Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Closing

So the Olympic games are over. Yes, I know it has been exactly a week since then, but I still remember the spectacular closing ceremony quite vividly. I made sure I caught it on TV this time and what a show it was (again!). Calling it perfect would be an understatement. The memory tower and the perfectly synchronized performers remained in my memory long after the show had ended.

No, there is one more thing that has remained actually - the preview performance of London 2012. Really, was it the best they could come up with? The double decker bus that opened up from all sides to reveal ... well, nothing! Couldn't they take a cue from the Chinese performances preceding them? Then there was Beckham, looking extremely uncomfortable, and all he was made to do was kick a football at the audience (now, what was that? :D). Leona Lewis (whose singing I otherwise like) sounded off key and I, for one, couldn't wait for the whole preview performance to get over quickly. I guess I am being a little judgemental about their performance but the Chinese have raised the bar so high that even otherwise good performances appear mediocre now.

And of course, 2008 Olympics were special because India won three medals - the maximum ever so far. I hope this is just a preview of more medals to come in future. As always, the governments (both central and some states) have recklessly started announcing prize money (in crores of rupees!) for the sportsmen who have brought home medals. I am all for recognizing and rewarding talented people, but wouldn't it be better if Govt had invested this amount in providing better facilities to the sportspersons so they can train better for subsequent Olympics? Probably that might have ensured that three did not remain the maximum number of medals India ever got.

Images courtesy:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Auto & the Ambulance

When it comes to auto-rickshaws and their drivers, most of us only have horror stories to share. This includes stories about their rash & negligent driving, demanding extra fare for no apparent reason, refusing to go to certain destinations, being rude etc. This is true for autos and their drivers in most of the cities and I have experienced them first hand in Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai. But today I witnessed something that broke the prejudice most of us have against auto drivers.

Having missed my office shuttle I had to take an auto to get to a place where I could take another shuttle. On my way I heard the siren of an ambulance coming from somewhere behind. Most of the vehicles continued moving at the same pace without paying any heed to the siren. But my auto-driver moved to the extreme left lane and slowed down until the ambulance passed.

It is good to see that in a city where most people drive without caring for anyone else on the road, one gets to see humane gestures from totally unexpected quarters ..

Picture courtesy:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beijing Olympics - view from far

I have been following the 2008 Beijing Olympics mostly on the Internet than on TV, unlike the last 2 Olympics. Since most sports URLs are blocked at workplace, I rely on non-sports sites to get the information I need. But then, Internet has its own advantages and I have managed to read some very interesting stuff so far.

I missed the spectacular Opening Ceremony on TV (but managed to catch some of it on youtube) which, as most people claimed, and rightly so, was one of the best shows on earth ever. But I read mixed reactions - on one hand Shekhar Kapur put it as the greatest live event ever presented on this planet and wondered if India could have done something similar. On the other hand, the Western media went all out to belittle the ceremony by over-emphasizing on the lip-syncing of Chinese national anthem by Lin Miaoke and dubbing the footprint fireworks shown to TV audience as "fake". I particularly resented the condescending article by one Mr. James Reynolds who writes in BBC's Olympics blog. I don't advocate beauty over talent and personally feel that Yang Peiyi (the actual singer of the anthem during Opening Ceremony) was no less cute than Lin herself, but we should not let these hiccups steal the thunder from China. They did put up a great show and we should applaud and appreciate all the hard work that was put in to make it such a flawless event. The dust on opening ceremony doesn't seem to settle down though - now there is this hype about soldiers who were operating the centerpiece scrolls wore nappies during the Opening Cermony as they were not allowed to take any breaks.

