Tuesday, October 30, 2007

“Jab we met”: Journey with sizzling chemistry

-By Swetha Amit
Two strangers who couldn’t be more different from one another; an unexpected stumble; a train journey; cupid’s strike: such ingredients are not new for a Bollywood theme. In spite of its run on the mill components, 'Jab we met' depicts certain freshness and promises its viewers with a surety of fun on the run.

The film starts with a forlorn expression portrayed on Aditya Kashyap’s (Shahid Kapur) face, who is a rich industrialist nursing his wounds from a broken relationship and a troubled past. Little does he realize that a chance encounter with a stranger on a train would change his life forever? Geet (Kareena Kapoor) is a typical loud Punjabi girl who is on a mission to find her true love Anshuman. Chatting away to glory the effervescent Geet tries her level best to engage the surly Aditya into a conversation but in vain. The latter's initial feelings of annoyance and irritation gets gradually converted into amusement during further course of their queer journey.
A series of adventurous events begin thereon accompanied by crazy antics which cannot help but bring a smile on to the audiences’ faces. Whether it is flushing away Aditya’s ex flame, meeting Geet’s boisterous family, revealing and sharing secrets or a mistaken elopement to the lush green hills of Manali, the unusual escapades are numerous to count.

After escorting Geet to her destination, Aditya returns to his home town to revamp the mess in his personal and professional life after emerging as a new person. As days go by, destiny brings a circumstantial meeting between Aditya and Geet yet again. Accompanied with a complicated third angle, a turbulence of mixed emotions and a change of events ultimately bring a magical and fairy tale ending to this sizzling stumble.

Jab we met is a wholesome entertainer providing comic relief and a few touching moments as well. Kareena Kapoor steals the show with her thunderous performance as the vibrant and talkative Punjabi youngster. While Shahid Kapur makes his mark quietly with his subdued, suave and bespectacled performance. Director Imtiaz Ali does a good job by transporting us to the lovely locales of Punjab and Manali with never a dull moment in between. Music by Pritam is catchy with the popular track ‘Mauja hi Mauja’ creating a rage in the chartbusters. The chemistry between Shahid-Kareena is unmistakably evident here unlike in their earlier films.

A couple of scenes tend to score points with the viewers instantly. Such as the one where Kareena Abuses her ex lover, a la catharsis technique of venting out one’s frustrations to feel better. The same method recommended by her in the earlier half of the film to flush out skeletons of the past from Shahid’s life. These prove to be touching and funny simultaneously. Some of the train scenes however, remind one of Dilwale Dulhaniya le jaayenge.

This film is worth a watch for all age groups. It’s energetic, youthful and lively stance takes away the stale essence of the story being an old wine in a new bottle. Overall Jab we met guarantees a FUNtastic journey with elated joy, an emotional tinge along with a sizzling chemistry which tends to make the audience reminisce about “Jab they met” through this film.

Written for www.msn.co.in
Appeared as story of the day

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Entwined in a grapevine




-By Swetha Amit,October 17th,2007

http://www.domain-b.com/leisure/travel/20071017_entwined.html




There are very few places in India that can boast of having vineyards in their backyards and Nashik is one amongst them. Nashik has the prestige of being one of India's biggest grape wine producers and hence has acquired a new nom de guerre — the grape city.

Tucked away within 5-6 km from the city is the popular brand of 'Sula Wines' with vineyards spread over 335-acre land. We transported ourselves to this serene place situated on Gangapur road by a local cab. A 45-minute drive gave us a preview of the oddly shaped hills and the picturesque beauty of nature on either side of the long winding roads.

Reaching this lavish locale during dusk, we couldn't help but gaze in admiration at the bountiful spread of lush green vines entwined in a unique fashion. The exquisite beauty of these evergreen contours was highlighted during twilight in the soft rays of the sinking sun. We also got a glimpse of a pretty lake snaking its way beyond these flourishing plantations. Entering this enterprising estate gave us a delightful feeling of having landed on an exquisite soil, akin to any other picturesque foreign locale.

The staff extended their hospitality with a warm welcoming smile. We were given a tour of the place during which we learnt about the wine making process. This was followed by the best part of the tour — the one that we were looking forward to! We were invited upstairs to taste wine. Not only did we taste wine but were also informed about the nuances of wine tasting. Those who aren't familiar to this are taught the intricacies of wine tasting which is a vital part of the culture abroad.

