Monday, December 31, 2012

How to spend the perfect weekend in wintry Delhi

So Delhi's getting a lot of bad press at the moment. As a city, Delhi is lovely. Seeped in culture and filled with a lots of places to see and things to do.  Gurgaon is a toxic wasteland though, stay as far from it as possible.

Anyway, If you are in Delhi and wondering what to do over the weekend, then here is what my favourite winter weekend in Delhi looks like...

Friday Evening
Head to Khan Market and straight to Route04, there are many nice pubs to hang out at Khan Market, but Route04 is my favourite because of the music if nothing else.

You've most probably had a late Friday night. Wake up late. Start late.

12:30pm: Reach 'Hauz Khas Village', and head to 'Yeti', A lovely restaurant that serves awesome Tibetian food. Get a couple of beers, order some of the great starters that they serve. Finish with a Thaali. The food is good, the place is excellent and I have managed to laze around eating food for 3-4 hours easily.

3pm:  Head to the Hauz Khas complex which is right next to 'Yeti', a beautiful place to be in, on Winter afternoons. Take a book or take walk by the lake, see the sun set over the tree tops of the Haus Khas complex. If you have time and the inclination, you can go around the many shops in Hauz Khas village. My favourite ones are those that sell Hindi and English classic movie posters.

6pm: You could choose to unwind at the many lounge bars that Hauz Khas village has to offer. 'The Living Room' is one such nice place, especially if you get the terrace.

10:00am - Sunshine brunch at 'American Diner' in Indian Habitat Centre off Lodhi Road, is the best place to spend a lazy Sunday morning with a great buffet breakfast spread. Top it off with the lovely Chocolate Milkshake and most of your Sunday should be done.
Depending on how much energy you have left for the rest of the day you could do any of the following:
- Go home and spend the evening reading a book
- Catch a movie at the 'Select City Walk' Mall
- Go see a monument. I would highly recommend Tuglaqabadh Fort.
Or if the foodie in you is not yet sated then,
- Head to Karim's near Jama Masjid to tuck into some of the most delicious Mutton Burra and Seekh kabab you can find.

Oh, and don't catch a cold!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Movies lately...

Here's what I've been watching

Gangs of Wasseypur I and II

If I were asked to put together a list of the top 5 movies made in Hindi. Gangs of Wasseypur would be in there. It would feature in my top 10 movie list of movies of any language.

I am not going to say anything about this movie. Its very rare that a movie has statyed in my head for as long as this one has. Brilliant!

If you haven't watched it yet, then my condolences. MUST WATCH!

Real Steel

Loved this movie! I love Robots. Robots boxing each other in the ring? Great!

Hugh Jackman, plays a loser in all senses. The Robots that he owns have all been thrashed by better bots. Just when he is about to quit, he realises he has a son - who he does not want around. 
The son though sticks around and, the father-son team, soon get themselves a bot who is the underdog of all underdogs.
Think 'Rocky', but with Robots. It works as well. In fact I think I caught the robot acting better than Stallone in some of the scenes. The kid tends to get irritating at times, but...

Highly recommended.

Bourne legacy

Jason Bourne was not alone, or so we learn, as the Bourne franchise gets a new lease of life in the form of Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner.
Thanks to Bourne exposing Operation Blackfriar and Treadstone, the CIA is now rushing to cover up its other err covert operations. One such clandestine operation is Operation outcome. Eric Byer played by Edward Norton is in charge of the clean-up and he starts by getting rid of all the agents who have been "developed" as part of this program.
Only, he has not counted in Aaron Cross in his plans. Aaron soon suspects something fishy and now has to survive the attempt to eliminate him as part of the cover-up
Rachel Weiz plays a scientist (only in movies would one find such a pretty scientist), who needs to tag along with the protagonist to save herself and help unravel the puzzle.

Average fare, if compared to the other Bourne movies. Watch it just to keep abreast of what is happening in the Robert Ludlum universe.

