2006-12-31

Welcoming 2007

Well Saddam Hussein is dead so what is next for 2007? May be there will be very few asking this questions as they start to celebrate New Year tomorrow. I never ever thought that I will comment upon politics on our blog. But I think I break that rule today.
Everyone taking stock of year that is almost over. I personally do not like the week “from Christmas to New Year”, I do not have a solid reason for the same. I just do not find a reason from my inner soul to celebrate the same.
Starting from Y2K something or other has happened and dampened my parting spirit. I will like to list them here.
  • 1999/Y2K was special as I was on alert being an I.T guy.
  • 2001/2002 I realized the hard reality of lay-off as my close co-workers were asked to go. Always these layoff happens in the last week of December ?
  • 2002/2003 More co-workers joined the old group and my work location was getting closed. 31st December was their last day at work, holy crap what next for New Year?
  • 2003/2004 Nothing special – hanged out for 30 minutes or so on Champ-Elysees in Paris. Lots of confused, drunken, yelling people around. Later in the night it got worst. 26th December Earthquake in Iran, lots and lots of people died.
  • 2004/2005 – Pamela was in India; hanged out with Murali – who was not in a happy mode either, a cold winter night in Paris. What a nightmare Tsunami in South-East Asia struck on 26th December.
  • 2005/2006 – Best of the last few years spent in center of Vedanta Ramakrishna,Paris with other people. Nothing much happened around the globe. It was spiritual and enlightening.
  • 2006/2007 – Well alone again; And the news of Saddam did dampened my mood to write the post. I am not a fan of him but I do not support death penalty.
As I write this post - I would like to remind you of those 10 Trillion dollars budget surplus America (USA) was supposed to have is long forgotten debate in NPR (national public radio). I did have my $300 tax refund for Year 2002. But I think world was happier place before.I sometime think this is my craziness to care about all these. But with so many death and destruction what did Mr. Bush achieved????
I wish I could question to those who in their ignorance, arrogance, religious (including gun, gas) voted for him twice to make this world a better place. A common American must understand his or her voting power as world super power and true democracy of the world. Probably this part of advice they dislike most and proved it :S
Well enough said, the blame goes to other politicians and nations as well as they did not oppose at all about what is going in Iraq. May be the responsibilities lies with us as well as individually I did nothing to make world a better place. I hope there is an end to the blood-shed in Middle-East - it might spread all across the region in 2007.
Well Happy New Year. Sorry for being cynical.

2006-12-23

Indian Newspapers

There is no real newspaper to read in India at this moment. Well I know I made a big statement but could not start in better sarcastic way. Hold on, let me explain from my past to present. I was thinking abut this topic for a while a now as I see so many newspapers under my nose while going to work by local train in the morning. It is almost like I read every other headline from three to five major publishing houses.

Newspaper means many things to so many people but for me it surely means a starting of a new day with news from yesterday,today and tomorrow. A cup of hot beverage in one hand and a newspaper in the other will be best way to start my day.

I remember once the newspaper used to be very boring in black and white. That time there was no mass “offset” printing for newspaper in India. The printing was not very clear and it used to be thin with only 8 to 10 pages.

If that make you think I am old ;) I was hooked to newspaper quite early. Then suddenly one morning came offset printing with half-tone picture of famous events in rare occasions. I remember it lasted for few years. Then suddenly we found ourselves with the color supplement for the weekend. It was exciting to check on weekly basis those glossy papers; some times we would save them to cover books :D

With time newspaper started to become heavier in weights and started to loose focus from main news. The downhill journey started. The focus of editors turned to advertisement to make news paper cheaper for making more profit.

Like addicts we got used to read about all those cocktail parties in front page and City Complements.

This turned a golden way for the newspaper publisher to print photos of celebrities. All celebrities like to show off little or more depending on their personalities. May be we can call it a golden hen for the editors. Indian society being very hypocratic it was an easy way to publish swimsuit photos of Ms. Anderson with out any one complaining. Indian educated conservative middle class adores the same. The whole news paper has become a tabloid. That way Ms Stone & Spears makes exclusive headline.

May be with economy doing good everyone is having a feel-good-factor; no one really wants to read real news about the global climate change or war on Iraq - everyone is happy in their little world. People are also bored with reading Indian politics the same story of corruption, vote bank – religion or caste from our politicians.

It is all most free can you believe that you can get one full year subscription for just Rupees 199(less than 4 Euros). That means less then One Rupees a day where One rupee can not buy any thing in India now.

2006-12-04

Linen anniversary

It is four years that we got married :D and according to the naming convention it is Linen Anniversary we have still have a long way to go before it will be any precious or strong material.
This day is special in another way as it is birthday of Prateek (maternal cousin of mine). Now we stay above floor from Prateek. After our wedding this is the first time that we three are together. But this week Prateek is the man of his house as my Uncle and Aunt are out of town. Now planning for going out for dinner became a complicated task as we do not own a car yet. And I can not drive my Uncle’s car; without car moving around Navi Mumbai is not convenient and particularly in late evening or early night. We three settled for a scale down version agreed to meet up at Vashi which is most crowed Hip-hop Township in Navi Mumbai.
The day started in the usual way. After work at evening I took the train back and got down at Vashi. Now I was bit early for the meeting with Pamela and Prateek. They told me as soon they start in car they will call me and asked me to hang out in the only big mall of Navi Mumbai called "CENTER ONE".

I was lucky to get a bench to sit in the mall and watch people to kill time. Those 30 minutes was very long and boring in simple words. And I never fancied waiting. But then watching people is all I could do ?. Well this mall is a circular one with escalators in the middle and my bench is at 2nd floor looking at the escalators.
Soon I watched something usual to myself; there is one dedicated person next to the escalator to assist people. Yes there are people who need assistance in getting to a moving staircase and thanks to mall management and abandon man power of India for providing the same. It was funny looking at those nervous faces as they put their steps on escalator.
That reminded me of my mother who insisted in taken steps in place of escalators in Paris last year. That time I fount it was very silly and what is the big deal that she was mentioning about escalators. Now looking at so many people needing assistance I found myself on the wrong side for making fun of mom.
Well after waiting around half an hour the plan got changed as the driver who was supposed to drive Pamela and Prateek did not showed up; I have to catch train back to Kharghar. We had to settle for a vegetarian restaurant within walking distance from our home well a VERY BIG disappointed evening.

P.S. Now as I try to complete this post after almost a month – the evening is yet to come for going out for a good restaurant.

