Tuesday, August 30, 2011
On a visit to India, she was caught in a traffic jam. She noticed a rider on a motorcycle waiting impatiently in the jam. When the rider realized the entire exercise would mean an indefinite wait, he rode over the divider to the reverse lane. In order to ride over the divider, he had to find a few brick pieces since the divider was of a different height. In addition, he also had to let other people blocking his way to use the same technique.
My friend, the management consultant, has a different take on this incident which broke all rules and also should have astonished her. Indians are able to find a way out of tricky situation. They do not wait for things to happen. They make things happen.
Personally, I differ. You will find these characteristics regardless of race and creed. But what I learnt from the conversation is what many people often repeat. Keep your eyes. There is always a different perspective. It is indeed a fresh view of an issue which usually ends up driving up my blood pressure to the roof.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Craziness. That is summing up in one word. Fete de Ganesha is the festivities organized by Parisian Ganesha devotees. Does it coincide with Ganesha Chathurthi? I am not an expert. But this year, it coincided with the period. The main attraction of this festival is the procession which starts from the Ganesha temple returning back to the starting point after taking a stroll through the narrow local streets infested with Srilankan shops. Though I call it "Little India", this is not true. This is "Little Srilanka".
The streets and the shops were decorated for the day with Tamil and Hindi devotional songs flowing out along with the smell of incense. There were a lot of jasmine sellers on the street. Parisians have come in hordes to see the festivities. Their curiosity factor added to the sales of jasmine. Once bought, jasmines were tied in different innovative styles which invoked laughter. The traffic came to a standstill. The local press covered the event. Press and volunteers controlling the traffic had yellow badges either hanging from their pockets or tied around the arm.
The procession with the floats were the main attraction. Each of the float is preceded by people playing Indian instruments or the dancers. The bigger floats were pulled by people. There was one float pulled by men and another pulled by women. It was fun to watch people dancing and pulling with religious fervor.
Some Parisians looked at the event from their balcony.
The procession lasts more than 2 hours. The streets are so thickly packed that you can hardly move. I didn't wait for the entire drama to unfold. I moved away with lots of picture and memories to write about. But soon I realized the restaurants were charging "Ganesha" specials in their bills.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Following their graduation party at Edinburg University in 1988, Emma(Anne Hathaway) and Dexter(Jim Sturgess) end up in Emma’s room. It is early in the morning and nothing sexual happens between them. Instead they spend time snuggling and falling in sleep. The day is 15th July, St Swithin’s day. For the next 23 years, their relationship goes through many ups and downs while they struggle to prove themselves in life and also to find how important both are for each other.
Lone Scherfig directs this drama based on an adaptation by David Nicholls of his own eponymous novel. Using one day in an year(15th July) for 23 years to tell the love story and also inner turmoil of the protagonists is an innovative way of story telling. This technique holds the attention of the viewer. This technique aided by performance and conversation helps the movie. The drawback of this movie is the abrupt ending.
Anne Hathaway steals the show with her portrayal of Emma. When she appears on the screen, all the players are relegated to the background unintentionally. Anne’s Emma transforms throughout the movie; from an smitten young girl into a woman lacking confidence to a woman who forever waits for Dexter to many more avatars. She takes the audience with her in this journey. Jim Sturgess has a role which is not too difficult to play. The other notable performances are Patricia Clarkson and Ken Stott as Dexter’s parents.
Perfect watch on DVD on a quiet evening.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
A man(Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of desert. The year is 1873. He has a wound on the side of his body and a metal bracelet on his wrist. He cannot remember his past. He finds his way to the nearest town named Absolution. The man gets medical aid from a preacher. He gets into a fight with Percy Dolarhyde(Paul Dano) which results in the imprisonment of the latter. The sheriff recognizes the man to the outlaw named Jake Lonergan. Jake is also imprisoned by the sheriff with the help of a mystery woman named Ella Swenson(Olivia Wilde).
When Jake and Percy are being transported to another city for prosecution, Dolarhyde(Harrison Ford) rides into the town in order to stop the sheriff. He has two purposes. Get Percy released and get Jake to deliver the money stolen from his bank. When there is an imminent showdown, alien spaceships attack the town. Some of the residents scramble for cover while the others put up resistance with their primitive weapon. To Jake’s surprise, the metal bracelet becomes active and he uses it to destroy one of the ships.
The alien spaceship abducts some of the residents. Percy, the sheriff and the wife of the local barman Doc(Sam Rockwell) are amongst the abducted people. Dolarhyde decides to pursue the aliens and organizes a posse. Soon, Jake also joins them as he remembers flashes of the past and the key to his loss of memory lies with the aliens. The posse is aided by the Indian tracker Nat Colorado(Adam Beach). During this journey, Jake finds more about himself and also about Ella. The whites and the Indians have to forget their enmity to form a bond to fight against the superior enemy.
