Friday, 15 November 2013

Exploring BARCELONA - Day 1

My first morning in Barcelona, Friday the 5th of Sept.  I got ready with my host Silvia to visit the place which for an Indian can be nothing short of a shocker.  Just as a westerner getting a cultural shock when landing in any Indian metro city, this place in Barcelona too surely would give anyone from the Indian sub-continent a cultural shock.  "Marbella" beach in Barcelona is quiet famous as the nude beach.  And being nude at this beach is not at all uncommon here.  My host and friend Silvia had this thing in her mind since the time I told her that I'll be visiting Barcelona.  The thing was to take me to the nude beach where she has been quite a regular visitor.

The thought of visiting a nude beach with your host friend is not at all something that ignites the sexual part of yours.  For me it was something very overwhelming and I didn't think of it much before landing in Barcelona. Surely I had my set of anxious queries which were I must say, very well handled by Silvia.  We left in the morning so as to return by noon before it became too hot under the sun.  Silvia was really enjoying the part to know how an Indian would handle being on the nude beach.

We got down at the bus stop and after a 5 minute walk we reached the beach.  Silvia had explained me some basic rules when you are at a nude beach which were quite obvious.  The beach was starting to get crowded by the time we had reached.  People of all different ages, men, women, couples, singles were seen. Also there were some asian and african guys selling Cerveza (beer) on the beach.  Silvia had told me about them and to sell beer like this was illegal in Barcelona. The sight of Marbella beach was really really overwhelming for me.  And as I earlier mentioned there is nothing sexual about being at a nude beach. Rather it's a self liberating experience.  Of course one can't imagine in the wildest of dream to have such a place in India ;) or for that matter in most of the beaches in the world.  We left after a spending some nice few hours at the beach and by the time it got really crowded we left for home.

Tapas & Cerveza 
When we reached home we both were quiet hungry.  And as I had heard of 'Tapas' the very local and common stuff, I was quiet eager to try it. So we went to a nice restaurant nearby and not at all expensive.  Had my first Tapas (Bread with potatoes, cheese and mayonnaise) and Cerveza.

The dance troupe







Also I had received one invitation  to a flamenco dance show from a flamenco dancer (who also was a couch surfer and it was on that evening itself in a bar called 'Gracia Latina' in the area called 'Garcia'. How could I have missed a flamenco concert and that too when it was having free entry? ;)  No way.

The dancer
Silvia told me that Gracia was one area where the streets are so narrow that no buses go.  So we had to walk quite a bit which was ok. ;)  Wow I had never ever been to a flamenco concert and I was pretty eager to see it.  We were the first guests and so we had our seats right in front.  The troupe had 2 singers, 1 dancer and 1 anchor.  By the time the one hour concert which was fantastic, got over the bar was packed.  The flamenco dancer as for me       was extremely gracious and fabulous. The music was fantastic and I could say so as the crowd really cheered them and appreciated the dance a lot. The anchor was quite comic and he knew perfectly how to keep a grip on the audience. 

Day 1 was pretty exciting and in my next few days I was really getting more eager to explore more of Barcelona.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The evening I landed in Barcelona.

Oh Barcelona. My 2nd trip to Europe and I landed in Barcelona on 4th September.  My connection with Barcelona started even before I had landed.  I had met this lovely and vibrant person Gemma in Ahmedabad who belongs to Barcelona and she had already told me that I'm going to love it.  Also during my layover in Istanbul I met these 2 ladies from Barcelona, Rachel and her friend who were returning after their travels in India.  I had some very interesting conversations with them at the airport waiting for my flight to Barcelona.  I reached Barcelona in the evening and as my CouchSurfing friend and host Silvia's instructions, I boarded the airport transfer bus to another terminal and from there reached the metro station.  It was the cheapest option.

Against my expectations, the weather was quiet hot and trust me on this coz I was literally sweating as if I was in Ahmedabad.  Next to me was this spanish guy who had arrived from Denmark.  He too was feeling the heat.  I asked him for some directions and came to know that we both were headed to Passage de Gracia station.  He even helped me to get the metro ticket.  Choosing the best ticket while traveling in European cities is always a tricky thing, since you don't know how many trips you shall be making by the public transport and also when you are on an extremely tight budget.  Also when your country's currency gets depreciated by almost 20% just when your traveling days are near. Damn, it's always frustrating.

