Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Scuba 'n surfing...

Following my earlier post, I finished my PADI certification at the beautiful Ulua beach in Maui. After that, we took another dive to some 40ft to check out some turtles. The green sea turtles put on quite a show for us. We took some photos, and I will put them up online soon.

I took another surfing lesson, with much better results this time around. I managed to catch quite a few waves, to my own surprise. Goaded by the instructor, I even tried a 180 stunt -- jumping on the board to turn myself by 180 degrees. Didn't quite make it, but I sure had a great time that day!

In the last few days there we snorkeled at Hanouma bay in Waikiki, Honolua-Waikelu (sp?) bay and Black Rock Pt in Maui and then, the best of all, at the Molokini crater. At Molokini we had visibility of nearly 150 feet, and saw a huge variety of fish and coral.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I've been in Hawaii for four days now, of which 3 were in Maui. Beyond doubt, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The beaches are great, there is a whole bunch of things to do.. I took one surfing lesson, but apart from the three times I stood up and surfed to the shore, I spent the entire morning paddling or falling into the water :-). I am also one open water dive away from my PADI certification.

Today's dive was quite amazing. We dove to some 20 ft, off of the Makena beach here. Somewhere in the middle of the dive my instructor pointed a finger at something, and I looked up to see a giant sea turtle swim by. The visibility was great and the turtle swimming by only a few feet away as I took my underwater lessons was quite a sight. These turtles have a kind of smug, bored look about them. I guess it comes from spending a lifetime chilling in warm waters around here. :-)

I drove around the island a little bit today, mostly the northwest part. I was surprised to see a sign for "Blow Horn" on the curvy hilly roads here. It was funny because it is probably the first time I have seen this sign outside of India. The drive was nice, going uphill and around the green hills, with lots of photo-worthy sights. This drive isn't advertised much here, probably because of the nastiness of it -- it is mostly a single-lane road with lots of blind turns. On the other hand the "road to Hana" is on everyone's list of things to do in Maui -- and is full of cars. I am planning to check that out tomorrow. After, hopefully, I get my PADI certification.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


1984 evokes many different metaphors. The one that springs to mind first, of course, is the Orwellian world. Of late, however, there have been memories of what happened in India, Delhi in particular, that have been more on my mind.

I recently read another fascinating book by William Dalrymple -- City of Djinns. This books is an account of the author's one year in Delhi, sometime around 1990. Dalrymple writes with wit and has a fascinating collection of anecdotes. On top of it all, his curiosity and passion for the city of Delhi is amazing. And it shows in his narrative.

Coming to the point about 1984, the author recounts conversations with people in Delhi who suffered through that nightmarish episode. For many people in Delhi, it seems, the partition in 1947 and the riots in 1984 have left scars that run deep. The incidents in 1984 might even be topical these days, given the resignation of Mr. Tytler and the statements from prime minister Manmohan Singh.

I was 9 years old when the riots broke out in Delhi, and many other parts of India. I recall seeing the news on TV about Indira Gandhi's assassination. I don't recall the news about the massacres that happened soon after. One morning, a day or two after the assasination, I woke up to find that a Sikh family who lived in the house opposite ours were camping in ours. My mother explained to me, still half-asleep and quite perplexed, that there were fears that their house might have been attacked, and therefore my parents had brought them home in the night. Another family was similarly camping in our next door neighbour's house. I didn't quite feel the fear then, rather I felt kind of happy to have their kids at our place. But I did feel my family was kind of heroic in doing what they did. And then we saw a house in some distance go up in flames -- we rushed up to the roof, and we could see a couple more fires in distance. I don't recall a whole lot more but I do recall the fear in the air.

I think the people responsible for the riots deserve to be punished. However, hoping for justice and expecting it in India are two very different things.

Life in New York

Deep down, I've always wanted to spend a lot of time in New York. Every time I go there and leave, I feel I want to come back here and stay here for a while. Maybe it will happen one day. Till then I'm content with occasional visits.

When I landed in New York, the weather was hot and humid and, as everyone seemed to agree, quite unfriendly and quite unlike New York. Nevertheless, we hit the town soon after brunch. We were headed for the matinee show of The Lion King. We had time to kill and based on someone's recommendation (looking to counter the heat that was beginning to get to us), we stood in the queue for twenty minutes at Coldstone's to treat ourselves to a large cup of ice cream. Not bad, but it didn't quite hit the spot.