Total recall

This remake with Colin Farell in it is just about watchable. Mostly because it has Kate Beckinsale in it. The plot is somewhat similar to the Original - In a futuristic world, where the government is a well organised dictatorship of srots, and the underground is teeming with rebels, a guy bored with a mundane lifestyle and a pretty wife, decides to go for a Total Rekall experience, where- allowed to live any fantasy, as long as it is not something that has happened to him in the past - our man chooses to be a rebel agent. Turns out its true and all hell breaks loose as the evil government forces are after him.
Begins very well, and promises a lot. But somehow falters towards the end.
Was what the protagonist experienced a fantasy or was it real? Who knows.

Ghost writer

3 attempts at watching this movie. Successful in the third. Not that the movie is awful. Its just a little slow.
Ewan McGergor, is assigned the task of ghost writing an autobiography for Britain's ex prime minister (Pierce Brosnan). Seems a peach of an assignment, only, the last guy assigned to the job was found dead. Drowned.
His work takes him to an island in the US, where the Prime minster - who is curently embroiled in a scandal regarding shipping terror suspects to prisons - is currently hiding with his entourage, consisting of his wife, his secretary and his body guards. 
As the ghost writer begins his research, things don't seem to add up and soon he is on the brink of unravelling a secret of international proportions.

Decent thriller. Watchable.

Grosse Pointe Blank

An assassin, is forced to go attend his high school reunion. He also has a job to finish in his old hometown. As he gets back to what used to be his past life and his old flame. Things perk up.
John Cusack and Minnie Driver in this romantic, action, comedy.
The soundtrack is super impressive and a couple of scenes are brilliant.
Definitely watchable

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A trip to Kashmir

Kashmir is beautiful.

There are some places that you have to visit at least once in your lifetime and there are some that you must visit more than once, to take it all in. Kashmir falls in the latter category.

The quickest way to get to Kashmir from Delhi, is to fly into Srinagar. The alternate route is to take a train to Jammu and from there by road to Srinagar.

Luck by chance

The weekend before, our last minute plans of flying to Dharamshala to spend a few days there fizzled out because our Kingfisher flight got cancelled [learning: never try and fly to Dharamshala]. 
Anyway, we were a little wary of the flight to Srinagar facing the same fate. So we kept polling flightstats to ensure that our 'Go air' flight had been departing on time the previous days and it was going to behave on the day we were supposed to leave.

Our flight was scheduled to depart at 6:15 am, so we were supposed to wake up at 4:30am to take our cab to the airport.

We woke up at 6:30am! To realise that the cab guy had not called us, my alarm had not gone off and the flight most probably had.
We immediately looked up the next available flight to Srinagar and luckily found an Indigo flight that was leaving around 11:30am.

To our surprise when we got to the airport we realised that our original Go air flight had been cancelled and since we had done a web-checkin for the same, we could avail a full refund! *Grin*



This was Eid season and we landed in Srinagar on Aug16th [15th Aug, being curfew time].
We had booked our stay only for the first day and our plan was to figure out the next day's plan the day before.

Staying on a house boat was one of the items in our list, and we ticked that off by staying on the Peacock houseboats in Nigeen lake.
Nigeen and Dal lakes are connected by a few canals, but Nigeen is the more peaceful and less commercial of the lakes.

The houseboat was good, initially I had booked it directly on their website and when I realised its 50% cheaper on Expedia we got it via that and cancelled the original booking.

We hired a Shikara to take us around the Nigeen and Dal in the evening. It was one of the most relaxing and lovely boat rides I've ever had.
The Dal lake is beautiful. There are lotus gardens, vegetable gardens, floating markets, a tea shop on a boat in middle of the lake. Awesome Kashmiri roti and pakoras along with Kahwah are not to be missed.  There are salesmen in boats who float along side and show you wares, you can strike a good bargain with them if you want to buy some gifts for friends and family back home.

The Shikara will charge you about 300 rupees an hour, which is worth it.

