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14 years after 9/11, these lyrics really resonate with many of us, especially those living in the NY/NJ area at the time. We could relate to the pain in this song after directly or indirectly getting affected by the events of that day…
Shirts in the closet
Shoes in the hall
Mama’s in the kitchen
Baby and all
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
But you’re missing
Coffee cups on the counter
Jacket’s on the chair
Papers on the doorstep
But you’re not there
Everything is everything
But you’re missing
Pictures on the nightstand
TV’s on in the den
Your house is waiting
Your house is waiting
For you to walk in
For you to walk in
But you’re missing
When I shut out the light
When I close my eyes
When I see the sunrise
Children are asking if it’s alright
Will you be in our arms tonight?
Morning is morning
The evening falls
I got too much room in my bed
Too many phone calls
How’s everything everything
Everything is everything
But you’re missing
God’s drifting in heaven
Devil’s in the mailbox
Got dust on my shoes
Nothing but teardrops…
#springsteen #911anniversary #therising
I wake up in the morning just to see you smile
I close my eyes with you by my side
The traffic snarls and the early rush
The caffeine highs don’t seem to help that much
I see you in the evening and my day is made
Oasis of calm away from the noise
Dopamine when I hear that voice
My foot on the pedal begins to get numb
The people around me couldn’t be more dumb
All’s forgiven as I watch you wave
It casts no shadow, the light from your face
I wonder what goes on in your head space
A grueling drive in unrelenting rain
Routine, monotony and other pains
Are worth coming back again and again to
It was a nice Diwali this year. Last year we had beautified the apartment with diyas, rangoli and lights but generally spent it low-key. Later we found out that many people gather at Shree Radheshyam Mandir in Sandton and even light fireworks there! So this year we were determined not to miss it.
Firstly, we had to go get firecrackers. At the annual Newtown Diwali festival that we attended at the beginning of the month, we had seen a flyer for a store in Lenasia selling fireworks. And since we hadn’t really seen Lenasia yet anyway, we decided to give it a try. So, on Saturday (which was coincidentally my birthday) we did the somewhat long-ish drive to Lenasia and went to this store called Milan’s. I don’t remember the last time I walked into a shop that was so filled to the brim with fireworks! It was a nice feeling, something I hadn’t experienced in maybe 15 years or more. As we started enquiring about crackers and bombs, we realized that it was a bit different here than in India. They did not understand what ‘flower pot’ or ‘anaar’ meant. Instead, we got something called ‘volcano’ which looked similar but much bigger. I noticed that these were Chinese fireworks, not the ones from Sivakasi, Tamilnadu that we used to get regularly in India. Anyway, we got all the basics – sparklers, flower pots, a few loose bombs etc. Didn’t want to go overboard… just wanted a handful to get that festive feeling.
The evening before Diwali (called ‘chhoti diwali’ in India) we put our string of led lights up. I tried my best to tape it on to a window in the form of a diya. Diwali day itself was a normal workday (no holiday here despite the significantly large Indian population!) so we quickly wished all our loved ones back home before heading to work. Late afternoon/evening some friends dropped by and we exchanged sweets. Got that nice feeling one gets in India when neighbourhood friends and relatives visit over a festive occasion. Then we made a few calls to our parents and siblings, wishing them once again. Before we knew it, it was time to get dressed and head out for the temple festivities.
There were a lot of people at the temple and it was interesting to see everybody dressed to the nines in their best Diwali garb. The Lakshmi Puja was supposed to start at 7 pm and the fireworks were scheduled to start at 8:30. We reached there on time, luckily found parking amidst the sea of cars and said our prayers in the busy hall. As we sat there doing a bit of people-watching, some had already started setting off crackers in the lawn and it was only 7:30 or so. Clearly, most people were there for the fireworks! To our pleasant surprise we also saw a couple who we knew and started chatting with them. Soon, we too headed into the large lawn to join in the celebrations. It was just like in India… people lighting fireworks all over the place, within hardly a few feet from each other. Of course, this being a foreign country, there were plenty of fire extinguishers strategically placed on the lawn should something untoward happen. There was originally a tape running across the lawn demarcating the safe viewing zone with the live firework zone. But Indians will be Indians, so that rule was soon broken and people were all over the place. It was also amusing to see a black guy who had come with his Indian buddies who tried their best to explain to him in detail about how people go nuts over these fireworks back home. All in all, it was so great to relive this experience after more than a decade! People were generally friendly too. Nothing like lighting your sparkler with the help of somebody else’s already lit sparkler – the perfect ice-breaker!