So I got down at 'Passeig de Gr├ácia' and as explained by my friend started looking for the street that would lead me to Plaza Catalunya.  I was going round and round looking for directions, asking people and finally I got the directions.  But than another problem, which bus stop I should go? Silvia had told me to look for a building named Bankia.  I just couldn't find it.  I called Silvia and she told me the same, to find the building Bankia. So now I asked a woman at a street side stall, where to catch bus no.68? The lady didn't speak English and I didn't understand her Spanish. :p Ooops. But she asked me with finger signs and I confirmed. She gave me the directions in Spanish and showed me the directions using her hands which I think I understood some 60% ? Well I followed what I understood and voila I was at the bus stop where bus no.68 stopped.  I waited for few minutes and bus no.67 arrived.  In few minutes bus no.68 also arrived.  I greeted the bus driver and asked him I want to go to 'Santal├│ 11'.  Surprisingly the the drivers of both the bus started discussing and what I understood from their conversation was they were discussing in which bus this foreigner should be made to sit.  Interesting, and I got little bit anxious now.  Finally they put me in bus no.67, which made me nervous as I was not following Silvia's advice, but still I was like I'm sure I'll make it.

As the bus started in few min. I got a SMS from Silvia, 'Where are you? Did you board the bus coz bus no.68 just passed from Santalo? Finally I got that I won't be getting down close to where Silvia had told me. After almost 30 min. the bus driver signaled me from his rear view mirror to get down at the stop called Fransesc Marcia.  Now I was kind of completely lost.  So I called Silvia and told her my location and she immediately understood where I was.  In 10 min. she was there to receive me and wow it was great to meet her after almost 8 months when she first surfed my couch in Ahmedabad just after the Kite Flying festival.  

She was renting a big house in a nice quiet neighborhood.  After dinner, the evening was spend chit-chatting about how we both have been doing all these months and to my big surprise the book she had just completed, got an award even before it was published.  I felt like wooow.  This is what meeting new people gives you in life.  Big surprises and the opportunity to meet amazing people like Silvia.  While she was in Ahmedabad we had very little time to know about each other.  But now here I was having like almost 5 days to know more about this wonderful lady.

Friday, 18 October 2013

'God' has announced his retirement.

Sounds very unusual or filmy, isn't it?  But its true.  Yes 'God' recently announced his retirement.  If you still haven't got any clue, let me clear the air.  The 'God' of cricket - Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar announced his retirement from all forms of cricket on 10th Oct. 2013. He still has 2 test matches to play against the West Indies. First one in Kolkatta and the second one in his home Mumbai which will be his 200th test match. A great achievement in itself and which shows the level of fitness he still has.  Starting to play international cricket at the age of 16 and than never look back.  He has remained the backbone of Team India's batting line up whether it's a one-day team of a test team.

Sachin when he made his debut
Wonder why he is referred as 'The God of Cricket'?  Well playing international cricket for almost a quarter of a century, carrying the pressure of a cricket crazy nation with more than a billion people, breaking most of the batting records, playing the game with utmost honesty & cricketing spirit, getting the respect of people across the entire cricketing world and still being one of the most humble sportsperson is definitely something that makes him the messiah of the game. 

I think I was just in primary school when Sachin made his debut in test and one-day international cricket against Pakistan in Karachi & Gujranwala.  The way he played in that series made even the best of the Pakistani fast bowlers to recognize his courage and commitment as a teenager to play them.  It was very soon known that the little prodigy is going to make big waves in world cricket. And here he is after 24 years of playing international cricket, just the thought that he won't be around with Team India anymore is just unbelievable.

