Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech Shoot out

Unfortunately, its sad that there are barbarians that co exist with humans in this world.
More news has come and there were reportedly 2 Indians among the victims.
Prof Loganathan, a 51 year old professor originally from Coimbatore and Minal Panchal, a student of architecture, hailing from Mumbai.

A tribute to the departed soul Minal Panchal, whose orkut scrap book is flooded with condolence messages every minute. Let's pray for the departed souls to rest in peace.

Update: Minal's orkut profile got deleted, perhaps by adminstrators probably due to the heavy traffic to her profile causing server slow down.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Scotland Memoirs

Yours truly recently got a chance to visit Scotland. Here his Antaratma, the blessed soul, which got a chance to see the tour as a third person declares open the review:
Avinash: the Driver aka Nash
Sachin: the Senior aka Maalik
Arpita: the tour organiser aka Nessie!
Mithun: the ‘concept’ fotugrapher
Kasi: the Junior aka Muneem jee aka Nessa
Suporting actors:-
Jayprakash aka Jai
Gautham aka Veeru


Scotland, Scotland, Scotland and most of the services and rest places on Ipswich – Scotland roadway!

Five people start to begin their ambitious trip to various places in Scotland with a detailed plan. They are new, they don’t know the route, they loose their places-to-visit details en-route and beyond these barriers how they finally manage to make most out of the trip. Did they goof up? Or did they finally made it to visit Isle of sky as planned? To know all these, read more below at your own risk to discover the lighter, confused and happier moments of their 4 days during the Easter holidays of 2007!

Thriller/ Comedy/ Suspense

All the characters described below are real and resemblance to any characters alive or dead is purely coincidental and non intentional.

Read More….
Loaded with all the accessories (Cds, Crisps, chocolates, cakes, eat meats) and finally the 5 homo sapien creatures, the Vaahan, a Maroon Vauxhall Vectra, seemingly a plush 5 seated car started to transport these bhatke-se junta on time (note: half an hour late is considered to be on time as per Indian standards). The knight in the shining armour (okay..okay) the driver, Avinash was ready with Sachin, the navigator with his maps to go from Ipswich to Edinburgh. The second car with Jay and Gautham came behind (later followed by a series of ahead and behind!). Now the biggest challenge lay ahead. How to go out to the main highway from the starting point, Ipswich? After baffling with the route maps and by trial-and-error method into the Ipswich streets, somehow the main highway was reached. Still, doubtful. A stop over at the first Services point confirmed that the direction heading towards was hopefully right. Perfect. Hereafter, as a customary note, every stopping for any thing and everything, followed with marathon sessions of photo shoot. The self-confessed ‘concept’ photographer, Mithun was always ready with his new tricks and treats on his gadget, a sony digicam. There were other cameras, which too had to be kept busy. There were actually more number of stoppings on the outward and return journey than the total number of places visited in Scotland actually! Leaving trivial stopovers apart, the first significant place visited was a scenic beach just few miles from the Scotland entry check post. It was on the down hill and yo la, a truly memorable place where you forget the mundane things of life. The beach and the water re-brought the five grown ups into kids to all possible funny poses for photos (Highlight: The scarecrow pose by Kasi while trying to imitate dil chahta hai Saif-Sonali song!). An hour drive later, Edinburgh was reached by around 7 pm. A youth hostel was booked in a place called Cow gate. A host of confusions in the directions leading to that place accompanied with bend-the-traffic-rules-liberally at Princess Street in Edinburgh and troubling-whosoever-on-road-with where-is-Cowgate(?), led finally to the place in (just) about 2 hours! But, one must admit it, the whole gamut of these operations led to a panoramic view of the evening amidst the beautiful facades of Edinburgh city centre. The tired passengers needed some good food, which turned out to be a mini nightmare of a food at a Bangladesi restaurant. Phir kya, folks retired to bed; Kasi and Sachin were treated to a helluva awesome night at the RED disco-pub with bindaas music till the early hours of the morining. This relieved their day long pain of sitting in the car too! Meanwhile, the Jai-Veeru duo found their way to Backpackers hostel, the place of their stay. Jai-Veeru spent the rest of their days at Edinburgh. Kasi’s lappy went coolly with their car, which did remain in shaanti, away from serving its purpose (it had all the details of places to visit in Scotland and supposedly brought to upload the camera pics when they run out of memory).

