Thursday, January 26, 2006

Jai Hind

Vande Mataram,

A very Happy Republic Day to one and all!

A few links -

The President's address to the nation can be read here.
The President and the kids' rendezvous.

Jai Hind,

Monday, January 23, 2006

Whats with some of us, not to acknowledge?

I remember reading a blog on the same lines few months back. I found it true then and now after around nine odd months here, I cannot agree more. Whenever I have meet or see an Indian in foreign land, I have tried a knowing smile with a 'Hey desi bro, you alright?' gesture . Circa eighty percent of the time, I am rewarded with either a blank stare or a glance which ends before I could say 'Jai Robindran' (desi Jack Robinson ;) while the brits and remaining twenty percent say a cheery 'Hi, you're alright?' and walk away with a pleasent smile. Complete strangers, in the land of strangers, even a smile and nod is highly appreciated.

Is this lack of basic courtsey something we are known to have, a trademark of sorts like nil civic sense?
Is the permanent residentship in another country, makes them feel 'non Indian', and is a reason for not smiling at an Indian?
Do they feel they are superior if they have been very long in phoren?
Do they just dismiss me as a lunatic beaming at everyone?

A desi working in my company's UK office, walks in, and dines on the same table in the suite just before Balckburn Rovers were up against NUFC. I tried different kinds of smiles - 'pleasent', 'conversation striking', 'ice breaking' etcetra.A friend from my project did the same. This only met his indifferent face which looked at the brits on the table. While the brits and me chatted avidly about the football match due to start and all the while criticisizing Brit food, this man talked to some other brits at the table who looked willing to join our conversation if he let them. Finally, my smile turned to smirks and we friends told wach other 'Bhaad mein jaaye' (loosely translated 'Let him be in garbage'). I do not demand a complete 'who, what, when, where, how' of the person, but a knowing desi smile warms hearts in foreign land.

Anyways, I shall smile at all desis I pass, even if they think of me as an ever-grinning nincompoop.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Northern Ireland: Concluding Part

After covering and awing at few more landmarks of the city, we proceeded to our hostel. Some time later, we were on the duplex bed in out neat dormitory.Complaint while lying down: “Some mosquitoes are singing around me.” Reply: “For ten pounds a night, who else is gonna sing for you, Pink Floyd?”
I bet the laughter invoked from this would have woken the entire floor in the hostel.
Next morning was bright and sun beamed at us though some clouds were adamant on trying to hide it. The motto I read in Belfast sightseeing service “...touch the spirit, feel the welcome” sounded very true now. We walked past some landmarks visited before reaching the designated tour starting point. The international youth hostel was up and alive with Irish music and people waiting for the tour coach. At sharp nine, Frank, our driver, after some titbits of info on the tour started for what will be a fantastic trip.

The first thing was a tall elegant looking pillar which he said was Belfast’s answer to Eiffel tower in Paris but, I personally doubt if the answer stood a chance. To make it more interactive, he threw a question at us, “Who knows Jonathan Swift?” Three of us raised our hands as if he might throw a chocolate to who knows the answer. Then we saw a mountain which when viewed from an angle looked like a huge man lying down with his facial features very well etched out by nature. “There”, he said, “That’s where our Jonathan got his idea for Gulliver’s Travels”. Maybe, it was a folk lore but a believable one. His voice was proud when he told about the other famous writers and poets from Ireland.

A short drive took us to a village Larne from where two small islands on the Irish Sea were visible with lighthouses on them, called the Maidens. Crossing the handsome village of Glenarn, coach entered Carnlough, a village where the first train station of Ireland was set up. It was sent from a bridge on top of a road and this was still kept intact and taken good care by local authorities. Further, it still has a pub cum inn called ‘Londonderry Arms’ which was owned by the family of Winston Asshole Churchill. Thereafter, passing through some extremely scenic rows of beautifully built houses, caves which used to schools or bars we were feasting our eyes on the splendid landscapes with sea kissing the shores(and of course on the chinki sitting on the next seat). We passed a farm full of small stone sculptures of all sorts of weird animal like things. “These are Lapracorns, the little magic people of Ireland. They turn into stone when photographed by someone”, boomed Frank. “Locals collect and sell it”. I had heard but now was sure, Ireland has folk lore which is not only in abundance but comical too.
‘Vanishing lake’, a normal lake, it seems, acts abnormally, when water level decreases for no particular reason whatsoever. Next stop was Bally Castle village which prides itself on being the place from where Marconi transmitted a radio signal to another island in Scotland (It was not the first cause IEEE has proved the pioneer of wireless was J.C. Bose not Marconi). Anyways, a plaque commemorates Marconi here. We also saw Rathlin island where Robert the Bruce came to hide and saw the spider on the wall, got inspired and went back to Scotland to kick some brit ass. The famous and infamous churches of Ballintoy took some time of ours.