As you float by, there are many shops alongside the banks. We found this lovely shop/cottage industry alongside one of the canals, where an old man was making lovely wooden toys and decorative items.
We bought a few things, but mostly enjoyed just chatting with him. He had a lot of things to say and even ended up carving out a lotus for Amu, as a gift :)
The advice he had to offer me was, that if I were ever in any sort of trouble, I was not to depend on holymen and god-men. All I had to do was to wake up at 3 am in the morning, spread out a cloth on the floor, kneel and say my prayers to GOD asking for help, and everything would be set right :) 

The taxi guy

Our friend recommended Parvez, who has a taxi service. Parvez was great to talk to on the phone and sent his brother Arshid to help take us around Kashmir in a very comfortable Tavera.
Arshid was really sweet and helpful. Wonderful chap. I would highly recommend hiring their services if you plan a trip to Kashmir. 
You can contact Parvez on --> 09419373541


Having spoken to Parvez and after a bit of research we realised that Srinagar is a good base for visiting most of the nearby places.

Gulmarg is about 50kms away from Srinagar, once the climb begins, the views get stunning. You are only allowed to take your car into the touristy spots if you have a hotel booking to stay overnight.
Else you have to drop the car off at the parking and can either choose to walk around or take a pony.
The pony rides etc are very organised and the prices are pre-set. We took the ponies because it was off season  and the pony guys deserve a bit of business - 300 bucks for the first hour and 200 for every following hour.
There is not much to see via pony, but it's alright. They end by taking you to the Cable car - Gulmarg's usp and the world's highest cable car (or Gondola as it is called) - and offer to wait for you till you get back. I recommend you ask them to leave and pay them, since its a 20 minute walk from the Cable car station to the parking lot. 

The cable car has 2 phases - 300 rupees for the first phase that take you half way up and an additional 500 for the second that takes you all 14,500 feet up to the snow (or what remains of last year's snow).

You would want to spend time up there, and there are sleds that you can ride and pose on skis.

Of course if one were to get there in the winters it would be a winter sports heaven. The snow lasts all the way till March, before it begins to melt.

Gulmarg was beautiful, but we decided to return to Srinagar in the evening. There are apple orchards you can visit on the way back, they'll give you a quick tour and you can buy apples at a great price.


Sonmarg's claim to fame is a Glacier, which is best visited in the winter. I can imagine Sonmarg being beautiful when there's snow around. At this time of the year around, its best given a miss.

90 kms away from Srinagar, the road to Sonmarg easily has the best views, with the Sindh (Jhelum's largest tributary) flowing in its full glory right alongside the road.
However, other than the scenic road, there is not much here to do. What remains of the ice is a slushy mess.

In the winters this will be a place one MUST go to. For an August trip, skip it. We got back to Srinagar early and got some food at 'Mughal Darbar' a must eat place. Remember that it is a restaurant on the first floor above the bakery. There is restaurant of the same name on the ground floor, but that  apparently, is not the real deal.

We got ourselves a place to stay right by the Dal lake. A lovely hotel called 'Nehru's', with a view of the lake. Make sure you keep an evening aside to walk by the lake as the sun sets. The hues and colours the lake takes on are fantastic! We also took a 60 minute Shikara ride, after the sunset. Brilliant! 


We reached this place on the eve of Eid and everything was nice and quiet. 
On the road to Pahalgam, once finds Saffron fields on both sides and there are a lot of stores selling authentic Saffron. We've been warned not to buy Saffron from any place other than this, and we heeded the warnings :)
Also, there a loads of bat making factories enroute to Pahalgam - Kashmir produces arguably the best bats in the world - and one can get a really good kashmiri willow bat for as less as 300rs. 

Anyway, the previous couple of days had been filled with pony rides and trips to & fro from Srinagar. So we wanted to unwind and the best place to unwind was 'Hotel Pahalgam'. Easily the hotel with the most beautiful views of the Mountains and the river Lidder.

We decided to stay here, though having gone with no booking, meant we got the last room they had, which turned out to be an expensive suite. They have a deal with the meals inclusive, but a little bargaining got a a decent price with meals excluded, this let us try the local fare outside the hotel.
We decided to do NO sight seeing, but we've heard there are loads of lovely places to see, including the famed 'Betaab valley'.

If I would plan this trip again, maybe I would have spent a day extra in Pahalgam and skipped Sonmarg altogether.

We left Pahalgam on Eid and got directly to the airport, much in advance. The entire security check-in process at Srinagar airport takes a long time, so make sure you give yourself enough time to finish the formalities at the airport.

