Saturday, May 30, 2009

B'day Blues.....

What does a B'day remind you of - new clothes, chocolates, prayers, wishes, presents, a great day and hopefully a great year too....well, its not that simple anymore, atleast if you are someone in late twenties and especially if you are a woman ! 

In the last few months, everytime I send an email b'day wish to one of my friends, I get back a reply saying they are not happy about growing old....they want things to stay where they are.....and these are people who are married and some even have kids and they still want time to stand still.....well, it will be very interesting for Physicists to see how that works !

There used to be a time when all we talked about were.......exams, homework, annual day, summer holidays :D

There used to be a time when all we talked about were.......movies, music, clothes and ofcourse boys ;)

and now what are we all talking, investments, real estate, marriage, lamaze classes, !!!! we sure have grown up !!

All along, there are certain things we have to give up as a part of growing up atleast for the sake of good social behaviour...right from eating mud to sucking a thumb (as much as I would love to give more examples, I rather I shouldn't since I have no interest in revealing all the weird things I did growing up, in a public forum ;) :D)   

I still remember the time I had to give up............. 
...riding my tricycle (it was my little brother's turn)
...wearing my beautiful pattu pavadais (thanks to amma and appa's siblings that I got a new one for each one of their weddings !)
...wearing my school uniform (I loved those white shirt and box frilled navy blue skirts, I still have those !)
...wearing 2 plaits (the first time I wore a single plait I thought I looked 10 yrs older !) international student id
and the list is never-ending !

Each one of these was not easy but I think there was always something better to look forward to - like a new bicycle, or a new half-sari, and moreover, as a child, everyone wants to become an 'adult' soon...obviously....the grass looks greener on the other side !

Its very simple to think that the same argument should be applied here...look forward to something better.....easier said than done ! There is no better replacement to ''aunty'' and maybe when one becomes ''paati'', the aunty might sound sweeter then but thats a long time coming......and hence the b'day blues !! Now, now, men aren't any better either, only they pretend to be - you should see one of them sigh when they see their school or college pics...its quite a sight !!

The surprising part is this hits everyone (atleast everyone I know), but not necessarily at the same time and I cant keep track of the bizarre incidents that blow the fuse ! I have heard everything from being denied an ''under-25'' discount to ''I wear the same clothes as the grandma next door''....ROFL ! 

Makes me wonder if there is anything really like ''aging gracefully'' !? This is probably a question to Hemamalini who still looks drop-dead gorgeous at 60 !

hmm...well...since many learned people have said that you are only as young as you feel, I am going to consider myself a school girl for as long as I can (with all the singing, dancing, playing, traveling that I can do :D) and make sure that all kids of my friends call me ''akka'' until I have one or two of my own and finally condescend to be called ''Aunty'' :D !

The days are long but the years are short....really short !

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blame it on the Weatherman !

Do you know the first question that anyone asks when you suggest
- a weekend trip ?
- having a barbeque outdoors ?
- going out for a run or a game of table tennis ?

or to make it simpler do you know the first question that I get when I call home or one of my colleagues in another office - what is the WEATHER like ?

I am always shocked at how big a role weather plays in running my life....!! When I was back home, in South India, weather was a non-entity. At best or rather at worst, it would rain and getting wet in the rain was one of the fun things to do and so no one worried about it. I still vividly remember how all of us waddled through knee-deep water with our raincoats to reach ‘Devi-paradise’ to see ‘Vaijainthi IPS’ - this was 15 years ago. It was one of the most heavy downpours South India had ever seen and even that did not make us alter our plans…..when you come from such a city and suddenly start living in a city where even going out for a walk is done only after querying, it is only a little short of bewildering !

Along the same lines, I used to think that talking about the weather is probably the worst form of small talk there is but now I do it everyday.

Weather deciding your routine is directly proportional to how much it fluctuates. In my home town, temperatures are always between 25 and 38 deg C with maybe a couple of exceptionally ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ days. But when the weather fluctuates between -20 and +40 deg C, you know you are doomed to check as often as you check emails. If you don’t, one or more of the following will happen (or has already happened to you)
- you are wearing a turtle-neck pullover and sweating like crazy (this is fun especially if you happen to be at work)
- you are wearing sandals and walking in the snow (times when you think about the laws of physics !)
- Inspite of your fighting spirit, you just lost your very-recently-purchased umbrella to the wind (and not to mention the torrential downpour that follows – Murphy’s Law!)

