Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Some of my recent readings and viewings

One Night at the Call Center: After having heard not too good reviews about the book, I was quite ready to a day or two of boring reading. But once I started the book, I found it engrossing enough. The story had a good start and I kept on reading to find out 'so what will happen at the end of the day, or rather the night'. But then God enters and my interest in the story exits. I don't know, the book started realistically enough and then all of a sudden God intervenes and makes it completely unbelievable. Seemed to me that the author had no clue how to end the story and came up with this weird idea. A disappointment.

The Hungry Tide: This is my first book by Amitav Ghosh. My brother recommended this to me saying that he is considered to be the best among Indian writers. The story is set in the tide country of the Sundarbans and is told from the perspective of the two main characters, Kanai Ghosh and Piyali Roy. Even though the book does not have constant action, thrill and suspense, it is still fast paced enough. Amitav Ghosh keeps the pages turning taking us through the history of the Sundarbans, the perilous ecology of the endangered cetaceans and the conservation projects surrounding the great Bengal Tiger, the stories of the local deities along with the stories for each character. He also reveals the shocking incident of the Morichjhapi where thousands of refugees trying to settle down are violently evicted by the government in the name of conservation. However, I have to admit that at times I got bored by the lengthy descriptions and skipped few paragraphs here and there.

Guru: What was the hype all about? Guru, to my opinion was quite a boring film. I had entered the theatre with a lot of expectations, but was very disappointed. Agreed that Abhishek did a good job, but that's not enough for a movie to be interesting, is it? The story was flat, about a poor guy who makes it big by bending the law. Even though the law manages to catch him, he is sent free after he makes an impassioned speech to the commission, which by the way he manages to speak in a strong voice in spite of having suffered a paralytic attack that weakened him! What was the movie trying to tell? That its okay to bend the law and get you thing done? Or was it trying to give a message that India needs to have less restrictions on entrepreneurs and business starters? Somehow, the message didn't come through clear. Aishwarya has acted her part good enough. Vidya Balan and Madhavan are pleasing to the eye while it was nice to see Mithun in a good role (seen Chingari? You'll know what I mean!). A passable movie, see if you must.

Eklavya: After quite a while did I get to see a movie that kept me fully entertained. The missing song and dance sequences was quite a relief and not missed. I felt the movie was made splendid. The direction and cinematography was arresting and the acting superb. No one, not even the Big B, did I feel overacted. Jackie Shroff - whom I always felt went too overboard with his roles, specially in the few movies that he has appeared in the last few years - even he seemed have acted 'just enough'. Saif is once again brilliant and looking awesomely good while Vidya Balan, my favorite these days, looks beautiful. Boman Irani has portrayed his role of a jealous king very well and Sharmila, still looks gorgeous even to this day. Sanjay Dutt gives a comic relief to this dark story about jealousy, faithfulness, betrayal, ambition, love and revenge revolving around a royal family during present times. A must see!

The Science of Sleep: This is a French movie which I saw at a friend's place. I have always been fond of French movies, their story-line is always simple and involves around regular believable people and I love the sound of their language, so soft and polite! The Science of Sleep is in French and English with bits of Spanish thrown in. This is a story of a talented illustrator Stephane who returns to his childhood home for a job which he soon finds out to be pretty shitty. He meets his equally creative neighbor Stephanie and soon falls in love with her. But that's just a part of the bigger story - Stephane often has trouble differentiating dreams from reality and he finds himself slipping back and forth between them causing havoc on his waking life which starts to take it's toll on his sanity. The movie is created by the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The surrealism you see in Eternal Sunshine is evident here as well. The movie is beautiful and artfully done interspersed with comedy, inventiveness and quirkiness. Watch it if you like out of the box movies!

Friday, February 23, 2007

V-Day and V-weekend

After the eventful Sunday mentioned in my previous post, my next weekend was very normal. Even my Valentine's Day was quite normal. Since V is about 160 miles away and V-day fell in the middle of the week, we didn't have much option but to talk on the phone as often as possible. It snowed a lot that day, our highest snowfall of the season. The roads were empty and even my office had a low turnout. When me and my fren SR reached home in the evening, we realised everyone else had cleaned up their parking spot and dumped snow on ours. There was no other spot empty so we had no other choice but to spend a good 2 hrs shovelling the snow! Wat a way to spend Valentine's Day evening. Whatever happened to candlelight dinner and walk in the beach?