Overall, we had a lovely trip. We plan to head out again in the winters or at least when there's snow around. I am sure Kashmir will have a very different look and feel then. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Batman Trilogy

Most of the people around you who proclaim themselves to be all knowing Batman fans, seem to know next to nothing about Batman. Start a conversation about "Batman- Year One" and they look blank.  Ask them about what they thought of Tim Burton's Batman and they'll look through you. TKDR to them is "The Dark Knight Rises" not the Frank Miller's classic. No one seems to know Kevin Conroy. 
This makes me sad.

Then, there are some who go around calling themselves 'Batman' and want to be referred to as 'Batman'. I kid you not.
This makes me cringe.

Anyway, Batman has gotten popular - thanks to Nolan - and I think that's great!
Christopher Nolan is the first director to have directed a Batman trilogy and he's done a fantastic job of finally portraying Batman and Gotham as it is supposed to be portrayed. DARK. 

"Batman Begins" (inspired by "Batman - Year One" in my opinion the best graphic novel ever) was fantastic!

"The Dark Knight" was legendary. 'Joker' just killed it!  Nolan and Heath Ledger got the menace just right. With references to 'Year One' and 'The killing joke', it was perfection in itself.

"The Dark Knight Rises" is good, but not great.
Final verdict: This is watchable for Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, for tying the loose ends on the Batman Trilogy neatly and for Batman.
Is it "The Dark Knight"? No. Is it better than 'The Avengers?' Yes.

[Spoiler's below. So read on, only if you've watched the movie]

So, what happened with "The Dark Knight Rises"?  

What went wrong? Loads of things. Setting up the plot took too much time. When I heard that Bane would be the villain, I was excited. 

The most unforgettable comic panel from 'Knightfall' was about to be portrayed on screen.
What it turned out to be was - a 2 second scene. Disappointed.

So the storyline was a mix of 'Knightfall' and 'The Dark Knight Returns', fine.
There was a bit of 'Bruce Lee' in the way the back broken hero heals himself. Great!

But overall the movie left me very very disappointed. It was good, but not the crescendo one expected of the final of the trilogy.

Too many threads that did not make any sense - Why show Doctor Crane as the judge presiding over a Kangaroo court? What's with the cops stuck underground for 3 months part? What's the entire orphanage bus on the bridge scene? 

The movie could have been so much more slick and so much cooler. But it was Bane taking on Joker. Impossible.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A year in Delhi-Gurgaon

Its been a year! A year since I came to Delhi with loads of apprehensions of leaving lovely Bangalore behind and venturing out to a city that is not very popular as a place to live.

A year ago, despite most people telling us that moving to Delhi was a foolish err move, we moved. 

But then in the words of Hunter Thompson - "Buy the ticket, take the ride".

Read the rest of the post with this song, playing in the background, for best effect :)

The first week was a little unnerving to be honest, but we got into the groove pretty soon.
After a year here, I can tell you, Delhi is an awesome place. It's got a bit of everything and everything in its extreme.
I have made some fantastic new friends and lost a few friends, but then that's how the wheel turns and all's for the best :D

Though there is some more time left before I leave this city, I am sure that in the years to come when I do look back at Delhi in nostalgia, it will definitely be for its uber-cool winters(the all-day fog, women dressed in their winter best!), for the awesome Goldspot concert we attended at Blue Frog, for night long drinking sessions followed by breakfast at 'American Diner', for meeting Ruskin Bond in Mussoorie, for watching the sun out of a solar telescope from an observatory in Nainital (it's an very funny anecdote so ask me next time you see me), for the hilarious fight we got into at Jaisalmer, for our drive to Lansdowne, for the unexpected lake and monuments in Hauz Khas village, for falling off a camel at Pushkar (not a proud moment), for attending an all night wedding, for the unforgettable train journey to Rajasthan in a sleeper compartment during Holi, for the aloo tikkis, the kakori kababs and the kulfi faloodas, for the loud and colourful Rajouri and the oh-so sophisticated South Delhi, for playing mafia on the entire train journey back from Amritsar, for attempting to make a short film by traveling all over Delhi, for jumping off a cliff into the Ganges in Rishikesh, doing the most random dance at a friend's 'Sangeet' party and for a million more things that don't come to mind right away!