2006-11-28

Local trains of Mumbai

After moving to Mumbai (India) commuting from one place to another was a big problem (as we didn’t have our own vehicle). It seems Mumbai local trains are the most efficient one carrying millions of people everyday. Getting in and out of local trains is one of the hardest tasks particularly during rush hours which every mumbains has to undergo at least ones in their life. So, lot of advice was given from Santanu’s maternal family who are staying here for more than 15 years. Being given lot of advice the matter aroused curiosity within us.
So, on first day things seemed to be very easy unlike the situations which were being narrated to us. Even getting seats were not a problem neither getting down nor boarding was difficult. Thus our first trip by Mumbai locals was quite easy and calm.
By the time we have already traveled twice or thrice for short distance in non rush hours. Now one day we decided to go to Mumbai central and particularly towards south to meet one friend. But, that day our boarding station was quite crowded then ever experienced before. We mustered enough courage to board a train together which was again an experience in itself. While waiting for our train, at platform we saw lots of women were waiting at one particular place which we soon realized that this might be the spot where ladies compartment would be coming.
Normally, all seats are taken by burly or experienced people who time their jump onto moving train with perfection may be comparing them with urban cheetah will not be out of place. By the time train leaves platform its overcrowded with half of people hanging towards outside either to get fresh air or are waiting for next station to arrive. Hardly any place is there for a little fly to get in through the door.
In that crowd you can see people from different walks of life where some are reading newspaper or some are listening to music so loud as if he is playing for his co-passengers or some are snoozing or some are staring while others maybe observing people like me. Even staring at women who has dared to be there in general class is quite common as Mumbai locals don’t believe in chivalry. Being only woman I looked around myself where I found few people are standing like fortress around me, while others staring at me and when I look at those staring eyes I found many people pretending not to.
Santanu is very possessive in certain matters by keeping his arms around me so that no one dares to say or touch trying to make a protecting shell. Somehow after a while we got some place to sit for few stops in the mean time we learnt that if we have to get down at requisite station then we have to leave our seat atleast two stations prior in order to prepare ourselves to get down.

While sitting one experience many other things like depending on your height one get following views - someone’s armpit across your nose; well oiled hair poking right inside your nose; a newspaper across your face; people shouting over phone etc. That’s not last if you want you can look outside even where you see many sitting beside railway track, brushing teeth, answering natures call and what not. Anyhow with the crowd we managed somehow to get off from the train without losing our handbag, sandals or any other personal belongings.
In Mumbai, there are three main train lines, with few junctions where people can change train. And there is no single station where all these three lines connect each other. So getting in or out at any of these junction station is really ultimate one…. rush squeezes to the limit which something I have never experienced before - its intimacy at its best and privacy at its worst…. it’s co-passengers who will make you get off the train where you don’t need to put any effort to walk out. One good push…and you find yourself at station and thanks to god that we found ourself in one single piece and moreover with all our belongings intact and within seconds you realize that crowd which helped you in getting off the train is already dispersed.
And we took a long deep breath…..maybe something new to us but its just one more day for all other mumbaians. While walking past the platform I thought what about those disabled handicapped people, children, aged people, or pregnant ladies…..is there anything for them like in western countries. In certain matters, India needs lot to do to improvise its commuting system for every kind of its citizen.

2006-10-30

Lunch Time

I am finding it tricky as I try to compare my experiences and life styles that I encountered from two different continents. I do not know if my readers will be able to understand me. Moreover, my recent journey is an unusual one as most Indian travels east to west while I moved from west to east.

During my stay at Paris for last 3 and half years, most of my lunch at work was at shared corporate cafeteria between three companies. I appreciated the price, quality of that food always particularly the desserts and varieties of yogurts available there. May be I understand, why French cuisine is considered to be world’s most refined cuisine. Unfortunately, I am not a food critic that I can pen down those exotic tastes to get water in your mouth. But as I think about them I roll my tongue ;)

In general, breakfast in France is a small affair consisting of croissants & bread rolls with some butter and jam to spread which is usually accompanied by milky coffee or hot chocolate or café noir. Since there is no set time for breakfast in France it makes them bit hungry by noon :) . Le déjeuner (lunch) was once a two hour mid-day meal but has recently seen a trend toward the one hour lunch break.

It is common at corporate world to be given lunch vouchers as part of their employee benefits. These can be used in most restaurants, supermarkets and traiteurs; however people having lunch in this way typically do not eat all three dishes of a traditional lunch due to price and time considerations. A sandwich followed by a dessert is quite commonly seen and can be found ready-made at bakeries and supermarkets, cafes, bistros or restaurants. Even many restaurants, offer a lower priced prix fixe menu at lunch which is not available in the evening.



It is common in France for someone wishing you “Bon Appetite” if he/she realizes that you are going to have food as you take the exit from office door or lift at noon while in India we hardly say anything before starting our meal. Rather I believe there is no exact translation even in Anglo-Saxon culture for “Bon Appetite” but it does exist in Latin culture in some form or other like in Spanish or Italian lingo.


I have been a silent participator for most of the times as I use to feel shy to communicate with my linguistic skill of French. These three pictures are the only I have from all those lunch time I had with my colleagues. These were taken at very end of our stay with Pamela’s new phone camera. I always felt that I was going to miss those lunch hours if I move out of Paris; now I write about them before they become distant memory.

At my current location in Bombay we do not have any in-house cafeteria at our office (a small office compared to Paris). There are plenty of restaurants around to choose from or I can order for lunch at my desk. With the last one you can work as you take a bite. I am sure any health freak will tell that it is not good for soul and body. Food is supposed to be taken properly so that you chew and eat in peace while a meal in France is not simply a moment dedicated to the nourishment of the body; it is indeed a time for social and even spiritual replenishment.

In Modern India, where average work hours are getting longer and people are slogging more at work. This may be very disturbing social and physiological changes and might have adverse effect as the dynamic working population grow older.

2006-10-23

Durga Puja

Durga Puja is the most important and biggest festival in Bengal for any Bengali Hindu. Its five days of festivity where this Puja symbolizes good winning over evil. Maa Durga is considered as daughter of Bengalis. It is believed that every year she comes to visit her father’s home (earth) for five days with her four children - Kartik, Ganesh, Saraswati and Lakshmi- representing respectively the Protector, the Initiator of the puja, Knowledge and the Provider - signifies the complete manifestation of the goddess. while her husband (lord Shiva) stays in Kailash (heaven).This five days festivity actually starts from Mahalaya with chant of Roopam dehi, dhanam dehi, yasho dehi (give me beauty, give me wealth, give me fame...)across Bengal. The festive mood builds up with rhythm of Dhakis (drummers)

Her visits happened to be the best time for Bengali farmers. Weather is at best as the monsoon is just over and it is not yet winter. As there is no need for major work in the paddy fields everyone can be part of this religious ceremony. Rice grows with the blue sky and little white clouds. Well, now a days this weather and farmer scenario does not have any true meaning for most of city dwellers. As it is either too hot which can be called as “October Summer” or raining heavily from late arrival of monsoon.

Now a days it's more of commercialization. Pre-Puja bargain sales and exhibitions introduce the sartorial style for the coming year. Bengali newspapers and magazines publish special issues- platform for many budding author, besides the works by well-known writers. Music companies have a number of new discs and cassettes published in every Puja. Not only that trains to tourists spots get reserved months before puja. Bengalis in other cities in India visit their relatives in West Bengal. Even due to commercialisations decorations are very classy. There is big competition between associations who makes the best idol, best pandal decorations etc.

I remember going to Durga Puja on Weekends at San Francisco as every one is too busy with work during the week. So, Puja is held in weekend for every one's convineance. And to add a pinch of salt – it is held in two different weekends so that people can attend both the Puja celebration. While at Paris it was different as Puja is organized as per (tithi) date which sometimes made it difficult to attend.

