Archive | June, 2012

London, Dublin etc

28 Jun

I have not blogged at all lately. It is because I have been in London since I last wrote from Madrid. I don’t know how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Somerset Maugham did it but I find that life in London is just not conducive to writing.

We are on vacation with our children and therefore our days are consumed by visits to the parks and museums in London while our evenings are spent catching up with friends and sampling foods in different restaurants. If there is any time left, between these two commitments, it usually gets dispensed over shopping. Where then, is the time for someone to collect their thoughts and write them down?

Samuel Johnson famously said, “You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. For there is in London, all that life can afford.”

I couldn’t agree more with Samuel Johnson for  one truly can never be tired of London though one can indeed be tired ‘in’ London, in my opinion. This city is so enchanting that it can be tiring.

I have longed to write about a spectacular ‘Ball gowns’ exhibition I saw at the Victoria and Albert museum. I have been equally keen to write about just how much I loathe my unavoidable trips to Madame Tussaud’s and M&M world, courtesy my kids. I wanted to write about the fabulous food of London, a true melting pot of all cultures. I wanted to write about just how lying about my age to myself won’t help me stay awake at a London nightclub. Most of all, I wanted to write about just how alive I feel in London.

Instead, I find myself writing about Dublin, Ireland. Yes sir, you heard right. I am in Dublin since last evening. At first I was unwilling to come to Ireland but marriage demands things of you that make you look forward to reincarnation with joy. Since Ireland was on the husband’s wish-list since a while, I bit the bullet and agreed to come here with the kids.

What helped me make this decision was the fact that the kids and I were granted only a 7 days  Schengen visa, even though neither of us have a known criminal record in any of the Schengen countries.

And so we found ourselves arriving into Ireland yesterday. I have had some very bemused looks from friends who were told that we are headed to this country for a week. Apparently, it isn’t very fashionable to go to Ireland. Most Indians explore the UK or head to Italy, France or Switzerland during the summer break. However, the Shroff family, with two moderately excited children and one grumpy looking wife was boarding a flight to Dublin. I was grumpy mostly because I am always grumpy when I am made to leave London.

Dublin seems a bit stark and harsh after London and I spent my first evening here trying to readjust my sensibilities. It has imposing medieval architecture and footprints of the Vikings and Celts all over but it lacks the sheen that is so natural to the capital cities of Europe. However, Dublin quickly makes up for that by being capital of the country that is home to writers like Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and GB Shaw. I am stating the obvious here but Dublin is also home to Guinness beer and the Old Jameson whiskey, which, I feel, might have had a heavy influence on the country’s rich literary talent, by the way.

Today was unexpectedly warm contrary to what CNN weather and my iphone weather app had predicted. I realized that I had not carried any summery footwear with me and to make matters worse, left behind my sneakers in London. You can only imagine what a sight for sore eyes I must have been as I walked around in my boots at the zoo, along with my well-clad children, in 25 degrees C today. When people were not busy looking at the gorillas and zebras at the zoo, they were busy looking at my feet.

There was only one way to stop feeling like a spectacle and start feeling spectacular and it came in the shape of a chilled beer mug at the Temple bar. By the time I met my cousin Ambrish and his lovely wife Aparna, who live in Dublin, over dinner, I had recovered my lost ‘spirits’. We spent a lovely, albeit brief evening together because along with my sneakers I had forgotten to carry pediatric Benadryl and Chloroform as well. Both are fairly useful, I am told, in calming down Indian kids. My kids were impatient and spent from the heat and since I could not drug them I had to bring them back to the hotel.

Tomorrow the Writers Museum and the Guinness factory await. But let me organize the chloroform first.

 

Hola from Madrid

17 Jun

ImageI am in Madrid and the only sightseeing I seem to be doing is of the gastronomic and retail kind. Am here to visit my Venezuelan friend Carmen, who recently relocated to Madrid from Caracas. Her family is not very different from Indians in their sense of hospitality and since I arrived here with my kids, three days ago, we have had the pleasure to dine at some of the best restaurants in Madrid.

On my first day here the first thing I wanted to do was to take my kids to the Museum del Prado that houses works of artists like Goya, Raphael, Diego Velazquez and Reubens to name a few.  In hindsight, taking the kids along was not such a good idea as walking through a museum with a 4-year-old (of considerable height) on your hip isn’t the best way to admire art.