It's been an awesome ride so far and there's lot's more to come. So stay tuned !

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The trip to Lansdowne

I used to keep calling it "Landsdown". Only on reading up about it on the faithful wikipedia did I realise that its been named after a British chap called Lansdowne.

The other bit that I did not realise was that this is an extremely under-rated hill station. I for one had never heard of the place until I got to Delhi.

Situated in the state of Uttarakhand, Lansdowne is the closest hill station to Delhi, all of 290kms away. 
Originally a cantonment - its now home to the Garhwali Rifles - the place itself is neatly maintained thanks to the army presence.
However, other than the Army camp, there is nothing around or at least nothing touristy in nature. Which is, I suppose, the reason for its lack of popularity.
There are no quaint cafes or restaurants where one can laze around in the afternoons, there is no "Mall Road" of note (usually the pride of most hill stations).

However what it does have is some supreme peace and quiet. There are quite a few resorts that have sprung up around Lansdown and we stayed at one such place, in Jaiharikhal (6kms away from Lansdowne), called 'Bright Sunny Pines'.
Good place to stay, with good food, nice rooms and a great view of the valley. However we felt that it was a little over-priced.
There aren't many places to stay in Lansdowne, so its advised to book in advance rather than have to make do with sub-par accommodation that some of the lodges have to offer.

The best place to stay however is supposed to be Fairydale resorts and there was another home-stay that I checked up on before getting there called Prem Sadan and the gentleman who owns the place - Rajiv Anand - was very well spoken and helpful. 

The blue pine treesI enjoyed the trip to lansdowne for the drive. It was our first long drive out of Delhi and it was well worth it!

The route we took was Delhi-> Meerut-> Bijnore->Kotdwar->Lansdowne. 
Do stop at 'Jai Shikanji' restaurant, some 26 kms before Bijnore, for some delicious Shikanji (its like Lime soda with some masala in it). A great thirst quencher.

Kotdwar to Lansdowne is about 44 kms of hilly road(or ghat section), and is easily the best part of the drive.
The road has a steep climb and goes through a hillside lined with some beautiful blue pine and oak trees.

We accompanied a friend who was with his gang of Enfield bikers, who were doing the trip to Lansdowne. However we soon left them behind and drove on. 

Lansdowne does have a sunset point, a 'tip in top' view point and a smallish lake. But again the best part is that there isn't much to do.

our ride(s)One can also reach Lansdowne by taking a train to Kothdwar and then hiring a taxi to the top, but I would recommend going in your own vehicle. This will let you explore the area around Lansdowne. 
You can park your vehicle and do short treks through the lovely hillside.
However if you're driving by yourself then it is recommended to plan your drive such that you reach the place before it gets too dark. The hill road is fairly narrow, with hairpin bends and driving in the dark is quite a hairy experience.

The awesome part is that you may get to sight a leopard if you are lucky! A couple of our friends who were co-incidentally at the place, came down to meet us and spotted a large leopard by the road :D

Lansdowne is the kind of a hill-station, where you take along a couple of good books, some music and some good wine. Stick around doing nothing but reading and enjoying the views of the valley. Its a beautiful place, as yet untouched and untarnished. 


Why 'Junior MasterChef' rocks!

I've completely ignored 'Satyameva Jayate', I don't care about the brickbats headed my way, but it seems plainly overrated. Of course with Aamir Khan hosting it - and doing what he is best at doing ("acting" in it) - I am sure it will reach masses and may make a bit of a difference.

The other reality show that I love is 'Dance India Dance - lil champs' that has some great talent on show and wonderful dancing. Siiigh, I wish I could so some "popping and locking" like some of those kids do.

But anyway this post is about the awesomeness that is "Junior MasterChef Australia". 

I am not a foodie (though some of you who've seen me eating fish may beg to differ) and I am not a guy who enjoy's cooking. 
Amongst the few things I do know how to make are - Omelette, Tea, Pulao and chocolate cake. An odd mix, I know :)

So back to MasterChef. It caught my eye because I was quite sure that kids in the range of 9-12 years would have no clue how to cook. I was wrong. They cook up a storm and they've so far dished out some awesome varieties of food!

