Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Enchanting Ratnagiri

Ratnagiri is nestled between the Sahyadri mountain range and the Arabian Sea in the South west part of Maharshtra called as 'Konkan' or 'Kokan' as we call it in Marathi.

Hubs and I decided to visit this beautiful place, to unwind and relax. This was a long awaited break and we were looking forward to it. Ratnagiri did not let us down. We travelled by our car to Kolhapur to meet family and stopped over at Ratnagiri for 2 days on our way back .

The Western coast of Maharashtra is dotted with pristine beaches and you can just go in to a trance looking at the Sea. There are many untouched places and you can have the whole beach to yourself, especially in the off season. Here are some photos of our trip.

                               What is a beach holiday without a Pina Colada, eh?

 We stayed in 'Ratnasagar Beach Resort' which is bang on Bhatye Beach. It is a lovely place which has cottages right next to the beach and one can hear the roar of the ocean very clearly. You can walk to the beach in a matter of minutes.

                                      Not a soul to be seen- Bhatye Beach (Beach adjoining our Resort)

                      Relishing Surmai Masala Thali at 'Amantran Restaurant' in Ratnagiri Town
                      It is served with Kokam Kadhi or Sol Kadhi (Pink coloured) which is a
                                       digestive drink made from the Kokam fruit.                                  


                                    The birthplace of Lokmanya Tilak

                                              History of Ratnagurg Fort

                                                           Bhatye Beach

                                          A pier jutting out in the sea

                                               Lighthouse atop the Ratnadurg fort

                                    The scenic route between Ratnagiri and Ganpatipule
                                  One of the many beaches on the way to Ganpatipule

                                               The Ganpati temple at Ganpatipule
                                       A typical fishing village

You can enjoy authentic Malwani food here which is spicy and delicious. There is a generous use of Coconut in all the dishes.

Hubs and I had come for our Honeymoon to Ganpatipule more than 12 years back. We had visited Ratnagiri that time too. Things have definitely changed, but Ratnagiri still has the charm of a coastal town that is yet to be totally commercialised like Goa.

If you want a relaxing holiday and to enjoy good food, Ratnagiri is the place. Slap on that Sunscreen, wear those flowery beach shorts and be ready to lose yourself, as you walk the empty beach, singing ' Zindagi, kaise hai paheli hai', just like Rajesh Khanna, in the Movie 'Anand'.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Are you a good Guest or a Pest?

Ever since I have been married, my home has been a magnet for guests. Not a month goes by, when I don't have someone or the other from relatives and friends coming over for a stay. Hubs and I do love entertaining and we have a constant stream of people coming for Lunches and Dinners. I have entertained a lot of people over the years and have faced people who were perfect guests and the ones who managed to raise my hackles with their antics.

It is fun to mingle with friends and family over good food and lively conversations. Though sometimes these engagements can become a thorn in your side, when guests do not follow proper etiquette. They forget the basic manners needed to be a good guest. 

For all those uninitiated, who don't know how to be a good guest, here are a few tips to help you be a good guest and not a pest.

Walk in with a gift : I have observed that my mother never goes empty handed whenever she is invited to someone's house. She always takes a gift to show her appreciation for inviting her. I have learnt this from her. It is always nice to carry some gift for the hosts, it could be chocolates, a book, a bottle of wine or something that you know they like. You could even take something you have cooked yourself. Walking in empty handed is absolutely rude. It is best not to do that.

Arrive on time: Make it happen, let you Indian genes of being fashionably late not take you over. If you are genuinely running late, call up and inform your hosts. It is more important to be on time, if you are the only guests.

Image Courtesy: Free Digital photos
Make sure that you do not outstay your welcome. Some people have this annoying habit of sitting for hours till the time the hosts start yawning and stand up as a cue that the party is over.

It is not a good sign to turn up with uninvited guests. If you have no other option, check if the hosts are fine with you bringing that person along.

Don't drink so much that you lose all dignity and become an embarrassment. Such people end up spoiling the party.

Learn to complement the food the host has so thoughtfully prepared. It shows that you really acknowledge the effort the host has put in to make the guests happy.

Do offer to help in the kitchen, even if you actually don't want to do it. Most times, the host will refuse your help, but it is good manners to ask. If the host accepts your offer, help in setting the table and getting water or help arrange the silverware. Ask the host, what else you could help with. All these small things go a long way in you becoming the perfect guest. 

Don't bore people at the party with tall tales of your accomplishments or that of your children. Keep the topic neutral and also take interest in what the other guests and host have to say.

Is there anything I could help with? is one marvellous question and your host will appreciate your thoughtfulness. 

If you are invited to a party where you don't know the other guests, try to mingle with them and be sociable. You never know, you might end up making new friends.