Let alone the Western media, even their Indian counterparts were not far behind when it came to belittling someone's achievements. After the initial euphoria of Abhinav Bindra winning the first ever individual gold medal died down, a lot was discussed about his keeping a water balloon/bottle on his maid's head (when Abhinav was all of 5 years of age) and shooting. Not to mention about his super-rich dad who spent all the money he could to make Bindra prepare well for the Olympics. Talking about India's performance in Beijing Olympics, I ran into this Wikipedia article that gives very detailed account of performance of Indian sportspersons in all events. It was really disheartening to see so many 'did not advance' entries. But then there were two boxing quarter-finals scheduled for the 20th where Indian boxers Jitender Kumar & Vijender Kumar (in flyweight and middleweight categories, respectively) have still kept India's hopes alive. I, for sure, will be following their matches tomorrow and rooting for them.

Just out of curiosity I had checked India's performance (links available in Wikipedia article's sidebar) in all the Olympics it has participated since 1900 (first as British India and later as independent India), the medal count hasn't gone above 2. There were many years when no medals were won, though. I am just hoping that these two boxers from Haryana break this jinx of two and add 2 more medals for the country..

Images courtesy:

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Misty Morning at the Boot House

I remember reading about the Boot House in Bombay in the popular children's magazine Paraag many years ago when I was a school-girl. I secretly imagined posing for a photo on the balcony of the house :). Somehow I never visited Bombay as a kid and gradually the Boot House faded from the memory. But last Saturday morning, just a day before I was to head back to Bangalore, I happened to mention this to my brother-in-law about it while having our morning tea. And he suggested that we all could go there right then as Boot House was located in Kamla Nehru Park (earlier called Hanging Gardens, I think), which was a short drive away. So all 3-and-a-half of us left within 5 minutes, still sleepy-eyed but fairly excited on that rain soaked morning.

It was a mixed feeling on finally seeing the Boot House - it did not look as big and imposing as in my imagination but a rather small, cute-looking one. The entry to the house were sealed so there was no question of going to the balcony :(. But the park on the whole was neatly maintained and offered a very good view of the Chowpatty beach and part of the Marine Drive. The two hours or so that we spent there were definitely more than worth the effort :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Day Among Clouds in Lonavala

I think I now know what Bombayites do when it rains - they head to Lonavala. That's what we did, too, during our day trip to Lonavala last weekend. Initially I was skeptical that our trip will be spoilt because of the incessant rains. I couldn't have been more wrong! The rains proved to be the best backdrop for our entire trip.
We had planned to start early in the morning so we could reach in time for breakfast at Duke's in Khandala. But as expected, we overslept and could start only by 8.30 AM with the breakfast plan still intact. The drive from our home in South Bombay to Khandala on Bombay-Pune Expressway was very scenic and the greenery was lush due to rains. There were numerous waterfalls along the way; many of which, I am sure would not have existed but for the monsoon rains. We reached Duke's just after 11 AM and had a sumptuous breakfast (I would rather call it a brunch :) ) of omelettes, pakodas, samosas, french fries and pots of masala tea.

The restaurant at Duke's provided breathtaking view of the valley - there were rolling hills and waterfalls for as far as eyes could see. Then suddenly the clouds descended on us from all sides and we had this amazing feeling of being cozily nestled among the clouds for some 15-20 minutes. It was like being in our own little world as visibility had reduced to only 3-4 feet. After some time we headed towards Lonavala. On our way we saw groups of people, mostly college students, enjoying the hike (since there are no trails, they were walking on the roads) soaked to their bones. We, too, were tempted to do this but had to pass as we had not brought any change of clothing .
We stopped at many view-points to take in the beauty of the valley. At some of the places there was a strong breeze and at others everything was still and there were clouds all around us! There were small shops selling all kinds of snacks at these view-points. We also enjoyed bhutta and tea at one of them. There were other interesting fares too - like camel rides!! On our way back we stopped for a quick look at the Bushi dam and bought some Maganlal Chikki from a marketplace in Khandala.
Did I mention that there was a toll booth in the beginning of the drive from Khandala to Lonavala where cops were collecting Pollution Tax from all vehicles and persons? When we asked them how the money we pay will be used to fight pollution, we couldn't get a convincing response.