Life is indeed beautiful

While we crib and whine about unimportant things in life, which, might not even matter the next day, those are the times I truly hope (for myself as well) that I am reminded of the movie Life is Beautiful. It is a 1997 Italian film directed by Roberto Benigni that won him the Oscar in the Foreign Film category. Since then, the director hasn’t been able to make anything memorable as such. The movie is sensitive, emotional, strong on characters and will make you cry towards the end.

******spoiler ahead******

life-is-beautifulThe story rides on the shoulders of the director who is also the lead in the film, Roberto Benigni, who is portrayed as a Jew by the name of Guido and dreams of starting his own bookstore in a country that discriminates against the Jews in the pre Second world war time. He works as a waiter in a restaurant where he loves playing riddles with a doctor appointed with the German concentration camp. Guido falls in love with an Italian teacher Dora (played by Nicoletta Braschi), who he meets at several occassions and tries to woo her every single time with his antics. Dora finally gives in to Guido’s affection and they get married and eventually have a beautiful son Giosue. When the World War II breaks out, Guido, his uncle Eliseo and son are captured by German army to be sent off to a concentration camp. His wife, Dora, although not originally a Jew volunteers to go to the camp too, just so she can stay close to her family.

As an audience, you’ll expect that the movie will take a serious turn and there will be blood, gore and all sorts of unpleasant things, but Roberto gave the series of events such an interesting treatment that it wouldn’t be non-violent visually, yet it will break your heart. Like everyone would know how old people and children were gassed in chambers under the pretence of a hot shower, Guido’s son Eliseo escapes the holocaust every single time as he hates taking bath and on other occasions Guido convinces him to stay hidden under the garb of projecting the concentration camp as a game and the one who manages to stay alive until the end wins a tank. He chooses to hide their true situation from Eliseo so as to not affect him mentally. There will be times in the movie when his son is unconvinced by Guido but Guido manages to get him along every single time.

As the war comes to an end, Dora and Eliseo are united after Guido loses his life in order to ensure their safety. Guido in all respects, fulfils his promise to his son who gets to ride on an American tank that he assumes he has won as a prize. It is only years later that his son realises the sacrifice his father made for him and his mother. More than them, it is the sacrifice for your loved ones. The love that is pure, selfless and unconditional. I was weeping profusely by the end of it, merely by the performances and the narrative. Even as I am writing this (although it’s been a really long time that I watched the film), I can feel the exact emotion I felt when I watched it for the first time.

One of my favourite movies of all time.

 

The city to be: Udaipur

From someone who hasn’t visited Udaipur even once all her life to being who has been to Udaipur almost thrice in the last five months, Udaipur has become one of the places where I can just be. For someone, who has the option of going to Goa due to its proximity to Bombay, Udaipur has definitely become one of the places where I can simply relax and lay back.
My first time was during New Year’s Eve when I wanted to escape the maddening chaos of Mumbai and enjoy the weather at its best. Contrary to what I imagined Udaipur wasn’t cold at all (it was almost 30 degrees) but it definitely was a pleasant experience.

I stayed at a hostel called Bunkyard which is perhaps the best hostel I’ve stayed so far. It had just opened in December and I was one of their initial guests. From being centrally located to extending the best service and hospitality, Bunkyard felt absolutely like home! Also my interaction with people from different countries over evening tea that Bunkyard organises everyday over sunset was something different and to look forward for.

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Sunset view of Udaipur from Bunkyard

Inside Bunkyard there’s this long curtain kind of hanging depicting flags of countries from where people have visited since the time it opened, which I thought was quite cool.


As far as places to visit are concerned, following places will be among my recommendations:
– City palace: it’s interesting to simply visit the huge palace for its grandeur and history.


– Bagore Ki Haveli: my best pick cause I enjoyed this puppet and dance show by cultural troupes of Rajasthan thoroughly and it takes place everyday between 7-8 PM and 8-9 pm. You have to go there in the evening between 5 pm- 6 pm to book tickets. Since, I wasn’t aware of this and went there only before the show, I managed to find a standing place in the end.

– Grasswood cafe: the best cafe I explored during my stay. The cafe is managed by an Indian couple who serve great brewed coffee and an amazing range of breakfast. And more than that the fact that the owner himself cooks everything fresh, the wait for the food is completely worth it. A must visit cafe.

