Saturday, 17 October 2009

Diwali



Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Time Line


First two weeks of August: Tick.....Tick.....Tick...

Since then: Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick Tick
Tic Tic Tic....
TiTiTiTi...
TTTTTTTTTTTTTTT........

A week in my outlook calendar

Thursday, 13 August 2009

New York: I'm lovin' it!


Young. Crazy. Hot. Humid. Capitalist. Consumerist. Trendy. Unhealthy. Superficial. Street-smart. Fast. Friendly. Definitive. Prima Donna. Cheeky. Cheesy. Extravagant. New York.

Monday, 20 July 2009

London Snowstorm

A view from my balcony

The day London saw one of the worst snowstorms in 18 years (Feb 2, 2009), I :

- Slipped and landed on my behind as I walked to office in snow
- Left work at 10:00am after further snow warnings by TFL
- Made a steaming Thai lunch for flat-mate and myself (Hail Waitrose!)
- Went out to make a gigantic Snowman first time ever in my life

What a day it was!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

London, My Love

:
I am leaving London
And my heart is sad
It’s hard to let go
The joys I’ve had
:
For where else can I read
The London paper
Over an unsuspecting strangers shoulder
In the tube;
Where else can I complain
About the rain
But still love the city all over again
In its entirety
:
Boots, Topshop, Black cabs
Good bye!
:
A part of London
I shall take with me
A part of me
In London will be
:
London, my love
You’ve grown on me
London, my love
I will miss thee!
:

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Perspective


A very dear and close friend of mine gave me small farewell advice as I prepare to leave London - always remember your roots and dont loose your prespective no matter what...

These words look deceptively simple, but when I thought about it yesterday night there is much truth in them. It's so easy to loose sight in a maddening rush of things, and so easy to neglect the whats and whys in life when there are seemingly more urgent tasks to attend to.

Thank God for friends! And thank God for holidays set aside to do nothing...

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Can still do!

I baked a massive pineapple-vanilla-chocolate layered cake today and was pleasantly surprised to find out that after 4 years, I am still able to bake! Hee hawwww...

Monday, 15 June 2009

Backpacking Italy in 10 days

I have just returned from a ten-day backpacking tour of Italy and my trip was truly exceptional. I spent 3 days in Milan to meet old friends (I did a one year masters course at the Bocconi University), 2 in Venice, 2 in Florence and then another 2 in Rome.

Milan:
Returning to Milan after 3 years was a nostalgic experience. With my old classmates, who had gathered in Milan for one of my friend’s birthday parties, I walked the same roads that we did before as students at SDA Bocconi. We ate at Anadima, one of our popular destinations for lunches, and had the customary coffee after lunch at the Friends bar. After nearly three years, I had my favourite coffee Marroccino, a small espresso coffee with chocolate and cream on top; I could take a flight to Milan just for a cup of this coffee. On Friday evening we went for an ‘apperitivo’ (one drink and all-you-can-eat for 8 Euros) in one of the popular bars. My friend's birthday party on Saturday was a huge success and it was nice to catch up with people I studied with, and also get to know other people from Milan.

Visiting Milan is incomplete without visiting the Duomo, a truly magnificent church and apparently the biggest Gothic structures in the world. I shopped at La Rinascente, the trademark shopping mall in Milan, and went to Via Montenapoleone, the famous fashion street. Navigli and Castello Sforzesco were other places I paid a visit to on one of the afternoons.


Venice:
The first thing that took me by awe was the splendour and beauty of the Venetian masks. Tens of hundreds of little shops are lined on both sides of the roads from the main rail station to my hostel, each one selling unique and grand masks. While the most popular ones, I am guessing, would fall in the 30 to 50 Euro range, I was surprised to know that was a significant market for masks above 200 Euros as well. Murano glass is another pricy world-famous product of Venice - decorative flower vases around 10K. I didn’t even want to guess the prices of the humongous chandeliers hanging in fancy showrooms.