These tips will help you become a really good guest and you would be invited for many more parties at the hosts place. Remember, that there will be a time when the roles will be reversed and it will be your turn to be the host. At that time you would also expect your guests to be good.

What has been your experience as a host? Have you ever encountered guests that were pests?

Friday, 17 August 2012

a million little pieces

A million little pieces is a hard hitting, semi fictional memoir by James Frey. Though I am an avid book reader, I hardly ever have the patience to do a book review. Also, I am usually not into memoirs or biographies,I prefer thrillers and crime fiction is my favourite genre. One day, as I was searching though the books at my library, I came across 'A million little pieces'. The title of the book intrigued me and I decided to pick it up.
image source: Wikipedia

This book is the journey of James Frey as an alcoholic, drug addict and criminal from total depravity to sobriety at one of the oldest treatment centre in the world. At the age of 23 James finds himself on a plane, his front four teeth are missing, his nose is broken, his cheek has a hole big enough to put two of his fingers and he does not remember what he has done in the past two weeks.

He has been an alcoholic for 10 years and a crack-cocaine and Meth addict for many years. James starts drinking at the age of 10 and quickly gets drawn to drugs. He does anything and everything to fuel his addiction and is also wanted for crimes in three states. He has abused everything right from  Cocaine, crack-Cocaine, PCP, Glue, crystal meth to alcohol and he has blacked out everyday for many years. At the treatment centre he is told that his body is so badly damaged that if he does not quit, he will soon be dead. His body is so destroyed, that doctors at the treatment facility wonder as to how he is still alive.

The book is graphic in many places and I visibly winced while reading it. The writing is stark and you can actually feel the emotions and pain. The book is a window into the mind of an addict and you get an actual glimpse of how the author had to struggle with his addiction. 

Everyday tasks like eating breakfast or even taking a shower are described through his eyes and how James learns to live like a normal human being. How he struggles at everyday tasks like eating food and even looking into his own eyes. His anger towards his parents and how he deals with it and starts having a normal realtionship with his parents is also described quite well. He learns to make lasting friendships and life long friends with fellow addicts that include a mobster and a judge.

Some incidents described in the book sound too over the top and unbelievable. There was a huge uproar and criticism from the journalists and James Frey even appeared on the Oprah show and was questioned for the authenticity of the details in his book after it was published. Since this book is a memoir and the author wrote it from his memory, I have ignored whether these incidents were real or not and have stuck to the crux of the book. At several places, the author does sound arrogant when he shuns the treatment plans and the 12 steps of recovery designed for addicts. At such times, it makes you wonder whether this attitude is what made him an addict in the first place.

A million little pieces is an honest account of the author's life. I admire the courage of the author to write about his life and talk about his mistakes with so much candour. James Frey does not blame anyone for his addictions and accepts responsibility for his actions. 

The book horrifies and fascinates you at the same time. There are times when you would want to shut the book and keep it aside but the book is powerful enough to draw you towards it. The writing jumps through the page with its rawness. 'A million little pieces' is about hope and strength, it is about a life that is destroyed to a life that is reborn, it is about the human spirit and what it can endure and conquer. A must read for the strong hearted.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Raindrops keep falling on my head

The much awaited Monsoon finally arrived in my part of India, last month, albeit a bit delayed. Raindrops keep falling on my head every time I step out of my house, but it is still lacking that enthusiasm to become  a heavy downpour.

The arrival of Monsoon in India means lush greenery blankets everything. The smell of the damp earth rises and seeps into your entire being and stirs a longing. The parched earth is soaked and everywhere you see the earth is welcoming this precious nectar.

I have always had mixed feelings about the Monsoon. Most people consider Monsoon to be a romantic season. 
There are things I don't like when it rains too much.

The muddy roads: It is such a pain to go walking, you always end up with muddy shoes, muddy feet, dirty clothes..I guess you got my drift

The clothes don't dry for days and they even smell if not aired properly. 

You can never wear white clothes for the fear of getting splashed with rainwater.

Everything that is crisp and crunchy goes soggy.

The FLU and runny noses. The cough and cold, and people falling ill at the drop of a hat.

Frizzy hair and unruly mane.

I miss the Sunshine terribly and I have had my fill of rains after living for 3 years in UK.

But I do love some things that are a part of Monsoons.

The air cools down after the hot Summer months.

Roasted corn on the cob, hot soup, the smell of Earth, the Greenery.

Waterfalls and lush Green hills.

Eating hot Onion Pakodas with Ginger tea.

Monsoon has its magical effect even on the leading ladies of Bollywood. It used to be compulsory in the 1990's for every heroine to get drenched in the rains wearing a white sari to entice the Hero. There are many songs about rains in our Movies and romance has been the essence of most of them.

Here is my pick of the top 20 songs.