– Jheel Ginger cafe: another interesting cafe in the lane next to Grasswood, Jheel Ginger cafe is located right next to the lake that makes it a place to spend some serene lone time by yourself. They also have pretty amazing coffee and some small bites. But if you wish to sit and read or spend good time with your loved one, this is the place to be. The view of the lake from Ginger cafe is gorgeous.


– Savage Garden: another interesting cafe run by an Italian expat is pretty looking and the food was good too. A lot of foreigners frequent this place and it has been one of the top rated cafes in Udaipur. I ordered for a mushroom Ravioli and it was yum as hell. Haven’t eaten such a good ravioli in ages. For a beautiful blue surrounding and some great Italian food, this is a must visit place.

 

-Ayurvedic massage: yes you read it right. Udaipur is full of lanes luring tourists for a relaxing Ayurvedic massage. I bargained for a reasonable price and had the best one hour of the time the masseuse had to offer.

Udaipur is a shoppers paradise. The place has lanes full of tiny shops selling stoles, sarees that have the famous Rajasthani Bandhej print on them, kurtas, salwar, bags made of camel leather. You have to be smart enough to bargain or else you might end up getting duped.

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If you are looking for a budget friendly travel, then my itinerary might come handy but if you are also looking at a lavish stay away from hustle bustle of the city for a relaxing getaway, you can check out Ramada hotel which is a little on the outskirts of the city (about 10 mins by road). It is a lovely, secluded property where you can have private time with your loved ones.

A place that I missed going during my three trips is Sajjangarh Fort (also known as Monsoon Palace) located on the top of a hill. It is a place one must visit to witness a beautiful sunset. There are these private vans that leave from the city palace everyday or if you are one of the adventurous kinds then you could hire a bike and trek all the way up.

Go,plan your Udaipur visit today. It is definitely worth a visit.

All images ©Kainat27

The Goan Holiday

Goa is synonymous with Las Vegas for Indians and it stands true to that identity since Goa is all about letting the fun side of you have an unimaginable time. I have been to Goa several times in the last few years, for both work and vacation in equal ratio. Most of the times, it has always been about visiting the same old stereotypical locations that almost every second tourist flocks to which kind of sickened me and I had started to despise the fact of visiting Goa for vacation fearing the crazy crowd. Until, this time when I had to visit Goa yet another time for work and was extending the trip by a couple of days cause I simply needed a break.

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The view from Marriott Goa

And I couldn’t have asked for a better holiday. I had gone to attend a film market as part of my work and was staying in the heart of Panjim near the casino hub. I have always wanted to visit a casino bar and during all my visits, I have never managed to. I stayed in a hostel called Zostel in Calangute. It is situated in a small unidentifiable corner of Calangute, not too far from the beach and just the perfect place in case you are looking for solitude and privacy. Zostel hosts backpackers from all over the world and is a great place for people to network and bond on the go. I have never stayed in a hostel before cause hygiene and clean surroundings is a big concern for me. But this was quite a surprise considering it has started only 2 months ago, this place is already giving other places a run for their money. But one thing the owners of the place are clear about is that Zostel is not meant for tourists, it is meant for backpackers and solo travellers who are looking at bonding with other people and having an experience. You got to try the place in order to believe me.

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Zostel, Goa

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The people at Zostel had told me that there were a couple of French cafes around Anjuna and they are a must try so the next day, I was at this quaint little cafe Artjuna which is hard to miss if you are speeding on your bike. It is one of those places where you can just chill and relax the entire day while gorging on yummy coffee and French croissant and hummus. Another cafe I went to was Baba AhRhum, the name feels completely Yogic but trust me once you reach there, you will fall in love with the place for what it is: the space, the decor, the food, surrounding and the feel. The cafe is run by a French couple who manage the entire chore of the place. It is a must visit if you are looking for some lone time and good food. Their speciality is croissant, crostinis and bagels.

Entrance of Artjuna

Entrance of Artjuna

Hummus platter at Artjuna

Hummus platter at Artjuna

 

 

 

 

 

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Baba AhRhum

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Baba Ganoush

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Chocolate Croissant at Baba AhRhum

Library in Artjuna

Library in Artjuna

 

After all the hogging, it was time to go to the beach and enjoy the cold waves by the feet. I chose the rarely frequented Morjim beach and Hard Rock Cafe was my go-to-shack. The water wasn’t that clean but it was isolated and I thoroughly enjoyed playing in the water. This was duly followed by ice cold Kings beer.