He has played with and against 2 generations of cricketers from world over including some of the best fast bowlers, best batsmen and all-rounders like Waqar Yunis, Wasim Akram, Glenn Mcgrath, Courtney Walsh, Allan Donald, Kapil Dev, Craig Mcdermott, Steve Waugh, Gary Kirsten, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Shaun Pollock, Saurav Ganguly, Jacque Kallis and few others. But ask anyone and they'll be all praise for him and his ability.  I still remember the year when India and Australia test series and the triangular series in Sharjah were played and how Shane Warne the best leg spinner till date was plundered for runs all over the grounds.

The hammering Sachin gave to Shane Warne
Still remember Shane's statement how he had nightmare's of Sachin hammering him for runs.  None batsmen in the world has hammered Warne like Sachin did, which shows his class and why he is and probably will remain the best.

Growing up as a teenager I still remember how Team India's batting revolved all around Sachin. The moment Sachin got out I used to switch off my television in despair almost as if no other batsmen are going to play well.  If anyone did it was just a miracle.  The moment when Sachin used to walk up to the pitch and take his guard, spectators would expect miracles from him.  To score nothing less than a century was always expected from him.  And statistics say when he scored a century most of the time India had won the match.  Not only he shattered records with batting but in the prime of his career he even bowled and has combined test and one day tally of 199 wickets which is not a small number.

Carrying the huge expectations of a cricket frenzy nation of more than a billion people and playing in front of a home crowd whose cheering can almost make you go deaf and than shattering most of the batting records and creating some which I don't think no one in the near future might break it, definitely puts him in the league of the greatest of greats of all time in cricketing world.

The respect he has garnered from some of the greatest bowlers like Allan Donald, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram and few others just shows how desperately they wanted to get his wicket while he was at the crease. And getting his priced wicket was something they would cherish for the entire series.  The 'Little Master' as he is called is a perfect example of all round technique and stroke play.  His hunger to better himself every time he goes out there to bat and to score runs is still seen on his face.
Sachin being carried all over the ground
after India won the 2011 WC

As every player goes through his ups and downs Sachin too went through them, only to come back more and more stronger.  The talks of his retirement time and again were always proved wrong by the master blaster and he showed his critics that only he and no one else will decide when he shall hang his boots.  He made his bat do the talking and that too in an emphatic way which every time silenced his critics.  Over the span of his career he was part of Team India that rose to No. 1 position in test match cricket and even won the world cup cricket.  His dream of winning the world cup for India was fulfilled in 2011 and in which he played a pivotal role at the top.  His greatness can be just imagined when his fellow team mates just with his presence in the dressing room were inspired to play to their full potential.

Today when he is just 2 test matches away from saying good bye to playing cricket, it seems as if an era of cricket for Team India will be closed.  Of course a new one has already begun.  But to see the dressing room without the 'God' will be very strange.  I'm sure he would want to stay attached with cricket in some way or the other, but only he knows what's coming next for him.

Sachin with one of the Great's
Sir Donald Bradman
To see him bat in the last 2 matches is going to be simply awesome.  His 200th test match and than the farewell that he is going to get is simply unimaginable. Of course when the 'God' retires, the farewell shall be even more glorious than the welcomes he used to get when he used to walk out in the middle as an opening batsmen or when he was batting at no. 4 in test matches.  The whole nation is going to miss him when Team India shall go out to play any test matches after he retires.  For one last time when the 'God' will be out there in front of his home crowd, Wankhede stadium, Mumbai is going to erupt shouting Sachinnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Sachinnnnnnnnn.

100 facts about Sachin Tendulkar
http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/cricket/sachin-tendulkar-retires-100-facts-763750

Friday, 16 August 2013

'Europe' - Here I come again

Last year on 22nd September, 2012 the MF's re-union was planned which eventually was decided to start exactly after year. Yes the 3rd weekend of September, 2013.  It was just a random facebook chat between Asta and myself.  Initially it was just floated as an idea that we all friends could just see if we could have this possibility of meeting once again all together in the middle of the world somewhere. (Though not exactly in the middle ;) )  So it was going to be Istanbul.  The invites were send and it seemed like an idea might just turn into reality.  But it was still a full year to go.  

