Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Photos: An angel with braces

The passersby would jump in front of these girls to take a picture often using these colorfully attired girls as the backdrop. When the girl in the photograph noticed a woman trying to pose in front of other girls, she moved in closer to the woman to be in the frame in order to make it a better picture. All of the photographers took our  cameras out to capture this impromptu gesture. Many of us weren't quick enough to. When she saw our encouraging gestures and frenzy to capture the moment, there was embarrassment on her face which quickly turned into a shy smile. Luckily, I was able to capture the smile.

This was taken during the Chinese New Year Parade in Paris.

Tags: Photos

Photos: A girl carrying flowers

I love it when the person smile instead of turning their face away after realizing their picture being taken. This was one of the instances. If I am asked to do this once more, then I would have the flowers cover a part of her face.

This was taken during the Chinese New Year Parade in Paris.

Tags: Photos

Photos: Yellow Dragon

This was taken during the Chinese New Year Parade in Paris.

Tags: Photos

Photos: Enjoying the fireworks

The boy was sitting on the shoulders of his dad. He was watching the fireworks but had his ears closed using his fingers.

This was taken during the Chinese New Year Parade in Paris.

Tags: Photos

Monday, January 30, 2012

Photos: Peeping out of the costume

This was taken during the Chinese New Year Parade in Paris.

Tags: Photos

Photos: Fan play

The woman decided to warm up for the Chinese new year parade. I decided to capture it.

This was taken during the Chinese New Year Parade in Paris.

Tags: Photos

Chinese New Year Parade in Paris, 2012

Though Chinese New Year was on January 23rd 2012, the parade in Paris was scheduled on January 29th 2012. The starting point of the parade was 44 Avenue d'Ivry and the time was 1330 hrs. But the parade started a bit late at 1400 hrs. It was a cold day. I wish it was warmer. If it were, there was no need to wear gloves which in turn results in easier control on the camera.

Everyone who had a camera had descended on this street. It was difficult to get a good shot of anything. When you get ready to shoot something, somebody steps directly in front of your camera and ruins the shot. But then there are painted human dolls who are shy to pose in front of the camera. They turn their face away. Then there are angels who love to pose in front of the camera. The latter category makes it worthwhile to take pictures.

You can find the glimpses of the parade by playing the embedded video.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Books: Bryan Peterson's Understanding Photography Field Guide

A photographer always roams around with his/her camera with an intention to capture anything or everything around him/her. In order to be comfortable with the camera, the photographer should be aware of the governing principles behind a picture. Using this book, Bryan Peterson attempts to accomplish three things - the basic principles behind a good photograph, how to expand your thinking with respect to photographs, various equipment that comes handy in the field.

The book is ideally suited for amateurs and intermediates. As most of the concepts are explained in detail, this helps you in experimenting with your photos. Another good thing about the book is the set of photographs, found in every chapter, along with f point, shutter speed etc which helps you comprehend the importance of using different settings to extract the best out of your camera. If nothing works, you could start imitating blindly for a start.

When it comes to subjects like light metering etc, the book becomes a bit too complex to understand if you have not used this before. This is why and where you might have to come back after a few months to revisit the book.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Le Camion Qui Fume - the truck with delicious burgers

A food truck in Paris with a website, a facebook page and a twitter account. If that doesn't sound impressive, then you should go check it out yourself. This food truck moves around a lot and they are never at the same place twice in a week. So if you decide to check them out, the first thing to find out is where they are at a certain day of the week. Luckily, they announce their route on their website. On Wednesday, there were nearby my work place. By nearby, I mean two train rides away. But that is all closest they will ever to me in any point in the week. In this case, the mountain has to go to Ali. There is no other way. I took a friend along with me in this quest.

Once we reached the location, it was easy to spot the truck. There was a huge crowd gathered on one side of the truck. The crowd consisted of people from the nearby offices. There may have been people like us in that crowd who was ready to hop-on-hop-off many trains to get here. Our order number was 43. At that time, they were serving order 28. The journey from 28 to 43 took over an hour. Torture, it was. How is it possible for any human being to act normal with the smell of burger and fries in the air? It is impossible. Like all food trucks, they have limited items on their menu. They make everything fresh after the order. They shut shop when they run out of stock. The burgers are juicy. The fries are crisp. These fries are better than the McDonald's fries but way low on the scale when compared to the In-N-Out fries.

There is one regret from the trip. I forgot to check-in using FourSquare. Being a food truck, I assumed this wouldn't be a FourSquare location. But I was wrong. I have pictures to share but not the pictures of the burger and the fries. The reason is simple. When we got our burgers, we were so hungry that we could think of eating and not taking pictures. The experience can be summed up as what my friend said after he finished his lunch. "I just had a gastronomic orgasm!".

