Wednesday, November 28, 2007

L.A. Times - 1

This thanksgiving, the chosen vacation destination was Los Angeles. An undergrad friend's wedding at the Malibu Temple was the occassion.

Some highlights about the wedding:

- The wangled invitation which arrived about two months ago threw me into a fit of excitement - aiii, at long last, a chance to show off my saree :-D! I finished the accessory shopping immediately - I doubt even the bride was that prompt - heheheh! I later found that pretty much all the women folk had reacted with the same glee at the opportunity to show off desi clothes :-)!

- The wedding was one of the most fun ones I have ever been to. The crowd had a higher percentage of friends than relatives. The friends took the liberty of yelling out their observations right during the ceremony and the bride and groom reacted in real time :-). The entire atmosphere was relaxed and happy.

- The priest was a white guy complete with kudumi et al :-D. He chanted all the mantras in heavily accented Sanskrit followed by English translations. He conducted the ceremony pretty well.

- The wedding food was - WOW! Just like wedding food back in India. I think my friends and I were responsible for finishing up roughly half of the food in the buffet :-)!

- This being Amrikka and everything, the bride's and the groom's family had to pitch in together to decorate the mandapam, do the party favors etc. The end result was lovely and looked quite professional.

- All of us had a tough time digesting the fact that S was getting married. But the radiant bride and the happy groom were on stage for all to see :-).

- The wedding ceremony itself was an amalgam of customs from various parts of India. In fact there were some customs I have never seen before. For e.g., the couple did only four circles around the fire instead of the traditional seven. However, afterwards, the priest made seven small piles of rice on the floor. Each pile apparently represented some quality and the bride and the groom had to scatter the each pile together with their right feet (which part of India is this custom from?).

- In the after-the-wedding party at the bride's parents' place, it became obvious that the bride's family is super talented in the fine arts department. Everyone in their family seemed to know how to sing, play violin, keyboard, guitar - you name it! My friends and I were proud displayers of our clapping talent :-(. However, R in our group saved our collective (ahem) honor to some extent by playing the flute very well :-)!

- I ate so much food that day. The weirdest part was, I was bursting at the seams at the end of each meal time. And yet was ravenously hungry by the time four hours were up. My guilt was somewhat assuaged by the fact that everyone I met said I had become super thin - yaay :-D. (unfortunately this comment was later altered to "You look super thin in a saree. In jeans you don't look all that thin." - sigh)

- The wedding marks the first time I have attended any undergrad classmate's wedding. Finally - phew!

Finally, tip: Never ever try travelling long distance on the day before thanksgiving. It took us four hours to to get to a destination which is normally 2 hours or lesser away :-(!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Om Shanti Om

So this Diwali, the two big Hindi movie releases were Saawariya and Om Shanti Om. For some reason, Saawariya did not appeal to me at all at any time. Om Shanti Om (OSO) was slightly higher on the probability of watching scale inspite of the wariness I felt after seeing Shah Rukh Khan's "Though I may have six pack abs, I look like I am suffering from a terminal disease" OSO stills.

Yesterday, I finally watched OSO. Before going to the movie, I thought that at best OSO would be a brainless and logicless but entertaining movie. And boy, was I right! For a change, inspite of starring SRK in one of his more typical roles, the movie turned out to be total value for money entertainment-wise.

Some thoughts:

- Deepika Padukone looked stunningly beautiful in the first half of the movie. I hadn't been impressed much with her after seeing the movie preview stills and had slotted her into the plastic bimbette category. But turns out she can act as well!

- SRK's much talked about six pack abs did look great on screen. Man, he must have put in quite some effort to get into them into that rock-solid shape. However, one of the scenes in the "item" song featuring him had him dancing in a wet white shirt (!?!) with a seductive look on his face while buckets of water were being flung on him. I found it weird and totally hilarious. My friend V says that was meant to be a parody. Well...

- The Deewangi song featured pretty much the entire Bollywood film industry. It was more like a "Who's who" parade of Bollywood stars and starlets. I had an interesting time trying to recall who the various Ms. Watzisnames and Mr.Whosthats were :-)!

- I think they must have spent a total of 500 rupees on Deepika Padukone's costumes in the second half of the movie. The costumes mostly looked like a bunch of handkerchieves held together at strategic places. I was wondering about the number of safety pins it must have taken to keep those wispy clothes from falling off.

- Was "The Alchemist" credited anywhere in the movie? Some repeatedly used lines from the movie were totally taken from the book!

- This is one of the most ridiculous pieces of news I have read in a while. I can understand Manoj Kumar being upset at being caricatured in OSO. But how the heck did nationalism and patriotism come into the picture? I am going to use Manoj Kumar's logic now and I hereby declare I am a patriot. Henceforth, anyone who makes fun of me is unpatriotic and anti-national. You have been warned :-P!