Koi Dikkat Nahin. These are not the impediments of the determined folks. Journey started to Lochness again with the usual hiccups of getting out of Edinburgh. There were few stoppings at services and scenic spots en route. A deserted remains of a castle near Ben Nevis was the first visit-stopping. The small water body saw the ‘throw-stone and get as many as ripples you can’ challenge between Avinash and Mithun. Sachin and Kasi got busy in the photo shoots on the walls of the dirty castle. Later the junta had some enthusiastic on the spot jumping photo sessions. Arpita, the photographer now captured some of the best stills! She too was complemented with one of hers by our concept fotu-grapher. Tuning to the bends and curves on the roads, the obedient driver crossed the speed limits and took the passengers (Good heavens!) safely. Suddenly, it was realized Lochness Backpackers hostel had come. The rooms were heavenly compared to the previous night. After the usual chores of initial settling down, the junta took a mystique walk to the bay jungle near by, which still haunts the writer’s memory even now. It was a wild expedition into an unexplored valley, which was spread over a jungle with Spring-Bridge and a mini loch (lake). Then, a drive to an outside view of Ucquart castle was followed by a yummy heart filling dinner at an International (read: Indian) restaurant. The earlier drive to the castle didn’t fetch any results to get in as the visitor time was over. Now, it was around 11pm; the idea of trespassing was tempting, though the folks were all smart enough to let the other go and eventually it ended up nobody going in! But, nevertheless, the occasion was topped with a zabardaar dance by the fivesome with the car headlights on and with foot tapping music yelling out of the stereos’ out of it. Later this was christened as the famous Ghost dance of Ucquart Castle. The masti didn’t stop here, it followed up with a brave walk till the graveyard, which was on the way to the Bay. Catching up with each of one’s stories, the junta came back to rooms, giving way to a good night’s sleep.

Lochness has a scenic and pleasant view of its natural assets - a large monster lake (lochness) and high mountains. Legend has it that there used be a monster by the name Nessie (for yours truly, it looks more like a chota green coloured dinosaur!). A slew of events led to Arpita being named to Nessie and the poor boy, Kasi as Nessa (supposedly the male equivalent by desi naming conventions!) just for taking snaps with two cute little kids in the backpacker’s hostel. After the previous night’s discussion, the plan to visit Isle of Sky was dropped owing to the long hours of travel and tiredom it involved. This way, the morning was open to exploring the vicinity of the hostel, which was bestowed with nature’s beautiful valleys. A drive to Kyle of Lochalash followed with stops at various viewing points on its way and at 5 sisters of Kintail. Boy, they were all the not-to-miss-kind of scenic-cum-visual treats. Then the next significant stopover was at the beautiful Donan Castle, where this turning point happened. Sachin and Kasi were transported to their pichle janam, where Sachin was the Maalik and Kasi became a noble (ok ok.. Muneem jee) of the castle. They started remembering memories of their lavish life style inside the castle with royal bedrooms, dining rooms, kitchens and aristocratic pleasures. When they returned, the fun wasn’t over at the highlands. On public demand the driver, Avinash led to the periphery of Inverness city just only to see that the Tourist Info office was closed. Hmm.. it was getting late to go back to Edinburgh. Negotiating all bends and curves with few stops here and there, the folks reached Edingburgh at around 9 pm, only to land up again with an identification crisis to locate the Backpacker’s hostel. It took nearly an hour. No results yet. A god sent Messiah, in the avataar of a Scottish Cab driver, empathised the poor folk’s plight and offered a free drive with follow-me-I’ll-lead-you to the hostel. As a memento of gratitude, Kasi (and Arpita) did thank him on behalf of the whole junta by taking a photo with the Brave Heart : ). The Backpacker’s hostel was fabulous with all amenities and facilities for the horribly low price that it charges. Jai-Veeru combo met the group here and gave some gyan to visiting top priority places in Edinburgh. The night went eventful in the dorms; Avinash was in good form (read in good spirits) that he went to his flashback mode and held Mithun in rapt attention into listen-my-bakwaas-stories-else-I’ll-Kachcha-chaba-jaaonga.

Next day, after the customary photo shoots in the scenic lake outside the hostel, the junta packed bags and checked out to explore the Ferry service which is in between two mindblowing bridges (they look like big brothers of Rabidra Setu and Vidyasagar Setu bridges of Howrah-Kolkata). The announcements in the ferry later reiterated the fact that they were indeed master pieces of architecture and it was said that for one of them, a cantilever bridge, it nearly took around a decade, more than 5000 workers and 50 lives to build the 2 mile plus long bridge across the water. There were eye-soothing spots while looking out from the ferry and there were eels on land lock in the water. But the one, who is writing this, slept for most of the time in the ferry and hence sorry many details are missed thus, unintentionally. Poor writer, Kasi, his memory confines only to visiting an island; nothing more nothing less! Later he was shown with proof of pranks played on him while he was having a king’s sleep. Later, the folks planned to see Edinburgh castle. The Punar Janam Turk now wanted to explore Wonderland Toy shop and quenched his fantasies into buying a ‘25 miles/hr–500 m up-500 m forward motion-helicopter’ gadget (don’t call it toy, he’ll kill you!) along with a Thomas Train toy. (Update: The enhancements to the chopper, following its crash is well known now by his roommates.)