I actually really admire moms (or dads), who take their kids out to the park or for a walk, with their rucksacks packed with everything needed for any kind of weather, sometimes in addition to the swim or ski equipment they carry !! I try to follow this too….it should be pretty clear what happens since I said ‘try’

When you travel a lot, chances are you should be prepared not only to combat a jet-lag but also a ‘weather-lag’!

……and inspite of all this how can one not enjoy the the first snow, the fall colors, the spring blooms and if enjoying all this beauty means dealing with layers of clothing and other man-made contraptions to fight the weather, then so be it ! And there is this sense of accomplishment when you go running inspite of the rain, come home drenched and look outside thinking ‘if that was a fight between me and the weather, I won :D’

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Its time to grill.....

What I used to think about a Barbeque - much ado about nothing !
What I think about a Barbeque NOW - How can we have Spring without one ?!

Here is why......

First of all, its great being outside enjoying the sunny weather and that makes up for the half the happiness. I never realised what a big part of my life the sun was and how not seeing it for a few days could be depressing...really depressing (depression due to weather is apparently one of the top reasons for people committing suicide in Finland!)...well...thats what I am going to talk about in my next lets move on !

Second of all, being outside in a ''picnic'' mood instead of in a ''formal restaurant'' mood is so much fun and it is amazing how a few beers will loosen tongues (times that make me glad that I dont like beer !)

Last of all, the freshly cooked and served food...agreed that there are not a whole lot of choices for vegetarians but where there is a will there is food too :) !

A colleague of mine has a spring Barbeque every year in his garden (I am lucky enough to be one of his close friends to get invited) and as every year goes by, I look forward to it more and more ! His wife, an Italian, is an amazing cook and is such a warm person that she is like the perfect ''mother hen''. She takes extra care to make some delicious vegetarian dishes for me - be it potatoes-au-gratin or the baked aubergine-tomato-mozzarella, its simply scrumptious ! He, at the same time, grills paprika, zuchini and mushrooms for me. Together with some garlic bread and juice, it really becomes a heavy meal.

My favorite is the after-dinner part where we build a fire in the garden, sit around it and exchange funny photos and stories right from the innocent childhood, naughty adolescence to the current responsible ( dont laugh) self until almost midnight since laughing like crazy beyond those hours will make the neighbours call the cops !

The fun continues the next morning at work when we exchange fotos - some nice and some awkward and we all resolve to have a barbeque more often than now knowing well that its going to be another year before we actually do it....sigh....!

Monday, May 18, 2009

To Gschnitz and then Bolzano.... am I having a bout of flu nor am I swearing....Gschnitz (I dare you to try saying ''Gsch'' without laughing !) is a small town in Austria, close to Innsbruck and before going there, I did not know it existed too :)

It all started on a fine friday morning when one of my American colleagues (lets call her K), who was here for the 6th time and still had not managed to see anything except our offices in Europe, resolved to herself that she is spending saturday in a different country before catching her return flight to the US on sunday. So what next ?

at 12:30: K decides she wants to drive to Trento in Italy and decides to break her journey in Austria
at 13:30: She comes to me with a plan and asks me if I want to come with her. Ofcourse I said yes (when have I ever said no to ooru suthifying ?)
at 15:00: She gets a rental car with a tom tom and reserves a hotel in Gschnitz since thats the cheapest option
at 17:30: I go home and pack a rucksack
at 18:00: We are on the road driving from Munich.....and then it gets interesting !
at 18:30: We are heading north of Munich while Austria is in the south. Since we chose a route with no toll roads (basically the cross country auto-bahn stretch since with our small car, a VW polo, we can definitely not go at speeds worthy of the auto-bahn where the minimum recommended speed in most cases is 130 Kmph) we assumed it was a round-about way.
at 19:00: We are still driving north and directions point to Munich airport. I get suspicious and query the tom tom again only to realise it is indeed taking us to the airport (which was probably the last used destination) since it did not recognise Gschnitz !!
at 19:01: We reset everything so that it atleast points to Innsbruck and begin driving south...phew !
at 21:00: We arrive in Innsbruck and learn that Gschnitz is not far off only wondering why our hotel reservation simply gives the name of the hotel and Gschnitz without any address or street name
at 21:30: We arrive in Gschnitz (atleast according to the name board on the side of the road!). Although we are impressed with the beautiful small houses, we still do not know how to find the hotel. So we pull up infront of a fire station, the only place open, and ask for directions. Although I know German, I hardly understand what he is saying (since he is speaking the austrian version !) but I pick up a few key words to know that we simply drive straight ahead.