If you are going to try this one out, kindly avoid the rush hours.

Website: http://www.lecamionquifume.com/
Twitter: @LeCamionQuiFume

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Photos: Dancing with fire

Tags: Photos

The Pleasure Coach

"What do you do?". A good conversation filler when you have nothing else to talk about. This comes in handy when I have nothing else to ask. It helps to kill the silence. What do I get in return? She tells me, "I'm a pleasure coach". Are you speechless? Are you at a loss of words? Are you wondering what nature of the job is? If your answer is yes to any or all of the above, then you can imagine the various expressions on my face when I heard this. Believe me, I'm a bad actor. Many would vouch for this fact. But that is another topic of discussion and I'm going too fast.

Here is one of the beautiful evenings when Paris is at it's best behavior. I am meeting with a group of photography enthusiasts for an evening to shoot pictures in monochrome. There are several themes like cafe tables, interiors, squares, crowd etc. So, we split into groups of six. There is this beautiful woman in my group who reminds me of a friend. She reminds of my friend because she likes to bend the rules. If you are a stickler for rules, then you can also says breaking the rules. This woman doesn't care about traffic signals and cross the road when signs says do not. She acts like a Parisian. As she is from NYC, I am not surprised. Towards the end of our mission to photograph the various themes, I ask her this question and you know what followed.

If you have not yet wiped those various emotions from your mind and waiting for me to give you an explanation about the nature of job, here is it. The pleasure coach is nothing but a relationship expert. How does a pleasure coach achieve this? Simple. By making sure the passion is rekindled or passion is enhanced. She had an anecdote to share illustrating this; an anecdote which omits all the finer details like names, place etc. A married couple approaches her for igniting passion in their failing relationship . She meets with them separately first. Then, she meets them for a joint session. During the joint session, she instructs them on several things including how to touch each other. When the guy touches the girl, she cries with joy saying "It's been so long since I felt like this".

I like the anecdote which proves communication is everything. When you can't communicate, you need external help. You can find more details by following this link.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Photos: Circles of Fire

Tags: Photos

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Photos: Stick on Fire

This is a stick used by the fire artists. They lighted this and kept it on the floor for the performance. The performance was difficult to capture. But the "stick on fire" was much more easier to capture.

Tags: Photos

Photos: Human Dragon?

He resembled a dragon, breathing fire.

Tags: Photos

Photos: Shadows

Shadows make an interesting subject. When the powerful headlights from a car parked on the road made shadows on the pavement, an experienced photographer used his camera to click pictures. I was inspired by his actions and tried to imitate him. Here is the end result.

Tags: Photos

Monday, January 23, 2012

What do you think I should do?

The new year is a new start for many people. It was for me until a few year ago. Now the new year is a constant reminder of how fast the kids are growing up. For me, this starts on the second day of the year where my niece turns older. A few weeks later, my daughter turns older.

The brats are turning six this year. When I asked my daughter about what she was getting as a birthday gift for her sister (cousin), little did I expect to have a long grown-up talk with her. The conversation also reaffirmed the popular advice given to parents. Be careful while talking in front of kids as they listen more carefully than adults. Now I know for sure.

My daughter had three items shortlisted as gifts. According to me, that was a long list. Not only did she mentioned the items but also provided all details about each one. When she finished, I asked, "Which one are you going to get?". She told me her choice and added, "I heard her asking her dad for this. So I think I should get it for her".

Until this point, I underwent many emotion ranging from awe to pride. But the next statement in the form of a question brought a new emotion in me. Panic. She turned around the conversation swiftly with one question. "So, what do you think I should do?". From a listener, she wanted me to be a participant. It was a woman talking and not a child.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Photos: Portrait of an Indian man in a gallery

It was the portrait of the Indian man that caught my attention. I immediately tried to capture it. Interiors was also a theme of the evening. This was an added benefit. There are times when you get more than what you asked for. This was one of it. The girl inside the gallery walked across the floor. I'm glad as that act made this a better picture.

Tags: Photos

Friday, January 20, 2012

Movie Review: The Descendants

When his wife slips into a coma after a boating mishap, Matt King(George Clooney) is faced with a few challenges. All through the marriage, he has concentrated on work and never been actively involved in raising his kids. As a result, he has to figure out a way to raise their kids - 17 year old Alex(Shailene Woodley) and 10 year old Scottie. At the same time, he is also in charge of closing a deal on a large piece of land in Hawaii controlled by a family trust set up by his forefathers a few hundred years ago. If those are not challenges, throw in a difficult father-in-law who blames him and his wife's infidelity which he learns through Alex.