We were given a plethora of options of different varieties of white, red and Rosa (which means pink in French) wines to choose from. Slowly we learnt that the diverse names come from the various varieties of grapes. (And here we thought there were only green and black grapes!) Each drink varies in taste according to the sweetness, which is based on the alcohol content. We were dumbfounded when we were told that this sophisticated drink differs in taste as one takes a small sip from different corners of the mouth. It was reported that most Indians showed their preference to the Chenin Blanc variety of the white wine due to its higher content of sweetness. And foreigners preferred the Zinfandel variety of the red wine that is slightly bitter.

The cost of a glass of drink is around Rs100-150 and the wine tasting price of 5 drinks is around Rs150. We were given the choice of purchasing a bottle of wine, which was priced between Rs300-400. Tucking few bottles for future consumption, we placed an order for a glass of wine and seated ourselves in the balcony overlooking the green meadows. It is difficult to describe the lovely mixture of a soft wine and cool breeze along with the tranquility offered by the extended yards. The whole scenario transcended us into a different world with a European touch.

A visit to this place is a must for every visitor to Nashik, especially for those on business travel. It helps us unwind ourselves after a long day of stress and worries. It is a change from the smoke filled, claustrophobic ambience of noisy pubs. Yet it gives a pleasant and exhilarating experience to relish this soothing drink that is apparently good for the veins while the enjoying the healthy aura of the nature. This enchanting two-hour experience gave us a feeling of being entwined in these grape wines!

How to get to the Vineyards

By Road - You will have to take your own vehicle. From the Nasik-Mumbai Road, turn left at Mumbai Naka and proceed till Ashok Stambh. A turn towards Gangapur will takes us to Gangapur Dam. Along the left side of the road, you will spot the direction sign board of Sula Vineyards. Turn left and follow the direction boards to the Vineyards.

Trivia

1. Wines are produces by crushing grapes. The juice is allowed to ferment for a period of 6 months to 1 year. During this time, the sugar in the juice gets converted to alcohol. Longer the time given for fermentation, higher the alcohol content.

2. White wine is 'clear' as it is made of clear juice fermented after the crushing whereas to make red wine, the juice is stored with crushed red grape skin before fermentation. This allows the juice to take the colour of the skin.

3. Drinking wines especially 'red wine' in moderation helps reduce the risk of heart ailments, prostrate cancer and even diabetes.

4. Some of the world's most expensive and sought after wines are made in France. The top wine producing nations are Argentina, Chile, The United States, Germany, Austria,
Hungary, Italy, South Africa, Portugal, Romania and Spain.

5. Sula wines are known to enjoy its popularity amongst the residents, tourists and also form a part of the export business to countries like California, Germany, etc.

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Strawberries and more.....



-By Swetha Amit,October 17th,2007

http://www.domain-b.com/leisure/travel/20071017_strawberries.html



In today's busy lives we all need a break to rejuvenate ourselves and relinquish the worries that haunt us. Mahabaleshwar is one such place that helps us rekindle our spirits. Nestled amidst the heights of the Sahyadri mountains, Mahabaleshwar is just a 5-6 hour drive from Mumbai via Pune and Panchgani. The enthralling beauty of the hill ranges and grasslands with rings of fog circling its mountaintops is a treat to ones eye. This picturesque locale also offers exciting trekking expeditions along with various points that provide a breath-taking view. However the most attractive spot that caught our already enchanted eye was the sight of fresh red strawberries bathing in the morning sun.

Mahabaleshwar has long been synonymous with strawberries. And that was the sole reason for us to set out in search of a strawberry farm. With the guidance from the locals there, we reached Archies' strawberry farm. Situated near a sightseeing location called Kate's point. This farm was a live example of why Mahabaleshwar was called the 'strawberry country'. We were quite mesmerised by the view that welcomed us in. Rows of luscious strawberry plants were spread till the ends of what our eyes could capture. The array of these plantations in an orderly manner surrounded by little shrubs sheltering them was indeed a pleasing sight. The farmers cultivating strawberries were more than willing to tell us all we wanted to know about strawberry cultivation.

