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To Bengal, via the British Museum!

Last Sunday, self and family decided to make one of our infrequent trips to the metropolis (i.e. London) and see what's happening in the world beyond Small Town, UK. We got off the tube at Tottenham Court Road, neatly avoiding the dodgy laptop salesman-type blokes, Subway markers, bag ladies and other assorted features of hamara London and made our way down Great Russell Street. Of course, before any actual exploration can occur, pit stop is a must.

So, we parked our collective butts at this dinky little cafe and proceeded with the main event. I was less than half way through my falafel, when I heard these beats. At first, I thought I was hallucinating and it was merely my tummy making louder than normal rumbling noises. But very soon, realising that I wasn't the only one hearing things, I decided to explore things further.

Walking towards the British Museum, I realised that the drum beats sounded louder and louder. Peering in through the bars, I almost fell of in surprise - the blokes banging on for all their collective worth wore dhotis, Shiv Sena-type kurtas and had huge tikas on their foreheads - desis!! Now my interest was really piqued and I ventured further, with family following closely behind.

That was when we came face to face with this massive banner bearing the words 'Voices of Bengal' with an orangish Bengal tiger next to it. On closer scrutiny, we learnt that there was an exhibition-in-three-parts happening here and the dhakmen were all part of it. So we stood with the multitude of desis and phoren-looking people, all set to enjoy the show.

The dholakmen had gathered in the huge forecourt in front of the museum and from the look of things, had been going on at it for a good while. But they showed no sign of stopping or even slowing down. Bam, bam, bam they kept on, prancing up and about, pirouetting and generally creating magic. The beats were really beautiful and made it impossible for your feet to stay still. After listening to them for about half-an-hour, we felt compelled to move on but they still carried on.

As soon as we entered the museum, we saw this black bust of Rabindranath Tagore and went in to discover Tagore's sketches. I never knew till that minute that Tagore was an artist - the sketches on display were really good and in pristine condition. They were also showing this short tele-film on Tagore, made by Satyajit Ray. Entitled 'The Art of Peace: Paintings by Tagore', the exhibition was a very personal insight into Bengal's illustrious son.

After roaming past Egypt, Rome, Greece (with a brief halt at the Parthenon) and Africa, we made our way to the fourth floor, where the Myths of Bengal exhibition was being held. This was also a mini-exhibition, giving details of Durga Maa and her various avatars, navratri and so on. The content wasn't too heavy so as to turn the patrons away and not too light that it was airy-fairy. As I went around looking at the dolls, I was introduced to Manasa, the Goddess of Snakes. There was a Satyavan-Savitri type story written on the walls, where the Goddess kills someone only for the wife to bring him back. I never knew that we had a Manasa, Goddess of Snakes! So, it wasn't just the angrez who learnt new things about the desi culture that day!

Finally, we desceded on to the main Great Hall where a pleasant surprise awaited us. There was this massive image of Durga Mata that was being constructed from straw, clay and other assorted stuff, right before the very eyes of everyone passing by. When I saw it, it looked 95% complete - I learnt that it will be completed on September 27th, after which it will be passed on to the Bengal Association where it will be the chief part of their Durga Puja celebrations.

Apart from these, there were also events such as regular talks and discussions being conducted everyday on a wide variety of topics such as Tales of Bengal, Curse of Kali, Making Shola Pith decorations as well as short films on the Devi.

The 'Voices of Bengal' exhibition is organised by the London Camden Bangladeshi Association and is on for most of October. It is definitely worth a visit.

Posted by DesiGirl 12:03 pm 0 comments Links to this post  

The Hamster is hurt!

Wednesday, 10:30 pm BST: I was just lounging on the sofa, after a 'welcome back' new season episode of 'Wire in the Blood', when the news anchore of the Late News said the words 'Top Gear's Richard Hammond was injured in a car crash earlier today'. To say I was shell-shocked would be an understatement. I simply could not believe my ears!

