Friday, December 17, 2010

In Which My Sister Visits Me in Prison

I got back just a while ago from a late night show of ‘The Next Three Days’. The basic plot is that Russell Crowe’s wife is in jail for murder and he plans to help her escape from jail. The first 30 minutes of the movie gives you a sense of the frustration the woman feels, knowing that she’s going to be spending the rest of her life in jail, away from her family, away from everything she loves; while her husband puts his life on hold, waiting for her to come back, and the young son struggles to deal with the whole situation.

That part of the movie was Luckily, after the first 30 minutes, the actions starts, with Crowe deciding that his wife is going to escape from prison, and sets about planning the escape. It’s good in the beginning – this is just an everyday guy who is in a desperate situation – and he makes mistakes and his desperation and vulnerability and helplessness really come through. It isn’t what I would call a ‘tight thriller’ – there are plenty of holes in his plan, there’s way too much luck involved – it probably falls more into the genre of ‘crime drama’ than ‘crime thriller’, buts it’s a good watch nonetheless.

Anyway, so there is this really weird thing I have: Whenever I watch a movie/ read a book about an ordinary middle class person, especially a woman, being sent to jail for a crime she did not commit, I start thinking ‘Ohmygod! This could happen to me! I could be in jail someday for a murder I did not commit’. And then I start feeling rather uncomfortable and worried.

Then I plan what to do in such circumstances: Should I try to escape? Should I bribe the jailor so I get special treatment? How will I handle the dirty toilets? The awful food? The miserable living conditions? The rats and rodents? If prison guards or other inmates make a move on me, how should I handle it? Maybe I should migrate to Australia, so that if I ever end up in prison, I can atleast have decent living conditions (this after having read somewhere that Australia’s prisons are among the best in the world).

Suffice to say, ‘innocent helpless ordinary person thrown into jail’ storylines are enough to make me lose the plot (hehe!). Since this movie dealt a little bit around the theme (okay, by now you’ve probably forgotten which movie I’m even talking about) without actually focusing on awful jail life, my thoughts after the movie were more occupied with how my family would deal with me being in jail. When I went home, I found my sister online. This conversation followed:

Me: If I was sent to jail for a murder I did not commit, how often would you come and visit me?

S: That depends on which jail.

Me: Vizag jail. And you also live in Vizag.

S: Okay, then I’d visit you every alternate day. Or maybe three times a week.

Me (not expecting her to visit more than once a week): Wow! You’re so sweet Samee. I love you!

S: I love you too Akka.

Sisters! What would I do without one!

P.S: You know those books or movies in which an ordinary middle class person suddenly becomes rich by winning a lottery or getting an inheritance or something? Well, why don’t I ever think ‘Ohmygod! This could happen to me! I could win the lottery someday and become rich!’ and then spend the next couple of hours pleasantly thinking about how to spend the money.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

One Year and Counting

We celebrated our first wedding anniversary last week. I’m afraid I’m going to have to sound clichéd and say that I can’t believe it’s already been a year, it only felt like yesterday! But that’s really how it feels. This whole 10 week holiday is to celebrate one year of being married, and ending the year with a bang, so there wasn’t much more we could do to make the day special.

Friends and family wished us – it felt nice that so many people remembered and cared to call and wish. We went out for lunch to this nice place with great food, and then went for to a spa for some pampering, and then sat at The Coffee Bean and watched the rain. We later went out for dinner to this lovely Mediterranean restaurant perched on top of a hill with fantastic views.

But it was the trip we made the weekend after that was truly special. We went to this magical little island called Siquijor. It was a painful journey getting there – what was supposed to be a 5 hour journey ended up being 8 hours. But we ended up at this lovely little seaside resort with clean spacious rooms, a cheerful staff, and built right next to a little cove which made us feel like the whole beach was all our own, with not a person around as far as the eye could see.

In Siquijor, we watched the most gorgeous sunset ever, and then drove around the island, looking for fireflies in the dark. Dinner was right on the beach – with the waves lapping inches away from our feet. As we drove back to the resort after dinner, our jaws dropped at the stars in the sky; I don’t ever remember seeing so many. So we just sat by the beach again to stare at the sky, and in one hour, we counted nine shooting stars!

The next day, we went scuba diving, and it was F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C. We then drove around the island, had ice-cream for lunch, went to a cute little waterfall where we were the only two people (again), and then idly drove through gorgeous hills and forests. We went hunting for the local black magic practitioners but it was getting late and we also wanted to get back to the resort in time for sunset. Another gorgeous sunset by the beach, followed by a dinner buffet and a cultural show, and capped off the night with hot chocolate while watching the stars in the sky, and listening to the waves.

It was perfect. (This is where I pretend to forget about the tortuous journey back home the next day!).

So it’s been a year of being married, and I never thought I’d say this, but married life has been wonderful. Before I got married, I always thought to myself that married life wasn’t going to change much between Nike and me, given how long we’d been seeing each other by then. To be honest, I had agreed to getting married because I thought it was something that I had to do, not necessarily because it was something I wanted to do at that point – I was happy enough being in a long term, committed relationship, and didn’t particularly want to get married.

