Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Cheer

There's no other city in India that celebrates Christmas quite the way that Calcutta does. The Christmas cheer does not spare people of any religion - how else do you explain people from all religions walking up & down Park Street wearing Santa hats??!!

Park Street is another story in itself. It seems like the entire population of Calcutta has poured on to it. The street has been lit up since days. They apparently also had a Christmas Carnival that I missed. Flury's was packed to the gills with people queuing up outside the shop to have lunch there and buy Christmas cakes. Apparently, it's some kind of a Calcutta tradition to eat at Flury's on Christmas Day.

My day consisted of having lunch with my girl friends at my favourite Chinese restaurant in the city - Flavours of China - followed by plum cake at Flury's. And the weather is perfect - the winter chill accompanied by a bright, glowing sun. I am SO glad I spent Christmas in Cal rather than Sydney. There is something just very wrong about a summer Christmas.

Going by the rate I've been posting, I'm pretty sure I won't be posting again until after New Year's. So I hope you all had yourselves a Merry Christmas. Wish you a very Happy New Year and happy holidays :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

'Rockstar' and 'Dirty Picture'

Let's start with 'Rockstar', shall we?

My expectations from this movie were sky high given that it was an Imtiaz Ali movie. I really liked 'Jab We Met' when I saw it - for the first and last time, thankfully. I refuse to watch a million re-runs of it on TV! I found Geet's character very endearing and it changed my opinion of Kareena Kapoor to a great extent. I still don't like her, but I've moved on from not being able to stand her at all. Didn't quite like 'Love Aaj Kal' but I suspect that had more to do with Deepika Padukone than the story itself

The reason I like Imtiaz Ali is because he is a good story-teller and his movies have a certain simplicity and innocence about them. The fact he's from the homeland helps of course :)

With a name like 'Rockstar', images of an unshaven Ranbir Kapoor singing in front of a thousand-strong crowd and a song like 'Sadda Haq' that is likely to become the anthem of a generation of people who are frustrated with everything that is wrong with their country, I was expecting the movie to be about a, well, 'rockstar'. In the metaphorical sense of the word. A rebel who inspires an entire generation of young people to fight for a cause. But the movie turned out to be the story of a guy who fucks up his life for a girl who doesn't know what she wants in life and who dies in the end anyway (whaaaaaa???)

The music is mostly uninspiring and not at all Rockstar-ish, except for 'Sadda Haq'. The story is convoluted and has you clutching your hair in frustration. Nargis Fakhri is even more stone faced than Deepika Padukone and can't talk like a normal human being - her definition of 'acting' is yelling every dialogue out at the same pitch. She can't talk normally.

The person who walks away with all the accolades is Ranbir Kapoor. This must be the first serious role of his life and you can tell he's given everything he had to it. His character is really intense, yet there isn't a scene where he goes over the top and makes you cringe. Worth watching only for him, stay away if you're an Imtiaz Ali fan. I guess it's too late in the day to be saying that :)


The Dirty Picture

Have you watched it? Did you like it?

Do I need to say that Vidya Balan hits the ball out of the park with this one and blows all the competition away with her acting chops? She is the hero of the movie, even Naseeruddin Shah pales in comparison to her. Who was the last actress one could say this about...Smita Patil? Shabana Azmi?

To play Silk Smitha on screen - at least as she is depicted in this movie - required balls and Vidya Balan has taken it head-on. Forget the acting - that's kind of a given when it comes to her. But to be as uninhibited as she is on screen - with her boobs and love handles all over the screen and faking and thrashing around on a bed in a red negligee, faking an orgasm...I'm not sure many actresses would have been comfortable doing that. Or pulled it off with such aplomb.

The movie isn't perfect. It's got its share of flaws and WTF moments, such as an extra song and a love track that is least convincing and doesn't go anywhere. But it is definitely a very engaging story. And there's the 'Ooh la la ooh la la' song that's stuck in my head even 3 days after I watched the movie. Bappi Lahiri rocks, doesn't he?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dunaden the name of the horse that won "the race that stops a nation". That's the Melbourne Cup.

I've been hearing about the Melbourne Cup since I moved to Australia five months ago, as one of my clients is a sports and race betting major. It's one of the biggest sporting events of the year in Australia, with horses being flown in from across the world and a crowd of close to 100,000 turning up to watch the race.

To be honest, I've never been into the races. Maybe because we don't have too many horse races in India apart from the one in Bombay at the Mahalaxmi Race Course, and that too is known more because of the socialites and the fashion parade than the race itself. But Aussies are different - they love their sport and nothing comes between them and their sport. Except beer.

A public holiday was declared in the state of Victoria (that Melbourne is a part of) to honour the races. And the rest of Australia pretended that the race was taking place in their own town/city. Women everywhere wore dresses and fancy hats, work stopped at 2pm and pubs got flooded. The party continued well into the night even though the race was over by 3.15pm. Don't ask me why.

Our office too came to a standstill between 2-3.15pm. Pizzas were ordered, beer bottles were plonked on the table, and people started betting on their favourite horses. The more risk taking of the lot went to the betting outlet to gamble away hundreds of dollars.

The race itself was enthralling! The gallopping horses were a beauty to look at. So fit, so lean, so well cared for. And they must've been running really fast because they covered more than 3km in less than 5 minutes! It was the closest win in the 151 year history of the Melbourne Cup. Dunaden, a French horse, defeated the English Red Cadeaux by 1 millimetre! That too because she decided to stick her nose out in the end to win!

Besides being gorgeous, these horses are also pretty smart! I wonder how much it must cost the owners to maintain them. But then, Dunaden's owner won $3 million from the Melbourne Cup victory alone, I'm guessing that's enough and more to go around for the year.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Sunny Afternoon and My First Ever Baby Shower

I went to my first baby shower today. It was a girly affair and everyone was wearing happy summer dresses given it was a warm and sunny day.

The lunch took place at the Burnt Orange cafe in the upscale neighbourhood of Mosman, by the Sydney Harbour. The choice of location inspired by the fact that the mother is a red-head, so everyone's betting on a ginger baby!

Burnt Orange is a cafe and retail store overlooking the Sydney Harbour. The cafe is semi open air, so while you're sipping your champagne and having your lunch, you can look on to the sea and the hills in the distance, and wave to ferries passing by, taking people to the Northern Beaches.

It's an idyllic setting, perfect for a lazy weekend lunch. They let you stay as long as you want, and there's even a small shop where you can buy some trendy but over-priced stuff.

The baby shower itself was most fun. But then with 12 girls around how can it not be fun? The champagne flowed and the food was delicious, followed by coffee 'n' cake (everyone except me was British). There were many games played including one that involved a big cut out of a uterus with the mum's picture stuck on to it (denoting the egg) and the dad's head stuck on to sperms that everyone had to take a shot at sticking closest to the egg, blindfolded of course.

The party was very well organized. There were pastel coloured balloons with 'It's a boy!' written on them, tiny blue toys that rattled on shaking were spread across the table, and the mum-to-be was made to wear a beautiful blue tiara and a giant pacifier necklace.

I didn't take pictures of the view from the Burnt Orange cafe but I'll leave you with a few pictures from their website.

The cafe

The view from the cafe

The shop

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Only at Oz

Will you find...

People who go for a jog across the Harbour Bridge during lunch hour!

Offices that want to name their meeting/conference rooms after drinks!

Offices that sponsor unlimited alcohol once every 2 weeks as part of their "Happy Employees" initiative!

Colleagues who want to take your friend, who's visiting from overseas and who they don't know, out for drinks!

Monday, October 10, 2011

But you see
It's not me
It's not my family
In your head
In your head
They are fighting

With their tanks
And their bombs
And their bombs
And their guns
In your head
In your head
They are crying

In your head
In your head
Hey, hey, hey

What's in your head
In your head

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I live in the City, an area that is dominated by Asians (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese). I work in the rich and very White neighbourhood of North Sydney, and the only suburbs I have explored uptil now have mainly been affluent ones such as Manly, Mosman, Balmoral, Bondi etc. But of course any big city that has centuries of history behind it has a variety of neighbourhoods ranging from affluent to grungy to trendy to quirky to cosmopolitan to the 'underbelly'. Take London, New York, Paris, Mumbai for example. Sydney is no different.

I went to an inner city suburb called Newtown today. I'd heard a lot about this suburb from friends and people of work who live in and around there. About how cool and hip and bustling it is. It's a suburb that used to be working class but has now evolved into a grunge-trendy place dotted with vintage shops, cafes from all cultures, artists, writers, musicians, goths, punks, migrants, and Victorian terrace houses.