It was a weeknight though, so we had to return home at a decent time. After dinner, we had our own little party on the front patio with friendly light-emitting sparklers. Didn’t risk any sound-producing bombs, though my curiosity eventually got the better of me and I simply had to try out a tiny little ‘dancing cracker’, which at most would have woken up an alley cat nearby. Overall, it turned out be a really fun evening and I was happy to see so many Indians celebrating in an alien country.
It has been a week since my in-laws returned to India after their 3 week stay in SA. We wanted to cover as much as possible during their stay, so I did not want to miss the number one highlight – Cape Town.
I originally planned for a trip over Easter weekend which is always a big one here. But when I had a look at the flight fares, I got the shock of my life! They were about 3 times more expensive than off-peak rates. Add to that, it was going to be a very busy time at work due to the nature of our business. Hence I decided to push the trip by a week. Off-peak season (anytime but Christmas and Easter) is really the best time to go on holiday over here.
We left Joburg on a Thursday afternoon. The brightly coloured low cost airline, Mango landed rather bumpily at Cape Town International Airport from where we had to take a rental car to our B&B. It was a lovely little bed & breakfast run by a French guy and his Indian wife right near the centre of town in the Bo-Kaap district (formerly known as the Malay Quarter). They were really friendly and helpful throughout our stay. They even made a special potato and beans curry for our Indian parents and it turned out to be a hit with the other guests as well. So, the breakfast was fabulous and we got a little peek of what was to come, from their open terrace – Table Mountain in all its glory sitting neatly right next to the town.
While we planned out our 4 days of sightseeing, our hosts advised us that we could take the open-top hop-on/hop-off bus tour for the first 2 days and then perhaps explore the peninsula on our own for the remaining 2 days. It made sense to us and that is what we did. After finishing breakfast, I went online and got the City Sightseeing bus tickets for 2 days. Not only was there a discount for purchasing tickets online, the 2 day tour let us interchange between the red bus which tours only the inner city and the blue bus which tours parts of the peninsula. So without wasting any time, we headed to the nearest bus stop. This was great. We could actually walk the streets here, as opposed to Joburg inner city where I wouldn’t even go by car unless I absolutely have to. First stop on the bus was Table Mountain.
We lined up for the cable way going up the mountain and paid the entrance fees, which to me seemed on the high side. Anyway I said to myself that this was Cape Town after all and that it was worth it. As we went up we got stunning views, which kept getting better and better the higher we were. I thought that the rotating platform in the round cable car was a nice touch. It gave everyone 360 degree views of Lion’s head, the entire town and the Atlantic Ocean.
On top of the mountain was a wonderfully built-up stone park with lots of hiking trails, wooden bridges and lookout points, a souvenir shop (of course!) and a restaurant. When the sun is out and the sky is clear except for a few fluffy white clouds, this place looks like a dream! One could keep gazing at the subtly varying shades of blue of the ocean as it fades into the sky. After walking around as much as we could and taking tons of photos, we headed back down to get back on the bus.
Next stop was Camps Bay where we had lunch at The Raj restaurant. We had spent a lot of time at Table Mountain and so had worked up a good appetite. The food was delicious but a little pricey, which is understandable. Camps Bay beach had a posh look about it with a variety of fine dining options. I just wish we could have spent more time at the beach walking along the never-ending coastline. But with a 4 day trip, that was not possible. Anyway, then we headed over to Burg street near the centre of town. There was a market place there with several shops and restaurants. The whole place looked very interesting, once again… a far cry from shady downtown Johannesburg! Ended the day at Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront, which doesn’t offer all that much for sightseeing per se. But it does have a nice harbour with cool looking boats, shops, restaurants and a giant wheel.