at 21:40: We arrive at the hotel. There is no way we could have missed it since it was the tallest building in that town (had 3 floors) and we also realise that Gschnitz has only one street and hence no street name or address in the reservation ! While we were wondering how to get in since the whole town seemed asleep, we notice an envelope sticking out from behind the hotel door handle with our names on the outside and keys on the inside...Voila !

Neat, comfortable rooms, nice beds => slept soundly !

K wakes me up in the morning saying ''you should see this'' and waking up at 8 on a vacation is beyond difficult for me but finally I gave in. We go to the balcony and this is the scene that greets our eyes - sheep with bells around their necks (the bell sound is what awoke K) grazing and its green as far as you can see with mountains, whose caps are covered with snow and fog, sure a great way to wake up !

After a good breakfast of bread, homemade jam, farm fresh butter, we headed out for a small hike - saw a quaint little church, a small village with all the age old machinery to grind corn and make flour well preserved and finally a beautiful waterfalls (hiked to the top to get a better view). Words cannot describe how beautiful the place was, imagine the best calendar pics of mountains and greenery you have seen ! We then found a restaurant and I ordered a salad and what I got blew my mind - boiling hot plate of 2 kinds of fresh beans, corn with yoghurt sauce and sitting among these was an oven-baked farm potato wrapped in an aluminum foil like a salad i have had in Europe so far !!

After lunch we decided it was time to head to Trento and since we had no other choice we put our trust in the tom tom again and again chose the ''no toll roads'' option.
at 14:00: We are driving to Italy from Gschnitz
at 14:30: We are climbing a mountain and wondering how Trento could on a mountain...and yeah, obviously you cannot turn back on such a mountain road
at 15:00: altitude 1000m
at 15:15: altitude 1500m
at 15:40: altitude 2200m and we finally arrive at what looks like a ski resort still wondering where the heck Trento could be ! Well, actually, we wondered much later since there were more beautiful views from that altitude and after enjoying it to our heart's content we were relieved to see the road going downhill on the other side
at 16:25: We are finally almost at the foot of the mountain and just when we were thinking that we might see Trento we go through a really long tunnel and then follows 22 other tunnels !!
at 16:55: After all the ''tunneling'', we see a sign that says Trento is 55 km away. At that moment we decided we were not going to drive any further instead we would explore the place we were in - Bolzano !

Bolzano looked like a perfect german-italian town, obvious from its location close to the border. Not only did all signs read something like ''Banco/Bank'', the city centre looked very ''german'' too while the shopping area and the cafeterias made it obviously italian ! After spending some time at the Duomo (Cathedral), we walked into the shopping area only to come across the veteran car team - a group of old veterans with their 1923-30 model cars....and whats more we even saw them driving those cars - I really couldn't have believed that those cars would run !!

After a typical cappuccino in a typical Italian Cafe, we were ready to head back home and we were home after 4.5 hrs of driving and this time we ''cleverly'' avoided the mountains :)

Moral(s) of the story
- It pays to be cheap (:D) or rather economic - we never would have seen those breathtaking views if we had not tried to save money on a city hotel or toll roads!
- Tom tom shows you the route most of the times but not necessarily the shortest or the fastest !
- When you are on vacation, do not have a strict agenda, go where the tom tom takes you to have the maximum fun :D !

To conclude, one of the most beautiful places I have seen and one of the best road trips I have had.....
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