Of course the kids are super talented, but what sets this show apart from some of the other reality shows is its lesson in positive reinforcement.

Every contest has a point system, the best 3 dishes get awarded points (6,4,3). However the other kids get a point each and the there is point awarded to the kid who is the most improved cook! 

Fantastic! I love the concept and who knows I might just get inspired and start showing some interest in cooking. But don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Movies that need to be made...

Here is a list of stuff that I want to be seen made into full length movies -

1. Samurai Jack

Oh yes! Easily the best action cartoon series ever. Samurai Jack traveling through time and fighting the evil Aku's mechanical henchmen and making allies with some uber-cool people. I want a Samurai Jack movie badly (it needs to be animated by Genndy Tartakovsky though).
If any of you want to give me a gift, then I want the entire Blue-Ray Samurai Jack collection, all 4 seasons (if such a thing exists).

2. Byomkesh Bakshi

Ah the Indian take on Sherlock Holmes, set in Calcutta and solving crimes in crisp white kurtas. Awesome. I wonder who can be cast as Byomkesh... I know that I would want Abhay Deol to be the side-kick, Ajith. This will make a wonderful movie for sure!

3. He-man and the masters of the universe

Anything that has 'Masters of the universe' in the title has  to be awesome. So is He-man. The cartoon series won over so many hearts in India in the 90s.
I wish wish wish there was a full length movie made and I don't mean the crap they made in live action with Dolph Lundgren in it. I am hoping for a full length animated movie.

4. Neverwhere

This Neil Gaiman book, set in the London Underground is one of my favourites. IMDB tells me that there's a TV mini-series already. I so wish they would make this into a movie. Zack Snyder at the helm maybe?  If nothing else we'll at least have a good soundtrack.

5. Good Omens

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett co-wrote this. This one is already overloaded with awesomeness of all kinds. I am sure it would make a strange movie. But I would love to watch it. Of course it could well go down the route of 'Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy'. Some books never make good films. But who knows?

Friday, May 18, 2012

The bird bath

It's summer and though Delhi has witnessed its coolest month of May in 30 odd years, the mercury is rising.
I stay indoors, in the comforts of an air-conditioned home, car or office, despite it all, I mostly have a parched throat that requires a continuous intake of water and orange juice through the day.

Spare a thought for the birds. 

We've just put out a bowl of water on the balcony, it's a simple enough thing to do and it seems to help.

Initially we did not think that the birds were that keen on consuming the water, but yesterday we found a pigeon sipping some . 
The water needs to be replenished everyday (some of it is gone thanks to evaporation, I suppose), hopefully the birds are getting most of it :)

So please please, just put out a container of water for the birds this summer. Its a simple act. Be nice.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Movies that I recommend...

The stupid white background on the blog, just made me averse to posting or blogging. Now I have gone back to a colour that suits me better. Hopefully this will lead to more posts

Okay, I've watched loads of movies since the last time and I am not in the zone to write about them all. But here are some(in no particular order) that you must try and watch - 


Ryan Gosling plays a getaway driver for hire. He will drive you away from the scene of the crime for a fee. 
His character is socially inept and given to long brooding silences. The movie does not pick pace until he falls for his neighbour (who is married with a kid and a husband in jail).
When the movie does pick up pace, its still slowish :)
The action becomes very violent in the second half and the very interesting soundtrack almost contradicts what you see on screen. The soundtrack is super-awesome and the fight scenes reminded me of Mel Gibson's "Payback". The direction is brilliant,
Its a movie that you will either like or hate. But its one that you must watch.


Enough has been written about this. It starts all slow and talkative but once Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk we have a good movie on our hands.
Yes, Tony Stark again gets all the witty one-liners, but its the Hulk who gets the best cheers. 
Captain America and Hawkeye are mostly, also-rans but the Black Widow gets some decent screen time.
And there's Robin! No not the Batman one, the 'How I met your mother' one :D
The good: The Hulk and Tony Stark.
The bad: What? all these super heroes assemble for a sissy villain like Loki? Doesn't seem right. Now Red Skull would have definitely made a more menacing villain. That's the next of the series I suppose.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

The real reason I watched this movie was for 'Benedict Cumberbatch'. Who? you ask.