It was evening and damn hungry all they were; after unsuccessfully searching for an Indian restaurant, a Chinese restaurant by random selection was a welcome relief. The charming Chinese lady attendant and the chowmien served treated the hungry taste buds from starving. Time was less, Mithun had to go back to Machester before 9.30 pm and given the usual chores of getting out of city at disposal, the idea to see Edinburgh castle wasn’t encouraging. A relaxed stop over at a service realized the driver and his navigator chances of making to the train were very bleak. You should see Mithun’ s face now, bereft from all the enthu as he was destined to loose his scheduled train at Manchester. The song of the mood from Ek chaalis ki last local ‘Jeevan ki gaadi chooti……Kehte hein na..Jo hota hei achche ke liye hota he…Sahi kehtein hein’ was the consolation he was left with. Keeping all hopes alive, phew, the driver-Avinash drove and needless to say, it was late baby! Mithun bid adieu and left to his friend's place from where he’d be going to Cardiff the next day. This writer was in great slumber and didn’t remember much what happened later, but yeah another 6 hours later, the rest of the folks too found themselves at their places in Ipswich. So that was it, a long and eventful journey filled with moments to be cherished and to be treasured :)


PS: I had intentionally included the tag Suspense under genre. You see its a marketing strategy to induce the folks who were not willing to take the risk of reading the whole crap that I churned out! Intelligent me :-)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

London Trip

I have known modern cities of one category , that in the process of becoming 'modern' wash away the remains of their glorious past, fading away the beautiful past they have had, where tall structures replace the older ones. And I have known cities of the other category, which still preserve and renovate their old glorious structures (In India, to a large extent, Kolkata, would fit this bill but minus the renovation part though).

London, is more of the second category, whose magnificient buildings and architectural remnants, will transport you a century or two behind, whilst it still being the cultural melting pot of today with its diverse population and cosmopolitan outlook. London strikes a fine balance between modernity and past, an aura which very few other cities (like Paris, Rome) could offer. You have tall skyscrapers at Canary Wharf here and you have the heritage buildings and sites here. This distinctive blend of new and old is what impresses me the most, like many other visitors.

After my two weeks of arrival to UK, thanks to a senior of mine here, I visited London. It was a rainy day, so the visit was confined only to select few places.

The Tube: It all began with an open ticket which covers all the zones, in the Underground Tube (Metro train) from the Liver Pool Street statrion . London has one of the best public transportation in the world in the form of tubes which is one of the quickest and easiest way of getting around London. The whole of London is bifurcated into 6 zones, with central London being the first zone and the outer London as the 6th (last) zone. There are totally 12 lines (routes) like Jubilee line, Central line, Picadelly line etc. that operate in these zones, which cover almost the whole of London. (In Calcutta Metro, there is only a single line Tollygunge to Dum Dum, covering most of the city). All the Underground Tube stations have user friendly large display boards and the Map-pamphlet distribution box. By using the map it is just a child's play to know where and how you want to go the destination. You must see this official site of the London Underground.

East Ham: After meeting a friend in Barking, we headed to East Ham, which is known to be Tamil and Sri Lankan area in London. East Ham has many Indian stores, South Indian DVD shops and yes, a Murugan Kovil also. Along with many other South Indian hotels, there was our very own Saravan Bhavan, where we began our breakfast with Masala Dosai. I came to know there is another Mini Indian area called SouthHall in London, which is predominantly occupied by Punjabi and Gujju.

Westminster: From East Ham, Westminster was our next destination. There I had a few click-me-in-front-of-this photo sessions with Big Ben and London Eye. A long walk around the Thames river and the bridge gave a good view of most of the central London.

Trafalgar Square: Walking across the roads, we reached the Trafalgar Square and National Gallery. Wow, I was dumbounded by its magnificient sculptures of the large lions (they were 4 in number) surrounding a pillar, in the large arena outside the National gallery building. The fountains adjoining them were equally beautiful and soothing. It was a rainy day and given the short time, most other places couldn't be covered.

Baker Street: This place has the world renowned Madam Tussuad's Wax Musuem. But we had less time left, so left it for next time to see. The evening became rainy by that time and given that everyone was terribly hungry, we searched a Pizza Hut to treat our taste buds with some spicy hot pizzas. Later in the night, I left to Reading, 45 mins from London Paddington station, to one of my classmates house.

That was all, a chota sa London Trip, a trip which invites to come more and more!