Alexander Payne's new movie is about looking back at life, correcting the past mistakes and doing the right thing. The movie is based on a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. As I have not read the novel, I am not commenting about the adaptation. As for the movie, it is a serious subject. A few minutes into the movie and there is no hope for Matt's wife. They have to take her out of life support resulting in her death in a few days. Despite the seriousness of the subject, Alexander Payne do not employ melodrama to convey emotions. Instead, it is left to the audience. How he accomplishes this is through scenes laced with a touch of humor. The humor is not over the top but enough to relax the audience and connect. That is why you end up laughing during the scene when Alex's slacker friend Sid talks about his parents to Matt. When you have finished laughing, the whole Alex-Sid friendship takes on a new meaning for both Matt and you. This makes the movie interesting and touching. There are many instances like this in the movie. There are two other factors which contributes to the success of the movie - photography and music. The photography tries to be subtle yet it captures the beauty of Hawaii and also the emotions of the various actors. With Hawaiian music in the background playing softly at the start of many scenes, your emotions connect easily with that of the actors on the screen. The last scene of the movie is also one of the best as the director establishes a lot without any dialogue being spoken by the actors.

Of the performances, George Clooney and Shailene Woodley stands out as there are always there on the screen. George Clooney uses a bit of slapstick in many scenes to evoke laughter. But he excels in emotional scenes especially while bidding goodbye to his wife at the end, interacting with his father-in-law and announcing his wife's imminent death to all their friends. Shailene Woodley as Alex has to quickly grow up in a very short span of time to shoulder some of the responsibilities of her mother towards Scottie. She makes us believe she does.

Go for it. Though a drama, you can watch it without taxing your brain. Of course, you will be emotionally moved. But that will be at your own will.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Photos: Empty Gallery

I have no idea where this was taken. It just means that I get disoriented once I step outside the train. Here I was meeting a few photography enthusiasts for a evening. We went out in groups of 6 and cut across many streets using the passageways which resulted in me losing all sense of direction and whereabouts. It was somewhere near Metro Odeon. That is all I can say.

It was a "Black and White" night meaning we shoot in monochrome. There were several themes; contrast one among them. You take away the power of color. Then you realize how difficult it is to bring out contrast. I pointed to a few things to my group members thinking that would make an ideal picture depicting contrast. The experts who accompanied me patiently explained why those things would never make a good photograph. Finally, this was the only one I could click which came close to the subject.

Tags: Photos

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

An old man approaches a journalist to uncover a 40 year old mystery. The man accepts the assignment and soon enlists an unlikely assistant. The assistant is unique as she is a ward of the state with very bad social skills but with an intelligent mind. I have read Steig Larsson's novel with the same title. I knew the story of Mikael Blomkvist(Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth Salander(Rooney Mara). Hence I was curious. How can a Hollywood studio adapt a novel based on prejudice and violence against women depicting rape, bondage & incest with a director(David Fincher) who is an expert instilling fear in us showing the dark side of human nature without compromising the story? The short answer is they can never do a good job.

David Fincher succeeds only on two counts - to showcase the brutality in the novel and the casting of Salander.  He fails to translate the passion to the screen. Blomkvist is not a ladies man as depicted in the novel. But the chemistry between Blomkvist and Salander is left to imagination. So is the unusual relationship between Blomkvist and Erika Berger. The story moves on two tracks - one dealing with Blomkvist and the other with Salander. The two tracks merge in the second act. While the transitions between two tracks are smooth and racy in the novel, the screen adaptation is slow and torturous. Even the tricky camera angles employed do not help to speed up events. On top of this, the background score is barely noticeable which acts against to movie and makes it slower than it is. The lack of background score is more pronounced as the movie starts loudly with the signature style credits roll by the director though this reminds you of a James Bond movie. The movie is also inconsistent in using accents as some of the characters speak with Swedish accent while the others do not.

Rooney Mara has a difficult role to play. It is difficult to find an actress that fits the Salander in the novel. She is the closest match you can get. What she lacks in physical appearance is compensated by the acting prowess. As a girl who does not trust anyone yet falls in love, Rooney Mara is perfect. Daniel Craig is limited in a badly adapted role. Moreover he is overshadowed by Salander in the beginning of the movie and the man responsible for the mystery at the end of the movie. It is only in the scene where Blomkvist meets Salander in person for the first time, Daniel Craig shows why he is cast in the role. Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard are good. But they have done similar roles before.

If you haven't read the novel, I advise you read it if you can stomach the violence. If you have read the novel, skip this one and pick the Swedish movie with the same title. It is a better movie. Does this adaptation has any significance? Yes, James Bond(Daniel Craig) on the receiving side. If you want to watch that, then this is the movie.

Language: English

Genre: Thriller

Rating: **

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Photos: Ice skating

When I heard about panning and the outcome, I wanted to shoot a photograph using this technique. The subject is visible on such a photograph while the background is hazy. One look at the various pictures available on the internet and you are hooked. The challenge is to find an appropriate place to shoot a picture. I chose Hotel de Ville as there was an ice-skating rink in front of the building during this time of the year.