The joke runs that if a couple of Bengalis get together, there will be surely three Durga Pujas! Well, Bombay goes way past that quorum. More then 22 Durga Pujas are held across the city. And here Bengalis celebrate their favourite puja with same zeal as that of their counterparts in Calcutta.

Being at Bombay, this year it was different after a long time as we celebrated it with my maternal uncle’s family. There was one local Puja next to our residence. We went at noon to offer (pushpanjali) obeisance. And once the offering to Goddess is over there is Prasad and bhog distribution - khichudi (mixed dish of rice and (dal) lentils which is served normally very hot (temperature) along with (baigun bhaja) aubergine fry, (labra) mixed vegetable, chutney and (payesh) rice caramel. There is a common ritual for Hindus offering and praying to God or Goddess in empty stomach. This created a bit of problem as hundreds of hungry people stands in queue to get prasad & bhog.


In the evening, normally there are cultural activities. Bengalis are known for their eating habits especially snacks and sweets. Lots of food stalls are set up near the pandal. Families will have their “Pet - Pujo” (Stomach – Worship) so that their wife gets a day off from kitchen. I am sure this sort of events unfold every corner of the world as Bengali celebrates Durga Puja. Not only this but also people start thronging pandal after pandal. Road blocks are quite common. Children getting lost are natural. Every bengali in their new dress, new shoes are quite commonly seen. As Durgotsav comes once a year – everyone wants it to make it as memorable as possible.



The special thing for this year was we enrolled ourself for visiting other Puja pandal in and around Bombay. The plan was there will be rented bus to take us to various corners of Bombay that way no need to drive and no hassles of parking. And you can take a nap in between if you can. Although trip was supposed to start at 10:30 PM and end by early morning next day. But we started around midnight IST (Indian Stretchable time) unfortunately that night it was raining heavily. By the time we reached Shivaji Park we found it resembles a paddy field with more then ankle deep water. But, we continued with umbrella and socked shoes and sandals till next morning.


Bengalis are quite (un)famous with their obsession for caffeine and nicotine; each stop was delayed by few members for their tea & cigarette break. Thank-God all the food-stalls were closed due to rain and late night other wise we had to wait longer.

With all these complaints it was a memorable night; hopefully we will not repeat it again next year as it was fun for once. Surely we were trashed next day and had lots of sleep to catch up.

2006-10-16

Back to Work

Well after one and half months of vacation I am back to work today. Surprisingly, I will be still using my old e-mail (work) well it does not mean that I am checking my work mails as I write this post. It will take sometime for the IT guys before they transfer me electronically from Europe to Asia. I thought it might be a good time to write something for the blog.

There has been some progress in terms of settling in Bombay at our own flat but there is long-long road ahead. There are few positive updates but a long uphill battle to fight.

I hope both us are going to update the web-site in terms of photos and posts more often from now on. There is a long list to write about as there were events which brought smile and worries (most of the time) often as we look at them through a western point of view.

As I write this post the power went out so all I can see around me is glowing screens of computers. Welcome to India ;)

2006-10-10

Aids Awareness - Paris


Can any one guess what this publicity is about? Well, this is 2006 anti Aids campaign by city hall of Paris (Paris protège l'amour means Paris protects love)

In the photo what we see is sunset on some historical building with moon at backdrop, but when you take a close look moon is... a condom. It aims at promoting the use of condoms among the population i.e., to have safe sex. Personally, I believe it's neither obscene or vulgar rather a nice way to make people aware.

Reason for writing a post on this matter is in my country such publicity is really unthinkable where 5.7 million people are infected. Although, India had edged in front of South Africa to become the country with the largest number of people carrying HIV virus. People will start agitating if they find publicity of this kind in any public places considering it to be vulgar………….as it is still a matter of taboo where its not discussed openly among the people.

Not only this, leave apart poor sections, sex-workers or uneducated people but think of those trendy city young men and women drawing on cigarettes and sipping cocktails. They are part of cosmopolitan elite group upwardly mobile and well-informed. This section of Indians who are more open to talk about AIDS - but when matter comes to them they never think of applying the same to themselves…..so strange.

Hope one day….India is open enough to talk freely on this line.

P.S. This is an old post which we just got from our PC along with the shipment.

2006-09-30

Few books

Being in vacation and doing nothing much whole day I am left with lots of free time to read. It is great way to pass quality time with rain and heat where nothing interests me outdoor. I already finished few books in last 3 weeks.

Starting with, Dan Brown’s trash ‘Angel & Demon’ and ‘Digital Fortress’. Well these are same old horrible as writing and story line is similar to “Da Vinci Code”. Well if you have read and liked it then I am sorry to hurt your feelings ?. Reading those 3 books it seems Mr. Brown wanted to cash quickly the old “James Bond” style. In each of his book there is a very glamorous sexy female character in his book. The less I write about this female character I do justice to them.

A hollow story set in Europe which is a very far away country for his native readers. Yes! To most Americans, Europe is so different - people speak different languages as you cross few hundred miles and every things change from food to culture and above all human features also changes. It is not same as that of America where you cross 3 different time zones and still have the same treatments. This way, when he puts his characters and plots in twisted alleys of old cities of Europe every one takes them for real.

He really does not know nor do research for his subject matter and end up using “VLSI” and “PGP” in same breath in Digital Fortress. Can someone please explain him what is super computer or parallel computing is ;) or rather how computer works has he been to any Data-centers I have so many basic questions for him. I am sure the similar can be said about others related topic like when he drives car through Tuileries Garden from Louvre in a smart car in Da Vinci Code which is set in Paris,

Well enough of Dan Brown I am sure his book will loose their places in book stores as readers figure out about them. It is possible in today’s literary world to make some thing best seller in the same way Hollywood makes “Charlie’s Angels” a hit with 17 screen writers and it is called – “Marketing”.

Then I read two wonderful books one is ‘The Glass Palace’ by Amitav Ghosh about Indian subcontinent in early last century. This is a superb book and all the characters and the settings are excellent. The time spans three generations in the vast continent from Ratnagiri in western coast of India to Malay. I found it very touchy; may be as my ancestors were from a part of land which missed by mere 6 kilometers to be included by in India by map-drawers.

Now, since I know few occidental people who do not understand why an Indian Maharaja ordered ‘Cartier’ for a diamond necklace. The person asking the question was surely thinking these Indian feudal lords were just sucking breads and butters of poor. For them this book might be an eye opener as it portray Indian sub-continent as a land of opportunities and wealth. Though I am not a supporter of any Maharaja but I strongly believe the westerners did more worst things to whole world for their own profits. And even today they think and believe single mindedly Western World is best but they miss the fine point that there was nothing before industrial revolutions in Europe.