But what I didn’t realise is that maybe the relationship needed to go forward, and maybe marriage was the next step. The high that came from the whole wedding – it was a little bit like falling in love all over again, and finding out that you’re grinning for no good reason. We are both now so much more affectionate and caring and considerate towards each other. There is no logical reason why marriage should do this to us, but it has, and I’ve been a very happy girl the last one year.

Of course it’s not all easy. We fight about imaginary finances. We fight when Nike tries to control my bad eating habits (because to me that’s naturally going to lead to his controlling my whole life!). We fight when he criticises me. We fight when he thinks I’m being selfish (though of course I’m not being selfish). We fight when either one of us doesn't listen to the other. But these have been small fights – fights which have gotten resolved with a few hours, and with us never going to sleep angry with each other – and I can deal with them. 

So for this awesome year of being married, for this wonderful person, for having some more people to call family, for all the travel, and for so much more, I’m happy and I’m grateful. Now we can only hope and pray that the years to come will continue to see us both as happy, and that we have what it takes to make a successful, strong and happy marriage.

But for now, it’s off to another island for the weekend!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Catching Up

So I’ve been pretty busy in the last two odd months that I’ve not posted. First, there was the exam to prepare for.  Those two months I had to prepare before the exam – they were two of the most miserable months I’ve had in recent years. The first one month was spent in a state of panic – “Oh my god! There is so much to study! I’m never going to finish this syllabus”. This state of panic led to a general sense of misery, which led to eating a lot of ice cream to cheer myself up, which led to a cold, which led to headache. It was a vicious cycle, dear reader, a very vicious cycle.

After a month of this, I told myself firmly that nothing was worth my happiness and health. And so what did I do? I more or less gave up on the preparation. No one can say I do things in half-measure, eh? But this didn’t lead to happiness and health either. Because when I told family and friends that I wasn’t preparing seriously, they would go “Yeah, we know, that’s what you always say, but you’ll get through, we believe in you”. This touching, but unfortunately misplaced, belief in my academic abilities led to guilt. So then guilt – ice cream – cold – get the drift, right?

Anyway, those two miserable months finally got over, though I didn’t think they ever would. The weather in Bangalore was fantastic, there was just that light nip in the air to indicate that winter was starting. And oh, it was festival time too, what with Vinakaya Chaturthi and Dussera and Deepavali. And through all this I wallowed in my misery. See, my life is actually very smooth and easy and problem free – its quite the perfect life actually – and so when I come across even the slightest little bump, I make a big deal out of it and behave as if the world is coming to an end.

So anyway, the exams finally, finally got over, and brought an end to my misery. I went home to Vizag for a week after that. This time, Nike came and stayed the whole week too – this was the first time he was spending so much time at home – he’d come only once before, and then for just 2-3 days – so I was excited that he would get a taste of life at my home.

I had a lovely time at home. During the day, while Nike worked, I went out and met friends. In the evenings I pottered around the house. And dinner time and later was family time. Every time I’m home, the days just fly by. I had so many plans for this week I was going to be home, but none of them got done, and I don’t remember what I did either, because the days just pleasantly merged into one another.

Well, we went to Hyderabad from Vizag, and from there commenced our Grand Trip. What Grand Trip, you ask? I wanted to do a whole post about it, dramatically announcing the Grand Trip. Instead, I end up doing it at the end of a rambling post about nothing! Huh! Anyway. So like I said, Nike and I are now on our Grand Trip. The GT is a two and a half month trip across South East Asia. In these two and a half months, we will be spending time in Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

It’s been 10 days since we set out, and right now, we are in the Philippines, where we will be till the end of the month before we head out to Thailand. We've been having a fantastic time so far. Maybe another day, I will do a post on how and why we are doing this. But for now, let me just say it’s our way of celebrating one wonderful year of being married (our first wedding anniversary is this Thursday!). 

Till then, bahala na!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Bangalore Experience

When I’m travelling, I try to take in as many sights as possible, and experience as much of the local culture and cuisine as I can in my short stay in a new place. Yet, I’ve lived in Bangalore for over four years, and have missed out on some incredible Bangalore experiences. So I decided I’m going to list all things Bangalore that I want to experience – and I am going to complete this list in the next one year (I know one year sounds like a long time for such a small list, but I’m not going to be in Bangalore from October to February, so am going to start working on the list only once I’m back).

1. Kannada Gothilla: Quite shameful that I still can’t speak Kannada, after over 4 years in Bangalore. Even more shameful considering Telugu is a close cousin. I can read, I can understand, but I can’t speak. I even went to Kannada classes for a couple of days, and picked up a smattering of the language, but those skills are rusted from lack of practice.

2. Dosa at Vidyarthi Bhavan: Yeah, you read that right! I’ve never had dosa (or anything else) at this legendary Bangalore eatery. Largely because I don’t care much for Masala Dosa – I prefer plain dosa – and I know dozens of other places much closer to where I live where I can get a really good dosa. Still, I intend to go to VB one day to figure out what all the fuss is about.

