First of all, I would like to say a huge thank you to all those who read my blogs, for the comments you post and for the ‘likes’ both on WordPress and Facebook. I love writing and it is rewarding to know that someone out there likes reading the stuff I write!
I would like to also thank Mschristiner for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award! I am humbled that you enjoy reading my posts.
Here are the rules for the Versatile Blogger Award:
- Nominate 10-15 fellow bloggers
- Inform the bloggers of their nomination
- Share 7 random things about yourself
- Thank the blogger who nominated you
- Add the Versatile Blogger Award Pic on your blog post.
7 Random Things about Myself
1. I love, love travelling but had never flown on a plane until I was 21…and that was a domestic flight!
2. Some very personal life experiences have taught me never to wait till you’re richer or older to travel and have the time of your life. Life could be very short!
3. I spent the first 10 years of my life absolutely hating food (not to be confused with anorexia). I spent the next 10 years (and counting) compensating for it! 😉
4. I love eating bread with a thick slather of butter and condensed milk. God…it’s divine! 🙂
5. The chicken that I am, there are some amazing things in life I would simply have to give a miss. Swimming with sharks, bungee jumping, deep sea diving…let me know if someone finds a cure for aquaphobia and acrophobia!
6. I love reading and watching documentaries. Oh yes, and playing Scrabble. Geeks rule!
7. No matter how early I sleep, I have great trouble getting up before 7a.m. No, make that 7.30p.m. My employers don’t know what great effort I put into going to work early everyday…I deserve a raise just for that.
There are lots of versatile bloggers out there…some take you on an enthralling literary journey, others share photos that tell the proverbial thousand words. I’m having a hard time choosing between them all, so I will leave it to your good judgement to read the blogs that are posted and ‘follow’ those that interest you.
Thanks for reading.
So…Muammar Gaddafi is allegedly dead.
Toppling of a tyrant.
Death of a dictator.
The end of an era.
What is it about the year 2011? It seems to be a busy year for the Middle East, don’t you think? It all started with civil unrest in Tunisia, then Egypt, then a series of other Middle Eastern countries followed suit. Next, Obama found Osama and now Mahmoud has found Muammar.
One can only hope that the winds of change continue blowing and this momentum we are witnessing for the retribution of crimes does not slow down.
If my game with names is no coincidence, let’s hope that Morgan topples Mugabe soon!
RIP Gaddafi? You’ve been ripped, that’s for sure, Gaddafi.
It turns out my obsession with India is not over, so I’ve decided to dedicate yet another page to India! This is my A to Z guide of India…I’ve documented our holiday experience using each letter of the alphabet!
A for Astrology
We had stopped at a restaurant en route to Jaipur for lunch and no later than 5 minutes after we had finished our lunch, a man approached us asking if he could tell us our fortune. Remember how I said in an earlier blog that you’re not an Indian if you don’t have someone in your family who is an astrologer? It turns out you’re not in India if someone doesn’t approach you as an astrologer!
B for Bollywood
There’s Bollywood everywhere around you in India! From billboards to TV ads, all products come with a Bollywood star’s seal of approval. I also found out that Jaipur is a favourite location for shooting Bollywood movies.
C for Cricket
We were in India during the Cricket World Cup and the atmosphere was electric! It is amazing how a sport brings a nation together, and I got to witness that first hand. The pride and jubilation of all Indians were palpable for days after the win…and equally the frustrations over the trophy corruption scandal.
D for Discount
You don’t buy a single thing, with the exception of food, without asking for a discount! We even saw a foreign couple haggling at a Levi’s store, which came as a bit of a surprise for me as I limited haggling to stalls and privately owned shops rather than at franchises.
E for Elephant
I can’t believe I saw so many elephants but returned home without the proper opportunity to snap a photo of an elephant. Neither could we go on an elephant ride up the City Palace in Jaipur as it was the start of Navratri and the elephants were being rallied for the evening processions at temples.
F for Food
F is for food and also for something else not-so-pleasant! Well isn’t India famous for its juxtapositions! Indian food is amazing! We stuck to places frequented by the locals as much as possible when we were not at the mercy of the driver’s choice. The food at Reshmi’s Guest House in Varanasi was probably one of the best: delectable lamb biryani that you can tuck into while gazing at the ghats from the hotel balcony.
(Sorry, India, but the other F is for faeces. It’s not always the cleanest of places.)
G for Ganges
Hindus believe that you wash away your sins when you immerse yourself in the Ganges. It is reported that the toxin levels of the Ganges water are very high due to unscrupulous factories dumping their waste in the river, but people’s faith remains undeterred and a lot of people still drink the water.