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Morjim beach

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My next stop was Thalassa in Vagator. I can swear by all the Gods, living and dead that this is perhaps the best place one must visit in Goa if they want to enjoy the most prettiest sunset of their life. You got to book this place in advance to get the best table by the beach view. I spent some 3 hours at this place sipping on some great Chatet Rose wine and lots of yummy food with feta cheese that added to the flavour. While I was lost in the tranquil of the vast ocean in front of me with the sun casting different hues over its surface, lot of people around me were so busy capturing pictures on their phones that they were missing out on the real beauty of the place. If you are looking at a place to unwind, then this got to be it.

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Uninterrupted view at Thalassa

I was keen on visiting Ashvem beach too which is another quiet beach in Goa but couldn’t cause it was time to return home. All the places I went to were located far away from the chaos of the city which I think makes them alluring and special.

In 3 days, I experienced a Goa that I hadn’t before and it indeed is one of the best travel highlights of 2015.

 

All images ©Kainat27

 

My Mother

  Mumbai film festival or MAMI as it is fondly called is one of the most awaited festivals for movie loving Mumbaikars and all those who specially fly down to attend a series a well- curated films chosen from all over the world in different sections. Thanks to my commitment towards my regular job, I don’t really get to watch all the movies but I do try and watch some of the interesting international ones.

Today I got a chance to watch this beautiful French- Italian film Mia Madre (My Mother) directed by Nanni Moretti. It is about this film director Margharita who is shooting a social drama and going through the personal crisis of an ailing mother. This film portrays the confusion, frustration and a plethora of emotions felt by Margherita as she is trying to juggle between hospital and shoot. She is emotionally supported mostly by her brother Giovanni played by Nanni Moretti himself who has taken a sabbatical from work to tend to his mother. The film particularly traces Margherita’s initial discomfort and denial about her mother’s detiriorating health through the emotional and mental upheaval she goes through the process. I could feel her confusion, agony and pain throughout.

One of the entertaining characters in the film to look out for is John Turturro who will make you laugh with his antics throughout. He was extremely adorable to look at. What I really loved about this film is the way in which Nanni has portrayed the bond of a mother and daughter, the pain eventually death inflicts and no matter how much you deny, acceptance eventually comes about. The movie stirs emotions within you without making it look unrealistic. The plot was clean and crisp. Definitely worth a watch! Do catch it at MAMI if you can.
PS- the festival is until 5th November.

Europe Dream

Destination is never a big deal when travel is on cards. I can simply pack my bag and be ever ready for any sort of travel. And the journey only gets exciting when you are about to fulfill your Europe dream. Yes, I haven’t met a single person in my life who doesn’t harbour a Europe dream in their heart. The beauty and romance that lives in the atmosphere is yearned by all. There are times when certain places and people happen to you,  when you least expect them to. And that’s how my tryst with Europe happened. It all started with me having to attend the ‘Cannes Film Festival’ for a business trip, which got the excitement kicking and then at numerous occasions it got thwarted until I finally gave up and it really happened. I remember the jitters of excitement I had when I took off in the flight and the screen flashed the time to reach my destination- Paris!

I was there for about 10 days and explored Cannes, Nice, Monaco and Paris. I was in Cannes for about 6 days attended the world’s biggest film festival. Cannes is a beautiful village in South France and when I was there, the weather was pleasant and sunny. Although, I was told that it rains any time in Cannes but I did not experience anything like that throughout my stay. The place where I was staying was very close to the festival venue, in the proximity of Marriott. I had booked it through Airbnb. The first night I reached Cannes, I couldn’t sleep due to excitement and hence decided to walk by the waterfront and explore the nearby streets. Food is never a matter of concern, even when you’re travelling as a backpacker cause there are so many options by the streets- be it burger, fresh croissant or nutella crepe, yummy food options are available for a measly price of 2-3 euros. One food I fell in absolute love in Europe- croissant. I could eat it everyday. It was that fresh and tasty.

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Festival arena

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My next destination was Nice. It is only a half an hour train journey which cost me roughly about 10 euros.  Since I was in Nice only for a day as I had a train to Paris next morning, the only nearby town that I could explore was Monaco- Montecarlo, a village that appeared to be a film set, beautiful, delicate and enthralling. The day I went to Monaco, there was the Monaco Grand Prix and the town was kind of crowded but even then it was extremely pretty. There was this Prince’s Museum at the top of a hill which overlooked the entire Monaco harbour. There were these pretty little lanes that you usually find in movies with antique shops and painting exhibitions on the way. The best thing I love about Europe is the way the buildings and homes are constructed. The french windows and fresh flowers outside the window sills. I used to simply stand by and gaze at them.