Carmen collects art and has a bewildering collection from all over the globe including a few personally commissioned works of Andy Warhol. She lives a lane away from the museum and insisted on giving me a personally conducted tour at Pradp. I cannot handle large museums and get overwhelmed by the works of so many great masters on display under one roof. Which is why it was fantastic to be shown around by someone who was so focused on saving my time by taking me right away to what most needed to be seen. The  ‘Las Meninas’ by Velazquez and ‘The Naked Maja’ by Goya were among the several ‘must-see’ works of art that Carmen took me to within minutes of entering Prado. I did feel bad for the other artists whose works my eyes were not allowed to linger over, as I followed Carmen-on-a-mission around Prado. My heart goes out to these dead masters as they must turn in their graves each time some tourist like me by-passes their works and heads straight to the paintings of other more famous artists than themselves. Oh well, what was I to do? Life is not fair anyway.

The next two days was spent dining and walking in and out of stores with seven wonderful Venezuelan women, all of whom seemed to be hell bent on helping the Spanish economy by making charitable purchases for themselves at Bottega Veneta, Missoni, and Jimmy Choo.

In midst of all this I managed to pop by at Carmen’s house to throw brief albeit loving glances in the direction of my children, lest they should feel left out of all the bonhomie.

My kids don’t get fooled easy however and they managed to extract their pound of flesh by making me take them to the amusement park the next day in the insufferable heat of Madrid. It was so hot that I felt my body parts vaporizing along with my patience. To my relief, my kids were too scared to try most of the rides thereby reminding me yet again that there indeed was a God above. A loving, patient and compassionate God, who understands pigmentation and the other damaging effects harsh sunlight and heat can have on skin and hair.

The husband will disapprove of this ‘wuss’ like behaviour of our kids but I am not so much into building character. In any case I do not feel get scared out of your wits on a roller coaster builds character. I am sure there are other things in Madrid that can help build their character. Maybe I should leave this blogging for another time and find out what those ‘things’ are.

Until then, adios. Hasta luego.

Dubai musings

13 Jun

Image Image

I share a love hate relationship with my city. When I travel to other places I wonder what it would be like to live there, the same way perhaps, that someone in a bad marriage wonders what it would be like to be married to someone else. While there are a handful of cities I can see myself living in happily – kith, kin & dog intact, the one city I would never want to live in is Dubai.

I realized this last week as the husband and I sat tucking into sushi at the Japanese restaurant Zuma in Dubai . Even though it was a Tuesday afternoon, there was nothing about the mostly European and Asian gentry at the restaurant that reflected a ‘workday’ mood. Men sipped into sake’ and indulged in long leisurely chats, well turned out women flicked their highlights as they lit their cigarettes and discreetly touched up their pancaked faces in hand mirrors now and then.

Sitting there, I wondered if I would ever be able to live in this city.  The allure of Dubai was not lost on me. The never ending malls, the presence of branches of Laduree’, Nobu, Zuma, Magnolia… famous restaurants and café’s of the world, the enticing marina and an endless range of kids’ entertainment…Dubai just had so much to offer. It was indeed admirable that this Xanadu like city of bedazzling skyscrapers and long wide roads had emerged from what used to be sand dunes by a fishing village a few decades ago.

But Dubai unsettled me like few other places in the world unsettled me. The glitz and the gloss to me was a reflection of an inner emptiness. The 24-hour air conditioning, the fuel guzzling SUV’s that zipped down those well-built roads, the fake islands carved out by tricking the ocean’s eco system only reflected the apathy this city had towards the environment. In fact, the streetlights on the highway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai were powerful enough to simultaneously light and heat up a football field in Finland in December.

In its effort to impress, Dubai had put together the best from the world and made it larger. The dancing fountains of Bellagio, Las Vegas now touched greater heights to Andre Bocelli’s music than they did in Vegas. The ski slopes of the Swiss Alps were recreated at the Mall of the Emirates, only they did not have to wait for winter to receive the snow. The Dubai Marina, an artificial canal city was modeled after the Concord Pacific Place at Vancouver. The  mythical Atlantis was now a hotel in Dubai and it boasted of the world’s largest aquarium and a huge fake coastline with no waves. This was like creating an image of a woman by putting together parts from the most beautiful women in the world: Aishwarya Rai’s eyes, Monica Belluci’s face and Angelina Jolie’s mouth on Beyonce’s body. Would that make an image of a stunning woman? Would such a face have character or a soul? I am not so sure.

If my life were only about buying new things, slipping into designer threads, slapping on make-up and arriving at venues designed by Roberto Cavalli or Giorgio Armani …then I would feel at home in Dubai.  But much as I enjoyed indulging in all of these things I found their endless pursuit mentally and spiritually limiting. It was evident that in the absence of any culture, Dubai had embraced currency as its culture and the people who lived there basked in the gilt edged glory of such a culture.

