Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lynne Truss - My heroine

Finished reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves today. Awesomely entertaining book on punctuation. Hats off to the author - Lynne Truss - for writing an informative book on the 'drab' topic. The abundant anecdotes and hilarious send-ups had me laughing out loud on the train while commuting to work!

Given that I am a stickler in many aspects of life - including punctuation - I could relate strongly to the initial discussion on the silent suffering of the few believers forced to live with the non-believing majority.

A believer can co-exist peacefully with the non-believers
  • by finding solace in the company of fellow-believers,
  • by being able to accept the difference of opinions (at best) and lack of awareness (at worst), and
  • learning more relaxation techniques.
Breeeeeeeeeathe deeeeeeeeeeeeply.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

When the Superstar came to town...

Another story I had sent by e-mail to friends; this one from Feb 2007

... I was out of the country

I went to Montreal on a client visit and missed a golden opportunity to meet Rajnikanth!!

ok, here is the story from the beginning:
Pradeep Shakti - the guy who played one of the villians in Nayagan - has been in NJ for a while now, and runs a South Indian restaurant in Jersey City - one which I visit regularly. This guy was in Film Institute with Rajnikanth, and has become best buddies with him.

Recently Rajni was supposed to come to US for shooting parts of his new movie Sivaji. He called up this guy and arranged for staying with him while he was in US. Our friend Pradeep gladly went to the airport to receive the superstar and brought him home. Took the superstar on a sight-seeing tour in NY and showed him times square.

Next day Pradeep had called a few of his close friends (some regular customers at his restaurant) for a late-night party with the superstar. My best friend here went to the party and had a good time there - the party going on from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM; rajni and pradeep reminiscing about their early days together. My friend was saying that Rajni was very nice in person, very approachable and joined in peoples' conversations in their own language - telugu, tamil, kannada,...

Earlier in the day, they were having lunch in one of the restaurants in NY, and after 10 minutes people started coming over to their table asking if it was indeed rajnikanth!!

Wonder how it would have been if I were in town and had got to go to that party.....

Post-script: I should get the photos from the party; many of my friends will be happy to see those photos.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Once in a life-time adventure

This is a story from May 2006 which I had sent out to my friends as an email with subject as either "Once in a life-time adventure" or "Good story to tell my Grand Kids".

Visit Vancouver. Get work visa extended. Last day plan scenic round-trip drive in Canadian Rockies. Rent car and drive up the Sea-to-sky highway to Whistler and beyond enjoying picture-postcardesque scenery along the way.

70 miles from nearest town on a two lane curvy and lonely road. Speed on one curve create gradient, and along with gravel on road, and lightness of car, make car develop own mind. Car decide to curve around, come to a halt on the opposite side of the road, turn over and stick wheels to the sky. Self dangling upside down, held by seat-belt, enjoying a different perspective of surrounding scenery of grass, stones, etc through broken wind-shield.

Unbuckle and crawl out through broken window pane. Review damage : Car in unmovable state, Not a single scratch on me, no cellphone coverage, rental agreement with insurance coverage limit financial damage to $300.



Enter stage left: Friendly Boat Salesman in a SUV. Ride with FBS on the way back learning the ins and outs of Aluminium Boat industry and about his own recent car-does-belly-up-turtle-act accident which had resulted in some severe damage to the body of the human and the car. Reach nearest town and report incident to Cute Woman Police Officer. Get report of incident from CWPO and report to rental agency. FBS and CWPO find common interests and exchange phone numbers.

Continue on journey with FBS learning about the adventures possible in Vancouver Island and about the way to identify Albertans driving in British Columbia and other interesting things. FBS thrilled to get CWPO's phone number. Bye Bye FBS in Horse Shoe Bay with "Go easy on those rental cars, ey!"

Continue scenic tour on bus and reach Airport. Take flight home.


Post-scripts to that story:
  • The rental car company asked me to pay $350 ; I should say it cost me very little for such an awesome adventure!
  • I should contact Mr. FBS soon, and tell him that I have taken his advice and not turned over any other rentals cars so far.
  • One minor regret: I didn't think of taking the photo of the belly-up Car. Or even better a photo of the belly-up car with the Driver who sent it belly-up would have been perfect!
The only souvenir from that accident I have with me is a piece of glass from the wind-shield, which somehow got into my bag, for me to discover after returning to US. I am preserving it carefully to show it in the future as a proof of having been through a miraculous experience!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

South Indian food in New Jersey

I consider myself lucky to be staying in close proximity to many South Indian restaurants; most of them are close enough to allow me to make a last minute decision to drive over there for lunch/dinner and reach the restaurant within an hours time.

Udupi Cafe in Franklin Park was probably the first purely South Indian restaurant I got introduced to after arriving in US. It was wonderful to visit this restaurant and relive the experience of eating out in Bangalore. Haven't visited the place in a long time - it being far away being one of the main reasons. Visited the Parsippany branch of Udupi Cafe a couple of times recently; the lunch buffet is quite good.

Malabar House on Stelton Road in Pisctaway has been a favourite of my friends and I for a long time for the tasty Kerala Vegetarian food, and the cosy atmosphere provided by the family run restaurant. Hadn't been to this place in a long time; very recently stopped over there at around 4:00 PM and had them make me a cup of delicious coffee to keep me going on my way south. :)

Swagath Gourmet on Oaktree Road in Iselin has been my personal favourite for a long time. I have frequently visited the place to enjoy their thali or rice dishes or dosas, and almost always having a side order of Paniyaram and a take-out order of Maddur Vada (AWESOME!) and finishing the meal with a delicious cup of South Indian Coffee. The place is run by folks from Mysore.