Shooting does not require elaborate setup. In simple words, you make sure the setting are right, hold the camera in your hand, move it along with the action you are trying to shoot and click. But this turned out to be difficult. After identifying the colors that stand out in the crowd, there were two major hurdles - Clicking at the appropriate time and watching out for other skaters. If I didn't click at the appropriate time, then I couldn't get the profile or the face. If I didn't watch out for other skaters, they came in between ruining the shot.

I clicked a few. You can see one of the end results below.

Tags: Photos

Talking too fast

Life is never predictable even though you wish it to be. I do too. Wishes are not always granted. I can live with the unpredictability of life. But I hate to do the same thing all over again every few months. As part of my job, I have to talk to my fellow countrymen and the French. Luckily for me, the medium of communication is English and not French. Talking to fellow countrymen is easy but talking to French posed a serious problem. I talked too fast according to the French.

In my defense, I spaced my words well in order to make myself clear. Apparently my good intentions were not good enough. So whomever I was talking to followed a pattern.  They narrowed their eyes first , turned their faces then to bring their ears close to me and finally leaned over to me when nothing else was working out. I am usually slow in interpreting these signals. But it is difficult to ignore the leaning over part. The message cannot be more louder or clearer! This made me do something which I thought impossible for me to do earlier. I put kilometers between my words. Slowly, the leaning stopped, the turning stopped and finally the narrowing also. Everything returned back to normal. That is when I started cheating. I gradually decreased the space between the words. Over a period of time, I was able to talk in my normal pace. Everyone understands me now.

Now, there is a reorganization. I see new faces. As new faces do not necessarily bring new problems, I am back to square one. They don't understand a word of what I speak. I have to retrace my path and bring in the "kilometer" factor again. I am again doing what I did earlier. Remember, I began saying life being unpredictable and my hatred towards doing things all over again...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Photos: Guarding Trocadero

If you are at Trocadero, the chances are you will only be looking at Tour Eiffel from Esplanade du Trocadero, clicking pictures for posterity usually forgetting the surroundings. On both sides of the esplanade, there are several statues guarding you day in, day out. I have been on the Esplanade countless time before. I have never noticed these statues until recently. This time I decided to photograph the statues. As the sun was still waking up in the distant horizon, I could capture their silhouettes. Luckily, the city is blessed with later risers resulting in a nearly empty esplanade barring a few photography enthusiasts.

Tags: Photos

Photos: Tour Eiffel just after sunrise from Champ de Mars

I have already taken a picture of Tour Eiffel with the rising sun behind it. While taking that picture, I wondered how this magnificent structure looked like when viewed from the side where the rays of sun directly fall on it. I had a chance to experience it and the photograph is pretty much what I saw.

When I checked the photograph using the preview button, I noticed my shadow is also in the frame. I am too lazy to alter it using computer software. Moreover, this also is a good lesson for future photographs.

Tags: Photos

Monday, January 16, 2012

Movie Review: J. Edgar

Clint Eastwood films the important phases in the life of FBI director J Edgar Hoover in this drama which intertwines actual events with the director's and scriptwriter's interpretation of what might have transpired in Hoover's mind. The movie covers only a few events in the life of Hoover which has significance in creation of the bureau and also gradual increase in authority & power. The movie also brings out instances where Hoover came under the radar of many presidents he has served under and how he overcame their resistance. In addition, the movie also sheds light on Hoover's closeness to his mother and sexuality. The movie revolves around J Edgar Hoover(Leonardo DiCaprio), his number two man Clyde Tolson(Arnie Hammer), his secretary Helen Gandy(Naomi Watts) and his mother Anna Marie(Judi Dench).

Although the movie is long, it is an interesting watch for two reasons. The first is the non-linear format the director employs to tell us the story. The movie opens up when Hoover is old and then moves back & forth in time to tell us about the man's past. So, you have an inflexible Hoover to start with and as the movie progresses, the audience sees how he reached that stage. This works for building the drama and to keep the audience in suspense. The second is the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio. We all know he is young. So, how he transforms into an aged overweight Hoover with makeup and acting is remarkable. As a young man, Leonardo's Hoover shows the passion and energy that is instrumental in creating the institution he is famous for. As an aged Hoover, Leonardo shows the perseverance despite the failing health and arrogance to do things his way when the world thinks otherwise.

On the flip side, there are only a handful of events covered regarding the birth and growth of an important organization. If it was not for the constant change of scenario from present to past and back, the entire movie would have fallen apart. In addition, though Clint touches the subject of sexuality of Hoover, he plays it safe without divulging too much details.