Answering our queries, the farmers informed us that initially strawberries were not grown in large numbers. However, the recent developments of the processing units of brands like Mapro have encouraged them to increase their cultivation and tap the opportunities that open up with the growing demands. We also discovered that Mahabaleshwar has about 1500 acres of land dedicated to the production of strawberries. The place also had an added advantage as the fields favorable for strawberry cultivation are found only at high altitudes.

Procedures like drip irrigation are used to provide water to these plants. Covered by foils, these little saplings are fiercely protected from direct sunlight and also ensure that they do not touch the ground and become dirty. These fruits start developing from the centre part of a small white colored flower. Exhibiting extensive purity, these flowers draws parallels to that of the fresh cream. Gradually over time their growth enables the conversion of the color into a perfect radiant red. The ripening of strawberries occurs during the months of May-June. A visit around that time gives one a marvelous opportunity to be invited by the farmers to pluck these bright little berries. The very thought of ripe red strawberries on a blanket of green plants forced me to make a mental note to be back to the farm next may.

The mere mention of fresh ripe strawberries gave us a healthy appetite. We immediately rushed to the dairy near the farm that was offering a variety of strawberry delicacies. The most recommended dish was the delicious strawberry and fresh cream. The frothing white cream decorated with rosy strawberries displayed a striking contrast. It was even more pleasing to our taste buds and the arrant combination melted in our mouths. This propelled us to order for a second round. The other options that were available included the frosty strawberry ice cream and the frothing strawberry milkshake with reasonable pricing of each within Rs.100.

Later we bought strawberries neatly packed in cardboard boxes to fill us during the rest of the journey. They were available throughout the year even in non-season period with the price being around Rs200 per box.

Having sated our taste buds with fresh strawberries in different forms, we were once again free to enjoy the natural beauty surrounding us. The serene and ethereal ambience seemed to brush all our tiredness away, filling our hearts with new hope and enlivened spirit. A travel to this hill station is incomplete without a visit to this little farm with the best strawberries available between the months of October-May. I don't know if we returned back more knowledgeable than we were before we visited the farm, but we definitely returned with the taste of fresh strawberries lingering in our mouth.

How to get to Mahabaleshwar

By Road — Mahabaleshwar is just 250 km from Mumbai. A 5-hour ride through Panvel, Mahad and Poladpur will help you reach your destination. Volvo buses also ply in regular intervals to this destination. You could also take the route via Pune, which is about 115 km from the destination

By Train — Satara is the nearest station to Mahabaleshwar. Once you reach Satara by train, the destination is just one hour travel by road.

Trivia
1. Strawberries are not just tasty but really healthy. The anthocyanin in strawberries serves as antioxidants that help protect cell structures in the body and prevents oxygen damage in the body organs.

2. Strawberries also contain phenol that protects the heart and has anti-inflammatory properties. Strawberries provide a rich source of Vitamin C and are also called anti-cancer fruits.

3. Choose the strawberry fruits that are medium size, firm and which have a deep red color. Once the Strawberries are plucked, they do not ripen further, hence do not choose fruits, which have green/ yellow streaks or are dull in color. 4. The strawberry is now the most popular fruit in the world. France, Australia, Italy, Japan, United States, New Zealand and Canada are among the largest commercial producers of strawberries.
Written for www.domain-b.com

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Victory over evil


-By Swetha Amit
Celebrations have always generated tremendous zest and vivacious energy amongst many. This is especially with regard to festive season that briskly brings about a fervent touch in the air. Whether it is Ganesh Utsav or Gokulashtmi, all festivals are celebrated with a welcoming smile and an inherent sparkle in our eyes.

Grand preparations are gradually beginning as one gets ready for the upcoming nine nights and ten day festival called ‘Dusshera’ or ‘Navarathri’. This is celebrated with equal pomp and splendor throughout India though in their own special, unique way.