The next book is “Wings of Fire” by “Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam”. This book should not need any introductions but for those it sounds unknown- it is an Autobiography of India’s current President, father of Indian rockets and missiles. I loved this book and felt dry throats and wet eye as he along with others hundreds of Indian worked hard to give us the technologies and result which makes common Indians to be proud of their success. And best of all it is indigenous :D

There are so many parts of this book which I wish gets carried each day by common Indian like me and others to make INDIA proud. If religious and social harmony as we find in this book would have existed in today’s India we might have prospered more. As an engineer I do understand the book is written by another person of same trade as it lacks wit and sharpness of successful memoir. There is mention of lots of abbreviations like PERT charts but for common people it does not make any sense. Similarly, there are some abbreviations which does not even bring any bell to me.

If this memoir is rewritten by a professional with all those beautiful poems and wonderful events from APJA.Kalam’s own diary it can be Geeta for modern India.

Well other than these four books I read 2 more books by Chetan Bhagat; one about campus life in India’s most prestigious Engineering Institute IIT and other one on the life of young Indians as they work in nights for the booming BPO or most commonly known as Call-Centers. Well both the books are OK. I can not say them they are bad as they kept me glued till last but failed to mark their place in my mind in long run when I was finished with them. It is written in a modern way like Mira Nair unfolds the story of Monsoon Wedding with hope that people other than Indian origin will also find it interesting.

2006-09-04

Le vol

I am not a person who hates flying to start with as my major air-travel in recent years was visiting India on holiday from Europe. Like all other events in life this can be looked at like a coin; on one side the travel time has reduced significantly while on other side only 20 to 30 kilos of baggage allowed compared to California (65 Kilo).

As we were moving out of Paris we had lot of important things to bring along with us that we will need till our shipment arrives in next 5 weeks time. On the top of it, we added so many little things after the movers left that I became jittery with two big bags,two big suitcases and one small cabin suitcase. Luckily as we are now member of Qatar Airways we got 15 kilos extra each so 90 kilos total.

It was very difficult to carry them from Apartment to Airport with 3 nights stays at Cite universitaire campus as we handed over the keys on 31st evening to our landlord. We had our flight on 2nd September and we were left with 3 options- one to stay at friends place, second to book a hotel room & third to be at Maison de l’Inde in Cite universitaire at cheap price. We opted for 3rd option so that we don’t hassle anyone in this procedure. Anyway, on our last evening at Paris we borrowed a bathroom scale from the reception to do a last minute check and we figured out we are almost on the edge of 90 kilos. It made me really tensed and I was almost in need of counselor to release my anger, frustration with bags, travel and move. From inside I inveighed against Pamela for screwing up who was in-turn very cool as usual.

In a way, its good to drag such big luggage for last time to India. As there we normally get porter if traveling by train and in flight they don’t permit more then 15 kilos each.

Anywayz, we dragged them from Cite University to RER station (600 meters apart) in the early Saturday morning. As we were huffing and puffing some nice French gentlemen commented “Bon courage” (literally means good- luck) – but it differs depending on the context like here good luck on dragging such jumbo size suitcases. To my utter surprise the RER ride was very packed as I never saw so many people traveling early morning to Parc des Exhibition that too Saturday morning. This park is the last but one stop before on RER as we reach CDG-1.

Now, as we had our flight from terminal-1 we need to take another 7-10 minutes bus ride to the terminal. Which means one more round of dragging luggage from underground RER station to Bus stop and then arrange them inside bus as other passengers joins us.

Well as we entered the check-in counter we found a long queue infront of us. There was big group who were coming from Paris to Tibet. With the thought of our baggage might cross the limit my pulse rate started increasing and I made it clear to Pamela that I am not going to pay any extra euros per kilos at any cost. If needed we throw certain items in airport. Yes, with a very rough tone. That point of time I had no sentiments for her rather every simple words coming out of my mouth was full of anger, anxiety and tension which I ultimately took out on her uncontrollably. Weighed down by bulging bags made me tetchy.

In one little corner of my heart I wanted that she learns a lesson if baggage’s exceed the limits though till far it never happened. Always she makes it to the edge by stuffing so many things….but this time I was really waiting to happen. Even seeing a long queue I started blaming her saying that because of those heavy luggage we got late.

While standing in the queue I tried once showing our membership card for check-in via business class counter but in vain… after some 15 minutes one gentleman came to us asking if we have membership card and we were lucky enough to check- in via business class counter.
After checking passports & tickets she asked us in French:

She- vous avez combien de bagage ?(how many luggage you have)
Me : Quatre (4)
She: Votre baggage s’il vous plait indicating it to place in their scale.
As I was placing luggage one by one with the thought now I will show Pamela as soon as it exceeds the limit …..but to my utter surprise nothing as such happened rather lady at counter said – Est qu’il reste quelque chose encore (Is there anything else) with a smiling face.

Isn’t it enough….Atlast, we were to weigh our cabin luggage which was bit overweigh by 2 kilos. But she accepted it without saying a word….bit surprising you know otherwise normally they are very strict on that part.

By the time Pamela asked her how much less it was from limit…and she replied to it which I could not hear properly and it seem to me something like one kilo or so. Finally everything went on smoothly and she gave us our boarding ticket with smiling face said Bon voyage.

As we were heading towards our gate…I was trying to show my caring gestures to Pamela which she shrugged off. Trying to make my point stronger I said- look, it was only one kilo less from the limit so what it would be if it was over-weigh. Now it was her turn to show me her rotten face for which I was bit taken a back first then asked her the reason for the same. Showing the baggage ticket she said it was not one but onze kilo i.e., 11 kilos less from the limit.

Well like always I apologized to her and this is a confession publicly :D

2006-08-31

Souvenir

As we were leaving Paris it seems our friends (whom we knew for a short while) has to give something as a memento. Gifts were extravagant and really worth mentioning as they chose something which we adore.

To start with gift Pamela got from François is very special. I am sure she can write a new post about the same. I am just going to give you brief detail on the same.

It is stitching project (cross-stitch) with 290 x 359 stitches using 70 color threads. François not only gave the design print-out along with instructions but also got the black piece of cloth which is not that easily available in the market.

If cross-stitch is not your cup of tea and you prefer coffee like me. Check her project to be started . It is going to be a very long and difficult project to finish. Hopefully, Pamela takes enough time as well as break in-between otherwise it will cost her eyes ;).Not only this, she even got bedside lamp of effiel tower & salwar-kurta from two of her close friends.


And now my turn, gift from my dear colleagues was all about Paris and Langue Francais. Best of all I liked the wrapping for the wonderful book on photography of Paris. I am sure it must have got lots of curious look from others while getting packed. On the flight there was a nice one page article about POST-IT how it was invented in 3M and how it waited for long time before marketed and sold to customers. I really can not think my office days without it like millions others across the globe.

Thanks a lot guys if you are reading it !! Well there will be more post on those last hours ..... keep reading.

2006-08-30

Last days in Paris

We moved from Paris to Bombay. Yes it is a big event in our life and we are still not sure whether things will fall in place at the end or not. We are trying our destiny – but we are not sure what will be there for us???????? Well lots of questions and raising eye-brows from friends and families.