V had sent me a bouquet of flowers, which is still nice a fresh besides my bed. I start my day with the view of the fresh beautiful roses that just brighten up my day. I, on the other hand, after much contemplation, decided to give him a nice gourmet chocolate treat. The website showed lovely looking chocolate shells filled with mousse and other yummy treats. Seemed perfect for V. I paid more than the value of the chocolate for delivery on the 14th. When he received the gift, V called me. He was like the gift looks great....but the tone of his voice made me realize that I made a mistake. Even as I had placed the order, I had a strange feeling that something was not right. And guess what, the gift included just the shells, no mousse nor custard to fill the shells! The gift was pointless :( This weekend I have asked V to get along the shells when he comes visiting and we'll make some mousse at home and try it out.

The last weekend was a long weekend for us due to President's Day. We decided to go skiing. Our friend/my flatmate SR had other plans so there was just me, V and one of V's friend. Saturday was spent making rounds of malls looking for a decent deals on ski pants. In the eve, we went to a friend's place in New Jersey to see a very interesting French movie. But that's another post. By the time we returned to Stamford, it was almost 3 am. We had planned to leave early next morning for the ski resort so that we reach by 10 am when the lessons start.

Sunday morning we woke up bright and fresh, in spite of the late night. The resort, Mountain Creek Resort, is located in Vernon, New Jersey which is about 1.5 hrs drive from Stamford. As we walked up to the resort from the parking lot, we got an inkling of what we were getting ourselves into. Just walking up to the resort sapped up almost all our energy! Damn! I so needed to exercise! After getting ourselves registered for the beginners class, we stopped for a quick breakfast. The place was very crowded and we had to stand in long queues to get our skiing gear - ski boots, skis and poles. Me and V's friend had to buy woollen caps since mine was not appropriate for the purpose and V's friend had none. We were patting ourselves for thinking ahead and getting the ski pants from outside. The resort stores were so damn expensive. A simple woolen cap cost me 26 bucks!

By the time we got all our gear, it was past 12 o'clock. We had missed our lesson and so had to wait for the next one which started at 2 pm. We decided to pass the time by starting on our own. We copied others who were taking lessons and learnt how to put on the skis. We started with one ski and soon all three were sliding along a gradient slope in both skis. Woo! It felt great and the experience was so much better than my ice-skating experience.

At around 2 the next lesson started. There were 10 learners in each group. The instructor started with basic techniques and we were soon whizzing downhill (OK it wasn't exactly whizzing...more like whizzing in slow motion :P ) Once or twice I fell down while trying more advanced techniques like turning and shuffling etc. After few practices on gradient slope, the instructor took us to a higher slope. V was ahead of me and he glided down the slope with ease. Next was my turn and I let myself go. It felt awesome! But soon I gained a whole lot of speed and I felt myself go zoom! I could see V at the end of the slope and I was approaching him real fast. I heard him shout to brake. I willed my feet to move so that I can make a V, the technique we had learned for braking. But my feet just didn't move soon enough. I realized I was soon gonna crash on V and another guy standing besides him. To avoid it, I let myself fall down and then I felt a huge thud on my head. I now know what it means to see stars in broad daylight :) I felt my head had split into two. I tried to look around and I didn't see a hint of panic in V's eyes or people nearby. So I realized my head was still in one piece and that I was alright.

The instructor helped me up. My head was still aching, so I decided to give myself a break. The others went up for two more rounds. As I stood waiting my headache went away. It started to snow and everything looked even more beautiful. The lessons we done and we decided we have had enough. We got out the cameras and clicked a few pics. By then we were famished with hunger so had a hearty meal at the cafeteria. On our drive back to Stamford, I felt so tired, I just couldn't keep my eyes open. By the time we reached, not only was my head aching again, but the rest of my body too was hurting here and there.

The next morning I tried to lift myself out of the bed when I felt shooting pain in my neck. I had to hold my head by my hands so as not to strain my neck, as I got out of bed. Now, almost a week later, my neck is still hurting a bit, but the pain is less intense. At least I can lift myself up from my bed or couch without having to hold my head with my hands :)

So that was my first ever skiing experience. The fall hasn't put me off skiing and I'm looking forward to doing it again - the skiing that is, not falling down :)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What a (Sun) day!!

Sunday was Superbowl day. Though not a big fan of the American football, I was still enthu to see the game since my 'hometown' team the Indianapolis Colts were in the final.

We and a couple of friends had decided to watch the game in V's apartment in Stamford with proper game party style food and snacks like chicken wings and hot dogs and pizzas.