As I said it's grunge - the buildings look like warehouses. They are run down and in need of renovation. There's graffiti art on the walls. But the vintage shops, cafes, bookshops, music stores and antique stores give Newtown a very trendy feel. The Victorian terrace houses have been there since the early 1900s and remind of the cottages and villas of Goa.

I didn't have my camera on me but I'll leave you with some pictures of Newtown from the net that will give you a feel of what I'm talking about.

King Street, Newtown

Victorian Terrace House

Photo courtesy: / / /

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Post Office

You read it right. I am blogging about a post office. Oh dear...

I haven't lost it. If you can ignore the fact that I get inside the lift and forget to press my floor. The reason I'm blogging about a post office is because today I saw the cutest post office ever!

You're thinking 'post office and cute?' Right? Post offices aren't supposed to be cute. They're supposed to be these bare-bone quiet places with grumpy clerks (what are they called again?) that you go in & out of.

This is the post office near my office in Sydney. From the outside it looks like one of those post-colonial buildings that's trying to be a colonial building. Once you climb up those stairs and enter through those brown doors, you'll be in the cutest room ever!

This post office sells greeting cards and stationery! And other things that don't excite me such as comics and video games. But let's talk about stationery...this post office has the cutest pencils, erasers, sharpeners, pens, note books, stickers and other knick knacks on display! All brightly coloured from pink to magenta to yellow to purple to green and aqua blue. Oh it's beeeeeeautiful in there! Unfortunately I couldn't take a picture of the inside but I felt like a kid in a toy shop surrounded by all that adorable stationery.

You know what, Aussies are fun loving people. It takes people with a fun mindset and who don't take life too seriously to come up with the idea of making a place as functional and morose as a post office a place that makes you smile :)

Image courtesy:

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Can I start by saying that Salman Khan is THE Dude?

Well, I just did.

No other actor can get away with the inanity that he does, even though he can't "act" to save his life. But I still like him. I like him because he doesn't give a damn about what people think/say about him, and goes on doing what he wants to do. That takes courage in an industry where image is everything and people pay a good amount of money to project the right image.

Anyway, on to the movie. Lovely Singh is a bodyguard who gives "guarantee along with warranty" and treats "royalty with loyalty", or some shit like that. He's assigned to protect the daughter of a very powerful man living in an obscure little town somewhere between Mumbai and Pune (don't ask questions), who faces a threat to her life from some of her dad's enemies. The girl is embarassed to be escorted by a bodyguard to college everyday (she studies Management at Symbiosis apparently), and so to get rid of him she starts distracting him by giving him blank calls from a 'private number' and claiming to be some Chhaya who is in love with him.

She does fall in love with him in due course, while he sees her as someone way beyond his league. Two hours of cat and mouse games between them and a couple of attempts on the girl's life later, the villains are dead, the father thinks the bodyguard is trying to elope with his daughter, and there's a twist in the story.

Like all of Salman Khan's movies these days, this movie too is full TP. A continuation of Dabangg if you will. Salman Khan is in his element (mujhpe ek ehsaan karna, ki mujhpe koi ehsaan na karna is priceless!), the villians come across looking like jokers, and the only person who appears to be acting is Kareena Kapoor (within the limitations of her role). The music by Himesh Reshammiya is forgettable. BUT there is actually a story in the movie! Hallelujah!

I heard some people in the theater cribbing about how they should've trusted the review that gave the movie 2.5 stars and stayed away. Like dude, who goes to watch a Salman Khan movie based on reviews?!! You KNOW what a Salman Khan movie is going to be like. People who watch his movies don't read the reviews. You've missed the whole point, mate.

Anyway, while we're on the topic of people who go to watch movies in theaters...why are Indian kids the most misbehaved of the lot? They'll be the ones throwing tantrums, wailing, running helter skelter, and being a nuisance to everybody in the theater. And their stupid parents, instead of disciplining them, will look at them adoringly as if they're doing something worthy of winning the Nobel Prize. Seriously, you'll never find non-Indian kids behaving so atrociously in public.

And then the mothers, to get rid of the kid, will send him/her to say hi to some random "aunty" or "uncle" in the theater. Whenever such kids come towards me at theaters or restaurants, I just glare at them because all I want to do is give them one tight slap and send them crying back home, and then glare at his/her parents too. Seriously, when will Indians learn not to be a nuisance to others?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What can be the most frustrating thing if you're not a cook and you're trying to cook something to satisfy your craving?

The thing you're cooking turning out a big flop or not working out at all!!

I've been craving kadhi for quite a few days. Not the Punjabi kadhi with gram flour pakoras but the Gujrati one...lighter yellow in colour, thinner consistency (like soup) and flavoured with curry leaves and green chillies!

Guess what happened once I started cooking it...the curd curdled!!! Grrrrrrrrr.....

I ran out of yogurt and curry leaves so couldn't give it another go. Then I went online and figured out my mistake. 1) I was using low fat yogurt which does not have the emulsifiers of full-fat/regular yogurt and tends to curdle when cooked, 2) I took yogurt straight out of the fridge and started cooking it whereas I should've used yogurt at room temperature.

The recipe I was referring to used low fat yogurt and didn't mention anything about the possibility it could curdle, but I'm asuming the woman is a domestic Goddess that can make the impossible possible, I'm totally not. So I will be wiser tomorrow (hopefully) and give it another shot because I really really want to have goddamn kadhi. Oh, how I miss my cook from back home :((

Life sucks. Thank God there's chocolate.

And Happy Father's Day, Daddy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I don't understand why people love to bash up big corporations while happily consuming their products or working for them.

Take Coca Cola for instance - it's probably one of the most abused companies in the world. It's considered "cool" to be anti-Coca Cola because it's this mammoth company that sells harmful stuff to people. But that doesn't stop people from consuming Coke or any other carbonated beverages.

Or Nike. They were once accused of serious human rights violations as most of their merchandise was manufactured in sweat shops in developing countries. But that didn't stop people from buying their products.

So why don't we stop and take a reality check? The truth is these companies are just doing business, and if we have an ethical problem with the nature of their business or what they're doing we should have the courage to boycott their products. Whenever someone bashes Coke I want to ask them if they can assure me they haven't bought a single can/bottle of Coke since they started feeling the way they do about the company - not even on the hottest, sultriest of days. If they can assure me that's the case I will respect their opinion (I still don't agree with it because I don't think it's right to blame companies for the stupidity of consumers, but I respect it). But you can't go around bashing companies and consuming their products at the same time because it's convenient for you.

I come across people who trash the corporate sector all the time. Truth is that the same corporate sector pays our salaries. The standard of living we enjoy, the things we can buy, the places we can travel to are all thanks to the corporate sector. You needn't be in love with it but you need to realize why you're able to afford your lifestyle. Are you willing to give it all up and live a much less privileged existence? No? Then shut up.

The other thing I don't understand - and I expect to get a lot of flak for it - is our attitude towards cigarette companies. I don't smoke, never wanted to. Cigarette fumes make me cough and I wish people I love and care for didn't smoke either. Yet I think the way cigarette manufacturers are discriminated against is very unfair.

They are a legal business, then why are they not allowed to advertise like other legal businesses? First their right to communicate with their consumers was taken away from them, then they were forced to put ghastly pictures of people with mouth and tongue cancer on their packs (that hasn't dissuaded smokers from buying cigarettes but that's another story). And now the only means of communication remaining with them - the pack - is being taken away from them in Australia (there may soon be a legislation forcing tobacco companies to plain package their cigarettes).

I read a report on one of the companies planning to sue the Australian government for discrimination if the legislation is indeed passed, and rightly so. If the government truly believes cigarette companies are diabolical, then they should be banned. But they never will be because the tobacco industry yields the highest amount of taxes for the government among all industrues. You can't give a company the same status as other companies and then discriminate against them. Yes, these companies are selling products that can kill people but they're selling these products because people want to buy them. Like with everything else, I believe there is supply because their is demand. The onus is on the consumer to know what's good for them and what's not.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What was the last cool thing you did?

This weekend I did one of the coolest things I've ever done - I did a flashmob!!

For those who don't know a flashmob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an act for a brief time (usually a dance), then disperse. Trust me when I say it's one of the most awesome things you can ever do.

I did it along with people from my company as a way of introducing ourselves to one of our clients. Quite an original idea, I must say. This is how it works: people are hanging around at a public place doing their thing, then all of a sudden you hear music. One person randomly breaks into a dance, then a few others join in, while people around are gobsmacked and have no idea what's going on! Then the remaining people join at short intervals until everyone who's part of the mob has joined in. And when it's over, people disperse in all directions like nothing happened. Oh, it's awesome!!!

Cars honked at us, people shouted out to us, passers by stopped and started filming. The Daily Telegraph even tweeted about it.