Monaco harbour

Monaco harbour

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The pretty lanes of Monaco

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last destination and my favourite was Paris! The train journey from Nice to Paris was breathtaking, so to speak. Those 6 hours went by in a jiffy. All one can do is sit and admire the greenery, the magnificent mountains and the picturesque villages that pass by. In Paris, I booked a studio apartment again through Airbnb and it was very close to Charles de Gaulle train station. Eiffel Tower was just 20 minutes walking distance from the apartment. In fact, I got into the habit of walking a lot in Europe which I rarely get to continue in Bombay, considering the weather and space that our streets have to offer. There I could walk a good 15 kms everyday without even realizing cause the weather was so pleasant and the surroundings beautiful as hell.

There were so many tiny cafes and restaurant that I explored each one of them during every meal for the next 3 days I spent there. The first day I travelled in a metro in Paris, I was kind of lost since I couldn’t understand the station names that the operator pronounced. But once I got acquainted to the map and the routes which I had marked out on the map, my life became so much simpler. There are certain places which are accessible by metro, while for others, you need to change to train. Trust me, the maps are self explanatory.

I had to visit the Eiffel tower on the very same day I arrived in Paris, after all for me it is still one of the wonders of the world. It doesn’t look that charming from far but the moment you climb atop the humongous monument, you realize what a massive breathtaking view it has to offer of the entire Paris city. The day I went on top of the tower, it was extremely windy and cold. I couldn’t stay up for a long time but trust me it is one of the things you must experience in your life.

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Beauty by the night

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View from top floor of Eiffel tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louvre

Louvre

I didn’t feel the same for Louvre museum since I thought it was overrated thanks to the Mona Lisa painting. But it is a great place for students to study their history and culture from such proximity. I couldn’t shop much while I was there, although it is the world’s best fashion destination and also hell lot expensive at the same time. But Paris was a wonderful experience cause I travelled  outside India for the first time sans my folks. Although, the next time I go, I would like to visit more places and spend more time interacting with the locals but a solo trip is definitely liberating and a great life lesson in itself, especially when you miss your flight back to India with no money for food and water. But I came back with a horde full of memories to last me until the next time.

 

 

All images ©Kainat27

Tuesdays with Morrie

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I had heard quite a lot about this Mitch Albom novel since I was in college but somehow could never lay my hands on it. Finally, I managed to finish the book last weekend and I am so glad that I did. Some things just got a timing and this was mine with Professor Morrie as he is about to enter the other side of world and makes everyone a part of his death journey, in a good way ofcourse.

There is no plot or drama in the book whatsoever. It is an old man’s death journey as he suffers through the terrible ALS disease but he is determined not to lose his mind as his body is losing every bit of life that is left in it. One of his old students gets to know of this and decides to meet the professor. What results is a series of meetings between the professor and the student every Tuesday until the last, where they discuss a myriad of topics concerning the very existence of human life. From talking about love, family, career, relationships and death, Morrie shares the basic wisdom of life and it is so heart-touching that you feel ashamed of being in an oblivion all the while. A sick, old man has to remind a healthy young man about the magic of human life and relationships; how it is extremely simple to maintain relationships and uphold the love, no matter who you are and where you are.

I was crying like a kid while reading the book cause it made me emotional about the weakening condition of Morrie and I was feeling sorry for not having to express to my loved ones so often. It is simple, beautiful and the most eternal feeling that you can experience ever. This book will stay with me for a while and once you read it, I hope it will with you too.

Beer hair! 

 I have heard a lot that beer does wonders to your hair but never really tried it due to my aversion to the residual smell that it might leave. But finally after reading experiences of people who have tried it and ways of getting rid off the smell, I tried beer for hair conditioning and bingo! It was one hell of an experience. 

To use beer as a hair conditioner, all you require is a beer bottle. 

-I went to a wine shop near my house and told him I want the lightest beer since I wanted to wash my hair with it. He gave me a bottle of London Pilsner.

  

-I uncorked the bottle once home and emptied it in a plastic bottle. 

– To get rid off the alcoholic beer smell, keep the bottle open overnight.

– After washing my hair with regular shampoo, I use some amount of the beer and wash my hair thoroughly with it and keep the shaft immersed in it for a while ( say for about 2 minutes)

– Let the beer get absorb in your hair cuticles and roots for a while and then wash it off.