3. Kannada Movies at the Theatre: I’ve wanted to watch a Kannada movie in a theatre ever since I moved here, and never got around to it. I did see Mungaru Male in a bus once, but watching it in a local theatre is the real deal. Mostly it is because there are usually so many movies I’m desperate to watch in a week that this fancy takes a backseat.

4. MTR: Sigh! So I’ve never had lunch at the legendary Mavalli Tiffin Rooms. Went there twice, and still didn’t get to eat there. The first time, we landed up at MTR without any cash, found out they didn’t accept cards, hunted about for an ATM, and by the time we found one and drew cash and got back, they were closed for lunch! The second time we went, we were super hungry, and couldn’t quite handle the long wait, so we left after half an hour and went elsewhere for lunch. Maybe third time lucky.

5. Bangalore Palace: It’s rather sad that I’ve never visited the Bangalore palace, given how I’m really into palaces and forts and other historical structures. When I’m travelling, I try and visit as many historical places as possible – so it’s ironic that I’ve not been to a palace just a few kilometres from where I live.

6. India Coffee House: Now this is a place that tourists associate with Bangalore, and I have not stepped into its hallowed portals once in the four years I have lived here. It’s funny really – I’ve even directed foreign tourists to the India Coffee House, and yet never been there myself. Must. be. rectified.

7. Lalbagh: Okay, before you gasp, I have been to Lalbagh. But that was before I started living in Bangalore – when I was here on holiday many years ago. Once I moved to Bangalore, I never stepped into Lalbagh. Every year, I think I will go when the flower show is on, but I’ve never implemented that ambitious plan.

8. Breakfast @ Max Mueller Bhavan: Puzzling why I’ve never tried the famous breakfast at Max Mueller Bhavan, given how I love continental breakfasts, and considering I’ve lived in Indiranagar for so long. It probably has to do with the fact that I never managed to get up early enough for breakfast on weekends.

9. Bannerghatta National Park: All right, I know this is not a typical Bangalore thing to do, but I lived on Bannerghatta Road for two years, heard that BNP made for a fun day trip, and yet never got around to doing it.

10. Shopping @KSIC/ Mysore Saree Udyog: Every female I know who’s ever visited Bangalore has bought Mysore silk sarees, either for themselves, or to take to relatives back home. My unfortunate mother has certainly not been the recipient of any such gift from me in all the years I’ve lived in Bangalore.

All you Bangaloreans – is there anything else you would recommend on this list?

And for everyone else – what are the things you want to do in your city, which you think are an essential ‘your city’ experience, and which you still haven’t done?

Monday, September 06, 2010

I'm Loving It

I like to think of myself as a global citizen. I’m widely travelled and pride myself on being more globally aware than most. And this reflects in my taste – in clothes, in my style of holidaying, in my thinking and attitude, in my food preferences. However, one aspect in which I am ‘local’ as one can get is in terms of movies – I will watch all the international cinema you can show me, and I will watch it with much admiration – but for better or for worse, my heart and soul belong to Telugu cinema.

It is the cinema I grew up with, and it reflects a part of the tradition and culture I grew up in, in a way no other cinema can. Telugu cinema is what introduced me to the magic of movies, and though I have discovered a wider and richer world of movies out there, this discovery has been made because it was Telugu cinema that originally stirred my fascination for movies. It introduced me to the fascinating world of movies, it inspired in me a love for cinema, and for that I am eternally grateful to Telugu cinema.

And so, dedicated to this first love of mine, is a list of my all time favourite Telugu movies (in no particular order).

1.  Swarna Kamalam: This K. Viswanath movie about a dancer from an artistic family with starry ambitions, who is tied down by family circumstances and her own inability to appreciate the beauty of the art-form and a painter who loves dance, and how their paths cross. This is Bhanupriya’s show all the way – she is a beautiful woman, and a very graceful dancer. Great score by Illayaraja and some lovely dancing.

2.  Chantabbai: This Jandhyala comedy is a hoot. I consider this one of Jandhyala’s best comedies, and that is saying something. It is a pleasure to watch Chiranjeevi play a bumbling detective – that man has fantastic comic timing. It’s one of those early movies where he isn’t bound by his stardom and fan expectations, and consequently gives a truly endearing performance. Pond.....James Pond, indeed!

3.  Kshana Kshanam: This irreverent road trip/ heist film by Ram Gopal Varma is a gem that combines thriller, drama and comedy very smoothly, and the result in one helluva ride. It really makes me miss the Varma of old, before he got into making self-conscious movies (or movies for himself). The cinematography stands out. Sridevi looks drop-dead gorgeous, and her comic instinct carries the film.

4.   Aithe: This offbeat thriller, made by a brand new director (Chandra Shekhar Yeleti), with no known faces, can actually claim some credit for creating a mini-revolution in the industry. It proved that you don’t need stars, or fights, or song and dance sequences – all you need is a brilliant storyline, catchy dialogues, passable acting, confident direction and tight editing – and you have an awesome movie on your hands which will go on to become the surprise hit of the year. I love this movie because it took courage to make it, because it came like a breath of fresh air among all the stale offering during those years, and most of all, because it’s a bloody well made, gripping thriller.