I would have serious doubts about someone who explorers Venice on foot and doesn’t get lost. Getting lost in Venice has a charm of itself, because you can accidently discover beautiful little corners tucked away within the city. Piazza San Marco, the main ‘square’ of the city, is much different from the rest of the city. I took the waterbus from one end of the Canal Grande all the way to the other (S. Marco Giardinetti to Piazzale Roma), and saw most of the attractions in the city as several are on the banks of the canal. The Gondula was a very attractive though an expensive proposition, so I left it to be experienced with someone special when I return to Venice.

Florence:
I thought that the exteriors of the churches in Florence where much more impressive than those in Venice or Milan. I climbed up the 163 stairs to the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria to get a view of the city, which was quite worth the effort I thought. The city is much cheaper than Milan or Venice for general shopping, so if you are planning an Italy tour, perhaps best to leave Florence till the end, so you can shop as much as you want and don’t have to worry about lugging it around. I went to the Ponte Vecchio, one of the most famous bridges in the world, the Academia Gallery (saw the famous statue of David by Michelangelo here), Uffizi Gallery, Church of Santa Croce and museum of Galileo of Palazzo Strozzi.

On the second day, I wet to Piazza Michelangelo, which is on the other side of the river Arno, and at a height good enough to get a view of all the attractions of the city. From there, I hiked to the fort of Belvadere built by the royal Medici family, which is atop another hill. It was almost a 3km uphill climb on a hot day in Florence. The Bardoli and Barnini gardens are at the same place, and you need to pay 10 Euros at each place to gain entry. I saved those for drinks in the night.
One cannot go to Italy and not mention Gelato (local for ice-cream). By the sixth day, I had had so much gelato; I had gelato coming out of my ears. I went to the best Gelato shop in town - Gelateria Perche no! The food is absolutely divine too (Of course, it's Italian!) – try local Diavola pizza and spaghetti carbonara for a true taste of Italy. Oh, and don’t forget the Spritz drink (similar to Pimms in the UK, and the Spanish Sangria, though more on the bitter side).

Rome:
By the time I reached Rome, the last leg of my tour, I was totally exhausted. On my first day, I went to see the Colloseum and surrounding areas. It was scorching hot in Rome, and I had forgotten to take my hat, which was a big big mistake. I was so tired by the end of day, that I literally had to drag myself to the dinner table at my hostel. The hosts at the place were great, so we ended up going out for a small walk post dinner, which consisted of home made authentic lasagna, limonchello wine and topped off perfectly with Tiramisu.
Next day morning, I left for the Vatican City. Standing inside the Basilica of San Pietro is simply a larger than life experience. This church is the most magnificent building I have ever seen. Thankfully, I had to wait for only 40 minutes to get in (which is quite lucky because I had heard stories of 4.5 hours in the queue). Everyone just dropped their jaws as soon as they entered the church. The place commands immense respect and you cannot enter it with sleeveless shirts or in shorts (the guards are going to stop you at the door if you do). After visiting the tombs of the popes, I took a city sightseeing bus to avoid walking in the sun. I saw most attractions, and walked to those that I hadn't yet seen.

However, I have to mention that whilst I was really impressed by the city's architecture and history, I thought that Rome was dirty. I am sure the authorities can afford to keep the underground from smelling like a urine pot, especially given the sheer amount of revenues generated from tourists. Anyway, after returning to the Pope's Castle near the Vatican City, I called it a day and headed to my hostel to get my stuff. While 2 days is short to cover Rome entirely, I was getting too tired to stay there another day. I took a night train to Milan from where I had my flight back to London.

Post-vacation, I am a tad sunburnt, and my cuticles have started looking unkempt enough to demand a manicure. However, all of this was worth the excitement of discovering Italy - a country I had stayed for a year but never had the chance (or enough money, for that matter) to travel. It wasn’t all about the places - it was about people too - I met old friends and made new connections. This is a truly one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Dublin 2009

I recently visited Dublin and my experience there was nothing short of fantastic. When I left London for Dublin, the BBC “rainy weekend” forecast totally had my expectations in check. But everything turned out to be a pleasant surprise when I reached my destination.