The next day we decided to take advantage of the blue bus which tours the peninsula. We had heard about Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens being a must-see and also wanted to do a tour of a vineyard. So, first we headed to Kirstenbosch and then to Groot Constantia wine estate. The botanical garden was quite nice but overall, both my wife and I felt that the Nelspruit one was more interesting with a huge waterfall inside the premises. This one had many cobblestone paths, artsy looking statues and interesting flora. All in all we enjoyed it. When we got to Groot Constantia, it had started raining quite heavily. So as soon as we got off the bus, we hurried into a restaurant and had a lovely Italian lunch along with some home-grown white wine. After the rain subsided, we went on the wine-making tour. They walked us through the whole process, showing us the machines where the grapes are processed, the cellars where the fermentation takes place and finally the wooden barrels where the wine is stored and aged. We even got to do a little wine tasting at the end of the tour. So that was fun.
The following day our bus ticket had expired. It was time to use our rental car. We decided to cover Chapman’s Peak, Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope and Boulders ‘penguin’ beach. When we got to Chapman’s Peak, as luck would have it, it started raining heavily. Though the place did look misty and nice with rainy weather, I was somewhat disappointed. I had seen this place before in bright summer weather and this just wasn’t the same. Anyway, we did not stop and simply headed on to Cape Point. As we drove further down the peninsula, the rain stopped and the sky cleared. The sun came out again. I said a little prayer.
Cape Point, with its winding walking path up to the historic lighthouse and views of nothing but ocean beyond, was absolutely magnificent! It is probably my favourite place in the whole peninsula with Table Mountain giving it a serious run for its money.
Then, there is Cape of Good Hope which if I remember my history right, was discovered by Bartolomeu Dias and navigated around by Vasco Da Gama in the 15th century. There is a sign there which says that it is the most south western point of Africa, so of course we had to pose for photos there. There was also a busload of tourists there who seemed to be hogging the sign and not giving anybody else a chance, which was quite pathetic.
Thrilled about the good weather we had at Cape Point, we started towards Boulders beach to see some penguins. The weather pattern really is unique in this part of the country. It can change in a second and be unpredictable as heck but when it is good it is really good! When we got to Boulders beach I was surprised to see an entrance fee being charged. I mean, who charges an entrance fee to an open beach?? I’m sure they just decided to capitalize on the fact that there were penguins here. Anyway, the place looks pretty enough and there is a long enclosure near the beach with a boardwalk and plenty of penguins. After walking about a bit, staring at the bored-looking penguins and taking some photos, we headed back towards Cape Town through Simon’s Town.
Then it suddenly struck me that we had not really seen Chapman’s Peak due to the bad weather there. The weather was gorgeous right now and there were still a couple of hours before sunset. So I decided to take the long way back through Chapman’s Peak. We made it well on time and were able to catch the gorgeous evening sun slowly sinking into the ocean. It was like a perfect book-ending to an amazing 3 days of sightseeing.
The next day, we only had enough time to see one nearby place before catching out flight. So we had breakfast, checked out of our rooms, thanked the hosts profusely for their warm hospitality and headed for Bloubergstrand or Blouberg Beach. This was located in the northern suburbs in the Table View area and provided an amazing view of the beach with a backdrop of the entire Table Mountain in the horizon. Spent roughly an hour there before leaving for the airport.
Overall, it had been a thoroughly enjoyable trip but considering that it was only 3 and a half days really, we managed to see almost all the must-see attractions.
I heard of this speech over the weekend from my parents as they were watching it on local television and I’d been meaning to catch a web link or something. Today being a public holiday here, I decided to check it out. And boy, am I glad I did! I have to say that I find myself agreeing with a lot of what this writer has to say. Here are some quotes that really stuck in my head. My comments follow underneath each quote.
“You do not end unpleasant thinking by banning its expression. What you do is you drive it underground and in some ways you make it more powerful by giving it the excitement of taboo. When stuff is out in the open, that’s when you can demolish it. When stuff is banned and secretly in corners, then it becomes glamorous. The glamour of being forbidden must not be under-estimated.”
This is so true and I have said something along these lines myself several times to friends and family. When you ban something, anything, it automatically becomes more exciting! Just as a simple example, having a couple of beers or a little bit of alcohol with friends in a social situation is common especially in Western culture. By making it taboo and creating the image that alcohol destroys families, you end up with a handful of hardcore bingers. In India I have often noticed that though there are fewer drinkers generally in society (or they are just not visible out in the open), they end up drinking a lot more and more hard drinks too like whisky and rum. Forbidden fruit is always sweeter.