My first thought was 'Oh no, the poor bloke must have been driving on the M25'. Later, when fresh details emerged and I learnt that the accident happened during a Top Gear shoot, I was like 'don't tell me they were doing something hair raising again!' And so he was! Trying to break the British land speed record in a dragstyle-type car, Hammond's vehicle 'veered to the right' and flipped even as he was travelling at 300 mph. He was 'critically injured' and emergency services had to cut him out of the car. He was rushed to the Royal Infirmary at Leeds, where he remained in a critical state for two days, before improving enough to be labelled 'stable' by his doctors.

Top Gear is one of UK's favourite motoring programmes and Sundays at 8:00 pm, you would fine self and family glued to the telly, trying to absorb Clarkson, May and Hammond's latest antics. These guys really know their cars and present a show that is informative, entertaining and pure fun, all at the same time.

Richard Hammond, popularly known as 'the Hamster' is a great presenter with a 'try anything once' attitude. Together with Jeremy (Clarkson) and James (May), he has made Top Gear the most delightful show to watch on the telly. The bonhomie, gung-ho attitude and the three contrasting personalities make compulsive TV. Just how popular he is with the British public can be inferred from Jeremy's remarks, ""I would just like to say how heartened Richard will be when I tell him just how many motorists and truck drivers on my way here wound down their windows to say they were rooting for him. Both James and I are looking forward to getting our Hamster back."

Hammond first became introduced to the British public in 1998, when he presented the show Motorweek on the satellite channel Men & Motors. He then did a variety of things before landing his 'dream job' of that of a Top Gear presenter, in 2002. The show, which enjoys an almost cult status, is not new to controversy. In fact, this latest trouble has cast a shadow on its future. Top Gear had received criticism from MPs about its 'obsession with speeds'. Its high octane stunts did not exactly endear itself to road safety campaigners, who claimed it "glamorises speed".

But for motoring enthusiasts like me, the show is a must-watch. Who can forget the time of the Supercar Challenge, when James, Richard and Jeremy crossed the Millau Bridge in France in a Ferrari 430, Pagani Zonda and a Ford GT? Or the other time when they tested remote control cars in a disused quarry? I can still remember Richard just creasing himself, as James tried to manouver the car inside the tent, breaking every single breakable item in it!

Even as Richard lies in his hospital bed, messages are pouring from all over the country, from his fans who are anxious for his recovery. His impish smile, his cheerful persona and sheer delight in his job have made him the darling of the public. I hope to see him back on Top Gear again, just so we can all hear him go one more time, 'I haven't had my teeth whitened!'

Posted by DesiGirl 12:14 am 1 comments Links to this post  

Just another manic

Alarm goes off - brrrr! brrrr! Shit! Forgot to take it off the annoying vibrate mode. Grope under the pillow to locate it before it starts waking up the neighbourhood. Aha! Found it! Shut it, you stupid thing!

Trudge to the loo. Bang into the bedstead, slip over a stray Tesco bag, curse, close the door and sit on the bog for blessed peace. Brush teeth, try to get a semi-kip whilst brushing. Got to change the bettery on the bloody toothbrush - I am doing most of the work, myself.

Stand on the scales, on the balls of my feet, a little bit to the side, squint at the needle. Damn! Still the same!

Start loping off towards kitchen, sidestep a nasty looking Thomas the Tank Engine and switch on the perculator. Soon enough, the fragrant whiffs of coffee slowly prise closed eye lids open. Sip first mouthful of coffee standing at the worktop - ahhh, heaven. Trudge back to the sofa, step on a lego block - damn, it hurts! Wince, hop and sit gingerly on a book, trying not to upset the coffee on the carpet.

Finally! A moment to enjoy that surrealistic experience of the morning coffee.

Thud! The postie is early today. Oh well, better get cracking. Change into running gear, where's that bloody sock gone, gosh this shoe stinks better clean it before it clears the room. Ipod - check.

'Roobarooo... Roshini.....' well, good morning to you too, ARR. Oh! go away, sniffy, mangy, doggy! Look at that bloody time! Argh! Puff, pant! Where's my keys gone? Drat! Oh good morning, nice neighbour.