First impression:

Well, so I took the train from London to Holyhead, which is a port on the west coast on Britain (in Wales), and took the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin. While this was my first time in a ferry and I quite enjoyed it, I would avoid the train journey if I were to go there again. While I was waiting for my ferry to arrive at 2:40 in the night, two drunken Irish girls got down from the ferry from Dublin, and started enquiring about “how to reach UK”. One of them started dancing and hugging the gentleman who tried telling her she was already in UK. Finally a fight broke out between the two (no one knows why) and the police arrived to take them away. THAT was some start to my journey, and I started to get nervous about what was in store for me in Ireland.

Day 1:

Dublin turned out to be very welcoming and pleasant in spite of my ‘entertaining’ experience at Holyhead. This was the first time I stayed in a hostel, and I think makes sense when you know you are going to travel quite a bit and don’t want to go overboard on the hotel expenses, which are typically thrice as expensive as the hostels. I met a girl from DC in the breakfast room and she joined me in exploring the city on foot.

We started at the O’Connel monument and went on to Trinity College. Even though the buildings have undergone evident facelifts after being built in 1592, the campus is magnificent. We went inside the Old Library to see the spectacular long room, and then to the Treasury to see the beautiful Book of Kells, which was made around 800 AD. I still can’t believe that handcrafted designs can be so intricate! The vibrant colors were apparently taken from rare minerals found in the Middle East. Oh, and the red dye was taken from a particular species of insects, but only when they were pregnant. Now, THAT must have been quite a task!

We then walked to Grafton Street, the main vibrant shopping area of the city. It started to get sunny as we had a second breakfast near St Ann’s Church. National Museum was nice too, although I was surprised that there was nothing from the struggle against the British rule. National Gallery was a collection of nice paintings set against colorful walls. We then went to St Stephen’s Green park, which was beautiful beautiful. Basically, we were lucky in that all the flowers were in blossom, and it was sunny and pleasant. I was so happy that my friend dragged me there even though I hadn’t planned on it earlier. We ended the day with St Patrick’s Church and its huge ornate stained glass walls. Splendid!

The evening at the Auld Dubliner:

We had walked almost 15 kms in one day. My feet were screaming for mercy and we decided to take rest for an hour before hitting the Temple Bar area for dinner at an Irish restaurant. Temple Bar (the famous bar after which the area is named) is so overrated! There was jam packed with absolutely no place to stand, and men were pushing women. Gross. We decided to leave the bar early, and went in ‘The Auld Dubliner’ instead. This was where the real party began. I quite liked the crowd – very international and very friendly. And the music wasn’t bad either. So we Indian girls sat at the bar and got ourselves two pints of Guinness. The barmen were very friendly, except the Indian one, who seemed very skeptical of us.

However, we were not alone for long. At one point, we were surrounded by a group of 8-10 German men at a bachelor party, who were very curious about ‘Indian black’ eyes. It’s nice to be told that one is beautiful. Hell, it’s very nice to be told that. In the bigger scheme of things, these small compliments go a long way! The snooty Indian barman wasn’t laughing anymore. We then met another girl from Indiana. I ended up having one of my best nightouts ever! When we started, we thought we’d be back by 11. Hell, we went back at like 4 or something!

Day 2:

Day 2 started very late for obvious reasons. We had to cover four main places and had just over half a day. We first took a tour of the Guinness storehouse, where they had simulated a mini brewery for us. Very impressive indeed. Arthur Guinness, the man who invented the Guiness ‘formula’ exactly 250 years ago, signed a 9000 year lease for his brewery. Genius!

After about an hour in the brewery and a couple of free sips of the famous beer, we went to do a tour of the Kilmainham Gaol jail, where the national heroes of the 1916 Easter Rising were held captive and shot. It was nice to know about the history of Ireland and I was quite moved by some of the stories of the heroes. The Irish got their freedom from Britain in 1922, but only after splitting the country in two (the Northern Ireland is still a British territory). We then came back to the city center to do a tour of the Dublin castle, which was home to the British queen when she used to visit Ireland. I headed to the hostel after visiting the Christ Church Cathedral.

Dublin is definitely worth a visit if you are in Europe or UK for tourism. It is easy to get around, and the people are one of the friendliest in Europe.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

A Pablo Neruda poem


Lost in the forest...

Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig

and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

Something from far off it seemed
deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,
a shout muffled by huge autumns,
by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.

Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig
sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance
climbed up through my conscious mind

as if suddenly the roots I had left behind
cried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood---
and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.

Pablo Neruda

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Paul, the Patisserie

It would be fair to disclose before hand that I have an incorrigible sweet tooth. ‘Paul’, the French chain which sells desserts across Europe, is my favorite dessert shop and they have two stores in Canary Wharf. The bigger of the two is near the main entrance to the underground shopping mall just near the Jubilee line exit. This is where all the cakes and pasties came from for our office desk-celebrations for birthdays. The smaller one is right outside my office exit to the Jubilee mall, where I get my lunch. This is where my afternoon after-lunch treats come from. I am a fan of their macaroons. And I can never get enough of the chocolate ├ęclairs. Check out their menu here: http://www.paul-uk.com/content/food-patisserie.php

As I was digging into my after-lunch treat today, a young colleague and friend at work noted that in order to stay “competitive” in the market, one must be vigilant. I suppose he is right. Having a salad for lunch and topping with a strawberry cheese cake totally kills the purpose. But I refuse to give up my love and loyalty to Paul.

Monday, 13 April 2009

More about Brussels...

Brussels:
Brussels was a tad unkempt as compared to Bruges, but the architecture is very eye-catching. I decided to walk from the station to the city center rather than take a guided tour or a day pass. It was a nice sunny day, so I sat in one of them touristy restaurants in the Grote Markt (or Grand Place), and had the Kwak beer. Check out the wooden handle and the glass. The Glass never comes out of the stand, and you need to lift the it by the holding the wooden handle. It was the first time that I had two pints of beer, before mid day. Fabulous!



I met a an enthusiastic American tourist, who’d chosen to be in Brussels rather than home on Easter. So we teamed up to walk the city. She wanted to check out the Parliament houses and surroundings, and I didn’t mind as I didn’t really have a plan. We had lunch and some more beer at another open air restaurant, and topped it up with a strawberry and chocolate waffle. Yummm!!!

In Bruges, and Brussels

My two days in Belgium were absolutely fabulous. I though I’d share my experience for those who might want to go to Brussels or Bruges.

The Eurostar train always makes me wonder at the ease of traveling within Europe. It’s convenient, it’s well connected within Europe and also to London underground, and the international customs are so much better managed, especially if you compare to the nightmare called Heathrow. Anyway, so I bought these last minute tickets online, and although the price becomes a bit steep if you don’t reserve tickets in advance, the convenience of it all doesn’t make it pinch so badly. I bought a Brussels return ticket, and could travel anywhere within Belgium with this. Voila!

Bruges:










Bruges, also called Brugge, is absolutely breathtaking. It was so very romantic and so beautiful. People generally visit Bruges with their partners (I was one of the very few odd balls who were wandering about alone). I thought the city reminded me of Bern, although Bern was a bit too uptight (for lack of another word) for my taste. There is a natural innocence and romanticism to Bruges, which is hard to miss. Of course, like all touristy places, the city has its share of money-minded businessmen robbing you off for 9 Euros for a bland Spaghetti Bolognese, but still I thought the local people were friendly and very happy to have visitors.
I am not a beer person but actually the beers in both Bruges and Brussels were great. Cheery beer and the white and light Belgian beer (think it’s called the blonde beer or something), are a very nice try for about 5 euros for half a pint. The Sterling-Euro exchange rate didn’t help me much here as it is at parity now. I wouldn’t recommend going overboard on food though. I chose the popular and crowded places to eat but didn't want to end up
spending a lot for what I can cook better myself. I kept to simplistic food, but tried out different beers. I loved them beers :)

One day was enough for me to cover the city on foot. My hotel was quite central, so it was easy to just catch a bus ride to wherever. The city is inundated with small and large chocolate shops. I bought some from an underground shop called “Chocolatier Dumon”. It’s on Eirmarkt street, and apparently the most famous chocolate store in town. I hope the pack I got for my family is worth it! The Eirmarkt street also has a couple of clubs with some rather gaudy music, but who cares after a couple of drinks!!