– Just in case you feel the alcoholic smell is troubling you, use a bit of your regular conditioner. 

– And you are done.

You will notice that as you are rinsing off the beer, your hair feels soft and smooth to touch. After you have dried the hair, there is absolutely no beer smell left behind and you cannot stop running your fingers through your hair (atleast I couldn’t ;).

Go ahead and indulge your hair with some fresh cold beer. It’s absolute heaven. 

Erase

She rubbed her eraser hard, 

trying to erase the lines.

But, the creases remained,

for it had been deeply inscribed. 

No matter how hard she tried,

the faint yet vivid memories,

were to haunt her forever. 

#erase

Whiplash

whiplashThanks to the Oscar 2015 fever, this time I was determined to watch atleast all the films nominated in Best Picture category before the event, just to be updated with the presentations. And I was fairly upto the mark with all films ticked except Selma. Last night I happened to watch Whiplash and I couldn’t have been more impressed. Before watching the film, I just knew it was about this kid trying to make it big in drumming. But there is so much more that you learn as the movie comes to an end.

The kid, Andrew Neyman played by Miles Teller is learning jazz at the prestigious Shaffer Academy in New York. He is discovered by a senior conductor at the school, Terence Fletcher who selects Andrew, from among his peers to be a part of his studio band that goes on to compete at jazz competitions. Andrew is excited to have got the opportunity and eager to learn since he has always been interested in becoming a drummer from a young age. Fletcher, who is known for hurling abuses at his students during rehearsals, insults and almost beats up Neyman for disturbing the tempo of the band while practising a piece ‘Whiplash’. Facing public humiliation, Neyman is determined to prove himself to his teacher at any cost and puts in his blood and sweat (quite literally) to perfect the piece.

This leads to a series of events where Andrew gets the opportunity of performing at one of the competitions as a core drummer until Fletcher gets a competitor, Ryan to threaten his position.  During one of the competitions, Andrew gets late due to unavoidable circumstances- bus breaks down, the car he is driving meets with an accident, he forgets his drumsticks at the car rental store; cause of which Fletcher is about to replace him with Ryan. At one point, when Andrew has to rush back to the car rental store to fetch his drumsticks and eventually meets with an accident since he is speeding to reach the venue in time, I felt he is not going to make it cause he is bleeding profusely. But the kind of competent lad he is, he cannot let go even an opportunity like this to impress his teacher and makes it to the venue anyhow(which impressed me immensely), only to disappoint everyone as he is not in a condition to play the piece. Post the competition, Fletcher agonises him by rebuking ‘ He is done’, that leads to a on-stage scuffle between the two.

Andrew is expelled for his unsolicited behaviour and gives up drumming since he feels that he isn’t worthy of becoming like one of his inspiring legends Buddy Rich. On his father’s coercion, Andrew testifies a lawyer’s statement who is representing a suicide case of one of Fletcher’s students leading to Fletcher’s dismissal from the academy.

Andrew and Fletcher meet again at a club where Fletcher tells him that his ways might be different but he only wants to push his students beyond what is expected of them. It is an inspiring conversation between a teacher and a student, where the teacher thinks that the two words in English which are utterly harmful is ‘Good Job’ since that would always deter a student from giving his best. Fletcher invites Andrew to play at a concert in his band where the so-called art loving critics of New York are going to be present, avenging Andrew with a piece, sheets of which aren’t present with him while drumming. A humiliated Andrew gives it back by playing an impressive solo piece of Caravan on his drums and stuns Fletcher as well as the audience by the sheer brilliance of his scale. The performance was worth an encore; sharp, electric and spellbinding.

Watching Whiplash made me question some of the core exigencies of modesty. Cause, sometimes, we authorize a force to govern our life to such an unimaginable extent that we forget our own inner voice or gut instinct, so to say. In this case, Fletcher was the governing factor in Neyman’s life, so much so that Neyman gave up his dream of becoming a drummer on being expelled and failing at Fletcher’s expectations. During the entire movie, Neyman was struggling with his insecurities and a constant threat of proving himself to his teacher. He needed Fletcher’s validation to ascertain the talent he had cause otherwise there was no source of inspiration for him to struggle and excel. I am glad Neyman came back after almost giving up and won everyone’s hearts including that of Fletcher. But, shouldn’t there be a line where you decide when and how you give up rather than somebody else imposing failure on you?

I think there should be and this movie teaches you that in so many ways.