Monday, November 30, 2009

The Banana Leaf, The Alchemist and The Yellow Tree......

Yesterday, was a very interesting day.

We had our aunt, uncle and cousin over transiting from Goa back to their home in London. John, my cousin, wanted to have some dosas, so decided to take them for lunch to the Banana Leaf restaurant. At this restaurant, you get served literally on a banana leaf and the food, though vegetarian, is simply mouth watering. It is authentic South Indian food and honestly, one wants to order the entire menu.

My uncle had a thali which had at least 10 little servings of various different curries and vegetables. I think it was a good choice as you get to taste a little of everything. John of course ordered a special dosa and the rest of us had neer dosa and appams with vegetable stew, a South Indian Bhindi (okra) preparation and a dish called Pulissery which was made from mango, red pumpkin and drumsticks. We had some great buttermilk to wash it all down!

Later in the evening, my friends and I went to watch a play which was an adaptation of Paulo Coelho's book The Alchemist. It was extremely well done and did the book justice. I had quite forgotten most of the details of the book as I had read it quite a while ago. Watching the play brought back all the memories and the various important lessons that are communicated through the story.

When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure. You've got to find the treasure, so that everything you have learned along the way can make sense.

The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity.

The future belongs to God, and it is only he who reveals it, under extraordinary circumstances.

Life attracts life.

One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.

Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the Soul of the World, and it will one day return there.

People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don't deserve them, or that they'll be unable to achieve them.

Every search begins with beginner's luck and ends with the victor's being severely tested.

Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.

When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.

Post the play, we went out for dinner to one of the new restaurants in Bandra called the Yellow Tree. It is a small but cute place that serves continental cuisine. I must admit that whatever we ordered - lemon pepper prawns, prawn risotto, Bishop's weed chicken, grilled chicken and a ceasar's salad were all great. The desserts - apple pie and a bitter chocolate and apricot mousse were to die for.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dubai - Desert Safari and the Air Show

Just returned from a quick trip to Dubai. I had been to Delhi for the India-Netherlands bilateral negotiations last week and decided to proceed to Dubai for the weekend so that I could attend the Air Show which is held once every 2 years.

I almost did not make the flight as it was absolutely full. But managed to get on at the last moment! Anyway, as usual the flight was delayed and so got into Dubai at 3 am. Now, this trip to Dubai was after 9 years and for the first time did not have my uncle Angelo pick me up from the airport. So I had to figure out the visa process myself. Apparently, even if you have a paper visa, you need to get an eye scan done before you get to the immigration counters. Thank goodness they had a special line for ladies, cos at 3 am I definitely did not want to waste any more time getting to bed!!

After collecting my bags, got to the taxi queue. Now in DXB, there are different rates for big taxis and small ones and ladie's taxis, etc. So be sure to take a small taxi. Finally was in my bed at the Novotel by 4 am.

I had planned to go on a seaplane ride over Dubai in the morning but unfortunately, all charter flights were cancelled due to the air show. So instead, had a leisurely breakfast and then walked across to the Deira City Centre Mall which was right opposite the hotel. Dubai is truly an artificial city where the highlight of one's day is visiting the Malls!! Looked around but did not find anything spectacular to buy. So just got done with my usual chocolate shopping.

Then went to the Meridien village and had lunch with a dear friend of mine. The soup of the day was cauliflower soup (but it was okay). Got back to the hotel and rested for a while. And then was picked up at 1530 hrs for the desert safari.

Oh, the desert safari is definitely a "must-do" on anyone's list. I had a great time and made some cool friends with a French group. There was an hour of dune bashing in a 4 wheel drive. One of the French girls, Raima, fell car sick and we had to stop a couple of times so that she could recover. Anyway it was truly adrenaline pumping and our driver Sheroo (of course an Indian!) was excellent. He actually trains other people to "dune bash".

Then we took some amazing pics of the sunset.

We went to a campsite for dinner and entertainment. There was a delicious buffet and BBQ. There were also other activities like henna tattoos (like the one below), sheesha and belly dancing. Overall, we had a great time.

The next day, I went to the Air Show. Met some friends of mine (Wendy and Sarah) and walked around the various aircraft displays - general aviation as well as military. Finally watched some amazing aerial acrobatics.

The trip was short and sweet and thoroughly exciting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today was a busy and unusual day.

First of all, it is Ron's birthday today and we had planned a surprise dinner for him. However due to a few operational issues, the dinner plans were cancelled and we ended up ordering biryani in the office.

Then the entire day we had reports of the cyclone warning in Bombay. People were panicking, wanting to shut shop early and head for home. Guess what? The cyclone Phyan bypassed Bombay completely! Am glad 'cos tomorrow have to take an early morning flight to Delhi and did not want to get caught up in the rain and storm.

The afternoon and evening was spent watching the media concoct stories about our incident yesterday. It is amazing that we put up with so much of misinformation and speculation which is dished out as factual evidence and expert opinion. Anyway am glad we took a tough stand and stated our side of the story. Hope it makes a difference.