The water was quite stagnant when we went and needless to say it looked filthy. I think my husband and I are more pragmatic than religious, so we didn’t even touch the water! Besides, I don’t believe your sins can literally be washed away without repentance, paying penance or suffering.
H for Hinduism
India is the birthplace of Hinduism. To me, the religion is as mystical as the country, as unlike some other mainstream religions, Hinduism does not have a bible of its teachings. What I love about Hinduism is that Hindus are not bound by indoctrinated teachings but are open to self-revelations. It very much espouses the ideology that you define your relationship with God.
I for Incense
The smell of incense envelopes you everywhere, only to be hijacked by the stench of urine here and there! I could smell sandalwood in so many places…the hotels we stayed at, along the streets and bazaars of Chandni Chowk and sometimes while passing random shops lining the streets. I bought some bedspread in India and the smell of incense filled the air when I opened my luggage back home. I had brought back a little bit of India with me! A few washes later, it fortunately still smells of sandalwood! Ahhh divine!
J for Jaipur
Ah the beautiful pink city! Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, the largest city in the largest state in India. It was founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1727. He built the City Palace, Jantar Mantar and most of Nahargarh Fort, all of which are a must-visit while in Jaipur. Jaipur also boasts a world-reknown beauty, Princess Gayatri Devi, who was once named by Vogue as one of the “World’s 10 Most Beautiful Women”.
K for Kulfi
Kulfi, as ice-cream is known in India, comes in a variety of flavours with an Indian touch, such as cream, mango, pistachio, cardamom and saffron. We found a roadside stall in Delhi selling kulfi that had long queues every night. We resisted the first two nights, as we fervently followed the ‘travelling around India’ rule-of-thumb that forbids eating at roadside stalls, especially if the food is not hot. We also noticed that the seller dunked vermicelli on the kulfi with his bare hand and accepted money with the same hand. No way we were going to eat that! Then on our last night in Delhi, and India, we caved in after seeing the long queues yet again. We reasoned it would be okay if we fell sick as we would be on our way back from India anyway…So we had kulfi after all! I must say I much prefer Haagen Dazs, but kulfi has quite a distinctive taste that you don’t get from off-the-shelf brands.
L for Lorry
Indian lorries are so colourful and reflect the personality of India both literally and figuratively! The top of the windscreen is painted colourfully, displaying the name of the truck company. The lorry’s grille guard is also painted with rings of colours. Some lorries have ribbons and all kinds of charms dangling from the side mirrors. They are quite an interesting sight compared to the lorries we are used to in other countries: nondescript and impersonal.
M for Mahatma
India gave us Mahatma Gandhi. This is the man who showed us we can fight violence with non-violence and hatred with love; the man who showed us that it is possible to go against the grain of our natural inclination to attack when attacked and yet emerge victorious. I felt blessed to visit the Smriti where he spent his last 144 days and was assassinated. Note that the Smriti is an entirely different place to the Memorial. By the way, did you know Gandhi was ambidextrous?
N for Norm (the lack of)
India is full of surprises and will challenge your perception of what you consider to be the norm. Safety measures are ignored like there is no tomorrow, literally! In fact, I don’t think I’d live so carelessly on my last day on Earth, even if I knew it was my last day! I saw way too many people hanging out of trucks and autos, up to three people riding pillion on a single motorbike, vehicles driving on the wrong side of the road…you name it! I also saw an auto performing a u-turn on the approach to the roundabout. He did not go round the roundabout, he made a u-turn by going in the opposite direction!
Whatever would these people think of the kind of road rules enforced elsewhere? Probably draconian! But who knows how our ancestors behaved when roads were newly paved in front of their doorstep? Maybe with the same frustration that the roads don’t necessarily take them from A to B in the shortest possible route. Why go along x and y when you can manoeuvre via z? (think Pythagoras)
O for Omelette
I had the best omelette every morning for breakfast while staying at the Colonel’s Retreat in Delhi, which by the way is the nicest, cosiest, family-run B&B. It was fried with red and green peppers as well as some herbs – which I couldn’t quite work out – but it was lovely! There was also some home-made banana cake every day and it was yummy! I’d highly recommend this place if you’re staying in Delhi.
P for Poverty
Be prepared. Poverty is all around you. If you are not used to seeing beggars and people living off the streets you may be disturbed by what you see. Indians, however, go about their daily routine without feeling disturbed by what they see. I read somewhere that seeing distressing images daily, like hardcore poverty, catastrophe and war may eventually desensitise you to others’ suffering. Maybe that’s what has happened to them; at least that is the theory behind why big Indian companies are not forthcoming with their social projects and donations.
Q for Qutub Minar
Qutub Minar is located in Delhi, India. It is the highest tower in India and the tallest brick minaret in the world. The first Muslim ruler of Delhi, Qutb-ud-din-Aibak, was inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan and commenced construction of this tower. It is not essential that you visit this site while in Delhi, but if you’ve got a few days to spare, why not.