From the beginning of Feb. till June 2013, I got damn busy with my work, that I had put all my short travel plans aside and just wanted to have a good 6 months of work which would satisfy myself and would allow me to travel for this wonderful re-union.  And along with that I thought, why not have another round of Euro-trip ? Come on as we all know "Yeh Dil Maange More" ;) As my work season came towards an end, the my thought of this trip grew more and more strong.  But I was extremely confused of where to start and which places to visit.  England and Scandinavia OR East Europe again ? Western Europe OR just the re-union in Turkey ?  It wasn't that easy as I have always wanted to travel to those places where I can meet my friends again.  You see I'm more of a people's person.  No matter what kind of place I visit, if I'm there in the good company of my friends, that place is the best for me. :)

With the idea from Asta to travel in Turkey for about a week, I finally got my itinerary right.  And finally I decided to start from Barcelona.  Than Madrid, Paris, Berlin, Prague and finish it it Turkey and return back.  But as they say when life gives you lemons, you better make lemonade from them for yourself. ;)  And I did just that. Luckily Croatia joined EU on the 1st July, 2013 and Spain granted me 45 days multiple entry visa ,on the basis of which I can visit Croatia too, which was on my travel list since long.  So with some changes here and there and finding the cheapest possible flight, and believe me I really got a cheap one, it was Barcelona - Paris - Berlin - Croatia - Turkey - Prague and back. From 4th September till 8th October.  Though this time I didn't had the chance to go unplanned and make plans when I reach Europe.  I booked all my flights as that was the cheapest I could get.  But that's OK.

Its 16th August today and with just a couple of days more than 2 weeks, I'll be heading for my another dream Europe trip and the best part of it shall be that I'll be meeting so many of my friends whom I met in the last couple of years in Ahmedabad.  It's been fun planning this trip and now its even more fun preparing for it too.  Though the depreciation of Rupee is going to make this trip of mine the most expensive and might shoot way over my budget, but its going to be great fun. :)  

So my friends, see you sooooooooooooon :)

Friday, 19 July 2013

10 major reasons why we "HONK" so much in Ahmedabad ?

Honking. A word heard very much if you are walking, standing or driving on the streets of Ahmedabad.  Its something very annoying that we all who drive a vehicle do. Something that disturbs the morning peace, that can make you irritated, can give you severe headaches and make driving on the roads horrible.  If one day the horn of my car or my bike goes off, I feel like a sort of handicap.  How am I suppose to drive now ? That was the first question that hit me.  Once even while on the highway the horn of my car suddenly went off and I was so nervous that I got a new one installed right at the first garage on the highway.

So why is honking so important for us while we are driving ? Well of course not everyone honks, but majority of the people who drive they do so.  Even I do that some times. :p 

So once again why do we honk ? Why why why ?  I was wondering on it and this is what I've observed over the last 2 decades of driving on the streets of Ahmedabad.

1)  First and foremost, we drive recklessly.  Most of us never follow the traffic rules and hence while we are driving recklessly others honk for that 'Being Safe' aspect.

2)  We never drive in a lane.  And if we do, we most of the time drive in the wrong lane ;)  So the person driving in the correct lane for that particular moment honks to yell "Hey you get off the fast lane.  You are way to slow and I'm in a hurry"

3)  We love driving on the wrong side.  And since the BRTS has come up, we became more lazy to go around and take a turn from the right junction.  So since the people driving on the wrong side feel its their birth right to drive on the wrong side, the people driving on their correct side have to honk at them.

4)  I've seen many many of the girls and women (don't take it personally and make it a gender issue) who drive their 2 wheeler and car never give a side while turning to the right. Never ever.  They simply turn when and where they want to as if there is no one behind them or as if the one driving behind them is going to have a dream that you are now going to take a right turn.

5)  We abruptly stop if we suddenly met some old friend or a relative on the road and start chatting as if the world is going to end, never giving a thought that there are vehicles coming from behind.