“You wouldn’t be able to survive here,” offered the husband, reading my thoughts, “This is a very shallow city.” He was right. The all too opulent shops, the insatiable shoppers, diamante’ encrusted life… the presence of money loomed large much like the sand dust that hung over the city on a summer’s day.  Dubai was good enough for me to come on a three-day break, no more.

The things I dislike about Dubai

13 Jun

Image thingImage

I share a love hate relationship with my city. When I travel to other places I wonder what it would be like to live there, the same way perhaps, that someone in a bad marriage wonders what it would be like to be married to someone else. While there are a handful of cities I can see myself living in happily – kith, kin & dog intact, the one city I would never want to live in is Dubai.

I realized this last week as the husband and I sat tucking into sushi at the Japanese restaurant Zuma in Dubai . Even though it was a Tuesday afternoon, there was nothing about the mostly European and Asian gentry at the restaurant that reflected a ‘workday’ mood. Men sipped into sake’ and indulged in long leisurely chats, well turned out women flicked their highlights as they lit their cigarettes and discreetly touched up their pancaked faces in hand mirrors now and then.

Sitting there, I wondered if I would ever be able to live in this city.  The allure of Dubai was not lost on me. The never ending malls, the presence of branches of Laduree’, Nobu, Zuma, Magnolia… famous restaurants and café’s of the world, the enticing marina and an endless range of kids’ entertainment…Dubai just had so much to offer. It was indeed admirable that this Xanadu like city of bedazzling skyscrapers and long wide roads had emerged from what used to be sand dunes by a fishing village a few decades ago.

But Dubai unsettled me like few other places in the world unsettled me. The glitz and the gloss to me was a reflection of an inner emptiness. The 24-hour air conditioning, the fuel guzzling SUV’s that zipped down those well-built roads, the fake islands carved out by tricking the ocean’s eco system only reflected the apathy this city had towards the environment. In fact, the streetlights on the highway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai were powerful enough to simultaneously light and heat up a football field in Finland in December.

In its effort to impress, Dubai had put together the best from the world and made it larger. The dancing fountains of Bellagio, Las Vegas now touched greater heights to Andre Bocelli’s music than they did in Vegas. The ski slopes of the Swiss Alps were recreated at the Mall of the Emirates, only they did not have to wait for winter to receive the snow. The Dubai Marina, an artificial canal city was modeled after the Concord Pacific Place at Vancouver. The  mythical Atlantis was now a hotel in Dubai and it boasted of the world’s largest aquarium and a huge fake coastline with no waves. This was like creating an image of a woman by putting together parts from the most beautiful women in the world: Aishwarya Rai’s eyes, Monica Belluci’s face and Angelina Jolie’s mouth on Beyonce’s body. Would that make an image of a stunning woman? Would such a face have character or a soul? I am not so sure.

If my life were only about buying new things, slipping into designer threads, slapping on make-up and arriving at venues designed by Roberto Cavalli or Giorgio Armani …then I would feel at home in Dubai.  But much as I enjoyed indulging in all of these things I found their endless pursuit mentally and spiritually limiting. It was evident that in the absence of any culture, Dubai had embraced currency as its culture and the people who lived there basked in the gilt edged glory of such a culture.

“You wouldn’t be able to survive here,” offered the husband, reading my thoughts, “This is a very shallow city.” He was right. The all too opulent shops, the insatiable shoppers, diamante’ encrusted life… the presence of money loomed large much like the sand dust that hung over the city on a summer’s day.  Dubai was good enough for me to come on a three-day break, no more.

 

 

 

 

My review of Madonna’s MDNA concert, Abu Dhabi

7 Jun

These are some photos I managed to click of Girl Gone Wild Madonna during the concert.

Three hours is a long time to wait in the heat of an Abu Dhabi’s simmering summer for a concert to start. At least five people from the patient audience comprising mostly of expats, succumbed to the heat and fainted at the Arena.

The previous night’s show had not fetched the Queen too many good reviews. It was reported that Madonna had arrived on stage an hour and a half later than expected and that the heat had gotten the better of her thereby dampening her performance.

The second night was as hot. The crowd was getting edgy with each passing minute and an hour and forty-five minutes later, there was still no sign of Madonna. The organizers were nonchalant, the queues for beer too long and Michael Jackson’s music that played on the loop, bizarre.

We were all about to collapse en-masse when hooded clergy appeared on stage. A church bell rang. The thurible, hanging from the ceiling, dropped down as Gregorian chants filled the air. It appeared to be the setting for a cult that favoured devil worship. The thurible was lit up and made to sway following which the clergy began to indulge in some dark ritual, chanting alongside. The steeple of the church appeared as the screen parted Madonna’s shadow inside it was heard, asking for forgiveness for having sinned. “Oh my God…..” she said slowly and then with a loud crashing sound the Girl Gone Wild materialized on stage.