However, come Sunday morning, from the moment I woke up, I started vomiting and having diarrhea. Within a couple of hours, I was completely drained out. Even the medicine I took, took no time to exit from my system. I was in a bad shape and soon V started worrying. A quick search in the internet and we couldn't find a prompt medical center where you can visit a doc without any appointment. A few phone calls to friends and we decided the best way would be to go to the emergency room of a local hospital.

Our kind neighbor suggested we go to another town, Greenwich's hospital since the one in Stamford would be too crowded. He had us follow him all the way to the hospital which was 30 mins away! So nice of him! In the hospital, he made me sit in the wheelchair and the hospital guy wheeled me in. Gosh! It was so embarrassing. I admit, I felt weak and all, but not that weak that I couldn't walk! And so I had to fake my condition a bit, moaning now and then, holding my head, so that at least I looked genuine enough to be sitting in the wheelchair!

The doc/nurse who did my stats was so cute..his name was Nicholas. Yeah, even in my condition, I noticed his name :D After my stats were taken, I had to wait for them to call me. As the wait grew longer, I was glad to be sitting in the wheelchair, coz my uneasiness was increasing, I got cramps all over my body and all I wanted to do was to lie down. After a while, I was wheeled into the room where the nurse asked me to change to the hospital gown. That piece of clothing is quite embarrassing, but luckily it was not as bad as the ones I had seen on TV and movies. Once I was 'settled in', in and out came a series of nurses and docs (after 9 I lost count) poking and tapping me here and there and asking all kinda questions. As my luck would have it, my doctor was not handsome Nick, but a roundly kind faced chubby bearded fellow. I was then given a saline drip to re-hydrate my body. My very first saline drip!

After spending 4-5hrs in the hospital, I was convinced I felt better and ready to go home. I was feeling cold since the bedsheet they gave to cover was not enough. Just then the doc reappeared saying that I seem to have some infection and that they need to do a cat-scan. I was like, what!!??! I appeared calm outwardly, but my mind was racing within. Cat-scan? Wasn't that something that they do to someone who's seriously ill? Am I that sick??!!! What's wrong with me?!! The doc left to get me some drink which I was to take for the cat scan. I let go of my self control and jumped on V. I asked me to please take me home, that I was alright, that I just need some rest. Poor guy, he tried his best to sooth me. A nurse entered with 2 glass of Gatorade type of drink for me to finish in 10 mins. I gulped it down in 2! It seems, you have to wait 45 mins after you take the drink to be able to do the cat-scan. By then the Superbowl pre game show had already started. Fidgety and restless, I tried to watch the TV and soon dosed off to sleep.

I got up when another cute male nurse came to wheel me to the cat-scan room. I noticed, the game was just about to begin. The doc there took a few pics of me and gave me some injection for the final picture. The thing in the injection made me warm all over till the tip of my fingers and left a funny taste in my mouth. In no time it was all over and I was wheeled back into the room. And the first thing I noticed was that within this few minutes that we were out, the Chicago Bears had already scored a touchdown and they were 7 points ahead of the Colts!! Damn!

We spent the time watching the game while waiting for the results of the tests. I was drowsing on and off to sleep. After almost an hour, the doc came back and tada! I was free to go home! I was alright! Seems I had got Gastroenteritis or Stomach Flu, common in the area since last few weeks. I just had to take care of what I was eating till I felt better.

V watched the remaining game at home while I again went on and off to sleep. I still vaguely remember hearing that the Colts did win after all! I didn't go to work on Monday and neither did V. He drove me back to Pennsylvania in the eve when I felt fit to travel. Due to his and my flatmate S's care and strict diet, I am now back to normal.

Though our game party was ruined, it was still an exciting day. But I would NOT want it to repeat again. I had quite an experience and I am glad its over. It gave V quite a scare and my stomach a much needed rest.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Five Point Someone

So I finished reading Five Point Someone. It took me 2 sittings (or rather lying downs since I read it during my bed time) to complete the book, so you can imagine its quite a page turner.

The book is fast paced and quite funny and dark at the same time. I enjoyed it immensely. Reminded me a lot about my engineering days back in Pune. I was never overworked like these guys were, but their attitude towards the institute (or insti as they call it) is quite similar to my feelings towards my college.

The story is about three guys from completely different backgrounds who come together after undergoing ragging on their first day in IIT. Their bonding become stronger when end up with 5 point something GPAs in their first term. The story is about their friendship,adventure and confusion as they continue to fight the system trying to find out easy/better way out of 'mugging up' and getting better GPAs.

The narration has an easy flow and the characters are well sketched and very imaginable. I specially enjoyed the witty comments/one liners - pretty funny!

Go it. As for me, I'm off to read One Night @ the Call Center !!!