I will continue Brussels in my next post...

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Hot or Not

The washroom sink in my new apartment was kind of overlooked when I moved in. I can’t help but wonder everyday *how* exactly is one supposed to get water at an acceptable temperature? What were they thinking when they did the plumbing? No, I mean, really.

Friday, 13 March 2009

The Women in my Life


Several women in my life have made a significant difference to my grasp of the things happening around me. I wanted to take time and thank all them for making such an enormous positive difference to my life. Had it not been for these women, maybe I would have lacked some perspectives that I now cherish so much.

Rani Teacher:
“Why on Earth have you cut your hair like a donkey just before the extempore competition tomorrow?” Humorously, Rani Teacher always put things - however good or bad they were - into perspective with her point-blank remarks. Even if donkeys are not known to cut their own or anybody’s hair for that matter. I bet we all can recall at least one teacher who made a noteworthy positive impact lasting throughout our lives. Rani Teacher was my favorite tutor by far during my high school days not just because she taught English and Theater, but also because, as students, we felt she understood us.

Anne:
Anne was my manager at Lehman for two years before the firm went bust. Anne was not only a great strategist, but also an excellent role-model. She was the senior-most and only woman in quant FX strategy (I was the other one, but then I was one of the most junior people in the team, and I can hardly call myself a quant). She is now a senior partner at a Hedge Fund which manages over a 100mn dollars. Now that is some serious food for inspiration!

Ms. Miller:
Meeting Ellen was a “Devil wears Prada” moment for me. Even if now it feels childish to boast about my humble achievements to the head of Lehman’s recruitment team for entire Europe, back then when I was fresh out of my grad school, it seemed like a really cool idea. Well, Ellen seemed to disagree and for a moment I had almost shot myself in the foot. It’s surprising how much effect even a 15 minute meeting can have on your life. It could well make you realize that there is still so much left to be done.

My undergrad friend Nidhi, my sister Shilpa, Tulay - my friend from grad school and Ylva, my colleague at Lehman:
Each one of these extremely smart, caring and uber cool women personify a complete woman. I am so lucky to have you all as my friends. Thank you babes!

Suchitra and Madhuri:
What do best friends at high school do? They help you hide your love letters from being found at home and keep you updated with your latest well-wishers and not-so-well-wishers in school. Sometimes, when there is nothing else to do, they also help with boring tasks such as homework and stuff. Back in school, people would kill for such friends.


Sunday, 8 March 2009

My first post and cats


When I thought what my first blog should be about, I couldn't think of a better topic than my little Toff. First, because I love Toff in spite of his habit of ignoring his scratch-post and going for the sofa instead. I am such a cat person - I've had cats ever since I was a little child. My brother once noted that I was so obsessed with cats that someday I might end up giving birth to a cat instead of a baby. While science has yet to advance to that level of sophistication, my brother’s statement does capture my sentiments for cats. I love cats.

Second, because Toff is a naughty little kitten with legendary whims. Recently he has taken a liking to arguing with me. While it is rare that he mews continuously, sometimes he actually expects me to reply, and when I do, he mews back rebuking me for my obvious lack of communication skills and failure to meet his standards. Ha!

We also had a dog once when I was 14 or so, and I couldn’t help but scrutinize how silly dogs could get. Our Tommy was Pomeranian, and lived upto his clan’s reputation of barking at every moving thing- big or small. Unlike Toff, Tommy’s naughtiness either made him look silly or got him into trouble. Like the day he when playfully tugged at our new maid’s saree and decided not to let go. The poor unsuspecting woman had no idea of his intentions and screamed, makingTommy look like such a bad boy. Saree, a common dress worn by Indian women, has a long “scarf” which hangs over the shoulders. If you happen to observe Indian family life, you’d see little children tugging at their mom’s saree (if they are tall enough, of course) and following her around the house

Having observed cats and dogs so closely for years, I have a slightly biased view in favor of cats. I think cats have a greater likelihood of survival, and in the corporate ladder, they would probably climb higher.