R for Rickshaw
You have to go on a rickshaw ride in India. Don’t let the sight of a tattered rickshaw discourage you, like it did me at first, as it’s one of the best ways to see parts of India. We went twice on a rickshaw ride, at Chandni Chowk and in Varanasi. The best way to Chandni Chowk is without a doubt on a rickshaw. The rickshaw driver pedalled along passing the spice market, the tea stalls, sari shops and jewellery shops while I snapped away with my camera like there was no tomorrow! In Varanasi, we ended up taking the rickshaw as they had closed down one of the main routes to our hotel for road works, and only rickshaws could go through. I passed very close to a funeral procession and felt quite disturbed by it. You see, in India they don’t use coffins; dead bodies are just wrapped in white cloth and placed on a stretcher. So death suddenly felt very tangible to me!
S for Sarnath
About 13 kilometres north-east of Varanasi lies Sarnath, a garden where Buddha gave his first sermon to his friends after his enlightenment. Legend has it that Buddha’s friends immediately knew upon seeing him, that he had achieved enlightenment, for his face glowed with an aura of wisdom and bliss. It felt surreal setting foot on a land where a spiritual leader with a worldwide following had set foot thousands of years ago; hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus or Muhammad.
T for Taj Mahal
How can I not include an entry on Taj Mahal when I’m talking about India! The Taj Mahal looks even more resplendent when you are standing right in front of it. The jewels on the Taj Mahal gleamed in the morning sunlight and the whole structure was bathed in muted pink. Some interesting facts I learn about the Taj Mahal: the four minarets were built leaning outward so that if they fell in the event of an earthquake they would fall away from the base. The quran verses bordering the entrance were designed such that they would look evenly spaced from afar. The water pools and garden fronting the Taj Mahal are meant to be a replica of paradise.
U for Uncle
In Indian culture, you don’t call anyone older than you by name. So, any elderly man is ‘Uncle’ and elderly woman, ‘Aunty’. I can’t guarantee any special treatment, but our guide in Varanasi, whom we called ‘Uncle’ bought us some Indian sweets before sending us off.
V for Varanasi
Varanasi, commonly known as Benares, lies in Uttar Pradesh in India. It is one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world and probably the oldest in India. Places of interest include, apart from the ghats itself, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Benares University, the Bharat Mata temple and of course, Sarnath. A sunrise boat ride is a must, for you will see the place gradually come alive with pilgrims, human laundromats or dobi, sadhus and priests.
W for Water
India is one of those places where you probably get as much, if not more, “don’t” advice than “do”s when you tell friends about your holiday plans. One of the things people never fail to tell you is to not drink tap or boiled water while there as it can make you ill. Some friends went to the extreme of telling us not to even brush our teeth with tap water, which we found a bit odd, but decided to follow without giving it much thought. I think it was a week gone in India when I was lost in thought while taking a shower, and accidentally caught shower water in my mouth. As soon as I had done it, the warning from friends flashed before me and I spat out the water. I spent the next day being paranoid that I was going to fall sick…I kept thinking about the Sex and the City movie scene where Charlotte did the same thing, but in Mexico, and had a bad case of diarrhoea! Thankfully I did not. I didn’t even tell my husband in case I jinxed myself, but decided to brush my teeth with tap water from then onwards. A good few days later, when I felt confident “my experiment” wasn’t going to fail me, I finally told him! It’s a lesson that you shouldn’t be too paranoid!
X for X-ray
The Indian government requires you to bring along a copy of your chest x-ray when you’re flying to Delhi. This is a way to screen out tourists who have contracted TB. Just joking…there is no such thing! What else was I going to write for ‘X’?
Y for Yoga
I’m afraid I did no such thing in India. My holidays are of gastronomy and gluttony…so there is no place for anything remotely healthy! 🙂 However, we went to Lodhi Garden in Delhi one evening and saw a human pretzel there! I’m serious! There was a man who was practising yoga at the park and he was in a position I never knew was humanly possible! He was at least in his 50s! Needless to say he put me to shame as, although I’m quite slim, I am not the least bit agile or flexible.
Z for Zoot
Zoot? There’s no such word…or is there? I’ve just remembered there was quite a clever HTC Pulse ad on tv in India. It starts with two guys playing scrabble and one of them making the word ‘zoot’. The other guys says there’s no such word but they stop the game, to be continued another day. In the mean time, the guy who played ‘zoot’ uses his HTC mobile to popularise the word and get it included in the dictionary!
The Notting Hill Carnival in London is the largest festival celebration of its kind in Europe. It has been held every August bank holiday since 1966, initially set up on a small scale by the West Indian community and latterly transforming itself to a full blown Caribbean carnival.