1) Lagi aaj sawan ki phir wo - Chandni

2) Parbat se Kali Ghata Takarai - Chandni

3) Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhagi si - Chalti ka naam Gadi

4) Rimzim Gire Sawan-  Manzil

5) Badal Yun Garajta hai - Betaab

6) Choti si Kahani se - Ijaazat

7) Tip Tip barsa Pani- Mohra

8) Rijhim Rimjhim - 1942 A love Story

9) Ghanan Ghanan- Lagaan

10) Bhaage re mann kahi -Chameli

11) Hum Tum- HumTum

12) Ye Saazish hai boondo ki-  Fanaa

14) Barso re Megha - Guru

15) Boondon se Baate- Thakshak

16) Aankhon se tune ye- Ghulam

17) Ye raat bheegi bheegi- Chori Chori

18) Ab ke sajan saawan mein- Chupke Chupke

19) Ghode Jaisi chal, Hathi jaisi dum - Dil to pagal hai

20) Sawan Barse tarse dil  - Dahek            

So what do you love and hate about Monsoons, and what is your favourite rain song?

I will leave you with this wonderful song which inspired me for the title of this post :)


Monday, 6 August 2012

Open letter to everyday super Idiots

Dear Super Idiots,

Everyday, while driving and even walking around the city, I come across people like you, who think they are God’s gift to humanity. Your arrogant attitude and non sense driving skills has prompted me to write this open letter. Yoo-hoo!! guys, you know who you are and hope you are reading this.I know that deep in your heart you do want to follow traffic rules, but again breaking rules is a matter of pride for you. You still think that being a rebel is in, and have taken it to heart.

The other day, I was in a great mood and was on my way to do some shopping. I was waiting patiently for the signal to turn Green. There were only a few seconds remaining for the light to turn Green, 12,11,10 the seconds ticked away. At that moment, I felt that I was standing at a Derby with restless horses ready to start galloping, the moment the doors are thrown open. I suddenly see you and your friends starting to drive ahead in the incoming traffic just like untamed horses in the wind, and create a traffic jam. Some of you also took pleasure in blowing the car horn at the highest possible decibel to nudge me ahead. For traffic rule follower like me, your horn blast not only shattered my ear drum, but made me literally jump out of my skin. Your disdainful look made me feel like a klutz who has orange jelly in her skull, instead of actual brain matter. Duh! who told you to follow traffic rules, that is for SUCKERS.

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Luckily, my Yoga skills came handy, I did a few rounds of ‘Pranayam’ to calm my mind and to get a grip on reality. Thankfully, at the next junction, the signal was Green and I drove on without a care and a song on my lips. Little did I know, a dark blur crossed my path a few inches from my vehicle. I turned my head and saw that another of your brethren has broken the Red signal and had happily scampered to cross the road without a care for the incoming traffic. I quickly turned and followed him to ask him ‘ Kya Meri hi Gadi Mili thi Marne ke liye?’ (Did you want to die in front of my car?). With a proud look as that of a warrior, you said it is no big deal and that I unnecessarily had my panties in a twist. With rage boiling in my innards, I was ready for a bout, but common sense prevailed and with some belligerent expletives, we parted ways.

Your careless disregard for your own safety is understandable. I understand that it is difficult to process too many things in a Pea sized brain like yours. Even then, I can never understand that how you can put your offspring in harm’s way. I have read, that even Dinosaurs protected their children from any harm. You drive on your scooters, bikes and in your cars with your children and flagrantly ignore signals, stop signs and parking signs. I take all efforts to follow rules whereas you happily make a ‘U’ turn where it is prohibited and all the while your eyes are calling me a ‘LOSER’.

For you, pedestrians are nothing but useless insects, that need to be crushed. In your opinion, people who walk should not have any rights and should be moved to another planet. I would like to enlighten you, that the black and white lines on the road is called a ‘Zebra’ crossing. It is for people to cross the road in relative safety and not for ‘Zebras’ as you had originally thought. So whenever you come across the crossing, please leave it for us poor mortals who use their two feet to go from one place to another. Please park your vehicle a feet behind this crossing and not on it as you have been doing it all along.

I also know that when you visit ‘Phoren’ lands, your eyes marvel at their traffic system. On foreign shores, you become the epitome of a good citizen as you are scared of paying a huge fine. You will not spit, you stop at traffic lights and you will give the right of way to pedestrians. Once you are back on the soil of 'Bharat Mata' , you are back to your old ways. You will break rules and think ‘Sab Chalta Hai’ (Who Cares) and 'Why should I be the only one to follow traffic rules?’. This attitude of yours is what is stopping us from being a better country. Even if, one of you changes because of this letter, I think my work is done. In the end,

Words don’t define idiots, but their actions do.

Yours Sincerely,

A Traffic Rule Follower

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