Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wedding Bells for Aishwarya!

The prettiest woman in the world (this is according to popular media and an opinion not necessarily shared by me .... in case Mona is reading this!) ties the knot with popular movie star, Abhishek Bachchan. If you have been following this blog regularly, this is the same lady who married a tree in order to ward off evil for her future husband. You can refresh your memory by reading about that piece here. So Abhishek is safe!

There has been a media frenzy about this wedding. Detailed analysis of the big event started weeks before and avid fans got details ranging from the saree that Aishwarya was going to wear to the entertainment program that was being planned for the wedding. Speculation about the guest list was rampant and you got to hear from those who made the list and those who did not. There was also open debate about why folks did not make the list. For example, another popular Indian actor, Hrithik Roshan, did not make the list. The reason? In a recent movie starring Aishwarya, Hrithik and Abhishek, there is a kissing scene between Aishwarya and Hrithik!

The day after the wedding, photos of the event were splashed on the front page of every newspaper. Post-wedding analysis started immediately with astrologers and marriage counselors analyzing the personalities of the couple and making predictions about their future life together.

Days after the wedding, the news about the couple is still making front-page news. Today's headline - Father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan declares that his daughter-in-law can continue her acting career while Aishwarya has formally assumed the Bachchan last name and has signed her first autograph as Aishwarya Bachchan.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Summer camp comes home

It is summer holidays for most children in India. Unfortunately, this does not include our kids. They are attending an International school and the vacation schedule at this school is similar to the schedule in the US schools. Summer vacation will start for them in June. But that has not stopped them from being able to participate and enjoy some of these activities.

Kids here have a huge choice of activities for summer vacation ranging from Karate lessons and art to learning Japanese and playing tennis. Best of all, these activities actually come home instead of the kids having to be shipped off to summer camps. Classes are offered in residential apartment complexes and the biggest challenge for parents and kids is to figure out a schedule where activities do not overlap each other. An evening stroll through the campus feels like a walk through a summer camp. Karate classes by the pool, Art lessons in the indoor recreation room, tennis lessons at the court!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Horn OK Please

In India, roads are noisy and you can hear the traffic not only when you are stuck in traffic but also when you are sitting in the living room of your thirteenth floor apartment sipping a drink!

I was on my way to work the other day looking at the crazy and chaotic traffic on 80 ft Road (yes, that is indeed a street name in Bangalore) and the main reason for this noise hit me. Almost everyone around you (including your own driver) is continuously honking the horn of their vehicles. There are no exceptions to this. This orchestra is played out starting from the ringing of a bell on a bicycle to the deep bellowing honk of a bus and includes melodious horns of cars and the wheezing sounds of an auto-rickshaw horn.

And of course, nobody really pays any attention to this din so clearly the purpose is not functional. So what could it be? I realized that everyone honks because they are being told to. If you look on the rear sides of large trucks and buses, you will see big signs that say the following:
  • Sound Horn
  • Please Sound Horn
  • Horn Please
  • Horn OK Please
  • Please Horn
and many other variations of the same ....

Mystery solved!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

In God’s own country

Today, we returned from our first vacation since our move to India and the verdict is unanimous – this one ranks among the best! We spent a week in the southern state of Kerala which carries a tag line of “God’s own country”. Besides having the distinction of the most literate state in India (over 95% literacy), Kerala is a gorgeous state and has some of the most beautiful scenery that you can find in India.

Our travels included visits to national parks and bird sanctuaries, boat rides on the back waters, hikes and drives through pretty amazing landscapes. Food (which is typically an important measure of a vacation for us) was exquisite at every location ranging from roadside stands to our hotels. While the vacation was overall pretty relaxing, we managed to get quite a bit of sightseeing done. Within a couple of days in the state, you understand very quickly why this place is called God’s own country. Nature is at its best in Kerala and tours and hotels are geared towards providing you with the best experience. Kerala is a feast for nature lovers with exquisite bird watching, wild animal sightings and the vegetation. The place is also heaven for history buffs because of its rich and fascinating history. For example, in the seaside city of Cochin, you get to see Chinese fishing nets that were installed in this region between 1350 and 1450 and are still used by local fisherman to haul their daily catch.

The highlight of our trip was a stay in a Kottavellum – a houseboat made completely of wood and coir in the town of Alleppy. We had a personal staff of three – a captain, a chef and an engineer on board and we had exclusive use of the entire boat. Our stay included cruises through the backwater, visit to a village for an up close view of life in this region and gourmet meals cooked according to our preference. Sitting on the deck at sunset was one of my most memorable life moments.

Other places we visited during our vacation included Thekkady, Kumakarakom and Munnar. We ended our tour with some sightseeing in the temple city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu where the highlight is the Meenakshi temple – built over a thousand years ago to honor the Hindu god Siva and his consort, Parvati.