The rest of the performance was not merely a concert but an extravagent musical theatre. Dark, surreal and pulsating with Madonna’s indescribable energy this was a production of an unfathomable scale and caliber. The lighting, the visuals and the graphics were all too overwhelming to be real and lent magnificence to the evening.

After her Girl Gone Wild track, a gun wielding Madge sang Revolver as she went on a faux shooting spree while images comprising of fresh blood, bullets and morphing bodies flashed on the larger than life screen on the LCD backdrop. Another song with more gore followed as she sat inside an American Motel shooting at men in gas masks as she sang Gang Bang.

She also sang Express Yourself and threw in words like ‘respect yourself’ fusing it with Born this way by Lady Gaga and promptly following it up with She’s not me. That was a snub that will not be forgotten by Gaga fans in a hurry. Oh but I am no Gaga fan. I have been a Madonna fan all my life and even more so after watching her perform live.

For some reason people expected her to sing her ‘golden hits’ through the years, but this was the MDNA tour and she mostly sang tracks from this album throwing in some of her old hits only briefly. The most riveting performance of the night was when she sang Like a Virgin like a ballad. Gone was the exuberance of the Madonna of the 80s. There was a certain maturity to this rendition of the song as sweat mixed with emotion dripped from Madonna’s face.

Here was a woman who was sure of herself even as she was broken. To me the subliminal message of this concert was the rising of a wronged woman from her heartbreaks and embracing inner peace. But she does this all in her hypnotic style even as she indulges in some attention seeking sexual moves on stage calling them Human Nature. Madonna’s presence, however, is so powerful that it absolves her of all sin.

She is unapologetic about living life on her own terms and irreverent. With “NO FEAR” tattooed across her back, she seemed to be exorcising her inner demons as she gave glimpses of her stoicism, her vulnerability, her surety and her sensuality during the performance.

She asked the audience “Have you ever loved something dearly, something that you know you cannot not get?” as a preamble to Masterpiece, a song I love.

When someone from the audience told her “Yes, you” she answered “But you have me. I am yours.”

The audience gave a sigh of relief as they heard the familiar sounds of Like a Prayer, which Madonna sang atop a run down bus with images of a running train and streets of Calcutta on the LCD backdrop. Bollywood actor types doing stunts on top of trains gave way to yogis as she chanted famous Hindu shlokas.

For a 53 year old, Madonna has a body that belongs in a military camp and energy that belongs in a high school. In spite of the torturous heat, she went through eight costume changes and vigorous dance moves over 20 songs.

Her body, with each and every muscle defined and sculpted to the bone, seemed symbolic of her inner life to me. While toughening up her exterior Madonna seems to have pulled herself together from within to become indestructible. She is her own shield.

I came away, mesmerized. I am sure that when I am dying and visuals from my life flash before my eyes, Madonna’s image from this concert will be one of them.

I have always liked Madonna, but after this concert, I am a ‘Born Again’.

Terms of Endearment

7 Jun

Since I accompanied the husband to Melbourne to see him play the keynote speaker at his alma mater’s graduation day a week ago, he has taken to calling me “Dude” for some reason.

I wonder if my being his wife and sidekick du jour on that momentous day had anything to do with it because this “dude” business started off in and around the same time. It is always “Dude, where is your passport?” Or “Dude hurry up, we will miss the flight.” Or “Calm down dude.”

So here is what I want to say to the husband. “You calm down. I will not calm down. Because I am not a dude in the first place.”

I hate it when someone calls me “Babe”. I have always felt like telling people  who “Hey babe” me that I have a name and I don’t wish to be babed. But after being called ‘Dude’ I am beginning to take to the idea of  “Babe”. It sounds most eloquent in comparison.

I will have you know that I may be a Punjabi but I am not exactly hirsute. In the last two weeks, I have not noticed any peculiar hair growth on my face. My voice hasn’t started to crack, though come to think of it, neither has Sachin’s, and he is a real ‘Dude’. Last time I looked at the mirror I could not see any signs of an Adam’s apple emerging either. Then why dude?

I get very obviously annoyed each time he calls me ‘Dude’ and unless he is blind and deaf (he claims marriage has rendered him both) he could not have not noticed. He keeps at it.

Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to him that the pen is mightier than an unrelenting man. I have decided that if he does not drop this term of endearment right away, I am going to refer to him as “Babe” in my blogs, starting tomorrow.

Watch this space.

 
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