Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dazzled by Lights

Lights across the city makes one feel like they are in a Fairy Tale. What with the load of goodies, sweets and crackers, it’s time for yet another celebration. Diwali is easily the most awaited festival. The same brings back fond memories of our childhood days where bursting crackers was accompanied with delightful squeals, new clothes brought out great fervour in our homes and sweets were devoured with no consideration for our waist lines.

As we grow older the sweets are pecked by the health conscious ones while others continue to feast on them with no qualms of adding a few pounds. Not to mention fireworks have lost their fans due to the throbbing issue of child labour being involved in manufacturing of the same. However despite all this, the festival has still managed to retain its charm for many.

It’s truly an occasion to meet friends over a hearty lunch or a game of cards with vivacious music in the background. Not to mention the numerous productions of Bollywood slated to hit big screens on this day, there exists no dearth for entertainment on. It’s something to look forward to-a day which is bound to leave behind its sweet essence.

Happy Diwali to all!!!


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Living jewels of the Arabian Sea

-By Swetha Amit
We have often wanted to have a Maldives experience without travelling outside of India. A little net surfing and we spotted pictures of the Lakshadweep islands, which looked to be exactly what we wanted – a quiet, seaside getaway. And when we finally managed to vacation there, we were certainly not disappointed; Lakshadweep has all the ideal elements of a great beach holiday — gleaming corals, shimmering sand, and fantastic underwater experiences.

We landed on Agatti Island, and were greeted by the gentle sound of restless waves in the lagoon, smiling resort staff, and offerings of tender coconut water. The resort, owned by island locals, consisted of not more than 19 rooms and provided a pleasing contrast to the crush and crowds of city life. Our rooms overlooked the sea which was an exquisite green in colour.

We didn't know too much about the islands except what had appeared in our school geography textbooks. Extremely curious, we looked forward to exploring the area. And what we found was that what lay above the waters of the Arabian Sea, could not compare to the treasure we found beneath the surface.

An enchanting underwater world: Our expedition began with an exciting ‘Discover scuba diving’ experience offered by the Diveline centre in Agatti. Diveline offers certified courses for diving that are conducted by a German couple. For novices like us, this was a great opportunity to learn the skill.

The instructors started the diving lessons by teaching us breathing techniques and how to handle the equipment. Then we were taken into the shallow waters of the lagoon, where for 40 minutes we swam among the colourful corals and brightly hued fish. We were lucky enough to spot a turtle too! It was a wonderful experience and not very difficult once we got used to the rules for breathing.

The swim along the shore gave us far more confidence and we decided to venture into deeper waters. We were taken by boat to a diving site in the deep ocean where we had to change into wet suits. When the boat halted, we plunged into the sea and swam down towards the anchor on the bed of the ocean. As we were just beginners, this was a hand-in-hand dive with the professionals.

The next one hour was enthralling. We were in a different world altogether, experiencing for the first time the feeling of being deep underwater and moving amongst the unusual fish, coral reefs, sting rays, etc. A fairytale experience almost, and well worth the price of Rs4,800. (More details can be found at the website:

We came away convinced that Lakshadweep indeed is one of the best places in India for scuba diving.

An island left to nature: Another unique experience was Kapitti Island, a place where nature has been left to rule without any interference from man. This was an ideal adventure for city souls like us. We organised a boat from the water sports centre at Agatti at Rs500 per person for a two-hour excursion and reached the island within 30 minutes. First we cruised around the entire island, and then landed among the shrubs and towering trees that shielded us from the glare of the sun. Walking along the shore, we saw zillions of hermit crabs of different shapes, sizes and colours. All around, the sea lashed at the rocks, giving one the feeling of being away from civilisation and at nature's mercy. Holidaymakers have the option of spending a whole day here or even a night stay in tents, for Rs1,000 and Rs2,500 per person respectively.

Island hopping: Lakshadweep is home to the Bangaram Island Resort, a 5-star property about an hour-and-a-half away from Agatti and accessible by speedboat. The resort has an ayurvedic spa and about 39 rooms for guests. A tour of the resort costs about Rs1,000 per person and includes the Bangaram lake that is surrounded by coconut trees, and is open for snorkelling and swimming (equipment provided by the water sports centre). Bangaram also has a scuba diving centre with courses for beginners.

In the vicinity of the Bangaram Island are two more uninhabited islands called Parali I and Parali II. On a full moon night, one can visit these islands to watch turtles come to the shore to lay eggs. The night excursion costs around Rs2,000 per person.

Life by the sea: Staying on Agatti island gives nature lovers the opportunity to relax by the ocean. One can occasionally spot a turtle coming up to the surface for a breath of fresh air. The water sports centre offers attractions such as glass-bottomed boat rides for Rs500, water-skiing at Rs800, water scooter rides for Rs 500, and fishing in the lagoon and deep sea fishing for Rs500 and Rs2,000 respectively. And then there is always the chance to simply laze in a hammock, catch up on a good book, float under the sun in the clear blue water, or play football on the sandy beach. The resort also has bicycles for rent at Rs100 per person to cycle around the island and down to the village.

