Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A few good books

I've been catching up on some reading lately. I have to thank the time I got on flights recently to get me back in the reading habit.

Mjarne Satrapi, a Persian author, came out with an interesting comic-book format for her book, Persepolis. Lekha had recommended the book to me more than once, so I decided to check it out. It was a short and fascinating read. It also brought back to mind another movie based in middle east about a child growing up in a war-torn country -- West Beirut. Both of these are charmers and I recommend them wholly.

I took a sneak peek at the Time's 100 most influential people edition at the airport. There were some who stuck out for me. The best was that Miyazaki features on the list!! The other surprise for me was the author Malcom Gladwell. I read his Tipping Point very recently and I have now begun to realize how widely it has been read. I kind of guessed it by the number of copies lying on the counter at the small bookstore at the Bangalore airport. The book is indeed a good read. I came away with good insights into network effect, and in general have come to revere the author's abilities.

I am in Seattle this week. I had stopped over in Palo Alto for a day -- a day spent entirely indoors in office meetings. Nevertheless, one thing stood out about the place that I found interesting. I had not seen such a high proportion of cars in an American town to be European -- mostly Audi's and Mercedes.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Miyazaki's latest

I have been patiently waiting for Howl's moving castle for a while. I had heard about it ages ago on Orkut. It looks like it is not going to be released in the US till June. And that's not a great help for me either since I don't expect the movie to show up in India ever. This means either I have to wait for the DVD to come out, or I have to time a visit to a country playing this movie. Why am I so crazy about this movie? Check it out!.

Movign to Bangalore has made a serious dent in my movie watching. First off, this town has no taste in movies. After the whole rage around not showing non-Kannada movies for the first few week of release died down, I still find that hardly any of the more interesting, offbeat movies make it down here. Delhi seems to be a much better place in that respect. Nevertheless, I managed to catch a somewhat offbeat movie recently -- Chai Pani. The movie was another amateurish attempt at mocking our corrupt system, though it had hardly anything novel to it. Most of the characters were predictable, most situations contrived and in general the movie had hardly any impact.

So where have all the good filmmakers gone? I notice a new trend in Bollywood these days. Besides just introducing new starlets in movies, producers (renowned ones too) are bringing in fresh directors. It looks like Karan Johar, Ram Gopal Verma and the Chopras are the primary pioneers here. Three cheers for them!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Tasting the waters of river Kali

It has been a while since I updated the blog. I've promised to myself that I will be more regular in writing still more useless stuff about my shenanigans. A lot has happened since the trip to Auli. Or so I would like to think. In the two months since then, I've been involved in a nasty road accident, had a chance to explore Goa once again, and now have been kayaking and rafting on river Kali. In hidsight, maybe not a whole lot has been happening. :(

For anyone who is not familiar with Indian traffic laws, here is a piece of sincere advice: Do everything your intuition and feeling of goodwill tells you not to do, and do not do anything that seems right in any civilised country. Yes, there is a long story here, and I am not yet ready to say it, but will write about it soon. One more lesson learnt -- when you move to a place where you don't know the local language, you should probably have a driver who speaks one, or put in the effort to know the language. It helps.

But this post is not about that story. A week or so ago, on the long weekend, we decided to head over to Goa once again. The last time we were there, the beaches were isolated because the tourist season had yet not started. This time I hoped the tourists would have left. Wrong. Goa seems to be a place where no one wants to leave. The season was ebbing, but still tourists swarmed the beaches of Goa like ants.(Ever since Navjot Singh Siddhu started putting out analogies, I have been making an effort to avoid them, but can't resist the temptation sometimes.) Anyway, Goa seemed very different from last time. We stayed at the Bagha beach again, this time at Baia do Sol, at the very end of the Bagha beach. The hotel was ok, charged us about Rs. 1700 for an AC room for two people, including breakfast and one meal. It seemed like a reasonable deal, given that most other hotels were sold out. The hotel also hooked up a motorcycle, at Rs. 200 a day (pretty reasonable, especially since the travel books said that we should expect Rs. 250-300), and that made a huge difference. Equipped with a map (Rs. 30) and a motorcycle, we explored beaches away from the crowds. We chanced upon the Morjim beach, to the north of the Anjuna and Vagator, and it was the most perfect place. A small local shack (quite unlike the very commercialized ones on Bagha) set us up with umbrellas and chairs and drinks and food, at one-third the prices on Bagha, and much better beach with much more seclusion. Needless to say, we were there the next day as well. This time, the shack owner made us a prawn curry with three bigass tiger prawns floatin in it. If you have not had prawns sitting in the shade under the Sun on a beach in Goa, with the beautiful empty beach around you and waves crashing in front, I can't relate the experience in words that will do it justice. It was one of those times that Wodehouse would describe as feeling all is well with the world and you are on top of it. Sigh..

We also happened to land at the Saturday night bazaar in Arpora this time. It is a huge flea market. Most of peddlers and visitors are foreign tourists. It is easy to doubt if you are actually in India while roaming the bazaar. The prices are about 50 times what you would find outside the bazaar, but not for everything. Variety is interesting and huge. You hear just about every language and accent you can think of in a span of 100 meters. The place very much adds up to the whole atmosphere of impending doom that lurks about Goa.

Back from Goa, I found out that Hemant and others are planning for another trip there. Tempted though I was, I couldn't join them for that. But I did jump at the chance to do some kayaking on river Kali enroute to Goa. We hopped on to a bus on Friday night, and found ourselves having breakfast at the Jungle Lodge in Dhandeli by 9am the next day. We hooked up with Andy, our kayaking guide/instructor for the day, and spent the day getting a taste of white water kayaking. "White water" is a bit of an exaggeration though. I didn't actually hit any rapids on the kayaks. Most of the time we spent learning to roll and keep our kayaks going in a straight line, both of which I found to be pretty difficult to perfect -- not that I did perfect it. In the process I gulped down a lot of river water too. I am almost expecting something drastic to happen to me as a result, but nothing yet. The next day, we joined the white water rafting trip with other folks staying at the lodge. Soon we had 5 rafts with about 7 people each heading down the river and hitting the rapids. Out guide -- Ravi -- was probably the most fun rafting guide I have met. He was throwing people overboard for a swim, was doing somersault dives off the boat and had us stand up and "jiggy-jiggy" on the boat in the middle of a rapid. These guys surely knew how to have a good time with a somewhat wild river and an inflatable raft full of tourists.

I've been very impressed with the stuff Jungle Lodges and Resorts have done for eco-tourism. If you haven't checked them out, pay them a visit: www.junglelodges.com.