Down South, idols of Gods and Goddesses are kept on steps and are decorated with lights and a colorful rangoli beneath them. Sometimes themes are used such as the ten avatars of Vishnu or Krishna’s playful days in Vrindavan. Or episodes from the Ramayana or the Mahabharata also form a part of this splendid colorful exhibition. Creative minds work furiously to decorate and adorn their houses with exclusive themes, such as replica of a certain road, or a bazaar scene, modern day theme parks and even malls! Welcoming and honoring the ladies with "haldi" (turmeric) and "kumkum"(vermillion) signifies the respect shown to the Goddess in each one of them. Little children are often made to sing songs in their sweet little voices. Their melodies portray purity and innocence whisking those around them on a musical trip and pleasing the almighty immensely.

In the north it is celebrated as Ramas victory over Ravana where on the day of Dussehra Ravana’s effigy goes up in flames, signifying destruction of evil.

Another form of this grand celebration involves the exhibition of various forms of dance like Garbha and Dandiya. Adorned in colorful attires, millions get ready to dance the night away which glorifies the flamboyant form of expressing exuberance of driving away the murkiness as much as they can. The glow in their faces, the illuminating effect and the joyous beats is enough to drive the spells of gloom away.

In the eastern part, Durga Puja is celebrated for these ten whole days. The staunch devotees worship the Goddess with several offerings and sincerity. Well being and prosperity are silently asked for with folded hands and simultaneously thanking her for being a savior and protector from the vile. Saying prayers ardently with energetic holy chanting brings about goodness in many trying to surpass the vicious elements in them.

The mythological significance of Dussehra is that which symbolizes victory over evil. The collective forces of the goodness in all the Gods emerged as the supreme power in the form of the mighty yet beautiful Goddess Durga seated on a fierce lion and destroyed the villainous and dreaded Mahishasura-a demon who created havoc in the heavenly abode engulfing it with darkness.

While we are celebrating this joyous occasion of triumph over the villainous stance that occurred centuries ago, why not form a collective unit of our virtuous qualities and battle against these destructive forces inside us and emerge as a supreme being?

Enemies of mankind include greed, anger, lust, envy and ego. Such malignity tends to eclipse and overshadow the goodness prevailing in us. There are times when we succumb to the strong pull of these undesirable forces which result in impertinent follies in varying degrees. This often results in us feeling regretful in the long run. Such manifestation of these impudent imps tends to bring out the worst in us.

A perseverant and an earnest effort towards this arduous task of conquest, is sure to spring up a new sense of exhilaration within us accompanied with a radiance which will drive away the dark spells.

This strenuous battle will indeed reap its rewards as we jointly combat the callous elements with a divine force that is present in each of us. This will enable the existence into a higher plane eternally, eventually making the petty and dreadful enemies cow down before us. Such is the significance of this victory over evil which will give us more than one reason to celebrate with every passing year.
Written for www.msn.co.in
Appeared as story of the day

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

A fiery ragging?

-By Swetha Amit
Anything done within limits is acceptable and sometimes fun. However when boundaries are crossed, it tends to leave a scathing effect. This is especially relevant among the youth with specific reference to that of college goers.

The ragging incident at St.Stephen's college in Delhi invoked a repulsive reaction from millions. A fresher was sprayed with cologne by the seniors followed by a matchstick thrown at him by them. What was more shocking was the fact of it being dismissed by the principal as a 'minor' mishap. The fresher who is reported to have returned home must be nursing more than just mere physical scars. None would have expected such a terrifying occurrence from a prestigious college as St.Stephen's.

The first day in college usually tends to create a tinge of nervousness amongst the youngsters, who are fresh out of school. Like little lambs, they take an uncertain step into the campus looking around with rather lost expressions for a friendly face/smile and stumble upon the seniors. While a few students handle ragging well there are others ending up feeling anguished as though being pricked by a sharp needle from within; especially when such acts get out of control.

Ragging probably acts as an icebreaker between the seniors and the freshers. Being asked to sing, dance or even mocking at the introduction given by the first year student was nothing more than just harmless fun. It was used as an approach to recognize hidden talent and perhaps toughen one up to face the big bad world later on.

However it certainly does NOT give the right to indulge in what is rationalized as ‘pranks’ at the cost of causing a deep dent into their physical and psychological being. This can create a social phobia from entering campuses which will bring an abrupt end to the flow of educational prospects. It also tends to stagnate one’s self growth at times during this sensitive transit stage from adolescence to young adulthood.