The carnival is one of the most vibrant in London, with colourful parades, booming music and swaying hips lining the streets of West London. It is a haven for budding photographers like me, as it provides an opportunity to capture the vivid colours, the people in grand costumes and the street celebrations that are the next best thing to the Rio De Janeiro Carnival …all at my very own backyard.
Being there amidst the crowds, I was transported back to my teenage years of witnessing the processions during Thaipusam, a Hindu festival that is celebrated every year by Hindus. It is characterised by the same vibrant colours, loud music, street dancing and food; but the difference lies in the fact that Thaipusam is a religious festival whereas the carnival is a cultural celebration.
It was quite amusing to note that not much has changed in the way I experience these processions in all these years. (I reckon that’s a good thing, because it means I’m still young at heart!) 😉 My disdain still exists for loud, booming music. I had to cover my ears when the lorries went past us, playing music so loud I bet they set new thresholds in the decibel scale. Back then, my cousins and I used to be surreptitiously on the lookout for cute guys (surreptitious because our parents used to be standing right next to us!), this time round my friend and I were (openly) eyeing well-sculpted, bare-chested men taking part in the processions! I still have a thing for roadside stalls, as there is something about munching while walking and having unlimited food supply every 100 metres! Sweet desserts used to dominate my palate during Thaipusam while it was sugar cane at the recent carnival. Back then we would religiously end our Thaipusam walkabout at the temple, whereas this time I ended our carnival walkabout after religiously taking some photos!
Here are some photos I took at the carnival.
“What kind of a person are you?” I’m sure you have come across many personality tests that aim to decipher the kind of person you are by asking a few questions and assessing your personality based on the answers you give.
Well, I’ve got one for you. But unlike all those long-winded personality tests, this one is simple…very simple, trust me! All I ask is “What kind of person are you?” Now pick your answer from the 13 choices below, then read further below to find out what it means to be the person you think you are. You can pick more than one answer, I don’t mind, as long as you don’t peek at the answers first. Good luck!
And here are the answers…prepare to be baffled…
1. Shy – One who farts, then blushes.
2. Proud – One who only likes the smell of his/her own fart.
3. Amiable – One who likes the smell of everyone’s fart.
4. Intellectual – One who can determine the smell of his/her neighbour’s dog’s fart.
5. Impudent – One who farts, then laughs out loud.
6. Sensitive – One who farts, then starts crying.
7. Unfortunate – One who tries to fart but shits instead.
8. Dishonest – One who farts, then blames the dog.
9. Grateful – One who farts, then thanks God for being able to.
10. Sadistic – One who farts under the duvet, then covers his/her partner with it.
11. Righteous – One who farts, then gives a medical reason for it.
12. Honest – One who farts, then owns up to it before even anyone can smell it.
13. Clever – One who conceals his/her fart by laughing loudly when farting.
Hello reader! See the photo and caption above? Did it inspire you? Invoke tenderness? Did it provoke your thoughts: Who is that duck? What was it doing near the pond? What was going through its duck-mind? Did you laugh out loud when you read the caption? Did you feel envy, wishing that you could come up with catchy captions like that for your photos? I can picture you, dear reader, nodding your head while reading this…I can. For I know I’ve snapped a photo, no, caught a moment, that might even make Steve Bloom do a double-take on this photo! *cough*
So imagine my shock, horror, bewilderment, when this very photo I submitted to the UKTV Eden photo competition for 2011 did not make it through the shortlist. Have you heard of such travesty? I know, it’s ridiculous! Well, let me take you through the kind of photos that made it through the shortlist, then you can check out the link if you want and cringe at the sheer injustice of it all.
The winner: A shot of a thistledown against the sunset.
I can almost hear you click your tongue in disapproval. Who shoots thistledown? (and gets a prize for that?!) Someone who can’t venture out further than their back garden? Tch! Where I come from, you probably use Roundup on it!
Second photo: King Penguins in Antarctica
If you had to choose, you’d probably go for this between the two. But compared to my photo, what is so special about this? Thousands of penguins just standing and looking at each other for lack of anything to do in the Antarctica. You know what…I think the photographer won this out of sympathy. I bet the blurb in his/her submission says he/she lost a finger from frostbite in the Antarctica…yada yada…
Third photo: Dolphin in the sea
This is going to be the last one I explain. I can’t take it anymore. I seriously hope this photo didn’t win third place. You can see a hint of a dolphin from the surface of the water. It’s so bad, I can’t even find anything to say other than it’s so bad!
Next year, I’m not going to bother with amateur photo competitions (you don’t want to win those, anyway). I’m going to target the Big Boys worthy of my photos: National Geographic. *cough*