5.  Seetharamaiah Gari Manavaralu: This beautiful family drama by Kranthi Kumar had an unusual storyline, wonderfully real and etched out characters that you start to care about, and a rarely seen glimpse into how rural, old-fashioned Andhra really lives. Outstanding performances by almost the entire cast, and some lovely music. It does get over-dramatic and weepy in the end, but its still a wonderful movie. (Now) embarassing confession: this film saw Samee and me becoming Meena fans, and the fandom lasted for a long time afterwards. (Samee will kill me for putting this on my blog, but she adored Meena so much, she’d go kiss the TV every time she came on screen. What? She was only 3 years old then!)

My other all time favourites are Mayabazaar, Gundamma Kadha, MissammaNuvvu Naaku Nachavvu, Rudraveena, Khushi, Gamyam and Manmadhudu. There are just so many!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

So I Got Through!

I just wanted to let everyone know that I got through the preliminary exam. I am very relieved. Thank you all for your wishes and prayers.

The mains are going to start from end October. And since I was so sure I wouldn’t qualify for them, I whiled away the last three months, and didn't so much as peep into the textbooks. I have two months to cover an obscenely humongous syllabus, and am in weird state of constant panic right now. But I have a chance, and I am grateful for that, and mean to make the most of it in the next two months.

Don’t leave me out of your prayers yet!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The One with all the Self-Pity

Linda Goodman says Pisceans have an infinite capacity for love and pity. That’s very true. In my case, it is an infinite capacity for self – love and self – pity.

So I’m now wallowing in self – pity, and feeling very sorry for myself indeed. It’s at times like this that I wish I had a car, so I could drive myself to the nearest ice-cream parlour and gobble down a huge tub of ice-cream to cheer myself up. Of course, since the cause of my current woes is The Monster, I can’t obviously ask The Monster to take me in his car to eat ice-cream.

I wish I had a girlfriend, who lived close enough to drive me out for ice-cream now, and to whom I could whine and bitch about The Monster, but alas, that is not meant to be. Since the Big Man in the Sky is a man himself, he makes all these evil plans to keep The Sisterhood apart as much as possible. How else do you explain the fact that my closest girlfriends from school are all in the yoo-yes-yay? Or the fact that my girlfriends in this city live in a tiny village called HSR which isn’t really in Bangalore, as much as they like to fool themselves; or stay at home with parents (which means they can’t really get out at midnight for an ice-cream, or anything else).

As you can see, my cup of woes runneth over. To make things worse, my results are out on Friday the 13th. And my shouted-from-the-rooftops till I’m hoarse discreet vacation to Kovalam starts on the same day. Which means my vacation is effectively ruined. Excuse me while I go break something.

Okay, I’m back. So. The only ray of light in my dark and dismal life right now is to plan petty revenge against The Monster. Which I would love to share with you but can’t right now, because if The Monster reads this post, he will know about the revenge plans, and then they will be a failure. Can’t let that happen.

But I did have some luck. The Monster lost his keys in the morning, so I was the only one with the house keys. He came back home in the evening before me - and made the mistake of calling me to tell me that he was waiting for me to come home. It was then that I decided that walking was good for my health, and decided to walk all the way from KH Road to my house, which is a good 6kms away. It would take time, but the longer I walked the better – for my health, that is. Of course, I can’t actually walk 6kms, so after dilly-dallying a bit, I took an auto and came home, and felt very pleased with myself for keeping The Monster waiting.

Update: The Monster Nike has just come and apologised (actually he said it’s ridiculous to fight about such silly things, but I’ve generously decided to treat it as an apology). He also offered to make me hot chocolate since it’s too late for an ice-cream right now. Life isn’t so bad, eh?

Have a good weekend everybody. Oh, and pray for me!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Things You REALLY Don't Want to Know

The last two weeks have been fantastic in terms of all the things I’ve got to do. So I’m going to put it all down here to read the next time I moan about how I’m so bored, or how I want a change. Then I can be reminded of how full my life is in Bangalore.

Two weeks ago, went home for Ma’s 50th. The day I came back to Bangalore, I fell ill. Nike very sweetly worked from home the whole week, so I would have someone to moan to about how sick I was and how I was going to just die. Of course, my impending death did not stop me from devouring the Millennium Trilogy that week.

Just as I got better, Nike’s mother was admitted to the hospital and we had to rush to Hyderabad. In a hospital, all my hitherto deeply buried masochistic tendencies come out in full force – I look at every suffering patient and try to imagine how I would feel in their position – and since I am a total wuss, the vision that emerges is far from pretty. Anyway, since this isn’t all about me (ahem!)  - Nike’s mother responded well to the medicines and was discharged.

Once back in Bangalore, we saw Udaan, a beautiful movie, with very interesting characterisation (with the exception of the Dad, who was painted all black). It is a ‘follow your dreams’ story but told with its sense of humour and light-heartedness very much intact so it never gets preachy. The movie was at PVR so we had dinner at Bombay Blues at Transit after that, and the food was AWFUL.