Jon Favreau directs this uninteresting movie which combines two genres – Western and Sci fi. An interesting premise is ruined by an unimaginative script which has all the trappings of Hollywood. At the end, there are only two things good about the movie – photography and the music. The photography reminds the viewer of the good old western where the protagonist is on focus; be it in the middle of the screen or at the edge. It aids in heightening the romance of the Western genre. The music is good. It tries to lift us even when the happening on the screen is boring. CG is subtle.
Daniel Craig is perfect as Jake Lonergan. He does not reveal his emotions. But that is what is needed for this role. Harrison Ford as Dolarhyde impresses in the introductory scene but fails then on. After this point, he clearly looks uninterested.
Seeing James Bond and Indiana Jones on the same screen would be a dream come true for a movie buff. But this is a lost chance. Avoid it.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Cannon is a good weapon against approaching attackers. This serves as a good defense from a safe distance. You can see the picture of one in Gent. This reminded me the Jaivana in Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur. Both of them have common history. By history, I do not mean they originated from the same factory. Or did they? I'm not sure. But that is not the point I'm trying to drive.
Both has been fired only once. Jaivana one was fired to test it. It may be the location of the cannon on the small hill which prevented any attacks that warranted the use of the cannon. Similarly, the one in Gent was fired only once. But it was pointing to the wrong direction while firing.
If you observe the picture carefully, you will see a glass wall blocking the mouth of the cannon. What is it for? The answer is simple. People started using it as a garbage can and finally the city decided to close it up as a preventive measure. As you can see, littering is not only a problem in our cities but also European cities.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
A football fan told me about the rivalry between the fans of the two teams, AC Milan and Inter Milan, when they play against each other. The tour guide told me about the history of the stadium, San Siro stadium, highlighting the care taken in maintenance. The latter event happened during my visit to Milan. Despite all these, what left a lasting impression was the changing rooms for the two teams. It reflects the leadership styles of the respective team owners.
The changing rooms of AC Milan was closed on the day I visited. But the guide explained in detailed description of how it is laid out. She didn't want to disappoint the tourists. AC Milan is owned by Silvio Berlusconi while Inter Milan is owned by Massimo Moratti. In case you are wondering about Berlusconi connection, yes he is the Italian prime minister.
The changing room for AC Milan is characterized by red color. One look at their jersey and you will figure out why. There is a place marked for each team member. Berlusconi believes each team member has a unique place in the team.
The changing room of Inter Milan is devoid of any striking color. The seats are plain white. There is no specific seat for any player. Moratti believes a team is like a family and hence there should not be a differentiation.
Here, both the owners are trying to make the team members to blend in. But how they achieve is a derivative of their philosophy. There are lessons to be learnt from both. But, what would you choose? Would you pick one of these or something entirely different?
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Isola dei Pescatori is one among the three islands a few minutes boat ride away from the quiet little town of Stresa. Stresa lies on Lake Maggiore on the Italian side. The lake is shared by Italy and Switzerland. It is also the second largest lake in Italy.
Don't visualize a majestic island which is well connected with modern transportation. Instead imagine an island which can be covered on foot in 15 minutes. Imagine an island where the mode of entry is using a boat or swimming from Stresa. Even if you are able bodied swimmer, I do not recommend the latter option. For boats, there are different operators and attractive packages.
Pescatori was a fishing village. Now the smells arising from the restaurants spread around the island are the reminders of the past. You are greeted with shops selling souvenirs and also straw hats. The hates makes perfect sense as it is very hot in here at this time of the year. Your eyes go weak in the sun. You can walk along the coastline and crisscross the island wherever possible. While crisscrossing the island, you walk through narrow alleyways flanked by buildings that are mostly restaurants. There are wooden benches all along coastline for you to sit down and enjoy the nature.
The tips of the island has been converted into places where you can do various activities like sport (volleyball), swimming or nature-gazing. You could sit here for hours forgetting your worries.
See below for pictures taken from the other islands.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
After being plundered multiple times, Milano rebuilds itself often transforming the city landscape. It is like a fighter that refuses to give up. Raids, plunder, revolts and plague were not able to dampen the spirit of the city. Every time, it emerged stronger and more elegant.
The city offered a welcome change from Paris. The weather gods over here are not unsure like their counterparts in Paris. The resident gods were determined to give a lot of sun for tourists like. In August, the residents behave the same as those in Paris. They flee from the city.
My first experience in the city was not pleasant. While taking the Metro tickets from the automatic vending machine, a lady materialized out of thin air to help me. She not only helped me to procure the tickets but also to charge extra Euro and swindled another 3 Euros from me. How did I manage to lose 4 Euros? I'm still figuring it out.