Well, Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes in the super impressive series "Sherlock". I was so impressed that I looked if I had any movie in my collection that had him in it. 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' met the requirements.
Gary Oldman plays 'George Smiley' a popular le carré character.
A mission goes bad and the presence of a mole in the British intelligence is evident. Smiley's handed the job to ferret out the mole.
I loved this movie.

The girl with the dragon tattoo

Watched the English version. It's really good. Rooney Maara is fantastic!  Haven't read the books yet, but I have the next book in the series on my bedside.
I also plan to watch the Swedish version's of the films since something tells me they will be great.
Must watch this one.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The trip to Rajasthan

So we had 4 days off and decided to head out to Rajasthan. There were a couple of options:
1. To head to Barmer, which is near the border and return via Jaisalmer or Jodhpur
2. To head to Jaisalmer and finish with Jodhopur

I would like to believe that we chose the latter simply because of the convenience in terms of train timings , but I think it was also because I had no clue how to pronounce Barmer.

The train to Jaisalmer
The trip from Gurgaon to Jaisalmer was an experience in itself.

Having planned the trip quite late and it being festival season(Holi), we only managed to get reservations in the sleeper coach (2nd class) and thus got our first taste of sleeper in North India.
When we entered there were 20people in our compartment(meant for 8 people), there were 10 people sitting on the seats meant for the 4 of us and there was a group high on Bhang throwing colours at people in the compartment next to ours.

Things got a lot better once Alwar arrived and most people got off. Leaving the 8 of us who had actually reserved tickets.
We had enough space to start a game of Taboo before we turned in to sleep. I slept well (as usual) but the other 3 had a bad time getting sleep, since it was super cold.
In the morning I thought I would mention that I had had a bad night as well, (you know, so as to show the rest of the gang that I was also suffering with them).
However my friend gave me a dirty look and said "Dude, I got up, removed my suitcase, took out 3 pair of shirts and wore them, everyone in the compartment was awake thanks to the ruckus I made, but not you! YOU SLEPT THROUGH IT ALL ".

At Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer arrived at 11:30am. We were accosted by a guy who promised to take us to the nearest market for 20bucks in his jeep. So we got in, only to be taken to his hotel, called Hotel Samrat.

We did get some decent breakfast there, but he was trying to sell the camel safari and stay in Thar all the time.
"Sir you will see the REAL desert. If you don't like it. I will give return to you, 8000 rupees plus 1000 rupees tip" :-|

We already had bookings in Sam(pronounced as "some/sum"), which is at the edge of the desert, so we refused to take his safari, which left him quite depressed.

However, we needed a ride to Sam so we asked him to drop us at our resort and pick us up from there the next day. Which was a good choice, since this turned out to be a lot cheaper(1000bucks one way), than what the resort guys had quoted.
The desert was quite nice and the dunes were good too with a lovely sunset and a lovelier moon rising. Some friends tell us that we missed out on camping in the desert, others tell us that if we would have camped in the desert there was a high chance of freezing off various parts of our body.

Next day we were ready to head back to Jaisalmer and make our biggest mistake of the trip.
We signed up with Salim bhai from Hotel Samrat, to give us a vehicle to take us around Jaisalmer. We struck a deal for 1000 bucks that included sightseeing in a car, a room to keep our luggage (since our train to Jodhpur was at 11:30pm in the night) and a drop to the station.

Jaisalmer has an awesome fort, that is in a bad condition, thanks to the 5000 people living inside it.
The other bits are the Haveli of some rich business men who made their money selling Marijuana and inlaying gold onto sarees.
We usually hire a guide to help us understand the place better, we did the same this time. This guy was super excited about there being flowers and leaves carved on the doors and the windows. He also kept telling us "Yeh sab haath ka kaam hai", since haath = hand and kaam = job, you do the math.
He was also a disciple of Captain Obvious "Sir this is a door, people used to enter from here", "Sir this a window, the ladies used to look out from here to see the world outside" :-|

By the time half our sightseeing tour was done, we realised that we had been conned by Salim the great. Most of the places of interest are walking distance and the car never had to travel for more than 5 kilometeres in total. The dirty room that he gave us was worth about 200rupees and the train station was 4 kilometers away.
We ended up having a heated argument Salim and his cronies. Okay, that was an understatement - what happened was this: The girls went beserk and let all hell break loose on a shell shocked Salim, I think one of them even threatened to slap Salim. The boys tried to restrain the girls and Salim and company did not know what hit them.
However, we had been conned and we had a deal to pay him the money, so we paid up the money and bid good riddance to the gang of thugs. We told ourselves that it would have been worse if we had signed up for the camel safari he promised.