We danced to 'Can you feel it (MJ), 'Just Dance' (Lady Gaga), 'Fireworks' (Katy Perry) and 'Dynamite' (Taio Cruz). My favorite part was being able to do some of Michael Jackson's signature moves, such as the "Thriller walk" and the pelvic thrusts. Unfortunately, the crotch grab was dropped at the last minute in favour of the pelvic thrust given we were doing it for a client, but 30 women doing MJ's "crotch grab" in the middle of a street would've been pretty awesome I think.

We had so much fun practising at Hyde Park before the final act. The English Junior Football Team was playing nearby and about 20 of them came over and danced with us. And when we started doing the "Thriller" walk, they went "Oh, is this from thrilla?" Gorgeous!

All I'm trying to say is, flashmobs are a fabulous way to spend a Saturday morning. I'm so going to do it again. We're planning to do a Janet Jackson flashmob on the day she performs in Sydney, and am already looking for some MJ tribute flashmobs happening in Sydney that I can be a part of.

Since my video hasn't been uploaded yet, I'll leave you guys with a couple of really cool flashmobs I've found on YouTube:

Have fun.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's funny...Australia was never on my list of dream travel destinations (I've always been obsessed with Europe). It was a country/continent I thought I'd visit when I was done to my heart's content with Europe. But now that I'm living here, I'm coming to realize how blessed Australia is with natural beauty. And I've only just seen Sydney!

Sydney has a beautiful harbour - the water is a dark shade of blue and when sunlight falls on it, it glitters like little jewels. The dark blue water is dotted with little white sail's the prettiest and most calming sight ever!

The Sydney Harbour Bridge stretches across the water majestically. It connects North Sydney and the northern suburbs to the Sydney CBD, which is also referred to as the City. Beside the Harbour Bridge sits an example of path-breaking architecture - the Sydney Opera House. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed by it the first time I saw it. It's one of the most hyped monuments in the world, and is a symbol of Australia, and when you see it for the first time it doesn't all come together for you. Then I went back to it, went closer and realized what a feat Jorn Utzon had pulled off when he designed and oversaw the construction of the Opera House.

There are many neighbourhoods in Sydney, such as Kirribilli and Milsons Point, that offer stunning views of the Sydney harbour along with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. I lived at Milsons Point for a month but never made the trek (though it was hardly a trek). Plan to get down there one of these days.

Last weekend I went to Bondi beach. The water is a light aquamarine and so clear, you can see the bottom of the sea bed. I'm too lazy to describe it further in words so I'll leave you with a few pictures.

We did the walk from Bondi to Bronte beach, which goes through rocks that have been eroded into beautiful patterns by salt-laden air.

I'm already scouting places to visit in Australia over my long weekends :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

And I Say to Myself, What a Wonderful World!

One of my favourite things to do on Saturday and Sunday mornings is to tune into news from across the globe, in the respective languages of those countries (including our very own Hindi news by NDTV India :)

Call me someone who doesn't have a life - and honestly, I'd rather not to have a life on weekend mornings - but these news shows keep me more engaged than any other program on Australian television, with the exception of MC Aus of course.

The languages range from French to Italian to Greek to Portugese to Spanish to Dutch to Turkish to Arabic to Russian to Estonian to Bulgarian. I don't understand any of it, except French a little bit. But I like to have it playing in the background while I potter about the house. My favourite part comes after the new programs are over. It's called 'What a World' - they play western classical music and show random live shots of cities across the world. Both famous cities and obscure little towns. Cities steeped in history that have me dying to visit them, and places I may never get a chance to visit because they generally don't fall on a tourist's radar. I can watch the program for hours. Unfortunately, it lasts only ten minutes :(

It's amazing how much Aussie TV sucks otherwise. The reality shows are crap, and the soaps and sitcoms are years behind even Star World India!! Now that takes quite a bit of doing.
Oh, there IS another show I like though. It's a morning show called 'Sunrise' and is an amalgamation of all sorts of things - news, entertainment, sports, updates on financial markets, gossip, other general stuff and chit chat. It's a feel good show with plenty of jokes and laughter. And the chemistry between the presenters is palpable. Mel is this really feminine, emotional, caring woman and Kochi (pronounced kau-shi) is this goofy guy who cracks really silly but endearing jokes and is even funnier when he's trying to be serious and give financial advice! And Australia loves the two.

There are some things about Australians that baffle as well as intrigue me. For instance, I don't understand why they would let food inflation go out the roof but won't import fruits and vegetables from other countries. They are so paranoid about agricultural diseases coming into Australia that they'd rather bananas cost $14 a dozen (I'm sorry I can't get over the price of bananas in this country!) and the market be out of chillies and tomatoes, which to me is ridiculous.

I am yet to see another people who are as proud of everything grown and made within their country as Australians are. Every Australian brand, whether they are into food or clothing or furniture or telecom, emphasizes on it's 100% Australian heritage in all its communication. I used to wonder why this was the case and I think I may have finally understood their psychology.

Australia is so far away from everyone else and to be honest, the world never cared much about them either. Inspite of that, they have managed to develop to the same level as any other country in Europe or America. Their isolation from the rest of the world and limited population hasn't stopped them from being self-sufficient, and that may be the reason the Aussies are so proud of themselves.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

And we thought riots happened in Mumbai and Calcutta only!

What's happening in London is so unnecessary and mindless. It may have started as a protest against the killing of an individual but has now blown up into what can be called "recreational rioting". People with nothing better to do with their time are pouring on to the streets, destroying buildings and setting fire to anything they can put their eyes on.

The scariest part is that most rioters are young enough to be in high school - one of the boys arrested was 11 years old!! What are their parents doing? Why are they letting their kids run mad around the streets of London looting and plundering? Can't they keep their kids at home???

Another thing that shocked me was that the rioters are using Twitter, Facebook and BBM to alert each other about their whereabouts and discuss new areas to target. This is unprecedented - looks like someone was paying attention to the revolution in Egypt. Isn't it ironic - the same social media that helped a country overthrow it's tyrannical dictator is helping ignorant people in another country ruin one of the most historic cities in the world. It's saddening to say the least.

I can imagine what the London police might be facing - it's like their worst nightmare come true. I think they should arrest as many rioters as they can and bring them to trial - if these kids are old enough to commit crimes, they're certainly old enough to face punishment. I hope things calm down soon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Masterchef Australia Season 3

BIG FAT SPOILER ALERT: Masterchef Australia Season 3 is about to culminate soon (sob sob). It's finals week already! But they start airing it in India tomorrow, so those of you who are really into MC Aus, like me, and don't want to ruin the suspense please stop reading right now.

I love Masterchef Australia. I guess I can't say it enough. I've done quite a few posts on it already, and I try my best not to miss an episode.

I don't like to cook but there are a number of reasons I love the show. One, I've realized that looking at food on television comforts and de-stresses me. I love the vibrant colours of the dishes being cooked, I can imagine the flavours and the aroma, and that has a very calming effect on me.

Second, MC Aus is probably the best reality show I've watched in terms of its spirit. It's all about constructive feedback, not about criticizing and demotivating people or sensationalism. Of course it has a fair bit of drama but none of it irritates. The judges genuinely try to mentor the contestants - they aren't just sitting on high horses and passing judgement on the efforts of amateur home cooks who are aspiring to become chefs. They want the contestants to learn and realize what they're capable of.

On an aside, my favorite is Gary. Who's yours?

Third, the format is really engaging. It keeps you hooked. The challenges this season are much more difficult than the previous two seasons and that made me realize just how good the contestants this year are. My all-time favourite was Marion from Season 2 - she was so amazingly talented. She was supposed to work on a series of Asian sauces and marinades after Masterchef, and I kept hoping that her line of products would make their way to grocery stores in India that stock imported products. And now that I'm here I see her on TV, I see her sauces and meals on supermarket shelves. The other day I saw Jimmy's products at Coles, with his smiling face - which I know quite a few of my friends are a fan of - on the packaging! It made me so happy to see real-life people who were on a TV show and who I adored doing well for themselves.

Coming back to this year's Masterchef, there has been such a variety in the challenges. There are a few challenges that I really enjoyed and remember off the top of my head.

There was a team relay challenge where the first member of each team had 25 minutes in the kitchen with the recipes for 6 dishes. The recipes were then taken away, and the person had only 60 seconds to bring the next team member up to speed on what had to be cooked, what was already done and still needed to be done, and the next member then had 20 minutes cooking time before he/she had to brief the next member on the processes and hand the kitchen over to them. No prompting allowed, so if you didn't brief the person well enough the first time around, you would have to silently watch them making disastrous mistakes and send the entire team into elimination. Once the challenge was over, the contestants were surprised to learn that the recipes belonged to Nigella, who would be judging them!