The best part of the trip were Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge(pic 1 just above this), Dunluce castle (pic 2 just above)and of course Giant’s Causeway(pic 3 just above). Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge was taken down due to the windy weather at this part of the year. This was built by fishermen to catch go to the island right next to the mainland. A 90 feet drop, this bridge has been there for many years now. Dunluce castle provided an excellent view and am sure can be an excellent location for Bollywood songs ;). Giant’s Causeway is supposed to be the best destination in Northern Ireland. This natural rock formation can be termed loosely ‘breath-taking’. Waves lashed the shore like it had to move Ireland to some other location. The stone were laid as if a skilful mason had cut the rocks hexagonally and placed it like columns for building an artistic edifice and had left it incomplete. The loony, comical folk lore associated with Giant’s Causeway, about giant called Finn Macool made us laugh our lungs out. After a goodbye to Giant’s Causeway, the next stop was Bushmills Distillary which to our dismay was closed for visitors that day. It is the oldest licensed whisky distillery, obtaining the license in 1680.
Back in Belfast, we checked out the Harland and Wolff, where Titanic was built and set sail from. This was a good experience though the sun had switched its mains off for this part of the globe. The Titanic quarter boasted of all the things managed to be scraped and has been kept like a museum of ode to Titanic. Then the hackney cab sped on M2 towards Belfast international airport where as usual, easyjet delayed the flight by two hours.
The memorable trip thus concluded as the world was bidding goodbye to 2005 and embracing 2006.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Northern Ireland: Part I

From the very time I watched the movie Braveheart(shot in Ireland), visiting Ireland was in one of my life’s ‘to do’ lists of sorts. I thought to end last year by a visit to Northern Ireland and put a tick in the mental checklist. After a plan was chalked out, flights and backpackers hostel booked, we were ready to take off to Belfast, the historic and riots marred capital of Northern Ireland. On the 30th Dec ‘05 afternoon, we were waiting in the lounge to hear that our Easyjet flight would take off on time giving us enough daylight in Belfast for the city tour. But alas, getting Easyjet to fly on time is not easy and they convinced me that the name is sure a misnomer. A four half hour delay is but normal. The only good thing was a £3 refreshment voucher which got me a burger from burger king. The pilot was trying to be funny and tried to keep us in the flight engaged with his anecdotes. The guys getting delayed on their vacation rarely laugh. I pardoned the delay owing it to Xmas season and will give easyjet one more chance to prove itself. Soon (after 4 hours delay), we were in air with Newcastle lights looked like shining gold coins below us.

It was a quick flight to Belfast with the cheerful pilot jumping out of the cockpit as soon as the flight stopped and waving us good bye at the gate with apologies for the delay. An airport taxi took us through the winding M2 motorway to the ‘Paddy’s palace hostel’, the backpackers inexpensive accommodation. The guy at the reception was as drunk as drunk can be and upgraded us to an 8 bedded-dorm from a 12 bedded-dorm free of cost and grin on our face took some time to fade. We were happier to know that there was no one in the 8 bedded-dorm but for us. A quick dinner later, we were off to see Belfast city on foot. And I bet the best way to see this small city is walking or cycling.

The weather was very helpful. We had a good long walk and tried to capture the Irish landmarks avidly enjoying every place we set foot on. The city council was palatial and the gardens strangely green in winter. The trees around offered no resistance to our view as they had lost their clothing of leaves and stood braving the winter stark naked. The magnificent Edwardian “wedding cake” kind of building houses the city council and built to give city status to Belfast granted by Queen Victoria. The oldest known pub, built in early 19th century, with mahogany ceiling and pillars still intact attracts tourists in Belfast. This pub named, Crown Liquor Saloon, was filled to the brim with people glugging beers in litres. It boasts of its opulent marble, skilful Italian tilework, booths with griffins and lions guarding them. Attached to the pub was another pub, which is famous for the regular Irish music played there. Right across the road Europa hotel beamed down on us like a giant bedecked in jewels made of light bulbs. A small walk brought us to the Grand Opera House, with a history of being bombed twice and in a state of dereliction, it now stands restored, playing ‘Snow White and seven dwarfs’. Time constraint forbade me to witness an opera at the splendid two domed edifice.