Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I am once again in the world of empty theatres and I am HAPPY!

While I love watching movies in Satyam RDX - the BEST theatre in the world, really, I have travelled in four continents so far and have NEVER found any that matched Satyam - I really didn't get used to the idea of having to book tickets 3 days in advance and then fighting the crowd to enter the hall. That's why the theatres in the first world always fascinate me - they are always empty, any time of the day!

So Archana and I finally braved the climate - alright, I did, the temp hardly affected her, grrrrr - packed ourselves some snacks and hit the nearest Cineworld (in Kilburn). I am sucker for epic dramas and I did love Australia, possibly the most cliched movie on earth. But who cares - Hugh Jackman is half naked in the movie!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Finally, in London

I'm here. In the land of Arthur Conan Doyle, Enid Blyton, and Agatha Christie. Not to mention J K R.

It was dark when I landed y'day at Heathrow. My friends whisked me off to Kingsbury in a radio taxi and I didn't get to see much, but today morning when I looked out of my window, I was blown away by the view. Acres of park, bordered by picture-perfect victorian cottages. School children in uniform and insanely-fit joggers with their dogs. The world was clad in winter fashion, tight clothes and high boots, somehow more striking and chic than the little black dress.

So, what's the snake in paradise?

Minus 5 degrees, that's what.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Green Park Resort, Pattaya: Beautiful!

I stayed in Green Park Resort for two nights and three days during the second week of Dec 2007. We were a family of four.

What are the pluses?

1. BIG plus... we checked in at 10am, and they didn't bat an eyelid. Their check-in policy says 2pm, but our flight landed us in Thailand at 5am, so we really didn't have any choice. I realize that if the room had been busy, we could have ended up waiting in the lobby, but it was so nice to see smiling faces, when we were all set for a battle with the management!

2. We got the newly renovated family suite in the first floor, which was spotless, clean, and overlooked the beautiful pool area. The air-conditioner worked only too well, I was always cold, but I guess westerners would be delighted. The fridge was stocked well and the phone service was prompt.

3. The place was so beautiful, and pleasant to stroll around. It was so hot in Thailand even in December, and it was cool inside the resort, due to the greenery. The pool, esp., looked fabulous....

4. The place is located in a respectable part of the town, if you get what I mean. I hardly saw an older man with a younger woman in this hotel... but may I just got lucky. I did see a lot of elderly tourists.

5. Last, but not the least, was the breakfast buffet. So many dishes.... yumm!

Minuses... yes I have 2 -
1. I had booked a day trip with a local travel agent and when they had called up in the morning asking for us, the front desk told them there was nobody in the hotel in our name! I mean... I do agree that my last name is Indian and may sound tongue-twisty, but that very fact should have alerted them, don't you think?

In the end, after many calls since 7am (or so the travel agent tells me), the agency sent a person to meet us in the lobby, which he did. And I cam down around 10am and sat there right before him... and we didn't know each other! Lol, it was almost funny. After some time, this guy very hesitantly asks me if I was Ms. M, and I rely yes, and we had this really funny introduction :)

2. The hotel sells internet cards at 100 baht per hour, the ones which keep tab on how long u use the net and when the one hour is done, you are automatically logged out. It was too costly, which by itself is terrible, when you have an excellent cybercafé outside for 1 baht per minute, but the net at Green Park was so slow... and get this, even when the connection went dead, the time in the card kept on getting reduced! I remember getting awfully mad cos' of this...

In summary, I think Green Park is a cool resort, a beautiful place to stay with the family or significant other. My only caution tip would be - don't browse the net there!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thai massage at Oryza spa (Chennai)

Thanks to working before the computer 8 hours a day (not to mention the 2 hours I spend at home browsing the net), my neck and back are in constant unease. I had heard about the Thai massage long back, even before visiting Thailand, but the procedure always managed to keep me away. I mean, letting another human being stand on my poor back? No can do.

But y'day, as I made my bi-monthly visit to Oryza spa in Chennai (the only place where I spend without reservations - apart from the library), I was struck by a sudden urge to try it out. I usually do reflexology (you can read my review here), but since my upper body was making me wince, I decided to try thai massage. After copious amounts of reassurance from the spa attendant ("Yes Ma'am, you spinal cord will be perfectly intact after the session"), I followed my masseuse, a very petite Indonesian lady named Jaya.

Jaya took me into a small room (2m x 4m) and left me alone. I dressed myself in loose-fitting spa clothes (the Thai massage is done on a fully-clothed body) and lay down on my back on the mat. She came in and switched off the lights. Hello! Before I screamed, she switched on a very dim light. Aha, so that's it. I had no problem with dim lighting, the harsh yellow light will definitely not be very conducive for a resting massage.

What followed in the hour after is not quite pleasant, yet not unpleasant either. When my arms ache after typing, I kind of softly plummet them on a bouncy surface, to work out the kinks. Now, imagine if that's been done to your entire body. Jaya started with my legs. She kind of poked (but it didn't feel like poking, more like pressing) my legs using her hands and legs (yes, legs), pulled them, twisted them and kneaded them. She did the same for my hands. It was very relieving, rather than relaxing, because that urge to get a nice hard knock on a particularly persistent ache - she was exactly doing that.

Then I was made to lie on my stomach, and she stood on me. STOOD ON ME! Now I understand why thai massage is done by petite people. Jaya actually stood on my legs and started stretching my arm backwards! And I could hear popping sounds and creaks all over! Nothing painful, but a little alarming if you are doing it for the first time. Then she put her entire body weight on my back.

Yeaaoooowww!!!! It was a little too much in the beginning, as my face was crushed on the pillow and I couldn't breathe for the second whenever she was giving short pushes on my spine. But it didn't feel painful... it felt really, REALLY good. So that's what it was - pulling and stretching and pressing and bending your body in different postures. It was like yoga on demand. Little wonder, because it seems Thai massage originated in India!