“When I use the word respect, it means that I take people seriously. I engage with them seriously. It doesn’t mean that I agree with everything they say. What is happening now is that the term ‘respect’ is being used as a way of demanding assent. If you disagree with me, then you are disrespecting me! And I will get very angry and may even pick up a violent weapon, because that’s my way when I get disrespected.”
People just do not know opinion from fact I think. When you say something, you are only stating your opinion. It is not cold hard fact. Know the difference. Understand that different people, societies have different opinions and may very well differ drastically from yours! If you disagree with them, just ignore them and go on with your life. As long as the other party’s opinion does not bring harm to you or your loved ones, what does it matter? Just let it be.
“In any open society, people constantly say things that other people don’t like. It’s completely normal that that should happen. And in any confident free society, you just shrug it off and then you proceed. There’s no way of creating a free society in which nobody ever says things that other people don’t like. If offendedness (sic) is the point at which you have to limit thought, then nothing can be said.”
“Behind these ideas of offendedness (sic) and respect is always the threat of violence. Always the threat is that if you do that which disrespects or offends me, I will be violent towards you. And so the real subject is not religion, it is violence and how do we face up to the threat of violence. And that’s something that we need to think about.”
“The question is not the disagreement. The question is the violent implementation of the disagreement and the threat of it which prevents dissenting voices from speaking. That’s what’s going on and people here are asleep I think to what’s going on and you need to wake up.”
The trouble is that everyone wants to be the moral, ethical and cultural police. How can one person know what is right for the next person??? Who is he or she to decide? If somebody is not religious or does not follow your religion, let them live their lives the way they want to. They are not stopping you from practicing your religion. They are not bringing harm to you. What can violence solve? Nothing! Just look at history. It is the same thing with gay people and conservative fundamentalists. I think that people in general are just not wired to keep their noses in their own business.
Another thing he said was very interesting:
“There was an article I read in this week’s Hindu newspaper talking about how many of the earliest, oldest texts of Hinduism do not contain the idea of the existence of god. And contemporaries of the Buddha, quoted also in this article, would say that there is no other world than this one, and would deny the idea of a divine sphere. So again in the oldest parts of Indian culture, there is an atheistic tradition in which the ideas of blasphemy and heresy have no meaning, because there is no divinity to blaspheme or be heretic against. This again, this is our culture. This is not an imported culture. It is not alien to the Indian tradition. This is THE Indian tradition. And those who say it is not, they are the ones who deform that tradition.”
Wow! I did not know this. I mean, speaking for myself, I’m not an atheist or anything. But I am not overly religious either. I do find it peaceful to meditate, say a few prayers and go to the temple once in a while and be thankful for everything I got. I am spiritual. But I do not get the ritualistic side of religion and things that ‘one must do’ because they have been passed on through generations and generations. Why can’t we question practices that do not make sense to us? This same God gave us brains too, didn’t he/she?
“It seems as if almost every day now, somewhere there is a piece on bullying by Muslims or Hindus of groups that they believe in some way offends them and voices are being silenced. Publishers are more frightened to publish. Galleries are more frightened to display certain kinds of art. Certain kinds of films are not being made which would have been made 15 or 20 years ago. The chilling effect of violence is very real and it is growing in this country. And I have to say that this is where the other part of the story which involves all of us comes in which is a public apathy towards this. We approve of the great technological, industrial, economic growth of our country. But we don’t seem to value our cultural artifacts in the same way, even though the greatest thing we know about Indian history is the incredible richness of the Indian artistic and cultural tradition.”
This is such a good point. There is a lot of hypocrisy. There is a lot of public apathy towards fundamentalist bullying of art and expression. The whole idea that ‘I know what is right for you and I will control what you watch/view/read’ is absolutely ridiculous! You do not create a multi-cultural and tolerant society with this kind of thinking. And people don’t seem to care. Unless it affects them personally, people don’t care. They are too caught up in their own daily routine and busy lives. And there is hypocrisy too. How can we be proud of our arts and culture when the same thing is continuously being threatened by the so-called moral police?
So anyway, all in all I have to say that I really enjoyed Rushdie’s speech and found myself agreeing with a lot of what he said. If only we had more intelligent people like this in the public eye and maybe even in the government… pigs will surely fly then.
