Friday, August 31, 2007

The Emerald Diaries - 3

The last drink of J&B stare at me from the green and yellow bottle, waiting to be sipped by my lucky lips. By the way, I used to like that song when I was a little baby. And interestingly, this last phrase happens to be the beginning of the song. This happened without design, like this trip to the Isle.

A lot has happened after that Sunday evening at the Odel. Let me try and give you a brief update on the last 5 days. It began with a road journey into the sea of greenery. We headed to the south of the island on the Galle Rd. with my polite and friendly colleagues to get the flavor of the rural provinces of the area. Amongst many other things, the two most striking aspects were their high standard of living and the enlightened behavior of women. Most of the houses had fine curtains and women, smilingly willing to talk to the strangers. Indian rural scenario, largely is very different. The high point of the day was a very scrumptious and authentic Sri Lankan meal cooked by a qualified pianist (and a music teacher). She stays in the so-called rural Sri Lanka and happens to be the wife of one of my colleagues. The evening snack for our 'gang of eight' was delicious Hoppers and Sri Lankan chutney at a roadside joint.

The next two days were full of work at Colombo…always beginning with a great breakfast at the hotel. Interestingly, the hotel hasn’t been able to provide me with the Golden Orange Pekoe yet. Considering that this is the land famous for its tea, it’s a lapse from Taj Samudra’s end. They've promised it and I shall tell you when I get to have a sip of it.

Yesterday took us to the hill-town of Kandy. Having stayed in the town for some eight years or so, Thiyagi (the colleague who sets the dance floors on fire), was our perfect guide. People continued to be polite and the hill-station air was cool on our skins. The cargo-shorts of ODEL debarred me from entering the holy temple of Dalada Maligawa, famous for Buddha’s tooth and the unfortunate ’98 bombing. A quick shopping of the traditional Sri Lankan sarong with Thiyagi’s help, saw me getting inside the temple. The place was peaceful and full of history. The long day ended with a warm meal at the lovingly built house of Thiyagi along with Buster, Spotty and Eddie and several nameless fishes. It included String Hoppers and Prawns, carefully prepared by her quiet and gentle mother.

Today was a long working day in Colombo. Tomorrow, its going to be the north-western province of Anuradhapura with the famous Nuwaara Eliya and Sigiriya Fort.

Bohmo Stuti for reading me, my Ambalayas! ('Many thanks' for reading me my 'mango friends'...which means, my 'sweetest friends')

And that's the photograph of the temple.It used to be the Sri Lankan Kings palace, once.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 2

I was woken up from my Bordeux induced slumber’, by my friend’s (notice the transition from a ‘client’ to a ‘friend’) call. He wanted to know whether I was up to a little trip to ODEL. I was. Now, ODEL is this famous place whose fame precedes intentions of visiting the Isle.

It’s a shopping arcade for some of the finest clothes and accessories from all over the world at great prices. It’s housed in what looks like a huge cottage (with escalators), which is much easier and sweeter than the maddening modern day shopping malls. Both tourists and locals are in love with the place. You’ll also find a sweet coffee shop as you enter and an outlet of Sri Lanka’s famous ‘Elephant House Hot Dogs’. I came back to the hotel with one cargo shorts, two T-shirts and a feeling of ‘another day well spent’. Two small pegs of J&B with some Crab Bisque guided me to sleep.

Today was extremely busy with five meetings, a good lunch with my colleagues and an insightful discussion on the political situation of the country. Tomorrow promises to be a day full of newer experiences as my colleagues plan to take me to the interiors of the southern part of the Isle. As of now, it’s going to be a refill of J&B…Cheers!

And thats how ODEL looks from inside.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Emerald Isle Diaries - 1

As I sit writing this piece inside the plush (and wi-fi enabled) hotel room facing the Indian Ocean on the famous Emerald Isle sipping on a Bordeaux, I say to myself, ‘This is good life’. And the fact that, this is just the beginning makes this ‘good life’ even better. I am in Sri Lanka for a month on work and the nature of this project requires me to travel across the island!

The first sight of the island, as the aircraft was lowering on the city of Colombo was enough to make me happy. It was as if we were landing on a sea of greenery with the palm and coconut trees serving as the waves. It was pleasantly different from the kind of sight I am used to while landing (think Bombay).

The next aspect which added to my happiness was the manner in which Sri Lankans speak. It began with a very well made Sri Lankan movie I saw before coming to the island and continues with every interaction with the folks out here. They don’t talk…they sing! In Sinhalese and in English and perhaps any other language they will speak. In fact, I never knew English can sound so melodious!