This is a serious and long movie. If you are looking for entertainment, look elsewhere. But if you are looking for performances, go for this one.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Photos: Tour Eiffel from Champ de Mars

Tour Eiffel can be photographed from either Trocadero or from Champ de Mars. I am not sure which is the popular destination for tourists. As for me, I always take my friends to Trocadero from where the view is breathtaking. If you choose the (Metro) exit carefully, your unsuspecting friend will never know there is a great view until you ask him to turn right or left. Your friend will be speechless as soon as he/she sees Tour Eiffel and that silence is your reward.

I have never photographed Tour Eiffel from Champ de Mars. On many previous occasions, I have witnessed countless tourists doing the weird hand techniques (like what you see in front of Leaning Tower of Pisa) over here. (Now, stop smirking at the usage tourist and move on. I'm a local now!). On Saturday, I walked over to this side with a photographer friend. There is a structure nearer to the Ecole Militaire side which gave me a opportunity to shoot "picture-in-picture" style. I wanted a human being inside the frame. My friend obliged.

Tags: Photos

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Photos: Cleaning the streets of Paris

You can never guess when a photo opportunity arises. I guess that is why you see photographers walking around with their cameras. I was standing near La Chappelle Metro station with a friend. We had finished our breakfast and were planning to go separate ways. It was then my friend pointed the subject to me. The combination of the green suit, the black shoes, the water spray and the wet floors was too good an opportunity to let go. The cameras were out and we were following the cleaning crew, crouching on the floor and clicking continuously.  

There was a pair of cleaning crew, the one we were photographing on the street and the other inside the small vehicle carrying water. The one inside the vehicle kept shouting at us for not taking pictures. I don't know why. It was not a copyrighted artwork that we were trying to photograph!

Tags: Photos

Friday, January 13, 2012

Movie Review: Nanban

Two friends Venkat(Srikanth) and Senthil(Jeeva) goes in search of their best friend Pari(Vijay) ten years after graduating from engineering college. Venkat and Senthil owes their success to Pari who taught them to pursue their passion without worrying about results, helped them find their inner strengths and also gave them the magic mantra "All is well". By now, you would have realized this is a remake of 3 Idiots which was massacred by the reviewers but loved by audience all over India.

Shankar directs the Tamil remake of 3 Idiots. I am not going to ask why Shankar, with a diametrically opposite sensibility (especially regarding the look and feel of a movie) from Rajkumar Hirani, would want to make a remake of this movie. A major section of Indians have already watched this movie due to the aggressive marketing strategy and also the controversies which surfaced right after the release. Moreover, the original's strength lies in the simple way of presenting an important message. Simple is not something you associate with Shankar.

Shankar gets two things correct with this remake. First and the foremost, he does not tamper with the original screenplay. He goes for a scene by scene adaptation. The second is the casting. The casting might not be perfect but this is the best you can get. The casting cannot be perfect because of the impact of the original. The actors in the original were perfect. With Shankar at the helm, there are changes to the original in subtle but noticeable way. CGI is more pronounced in this movie. The song are shot in a different way. There is an extra song being inserted to make Vijay fans happy. There are major negatives to the movie - direct translation of Hindi dialogues to Tamil, actors imitating the actors of the original version and the comic timing of the three lead players. The first is forgivable. The second and the third reduces the impact of the funny scenes for a viewer who has already seen the original.

Out of the performances, Vijay, Jeeva, Sathyaraj as Virus and Sathyan as Silencer fit the respective roles and gives their best. Interestingly, Vijay and Sathyan is only person who has brought some variation into their roles. Srikanth tries hard but fails in many key moments. Ileana ends up being a pretty face.

If you have seen the movie before, then the grand photography, the music or the CGI will not impress you. Like me, you will be searching for a DVD of "3 Idiots". If you do not understand Hindi and have not seen this movie before "3 Idiots", then you can watch it. This will be an entertaining movie for you.

Language: Tamil

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sleeping while commuting

On a long flight, I can sleep peacefully. But while commuting, I hate to fall asleep. What is behind this hatred is the fear of missing to get down at the destination. My commute time went up as soon as I moved from La Defense into Paris. Ever since, I have been falling asleep while commuting more often. 

Luckily for me, the longest and peaceful leg of my commute, where I usually fall asleep, is between the terminal points of a train. Once I was in my own world listening to the music that I forgot to get down. The woman next to me double-backed after getting off the train and gently shook me to bring me back to real world. Another time, I was asleep and a kind soul knocked on the window to wake me up. All these experiences has not made me alert. In fact, I fall asleep more often now.

There are others who fall asleep during the commute. My friend is one of them. But he has a simple way to wake up. He sets the alarm on his clock to wake him up before his destination.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Are you comfortable wearing a lanyard?