Overall, it was a day that turned out completely different from what had been planned. Very important to go with the flow............Looking forward to the next few days, especially the weekend.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Driving in Bombay

I learnt to drive 3 years ago. Though of course, like most Indians, I have possessed a driving licence for the last 14 years!!! Today, driving back in heavy traffic coupled with unseasonal rainstorms, I was thinking about my learning experience in the skill of driving.

When I used to teach Human Factors, we did a topic on the various stages of learning and the conscious competence learning model. I thought it very relevant when I was reminiscing on my "learning to drive" experience.

The first stage in learning any skill is "Unconscious Incompetence".  The person is not aware of the existence or relevance of the skill area. It was in this stage that I took upon myself to learn the all important skill of driving a car. :) And just so that it would not remain a "paper licence", I actually bought a car so that I could practice this skill and improve on it.

The second stage is "Conscious Incompetence". The person becomes aware of the existence and relevance of the skill. This is the funny part. I would get so stressed out, trying to concentrate on driving on the Bombay roads what with cattle and people sharing the road space, autorickshaws driving like maniacs and trying to avoid the many potholes. This stress would be magnified during the monsoons when other automobiles failed to switch on their headlights in poor visibility conditions. Poor me, I would refuse to even have a conversation with my fellow passengers if I was driving!!

The third stage is "Conscious Competence". The person achieves this when they can perform it reliably at will and can perform it without assistance. So after making the effort of driving daily to work, I slowly became proficient. However I still worried when parking, getting stuck in traffic on slopes, reversing and of course night driving in heavy rain.

The fourth stage is "Unconscious Competence". The skill becomes so practised that it enters the unconscious parts of the brain - it becomes 'second nature'. Now I have reached a stage where I can drive quite comfortably, whilst negotiating the traffic, listening to music as well as having a conversation and all the time avoiding the cattle, people, potholes and the mad autorickshaw drivers! I even drove from Bombay to Pune on the Expressway!

I truly enjoy driving and I wonder why I did not take it up sooner. Just one of those things where the stumbling blocks are in the mind and if you truly wish, you can overcome.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I love to travel.

I truly believe that each journey is an experience, an opportunity to get to know yourself, an education, an eye opener and last but not least a source of your memories.

My aim in life was to join the airlines so that I could travel. And what a journey it has been! In the bargain I actually love my work and it, in turn enthuses and motivates me because it gives me the chance to travel.

I suffer from constantly plotting and planning my next trip. Or helping others plan theirs. For me, it is the planning process which is half the fun. Right now there are so many half planned trips in mind and I do hope am able to undertake them.

Some of my recent trips:
Jordan - where I visited the beautiful rose red city of Petra, the ancient Roman city of Jerash, the religious places of Madaba, Baptism Site and Mt. Nebo and of course the capital Ammam. Best of all, I did the trip with my friend Marissa. It was the first time we undertook a trip together and we had a great time.

Hampton Court Palace - On my last trip to London, I had some free time between my meeting and the flight back and decided to use the time to visit the Hampton Court Palace. Oh it was a great decision. I had read so much about it and to actually see it in person was just great.

Beijing - Had a great time doing the sights (The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven, The Summer Palace) and hanging out with various friends.
Hampi - The ancient city of Hampi has been on my list of places to visit for the last 10 years. It was simply outstanding despite the difficulties in getting there.

Amritsar - Another of those places on my list. The entire experience - the temple, the Jallianwala Baug, the langar and the Wagah border ceremony was truly memorable.

Goa - 3 trips in the space of a month, for various reasons. One on work with colleagues, one with family and the last by myself. Each one different and equally memorable.

Some of the trips coming up:
Dubai - for the air show
Ajanta and Ellora
Halleebid and Belur
The Cologne Christmas Market

So watch this space............................................

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tourism in India.................frustrating

I am planning a trip to Dholavira at the end of this month. Guess what? Can't find any information on suitable accommodation available. Everything points to Bhuj which is almost 5 hours away by road.

Dholavira was declared one of the 7 wonders of India by NDTV quite some time ago, yet there is no tourist facilities!! Our country has a lot to offer - History, culture, nature, etc but lack of infrastructure is a major constraint.

It is easier to plan a trip to Eastern Europe or Peru than to plan one in India. The Government truly has a long way to go before one can say a holiday in India is "hassle-free".

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Today was one of those dull days at work..........and then received a forward which was uplifting.

Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life.
Not all is over if we have the faith.......keep moving, keep kicking and then there will only be one direction to move.....FORWARD!!

Watch this video, it is awesome and inspiring.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In Pursuit of Happiness……………………….

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is one of the most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence. These three aspects are listed among the "unalienable rights" of man.

Today I received a magazine whose theme for the month was “Happiness – a pretty bubble or a way of life?”

