helpless -- they choose to be so. This shut me down. Although the thought behind the activity is wonderful, were we only encouraging these people to stay on the street?

I know this is probably not justified, but I couldn't help comparing the situation to that of India. In India poverty is real to a disgusting, tummy-churning extent. With over 700 million people below the poverty line, everyone can't get jobs and there aren't enough social services. Of these people, majority live in slums, some of them beg (they are normally children, suffering from leprosy, or dying of disease) but most of them who are physically capable, don't. They are all illiterate.

Coming back to Madrid, there was the odd person who the system had royally fucked: a couple from Bulgaria who came to Spain to make money so they can get their son operated. Nobody was ready to give them a job here as their papers were not in order, nor did they have enough money to sort them out. They tried for about 2-years; now they are on the street with no money to eat, let alone go back. There was also a dude from the Czech Republic who claimed that all his money, ID and belongings had been stolen. He didn't speak a word of Spanish or English, jobs were therefore impossible, so he had no option but to beg until he got enough money to head back to his country. He's going to be around for a long time!

What shocked me was the one guy I thought was the most helpless of them all (he has no hands, they are cut off from his shoulder), didn't want to talk to us, nor take our food. He earned a living begging by rattling a glass in his mouth and anytime spent not doing that was compromising his earnings.

All in all, I was left befuddled after this exercise. I didn't care about their plight, as to me, most of them were capable of fixing their situation. Their comfort with being reliant on social services and the thought that they probably have no intention of getting off the street -- laziness, habit, old-age, whatever -- made me not want to help them.

Maybe I'm being harsh. Maybe I'm from a culture that is not letting me empathize with these people. I'm quite delicate at heart, so my rigid and cold reaction to this was surprising to me.

I think the efforts and intentions of Oasis are fantastic, I truly wish them all the best. If their work can help get even one person off the street (which it has in the past), it's all worth it. However, I don't see myself going back.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

US$40 for a bottle of water?

If you can see yourself paying this for water, there is something seriously f***ed up with you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's possible to make $100K as a writer...

...it needs to be treated as a business.

A good dose from Science Fiction writer John Scalzi who made $164,000 writing in 2007.

It's the subject of my latest post on Written Road -- check it out here.

Bush may move to Dubai?

Today's Gulf News says: "Sources close to the planning of the presidential trip reveal that Bush instantly fell in love with Dubai. He even alluded to the possibility of perhaps moving to the city as part of his White House plans."

Did anyone else catch this snippet of information while he was in Dubai? Did you have a reaction?

Anyway it's probably the most insignificant line in the entire article that focuses on Dubai's political neutrality, but I couldn't help imagine the possibility.

He would probably live a precious life in Dubai. I see him sipping expensive bubbly at the Bush Tent of the Dubai World Cup; with VIP seating at the Tennis Open, having countless photos with the Sheikhs; on page two of Gulf News business section playing golfing at the Montgomery; on the cover of Ahlan! as he decides to spend a night at Trilogy; running the Dubai Marathon; chief guest for sport's day at Choueifat International School; skiing down the slopes of the Dubai snowdome at Emirates Mall with a santa hat; smoking sheesha on a terrace at the Madinat; and being spokesperson for the American Hospital.

He would take up much space in the newspapers, so the Khaleej Times will come out with a weekly supplement called the Bush Times. Then 7-Days will come out with another one called the Bush-Basher.

He would drive the Lincoln Navigator. (Yaay, Ford -- weren't you always looking for an ambassador in the country?)

Blissful retirement refuge in luxury I'd say.

(Okok ridiculous line of thought. Will get back to work now)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Google.Org, Gandhi and Social Capitalism

I was wondering when Google will sprout with a philanthropic angle to it's functioning and was happy today to find Google.Org. I was happier to see it's inspiration -- none other than our very own Mahatma Gandhi.

The question that was posed to Google was the obvious one: we have loads of money we can give for good causes, and there are loads of great organisations all over the world who can benefit from our donations, how do we decide?

A good question to ponder for all of us wanting to donate.

The answer came from a Gandhi talisman: "Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it?"

According to an article on Google's grass-root efforts in Slate magazine:
"...less than one-third of the money that people gave to nonprofits in 2005 went to help the economically disadvantaged. The world's poorest are virtually ignored by the philanthropic giving of some of the world's wealthiest citizens. So our first criterion had to be Gandhi's talisman: How will our work help the poorest and weakest of the world?"

The second question Google looked at was something that needed to fit in with it's philosophy of "think bigger": Is the potential initiative a big enough idea?

Basis that they say (in the article): "...the initiative now includes stimulating financing to small and medium-sized enterprises by finding ways to lower transaction costs, deepen capital markets, and catalyze the flow of other money along with our own."

And finally, in terms of addressing whether Google has the expertise to run such a philanthropic initiative successfully, it decided to use the efforts of its (close to 17,000) employees in an hybrid-philanthropic system where there is complete integration between Google and Google.Org.

A pretty straight forward 3-step plan huh.

It is very interesting to see such big organisations divert a good amount of time and energy towards social causes -- I think Microsoft takes the lead with that. It's also interesting to see the rapid rise of social capitalism and the growing importance of it being fundamental for the success of a company. The objective? With the huge recession in the global economy, organisations with a large amount of money and resources will have to play lead in large-scale social movements, not only to make a real difference in the world, but to be successful as an organisation. Much pressure for this comes from world leaders.

Perhaps there is much more hope for the world than we realize. All of a sudden, I don't despise the multinational monsters.

Stop. We don't like it. Really.

Why do guys think that making kiss and hug sounds over the phone is better or more effective than saying "kisses", "besitos" or "big hug"? And whatever happened to a simple old-fashion BYE!?

I find it a complete turn-off, not to mention repulsive, when I hear a "muah" on the other end of the line. It doesn't sound natural, nor does it sound normal, nor do you make those sounds when you actually kiss someone on greeting them so why it's necessary over the phone is completely beyond me. (No it's not creative, nor is it original). Writing it is acceptable, but sounds over the phone...BIG NO NO.

Hugs over the phone are worse. OMG I used to have a friend (big on hugs, obviously) who would call me every morning and "sound me" a hug over the phone.

What does a hug over the phone sound like? I don't even know what a hug sounds like in person but this friend's imagination made it sound like the sound you make when you wake up in the morning and do a long cat stretch; this he would fill with words describing how I must imagine him coming out through the phone to give me a hug.

Yes, he was a bit mad. Yes, he did it with much love and affection (which I truly, truly appreciated), but yes, it was the most annoying thing EVER. Of course, I could never say that to him so I accepted it as part of a routine I had to deal with every morning.

So yeah, if you do any of these things, trust me, people on the other end unless they tell you that they love you doing that, THEY REALLY DON'T LIKE IT, and DEFINITELY DON'T think it's attractive, so just stop!
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