The next day, had lunch with the girls at Grill Room. The place is right opposite the Gurudwara on Ulsoor, and has a great lunch buffet. Do try it if you are around that area. The Friday before last we had a girl’s night out at Vids place. Lux, Eku, Vids and I. We had a blast, eating and drinking and singing and dancing and chatting.

Saturday was spent recovering from the excesses of the previous night. Girish was in Bangalore on Sunday, so went with Kat and Girish to the Chancery Pavillion for Sunday Brunch. 1200 bucks for unlimited food and drinks – fantastic spread – worth every single paisa. Go! All that eating and drinking business left us too exhausted to do anything for two days, after which we went to Inception. What. A. Movie. Stayed up all night discussing it; and started where we left off the next morning. It’s going to require some more viewings before I can decide on what I think happened.

So that was the week before last. This Friday, went to Kat’s place. We then met up with Hetro and Yola for drinks and dinner, and then went to Hetro place where we saw a marathon session of ‘Coupling’. On Saturday, we had Indu and Kumara over for lunch. But since we didn’t wake up when the cook came, rang the bell endlessly and left, Nike had to rush and buy the chicken and do the cooking himself, while I restored the house to some semblance of order. After they left, we saw ‘Body of Lies’ on television, went shopping at Lifestyle (my loots: maroon skirt, black waistcoat, blue and red checked top and two pairs of shoes), and finished with dinner at Chakum Chakum.

On Sunday, went for a haircut. Actually went in thinking of a trim, but I don’t know what got into me once I sat in the chair, but I made her chop it all off! I’m going to Hyderabad again next week, and am already dreading the reaction from the family. Anyway, Lux had invited the whole gang over for a traditional south Indian dinner at her place on Sunday night, so we all dressed up in Sarees (the women did; the men wore kurtas). Played some really weird games, laughed uproariously at Lux’s expense, thulped yummy food till I thought I would burst, and came home with gifts the girl had got us from Rajasthan.

The last  3 days have been super super busy at work. So all I’ve had the time for till now is Aisha with the girls. Maybe I went in with really low expectations, but the movie wasn’t so bad. It was actually fun watching it with the girls – oohhing over the outfits and shoes, rolling our eyes together at all the nonsense some of the characters do, aahhing over Abhay Deol – it’s great fun to watch a chick flick with your girlfriends.

Phew! That’s been the scene in my universe for the last two weeks. Tomorrow I’m off on a holiday. A girls needs time off from all this socialising. Tata.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

In Which We Go Shopping

While I was in Hyderabad last week, there was a flat 50% weekend sale happening at UCB. Just the week before, I’d seen a lovely black and grey balloon skirt at the UCB store on Commercial Street, but couldn’t afford it in my current penniless state. The sale was the perfect opportunity. And thus we chased the sale across Hyderabad – starting from Dilsukh Nagar, proceeding to Himayatnagar, Somajiguda, Banjara Hills all the way up to Jubilee Hills – but I was met with disappointment, as none of the stores had that skirt, or even anything else remotely interesting.

I did buy a pretty yellow summery top at the UCB sale though. And I bought a pair of pale pink denim shorts at Promod.

Gundu and Nike, who were dragged happily came shopping with me asked "But where are you going to wear them?"

“Kovalam” I said brightly (this is where, gentle and unassuming reader, I let slip in that I’m going to the Leela in Kovalam for the weekend after. I’m subtle like that.)

But boys being boys, they asked in unison “But what will you do with them after you’re back from Kovalam?”

“Oh, I will wear them in Goa. Also in Thailand, and Vietnam, and Rio, and other beach places” I say, with the air of one from whom jet-setting to glamorous beaches across the world in a pair of sexy pink shorts is a way of life.

“ aren’t going to Goa. Or any of those other beach places” stammers Nike, clearly seeing visions of me gallivanting around the world by blowing up his hard earned money.....well, his earned money, anyway.

“I know I'm not. But what if I win a contest for a one week beach holiday? I’m going to need something to wear when I go there, right?”

And thus I sashayed my way to the billing counter, pleased as peach (or is it plum?) with my foresight. Now bring on that free beach holiday dahlings!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked Ass

Not me. I’m talking about Lisbeth Salander.

Read the Millennium Trilogy last week. Excellent, thrilling, intelligent crime fiction that had me turning the pages feverishly. Actually, the feverishly part is rather literal too – I was down with fever, cough and cold all of last week, so all I did was lie in bed and read. I’m actually glad I read it when I was unwell and in bed, because otherwise I’d have just left all my work unattended till I had finished off the series.

The Millennium Trilogy is a three book crime fiction series set in Sweden. The protagonists are Lisbeth Salander, a highly intelligent but anti-social a 25 year old and Mikael Blomkovist, an intrepid reporter with the magazine Millennium. The books were written by Stieg Larsson and published initially in Swedish, where they became quite a rage, and were translated into English by Reg Keeland.