There was another episode where the contestants had to make burger, fries and a milkshake. Except the challenge was set by the mind blowing Heston Blumenthal, which meant that the contestants had to prepare their own bun, cheese, tomato ketchup, fries and an incredibly complex burger patty. The other two episodes I really enjoyed took place in NYC. In one of them, each contestant was sent to a different part of NYC - such as Harlem which is predominantly African-American and Bronx which is a tough Italian neighbourhood - to spend a day there and create a dish that was inspired by that neighbourhood. The person who created the worst dish would spend the rest of the week in lock down (inside their NYC hotel) and would emerge only at the end of the week for an elimination challenge. This episode gave me my first favourite of the season - Billy. He was sent to the Bronx, which is supposed to be a hot bed of Italian mafia in the US, and he represented that in the way he plated up his dish - he spattered red sauce very artistically all over his plate to represent blood!

The other NYC episode I really enjoyed was when the judges appeared to the contestants on the electronic displays at Times Square and told them that they would be cooking for a dinner party for chefs. The contestants were broken off into pairs. Each team had to find a clue directing them to a restaurant where the head chef would show them how to cook the recipe, and then cook it themselves. This challenge involved running across NYC and had to be completed in a very short time frame.

This season of MC has had its share of controversies as well. One of the contestants was thrown out of the competition b/c he sneaked in a smartphone into the house while the others had no means of communicating with the outside world and/or looking up recipes. Then there were allegations that the contestants are allowed to plate up their dishes even after their time is up, so the dishes can look good on camera. And then there's this online hate wave going on against one of the contestants, Dani, who has made it to the top 4 but I would have to agree with people who say she doesn't belong there.

Most people don't like her b/c they find her very annoying - she's loud and in-your-face and doesn't have the talent to make up for it. She makes the stupidest of mistakes, is the most inconsistent of all contestants - she is brilliant on some days but such days are few and far between, and mostly she has bad days when she cries to gain sympathy from the judges. Unfortunately, she's the only contestant in MC Aus to have won 2 immunity pins. One of them was won genuinely cooking off against a professional chef while the other was a joke - she beat the winner of 'Celebrity Masterchef'. She used that immunity pin to get to the top 4, and that turned people off her even more b/c other more talented people had to go home.

I can't wait to get my friends' reactions once MC Aus starts in India. It's a good'll enjoy it. And don't forget to tell me who your favourite contestant is. Only, I'll know their fate before you do! :D

Thursday, July 14, 2011

So I go to sleep and everything is alright with the world. And I wake up to news of bomb blasts in Mumbai. Yet again.

Seriously, I've lost count of the number of terrorist strikes the city has been a victime of. Lost count of the number of times the city's famous "spirit" has been evoked. Lost count of the number of governments that have gone out on the back of these strikes. Yet Mumbai gets battered, time and again.

The drill has started. America has condemned the strike. Our central government has expressed regret, the Home Minister has washed his hands off the responsibility saying he had warned Mumbai Police of possible terror attacks, and the Mumbai Police are as usual clueless about how such a thing happened (you'd think they would at least have an excuse for non-action pat down by now). And the Government of Maharashtra says it's not sure whether this was a terror attack or gang war. Really?

Goes to show that nothing will happen this time around either. At the most Maharashtra will get a new Chief Minister.

The Australian media does not cover India. The TV channels here are so involved with what's happening in their own country, they don't really care which part of the world is going to hell. Unless it's the UK. They care about the UK. In fact they have been following Will & Kate around the globe every single day since the two got married. But terrorist strikes in other countries get 20 seconds of air time.

Well, maybe they're not to blame. Australia is so far removed from everyone else - and to be fair to them the rest of the world doesn't care much about them either - that they've learnt to be self-sufficient. Good on them I guess.


So this woman I know...went to work yesterday, went into labour around lunch time, hailed down a taxi, checked herself into the hospital and had a C-Section done - all on her own. Her partner was out of town and by the time he was back, the surgery was already underway. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.


That's it for now. I'm having a bad sinus attack. Have been on decongestants since morning. The weather really needs to warm up. And the icy winds need to go take a chill pill (ironic!). And the sun needs to work harder. I NEED SUMMER. NOW.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

An incident that happened yesterday has me upset and seething.

I was in the bus with a couple of Indian friends of mine, one of whom was seated between a person who I later realized had some form of mental disability and his lady friend.

My friend said something to me in Hindi and I replied. Then, in the corner of my eye, I saw the guy smile at me so I smiled back (till this point I hadn't realized he had a disability). And that's when his friend took off on me and my friend - she accused us of making fun of her friend in "our own language", saying it was so obvious the way I looked at him and rolled my eyes (which I didn't) that we were laughing at his expense!

There are two sides to this - one that while in a foreign country we should avoid speaking in Hindi (or a language that people around us don't understand) in public places, which I try and do as much as I can. But there's the other voice in me that says I have the liberty to speak in my mother tongue if I wish to, and no one should have the right to question me or accuse me of something based on a conversation they don't understand.

Since the incident I've been trying to give the woman the benefit of doubt - she's probably defensive about her friend all the time. But I still think she was out of line accusing us of something she couldn't have been sure of.

I was too stunned to react then, and when I gathered my wits I tried explaining to her that we weren't talking about her friend and rolling our eyes. But now that I think about it, I should probably have given her a piece of my mind.

Does this incident reek of racism, do you think?

Friday, July 8, 2011

I get amazed at how selfish people can be. There's a girl that I've met through some friends. She usually hangs out with us.

A friend of mine from Melbourne was visiting a couple of weekends ago and we planned to go to a restaurant that I've wanted to go to for a long time. Like I really want to go there. This woman refused to go because she found it expensive (I suppose the bill would've come to approx. $30-35 per person, which is a little bit expensive, but then it's virtually impossible to have a quality dining experience in Sydney for any less than that. A meal at a very mediocre restaurant would cost you $20-25).

So we ended up going to some random place that no one wanted to go to just because the food was cheap enough for her. And today, when someone offered to take her out for dinner, she promptly suggested that restaurant (the one I wanted to go to)! She even went to the extent of calling them and reserving a table!! I was aghast!!

Now, I completely respect the fact that people may have different financial motives than me. Most of the times we don't know what their real financial situation is. But this woman is earning a dollar salary and she NEVER goes out for lunch/dinner/movie/shopping. She doesn't even buy coffee, so it's not like she's bad with money and is trying to get some financial discipline in her life. You'd think that when a friend is visiting from out-of-town, people would at least have the courtest to put that person before themselves.

And this woman will ask me anything she fancies about my personal life, and consider it her birth right to give me unsolicited advice on my relationship status and my life decisions, but today when I asked her something in response to something she said (she said she couldn't wait to go back to India and I simply asked why), she snapped at me saying "she has her personal reasons".

And oh my God, she is so dominating! It's come to the point where I don't like to hang out with her anymore.

She'll walk around telling people what to do and what not to do - how they should cook their egg (scrambled vs boiled vs omelet), when they should open and shut the window to THEIR room, which type of biryani they should eat, how everyone should love milk because she and her husband do. Basically she thinks that everything she and her husband like/do is THE way to go and everyone should like/do the same things. In fact she speaks so frequently for her husband I often feel sorry for him - she may be forcing her way through his life as well. But then he made the decision to marry her so maybe I don't feel sorry for him anymore. I do feel sorry for the kids she will have though - poor things don't have a choice of mother.

Like, no thank you! I will have my eggs exactly as I want to and if you have a problem with that, go shove some eggs down your husband's throat. Or better still, lay a few. And stop telling me what I should or shouldn't do.

Gaaaah...I think I'll just go to sleep now before the buzz from the wine wears off. Have a great weekend people!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What Is Your DISC Profile?

Disclaimer: As far as I'm aware information relating to the DISC profile is available in the public domain. In case this post violates any copyright laws, please let me know and I'll be happy to take it off the blog.

I recently underwent a people management training at work where we learnt a number of managerial skills such as how to motivate your team members, conflict management, the right way of giving feedback (there is a right and a wrong way believe it or not. 'Hey, great job!' just doesn't cut it anymore) etc.. But the part I found the most fascinating - and useful - was the DISC profile.

DISC is the way of classifying people into 4 broad groups based on their style of working and the way they behave at the work place. So you have people who are high on 'Dominance', which contrary to perception is a positive quality to possess at work since people in this group are focussed on results. They are confident, fast-paced, decisive, action oriented and constantly challenge themselves as well as others. They don't like to get involved in the details and processes, and are always looking for the bigger picture. They have little patience for routine, mundane tasks and are champions at the art of delegating.

Then there are people who belong to the 'Influence' category. These people are highly sociable, gregarious and complete people's people. They are also the most persuasive of the lot and use their persuasion skills as the key tool for succeeding in their careers. They are motivated by social recognition and fear disapproval and the loss of influence and attention.