I have often noticed that people (especially in the news media but not exclusively) cannot pronounce foreign names correctly if their life depended on it! And sometimes it seems like they do it on purpose. I could be wrong here. But consider this. Do you really think that former US President Bush, or his then VP Dick Cheney did not know that the correct pronunciation is ‘Iraakh’, not ‘Eye-rack’? One may say that this is a trivial matter but I do not think that it is. If you do not bother to learn the correct way of pronouncing somebody’s name, what good are you at public relations? And is that all the importance you give to another culture? This matters a lot if one is in the spotlight or public eye all the time.
Like newsreaders, for instance… I just cannot stand it when those BBC newsreaders pronounce Anna Hazare like Anna Kournikova. I mean, c’mon now! Seriously? Anna Hazare is an Indian male activist… that’s right, MALE! His first name is pronounced like ‘un’ (as in unbelievable) + ‘na’. Why would a Gandhian figure have a female-sounding Western name? And don’t get me started on Gandhi! Or Ghandi or Gandi.. ugh! How hard is it to pronounce and spell correctly? And these are not even long names. By the way, I like how Obama correctly pronounces words like Iraq and Pakistan. He knows that it makes a difference, no matter how small, in foreign relations. And it is not just Westerners mispronouncing Eastern names. It is sometimes the other way round too. But western news media such as BBC and CNN simply have more exposure on TV and consequently are under greater public scrutiny.
The other thing that drives me up the wall is seeing, for example, people using an obviously fake and extra-heavy British accent to report for a channel like the BBC. I wonder if they are required to do this in order to keep their job… Can somebody confirm this? If that is the case, I think it is beyond ridiculous! Some newsreaders of course do seem like they are Easterners who were born and brought up in Britain. In such cases, I can at least sort of understand. But how does a reporter regularly covering for the BBC from Mumbai develop a thick British accent living in India? It is funny as heck but mostly just cringe worthy. One must not be required to change one’s cultural habits so drastically in order to do the job.
Anyway, this is something that has always bothered me and I debated in my mind whether to post this or not. But I do not mean any disrespect to anybody. I just find it funny that some people go out of their way to pronounce foreign names correctly and others just don’t seem to give a damn.
What is up with drivers on SA roads? Driving sense seems to be getting worse and worse by the day. I remember when I came here in 2009; it did not seem as bad as it is now. Of course the damn taxis were always terrible, constantly showing blatant disregard for any kind of law of the road. But nowadays it seems like nobody really gives a shit anymore.
I see people changing lanes without indicators, driving too fast on the road and tailgating other drivers, jumping their turn at a stop sign and numerous other offences. I regularly see people only indicating when they have to turn left or right somewhere and not while changing lanes. In which school did these people learn to drive??? I wonder. When it is a 120 kmph zone, most people are flying past at 150 or 160. When it is an 80 zone, people automatically seem to assume 100 and upwards. I even sometimes see people doing what appears to be close to 120 in a 60 kmph zone. That’s double the speed limit! What is the hurry? Where is everyone rushing off to? If one dug deeper, it would probably be a combination of poor time management and complete disregard for the rules.
And the police don’t seem to do anything to physically watch and catch speeding motorists. They would rather set up cameras and radar guns in 80 kmph zones to catch some poor unfortunate soul doing 85 and collect a fat fine from him or her. It is not really helping, because people who speed generally know where the cameras are and take their chances everywhere that they aren’t. The South African Police needs to wake up and start catching the real offenders. For instance, I have never once seen or heard of anybody being pulled up for changing lanes without indicating. Isn’t that an offence?? Doesn’t it deserve some form of punishment or fine? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not some goody two-shoes here out to get everyone else. But honestly, how hard is it to just follow the rules, indicate when needed, keep a safe following distance, be courteous to the fellow drivers, wear seat belts and so on? And speaking of safety belts, I personally know people who avoid wearing seat belts until either the car alarm bugs the heck out of them or the co-passenger (such as me) says something. Why?? What are you trying to prove? Who are you trying to impress?? Just wear the damn seat belt! It should come as a natural instinctive motion, shouldn’t it?… like brushing one’s teeth. But sadly it doesn’t. No wonder that the road accident death toll over the festive season in December went close to 1500.