The Lion King show though definitely did. It was everything people had described, and maybe a little more. The only other Broadway show I have seen is the incredibly funny Urinetown. The two were both different from each other but the Lion King's setup seemed incredibly well thought out and very clever.

After the show we rushed to the Quad cinemas to catch a show of Tony Takitani. This was a 75 minute movie adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami. After reading Norwegian Wood, I'm ready to lap up anything from this genius of a writer. The movie was kind of contemplative, and had a creative way of involving the characters into the narration of the story -- it kind of brought the characters closer to the screen than what a simple background narration would have done. I enjoyed the movie, and felt all the more a desire to spend time in this city, and watch a hundred more such movies before they disappear from the collective consciousness of mankind.

When we stepped out of the show we found New York wet and dark. A huge downpour had descended on the city and we were stuck under the awning outside the theater along with other fellow filmgoers. For some odd reason it reminded me of a scene from Woody Allen's Annie Hall -- I'm sure someone who's seen the movie will know which one. :-)
We managed to catch a cab, with the help of a friend who had come to join us there after the movie. We were headed for 11 Madison Ave., for dinner at a hip Indian fusion restaurant -- Tabla.

Tabla wasn't a disappointment, by any means, but didn't measure up to my expectations. Nevertheless, a great place to catch food with a touch of Indian flavor and a dose of creativity and fusion.

The next day in New York presented itself with a fresh face. It seemed as though we had time-warped into the fall in just one day. We celebrated by packing our rollerblades and hitting the Central Park soon after breakfast -- Central Park being another great reason to live in Manhattan. I couldn't help myself from comparing Cubbon Park in Namma Bengaluru to the Central Park. Well, comparing isn't exactly the word. I did think about Cubbon Park. Both are a large, green expanse in the middle of a bustling city. In case of Central Park, the city is New Yotk and park is much bigger, has reservoirs, running tracks and more. Cubbon Park definitely has its own charm, one must admit.

It is the 16th today, and officially my vacation has begun. I am headed to Maui on the 19th for scuba diving. I have a small fear that I might end up becoming a beach bum by the time I am done with my time off from Amazon. Either that, or a snow bum, if there is such a thing.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Let's get serious

After a long stint at Amazon, I finally decided to take a break. I've been toying with the idea for a long time, and finally things come to a point when I thought the timing couldn't be more perfect. Or almost. Nevertheless, the die is cast, and I am taking off on a sabbatical from work. The time off starts August 16th and I return mid November.

What am I planning to do? So many things... and three months seem so little! For now, I have tickets booked to the US, landing in New York. After a couple of days there and then a couple of days with my sister in North Carolina, I plan to head out to Hawaii and complete my PADI certification for scuba diving. I hope I am able to finish it this time around. I return back to Bangalore in early September. I am hoping I'll be able to wander around in the Himalayas for nearly a month without having a fixed plan. There are places in Himachal (Lahaul, Spiti, Narkanda) and Garhwal (Nanda Devi) that I want to spend time at. I might even spend some time in Ladakh again.

I am also looking into getting some surfing action in October. It looks like my earlier plan for spending time in Spain might not be feasible then. Australia looks more likely. New Zealand looks like it will be colder and more expensive.

Ah.. all these plans. I hope I'm able to see them all through.

Last weekend I went back home to Chandigarh. It was such a pleasure to drive in the city beautiful. There's so little traffic and the roads are actually wider. It is also pleasantly surprising to see roads being constantly widened and there is an acual plan for a mass transit system. Bangalore, on the other hand, despite being the so-called IT hub of India, is way behind in its public transport and mass transit.

On the trip I managed to wade through the rest of the White Mughals. I had written about it a while ago, but somehow didn't manage to finish it then. As before, I found the account of the British times in India extremely fascinating. What with Mangal Pandey coming out and all, it might even be topical. The movie also features a British guy taking on a Hindu girl as a lover. The book even recounts how women come from England in the hope of finding a suitable match, only to find that the British men here preferred Indian women (and these womenfolk who returned empty handed were called "returned empties" back home.. the British didn't have much imagination in those times, maybe...).

The trip also gave me time to read what I thought was a really great book: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. It has been a very long time since I read a book where the characters were so real, and so well written. There were parts where the book nearly made me cry. I have two more books of his lying on my shelf and they are not going to remain unread for long!

Back from Chandigarh, this week just feels like vacation already. I just can't keep myself from thinking about surfing, diving, trekking... Aaargh! It's time to get serious about having some unalderated fun. Work's for suckers.