The session lasted an hour and ended with a nice but short head massage. After the session, I did feel good. Not great, which is how I feel after a reflexology session, but definitely GOOD. Worth a try at least once in your lifetime!

1500rs per 60 minutes
Branches in Chennai and Bangalore

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

How You Can Change the World

Derek Turner at Ngorongoro Crater. Photo by Derek Turner.

How You Can Change the World Through Volunteer Work
By Derek Turner from The World By Sea

Find a need. Fill a need.

For many of us there comes a point in life, when you take pause, look around and realize we have it pretty good. It’s that moment when you discover that no matter how many points the Dow has dropped, or how high gas prices have become, we still live like kings and queens compared to a lot of people in the world. Then comes the wave of guilt, compassion, inspiration - whatever it is that moves a person to say: “ I want to do something. I, (insert full name here), want to make a difference.”

This is probably the biggest step: realizing that we can, even should, make a difference. But then, after that beautiful, humbling moment of self-realization where we decide YES (I am going to change the world!), comes the more complicated and often de-motivating, “how.” This step, as it turns out, is even more difficult than first.

After that beautiful, humbling moment of self-realization where we decide YES, comes the more complicated and often de-motivating, “how.”Volunteering is a broad term. It can be as simple or complicated as you like. It can mean anything from picking up trash, to serving bread at a soup kitchen, to serving on the front lines for a country you love. You don’t have go anywhere to do it, but if you’re like me and would rather travel than stay home, the opportunities are endless.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

3 weeks left for the Big Move

I am still in wonder. What happened? Who applied for the working holidaymaker visa, one that has a 98% rejection rate in India? Who slogged through collecting all the documents, keeping it a secret, in fear of being jinxed? And who finally got it? Was it.... me?

Yes, it was! I am going to an year-long working holiday in UK!!!

It all happened so fast and so furious that I still can't believe I am leaving by this month end. It all happened because of my longtime friend, Archana. She left to UK to join her husband and while leaving, she threw a sentence at me: "Why don't you come too?"

And I thought: "Well, why not?"

For quite some time now, I have been feeling restless. In case you do not know me, I am afflicted with a deadly disease: travel lust. I can't stay at one place for a long time. I just have to move, at least for some time, before I return. But the restlessness was not only because of it, it was also because of my writing - or the absence of it.

I have a very good job. One of the best jobs in the country, for someone like me, I should add. I work as the online editor for a children's magazine. But editing and writing are two different things, and I have not written anything worthwhile in the past couple of years (ince I stopped freelancing and started full time jobs).

Now, it is killing me. I am not able to sleep at nights and I am constantly on edge. The only time I feel peaceful is when I write, uninterrupted. NOT possible when you work full time. I am feeling a call from some place, beckoning me to just drop everything and WRITE. So... I am answering that call, and applied for a work visa to UK and got it. I have already lived in the USA. UK is the next frontier :)

I am not going back to full-time freelancing. I am going to use this year-break to enroll into a writing course - my long time dream. I am going to study P/T in the University of London (Birkbeck) and I am just going to write. I am at a point where I need feedback on my fiction or just wither away. Thanks to my fulltime jobs in India, I have saved some money using which I can comfortably move to UK.

And after that? Well, when I began to actually starve (and become thin - yay!!!!!!!), I will get one, just to pay my rent and food. Just enough, so that I can devote the rest of the time to write.

So... if you are in London and happen to look deep into the supermarket tiller while checking out your purchase, say hi.... it might just be me!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

CLIPS: Chandamama Dec 2008 (English)

Two of my stories - BAN PIN SHAN and SECOND HELPINGS - are published in the december issue of the revamped Chandamama maagzine.

One is a retelling of an ancient Vietnamese tale, and the other is a contemporary "Hum-tum" style story of sparring friends.

Subscription link is here.

Buy: Any neighbourhood newsmart near your house! (if you live in India)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Diet 2009

From today, I plan to eat small quantities of healthy food at certain times of the day, before I start to feel real hunger.

7am - water therapy (for overall elimination)

8:15am - Diet Delite breakfast (high-fiber)

11pm - one carrot stick + cuccumber, diced (vit A)

1pm - chicken/tofu tropical salad in fresh mayo (protein + biotin)

4pm - 2 pieces garlic bread (carbs)

7:30pm - dinner of veg soup OR chappathi and sabji (without ghee or masala)

Will this work? Gotta wait and see!

Small helpings

For the first time in several years, I ate moderately.

I use the word moderate because I am sure it is not low-fat or low-carb or low-anything. But I had small quantities.

In the morning I had MTR's Diet Delite - 1 packet. It's a porridgy mixture mainly made of wheat. For lunch around 1pm, I had tropical chicken salad (chicken slivers + pine apple + mayo) and 2 pieces of garlic bread. The remaining two pieces of garlic bread I ate around 5pm, when the hunger pangs hit the hardest.

It was a shock to know that I could feel this full after eating small packets of salad and bread.

In the evening, around 7pm, I had a small bowl of sweet corn with lime and pepper. Now, I am ready to sleep.

For those who are not my friends, I am suffering from a weight gain problem. Partly because of heredity and partly because of gluttony. I generally eat huge quantities of rice and fried food morning, noon and night (hence the double chin and jelly belly). If I go without samosas or rice for over 12 hours, my body will revolt. Headaches and tummy aches will crop up, accompanied by a murderous rage.

But today... nothing. I felt warm and full. So that's the secret... to eat BEFORE the stomach starts to complain its hunger. Because once your body realises that it's hunger and panics, nothing can stop you from demolishing all your diet plans.