Are you wondering what a lanyard is? If the answer is no, please wait till I explain it to the others. You are either wearing one at work or seen your colleagues wearing this. If you are not employed, then go out to where most professionals meet for lunch and you will see many wearing lanyards. It is that thing worn around the neck with an ID badge hanging from it. Yeah right! There is a name for that thing.

 For the major part of my career, I avoided using it. I carried the ID badge in my pocket refusing to display it to anyone, taking it out only when I have to present it to the card reader. The reason was simple. I didn't want anyone to know my name. If I wanted them to know my name, I will tell them. Anyways, all resistance to wearing and display an ID badge vanished as soon as I moved back to India. Now, I do wear a lanyard around my neck.

Despite having your ID badge tied to a lanyard, many people do not wear it around the neck. They tend to carry it in their hands. They also tend to place it somewhere and conveniently forget to take it back. I have one friend who kept it on the dining tray and forgot to take it back while keeping the tray on the conveyor belt that takes the tray directly to the kitchen. With most of the ID badges getting smarter every day, it is better to hang it around the neck.

The most interesting story is that of my young friend (the original young friend for lack of better word. This is the same guy whom I started referring to as young friend for the first time for the sake of anonymity). He never wore it around his neck. When asked why, he had an interesting story to share. He was walking with a friend through the office campus. His friend is a non-stop chatterbox. He was getting annoyed at her talking all the time. As there were walking near the water fountain cut deep into the earth (Surprised? Ohhh! You haven't the Indian IT campus!), he pushed her into the water to make her stop talking. Guess what she caught in order to maintain her balance. Yes, the lanyard around his neck. The net result, both of them fell into the water!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Can you remember names?

Are you good at remembering names? When you meet a lot of people during a formal or informal gathering, can you remember names? I am not good at this. In fact, I don't posses no such ability. I am really bad at it; so bad that I have to lean over to the friend nearby and ask, "What is that person's name?". 

According to the experts, there are two ways of remembering anything. One is by associating to something that can be recalled easily. I have friends who can do that. They can regurgitate complex equations (and even chemical formula) by equating it to acronyms. Don't ask me how they do it! It comes naturally to them. Yes, "naturally" is the keyword. The second way is by repetition. But how can you repeat someone's name to memory during the first meeting. Imagine saying, "So, you are John! John. John. John". That is ridiculous. So I prefer leaning over to my friend; easier and cleaner.

There is one friend of mine who prefers a less complex way of dealing with names. If you ask him, it is much more direct way. Direct or not, I leave it up to you. So, what does my friend do? When he can't recall the name, he asks the other person, "So, tell me my name!". The other person struggles and eventually apologizes for not remembering his name. Then he says "Don't! I also forgot your name. I'm Joe. Tell me your name now".

Monday, January 9, 2012

The good boy gets the best deal

A month ago, I wrote about the good boy. To be honest, I never thought I would come across another good boy story when I wrote that post. We never notice but good boys are everywhere. This one is not so dramatic as the previous one. Nevertheless, this is worthy of writing. If you live in Paris, you come across men who comes inside a restaurant to sell flowers to the diners. Most of them are from South East Asia. Don't get ahead of me. The good boy is not a flower seller. Listen to this.

So the good boy from India is standing outside the pub to get a breath of fresh air while all his friends are waiting inside. A flower seller comes by and the good boy starts a conversation. The flower seller is from Bangladesh and the business is bad that night. The good boy feel sorry for the flower seller. At the same time, he believes he may be able to help.

He notices a beautiful woman standing nearby. He walks over to her with the flower seller. The good boy tells the beautiful woman the story of the flower seller. The woman is confused as to what the good boy wants. Then he says, "I want to help him. So, I am getting you a flower". The woman smiles and places her hand on his elbow and asks the flower seller, "What is the price of the flower". "2 Euros", the flower seller replies. Immediately, the woman says, "I will take the flower if you sell it for 1 Euro". The flower seller agrees.

It is just like what your elders taught you. If you do good things, good things will happen to you.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tell me the best Indian restaurant in Paris.

All the expatriates I meet in Paris ask me this question. Even if I offer an entirely different spectrum of topics to converse, people will maneuver the conversation skilfully to ask me this question - the best Indian restaurant in town. Yesterday, I was with a group of British expatriates. You may be wondering what I was doing in that group. Well, I have the same question to some of the others attendees - namely the Germans, the Polish, the French, the Ghanaians. As you have rightly guessed, there were very few British. It may have been the whiff of England in the air. Everyone was asking me about the best "curry" place. I have never been to London. So I really do not know what kind of food they serve over there in the name of Indian food.