But this post is not about why we left Paris and why moved to India. It is all about how we spent our last one week in Paris. Before leaving, we wanted to take pictures of those which makes Paris so desired destination for tourists. No doubt it is one of the most visited place in the world be it for Eiffel Tower or Champs Elysees.

As our time for departure was coming close we tried to visit few of the well known Brasseries or Bistros to hidden street corners to passages away from busy tourist area. We did our best, but weather was not very happy with our move and unexpectedly August was very grey with clouds and rain all those thirty-one days. It is a month when almost every thing stands still in Paris or France from bakery to fashion-store to office- “tout le monde”. As every one heads towards sea “au bord de la mer” for getting “bronzee” sun bathing. If you come back from vacation with out noticeable change in color your vacation is not well spent.

Not only, we took lots of pictures and uploaded to our gallery but we reorganized them. It was very long and meticulous process with thousands of pictures to sort and write their details as much as possible. In a way it was great to know more about Paris. All credit goes to Pamela for the same. With less than 16 hours to go before the movers were to arrive I rushed to La Defense to take pictures, 

YES!! It was crazy but its worth for people like me (amateur photographer) as it allowed me to capture those tall buildings with blue sky after washed by rain.

Although, I am not sure if any one going to visit Paris is going to read this post and check our pictures or not. But, somehow I got a feeling of “been there – did this…did that…” and I am very content from heart for the same

As we spent our last two days in cleaning after the movers left before handing over our apartment keys to our landlord. In this process with lots of small things to be done on other hand at last moment like closing the bank account, getting official papers from office etc. we got so tired and exhausted that we could not effort any long to run and take pictures of “Parisians in roller blade”.

This post is getting bit longer than I thought so I will split the last few days and hours in another one. Keep reading ….

2006-08-28

Making of Chocolate Charlotte

Today we have a dinner invitation; spent whole yesterday morning in thinking what would be good to prepare as I did not want to buy anything from supermarket. Since we are moving, wanted to clean the fridge without overstuffing it. So after lot of thought came to conclusion that charlotte might be best. Learnt this recipe from a friend.

A charlotte is any dessert that's moulded into a container lined with sponge fingers or boudoir biscuits (purchased at a bakery or supermarket). It’s normally easy to prepare; hardly takes 15 min.


Make the syrup by mixing equal amount of sugar and water flavour it with adding same amount of rum or brandy to taste.

First line the bottom as well as sides of a container with clean wrap & then with sponge fingers soaked in sugary alcoholic syrup. Now layer it alternatively with chocolate mousse and sponge fingers in a way that top layer should be covered with sponge fingers. Then cover with clean wrap tightly and lid. Leave it to chill for more then 12 hours.

To serve, invert dish onto serving plate and unmold charlotte. Carefully remove plastic wrap. (Variation can be done using vanilla mousse & chocolate mousse alternatively). While serving dust with icing sugar and decorate with fruits or with cold custard or whipped cream.


Well, had our dinner in one Thai restaurant where we had duck in red curry coconut sauce and red curry chicken along with shrimps in green curry basil sauce. What gives Thai food its distinctive character is a harmony in its tastes - sour, salty, hot and aromatic. Mmmm....delicious!

Door code

This electronic device you are seeing in the picture is nothing but a door code of our apartment where using a scroll buttons one has to search and select the name and then press “appel” means “call” button which will give a ring to the concerned persons apartment and it is that habitué who will answer that call & unlock the main door.


Certain buildings will have only code with rarely names on front doors so without “Le code” you won't get past the outer door which usually leads to a small inner courtyard or a stairway. And then they do have an intercom between the front door and the individual apartments, but most of the older buildings do not. Thus, cipher block at the entrance keeps unexpected and unwanted guests outside.

In Paris, friendship without code is inexistent. When you give your phone number to someone that is personal but when you give your front door code that is intimate. Here, most of the buildings are code protected. Actually, in earlier seventies there was a concept of guardian who use to supervise the whole building but now there place has been gradually taken by these door codes just due to cost cutting. Though our building is old but both guardian as well door code is there.

In short, in Parisian vocabulary "Just dropping by" doesn't exist unlike those in India.

2006-08-12

Pardey key Pichey

From a good friend of mine I got an offer to help at backstage of Ritu Beri’s fashion show to be held at Paris on 5th July at Lido. At first I wanted to deny this proposal but with second thought that it might be a fun with friends to be there; I nodded my head giving my approval. Ace fashion designer Ritu Beri is the first Asian to have joined a French fashion house making a slow transition from Indian Haute Couture to Prêt-a-porter (ready to wear).

Believe me, it was only 30 minutes affair in 1 hour show the work was just to help models dressed in mélange of Indo-western meticulously designed outfits. The dresses along with accessories and shoes were properly tagged and kept ready for each model. As there is barely a gap of 15 seconds in which one has to change and be back on the ramp. So each of us were allotted with one particular model to help them in changing and getting dressed. Even sometimes the fitting may not be proper which needs special attention from Ritu’s assistant to get them stitched or tucked at last moment.

One can read Ritu’s face that how much stressed she was at that point of time but however she made it….bravura. For me, although not being a spectator it was no less fun being at back peeping through curtains to get the glimpse of the stage and making comments.
As my co-helpers forgot their camera, I was persuaded to take photos and in that process I ended up taking more photos then I thought. Thanks to all those unknown models to pose for someone amateur like me.
Anywayz, for that 30minutes help we were all given a token of gratitude from her collection “sequined crushed silk top”.

Me wearing Ritu Beri's sequined top @ Jardin du Havre
Though, this event took place in July first week and I posted the pictures in the gallery that very day but as I didn't got an opportunity to wear the top so kept pushing this post on backburner till today.

2006-08-11

Last Week


Watched lots of movies, uploaded some photos to Running and walked around Paris last week.

New in gallery - bibs from running . Well you must be wondering what is that ? For a person like me from whom the activity of sport was taken away by various pressures at young age it means a lot. The good side of it is that I am the very few fortunate one to run at this age at various places but rest remains as silent voice in vast population of India.

Tried lots of combination for uploading video to my website and found due to some mismatch between my Digital Camera and computer I could not get the precise result for which I was looking. Here is one from Paris - Metro. These are the few of those musicians who play for free inside the metro. Some of them are great who just play as they try to get a good number of audiences. Especially in Chatlet; the most crossed metro stop by people as it is the bull-eye of paris Metro Network. Rest plays for small money in the metro compartment and that some times sound hard on ears.
And most importantly have watched lots of classic and good movies recently. Here is the list that I borrowed - Merci Francois!!
    These three are adaptation from plays by Tennessee Williams
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
  • Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

    These two are so funny and witty you will roll on floor :D
  • Bringing Up Baby (1938)
  • Arsenic and Old Lace(1944)

  • Dracula (1931)
  • The Rains Came (1939) - A movie set in British India
  • An American in Paris 1951

  • Sunset Boulevard (1950) - A Hollywood Story
  • All About Eve (1950) - A Broadway Story
  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
  • Dead Again (1991)
  • Howards End 1992
  • The Piano (1993)
  • Phone Booth (2002)

    British animation productions
  • A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit (1989)
  • Wallace & Gromit in The Wrong Trousers (1993)
  • Wallace & Gromit in A Close Shave (1995)
  • Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

2006-08-04

Swiss-Itenary, TGV and Gizmo

 swiss mapAnother Friday, thinking to write something for my blog ;) I think I should have kept a track of my Friday bloging or changes I made on Friday :D. Well, this post is not going to be about Friday but it is about our Switzerland itinerary, experience with TGV etc.