Sweden isn’t a common setting for books in English, so this series provides a fascinating insight into Swedish society. Larsson focuses especially on how the media, the police and certain government authorities in Sweden work. There are also occasional references to Swedish politics, which I found particularly interesting.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Mikael is on a forced career break and is hired by a wealthy ex-businessman to uncover the truth behind a murder which took place in the family 30 years ago. He is initially sceptical about his ability to solve the mystery but gradually realises that there is much more than meets the eye. He then discovers that Lisbeth has some skills that could be especially useful to the assignment, and hires her to help him on the case. What they uncover goes beyond just one murder in the family, and leads to a whole lot of horrific crimes.

This book starts off in a ‘locked island mystery format’ but the scope of the mystery gets bigger as the book progresses. So as one goes reading, a number of other elements start coming in, but Larsson handles these smoothly, and it never gets unwieldy. Though there are a number of threads which are introduced but not followed up (these are for the later books), this book reads very well even as a stand – alone piece.

At different points of the book, the story is told from the perspective of different actors. Larsson uses this not so much as a narrative device as a way of letting us know the thoughts of the protagonists – and this works well for the book because at many points we are left pondering over the motives behind the actions of the people in the book (this is especially true in the case of Lisbeth).

The Girl Who Played with Fire
The team at Millennium is working with a couple who are doing an expose on the criminal elements in the sex trade industry in Sweden. Lisbeth comes back to Sweden after a long holiday and is getting her life together in order. The next thing we know, the couple is murdered, and Lisbeth is charged with their murder, and has a nationwide manhunt going on for her.

The rest of the book is about how Lisbeth avoids the police, and tracks down the people responsible for getting her into this mess, and extracts her revenge. Simultaneously, Mikael works towards finding out who the true murderers are, while also trying to clear Lisbeth’s name. In the course of this investigation, he finds out about Lisbeth’s shocking past, and has to figure out how her past is connected with these murders.

This is a crime mystery on a vast canvas, and has the reader wondering right from the start about the who, what, why and how. As in the first book, this starts with two murders, but expands to a whole lot of murders, criminal activity and drug dealing, and a major cover up by the Swedish secret police and maybe even the government. What makes this book work is how all these elements are connected to one another, and how they all come together brilliantly by the dénouement. There is also a lot of physical action in this book, and it sometimes reads and feels like a movie.

The one major issue I had with this book is that there is a lot of unnecessary stuff that could have been edited out. There is already a lot happening within the main plot itself, so it was a little annoying when Larsson introduces little side tracks (for example, the strange couple Lisbeth meets on her holiday, the Blomkovist – Vanger angle, or all the details about Erika). The main plot itself is rather convoluted, and all these other tracks become tedious and unnecessary and rather distract one from getting fully involved.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
This takes off from where ‘The Girl Who Played with Fire’ ended. This book was by far my favourite in the series. By this time, it’s more of a howdunit than a whodunit. In ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’, the whodunit gets solved – we find out the entire back story about Lisbeth’s past, the murders, the police cover ups, who did it and why. This book is about whether the truth will come out and bring down the bad guys or whether the truth will stay hidden and thus bring down the good guys. This is popular crime fiction so we already know the answer to that one, but the book deals with how the good guys get together and try to get the truth out while the very powerful bad guys try to stop the good guys.

This was a great read – you know the good guys will eventually triumph in the end – but you’re so desperate to figure out how they are going to do it that you just can’t bring yourself to put down the book. Secret police, secret units within the secret police, politics, murders, suicides, hacking, spies, counter spies, espionage – this book makes for very exciting reading, and has you rooting for the good guys right till the end in a very ‘That’s the way to do it! Serves those bastards right’ sort of a way. I think this was the most dramatic of the three books.

Lisbeth Salander makes for a fascinating protagonist. I think it was a rather daring choice to make someone who is so inscrutable and difficult to like as your main protagonist. And through most of the first book, one has no idea why Lisbeth is so difficult, making it even more difficult for the reader to root for her. Apart from her, almost all of the female characters in the book are very strong characters – Erika Berger, Miriam Wu, Sonja Modig, the Vanger women, and the other relatively minor characters.

There is a lot of physical action in the books, and sometimes it feels like it was made with a future movie in mind. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind that at all – in fact, I think I quite liked it, and am looking forward to the movie (I am assuming they will be making one – they can’t pass up a script like this!). I had major problems with the fact that when the lead characters are in some sort of trouble, they find extremely simplistic solutions to get out of it. Also, by the end of the series, there were a couple of loose threads left hanging (Camilla for example), that didn’t leave me completely satisfied.

However, these don’t really take away much from the overall awesomeness of the series, so I will end this very long post by saying ‘GO READ IT RIGHT NOW!’.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The One with the Complex

So Nike and I were on our way home after dinner* and I was telling him this long winded story, and at some point came to the part about how I happened to have two prams when I was a baby**. And out of the blue he snapped at me “There are people out there who haven’t had even a single pram. And you are showing off about how you had two prams! What’s the big deal about two prams anyway?”

I was of course taken aback. The guy was trying to guilt-trip me about prams! PRAMS!