A few weeks back I was on the road with my wife somewhere north of Pretoria and this punk-looking guy with a mohawk in a bright yellow convertible cut in front of me very closely from behind. So I immediately honked. Imagine our surprise to see the guy go totally ballistic, flipping us off with his middle finger and even slowing down as if to suggest stopping by the side of the road to have a one on one. People really need to learn to respect fellow drivers on the roads. I hope the whole ‘Lead SA’ initiative has some kind of effect on this growing problem.
And what have you done?
Another year over
A new one just begun
Well, not quite yet but… I just wanted to start with a John Lennon quote this Christmas day. It is always a nice time of the year and seeing decorated trees with strings of lights never fails to put me in a good mood no matter how many times I have seen these kinds of things before.
So what are we doing for Xmas?… We went to see an ice skating ballet called ‘The Nutcracker on Ice’ last night at the Teatro at Montecasino. It was very pretty, colourful and wonderfully done with extremely talented ice skaters but there seemed to be a little too much repetition. Also, since we did not read up on the story beforehand it was quite hard to follow exactly what was going on from one scene to the next. Nevertheless, the stunts were awesome! Seeing the cast effortlessly glide from one end of the stage to the other, spin around in the air and land without making a single mistake was very nice. There were some acrobats as well who I thought really stole the show. But somehow the whole event did not carry the same excitement as say, Riverdance, which we had seen sometime back. Maybe it’s a personal thing. Anyway, I absolutely loved Tchaikovsky’s musical score though.
Later, after getting back home we set up our tree (finally just before midnight!) and plugged in the lights. There were plenty of decorations left over from last year, so we did not buy any new ones this year. Still I have to say that it looks happily well-decked. It is something that I always enjoyed doing growing up despite coming from a traditional Hindu family. Christmas just has that feel like it is for everyone, no matter what religion. Of course, it could be due to the fact that it has been thrust in our faces through satellite television for years and years. But I digress.
I wish Christmas was more happening in Joburg though. Except for malls and casinos where there are plenty of decorations and cheer, I haven’t seen the whole town light up like say, in NYC. You should not have to go into a closed building or entertainment complex to enjoy the Christmas spirit. I miss seeing decorated lampposts and lit-up trees. There needs to be more open shopping areas and street-facing stores here. Not that we don’t have them in areas like Melville and Parktown but there are way more complexes and enclosed spaces. I suppose it is a security thing.
As for any other plans, we might go check out a beautiful Russian orthodox church in our neighbourhood which we have been thinking of visiting. And as soon as my wife is done with the baking, we will have Christmas cake, some white wine and hopefully a good movie like ‘A Christmas Story’ to watch in the evening. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Speed bumps are everywhere in residential areas and local roads with low speed limits. I do understand the need for them considering that most people drive much faster than the posted speed limit and hence endanger the lives of pedestrians and others on the road. But, if the real purpose of having a speed bump is to slow people down, then all that is required is something that looks like this:
What is up with the metal speed bumps in criss cross patterns that I’m seeing a lot, especially here in South Africa???
These monstrosities seem to be designed to not slow you down but rather to shake you up in a horizontal side-to-side motion; much like one would shake up the pulp in a fresh fruit beverage! After driving over one of these bumps, not only am I bloody annoyed by this strange body jiggle experience thrust upon me, I am worried for the suspension of my car which takes on a pretty hard rattle! I mean, which genius came up with the idea of shaking the lights out of motorists on a calm, relaxing drive down a quiet street? It’s almost like they’re going “C’monnnn loosen up a little, will ya?? Do a little jig for me. And while we’re at it, let’s lose all control of the steering wheel! Yippie! ” I thought the idea was to slow down people.
Hope somebody from the traffic department or national roads agency reads this blog post, or else I may have to go directly to their website and give them a piece of my mind. 🙂
A long long long long time ago
In other words, thirteen months ago
Thanks to Google Chat and Skype
I found a girl who was just my type
A warm spring day we arranged to meet
Got engaged in style in the sweltering heat
I don’t know how I could wait at all
Until bells were ringing later that Fall
Five whole months never been the same
You make every day feel less mundane
Disagreements there may be a few
But I’m just so happy that I married you