Might have noticed there are lots of posts by Pamela in recent time – wish she would have done before from our other trips also. It is GREAT that she is so active on this now a days.

Firstly, a PDF map pointing all the places we been in Switzerland. Thanks to Pamela again for her idea.

Secondly, while traveling for more then 3 days we carry Laptop - it serves to down-load the pictures as cards get full within 1-2 consecutive days of visit. While coming back to Paris via TGV one of the fastest train of Europe I found in the first class they have AC 220V power socket to connect laptop.It helps in doing pending work or seeing photos like us or watch film on DVD without being worried on recharging battery. It was great as my current laptop battery does not last more than 15-20 minutes. So here is the picture while Pamela down-loading photos from card.

Photos from Golden-Pass train which we took that morning. In the 1st compartment of TGV another difference is seat size with enough leg room as they only have 3 seats per row compared to 4 in 2nd class.
Lastly, though I like to have all the latest and the greatest gizmo but normally I run quite behind in reality compared to others. The biggest reason is of course financial and other is it cost a lot in Europe with the ugly VAT system.

My laptop is an old Pentium-III, digital camera is a 3 mega pixel, my mobile phone is 4 years old. Hmm....for mobile phone although is not really true as I lost the new one within 4 months of use.
So here are my next gizmo lists

I hope to upgrade my camera to a new Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX2 as soon as it is released and gets real good review from other users, not those blur image its current sibling has. I hope to carry it all the time compared to my current bulky one.

Get an Apple MacBook in black when apple removes the current $200 premium – hope apple does that soon and before X-mas.

A cell phone that can sync with I-Sync and Outlook something from Sony Ericson k750 which has all that but no rush let the price drop.

2006-08-01

Italian aroma…

"Daney Daney Pey likha hain khaney waley kaa naam"- which colloquially means each grain has the name of the person who will eat it (it is the fortune of the person to have certain meal or not). Well the same with more of spice in Hindi movies "goli goli pey likha hain marney waley kaa naam" which means in each bullets it is written the name of the person who will die.
Before I take you along this blog I will try my best to keep the suspense why the introduction to a culinary adventure got its inspiration from Hindi muhavra & bollywood film.
Today we tried to prepare a Pasta dish bit different from our normal standard. Initially, Pamela did not showed much of interest maybe due to bit long procedure... must have thought to leave on me. But at the end, she seems to have willy-nilly enrolled in Italian cuisine and did all the steps to prepare this awesome dish - recipe to die for without killing for.
Spinach and Ricotta Conchiglie - Conchiglie which means large pasta conch (a kind of shell) designed to hold delicious stuffing in our case it was mixture of chopped spinach and ricotta cheese. Having concave shapes they are one of the most useful shapes as they trap any sauce. Till far we have prepared-long pasta like spaghetti, spiral shaped fusilli, butterfly shaped farfalle, stuffed ravioli either with fresh crème sauce, tomato sauce or pesto sauce. Even we have tried flat pasta lasagna designed to be baked between layers of sauce.
Pasta is one of the staple food of every authentic Italian meal & most versatile food too. It is considered to be low-fat food and rich in complex carbohydrate. But, it is important to take care while choosing sauce as overloading it with cheese or cream sauce will change pasta into high-fat food and of course the number one rule of great Italian cuisine is fresh is best.
Actually, prima facie on the colorful picture of the recipe in the book on Vegetarian by Nicolas Graimes, drew my attention and I thought why not to try it. Well, with out going to reveal the secret of this recipe here are the pictures as the cooking progressed. In other words, let me try to limn an entire procedure through photos taken by me. Hope silence speaks the volume in that way I will not be infringing coyright as Pamela did in previous post.
Finally, the suspense-what made me wrote “Daney Daney Pey .... naam” - is actually I invited one French friend (person who taught us to prepare any pasta ) for dinner and due to some miscommunications he did not showed up. So, it was two of us who had our mouth-watering irresistable pasta, supple in texture and deliciously sauced and stuffed (bit of boasting on my part may-be). But truly, it came out so good that we two were left licking and relishing every morsel. It would have been our pleasure to share a meal with our friend :( but surely next time :)
Ready with all the PasteAll set with ingredients Draining the cooked pastaStuffing with Spinach and RicottaTopped with ParmeseanAll set to serveBon Appetite

2006-07-31

Taste of India @ Swiss

Although trip to Switzerland is over but yet we can’t stop writing about it. If you are one of those few regular visitors to our blog you must be knowing by now how much we liked our one week stay. And must be wondering what more can be there to write about.

Yes, there are always lot to write about Switzerland when we are comparing with Paris and when one is seeing through Indian eyes. Where all the pavements of the side walk are made of granite stone, all routes being well-marked, not only that you can always be sure to find toilet paper in any remote restroom and moreover clean restroom. Last but not least even public telephones are equipped with electronic phone book which can be hardly seen in Paris.


Coming to the point what made me write this post is ‘Lassi’. Yes, you heard it right. You must be wondering whatz there to say about Lassi and especially it might be nothing for Indians staying at UK. But to our outmost surprise we noticed this product on the shelf in one of the small ‘all-in-one’ store in Swiss-railway station. Later, we found the same product in big store even which can be hardly seen in Paris rather I should say can’t be seen at all.


According to old tradition, lassi is served at the end of the main meal or taken at lunch time because that's when appetite and digestion are at their peak. Lassi is meant to help digestion and to be served at room temperature, not chilled but as cold beverage usually taken in summer season.
So, at the sight of lassi that too with Indian flavor we were so thrilled that almost every day we had it during our stay at Switzerland.

Baking Bread

For quite a long was thinking to prepare bread at home which I would have never thought of in my wildest dream if I was in India. But staying at Paris it just clicked why not to try once on experimental basis as it is there staple food. It’s like an icon of France. This is why French people visit the local "Boulangerie" (hot bread shop) at least once a day and this shop is there at least at every street corner. Filled with delicious sensations and smells of warm, just-baked bread will definitely increase your appetite for sure while passing by these boulangeries particularly at morning and evening time. As this is the time when fresh bread along with other baked items like croissant comes out of the oven.
While staying at Paris, I often see people riding bikes, mopeds or motorbikes with baguettes strapped to the back, or walking the streets with their baguette under their arm racing to get home at end of the day. So, it might be another reason for thinking of baking bread at home.
Anywayz, I wanted to get Santanu’s concern on this matter although answer was known to me… “No way”. As he said “no” now I was bit determined to do it so was trying to gather all my courage to do the same by myself when he is not around.
First was to get ingredients particularly leavening agent such as yeast which I got it from nearby super store rest others are normally there at our Indian kitchen. As Santanu is bit health conscious so keeping that in mind I opted for wheat-flour which has superior nutritional value rather than plain all purpose flour and thought to encrust with either sesame or poppy seeds to give a special taste.