Of course I sulked at being snapped at for no reason whatsoever. And of course Nike apologised. But I wasn’t going to stop sulking till he revealed what had provoked the strange outburst. After a lot of drama he confessed sheepishly “Well, I don’t know, in that moment, I was just mad because you had two prams and I hadn’t had a pram at all”

And people say I need to grow up!

*Dinner was rolls at Chakum Chakum. If you live in Bangalore, and are in the mood for some rolls, head out to Chakum Chakum for absolutely fantabulous rolls. This place is off Indiranagar 100 Feet Road, next to the Daily Bread. We regularly drive from Benson Town to Indiranagar just for the rolls.

**I know this sounds lame by itself, but in my defence, it was part of a rather interesting story about my uncle.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


This week I did (seeing as I am typing this post just a few hours before I am going to go back to Bangalore) a short trip home for my mother’s 50th birthday. My visit was a complete surprise for her, and as I opened the door, she just stood agape at the threshold, completely taken by surprise. That was so worth it!

I took an overnight train to Hyderabad and then Pinni and I flew down to Vizag. We reached a day before her birthday and surprised her. The day of her birthday was spent cleaning up the house and making arrangements for the surprise dinner party we threw for her. It wasn’t much of a surprise considering how we were cleaning, not an activity you would otherwise catch Samee and me doing for love or for money. But it was a good party, with most close friends and family there, good food, lots of laughter.

I bought her a stove as a birthday gift. I can’t help but wince at the thought of buying her such a boring gift, especially because she doesn’t even like to cook, but that is all she wanted (which I could afford) so I gave in gracefully (ahem!) and bought it.

The day after the party, the whole gang headed out to the farmhouse. It was raining throughout, and the farm was a brilliant green, looking fresh and lovely. We then headed out for a trek to some nearby caves. By this time, the raining was coming down quite heavily, and we voted in favour of doing the trek even if it meant getting drenched. But the heavy rain became a torrential downpour, and even the drive became a pain because of the low visibility so we turned back to a grandmother’s house close by, where we hung around chatting and playing with their incredibly adorable one month old puppy.

After we reached home, we had Ash and Sim over for a while. Ash and I have been friends for over 15 years now. But then, that is part of the charm of growing up in a place like’s a city where everyone knows everyone, and it’s difficult to not become friends when you end up running into each other everywhere; suddenly you stop and look back and you realise that even though you’ve left home long ago, and gone and made many more friends, some of your dearest friends remain the ones you’ve known all your life.

My friend the Scottish Muscleman (SM) came home too, and after we saw off Mahi and Buns at the bus stop, we went for a long drive by the beach. SM was in low spirits, and he passed them on to me too, so we ended up discussing topics which just depressed both of us. Once he dropped me home, Samee snapped at me while I bore her attitude with calm and patience (truly!), and then went and cribbed to Ma about it, who of course grabbed the opportunity to muse aloud at length on the ills of our generation.

But Sravan served me a huge scoop of Strawberry icecream, and as I type this post while my cousins and (currently) hateful⃰  sister play cards next to me, I feel awful about having to leave tomorrow. It’s like this EVERY SINGLE TIME I come home. I don’t have it in me to leave the day I’m initially supposed to so I inevitably end up postponing my departure by a few days. This time though I decided to stay firm (also, there are no tickets available for the next one week :-p ).

So I’m off tomorrow, and I will see you on the other side of the journey soon. Have a good weekend!

⃰Whattodo! My sister and I have this love-hate relationship. As do most sisters. No?

Already, I feel so guilty about hating her in this post that I want to declare my undying love for her and give her my new pink shoes; though I actually wont of course.....they are PINK shoes!

Sigh! I should have just wished for a brother. Would have made everything a lot less complicated.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Weekends, Football and Other Stuff

It’s tough to appreciate something when you have too much of it. And given all the free time I’ve had lately, I’d forgotten to appreciate weekends. I KNOW! But this weekend changed all that, for I had been very busy the whole of the last week, rushing to meetings, and spending about 2 hours a day in commuting; and so Friday saw me very tired, and quite looking forward to the weekend.

And what a glorious, lovely weekend it was!

On Friday, Nike’s cousin came over from Hyderabad to spend a couple of days with us. We drove down to IIMB, Nike showed her around the campus, and then we sat down to doughnuts and coffee at the campus CCD. Many of my campus memories are tied to the CCD (erm, not in terms of “oh, remember that best doughnut I ate, ever, was at the campus CCD” but more along the lines of “ooohh, remember when we were sitting at the CCD and such and such a thing happened”) so it always makes me feel warm-fuzzy-nostalgic when I go back there.

I spent the rest of the day in IIMB on work and came back home in time for the Netherlands – Brazil match. This match saw the addition of soft drinks to the usual collection of beers, breezers and popcorn, thanks to the visiting cousin. I was rooting for the Dutchmen, so that match ended on a very satisfying note. Though I must admit that the brightness of their orange jerseys sometimes makes me wonder why I am supporting them, for such bright orange jerseys. Must. Be. Outlawed.