Then there are the 'Steady' ones. These people are strong team players whose style of working revolves around cooperation and collaboration. They tend to be good listeners and think of the greater good of the team before an individual. The downside of belonging to this group is that you may be mistaken for someone who lacks the confidence to act on your own and is slow to make decisions.

And finally there is the 'Conscientious' group. People belonging to this category are extremely methodical and detail-oriented. They are perfectionists who need to have every minute detail in place before they take a decision. They are motivated by quality and accuracy and are afraid of being wrong or taking wrong decisions because they missed out on details.

The D's and I's typically tend to be extroverts where as the S' and C's are mostly introverts. There are exceptions to this of course.

According to the DISC profile, most people tend to fall into two categories with one being the dominant trait and the other secondary. For instance, a person can be a Di which means they are predominantly a D but also possess many traits of an I.

At the same time, we can all stretch into the remaining two categories depending on the situation we are in or the people we are interacting with. For instance, there is a girl in my office who is an Sc at work - calm, quiet and diligent. But when she's playing a competitive sport she is a total D, leading her team, yelling out instructions and screaming at people when they mess up!

The way we arrived at our DISC profiles was very interesting too. Before the training we were asked to take an online test where we were presented with various work-related scenarios and had to choose the response that came closest to the way we would react/handle that situation.
On the day of the training we played a card game where we were each given 6 cards with words written on them - attributes/personality traits belonging to each of the D, I, S and C categories. We first had to discard 2 cards that contained words that least described us, and then we had to move around the room exchanging cards with other people in the group until we arrived at the 4 cards that described us the best.

Most people ended up with cards of 2 of the 4 DISC categories, which became our dominant and secondary styles (depending on the number of cards of each category we ended up with). We were then given the results of the online test we had taken and 90% of us had the same DISC profile that we arrived at ourselves!

Now, I generally don't like to categorize people as I don't believe slotting people into boxes works - human behaviour is way more complicated than that. But of all the other personality/work personality tests I've taken or read about, DISC seems to be the most accurate because it has 4 very clearly defined but broad groups that each allow a variety of behaviours, but also allow people of one style to exhibit certain traits of all the other styles all the time or depending on the situation.

As a manager, I found the DISC profile very useful. I've been working for almost 8 years now and in this time I have had to deal with all sorts of team members and bosses. I've had team members who have driven me up the wall by their slow pace of working, their refusal to take instructions from me, their manager, by always getting so caught up in details so that they completely miss the bigger picture etc.

At the same time I've had bosses who were extremely cautious about what they said, forever questioning & critiquing and very demanding. DISC has helped me realize why they were the way they were and how I could have improved my working relationship with them and handled them/the situation better.

Even now I have a very diverse group of people working with me and I know how to interact with them so we don't drive each other batty and get the optimum productivity. I also know which way I tend to sway (in terms of my style of working) and when I need to act in another way.

I've rambled on and on about this and I'm way past my target bed time for today :-)
Why don't you tell me what you think your DISC profile would be? You could choose one for the sake of simplicity, or choose a dominant and a secondary style. Game on!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Warning: This is a major crib post so if you're feeling annoyingly happy (annoying for others, not for yourself) or are pissed off with people in general, you may be better off not reading beyind this.

The past couple of weeks have been so hectic! I've been running around since I moved to Sydney. For one, I need to be at work latest by 9 every morning, so I'm getting an hour & a half less of sleep every night. Less sleep makes me cranky and perpetually exhausted. And just when I had started feeling settled into my service apartment, it was time to move house.

I moved in on Saturday and since then I've spent all my evenings buying things for the house, so I can set it up and make it feel like home. To be fair, it's a reasonably nice house - fairly big for one person, fully furnished with stuff from IKEA, and very conveniently situated right in the heart of the City so that it's a 30 second walk from the bus stop, 2 mins from the train station and a couple of minutes from 2 of the biggest supermarkets in Australia. So why am I complaining? Well, it doesn't FEEL like home. And it's obviously not as luxurious as the service apartment I was staying at, neither does it have a harbour view :(

Australia is so far away from the rest of the world that traveling anywhere is a hassle. A round trip to India costs approx. $1500 (Rs 65-75k) if you book 3 months ahead of your travel date, and the connectivity is so poor that unless you're supremely lucky you will end up with a 10 hour stop over in South East Asia! You can forget about traveling to Europe unless you have $2000-2500 lying spare to blow up on flight tickets and you get a kick out of flying (24 hours flying time to London). You would think that with the technology that we have access to today, life in Australia would be simple. It is a developed country after all. But the truth is that this is one strange country.

In many ways, Australia is ages behind other developed countries. Internet is shit expensive. So are fruits & vegetables because Australians won't open their economy to imports. They have a number of protectionist policies for their farmers & retailers, which is a good thing, but it also means that consumers pays ridiculously high prices for the basic necessities. If there's a flash flood in Queensland, which happens only every month, bananas will cost you $13 for a dozen. Which is beyond ridiculous, it's insane. It's cheaper to drive to work than take public transport. A 500ml bottle of Coke costs $3.50 and pizzas don't have enough sauce. Subway makes horrible sandwiches. Their coffee is too bitter and luke warm and they look at you like you've just escaped from an institution if you ask for milk & sugar (I have baristas offer to put chocolate in my coffee instead of sugar since sugar is high in calories. Really, since when did chocolate become health food?). And no one in this country seems to have heard of plastic bottles! (They still make glass bottles that you have to uncork & pop the lid of, to store water).

You know I'm thinking maybe Australia should increase its minimum education requirement from high school to college. They could certainly use a couple of Eureka! moments.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

They say that expectations kill relationships. But you can't have a relationship without expectations, can you? The same holds true for friendships, and that's one of the things that distinguishes friends from acquaintances.

I expect someone I consider a friend to be there for me when I need him/her, and I would do the same for them. But 31 years and I still err when it comes to separating my friends from acquaintances.

The key is to remember that there IS a reason why you aren't "friends" with someone you may have casually known for some time. People who're meant to be friends click at the first go. If you didn't - or it didn't occur to you both to take things to the next level - it's a sign that you should invest your emotions, time and energy elsewhere. If you pursue something that's not meant to be, you WILL be disappointed sooner rather than later.

I'm very lucky and blessed to have the friends that I do - friends who are there for me when I'm going through a rough time, who stick by me through thick or thin, who lift my spirits when I'm low, and who know when they need to put me before themselves because my need at that time may be greater than theirs. I try to be there for my friends as much as I can. And that is how the cookie crumbles.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Does Art Work for You?

You see I'm just not an art person. I don't know how to appreciate art and honestly, I couldn't care less.

Yes, I can appreciate a painting and if that's something you're good at, I respect your talent. But it's the pseudo-intellectualization of art that escapes me completely. You draw a face and the person to whom it belongs has a story behind themselves which I'm supposed to guess, how?

And then there's the fact that no art exhibition is complete without a few paintings whose sole intention is to create shock value. All in the name of artistic freedom of course. And you see people, "art connoisseurs" supposedly, over-analyzing every single stroke of the brush, every color on the canvas as if they've been inside the painter's mind and back.

I'm sorry but art just doesn't work for me. Not even if there's unlimited free champagne involved. And definitely not when my feet are killing me from the high heel torture I've inflicted on them all day, and I'm expected to spend 2 hours walking around looking at paintings that make no sense to me and making small talk with strangers.

Nah, not happening.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Fun Monday. They Happen.

Going by the number of comments my posts have been getting of late, I don't think many people read my blog anymore :( I don't blame them though, I've hardly been updating this space of late. Anyway, on to happier things...

I had the most fun day at work today (apparently that IS possible) and I just have to share it with you guys!

So, today was 'Team Building Day' at work. Which means that clients were duly informed that we would be out for fun 'n' games and wouldn't be available all day. We were divided into teams and during the first half of the day, we had to write, script and shoot an ad!

The theme for the ad was 'the advantages of riding a horse to work' (!!!) and we were given props that we had to use in the ad - a horse that made strange noises if you pulled its ears and a bunch of Hula skirts.

Our ad revolved around bringing chivalry back. Horses are integral to that theme, of course. We did a very cool old Hollywood style British voice over talking about how men have, since time immemorial, been trying to impress women. In the medieval times they used to do it through chivalry, however over time they somehow seem to have lost their way and it's all about "getting laid" now. And they go about it in the most tacky, crass manner.

In line with the theme, we shot scenes where a White Knight slays a Dark Knight so he can rescue damsels in distress (with women wearing blond wigs and acting all helpless, of course), scenes with men opening doors and pulling out chairs for women.