Well, there is wide variety of breads and preferred varieties often vary from region to region especially at France. This variation is done by just manipulating rising times, kneading techniques, and with the use of especially traditional brick ovens though basic ingredients like water, salt, yeast and flour remains same. It can be served ranging from room temperature to hot. But always best to have fresh. This can be used as an enclosure for sandwiches other then topping it with jam, butter or cheese. Even it can be served with pasta or as a complement to a crispy fresh salad or hearty bowl of soup. Once baked, bread can subsequently be toasted. And its better not to be stored in fridge as it becomes stale rather one can store in zip-lock plastique so that there is no room for air to get in.
Here, I used very simple technique as this was my first experiment on bread and voila unexpectedly my experiment came out quite well then I thought. Even Santanu was astonished to see that.
Once you have tasted the fresh bread either from boulangerie or home-made I am sure you will never forget its taste. A crisp, crunchy crust and slightly chewy, soft spongy center make this bread bit traditional.

2006-07-30

Green plate

In my salad days I used to hate many green veggies and I remember when maa used to scold me for the same. Somehow I didn’t had taste for them at that point of time but gradually I developed the taste so much so that I can now survive happily on those green things (cow-food).
From long time Santanu wanted to make a change on our meal as it seems we both are putting on weight. As I said in my earlier post that he tries to encroach that small part of the house mostly in weekends so he made sure atleast 2 days in week we have salad in our main course meal.


Having salad has got few plus points like less time consuming to prepare, don’t heat up a hot kitchen, very healthy especially in this hot Paris summer…..which means salad season. Besides watermelon or strawberry smoothie, salad is the perfect summer food. They're light, crisp and refreshing-- especially when paired with a dressing and they're versatile with one’s imagination can invent.

At the core of most summer salads is lettuce. It was viewed for years as a tasteless part of a salad that used to be covered up with a thick, sticky dressing. But what a metamorphosis lettuce has seen in the last 10-15 years. Interestingly, new lettuces with various shapes, sizes, colours and flavours have started replacing the ubiquitous iceberg lettuce in supermarkets. The assortment of gourmet lettuces available to the consumer is getting better all the time.

So we had this lettuce leaves with deseeded olives, cherry tomatoes & cheese which was enrobed with a salad dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and few drops of lemon juice. At end drizzle it with salt and whisk together in a large shallow bowl. One can serve in small portions as an accompaniment to roast chicken, or grilled or poached fish. This dressing is actually to highlight not to overpower the salad ingredients. Too much salad dressing will weigh down the salad ingredients and mask their flavors. So...
Bon Appetite bien sur !!!

2006-07-26

Yum……..

Normally Santanu has a tendency of encroaching cuisine area particularly on weekend or on his official holidays depending on his mood. In a way, it’s good as I get 2 days off.

We were just back from Switzerland and went for picnic at St.-Germain-en-Laye with few colleagues of Santanu. And Santanu promised he is going to prepare all by himself -simple vegetable-rice and Date walnut brownies.

Lately I borrowed one book on vegetarian by Nicolas Graimes from one friend which includes light meals, main courses, tarts, salads, desserts etc. The best part of this book is initial descriptions on each ingredients starting from seeds, vegetables, different types of cooking oil and what not with colourful pictures. We see certain things in the local market but do not how to prepare them. Neither we know the corresponding English names nor are they commonly available in India. So, its an excellent book for reference.

Last year he got ‘Pates de Dates’ from an Algerian store and it was sitting like a brick in our kitchen. Ever since, I got this book finding a recipe with ‘dates’ he had an eye on it.
Yum…………it came out good unexpectedly.The results are rewarding, here is a picture of fudgy moist and candy like brownies.

Best part is although I didn’t do anything except being a helping hand to Santanu but everyone complimented me for the same.

Even his friends from RFS wanted to have the recipe. These rich brownies are great for afternoon tea and even they do make a fantastic dessert when served with crème fraiche (whipped crème) or vanilla ice-cream. I will be infringing copyright if I copy those here but still couldn’t refrain myself.

Ingredients

  • 350 gm plain dark chocolate
  • 225gm or 1 cup butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 115gm or ½ cup castor sugar
  • 5ml vanilla essence
  • 75gm sifted plain flour
  • 225gm or ½ cup dates-peeled stoned and chopped
  • 200gm or 1 ¾ cup walnut pieces
  • Icing sugar for dusting (optional)


  • Procedure

  • Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of hot not boiling water until they have melted and smooth
  • In a separate bowl beat eggs, sugar and vanilla.
  • Add this into chocolate mixture and fold in flour, dates & nuts
  • Bake for 30-40 min in preheated oven at 190 C
  • Lastly, dust it with icing sugar.


  • Since they had to be chilled prior to cutting, I ate my brownie cold. Normally, I can’t resist myself from testing because of strong baking aroma. I think the fudginess was probably accentuated by chilling, so my sample was especially moist and chewy with a crumbly, crunchy top innards tempered by the occasional chunk of walnut.

    2006-07-19

    A must list for swiss

    Our trip to Switzerland has ended after all those C.B.G (châteaux, bateaux and gateaux) trips around Europe but indeed it was a different experience altogether. It is all about the greenery, mountain streams rushing along, water falls, snow clad mountains, sounds of cow-bells tickling on the alpine meadows.

    I am not sure if every one is happy with their first trip to a new place or not. But, I am always very happy and excited to go to new places. I always live with some desire or feeling that was not filled in that very trip. It keeps me motivated to go back to the same place once again. May be it is my way of exploring and traveling.

    The beauties of all those places we have been in Switzerland are so vast that I think - “I can explore them for years to come if I am there all the time”. But I know that is not going to happen (soon for sure!).

    Here are few things that one should not miss while traveling in Switzerland – starting with what we missed.

    • A Video Camera a MUST along with normal camera – to capture the Alpine divinity while traveling in train (specially for those panoramic one)
    • Ask for window seat if your train needs reservation.
    • Hiking Pole – if you are hiking and that includes downhill.
    • Make sure your watch is giving correct and precise time - the train/bus leaves platform on dot. To demonstrate this you just wait on a platform you will find the train starts moving as soon as the time posted and time on the big clock on the platform matches.A good pair of hiking shoes if you plan to walk a lot.
    • Warm clothes even in summer for going to the top of the mountains.
    • Good sunglass – Normal sunglass only stops little compared to those special glacier sunglass, you need them to save your eyes from the reflected sunlight from glacier at high altitude.
    • Polaroid filter -for your camera if you happen to be lucky on the mountain top with clear blue sky.

