Saturday, May 31, 2008

Another not so bad day...

29th May 2008:
News headlines again... Not so bad at all. Fairly encouraging.

The first one that caught my eye saddened my a whole lot. The Indian Express reported an MP minister as having said: "give quotas to beggars who seek it", in response to the recent and ongoing reservation stir. In 21st century India, caste is alive & kicking! Read here.
They say every dark cloud has a silver lining: The fact that it was a bjp minister who said it, in the presence of the bjp CM of Madhya Pradesh is news to take heart from. The more confident & aggressive these people get, the more they expose themselves. Slowly but surely, the country will seem them for who they are & this ugly daag will disappear from the face of Indian political consciousness. For that day, I pray.

Nitish Katara's murderers, Vikas Yadav & Vishal Yadav convicted, despite being well connected! A victory of the Indian judicial system! It gladdens the heart to know that you could be a politician's son, but you cannot get away with murder in this country. All this celebration is a little premature. We still have to ensure that the perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat riots and the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots are brought to justice. We still have to ensure that bal t & raj t are brought to justice. We still need answers to who killed Syed Modi & why is he still roaming free?
This will do very well for a start though. It's a message for us never to back down from demanding justice, to keep at it until we get justice! I hope every Indian is getting this message.

Nepal becomes a republic. Welcome to the secular republic fold people. You have great responsibility and great challenges ahead of you. All the best. May you succeed!

"SIMI faction at helm of all-India terror network": DNA.
Great! Step in the right direction. We know at least which organization was responsible for the terror attacks. So the next step is to curb all activities of this faction! Make it's very existence difficult. Apprehend it's terrorists. And then talk to the terrorists who comprise this network. Ask them what they have against India. If they have any valid arguments, we must fix them immediately, so that we don't have any more organizations like this rising.

For Infosys, growth will take place ‘outside Pune’
The mns has hopefully shot itself in the foot. Instead of giving a boost to employment in Maharashtra, they've managed to send jobs away from Pune! GREAT! I am always the happiest when people like raj fuck up! FANTASTIC News! Suffer buggers suffer!

And here's what a right-winger in power is capable of. Indian's, I've been saying it for very long and I'll say it again... BEWARE!
Hopefully Bush will be brought to justice for his misdemeanours. If not civil/criminal justice, maybe divine justice; but I'd be glad to see him suffer in some form!

That's it for now.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Indulge me

I'm poetically handicapped. Totally so! Having 5 poets in the family doesn't help, but I'm indulging a recent urge to try my hand at it. Apologies for subjecting you to this, but here goes anyway...
Critique invited. Biting critique welcome as well.

The mind wants Peace
Not fragmented pieces
No conflict, but unity
Ah… my mind eases...

Mann chaahe shaanti
Na ki tukde toote toote
Sangharsh nahin, Ekagrata!
Aah… yeh mera mann loote...!

I would've liked to do an Urdu version, but unfortunately my Urdu is about as good as a dog's meow.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Unaware of Human Rights Violations?

A recent discussion here left me searching Google for Amnesty International articles on Human Rights violations (specially wrt to "Hindus") in Bangladesh & Pakistan. Google readily threw up many Bangladesh links (but no Pakistan links, although I'd have expected more of those!) & I went through some of these, surprised at how this had eluded well-informed old me for so long!

So for everyone who wants to be better informed vis a vis Human Rights Violations worldwide, please subscribe to Amnesty's e-zine here.
And for those who want to contribute in a small way, you can take their survey here.

One thing that is still unclear is how these truly deplorable human rights violations are being referred to as "ethnic cleansing". When exactly did that happen?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Art Exhibition in Pune! Calling all art-lovers!

On Mother's Day, Yasmin Zaidi pays a Floral Tribute to her Mother who passed away last year.

The "oils on canvas" series is around flowers and is marked by some excellent detailed work, something normally not seen in modern art.

The Exhibition titled "Mother's Day - A Floral Tribute" begins on Mother's Day, Sunday, 11th May 2008, at the Corinthian's Club, and will continue for a few weeks. Be there for the opening at 11 AM, if you would like to meet the artist...

Yasmin Zaidi has been drawing and painting for nearly forty years now. She has always had a keen eye for colour and composition and an enduring love of nature, which dominates her painting.
However, she has not needed to retreat into the wilderness to transmit this love onto canvas. She has sought, and found, beauty in small gardens in crowded suburbs, bouquets of cut flowers and wild trees fighting against the overbearing concrete in urban spaces. She considers the creation of anything beautiful a "co-creation with the Creator".

The artist comes from a family that has had a close association with various forms of art. Her father Padma Shri Ali Jawad Zaidi was a poet and a scholar; her daughter is a journalist and poet, and her grandfather also painted, though not professionally.
Some of Zaidi's early poems were published by various newspapers and journals and she has painted for and written a children's alphabet book. Her long career in education meant spending at least two decades imparting her painting skills to young and eager students. Post-retirement, she has picked up the brush again and has been painting full time and much of her recent work has been almost exclusively centred around flowers.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Must-visit places in and around Pune... and lesser ones

So what else does Pune have on offer?