So, one and a half day old in the island and as a popular TV commercial puts it, ‘Im loving it.’ Yesterday was extremely eventful, with work in the first half of the day and roaming around the city to check out the famous shopping arcades of Colombo, in the second. The evening, had other things in store for me.

It brought three beautiful Sri Lankan ladies dressed up in very pretty Saris to my hotel to pick me up (thanks to one of them who is my colleague at the workplace). The objective was to show me the famous night-life of Colombo. And what a night-life we had! First to a karaoke bar called ‘The Sopranos’ where two of my three ladies gave a smashing performance, then to a huge nightclub called ‘H20/Sugar’’ followed by a loud and authentic disc called ‘D’s’ where the ‘one who did not sing’ at the Karaoke bar, gave a smashing performance on the dance floor (despite the Sari). Rest of the night was spent in getting a car out of the way, my colleague getting booked for holding an expiry Driving Licence and feeding ourselves with a nice chicken-cheese roll at a local joint.

Today, being a cloudy Sunday has been lazy and easy so far. Morning saw me having some good conversation at the breakfast table with my client. We are working closely on this project.

And, that is the view from my room.

Will keep filling this space with more from the Emerald Isle. Ayubowan!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

2 pages from the last 15 days

Worldly pursuits kept me away from this space for the last fortnight but life happened while I was busy making 'strategic' plans. Allow me to share a couple of pages from the last 15 days.

Independence Eve in a taxi between Gurgaon and Delhi Airport
That’s how I spent that evening. Breaking my code of keeping this space free from bad experiences, I have to talk about this. Twice I have missed my flight from Delhi airport because of traffic madness between Gurgaon and Delhi airport. The latest happened on the eve of Independence…it took me 3 hours 30 minutes to reach a destination which shouldn’t take more than half an hour. Fabulous growth has happened in this satellite city of Delhi in a fabulously unplanned manner, leading up to road chaos, highly constipated traffic, road accidents, power cuts and a backache because of that 3 and half hour inside the taxi.

A 16-year-old stole my heart on a breezy Friday evening
She came dressed in an elegant black frock, sat on the pianoforte and played Beethoven’s ‘Pathetique’, a Sonata in C, in its totality with the finesse and √©lan of a mature musician. Later, she went on to play ‘Nocturne in E’ by Chopin, ‘Impromptu No.4’ by Schubert and a Polka by Berkeley with the same confidence and skill. Only when she got up to accept the warm accolades of the audience and a bouquet from National Center For The Performing Arts (NCPA), her shy girlishness got exhibited. Her name is Anushka Godinho and she started learning music at the age of 5.

This happened at a beautiful Western Classical concert we (me and my good friend) went for at the NCPA, Mumbai last Friday. This great institution provides a very useful platform to these budding artistes to display their talent. It helps nurture & support new talent and keeps the genre of Western Classical music alive…a great effort, I must say!

The other musicians of the evening were 2 young men. A 20-year-old Classical guitarist, Samuel Lewis from Bombay and 23-year-old, Murugesan on Recorder from Pondicherry. Samuel (who also plays the Organ) performed Bach, Tarrega, Albinez on the nylon strings with perhaps the passion and memory of the composers themselves. He ended the evening with a beautiful version of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’.

Murugesan handled compositions of Debussy, Vivaldi & Purcell. Personally, I don’t like Recorder as an instrument so I shall reserve my comments on the same. Think I will do the same for Murugesan.

Hope this description of that lovely evening cancelled out the negative energy emanating from my first experience.

Later, that evening I enjoyed some scotch and conversation with a couple of old friends (including the good friend mentioned earlier).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni (1912 - 2007)

Another master movie-maker breathed his last on the evening of the same day, Bergman expired. Michelangelo Antonioni, the Italian auteur, expired on 30th July, 2007 at the age of 94. Whatever little I have seen by him has made me like his dreamy and elegant style. Martin Scorsese appropriately called him 'A Poet with the Camera'.

'Blowup' (1966), his first movie in English, is one of the most stylish depiction of an era and place in cinema history...London in the 60's bursting with rock music, smoke and nudity. The movie went on to inspire many later filmmakers, most notable of them (for us, Indians) is Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Bergman loved this one! (am referring to 'Blowup')

'Il Grido' (The Outcry) made in 1957 is the story of a man's inability to forget the woman he loves. Shot in black & white, with a brilliant soundtrack by Giovanni Fusco (Can somebody tell me how can i get hold of the soundtrack?) it sometimes tends to be very slow. But, heartaches are a slow killer. Bergman didn't like this one!

I shall try and pick up more of his works, specially the famous ones like La Notte (The Night) and L' Avventura (The Adventure). I love this photograph of him.