- I really liked the ending credits where all the major contributors to the movie got to walk the red carpet for their fifteen seconds of fame :-).

Verdict: Can be watched once for sure. Just walk in expecting to watch an authentic masala movie complete with reincarnation, songs, mother sentiment et al :-)!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

In Person

Finally, it happened. After about two and a half years of fairly regular blogging, for the very first time yesterday, I met face to face a fellow-blogger whom I have come to know through blogging :-)! I guess it was only appropriate that the blogger was SK, one of the very first readers of my blog :-)!

After I met her, I realized just how familiar you can become with a person just by reading their blogs. After a single hello, we were chatting nineteen to a dozen just as if we had known each other for a very long time :-)! It was good fun to finally see in flesh and blood a person I have read about so often. A very nice experience altogether.

Which is why I am now looking forward to other such meetings :-)!

p.s. Actually there were three bloggers (including me) there - but I have known Spark from before, so he does not count. Even though he was the reason why the meeting with SK happened in the first place :-).

p.s.1. I met SK's other half, K, too - now I also know the person she writes about so often :-).

p.s.2. SK looks just like her Orkut profile pic and sounds just as sweet as she does on her audio posts :-)!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

How to easily get compliments

Simple! Wear desi clothes to work. Today is the first time I have worn a salwar-kameez to work. The occasion? Diwali, of course!

I have bumped into three people since morning. And I got "Oh, you look beautiful", "This is so nice", "You look so pretty". Heheheheh :-D!

Ah, the perks of working in a country where the salwar-kameez is not daily wear ;-)!

Oh yes, Happy Diwali folks :-D!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Rumble in the Bay

When I said that I was going to be earning my Master's degree in California, the first reaction I got from most people was "Oh, but does California not experience many earthquakes?" In India, for some reason, people used to be quite familiar with news from California rather than from any other part of the US and the 1989 earthquake had still not faded from public consciousness. I said, "Er - yes. But apparently everything else is great about the place".

When I landed in Davis, I was not very surprised to see instructions on what to do in case of an earthquake in almost all rooms in my university. After all, sitting as California is, on a number of faults, it was not at all that outlandish a precautionary measure.

All my six years here so far have passed by quite unremarkably in terms of the number of earthquakes experienced. Ironically, in the meantime, the supposedly super-safe (earthquake-wise) Chennai from where I had left for California experienced a devastating tsunami! There were a few minor earthquakes in California in-between - but nothing big enough to even be noticed by imperturbable (or more accurately, thick-skinned) me.

And then, last week Tuesday evening, I was at my fitness class. After putting us through a gruelling set of moves, the instructor had finally (hallelujah) wound up and we were stretching on the floor. All of us were flat of our backs when I suddenly heard a loud rumbling sound. Almost simultaneously, the building started shaking pretty strongly.

For about two seconds I thought someone had turned on generator or some such thing. Then it struck me that no generator could cause a building to shake so much. And then it hit me - earthquake!!! Us being California residents, this conclusion was arrived at rather fast by all and we sprang to our feet yelling "Earthquake!"

By then, the shaking had stopped and all of us looked at each other, taking stock. One of the women said that any aftershock would have occured immediately and since we were not feeling any more vibrations, we were good at that point and the earthquake was done.

My fitness instructor, however, was still quite shaken (pun unintended) and she wondered what would be a safe place to be in. The lady who had come up with the theory about aftershocks said that standing under door frames was considered "safe". We all looked at the two small door frames and the fifteen or so of us. Then we shook our heads, laughing and just decided to head out of class.

What was my reaction you ask? Oh, I was so super-duper thrilled and excited :-D. A real earthquake! One in which I felt every second. Was it cool or what! Of course, the fact that no damage had occured in the immediate area contributed greatly to my hyper-positive frame of mind :-)!

But the weirdest reaction award should go the lady who started to put away her fitness equipment as soon as she sprang to her feet. While the rest of us stood discussing safety steps, this lady was calmly replacing her weights, mat, step and raisers!!!

The only out of ordinary event which occurred after that was my cell phone network being down for 15 minutes or so. And then being jammed with the busy signal for another 10 minutes or so. And of course, all the excitement among the bay area residents - we are still talking about it!

The earthquake did not make it to too many headlines outside of the Bay Area though the magnitude was 5.6 on the Ritcher scale. Which was good in way 'coz I got tell this story all over again to each non-bay-area person I talked to ;-)!

After all the initial euphoria however, too much news/facts reading has brought back my self-preservation instincts. And I am now planning to invest in a earthquake survival kit. Hopefully, I will never need to use it. Really, last week's earthquake is about all the excitement I am willing to take!