Moksha on Oaktree Road is one of the recently opened restaurants to move up to my favourites list. The menu is quite exotic including dishes from all four South Indian states, and probably more oriented for a meat-eater's palate. The food is pricey, but the overall experience is favourable.

Malgudi on Oaktree Road has some very interesting items on the menu, and is more crowded than the other restaurants in the area. I have walked away from the place many times to eat at a different place. Food is good and the service is decent as well. The best thing I remember about visiting the place was once seeing an Indian Guy carrying a new-born child and proudly sporting the "Sugar Daddy" T-shirt much to our delight :-)

Hoysala in Somerset was the most recent discovery. I was delighted to find that the place was run by folks from Bangalore and the menu had some dishes local to Bangalore and the surrounding areas - things like Akki Roti, Ragi Mudde, Kadale Saru, Badanekayi yenagai, ... Their lunch buffet is sumptuous as well, including a wide variety of appetisers (though most are of the deep-fried variety making me go easy on them!), fresh dosa, idli, tasty sambhar, one delicious rice item along with many veg and non-veg entrees. The coffee is good as well.

Saravana Bhavan has recently opened a Branch on Oaktree Road; the ambience is very good - the place must have been a huge diner before. The food as always is excellent.

Finally, I have to mention Baba Hut on Newark Avenue in Journal Square, which serves authentic coastal food from Andra and Tamil Nadu, and is open till 11:30 PM atleast everyday to make it convenient when running late from work or when returning late from a long trip. The propreiter -Pradeep Shakti - was previously in the cinema field; his best remembered role being of a villian in Nayagan. If only I wasn't out of town on work, I would have got to meet Super Star Rajnikanth when he visited US for shooting some parts of his new movie Sivaji and was staying with Pradeep's folks. The Super Star had taken part in a late night get-together at Baba Hut with some of the close friends of Pradeep's.

So do I miss South Indian food with all these restaurants nearby and to top it all I myself can dish out some delicious South Indian food in quick time?!!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

One of the best Hindi movie in recent times

At least one of the best Hindi movies I have watched in recent times.

Watched Khosla Ka Ghosla two time so far with friends, and both times everyone in the audience were very impressed with the movie, and wanted the movie to continue even after it ended! The movie is well made, funny, with a nice story and great acting from all the actors most of whom are small-time artists.

Based on a NetFlix user's comment that the second half of the movie runs similar to Paul Newman-Robert Redford caper movie The Sting, watched it recently and enjoyed it immensely as well.

Friday, May 4, 2007

One book per week?

The other day while browsing at one of the NYPL branches, I got hold of a book in which an author was telling about her efforts at reading one book per week for a full year, and had given as part of the appendices at the end of the book, the original must-read list, the final books-read list, and the must-read list for the next year.

I must average atleast 20 or more books per year.

Some of the books I remember reading in the recent past:

(a) Story-wallah: Short fiction from South Asian writers
The Editor - Shyam Selvadurai - has collected an extra-ordinary set of stories written by writers of South Asian origin. The introduction to the book provided by the author shows his deep appreciation of the sense of no-where-ness a South Asian person experiences when he moves to US or Canada or Europe. The editor also is quite adept at expressing his thoughts. His comment that he identifies more with the hyphen in Canadian-Sri Lankan than with either national identities impressed me and set the tone for the rest of the book.

(b) The Namesake
I had liked the various stories Jhumpa Lahiri had weaved together in her book "Interpreter of Maladies". The title story and the one where the couple are considering separation but change their mind were the two favourite stories from that book. Had never heard about 'The Namesake' till I came across the news about the movie's release.

Listened to the CD version of the novel on a trip to Baltimore, and was totally absorbed with the story of the Ganguly family, and was amazed at the breadth of Indo-American experiences the author has been able to distill into this sweet story. I doubt if watching the movie will be as good an experience as reading the book.

(c) Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
William Styron's story of slow descent into the depths of depression and a courageous recovery is the type of story I was looking for when I went about seeking someone's story on overcoming depression.

Elizabeth Wurtzel's Prozac Nation - which I read first with the same objective - turned out to be more of a journal of depression-driven excesses and didn't focus much on the recovery part. After spending 99 % of the book describing the hell she was in, the author touched upon Prozac and recovery very briefly in the last couple of pages.

William Styron was not only able to express very lucidly the hopelessness and maddening frustrations of his increasingly melancholic state-of-mind, but also delves in length on the recovery aspects, starting with his recollection of the happier times of his life on listening to a favourite piece of music.

Hopefully will come across more wonderful books to read in the future......

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A wonderful journey of a movie

Saw Meet the Robinsons a few weeks ago in 3D in a movie hall. While there wasn't much of three dimensional effects in the movie, the movie itself was an absolute delight. The story is simple yet fast paced with an abundance of gags in each frame. I especially enjoyed the character of the bald-headed villian for his incredibly stupid schemes.

Got to know that this was the last movie Anusha saw :(

Gwen Stefani's new song Sweet Escape also reminds me of Anusha as one of my friends commented that the song was a good one for Anusha and her friends to dance to at some cultural or school function.