First on my list is the Aga Khan Palace. Apart from the pretty edifice and the lawns of what used to be a princely residence, the fact that the Father of the Nation spent a couple of years here makes it well worth a visit. The first time I visited it, I was showing a firangi friend around.
Once we were through with a brief history of the Aga Khans at the ticket counter (you have to ask for this, it isn't part of the tour), we went through the well-labelled rooms, each housing a mini museum to it's famous residents. In fact, so well labelled are the rooms, and so well arranged are the artifacts that one doesn't even need a guide!
It is a great insight into the greatness of the man who is more known for getting India her freedom. Gandhiji's drives around ridding India of untouchability apart from his famous freedom movement initiatives, actually brought tears to my eyes. My firang friend could see that I was moved. I thanked him for coming over as it had given me the opportunity to visit the place.
It is here that Gandhiji lost two of his closest confidantes, his secretary of many years who he treated like a son & his wife Kasturba. Both their samadhis are here, quiet places, strangely in sync with the quiet personalities they seemed to have had.

Shaniwarwada: The place looks like it is falling apart, but it is a tribute to the construction of the monument that it still stands despite it being totally gutted in a fire a few hundred years back. The wooden part of the palace of the Peshwa is totally destroyed, but the stone building still stands practically intact.
The gardens and the water fountains probably give you an insight into the planning & artistry of the Maratha rulers, something they're not well known for.

Lal Mahal: I have only seen it from the outside, as it unfortunately has restricted viewing hours. It is still on my viewing list as I am very keen on seeing what I had hitherto only read about in Amar Chitra Kathas; specially since it has to do with a great king, one whose name has been usurped by & spoilt for political purposes.

Sinhgadh: Fort that was witness to one of the Marathas' greatest victories. Site of the martyrdom of one of Shivaji's greatest generals, Tanaji. Apart from that it is a very green area, where one visit could render the senses fresh.

Lesser places (I guess this varies depending on one's interest) are the temples in Pune.

Dagdusheth & Chaturshringhi, the two that I visited with my firangi friend are deviod of any notable architecture. They're essentially places of faith that are famous I guess for the throngs they attract. One notable thing about Dagdusheth is the amount of gold used in it's inner chamber. It makes ones jaw drop.

Any other ideas about what one can visit in Pune?


Friday, May 02, 2008

Bad Quality of Massages in Pune

Anyone who has experienced an authentic Kerela Ayurvedic massage will know what I am talking about here. A Kerela Ayurvedic massage has to be experienced to be believed. The one I tried was in Goa, at the health club of the beautiful Club Mahindra resort at Varca. An hour long session of pure bliss, which relaxes you to a degree you can only experience not read about.

So when I came to Pune, I thought of going for another Kerela Ayurvedic massage. I called up JustDial & got the number of one heavily advertised centre called Jeevana! I fixed up an appointment & reached them at the appointed hour.
I must state on record, that it was the worst massage I had ever received in my life. It did the exact opposite of relax me, the two massuers were working up a fire on my stomach with their palms. And once I was done, they didn't even have a proper steam room in which to quietly enjoy one's steam bath!!!
And this is true of every other so-called Ayurvedic massage spa in Pune. They don't have steam baths. The have a bag which they put you in & put a kettle in with you!!! It's hilarious!!! Call up JustDial & take the number of anyone who claims to be an Ayurvedica Massage Spa & ask them whether they have a proper steam room. I can guarantee you that they will say no!

Jeevana is an exercise in pulling wool over the public's eyes! Avoid it at all costs!

The next massage I tried was at the health club at the Le Meridien Pune. I must say that the massage was good. It succeeded in putting me to sleep in 40 minutes flat. I wish I'd opted for the hour long one instead of the 45 minute one!

The third one I tried was at the health club at the very elegant Corinthians Club. (The Nyati group makes some beautiful buildings! I must say that they're probably one of the best builders I have seen!) However, this one would probably qualify as either worse than Jeevana or equally bad! In their defence, they're not a speciality massage spa, while Jeevana claims to be one! They need to train their current masseuse better or outsource the spa to someone else. I have provided them with the contact details of person who runs the Goa spa. Let's see what they do. They do have a proper steam bath though!

There is a Naturopathy Institute that apparently offers a good massage, but that is one I still have to try!

So essentially, my 2 years in the city could lead me to believe that there is only one thing to be said for Pune: that they have a variety of very interesting food joints! Is that all that the city has to offer?
I will very grudgingly say, "Not really". There are a couple of interesting places to visit in Pune. Not too many but that in a separate post.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Pune - Foodie's Paradise

Despite my utter dissatisfaction with the Pune's traffic situation & it's citizens WRT the traffic situation, Pune does have quite a few things to be thankful for. The greenery in it's army areas, the tree-lined, shady roads, the old colonial homes.
What's that? You don't want to know what retirees enjoy? You want to know what a migrant yuppie moving to the city can look forward to?