Some tips:
-Jaisalmer is about the desert, so spend most time in and around the desert. Camping out in the night, or sitting by a bonfire in your resort. Ignore the sightseeing in the town, its not worth the time.

-If you do decide that you want to see Jaisalmer town, do so by walking about. Take auto's to places that are a bit away from the main fort area.

- Make your bookings upfront and spend that bit extra for quality. There are a lot of touts in the area who need to be avoided.

At Jodhpur

The travel from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur was very nice, since we had 3AC tickets. Never were we so happy to see a 3AC coach.
In Jodhpur we had army accommodation, so we stayed in style. We had an army jeep come pick us up and take us to the camp, where the guest rooms were very neat, clean and cheap. Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by Jodhpur - The Umed bhavan palace, the Meharangarh fort were fantastic and very well maintained, more so because they are privately owned.
We also headed out to Osian which is a village full of temples. The beauty and charm of the temples has been taken away by the shelters built all around them. So give Osian a skip.
Mandore gardens were still alright, since it has some lovely looking cenotaphs.

So in this trip Jodhpur > Jaisalmer for sure. Maybe staying the desert next time will turn things around.

The return was back via sleeper coach, but this time we were in for a pleasant surprise, since it was a new coach and the berths were very comfortable. We managed to get in a very funny game of pictionary.

The four days were great fun, thanks to the awesome company we had.

Let me know if you need help planning a trip :)

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The summer's coming

I glanced at the television the other day, saw the advertisement for an airconditioner and realised that the famed Delhi summer is right round baby right round.
The winter was awesome. I thought it would be overrated (like the non-existent rains), but fortunately it wasn't. It was as cold as it promised to be and felt much more cooler :)

Now for the summer. I am not quite sure, how long I am going to be sticking around in Delhi, but I am not returning home this side of summer for sure. Given that the summers here begin mid-March and the heat lasts till about September, this seems like my last chance to travel a bit around Rajasthan. So that's what we're doing.
Four days in Rajasthan would never be sufficient, but that's what we have and that's what we'll do :)

Oh and summer? I would've said 'bring it on!', if I had the guts.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The best buy

This '31 in 1', Chinese made screwdriver set is what I consider to be the best buy ever! I got it off a roadside vendor in SP road Bangalore.
I did not need it then, but I thought that having a set of tools would make me feel like a handyman. So I got this, a set of pliers and a hammer.
(I confess I got the hammer, because the previous week, I had destroyed some kitchen utensils that I was using in lieu of the hammer and was promptly told off.)

Anyway, back to the best buy. So, I got the screwdriver set for 100 bucks and have more than utilized it. Here is what I used it for:

1. The front bumper of the car came off, I fixed it with this
2. I got a new belt that needed a few notches. I made them with this.
3. A Scorpio got the car in the back bumper(my mistake). I fixed the entire bumper with this
4. A few friends came over for lunch and when we were about to see them off, the door got locked from inside since the knob broke. We opened the complex looking door lock with this and managed to open the door!

So, if you find this set. Get it!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


2011 has been a wonderful year. I got out of my comfort zone(Bangalore) and moved to Delhi. A move that most people said was not a smart one :)
We've had an awesome time at Delhi and learnt so much by living in a new place. Travel always broadens your mind and we've had a fantastic year of travel too!
We visited: Kabini - Orange County, Andaman, Pandavapura, Mysore, Srirangapatna, Manipal, Kerala - Allepey, Kochi and Kumarakom, Amritsar, Mussoorie, Brazil (Sao Paulo, Rio Di Janeiro, Porto Alegre), Bombay, Rishikesh and Pushkar.

2012 has already started off on a very promising note and seems set to be awesome too!