All the worries vanished as I soon as I stepped out of the Metro into Piazza Duomo. Right in front of me was the towering Duomo. The cathedral is an imposing figure which tells the story perseverance of the clergymen and townsmen to build something for the rest of the world to visit and gape in awe.
On the outside, the walls are adorned with sculptures of all sizes and shapes. You could also find tourists feeding the pigeons. A man came forward and thrust his open hand toward me. He was giving me a handful of grains to feed the pigeons. I politely refused. How can I fall for another tourist trap?
The interior of the church contains mausoleums, crypts and stained glasses. There are stories encrypted on the stained glasses.
You can also go up the roof either by climbing 250 steps or using an elevator. I chose the steps. Although tiring, the view from the roof was rewarding.
First of all, walking on the roof admiring the complex sculptures is devoid of danger. Yet, you feel like an adventurer racing the rooftop adorned with artwork escaping an imaginary assailant. Most of the pointed structures on the top end in a saintly figure. It gives out an illusion of these saints are watching over the city.
Once you have admired the city from the rooftop, you can climb down and walk into Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It hosts a lot of restaurants and also shops. Towards the centre, there is a bull on mosaic. Stomping on it's testicles brings you good luck. For a man, it is extreme pleasure of kicking another male where it counts. My sadist streak became dominant on seeing the mosaic bull.
When you walk out of the gallery, there is Teatro alla Scala, the local theater. There is a statue of Da Vinci in this piazza.
A short walk from the theater is the fashion district. It is aptly called so for you will find all the world famous and the very expensive brands over here. You name it, you get it.
You can also take the Metro to the Meazza stadium which is also known as San Siro stadium. It is the stadium for the local teams - AC Milan and Inter Milan. Taking the guided tour will reveal a lot about the conflicting philosophies that govern these teams.
You can end the day by having your brand of poison or food near the canal or navigli as it known locally.
Foot note: For touring Milan, you should have 2 days in hand.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Signs play a a major role in communication. During my visit to Gent, there were two swans on the building that hosts Marriott hotel. The building is a remnant of the past. Thankfully, it has been maintained well.
Swans are a symbol of love. This was told to me by a guide. On thinking more about it, I agree with it. Wasn’t there a story we heard in our childhood where swan played the go-between?
If you look carefully, the swans are not facing each other. If the swans face each other, it means love. When the swans are not facing each other, it means paid love. Yes, the building was a brother in the old days.
Friday, August 19, 2011
The following is an excerpt of a conversation between a five year old daughter and her dad.
Daughter: I want a sister.
Dad: *like a government official, nods* Okay. Will consider that
Daughter: It is okay for you?
Dad: It is okay.
Daughter: How will I get a sister?
Dad: *uncomfortable but quick to recover* Magic! *now fully recovered*. Magic and you will get a sister.
Daughter: I know how.
Dad: *completely in panic* Huh?
Daughter: You will just ask someone to become my sister. Right?
Simple solution to a complex problem! No?
In 1942, Johann Schmidtt(Hugo Weaving) attacks a village in Norway and takes a tesseract using force from the local church. Using the tesseract, Johann is able to harness massive energy. Subsequently, he decides to break away from Hitler and take his organization named Hydra to another level. Meanwhile in New York, Steve Rogers(Chris Evans) repeatedly tries to enlist in the army, often lying about his details. He is always rejected on medical grounds. Steve is a weak little man who is determined to serve his country during the war. His best friend Buck Barnes is enlisted leaving Steve alone in the city. During an attempt to get enlisted, Steve meets Dr Abraham Erskine(Stanley Tucci). Erskine is impressed by Steve's earnestness, perseverance and innate goodness. As a result, Erskine overrides the protocols and selects Steve for the army.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Gent is a derivative of the word "confluence" and indicates the joining of two rivers(Scheldt and Lys). The name of the city is written as Ghent in English and Gand in French. Known for textile industry, Gent reminds a traveler of it's sibling Bruges. It is also marketed as an alternative for Bruges.
The city has a central square surrounded by St Bavo's Cathedral, Civic theater and a Belfry. By now, I'm used to city squares. All European cities have one. The Belfry served as a lookout for attackers in the past and the guards warned the city on the escape routes from the attackers.
Vrijdagmakt or the Friday market is located in another square a few minutes away. The market is open only on Fridays keeping up with catholic customs. This square has an imposing statue of Jacob Van Artevelde with the fingers pointing to Britain. He was responsible for maintaining neutrality of Gent during 100 years war between the British and the French. The wool used by the local textile industries during those times were imported from Britain. So, it was important to keep cordial relations with Britain although the city was ruled by French.