Well, there's the food... Pune is literally the foodie's paradise!

There are no discos worth going to, the multiplexes & malls aren't anything to write home about, but the glut of restaurants that spoil you for choice... aah!

From the ubiquitous, humble Joshi & Rohit vadewale to the surprisingly unpretentious Arthur's Theme & Swiss Cheese Garden, from Sheesha Cafe (despite it's snobbish owner) serving Iranian fare, to the newly opened Litti Chokha (run by 4 very friendly software professionals, all under 30!) serving humble Bihari fare with pride. Litti Chokha is in Katraj, near BVP. The landmark is Care & Cure Girls Hostel.
Mind you, none of the fare can be called truly authentic, but like I said, Pune is the foodie's paradise, not the gastronome's!

Take Arthur's Theme in Koregaon Park for example. They've kept some basic French dishes on the menu, changed them a little to suit the Indian palate, and crammed the rest of the menu with regular Continental & Indian stuff. The least one would expect going to a French restaurant would be some nice wine, but their selection disappoints!
The ambience is nice, not overtly classy, but the type that a group of friends would enjoy a trifle more than a family.
It's not the kind of place you'd go to if you were looking for a quiet classy evening though.

Sheesha Cafe, at ABC Farms on the Koregaon Park-Mundhwa road, has something called the Chello-Burg Kabab (I hope I got the name right), which is essentially a meat dish with rice. It's laden with butter, which makes it great for the tongue but terrible for your arteries! A once in a year kind of calorie indulgence, but well worth it!
Make sure you try & get one of the corner seating areas instead of the tables in the centre. They're carpeted takhats, and you can put your feet up & relax.
Classier ambience wise than anything else I've visited in Pune. Plus they have Jazz festivals!

Anyone who wants a taste of Marwar (the part of Rajasthan that borders Gujarat), should go to Chokhi Dhani! It's a little outside the city; they had to since they require a lot of space to develop that mela atmosphere! Keep driving down past The Aga Khan palace until you start seeing signs for Chokhi Dhani.
To people who've never been to Rajasthan, the entire experience is amazing. To someone like me who hasn't been "home" in 9 years, it's a fairly close reminder of what life used to be like there!

There's Mainland China, an import from Bombay, but extremely popular! Looks like Chinese food is probably the most popular foreign cuisine in India!
Right next to it stands an Italian joint called La Dolce Vita, one I still have to sample.
And after that is Sigri with some of the most uninspiring fare in all of Pune. Give it a miss!
(All the three mentioned above are near Dhole Patil road, in a bylane off Pune Central)

Another place that has great food & some nice wine as well is Nawabs. Nawabs is above Aakar Furniture, on the Blue Nile-Inox road. Peppy music (fairly loud though), great kababs, the kind of place a bunch of migrant yuppies would feel home at!

Northern Frontier, opposite the Aga Khan Palace, apparently serves the best Mutton Roganjosh in the city. This is something I have yet to sample, and I will get back to you after authenticating this claim.

Another place that makes a mean Roganjosh is Chillies at Elysium (a little ahead of ABC Farms on the opposite side of the road)! Worth a try, just for that, although the place is essentially a party/shaadi hall these days!

I cannot close this post without mentioning what is now called Not Just Jazz by the Bay (very outdated website! It's located at ESQUARE). It's my favourite restaurant in Bombay, but the Pune one doesn't thrive the way the Bombay one does. I'm certain this has to do with the lifestyle choice differences that exist between the cities. The Bombay Jazz is packed on weekends & you have to pay to enter. In contrast the Pune one is barely hanging in there. It is badly in need of some patronage. Hopefully the yuppie migrant population is listening!

The reason Jazz suffers so in Pune are many. The Long Island Iced Tea of the Bombay joint is worth killing for. As is it's Macroni & Cheese! The Pune one serves a Long Island you wish you had made instead. And the worst feature of the restaurant is it's manager. A moustached man in a funny green suit, who has the worst manners of any customer service professional ever!

Go to Jazz by all means, but give him hell please!

AND... the latest eatery to open up in the city, jostling for space among the surplusage in Koregaon Park (just before Tequeela), differentiated purely by virtue of it's organic health food menu is Liquid! The young owner & his team whip up some great salads & fresh fruit juices that are a must for every health conscious foodie! No added sugar, no added water, just pure tasty fruit juice blends. My personal favourite is the one they call Ultimate Detox! And there's a Tuna salad for me! The vegetarians may want to try the Broc Doc. You may also want to sample some of the regular coolers.
Perfect way to beat the summer heat: Eat light, eat green! Go check it out & post your comments here as feedback!