Cut to modern times and we have men wearing Hula skirts and holding up 'Honk if you're horny' signs heckling women on the streets (basically to show how stupid men really are these days...LOL). The women were disgusted of course. We had a restaurant scene where the man pulls out a chair for his date but goes on to sit on it himself. And we had a scene in a club where men in pink cowboy hats are "accidentally" falling over women and trying to pick them up by using cheesy pick up lines.

We closed the ad with a scene where we showed a woman walking out of work and waiting for a taxi. A guy in a Porsche stops and offers her a ride, which she declines. And then a man gallops up to her on his horse and she rides with him into the sunset. Our closing line was "Riding a horse to work will not only get you noticed, it will also increase your chance of getting laid...because when it comes to choosing between a Porsche and a horse, she'll always choose the horse."

It makes no sense whatsoever, I know, but we had a blast shooting it b/c men in Hula skirts running down the streets and trying to act seductive is a hilarious sight.

During the second half, we were divided into teams again and we did a Masterchef Australia-like team challenge! We were taken to a restaurant called 'Cooking for Blokes' (need I elaborate further?) Each team was given a dish to prepare along with the recipe and the food we cooked was our lunch! My team made corn tortillas with a chorizo sausage filling (yumminess!), salsa & guacamole!

At the end of the challenge we had 2 starters, 2 main course dishes and a dessert! We also had judges and the team that came up with the best dish won a team dinner. There was also unlimited beer, champagne and sangrias, and by the time lunch ended we were all quite "happy" on spirits and were told that we didn't need to go back to work. Not a bad way to spend Monday at all, is it?

PS: I guess we're not done with the spirits yet. I'm now working on a half finished bottle of bubbly that's been lying in my fridge for a few days. Some days, you've just gotta let it flow. Cheers people!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Finding My Groove

Sydney is growing on me, and I'm sure the sparkling blue water of the harbour has got a lot to do with it.

I grew up in a rather land locked part of the country, but ever since I moved out of home I've been ending up in places that are either on the coast or very close to it. Which is ironic given that I'm hydrophobic (I love the sea but I don't like getting in). Maybe it's the Piscean in me that seeks out places close to the sea? My favorite cities in the world (amongst the ones I've been to/lived in) are all near a water body - Bombay, Chicago & San Francisco. It's to be seen whether Sydney makes it to that hallowed list but what I can say right away is that it's one of the most livable cities in the world.

For one, it's clean and green and all those things that seem to occur so effortlessly in developed countries.

Secondly, the people are extremely friendly and helpful. They smile at you in elevators, they'll happily help you with directions and will ask you to walk with them if they're going in the same direction, they'll stop and ask if you want them to take a picture of you/your group. The only other friendlier people I've met are the Americans but it depends on which part of America you're in!

Getting around in Sydney is really convenient thanks to the excellent public transport the city has. It's very well connected by buses, trains and ferries, all of which are clean, comfortable and run on schedule.

Sydney really takes care of its people. There are plenty of free attractions for citizens such as the Vivid Light Festival (that I wrote about in my previous post), and weekend fireworks & street performances at Darling Harbour.

And then there's the water front! The Sydney harbour is beautiful and they've done the most of using their water front to enhance the appeal of the city. Two of the most happening places in Sydney - The Rocks, home to the iconic Sydney Opera House, and Darling Harbour, a strip of restaurants, cafes & pubs - are situated along the water front.

Darling Harbour is home to some of the best restaurants in Sydney and has a number of cultural events going on at any given point of time. You can even catch free street performances if you're not in the mood to shell out dough for entertainment on a Saturday evening, and don't want to spend it cooped inside your home either. Twice a month, on Saturdays, there are fireworks!

And if you're from India, you can find comfort in brands. Many food and personal care brands available in India are available here as well - Lux, Dove, Nivea, Palmolive, Sunsilk, L'Oreal, Garnier, Olay, Nescafe, Tetley, Lipton are the ones I've seen till now. They even have Maggi here though they pronounce it differently (maji) and they don't have Maggi Masala noodles here of course!

The downside of living in Sydney is the ridiculously high cost of living.

Sydney is prohibitively expensive. Everything from real estate to groceries to clothes are e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e. The cost of living in this city is 1.5-2 times that of living in a similar city in America, and that's one of the reasons why I miss the US so much. People here can't go out for movies/dinner/drinks every weekend and end up spending most of their Friday/Saturday nights watching TV at home! Ask any Sydneysider what's the one thing he/she doesn't like about the city and you won't need to wait for an answer.

Having said that, I'm starting to enjoy living in Sydney. I guess it's about finding your groove. It's about finding like-minded people to hang out with. It takes time but you do end up finding your place in the city.

Do I see myself settling down in Sydney? I would have to say 'no', as of now anyway. Once you've explored all there is to Sydney it can become quite a boring city to live in (SWB, are you listening? :P) But I can definitely see myself spending a couple of years here enjoying the spirit of the Aussies and soaking in the sun at the city's water front.

Oh, and did I mention the here food is awesome?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sydney Blues

The third season of Masterchef Australia is on air right now and I'm hooked to it. The format is just as engaging as the second season that I saw in India. But unlike last season, I don't find myself rooting for any one contestant. Maybe it's b/c I don't find this year's contestants to be as culinarily capable as those from Season 2. Remember Marion, Adam, Callum & Jonathan? There's no one as good as them this time around. Instead there are people who make very basic home cook mistakes all the time, who crack under pressure and come up with disastrous, under-salted food, and who it seems are there just by fluke!

I clearly remember last year's contestants being able to rustle up French, Spanish, Russian, Indian, Asian dishes with equal elan. The furthest this year's contestants can stretch is Asian food, which is no achievement given that the Australian food scene is heavily dominated by Asian cuisine.

Having said that, it's quite comforting to be able to watch shows that I watched in India as well. That's the thing with Australian TV - most of the shows are American. Friends, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, and other shows that are aired on Star World in India. I do miss the trashy reality shows of India though. I wish I could watch 'Khatron ke Khiladi', Indian Idol, Big Boss etc.


This was a long weekend for us but the weather wrecked all my plans! I had plans to walk across the Harbour Bridge and take pictures of the harbour, to walk around Kirribilli Village (it's this cute little hilly neighbourhood near where I stay, with adorable houses and small shops & restaurants), and to go to Darling Harbour. But the cold, incessant rain made sure I was under house arrest for most of the weekend. I did brave the rains and go to The Rocks though....yay!!

You know, the thing is maybe I'm being too demanding of myself. I've been in Sydney only 2 weeks and I expect myself to be in love with the city already. Which I think is an unrealistic expectation given that I came here without any friends.

I think I need to give myself 5-6 months to fall in love with Sydney. That's the minimum amount of time it takes to find a set of consistent friends, get to know your way around, and generally feel "settled" in a city. What d'you think?


The good news is that I move into my new house - which is in the heart of Sydney - in a couple of weeks. Yay!!

I'm staying in a service apartment right now, in a very upscale part of Sydney. Which means there are no supermarkets around, hardly any people walking the streets, and all the shops & restaurants shut by 4pm on weekdays and remain shut on weekends. This place is a ghost town after 5pm on weekdays and practically throughout the can't even get a cup of coffee or a sandwich if you're dying of hunger and are out of food at home. Whereas I'm a city girl thru 'n' thru. So you can imagine how excited I am to be moving to a more lively part of Sydney. Heck, it doesn't get more lively than the City and soon my blues will go away...yay!!

Having said that, I so miss my mom and my dad and my sister and my friends in India. We usually don't know what we have until we don't have it anymore. The good thing is I now know exactly how blessed I am to have people who love me as much as my family & friends do, and I know never to take them for granted EVER again. Moonshine, Knife, Serendipity - I love you guys! :((

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sydney Lovin'

'The Rocks' is where it all began for Sydney. It's the place where the first European settlers in Australia disembarked, and still hosts an Overseas Passenger Terminal for those arriving in Australia by ship. The 19th century warehouses have since then been converted to restaurants & pubs, and the narrow cobblestone streets are now home to The Rocks Market where you can buy arts & crafts, clothes/jewellery etc. as well as fresh produce. The Rocks is also the place where Sydneysiders can go to enjoy free events such as the on-going Vivid Light Festival.

Yesterday was a bright & sunny day, and this being the last weekend of Vivid, I decided to go to The Rocks with a couple of friends for a little bit of Sydney lovin' that I so seem to need right now. Besides, there was the lure of having a mocha at Guylian, a place highly recommended by The Knife. Unfortunately, the weather turned by the time we reached Circular Quay, the area leading up to The Rocks.