    Shhh …. Silence Please

    Normally, I and Santanu don't talk to each other on bus, train, flight or whatsoever as we are normally lost in our own world and both try to respect each others silence. We have books, newspaper, ipod for that time but this particular evening we happened to talk so much while returning to Zurich from Luzern. One of the reason maybe that by now we are kind of used to watching beautiful sceneries from train as it runs along lakes, rivers and creaking sometimes as it passes by the running hills unfolding before us.
    Anywayz, it was almost 20 minutes left to reach Zurich when one lady from back seat of Santanu came to us asking ----

    Lady - "Do you speak English? Santanu - Yes, we do(replied enthusiastically thinking may be she overheard something and want to ask us something)Lady - I think you might not have noticed that sign (pointing to the picture showing silence compartment on opposite window) as its not there in your window. You are in silence compartment.Us – (in unison) Oops!!! – Sorry


    Dumbfounded to hear that; we had been talking non stop for a while now. It was so silly of us that we did fail to notice none of our co-passengers in that compartment were speaking. We traveled almost many schanghain countries but never happen to come across like that. Being unaware that even a compartment like this can exist we could not express our feelings to each other (Hain! aisaa bhi hota hai) till we reached Zurich and got out of that train.

    We were not hurt by her comments but it might have been better and less humiliation if she warned us before, not waiting for the very last moment.

    YES, it was another new experience with Swiss Railway, next day while traveling on a normal compartment Santanu silently sneaked into one of this special compartment to get this picture.

    2006-07-18

    Golden Pass - Montreux

    Today is the last day of our trip. We had already reserved for boarding another panoramic train “Golden Express" which will take us to Lausanne where we started our journey one week ago. By now I was so used to that after waking up my first thing was to peer out the window to check weather. And like every time it was bright sunny morning at our last day of vacation. After having heavy breakfast we headed towards railway station of Interlaken with our luggage.

    From our previous experience with glacier express where we missed the window seats we made sure that get the same while booking in advance.This special train is broken into two main parts. In the first part it is almost like any other Swiss railway train but it is only written “Golden Pass” on the outside.And there are no special panoramic windows; which is a blessing for the camera.


    Traveling by train to Zweisimmen on the Golden Pass BSL train, offers panoramic views of the Swiss Alps, mountain slopes and valleys with picturesque chalets which is something different to experience. Train snakes through the Simme Valley passing through the rural Simmertal where one can see Swiss cows grazing on the Alpine meadows. Listening to the distant sound of cowbells tickling on the pastures is very amusing.


    At Zweisimmen, we changed to the Golden Pass MOB Train to Montreux. This is the only line in Switzerland that offers VIP seat at the front of the train giving a river's eye view. This ultra-modern train gives the traveler the unique sensation of being totally at one with the grandeur of the unfolding landscape. While passing through the region of “Châteaux d'Oex” we saw beautiful Swiss villages for one more time. There are lots of hiking or other outdoor activities around this region. Admiring the view of Lake Geneva on one hand and the sprawling vineyards alongside on other hand we descended to Montreux. We enjoyed magnificent views of alpine beauty on our unforgettable rail journey of Switzerland.

    We came to Montreux from Lausanne after keeping our luggage. We took a relaxing promenade on lakeshore to go to Chateau de Chillon. This 13th century castle has lots of history to tell in itself. Lord Byron's famous poem “The Prisoner of Chillon” was set on prison which is at the cellar of the castle. We spent almost 2 hours there and at the same time it was raining heavily outside.

    We wanted to go to Geneva to see “Jet d'eau” (water fountain) but it looked like it might be a better idea to be at Montreux as we would be running out of time. Later in the evening we boarded TGV back to Paris – and this time it was in First Class: D

    2006-07-16

    Relaxing Day - 24th June


    It meant to be a vacation within vacation today. As we did not have to catch any train neither any bus nor get up early for any fixed destination. Relaxingly, we had our self-made breakfast and then headed towards railway station for renting a cycle to bike. At first, we went towards the city center of Interlaken where there is a big Casino and park. From there we biked all the way towards the lake Brienz. Weather was perfect although bit hot but being on lake side it was pleasant. Major part along the lake was shady which was a big relief.


    We took some time off at lake shore in shady place and listen to the Indian classical instrumental on I-Pod which was really relaxing - the sounds of water waves along with the serenity of the lake. Words are lacking to describe how we felt. A perfect escape from the life we know, a strange question was- why we need to go away so far from home to find peace.

    Anywayz, we came back to the hotel for a very late lunch and Santanu wanted to take siesta. And you know, it suddenly started raining like cats and dog; we felt how lucky we must be to enjoy yesterday at top of Europe. It was raining sans cease even after 3hrs when we had to ride in rain to return the bikes. Pff..... :( It just stopped after we returned the same.

    Mount Jungfraujoch - 23rd June

    Top of Europe

    Today we woke up very early as to move towards our next destination Interlaken (means between two lakes). I immediately peered out the window to check out what the weather was like. I was very concerned about our trip to Mt. Jungfrau. But to me it seems to be a perfect day. Santanu was bit hesitant as it was cloudy & gloomy all the way while coming down from Mt. Rigi. He rather mentioned it appeared to be nice down at the bottom of the mountain, nothing was promised way up top. Since, the journey to Interlaken takes around 3 hours by train so we left Zurich around 7AM leaving our host still sleeping.

    Anywayz, at Interlaken we already had a booking for an apartment hotel which was cheap, cozy with all kitchen amenities in the room; that means we can cook our own food if we want. So, we first went to our apartment-hotel to keep our luggage .Then headed to Mount Jungfrau- top of Europe.


    In Switzerland prices are always astronomical so ticket to Jungfrau was no exception. Like always we carried “take-away” lunch before boarding the train. After reaching Lauterbrunnen from Interlaken we were to change and take cog-wheel train to reach to Kleine-Scheidegg a tiny, isolated resort surrounded by vertiginous scenery. In a short time, as we ascended, the villages below were barely visible. The presence of snow gradually increased, while the temperature gradually decreased.

    From Kleine-Scheidegg we changed to the Jungfraubahn, another train, which tunnels straight into the rock of the Eiger. Stopping briefly for panoramic picture; looking at glacier from a rock window to say in simple words. This ride up is by world's longest existing cog-rail and quite extraordinary. I assume it is among the most fascinating scenery in the world we have ever seen.


    There were several things to visit like ice palace and experience the breathtaking panoramic view from the Sphinx Observation Terrace overlooking the Aletsch Glacier (Europe's longest glacier). After getting down from the train we first went to Swiss-sphinx. It was the highest point of the whole place. We went outside onto the observation deck and relished the views. As parts of the observation deck extended past the building, the floor beneath us was made up of metal grates. Looking down, it was making me feel giddy Santanu was bold enough to take me around the whole building. Day was really bright and sunny as if meant for taking pictures so throughout whole trip we took plenty of photos.


    From there we went to ice palace. This consisted of basically an underground ice sculpture exhibition. Everything was ice; the ceilings, the walls and even the floors. Something really amazing. From there we went to snow where one can slide or do James Bond stuns on a ropeway.
    The trip to Mt. Jungfrau will undoubtedly remain among the first things we think back on. What a difference some nice weather made for us that day. After spending few hours we descended via Grindelwald to Interlaken.

    Day 3 - Rishikesh

    The weather looked gloomy with an overcast sky as we woke up. We had breakfast at the hotel and decided to visit Rishikesh today. Again we...