Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Country Roads Take Me Home

If I look back at 2013, despite all the personal and professional milestones, the one thing that stands out would definitely be the amount of traveling I have done this year. Eight new countries, fifteen new cities, close to a month of traveling across Europe and Asia in different modes of transport, with different kinds of people, under different circumstances and extreme weather conditions: it has indeed been a year which opened my eyes to the wider world out there. From the human atrocities in the Killing Fields and Auschwitz, the architectural wonders of Angkor Wat, the old world charm of Prague, the artistic appeal of Vienna, the historical allure of Berlin to the natural intimidation of the snow-clad Matterhorn peak in Zermatt, I have been to some of the remote corners of the world which didn’t even exist in my narrow world defined by the borders of Hirandandani.

Appropriately, a year which began with an impromptu trip to Ajanta Ellora, ended with another quick getaway to Himachal Pradesh over Christmas. For someone who is extremely accident prone, I have been blessed with friends and family members who simply love to get behind the wheels, put on some good music and drive for miles, while all I have to do is peacefully sit and criticize.

The moment I reached Delhi on Christmas Day, my kid brother (no longer a kid) took charge of the proceedings, as the two of us, along with a couple of friends, hit the road, and for the umpteenth time, I realized that it doesn’t really take much to be happy: good company, good music, good alcohol and good humour will do the job more often than not! The six-hour journey to the sleepy town of Kasauli was a breeze as we swept through three states, stopping by the occasional roadside dhaba for chai, parathas and lassi. My last roadtrip was almost two years back from Bangalore to Mysore and Coorg, and I couldn’t help noticing the great divide between the north and south of India at so many different levels: be it the food, the people, the landscapes, the weather, the way of driving or the choice of abuses.

Kasauli was pretty much like any other hill station: a heady mix of cold weather, warm people, long walks, breath taking views, lots of food, cheap alcohol, bonfire, music, “deep” conversations and the lamest of jokes. Being the prejudiced Arts graduate who looks down on engineers, it wasn’t easy being the only non-programmer amid a bunch of software geeks, but this was our very own desi version of the Big Bang Theory. (P.S. I even got a BBT tee shirt as a birthday gift)

The next day, we drove further north for a day trip to Shimla, my second visit to the place after a decade, when we had traveled across Shimla and Kulu Manali. While I was captivated by the first signs of snow, it was still not my idea of the perfect paradise on earth: somehow the crowd, the commercialism and the touristy nature wasn’t something that I cherished on a holiday. To spice things up, we lost our way while returning and as my brother navigated through dangerously sharp bends in the dark, I held on for dear life, wondering if I would safely reach Kasauli for my birthday celebration.

Once we managed to reach our resort, we went berserk, so thrilled were we to survive the highway to hell, piling on the cheap local wine and plates of junk food till it was time to unleash the cake.

Except for a quick trip to the police station for unlawful parking and some damage to the car after being hit by a truck, it was a fairly uneventful trip and we all returned back to Delhi unscathed and in our senses.

Each time I have got lost this year, the country roads have always taken me home; eventually…

Friday, December 20, 2013

Finding Neverland

It’s been ages since I blogged. It’s been quite hectic lately, what with work and elections and year-end plans and resolutions.

So what’s new?

Ishant Sharma got wickets. Plural. Really. Not on Faking News.

Central Banks are united in their efforts to provide thrills in an attempt to surpass Dhoom 3. RBI kept policy rates unchanged, but Fed started tapering.

Indian diplomat in the U.S., Devyani Khopragade, got the rough end of the stick and all hell broke loose. If there was ever a case of Maid in Manhattan, this would be it.

AAP made a “sweeping” statement. For someone who was never an advocate of the “NOTA” option, this made me slightly less cynical about politics, it restored my faith in democracy and it assured me that may be there is still some hope.

Nelson Mandela passed away. Of the few international political figures who touched a chord, Mandela would be right up there. If you haven’t yet watched Invictus, do it now.

At work, I got promoted to one of those impressive-sounding designations which mean nothing. Now I that I am in that “elite” clan of AVPs, I feel like the Rahul Gandhi equivalent of my company.

P.S. “Elite” here refers to the handful of people, like say, the number of fans Justin Bieber has.

The holiday season is upon us, but like every year, having exhausted most of my leaves, I would be the lone woman standing in office, though I would sneak out a couple of days next week for a quick Delhi trip.

For all the possible new-year resolutions, the most important will be finding myself, because Neverland looks farther than ever

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Age of Innocence

As a kid, Full House used to be one of my favourite TV shows: I mean, kids, dogs, handsome uncles, pretty aunts, school stories, lots of hugging, the sheer innocence- what’s not to like?

Now, after years, when I watch the rerun, I can’t help cringing a bit. It just seems so much of a make-believe world to me now. Granted, it’s been close to 15 years, but still, does life really change so much that you don’t even identify with the past anymore?
It’s different when you are talking about things in your childhood that you don’t even remember, but for things that you do remember, it’s just so hard to believe that you have moved on to an entirely different world, without as much as looking back or wondering exactly what has changed so drastically.

Shows which you adored (Wonder Years, Doogie Howser, Small Wonder and of course Full House) no longer enthralls you as it did. In fact, I can barely sit through an episode now!

Bollywood movies like KKHH, Dil to Pagal Hai, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge elicit laughter rather than emotions, though some of the popular Hollywood movies of the same period (Philadelphia, American Beauty) still remain my favourites.

Even the very game of cricket which I have been following so religiously has undergone a sea change, as new heroes have emerged and retired and others have emerged and retired (Sachin Tendulkar being the only constant).

Not to mention the way we communicate, the way we express ourselves and the way we manage our relationships have also evolved, for better or for worse.

Finally, the very essence of family has shifted. I am not here to judge, but if there is a modern day remake of Full House, it would probably be renamed Empty House.

For all our achievements, our advancements, our successes, the one thing that we did lose in the process, is the age of innocence…