The local language is known as Jesseri, a mix of Tamil and Malayalam. Visitors can get by with either language, English or even a little bit of Hindi. Although the resort offers a range of fine home-cooked meals (Indian, continental and Chinese) included in the room package, liquor is banned on the island. Those keen on sampling cocktails can find them at the Bangaram Island resort. The island is inhabited by Muslims and requires visitors to be decently covered when out of the resort premises.

On the whole, Lakshadweep provides an ideal holiday for those looking for a little tranquillity and unspoilt surroundings.

Getting there:
By air: Take a flight to Cochin for a connecting flight to Agatti Island. Air India flies from Cochin to Agatti on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; Kingfisher Airlines flies the route on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

By sea: Take a ship from Cochin. The cruise covers the islands of Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Minicoy, Androth and Agatti and then back to Cochin. Schedules may be subject to change.

NOTE: A permit is necessary to visit the islands. The permit is issued in Cochin, or can be arranged by a travel agent.

When to visit: The best time to visit Lakshadweep is from November to March/early April. The rest of the year, the islands are affected by the monsoons, making it difficult to travel from one island to another.
Written for


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Happy B'day Bapu

Our father of the nation-fondly known as Bapu!! What didn't he do to attain freedom for his nation-innumerable hunger strikes and protests? He was perennially at the receiving end of insults and flak. Yet that didn’t deter him from appearing calm on the surface with a smile which stated that nothing could shake him. Today a national holiday is being declared as Gandhi Jayanti. In honour of his birthday a certain quote comes to my mind “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.

Considering the numerous terror attacks and political troubles brewing across the world, one can’t help but wonder about this thought provoking statement. It has led to a blackout of humanity altogether that words like peace and harmony seemed to have dissolved like sugar cubes in milk. The only difference being that it does not leave a sweet taste behind.

As I remember him fondly today, I can’t help but wish if only half his principles were put to application, one wouldn’t cease to witness nightmares of brutal killings that seem to wipe out daylight altogether.

Meanwhile Happy Birthday Bapu!!!


'What’s your Raashee': Goes over the moon

Ever seen a movie which makes you feel that an option of having curled up in a couch with a mindless book at home would have been better treat? It does not require an astrologer to predict that or what the box office verdict of this film would be. Neither does it take the audience to make a quick decision about the movie so much that it propels them to walk out of the theatre with an air of impatience. This is probably a faster decision than that of the protagonist’s in the film who encounters 12 damsels to find his better half. An ordeal which tortures the people for 3 and a half hours making them wish that they had the ability to having foreseen this fateful evening.

Yogesh Patel (Harman Baweja) an eligible bachelor just has ten days to tie the knot in order to save his family from a financial crisis. Rather bewildered at this sudden prospect, Yogesh finally relents to meeting one girl from each Zodiac sign to decide upon his life partner. Enter the twelve women (Priyanka Chopra in multiple roles) in various get ups and accents. Each encounter is filled with hilarious moments, deep conversations and eccentricity. Yet being a Bollywood flick it couldn’t escape the flavour of a song with most Zodiac signs which adds up to a weary 12. If only the musical trip was cut down on, the film could have actually been an enjoyable watch with its interesting and light moments.

Some of the scenes evoke a roar of laughter and light tremors of chuckles. The one with the Aries girl having proclaimed her favourite actor to be Tom. An enthusiastic Yogesh immediately responds with a “Tom Cruise?” only to be met a satirical “Tom and Jerry” followed by giggles similar to that of a school girl having a laugh over a prank she played on her grumpy school teacher. The meeting with the Libran girl reminds one of a Meryl Streep in ‘The Devil wears Prada’ with her no nonsense approach of being a heavy task master. Her ‘professionalism’ evokes exhaustion on Yogesh’s face which is probably a reflection on what the audience face towards the end of the film. The scene with the Sagittarian woman where he utters ‘Jesus man’ only to replace it with a ‘Krishna Man’ with a pointed prompt by the former evokes ripples of laughter.

Harman Baweja looks smart and has come a long way in his acting in comparison to his previous films. Priyanka Chopra no doubt looks good in her various get ups and probably the most versatile role she could offer her fans. The direction fails to live up to its standards surprisingly considering the director’s earlier blockbusters like Lagaan and Jodha Akbar. However the plot borrowed by a book Kimball Ravenswood by Madhu Rye proves to be weak with a half baked trail. Sort of reminds one of a mouse’s trace disappearing slowly after being hunted down by a ferocious cat.

What could have been severely dealt with was the length of the movie. Wonder what made Ashutosh Gowarikar to create an epic saga out of something which was purely intended to be a breezy romantic comedy.

What’s your Raashee could been handled in a much better manner. Meanwhile the current status only leaves one with boredom, dissatisfaction or a chance of catching up on forty winks and paying Rs 300 for that. It sure can be considered an expensive way to have a lazy Sunday nap when one could find the same in their homes in a more comfortable position perhaps. Or an alternative option could be to curl on a comfortable couch and flip through the pages of a Linda Goodman’s Sun signs.