Monday, 27 September 2010

awaiting the next bestseller from Rajaa Alsanea

So I just finished Girls of Riyadh, a book I'd been dying to get my hands on ever since I read about the storm that broke when it was first published in Arabic years ago. And how gleeful I was when the English translation came out!

The Girls of Riyadh concentrates on the lives of four girls, who are like girls anywhere. They love shopping, dressing up, watching movies, gossip. They dream of true love, to live a life of security and respect, striking a balance with religion and modernity.

I must say though I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it was a bit exhausting to read about all the different guys taking the girls for a ride. You'd think all men were spineless bimbos. Why waste a woman's time when you know she doesn't fit your mother's criteria and you don't have the guts (I want to use a much stronger, more profane word but I shall refrain from it) to change the maternal mind? Why let a girl dream and raise her hopes when you only intend to bring them crashing down by being unable to offer her what she wants? Let live dammit!

What I really liked about the book were the little tidbits of Arab culture and language. I think it's important to learn something however small, from a book or a movie. Each chapter of the book begins with an enlightening quote varying from Arab singers and poets, televangelists, English writers, the Quran..

Did I forget to mention the book has a very Gossip Girl like feel to it (or the other way around I suppose since the it was first published in Arabic in 2005 and Gossip Girl is, as of now, just a little over 3 seasons old)? The story of the four girls is narrated through a series of weekly emails forwarded by their young friend(unknown to the reader) to every Saudi address she can find. And did I mention that these four girls are of the 'velvet' class of society? So reminiscent of the Upper East Side.

The book did a good job bringing to light that the prevailing psyche of the ultraconservative society doesn't necessarily reflect what Islam preaches . The dialogue however, could have been better. Or maybe it just doesn't have the same effect in English as it probably does in Arabic. The narrative description more than makes up for it. Especially the emotional upheavals and the bits about women eying other women and their attire jealously, tongues on the ready to slander. ('Women don't pretty themselves up for men: they do it to get back at other women.' - Sacha Guitry xD)

I'll end with a poem by Nizar Qabbani from the book:

If only I had known how very dangerous love was,
I wouldn't have loved
If only I had known how deep the sea was,
I wouldn't have set sail.
If only I had known my very own ending,
I wouldn't have begun.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


In the city I call home*:

- Nariyal pani is the best drink around for a parched throat.
- Every rickshaw wala is out to get maximum wallet share.
- It's more trying to get into mba than to get through it.
- It's possible to love a wi fi connection more than your cellphone.
- There can be no adequate substitute for family.
- A rick will still take an extra 10 bucks to drop you to your destination even if it is on his way to home, simply coz he won't get any fare thereon to his. Truly infallible logic that I've grown tired of arguing with.
- You don't need company when you're in a store full of books with nothing but time on your hands.
- The rick will be stumped to argue if you show your fare calculation on your cell's calculator.
- My best Ramadan ever was the one during the Career Forum days, opening fasts in Brio, Crossword, with a chocolate croissant and a Calvin and Hobbes book to go with it.
- My olfactory receptors craved and smelled more often than not the aroma emanated by the rain hitting dry earth.
- You can have a hell lotta fun without spending a dime. Or a rupee.
- The retail scene out here is a joke but I'm not laughing.
- There are people out there who would go wayy out of their way for you.
- Just 'coz some restaurants are highly recommended, doesn't mean they're going to go down well with you.
- And if 'coz they're not, doesn't mean they won't.
- Turns out not all of the male species is immature.
- You canNOT hold the same expectations you've been used to in the Gulf (if you've lived in the Gulf). You're just going to have an atrocious time if you do.
- I found friends to enjoy the little things in life with and had a blast each time.
- You don't need fans atleast 6 months a year.
- Even if all good things do come to an end, it's not necessarily a bad thing.
- I'm still incapable of approaching people on my own just for the sake of making conversation. But this is changing.
- I'm also incapable of ever being on time for anything, be it a lecture or a movie.
- The view from my window has a serene effect after a spot of rain, when the foliage thrives.
- If you don't build tolerance of blatant grammatical errors on signboards, hoardings, fliers, shop windows etc, it's highly probable you'll lose your mind.
- Cornflakes is the only way to start the day. And sometimes, end it.
- Bugs cannot be avoided. Mosquitoes can, with Odomos. And if you do get bitten, a bit of hand sanitizer helps.
- A girl's handbag MUST carry the following: hand sanitizer, wet wipes (lots of them, 'coz as soon as you refresh yourself with one everyone else wants to too), chewing gum, hair clips, change for the rick (if you travel by rick) right down to one rupee coins, safety pins..
- Moms are always right. Pity we insist on realizing the hard way.
- Indifference, if nurtured consistently, helps in overcoming every emotional tumble without you coming out too badly.
- It's often that people comment on your weight loss as a conversation starter.
- Japanese animated films kick Disney's ass.
- I'm not as heartless as I thought I was or tried to be.
- Every bakery and cafe is clueless as to the true succulent taste of cheesecake.
- McDonalds' has the best equipped loos. Now Gold Adlabs (I refuse to call it 'Big Cinemas') does too.
- The cultural environment is one that I've never been exposed to before, making it an invaluable learning experience.
- Lived here four years now and I still sight a vegetable I've never seen before.
- There are only a handful of friends you never want to lose touch with and many more with which you can't wait to lose touch. In this case, Facebook is more often a bane than not.
- Too many people can't tell the difference between 'lose' and 'loose'.
- Time is of the essence so don't waste it preaching the difference between right and wrong to people who don't care to learn and are old enough to know better anyway.
- I've been told my train of thought somewhat resembles that of a guy's. Interesting statement.
- I have resigned myself to the fact that never will I find a pretty yet well fitting top in any Indian department store.
- Shopping from export surplus shops has a unique thrill. Especially when you pick up one of your favourite brands at less than quarter of the price.
- Some of the absolute best times I've had here are when friends or family have come down to stay.
- Every other season pales in comparison to the monsoon.
- My therapy to clear a boggled mind? An episode of Naruto Shippuuden. Provided it's not a filler. Even a Tom and Jerry (Fred Quimby ones).
- Fruit tastes better here for some odd, inexplicable reason.
- I never got to enjoy huddling in sweaters because of the inexplicably hot afternoons in the so-called winter months.
- Everytime I get home, I wash off atleast three layers of grime from my face.
- I never loved walking anywhere as much as here and it's an activity I never get tired of.
- No chocolate tastes better than Dairy Milk just rightly melted.
- No pizza tastes better than the Hawaiian Volcano at Papa John's.. now discontinued.
- No mocktail tastes better than the Sweet Sunrise at Hard Rock Cafe.. now discontinued.
- My hunger for classical music was fed by attending the concerts held by the Poona Music Society.
- The recent most fabulous memories I have of here are of Sundays, living the moment.