Where's that shirt I pressed last night? Drat! Was there a spot on it then? Oh hell! Well, this one here looks reasonably uncrumpled. Do I have time to steam it? Natch! Would get crumpled en route anyways. Trousers - black or grey? Blue. BOut five minutes early today - cool! oy is the boss man going to be pleased with me today or what?

Doddering old man, out of my way, please. Why did I pick this silly shoe out of all the silly shoes in the shoeniverse? The bloody thing's hungry all the time. Chews my poor feet to pieces every time. And why does the light change to green the minute I go near a crossing? Jab the button, please change, please change to the little green walking man.

Hmm, traffic is light today. That's rare. Oh well, more space in the road for me. 'New York Nagaram, urangum neram...' man! do I love that song or what. Puts a nice spring on my step, that song does. Whoa! Why are you cleaning the pavement today, man? That's what the weekends are for!

Finally! Made it - ooh! Where's the stupid security man gone? I ain't that early - they haven't even opened the bloody joint yet. Gawd! Well, I might as well trot off to the newsagents and get me a paper. I feel like Daily Mail today.

Smile at the lech at the tills - where's the stupid paper when you want it? Daily Mail, Daily Mail.. Why are there silly Mail on Sunday everywhere? There's just stupid Sunday papers in every.... Oh no! Oh no no no! Don't tell me - it's bloody Sunday today!

Posted by DesiGirl 7:12 am 1 comments Links to this post  

My book: To Kill a Mockingbird

How many times have I picked up this Harper Lee classic? I have lost count. The first time I chanced upon it was in 6th standard, when I ventured into the 'Seniors' part of the school library by mistake and picked this gem up as it was lying on the table. Thus, Scout, Jem and Atticus entered my life.

Since then, I have read this book many a time - my own copy was so battered that I bought myself a new one once I landed in London. At many different times of my life, the book has meant different things to me. That first time, it was completely Scout and her viewpoint that occupied me. I laughed at her attempts to bring out Boo Radley, cheered her on when she fought with Jem, wondered about that first kiss when she kissed Dill, thought of my own first (disastrous!) school stage show as I read about her no show as a ham.... well, I could go on!

Couple of years later, it was the adolescent Jem Finch who spoke to me. His tolerance of his pesky kid sister, his turmoils as he was caught between his childhood and the world of the adults, his quiet understanding of the changes that were happening in his once safe world... it was like I knew Jem intimately.

Once I hit college, the book sort of took on a new facet - that of the ultimate parent guide. (Now don't read too much into it!) Atticus Finch, I still reckon, is the best dad ever. His way of dealing with his children, though unorthodox, is fair and just and I tell myself 'if only I could be so with my own child'. The conversation with his brother when he chides Jack for sidestepping the issue when Scout asks a question, is brilliant.

One of my favourite 'scenes' from the book is when Atticus gives them the gun for Christmas and tells them he'd rather they shoot at tin cans than birds.

"... shoot all the blue jays you want; but remember it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, because mockingbirds don't do anything but make music for us to enjoy. "

This book has it all - humour, sarcasm, thrill, social issues, community, class system - there are so many different angles to this book, I feel I still haven't figured it all out. Each time I read it, I discover something new about it. As a wannabe writer, I am in awe of the author's ability to bring across the difficult concept of race, through the innocent eyes of a child's.

An extremely touchy and heavy subject, portrayed in such a beautiful way that it remains in your heart long after you finished reading it.

Posted by DesiGirl 11:06 pm 0 comments Links to this post  

No moooore milk?

About to drink your afternoon cuppa? Don't! It may well contain more chemicals than your favourite cola brand. Surprised? Well, I was too, after reading this article in TOI.

So our friendly neighbourhood cow is more harmful than the coloured water. Hmm, I have to admit, I really cannot accept that as a fact. Detractors could argue that it could purely be because of all that is associated with milk - milk is almost a synonym for purity, isn't it? Milk-teeth, innocent as a babe smelling of milk (well, paal manam maara kozhandai, in Tamil), milk of human kindness..., well you get my drift.