6)  We are so impatient.  We want to reach our destination earlier than the other person driving on the road. So to cross the road first at a cross road, we honk at others telling them, "Hey idiot wait.  I'm in a hurry".  And the same is done by the other person. ;)  So the war of horns begins till both the drivers come at a point in the middle of the cross road, where both brake just 2 inches away from each other and start a fight. First dialogue of the quarrel ? You got it right.  "Dekhatu nathi, andhalo che ?"  (Can't you see.  Are you blind ?)  Surprisingly both can see very well and that's why they stopped so close as if they want to kiss each other :p  

And so the vehicles behind them have to stop which makes them to honk too telling both the idiots to move aside and than carry on their quarrel, so that others can get on with their honking.  Ooops I meant driving ;)

7)  The ever so popular rickshaw drivers.  Can we ever ignore them while driving on the roads in Ahmedabad ? Never :)  They drive as if the rules don't exist for them. They break all the possible rules that exist in the traffic rule book.  They park where they want to creating big obstructions on narrow roads and on major cross roads. Never give a signal while taking a turn.  Most of them will drive in the middle of the road, so if you wish to over take again you have to honk at them.

8)  Teenagers on motor bikes.  One of the biggest menace on the roads.  When the adrenaline flows through their blood, they get a kick to drive fast and just to tell others that hey we are arriving, they start to honk and that too pretty loud and continuous.  Its so horrible that many times new drivers or senior citizens driving on the roads can get a scare and that might even cause accidents.

9)  Pedestrians.  They cross a major road from any point where they wish to.  Never paying heed that they have to cross it where there is zebra crossing.  So when you are driving on the road and someone just shows up from no where, what you do ? You honk to tell that bugger, get off the road.

10)  The most important one being, the RTO (Regional Traffic Office).  They never train anyone for traffic signs and rules.  They don't care or dare to increase the fines to a level where the public is scared to break traffic rules and pay heavy fines.  They have not tried enough to force the culture of following traffic rules on the public.  Never made enough efforts to collaborate with schools and colleges to impart traffic education to the kids and teenagers.

As a result of above, people selling horns of different sounds and decibels are doing good business ;)  Also doctors like ENT's and to some extent psychologist's might also do good business.  

Now come on Amdavadi's, we need to stop honking and follow traffic rules :)

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Can India really change for the better ?


Its been few months that I remained away from writing in but, all this time I was wondering a lot. About my country and my countrymen and my life in India as an Indian.  A lot and when I say that, it really means a lot have happened in India in the last 6 months.  And all of it that has snatched the limelight has been on the wrong side. In fact on the worst side.  Right from 2G specturm scam, CWG scam, Coal scam, brutal rapes, child molestation, corruption at the highest level in the government, border tensions with neighboring countries, high food inflation, slow growth, Italian marine case and what not.

One evening while talking with a German friend who last year traveled in India for few months, my high hopes and optimism about India as a country changing for the better in this decade and the next one took a deep plunge.  For once I felt that today's India looks like a totally fucked up country with a government that doesn't care a shit except just plundering the people in the most blatant manner.  Over the last few years I've known at least one thing, that the situation that my country is in today is not because of the people in the government, but its we the people of this country.  Our carefree and careless attitude, way of living, lack of willingness to change, extreme greed, religious extremism, gender & caste inequality, dishonesty, racism and ever eroding patriotism to a large extent have brought us where we are today.

India - the most diverse democracy of the world today in fact lives fragmented to a large extent unless it comes to cricket and bollywood.  Each and every corner of this huge country has extreme diversity in itself. You travel just 400 kms and sometimes even less than that and one can see that the language, clothing, food and to an extent the culture too gets changed.  Now in such a diverse scenario is it possible to find a common or a near similar path of thinking ? Is it possible that a hugely diverse nation can keep this diversity behind and come together for a social revolution ? I was quiet hopeful on this till I had this discussion with my friend and now I have my own reservations.

More than half the population of India is living in villages and has huge difference in cultures and the way they think from the population that is living in the cities.  This difference though diluted, can be even seen between the big metro's like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.  Also one can easily notice the diversity in culture, way of living, social thoughts and perspective between the tier I and tier II cities.  As a collective of states, the North, South, West and East regions also are vastly diverse from each other.  The gender inequality, the perspective towards the girl child, the social responsibility for the economically and socially underprivileged, cultural hypocrisy, individual freedom, political apathy, high levels of individual corruption are some of the biggest hurdles that India as a country faces today and which kind of is becoming highly frustrating.