Seniors need to conduct themselves as mature and responsible individuals and not as impulsive and impudent ones. Ability to distinguish between harmful and harmless prank is a must especially when the failure of it would cause horror amongst their juniors and extend up to their families. A forthcoming approach would at times ease the apprehension in the youngster instead of cold and arrogant glances. The latter case usually is known to stem from those students who want to prove their superiority and seniority by behaving in an incorrigible manner; or students who have a streak of sadism in them.

Sometimes freshers need to stand up for themselves if they sense things going a little too far. However such a stance would earn the disapproval and he/she would be stigmatized as ‘acting too smart’ causing unwarranted repercussions in the long run. It is then that the law needs to intervene and adopt a stricter code. Such instances require ragging to be forcibly banned in colleges. This is specially needed in the hostel premises with strict monitoring by wards or the security personnel. Any torture should be brought to immediate notice of the concerned authorities who need to develop impartiality in handing out punishments to the guilty irrespective of their backgrounds. Such cases like the above one require a higher degree of control as it could have cost the life of the victim. These grave acts deserve reprimanding and punitive measures to prevent such unfortunate mishaps from occurring in future.

It is the pure responsibility of the college authorities to take up such issues more seriously. Students found guilty of ragging must be severely dealt with and the college must not hesitate to throw them out. This would not help in retaining their reputation but also instill fear amongst seniors for behaving in an unscrupulous manner.

With all the brutality that is prevailing in the world it doesn’t cease one to hear of any more cases commencing inside a campus of all places does it? After all, hearing about such fiery ragging is bound to make our ears burn and leave the affected hearts burning with anger yet helpless fury.
Written for www.msn.co.in

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Happy Birthday Bapu

-Swetha Amit
There are many national holidays every year, which are welcomed eagerly as a break from the tedious and routine work life. A day to unwind from the usual grind can indeed make one feel on top of the world. A moment’s thought and further insight behind the significance of this ‘break’ would probably make our spirits rise even higher making us feel proud to be an Indian eventually.

One such day is the 2nd of October and happens to be the birthday of one of the most revered human beings; a freedom fighter, known as the father of the nation, and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s birthday is what is declared as Gandhi Jayanti.

Life about this noble soul is of no mystery to zillions across the country. He achieved something which many failed to do via the act of violence-freedom from the clutches of the British rule. He instilled his authority in a manner which was different and unique; by emphasizing his principles of truth and non-violence (Satya and Ahimsa.) He was known for his distinct qualities like simplicity and humility. His impartiality was well talked about as he exhibited such stance even with his own children by refusing to accept certain special benefits offered to him for being himself.

He posed a gentlemanly stance of refusing to retaliate right from his humiliating days in South Africa, in spite of being subjected to racial abuse. From there he sowed the seeds of non violence and the journey continued right through thick and thin which finally bore him the much desired and deserved results in India.

Having gone through tremendous physical and emotional struggle, his selfless act knocked the door of triumph and success in the end. His choice to be with the suffering humans rather than on the Dias giving flamboyant speeches was what made him the ‘Mahatma’. Without him, freedom would have been alien to us.

However it is sad to realize that despite his birthday being acknowledged every year, his principles have almost been isolated like an orphan left in the lurch. The simplicity of truth can indeed reduce the burden borne due to the complexity of manipulating the truth or indulging in lying. If only non violence is practiced, the country/the world will be devoid of the vile elements of hurt, brutality, terror and domestic abuse.

The nation which he dreamt of, is crumbling with the poor state of affairs, with petty squabbles in the name of religion and communalism raising its ugly head now and again; which would indeed make his soul bleed.

However there is still a ray of hope just like a silver lining on a cloud. Whether it was 'Gandhi my father' or the well acclaimed 'Lage raho Munnabhai,' these films proved that the almost forgotten Mahatma has revived the nostalgic memories of the people, especially the younger generation. The remarkable portrayal of his life in literary pieces or documentries depicted him with great endurance, patience and tolerance and of which he set a great example not only in India but to the entire world.

The young upcoming generation may draw inspirations from his ideals and a new world may emerge, bringing peace and serenity of which he was a true messiah.

Reminiscing this enlightened personality on his birthday, we gratefully salute his humble stature which is why we choose to say ‘Happy birthday Bapu’.

Written for www.msn.co.in

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