The author, in his piece, states that humans are the only beings that drink the milk of other species long after they have been weaned off their mother. While this is true, the statement cracked me up. In my mind's eye, I could see a tiger cub standing in queue outside a cow shed, patiently waiting his turn. Of course no other species drinks the milk of other animals - the whole argument is ridiculous!

The very idea of giving milk a bad press seems quite crazy to me. So, what is so wrong with milk anyway? If it is the concept of antigens and what nots, then what would happen to all the meat eaters? These days, one can eat anything from a garden variety chicken to zebra or kangaroo meat. Doesn't that bring in the baddies present in those beings into the human chain? Is veganism the answer then?

When I went on a holiday to Amsterdam a couple of years back with my family, my son happily guzzled down bottle after bottle of yummy cow's milk (the cows there were huge, let me tell you!) and was happy as Larry! He didn't touch a single solid food item, barring a few McChips but was none the worse for it cos good ole milk kept his tum full. Now I have this geezer telling me that it is a big no-no!

Let me unravel this yarn and see how far it goes - we say 'bye bye' to milk. OK then - next to follow would be curds (I can imagine my granny's reaction if her daily thayir sadam is taken off the menu!), cheese, chocolates, cream, cakes, doughnuts, pizza.. in short, all that is nice and good in this world! What does that leave out for poor ole vegetarian me? Grass! Great!

But what worries me is not the men, women and children guzzling down milk by the gallons - Lord knows, living in our towns and cities, they would have immunity against almost all of the known and most of the unknown germs as well. I am worried about our Gods who drink milk - they wouldn't have any protection against pesticide-laced cow juice, now, would they?

Posted by DesiGirl 7:38 am 3 comments Links to this post  

Schumey says 'arrivederci'

Amidst the sea of red, the prancing horses were flying high. The clarion sounded loud and clear while the Ferrari streaked past checker flag. Michael Schumacher had won - for the 90th time! There were the jubiliant crowd scenes as always, popping champagne corks, Jean Todt, cheering mechanics - but something was amiss.

Within couple of minutes though, it became clear as the great man announced that he would retire from motor sports at the end of the year. Though there were rumours going round that Michael was going to announce his retirement soon but things came to a head on Saturday, when he told a packed audience of reporters that he would make a proper announcement after Sunday's race.

It was Eddie Jordon who spotted the raw talent in Michael and signed up the 21-year old unknown at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix. Soon enough, he moved to the Benetton team and won the 1994 and 1995 world championship and moved to Ferrari the next year.

Ferrari were an uncompetitive team in 1996; their last driver's championship was in 1979, with Jody Scheckter. But Michael turned the team around and won his third world championship on a Ferrari in 2000. From then on, he was virtually unbeatable - his best year was 2004, when he won 13 of the 18 races. In fact, he had won the championship in July, after Silverstone!

Schumacher was never far away from controversies. F1 fans will remember the Damon Hill years, when Schumey and Damon went almost head to head more than once. And who can forget the 'team orders', when, during the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, race leader Barrichello was forced to step aside and let Mikey win? There was none more embarassed than Michael on the podium, as he tried to make a stoic Reubens take the podium.

Michael has been called many things and one of my favourite Mikey nick names is 'rain master'. He is an absolute wizard at driving under wet conditions; though Ayrton Senna had an uncanny ability in this aspect, Mikey's own is nothing to sneeze at.

His flamboyant style, the trademark jumps in the air post-win, the national anthem conducting styles... all of these will be missed sorely. Though his detractors have called him a poor sportsman for his ruthless attitude on the track, his affection for his mechanics is visible for all to see. Every single time, including the last, after he has won a race, he makes a beeline towards his team of mechanics and hugs every single one of them.

There has never been such a charismatic ambassador for Motor sport and there never will be another Schumacher. And I, for one, would be sad to see him go.

But I hope he goes with a bang, as he deserves to. Here's to your 8th championship crown, Mikey!

Posted by DesiGirl 7:18 pm 1 comments Links to this post