If one travels the length and breath of the country, one can easily notice that people no matter of which age differ a lot on many major social and cultural issues faced by India.  Men and women both from different regions of India and belonging to different social and economic strata differ on their views.  The conservative thinking can be easily seen and no one hardly bothers to think logically about any of the age old customs still being followed in the name of tradition and culture.  It can either be the careless attitude or the fear of the society or lack of education or all together.

Post independence and particularly after the reforms of 1990 the major economic development that India has seen has been limited to the metro's and few other cities. Cities grew bigger and got more populated.  This economic development instead of reaching the villages remained largely in and around the cities leading to huge urban migration resulting into large slums and clashing of 2 different lifestyles.  We lost our way even in educating the kids especially girls.  Still today only one state is 100 % literate and other parts of the country struggling to educate its citizens and even the new generation.  If even basic education is not imparted when are we as a nation going to think about imparting more specialized education throughout the entire country ?

The economic boom instead of creating wealth for every strata of the society created wealth for the rich.  The rich grew more rich and the poor remained poor.  So poor, that today almost 30% of the population doesn't get even 2 times of proper meal, leave aside a proper shelter to live in.  Shockingly while we have one of the highest percentage of poor people, the world's costliest house recently got erected in Mumbai.

Our dishonest and corrupt ways of dealing with things has even led to formation of corrupt governments that actually pocketed the tax payers money that were supposed to be meant to uplift the socially and economically backward people.  And eventually the present scenario is that, the current government has shattered all records of corruption and bad governance.  It is the most corrupt government till now in the history of Indian democracy.  And of course it was elected by us, we the people of India.  The people in the government and the bureaucracy are all our people.  Not some guys who descended from some alien planet just to ruin our country.  And all of them are from among us.  A nation gets a government that is actually the reflection of its society.  Unless the society gets itself clean and honest, its a waste to expect honest and sincere people representing the nation.

Socially also no matter how hard we have tried to get rid of the centuries old superstitions and wrongly practiced caste differentiation which has strangulated this country, still today it requires a herculean effort to get rid of such practices in any particular region.  And we have a huge country to make it free from such evil practices.  Ever wondered how long it would take if we still continue following blindly like the herd of sheep and never use our brains ?

The way we Indians have so far dealt with our major social, economic and cultural issues in the post independence era it has today led to a situation, where desperate measures are needed to overhaul the way we Indians think, deal and live our life. Today the difference in the way people live in the cities, towns and villages has grown so wide apart that unless the developments of the cities reach the villages fast enough and our villages grow, this vast socio-economic difference shall create a major social chaos and social anarchy.  The way the outburst of social crimes against women and children has happened all over the country just shows how lacking socially we as a nation were and still are and God knows for how many more years.

In this current scenario if by any chance a major social change should happen, I don't think its going to happen in the next few years.  May be in the next few decades and that too only the young generation of this country comes together and sheds the inhibitions of challenging the age old rusted malpractices in the name of religion, caste and culture.  Only if the greed for infinite monetary gains can seize and an inclusive development from the cities to the villages happen, India might change for the better. Or else once again this great country shall be bonded and this time in the social shackles of its own.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

What to do ?

What to do ?

Yes, yes .......

What to do when you want to put things right, but you're not allowed ?

What to do when you want to explain the right things, but you're not understood
at all ?

What to do when you want to get out of something, but you can't ?

What to do when the you try to untangle the strings, but they get more and more entangled ?

What to do when you want to be good, but you're forced to be bad ?

What to do when you want to remain calm, but you can't ?

What to do when you are true, but you're made to look like a liar ?

What to do if you are different, but you're forced to be like everyone else ?

What to do when you can't explain compatibility problem to the one with whom you are non-compatible ?

What to do when you care, but  you are labelled as selfish ?

What to do when you don't wanna argue, but you're forced to by putting fingers in your mouth ?

What to do when one has so many What to do's ? :(