Having helped the Oranje win, I turned my attention to Nadal on the internet. (Dear gazillion sports channels: Given there are so many of you that every other channel seems to feature sports through the rest of the year, why is it that not one you is showing Wimbledon and leaving the football reruns to the competition? WHY?). Of course, given his form, Nadal didn’t need my help (or anyone else’s either), and I felt rather sorry for Murray at the end of it all. He had me worried in the beginning with his shaky form, but now he looks unbeatable. Oh, but I LOVE Rafa.

I was hoping this stroke of wins would continue and Ghana would prevail over Uruguay; but thanks to Luis Suarez’s ugly handball, that was not to be. Well, you can’t win ‘em all. Still, no prizes for guessing who I’m going to be supporting in the Holland – Uruguay match, despite the orange jerseys.

Saturday morning was lazily spent dozing over the newspaper. Post-lunch we sat down to Jeopardy and Scrabble. Once that was done, frenetic calls were made, and much planning and cancelling and conferencing happened before a dozen of us finally headed out to Zero G to see the Germany – Argentina match. All that planning paid off because Zero G was perfect - the screen was HUGE, the layout of the place is such that you can sit almost anywhere and get a good view of the screen, it was filled with an enthusiastic crowd, yet it was not so crowded that we had to strain to see, and it is reasonably priced.

The only downside was that they were not playing the commentary. But all in all, I think Zero G was an excellent choice; and any other place would have been too crowded/ too expensive/ too difficult to get good seats/ standing space only/not such a large screen. Also, I was going back there after 3 years, and the place looks very nice indeed now that it has been refurbished.

Now back to the match, I couldn’t quite make up my mind who to support. I was leaning towards Argentina, I even had a bet on Messi; but after the Germany – England match, it’s very hard not to root for a team that played such entertaining football. And whatttayyy match this was! Germany was fantastic, simply fantastic. It was such a pleasure to watch them play. Even hard-core Argentina supporters would find it difficult to not admire the way the Germans played, and totally outclassed the Argentines.

Oh, by the way, four years ago, I was at Bottles and Chimney in Hyderabad for the Argentina – Germany World Cup match, and felt like I was the sole German supporter in a pub filled with Argentina fans.

Anyway, once the match ended, we headed out to the Chancery Pavilion for a poolside FIFA party. The party started out rather slowly, but at some point the DJ started playing Bollywood, and the dance floor started filling up. Speaking of which, I just don’t get this whole ‘Bollywood music, ugh!’ thing that most DJs have going. I mean, clearly it’s the Bollywood numbers that get the crowd onto the dance floor, so why do DJs insist on turning their collective nose up on Bollywood and playing numbers nobody really wants to dance to?

Is this only a Bangalore phenomenon, or is this true of the clubbing scene in other cities too? Fair peoples of other cities, kindly lend me your wisdom on whether it’s the same scenario in your city too or if Bollywood gets the respect it deserves as THE music to play on club nights. Okay, end of rant.

So coming back to the party, which was in full swing by this time, with people jumping into the pool and all. We got into the spirit of the things and jumped into the pool too, and started splashing about in tune, or something, to the music. This was the best part of the party, it was awesomely awesome, and when I become rich I’m going to have a swimming pool in my house and have pool parties ALL THE TIME. The short term plan though is to make friends with someone who does have a pool already so we can have pool parties there. Any of you out there reading this right now?

After I got out of the pool, I went to the restroom, and this girl in there saw me dripping wet and actually asked ‘Are you sweating so much from all that dancing?’ Huh? HUH? Seriously, woman, what were you smoking?

We left the party early, and after a quick stopover at Empire to pick up dinner, we headed home to watch the Spain – Paraguay match and play Taboo. However, everyone was rather tired, so people gradually dropped off to sleep, and no one watched Villa score for Spain.

Sunday saw friends over for lunch, and then out to the Leela for bowling. A visit to the Leela must necessarily include a stop at the Barista, so a round of bowling (and air hockey and foosball and insert –name-of-random-shooting-game) was followed by a tall glass of Swiss Mocha Frappe. Then it was on to Brigade Road for some people watching. Oh, and at some store in Brigade I came across this very cute pair of light pink cargos. Now I’m not a cargos girl at all, but this one was on sale for 125 buck, yes, a HUNDER AND TWENTY FIVE BUCKs ONLY, and it fit well and looked good, and I wouldn’t be a girl if I passed that one up, so of course I didn’t (pass it up, that is).

Also, a momos counter has opened near the Nilgiris on Brigade - veg momos for 25 bucks and chicken momos for 30 bucks. Not bad at all, especially considering I don’t know where else in Bangalore momos are available by the roadside; and if YOU know, please, please drop me a line, and you shall earn my eternal gratitude (unless you’re suggesting some place in HSR Layout/Jayanagar/Whitefield or such other far off places to which one can’t go just to eat a plate of momos by the roadside, as much as one loves a plate of momos by the roadside). We then went to Donut Baker for donuts doughnuts. Damn you, America! I love their chocolate fudge doughnuts, as well as their plain honey dipped doughnuts – do give them a try.

We headed home to watch Rafa lift the cup. Did I say I LOVE Rafa? The weekend couldn’t have ended on a more perfect note!