I always ask the person if he/she like to have good food or a good dining experience. I go to places where the service is bad but the food is good. I am not sure if this is okay with the person who is posing the question. The next step is setting up the expectation. If you are looking for authentic North Indian food, there is only one place I liked so far. That place will easily blow a hole in your pocket. So, unless and until you are ready to open wallet real wide, there is no point! And if you are ready to do that, the place is Gandhiji near Opera. There are two restaurants there - Gandhi and Gandhiji. If you are looking for good food, the two letters, j and i, make a world of difference.

Paris offers better choices in South Indian cuisine; thanks to the huge population of Sri-Lankan Tamils. For vegetarian, we have Saravanaa Bhavan near Gare du Nord which never ceases to amaze me. How can they ensure the same taste across the globe? I have been to 4 outlets in the world, 1 in California, 2 in New Delhi and 1 in Paris. Out of the four, the one in New Delhi located in the Connaught Place is the only one which disappointed me. Every time I go to the local Saravanaa Bhavan in Paris, I also plan to visit the nearby sweets shop named "Bhai Bhai". Bhai Bhai never happens after Saravanaa Bhavan.

For meat lovers, there is Dishny near Metro La Chappelle. The service is poor but the spice factor is high. After the first visit with my westernized friend, he vowed never to come back here because the waiter was lost in his own little world. The next week, my westernized friend insisted on returning to this same restaurant. He was willing to be humiliated for tasty food.

Both Saravanna Bhavan and Dishny are crowded all the time. There are fellow diners talking in loud voices and waiters shouting orders into the kitchen. You can also hear the noises from the kitchen too. But the food is so tasty that you forget all your worries. These are the places I go to. In case you are looking for an Indian restaurant in Paris, please feel to try this out. Hope you like these places just like me. If you do, we share similar tastes and you know whom to call next time when you are going out for dinner.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Does your diet control your behavior?

For a long time, my mother tried in vain to changing my eating habits. According to her, being a vegetarian is the best way to live. So, I should eat less meat. It is good for heath and more importantly helps in containing undesired aggression. In order to prove her point, she used an article published in a newspaper citing differences in the behavioral patterns of jail inmates based on their diet.

Recently, I attended a dinner event with two of my friends; a dinner in a vegan restaurant with an assorted group of vegetarians and vegans. All three of us were the lowest form of meat consumers (by Indian standards). With absolutely no background information on a vegetarian and vegans, we attended this event because there wasn't any other choice on that particular day. Moreover, it was a very lonely day.

The evening unintentionally presented a few laughs for me. Before we even sat down for dinner, there was a clear line being drawn between vegetarians and vegans. They were not ready to mix initially and wanted to sit with their group. This served as a warning and I avoided talking anything about food. The trickiest question of the evening was aimed at my friend. "Are you a vegetarian or a vegan?". Having no clue about the distinction between the two, my friend chose his words cleverly. "I prefer vegetarian". On hearing the added stress on the word "prefer", I had to look the other way to hide the grin on my face. 

The next day after the uneventful dinner, my second friend send out a dinner invitation to this group. He had nothing else to do as there was a forced shutdown at work for a week. So he chose a restaurant thinking it had vegan options. Hell broke out as soon as the invitations were sent out. Unfortunately, it was not a vegan restaurant. The group tore him apart for deciding the venue without proper groundwork. After a series of furious emails, the dinner did happen with a handful of attendees. 

I did not attend the dinner. But I had the best time reading the email chain. It was funny as I was an outsider and also provided insights into human nature especially the ferocious way someone guards their eating habits. The emails weren't nasty but the anger in them was clearly evident. 

All these takes me back to my mom's failed attempts in changing my diet. I like vegetables. But what is a meal without a dash of meat? I can never be a full-blown vegetarian. But if the objective is to behave in a civilized manner, then the diet has nothing to do with it. It is how you are built!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Receding waistline

Watch your weight and waistline. I was warned several times by my friends when my move to Paris was finalized. Knowing my love for food, controlling the gradually increasing waistline sounded like a doomed project. But surprisingly, the waistline has been receding. Now, I show my old pictures to my new friends and they exclaim "Is that really you?".

I fail to figure out what is behind this phenomenon. There is less intake of rice and more walking in my life now. At the same time, I'm eating a lot more desserts than previously. Often at lunch, I have two desserts. I still scan for desserts on a restaurant menu. I am not going to describe how good the desserts are over here fearing I would stop writing this post and go looking for one.

There are only two places on this earth where I lost weight despite having good food all around me. One is Paris and the other is Gurgaon. The shahi tukdas, gajar ka halwas, the tasty kababs etc could not do any damage to me in Gurgaon. Instead, it reversed the effects of California and Pune. Whatever Gurgaon was able to accomplish in the 18 months was completely destroyed by Bengaluru in a matter of few months. The bulge returned.