The Circular Quay is home to the iconic Sydney Opera House. Being adjacent to the Harbour Bridge, The Rocks also offers stunning views of the bridge. We were wet and cold to the bone but we just stood there watching the rain meet the open sea. It reminded me of Bandstand during the monsoon...there were so many times when my roommate & I would walk down to Bandstand in the rains, sit inside the Barista with a hot drink and watch the rain lash at the swollen sea. Then we'd take a walk down the promenade, get drenched and go back home wet, cold but utterly satisfied. I miss Bandra :-(

Anyway, back to Sydney and The Rocks. The mocha at Guylian didn't happen because there was a 20 minute queue to be seated inside the cafe, and being almost soaked, we weren't feeling adventurous enough to rough it out in their outdoor seating area. But a double cheeseburger with fries from Hungry Jack (Burger King as it's known in Australia) and a hot chocolate later, we were good to slum it out for another couple of hours to watch the Vivid light show and the fire dance.

The Vivid light show is this thing where they decorate the trees with dancing lights of various colors, project 3D lights on to the Opera House (I think they were trying to go for fish shapes but they came across looking like sperms!) and have choreographed fire shows and the likes.

It was a long evening...felt longer because we were wet and cold to the bone. But it was such a lot of fun. We shared umbrellas, took horrible pictures (thanks to the rain & cloudy skies!), and I realized once again how much I really love cities that have the sea.

PS: Should I kill myself before I admit that I'm in love with Katy Perry's 'Firework'? Or is it acceptable to like her? :p

PPS: I have a retarded wi fi connection. I just spent an hour uploading 4 pictures on Blogger and then I lost them all. There's no way I'm going thru' that painful process again, so picts will come when they come. @#$%^&*%$#@@!$%

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Sydney, Part I

It’s been a month since I last posted, and what a month it’s been! I packed up my house and moved continents! I’d call that pretty eventful.

Today is a week since I landed in Sydney.

Sydney is a beautiful city and pretty awesome too (I’m sure the fact that I'm currently staying a stone's throw from the Harbour Bridge in a service apartment with a Bay view, and that the walk to work includes includes a 5 minute stretch with breath-taking views of the Harbour Bridge with ships & ferries floating about, has got nothing to do with my perception of the city :P). But like any big city in the world, including Bombay, Sydney is fun only if you have friends . Else it can get pretty lonely.

Here are my first impressions of Sydney, Australia and Australians in general:

1. There are 2 parts to Sydney - Sydney & North Sydney. The area to the north of the Harbour Bridge is called North Sydney and that to the south is Sydney. Both have their own CBDs (Central Business Districts) and are both self-sufficient, but are very different in terms of ambience.

2. The part of Sydney you live in is directly proportional to your state of happiness. I work in North Sydney and am currently staying in the same area. And let me tell you something - this area can get pretty deserted & lonely after 6pm on weekdays and on weekends. Safety isn't an issue but if you're a city person like me, the kind of person that likes to have people and activity around, there's a good chance you'll find North Sydney depressing. In that case I'd recommend living in the City area. It's more expensive than other parts of Sydney - obviously - but it's alive and kicking till 10-10.30pm on week nights and pretty buzzing over weekends as well. Not to mention that everything from supermarkets to pharmacies to pubs/restaurants/cafes to shopping to healthcare centers will be within 5 minutes walking.

3. That's the other thing about Sydney, you've got to be prepared to walk. ALOT. But then that's true of most big cities, isn't it? You'll need to walk to the station, walk from the station to your office/home, walk from parking to office, walk to the supermarket, walk if you want to shop.

4. Sydney is an EXPENSIVE city!!! Phew!!!!! Be prepared to shell out big bucks for everything from rent to eating out to entertainment. Even public transport, though excellent, is fairly expensive. Sample this - a tube of 100gm toothpaste costs $5, eating out at a decent (not fancy) restaurant will set you back by $20-25 per person, on average, (I'm talking one dish and a non-alcoholic beverage to go with it), a regular cup of mocha will cost you approx. $4, movie tickets are $20 (!!!), the minimum fare for a one-way train ride is $3.20. You get the picture. I'd say the cost of living in Sydney is approx. 1.5 times that of an American city. You'll get used to how much everything costs here but it will take a while.

5. Sydney has excellent public transport - trains, buses & ferries. Public transport is the way to go if you want to avoid getting stuck in traffic snarls. Trains & buses are clean, run on schedule, and though crowded during peak hours, it's never an unpleasant experience as people are civilized and courteous towards each other. A word of warning though - public transport in Sydney isn't as cheap as one may think. But there are weekly passes available at 7 Elevens and news agencies, which allow unlimited travel and therefore work out to be slightly more economical. You can get Weeklies made for trains, buses & ferries separately, or you can get a Multi-zone pass that will allow unlimited travel by any mode of public transport.

5. The food here is mind blowing. Name any cuisine under the sun and it's available here. You need not go to a fancy place if you feel like having Thai or Lebanese or Turkish food. There are moderately priced restaurants/take away joints all over the city (when I say moderately priced in mean $7-10 per dish) where you can get authentic global cuisine, cooked by natives (part of the reason it's so good?). And they don't skimp on portions. The flip side - you need to really watch your weight.

6. Most shops and shopping complexes here close at 5pm on weekdays & Saturday and are shut on Sunday. If you're living in North Sydney the thing to bear in mind is that all shops, including restaurants & cafes, close by 5pm, are open only half-day on Saturday & are shut on Sunday.

7. Bank accounts are the easiest thing to get in this country. Everything else is a bitch. The only document you need for a bank account is a valid photo ID and an address (can be your employer's address). However, God help you when it comes to looking for a house to rent, a post-paid phone connection, cable or internet. You'll need more documents for this than you did for your visa! You'll be asked for your passport, health insurance card, bank statement (showing a fair amount of money in the bank), credit card, employer letter (in some cases), driver's license (if you have one), lease agreement etc.

8. People in Sydney are always dressed up. Quite like Europeans. The normal dress code for women in winters is jeans tucked inside boots, or short skirts with stockings & boots. The color code is black, grey & off-white. Everyone wears make up all the time. It's rare to find people dressed in jeans, sweatshirt and walking shoes.

9. Work starts early. Like reallllllly early. Working hours are usually 9-5pm. 9-4 if you're lucky. Most people are at work by 8.30-8.45am, so if you're not a morning person, think twice before moving to Australia.

10. Aussies are friendly people, very willing to help. Contrary to perception, they're not arrogant and snooty. I'd say they're mid-way between Americans & Europeans in terms of their culture and disposition.

11. They're very proud of their country and their nationality. This is very evident in TV shows and advertisements. They take pride in and support everything that's Australian grown/made.

12. Unfortunately, people in most parts of the world - including India - are not exposed to any part of Australian culture be it TV shows or news. Aussie culture is very different from the rest of the World, so be prepared to feel a little lost in group situations at the beginning. The best way to get up to speed would be to watch TV, including commercials, read Aussie magazines and visit Australian websites.

These are my first impressions of Sydney. It's a wonderful city even though a little bit lacking in history (there's a reason Australia is part of "The New World"). I miss the history that cities like Bombay, Calcutta, London & Paris have and that's reflected in their architecture. But I visited the City area today and fell in love with it. It's everything that one looks for in a city and more. You have to be a city person to appreciate it, of course. I'll do more posts on Sydney as & when I experience things. For now I need to go do my laundry. Ooh, what a fun way to spend to Saturday night!


Friday, May 6, 2011

I'm On a Month Long Break From Work....

....and I'm loving every bit of it.

I've been working non-stop for the last eight years almost. For the past couple of years I've been planning to take 3-6 months off (because anything less would've been too short) but I haven't had the opportunity and I don't have the financial cushion of falling back on a husband. Not yet. And I've been too chicken to give up my job without another in hand in the absence of a financial cushion. But I'm between jobs right now and with some clever planning and a little bit of luck, I've managed to squeeze in a month off. And I so need it given what lies ahead, but more on that later.

So as I said I've been thoroughly enjoying my time off. I wake up by 8.30-9 every day, pour over the gossip supplements of newspapers for hours, have a leisurely breakfast, laze around the house, take a shower, sleep, meet friends for lunch/coffee/dinner, go to book shops, work out, read, watch movies...and I could do this for the rest of my life! I will NOT get bored. It's just so nice to not worry about deadlines and revenues, slog over Excel sheets and presentations, fire fight, or rattle your brains over whether every member of your team is happy and is having their expectations met.

With the new job comes a new country....Australia!!!!! Sydney to be precise. Now the thing that I don't understand is, why do people have an opinion on a place without having been to it? My friends in Sydney and some friends who've visited the city recently have only good things to say about it. And there are some who've never been to Sydney but are going out of their way to tell me what a boring/dead place it is, based on accounts of their cousins/friends/whoever who didn't like the place at all. For all I know, they were most probably extremely homesick people or people who don't mingle with the locals of the place they migrate to, but keep looking for other Indians who they can celebrate Diwali Nights with.