*Inspired by a particular bff's facebook notes :)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

for Them.

With them,
I was myself,
I never found the need to withhold
I experienced and rediscovered old loves of things,
be it fine dining or stargazing, biryani or pani puri, world cinema or books,
even new,
like the deliciousness of ripe gooseberries,
and raw tamarind,
chasing butterflies,
stretching the limits of the imagination,
roaming streets,
ever ready for the unknown,
running on impulse,
free, no worries,
'hakuna matata' as the phrase goes.
There was a newfound confidence within me,
my ribcage was no longer under threat of succumbing to my heart's
incessant hammering when I faced a horde of people;
they encouraged me to write,
to participate,
and more.
From them,
I learnt more about people,
even myself,
about the male and female psyche,
how each thinks,
and doesn't think,
how to save yourself from yourself,
the art of how much to say when,
the depth of emotions,
different cultures,
maintaining relations with people,
letting go.

To them -
I pray that you accomplish everything you wish to achieve and more,
that you have fulfilling careers, rewarding lives
and remain the way you have been with me,
the sui generis that you are,
not allowing life's trials to embitter you,
but refine you.

And as the time to say dasvidaniya draws nearer,
regardless of whether we remain in touch till the end of our days,
do remember,
that I will always carry you all wherever I go.

Monday, 13 September 2010

last sunday.

Weekend getaway: Kalote Lake, Khopoli, Maharashtra

Joyfully reuniting with the family after eons - aunts, uncles, cousins, kayaking - setting out for unchartered lands only to be driven away by the frenzied barks of dumb animals as soon as our paddles touched the soil, the boat capsizing as another 120 kg of manflesh tried to get onto it, floaters depreciating beyond repair, getting thrashed by a merciless waterfall and emerging with backs bruised and battered, trekking with great care on moss covered rocks with bare feet crabs and tropical looking bugs and spiders accompanying us to the source of the waterfall only to be forced back by relentless agonized paternal yells, making the descent sitting on rocks having nightmarish visions of tights ripping at every 'sat', posing in the water, trying to catch roosters and chicks on the hike back, chasing guinea fowl at the resort with my adorable nephew whose energy levels would put to shame those of anyone who downed 20 cans of bull, kayaking again this time with more company only to have to wait in the boat barefoot (yet again) as neil armstrong set out to mark the land in his Vans, huddling together for a final picture, covered from head to toe with cuts, bruises and a (now) lovely tan that ends before it even reaches the clavicles, and at the end of it, none the worst for wear.

And as I lay in bed, I felt the strange sensation that I was still rocking in a kayak.

All in all, a good day.

Oh yes, a good day indeed. ^_^

A forgotten boat - Kalote Lake, Maharashtra
The waterfall!
The trek up on the rocks hidden behind the verdure.
A huge shoutout to everyone who was there.. YOU made it happen! :*

Thursday, 2 September 2010

glimpses on the way home.

The view from the bridge. I stood still to take a couple of shots and suddenly got the sensation that the ground beneath my well worn sneakers was sinking, like the cement would give way any second.. it was an awesome feeling. I turned; a lorry was driving by. I traverse that bridge atleast twice daily and one day it's probably gonna collapse under the weight of those 'heavy vehicles', taking them all down with it to the murky waters below.

Don't be fooled. It's called the gutter of the city. The water's filthy.

The fascinating gap in the bridge, the fall below, paan thook and my Skechers.

No idea what these buds will blossom out into in a week or two.

Standing out..

purity and innocence.

The curving path.. in a park in KP.

All on the way home.