I am not the only one who affected in this way by Paris. Most of my friends belong to this category. When one friend turned up for dinner at my place, I couldn't help notice the jeans he was wearing. It had Calvin Klein written in big letters around the belt loops. It took me sometime to realize it was the elastic part of his brief sticking out after the jeans had slipped down. When I quizzed him on his style, he cried, "I have been losing weight. The belt is not helping. I am not going to buy a new pair of jeans every month!".

I understand my friend's predicament. I had a premonition about this in the first few weeks in Paris. So when I went to India last June, I bought two new belts. I forced the shopkeeper to make extra holes on the belt. At present, although the waistline has been receding, I have been doing well. But I'm on the last hole in the belt as of now.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pappettan speaks about success

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

During the course of conversation, Pappettan spoke in length about success. He was an introspective mood. Everyone has a say on how to achieve success. That is the case with Pappettan too. According to Pappettan, there are two ways to achieve success.

The first is old fashioned way, what has been instilled on us from an early age. Hard work. If you have the capability, then this becomes easy. Otherwise, you strive towards achieving the capability. You demonstrate your capabilities and eventually arrive at your ultimate goal. If you are determined, you will achieve success at the end.

The second is the unconventional way. This has never been shared by your parents during your growing up years. In this path, you look for a fast moving vehicle in terms of success. You board it. Travel till you have reached your destination where you get off the vehicle quickly and quietly.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Newly-formed couples!

My friend visits me on the evening of January 1st after taking a stroll in 6th arrondissement of Paris. After stepping into the apartment, he asks "You know the importance of today evening?". It is the first day of the year. The vacationing crowd is returning. My answers were limited to these option. Barring these, is there anything special about this evening? There is, according to my friend. Today is when the newly-formed couples meet again and take a stroll.

I have heard a lot of weird things in my life. If I compile a list of the weird things, this definitely will be on the top of the charts. What is newly-formed? The answer is simple - the couple who met on 31st December. It sure sounds romantic. You turn up for NYE and find someone interesting. The reality is something else. But I have never come across any couple who meets this criteria. Whomever I know belong to the boring category of having known their spouse on a difficult-to-remember-date. (The difficult-to-remember-date if the person I talk to is a guy) Alright, I will lower my resistance for this romantic notion. But, newly-formed? Is this similar to "Fellowship of Ring" or "Axis of Evil" to qualify such an adjective?

Even if I go past the adjective, I am again stuck at the stroll. What has "newly-formed" got to do with the stroll?  Is this a tradition only in France? I have never heard about this custom anywhere else in the world. Don't give me the "French are weird" statement. Give me something that can be accepted with reason. I can understand people wanting to take a stroll on 1st Jan after the festivities and the resulting hangover are history. For fresh air, I would do the same with or without company.

Questions and more questions. Never put your thinking cap on. If you do, this is what you get. Coming back to questions, there is an important one which came to my mind very late during the discussion. What was my friend doing out there? Was he taking a stroll too? Is he also a newly-formed what-do-you-call-it?

Photos: View from Pont Mirabeau, Paris

It is difficult to miss this giant structure from anywhere in Paris! I was at Pont Mirabeau on 31st December without any expectations. On one side of it is a yet another view of Tour Eiffel. There is a replica of Statue of Liberty below the bridge that lies between Tour Eiffel and Pont Mirabeau. Its is hard to see the miniature replica in the picture. Apparently, this replica faces the real one in US of A though separated by miles.

On the other side is Boulevard Victor. It might not be any significance to you. But this is where I met two of my good friends in Paris for the first time in an expatriate meetup. Pont Mirabeau also has another important significance in my life now. This is exactly where I lost my iPhone. Thank you, unknown pickpocket. I really do hope you have a great year ahead.

Tags: Photos

Sunday, January 1, 2012

NYE 2012

When the clock stuck 12 last year in Paris welcoming 2011, I was in a brightly lit tunnel with scores of strangers. A few seconds earlier, all of us were frustrated. We had planned to stare at Tour Eiffel when the new year arrived. Instead all of us were stuck in a metro station with cops regulating the traffic in and out of the station. All of us chose to ignore the surroundings and make the most of it.

Having learnt from last year's experience, I started earlier and reached Trocadero just in time. The trains and train station were both overcrowded. Drunken merriment is always associated with NYE. What surprised me was there were a lot of parents with kids (of all ages; some in prams) heading to the same destination. Call me a bore. But this is not the place I would like to take my kid on a NYE; at least till the time she is old enough.

The disappointing factor of the whole evening was the lack of fireworks. I have been here during the Bastille Day. The fireworks were beautiful. Everyone was staring at Tour Eiffel and it promptly wear it's glittering jacket for a minute or so. That was it. This time, the sale of firecrackers were forbidden. Despite this, some adventurers were able to do the impossible.

Tags: Photos,Paris

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