No hard feelings against Indians in other countries or their Diwali Nights, but I feel the whole point of moving to another country is to integrate with the local population and experience things one hasn't experienced before.

To each his own though. I recently came across a person who didn't like Paris inspite of living there for 4 years! Paris, for Chrissake!!!! The reason - language and the lack of Indians. What can I takes all kinds?

What I'm sure of is that if I haven't been to a place I'd keep my opinion to myself. At most, I'd tell the person that I've heard from people I know that it's not a great place to be, but I haven't experienced it myself so I could be wrong. I'd never talk as if I'm a veteran of the city!

Anyway, I may be infrequent at this space for a while given the impending move and the millions of errands that go with it. This post was primarily to share the news with you and to let you know that the party is in Oz :)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

It's Not So Much About the Royal as About the Wedding

Okay I'll admit it outright - I found the mass hysteria surrounding the royal wedding completely inane. Both among the Brits and Indians. It was just two people getting married at the end of the day. Thousands of couples get married all over the world everyday. And come on, who cares about royalty in this day & age of democratic governments? I fail to understand how Kings & Queens still exist in so many countries across the's such an antiquated concept. And I can't fathom why the Britishers are so enamoured with their royals.

Even more ridiculous was Indians and the Indian media getting excited about the wedding as if one of our own was getting married. Hell, we don't get as kicked even if when one of our national icons gets married, do we? So why the excitement over the wedding of the grandson of the Queen of another country which ruled us for a couple of hundred years? Was it a sign that we haven't been able to shake off our colonial hangover yet?

When my mother and grandmother announced they were planning to watch the live telecast of the royal wedding, I made fun of them. One has to be truly jobless in life to sit & watch two people getting married all day on television. But there was that curiosity within me to find out what Kate Middleton was wearing on her big day. Rather, WHO she was wearing. So I tuned in to the repeat telecast of the wedding just to check her dress out, and ended up watching most of it! Well, till they kissed on the balcony of the Buckingham Palace.

First things first though. That woman didn't disappoint with her wedding dress. Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen - an unusual choice given that most of Alexander McQueen's creations are so radical and out there. But Sarah Burton - who was appointed the creative head of Alexander McQueen after his suicide - is known to be relatively more understated than the man himself. And what a dress she designed for Kate! I loved it! It was modern and chic, yet so timeless and elegant. Simple yet so stylish! The plunging neckline balanced the sleeves beautifully, the bodice was very well fitted, and the trail was long without being imposing. Breath-taking creation. And I have to hand it to Kate for not getting carried away by the occasion and keeping her make-up and jewellery minimal. Have you noticed how Indian brides end up looking the ugliest they've ever looked in their lives, on their wedding day? Ironic, isn't it?

What struck me the most about the wedding though, that made me all mushy inside and made me want a marriage (not a wedding) just like that right then & there, were the vibes between William & Kate. They were talking to each other at regular intervals throughout the ceremony, he was holding her hand, helping her climb/descend from carriages, and they kept deferring to each other throughout. Showing in little ways that they really care about each other. It was so heart warming. The way they kept looking at each other, you could tell they're so much in love. It made me, a marriage-o-phobe, crave a wedding with the man I love right then & there :/

It must be such a special feeling. Sigh!

Some of my friends were really stoked about the commoner-marrying-a-prince bit but I was moved by the love between the couple and the fact that they made it after ten long years of courtship and inspite of two break ups. I just wish the kiss had lasted longer. For the meantime, this is what we'll have to make do with...

Friday, April 22, 2011

He's Just Not That Into You

Have you seen the movie? It's got a whole bunch of people in it - Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Bradley Cooper (sigh!), Ben Affleck, Justin Long. And it's every woman's story!

All of us women have gone through most of the situations that are shown in the movie. The girl who's been in a relationship with a guy for a long long time but he doesn't want to marry her because, apparently, he doesn't believe in marriage. And the girl doesn't keep harping on it because she doesn't want to be clingy and needy and force him to do something he isn't ready for yet. And she keeps waiting for him to come around, until one day she realizes he's never going to marry her. She breaks up with him and the next she hears of him is that he's getting married to some hot 22 year old, or in the case of Indian men to some "homely girl with Indian values" of his parents' choice!

Or the girl who relentlessly pursues men who aren't really into her or don't deserve her while all along confiding in a guy friend who listens to her and talks her through her heartbreaks and rejections. Till she realizes that he's the guy she's most comfortable with and is meant to be with.

Or the girl who gets dumped by her boyfriend for completely ludicrous reasons such as "it's not you, it's me" (heard that so many times, ugh!). Or "I don't deserve you" (excuse me while I go find myself a barf bag). Or worst of all "I'm so jealous of whoever you end up with" (hello, it could've been you!)

Or the girl who falls in love with a man who's married or about to get married to his long-time girlfriend who he loves very much but need not necessarily be 'in love' with. He wants to be with the other woman but he isn't willing to walk out on his wife/girlfriend either, and it's the women get screwed in the process. Of course, in the movie it's the guy who ends up getting screwed - because movies have a sense of justice. Real life doesn't.

I recently came across a quote that went "Behind every gorgeous woman is a man who's bored of her". Now, that's quite a scary thought! It goes against every grain of optimism in my body, yet the cynic in me yells that it's so very true. And guess what....the cynic wins! For how else do you explain what we see all around with the most gorgeous wives/girlfriends who will not fail to cheat if an opportunity presents itself.

And then there are people in this world who've never had their hearts broken. They just cannot comprehend what someone who's recently had their heart broken is going through b/c they've never had to face a feeling of having been hurt and let down. Do I envy them? Of course I to! They live in a state of bliss. They've never had to deal with a feeling of rejection, hurt and disappointment. All that bull about break ups teaching you a lot about life and yourself was designed by authors of self-help books whose books would otherwise not sell a single copy.

Okay, maybe there's some truth to that claim. Break ups do shape the person you become to a certain extent. But I'd rather have a happy life, thank you very much.

So the question really is 'what is true love'? Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France has a very different point of view on love and faithfulness in relationships. In an interview I read recently in The Times of India, he says that according to him being faithful to a woman means not abandoning her, it doesn't mean not straying. So long as a man stays with his woman, he should be considered faithful and his dalliances with other women should be ignored.

It's a very complicated theory but unfortunately that's the way relationships are evolving these days. Men have a completely different view on love and relationships than women, and the two couldn't be more divergent. And the way I see it, this entire thing about men's unwillingness to commit and likelihood of straying will only increase over time. The question is, are women ready to deal with this changing face of love and relationships? Because we WILL need to deal with it at some point. And the answer, sadly, is a resounding 'no'. We're not ready yet.

Will we ever be? I don't know.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Existential Angst

You know that feeling when you're dying to pour your heart out on your blog but you can't because you don't blog anonymously anymore? And your blog isn't read only by your friends but by an assortment of people? And you're now at an age where you start weighing the pros & cons of your actions and you don't let yourself get carried away.

I so miss being in my early 20s. When no problem meant the end of the world. When you were able to just get up, shrug, brush the dust off your hands and move on if things weren't working out the way you wanted them to.

Since I can't - rather won't - crib about certain things on this blog, I'll tell you what I need right now.

A gang of the most fun girlfriends!!!!

I so miss having a girl gang at times. I've mostly had guy friends right through college and my 20s, and while boys are crazy fun too they won't pull you out of an emotional crisis. Most of them at any rate. You can only crib so much to them before their eyes glaze over and they suggest you drown your sorrows in bottles of chilled piss, a.k.a. beer.

Girl friends are so much more fun. They 'understand' and they know just what works when the chips are down - a great shopping session buying things you don't need, watching chick flicks and gossipping! Ah, therapeutic!

My girl friends are scattered all over the globe now and most of them don't even know each other, so I really do miss having a "girl gang". And what I need right now is a week in Goa with my girls, lazing around on the beach in beach hats, oversized sunglasses and floral flip flops, and sipping on unlimited apple/strawberry martinis. With a game of paintball thrown in. Why should boys have all the fun?


Life isn't all gloomy though. I just learnt that my new place of work has the most laidback dress code - jeans! Even for client meetings!! Without rips & holes though. I think I can live with that :-)

And the city I'm about to move to has the most glorious weather - 18-30 degrees (Celsius) in the summer and 5-20 degrees in the winter. I can live with that too! :D

And I've been reading a very funny book that The Knife gave me when I met him last. It's a book by Bill Bryson called 'Down Under' where he talks about all the things that can kill you in Australia. There are thousands apparently! But it also showcases the spirit, niceness and funness (?) of the Australian people. It's a travelogue but one of the funniest books I've read.

So yeah, life is good bits & pieces. But why must it always be bittersweet?