That got me thinking. Did I want to tackle a subject that is so vast, so complex (yet so simple), so philosophical (yet so relevant)? And I said, “Yes, why not?”

Taken at Keukenhof, The Netherlands, May 2008

What is it?

Happiness is a state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy. – Wikipedia

Happiness means different things to different people. In our stressful, chaotic and rushed everyday life, we tend to overlook the things that truly make us happy and instead concentrate on what we don’t have, what others have and what makes others happy!

Where do you find it?

I truly believe that you can find happiness only within yourself. You have to find your inner peace and joy and that will in turn translate to the exterior. In order to do that, you have to learn to “accept”, “forget and forgive” and “be content”. Wise words (I know) but truly with small steps, one can incorporate these into one’s life and only then will you be the source of happiness and joy to others around you. And furthermore, it is in giving and sharing that you truly realize happiness. Test it out – Do a good deed for someone, check the smile on their face, now observe your own reaction………………

We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it. – George Bernard Shaw

What makes you happy?

Happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember.Oscar Levant (Author)

"Happiness seems less a matter of getting what you want than of how you feel about what you have." - David G. Myers PhD, Professor of Psychology at Hope College in Holland Michigan

Some of the things that make me happy….

- Being alive.
- Spending time with my family.
- Planning another trip.
- Playing with children (they are so innocent).
- Baking.
- My Thursday Club.
- Eating good food.
- Giving stuff away.
- Seeing a beautiful place.
- Flowers.
- And the many things that make life worth living.

The Planten und Bloomen, Hamburg, May 2006

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chocolate Cake

Time does fly real has been 5 years since I last baked a cake! Truly! And I had honestly forgotten the pleasure that I take in baking and then when everyone appreciates my efforts.

My chocolate cake recipe never lets me down. So for those of you interested in the recipe.............

5 medium sized eggs
175 gms of Flour
50 gms of Cocoa powder
220 gms Margarine / Butter
250 gms Powdered sugar
40 ml Milk
1/2 tsp Soda bi-carb
1 tsp Baking Powder
5 ml Vanilla Essence
15 ml Honey / Golden Syrup

For the sauce:
Melt dark chocolate over a pan of simmering water. When completely melted add some fresh cream. The consistency will be based on personal preferences i.e more chocolate or more cream!!

Whisk the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs. Add the milk, vanilla essence and honey. Fold in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.

Grease the baking dish and then pour in the cake batter. Bake in the oven till it is nicely done. Once cooled, pour the chocolate sauce over it. Enjoy!


Gosh, I can't believe that it is already November! Where has the time flown? Anyway just thought to pen a few thoughts that "November" evokes.

It is the 11th Month of the year (Gregorian calendar).
One of the months that has 30 days in it (one less day to work!).
Apparently gets its name from the Latin word Novem. (January and February were added to the Roman calendar later.)
Onset of winter.
One more month to go before the end of the year.
Christmas is around the corner.
My cousin Maryann's birthday. (Hope I remember to wish.)
Children's Day on 14 Nov.
Guns N Roses - November Rain
"Sweet November" - the movie with Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron
Diwali (if it is not in October :-) )

This picture was taken 2 Novembers ago in Canada at the Niagara Falls.

"November always seemed to me the Norway of the year."
- Emily Dickinson

"November's sky is chill and drear,
November's leaf is red and sear."
- Sir Walter Scott

Would love to know what November means to you.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Positive Energy

The TOI on Sunday carried an intriguing article in the Speaking Tree column. It was titled "Packets of Thoughts, Full of Energy" and is an extract from the book "Let the Power be with you" by Shivi Dua.

Each thought is a prayer and every prayer is answered. So, watch your thoughts. Each thought creates certain vibrations in and around us thereby reaching the Omnipresent naturally. Each prayer is answered as soon as it is heard and each prayer is heard as soon as it is said. The effort that we do need to make, however, is in ensuring that all our thoughts are positive so that our prayers do not keep cancelling each other's effects.

Interesting. I am a firm believer of the power of positive energy and positive thinking. There are just too many instances in life to recount here. But be aware that when you consciously start thinking positively, you will be able to witness the incredible.

Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

Bikram Hot Yoga

It's been six months since I have been practising Bikram Hot Yoga. For those who are not familiar you may check out the below links.

In short it is a combination of Hatha and Raja yoga. Bikram's class consists of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises practiced in a room heated to 40 degrees Celsius. This entire sequence is completed in an hour and a half.

I must admit that this is one of the toughest things that I have ever done. Some days I love it and some days I hate it. There are times when I look forward to the class and there are days when I am just happy to skip. But the benefits have been focus, discipline, calm, stamina, youthful skin and the ability to maintain my weight.

Tomorrow they start a 30 day Bikram yoga challenge, i.e. 30 classes in 30 days. I cannot officially take up this challenge as I will be travelling during this month. But to make up for it, I have my own challenge - to attend the class for every single day that I am in town. And I am counting on you my friends to motivate and encourage me on.