Saturday, January 15, 2011

Meanwhile Back Home...

Kashmir does not rest. The media party has ended, sure. But nothing has really changed since last summer's horror.
Tehelka is possibly the only popular publication that continues to show real interest in Kashmir, after all the hurly burly was done.
I recommend subscribing to's Kashmir Uncut YouTube channel, for some real reporting, ugly truths and hopefully, eye-openers. Special series directed by Pragya Tiwari and team.

Note: Most vids are- well, apart from worth watching - saddening, disturbing or plain infuriating. Keep that in mind before you start.

I've Come To Look For America

So I finally made it across various seas, a couple of oceans and substantial portions of land to reach the United States of America [Wiki it] on the 30th of December, 2010. I know. That's like so last year, right?
The adventures began when I left Jammu a week earlier. Idea was to train in, spend a few days in the Dilli, meet old and new friends and then take off for foren. As always, that whole 'the best laid plans of mice and men...' deal happened. Meaning the foren came later rather than sooner. Not that I minded. I love D-D-D-D-Dilli, Dilli. Song follows. Sing along, please.

Now, things started off as planned. Reached Dilli okay, met new Twitter fraands [to wit: St_Hill, Mah_Ima, Fakeha, as1fk, s_purba, Marryam, mriganayanika] and regular old fraands. Metro'ed as much as I could from Ghaziabad abode to all ends of the city. I do like the Dilli Metro, in spite of occasional 'yatra seva mein vilambhs'. Clean convenient and most wonderfully, 'ladies only' coach at the front of every ride.

Finally visited posh Hauz Khas market on Christmas day for lunch with the Avegiii which we had planned at that place called 'Gunpowder'.
Avegiii took me through some winding, shady alleys of Hauz Khas, and since I trust her so much, I didn't panic. Turns out my trust and friendship were not misplaced. We reached lakeside and there was the Gunpowder signage. Up three flights like giggly gals we went, only to realise at the very end, that the place was closed for Christmas. Sigh. There had been a sign at the ground floor, which we totally ignored in our chatty-laughy climb upwards.  
Anyway. Nice facepalm walk downstairs it was. Where we saw the Junglist Movement, saluted etc.
[BTW, verrr interesting kitschy film poster stores which I will visit on return journey.]
Lunched at 'Naivedyam' eventually, for okay-to-above-average South Indian khaana. Had nice filter kaapi after ever so long. Also met the fantastic foodie Marryam Reshii and her adorable Kashmiri husband. 

Dilli days were made up of sight-seeing. Street-walking in Puraani Dilli, which I love returning to. Visited Balli Maaran and the utterly uncared for Ghalib Memorial in Gali Qasim Jaan. Very heartbreaking to see the nonsense state of Ghalib's last abode. 'Ghalib-e-khaasta ke baghair kaunse kaam band hain? Ro'iye zaar-zaar kya, kijiye haaye haaye kyun?' :(

Prayed at Jama Masjid, and unlike last visit where I was completely pissed off with the peeps inside making noise and having a picnic of sorts, this time around it was quieter, and more masjid-like. [Also, w00t! w00t! Running hot water at the wodhu  nooks, which was very lovely in the Dilli winter.]

Did book shopping [Urdu poetry, Islamic books] at one sweet uncle's carpeted bookshop. 'Please remove shoes and all' deal it was. Spent a pleasant hour there, shoeless.

Now, right opposite Jama Masji'd maingate, was this deadly sweet-laden cart. Delish matka firni, doodhi halwa, gajar halwa etc. for ridiculously awesome price of INR 12/- or something. Please to try. 

So far, so good.
Then it started snow-blizzard-ing in Dilli [or at least fogging up verrr bad] and all flights went for a toss. Which is when the exciting phase of my travels began - the Dilli Layover in Swank Hotels, or as I like to call it - DilLiSH. 
The first night my flight was cancelled, I was pretty kicked. Air France [nice enough airlines, tres sucky ground staff at IGI Airport] put us stranded passengers up at the Ramada in Gurgaon. I got a swank double room with a view all to myself, see-through bathroom, TV, Wi-fi, the works. Plus I became pals with one cute Bong-boy-kid traveller and it was a pleasant stay for two days. 
Managed to go sight-see at Humayun's Tomb with two lovely ladies, so that's one more item crossed off my To-Do-In-Dilli list . 

Am pretty sure you've all seen Humayun's Tomb [if not, Google Image it], so I'll show you something you might not have seen in relation to it.

This would be Imran Khan and Kat Kaif doing a song shoot at said location on the very day Fakehaa, Mah_Ima & I were there. Coincidence? I think not. [Stalkers...]

The next flight delay/cancellation was sordid, tiring, unbelievable. Horrendous night at hawaai adda. Was ready to crash and burn by 0400 hours. After very Kafka-esque experiences, finally found self with room at The Park, CP. Well, well, well! I know, right?
Extra colourful rooms at The Park
Anyway. I liked Ramada Inn better because of cosy feel, and, this is most important, it had a bidet in the toilet. I HATE HATE HATE this concept of waterless bathrooms. It may be right up the foreigners' alley, but I need a tap and lots of water in my loo because I was born and brought up the desi way. Steeuuupid swanksters. I had mineral water bottle to keep me company but marble bathroom with telly in it did not impress.
Marble-sharble, Tv-sheevee theek hai, get bidet.
Bedroom and bed were fine, no complaints. I slept off immediately. 
And may I just say what a fantastic spread for lunch. Am regretting having slept through breakfast. The hotel staff is most definitely not. I mean, I went all out. Cleaned out the buffet. *flashback*

Allors. Flight to Paris was nice, what with sudden barrage of French by everyone on board, and very Francais accented Anglais, just like the movies. I was having giggle fit listening to it. To make matters worse, was seated next to lovey-dovey French couple, and well, you know... *blush*

Reached Charles de Gaulle hawaai adda, negotiated through various terminals and metros and security checks in a daze, thinking, "ZOMG! I am actually in Paris. ZOMG!" Also having visuals from various postcards and Paris, Je T'aime.

I must confess that I deliberately went over and spoke to many peeps in the airport just to practise my basic French. Cheap thrills. 

After reaching departure lounge, I learnt that my flight was 'retarded'. [See pic.]
Also, some issue with mon billet, so had verrrry awesome time listening to to hot French men discuss my situation and how to get me on the flight. As I was twirling my tresses [underneath scarf] and smiling suggestively, they sorted out the mess and that was the end of that dream sequence. Sigh... Very Joseph Fiennes one of them was, and with a French beard to boot.

And then a few hours later I reached, can you believe it, the US of A. Sweet immigration guy; had a lovely chat with him although was very miffed he did not know about Kashmir. I mean, WTH??!! Still, he was polite and smiley, I was polite and smiley, we made small talk, I got a quick stamp on passport and here I am, in the wintry Mid-West.

So far Umreeka has been pleasant and quiet, and polite and internet is really fast. Also, I am in love. Crazy love. Check out how crazy:

Zizou, the nephew

It has snowed beautifully in the past few days. I love it [because I don't have to go out and shovel the driveway].

Here, this is me and boyfriend.

Final notes on initial thoughts on Umreeka:
1. Clean, quiet, polite, peeps follow rules - Yayyyy!
2. Huge servings of everything. Unbelievably huge produce. Like gigantic fruits and vegetables. It's scary.
3. Too much availability/use/waste of energy and resources. Too much. Disturbingly much. In that I am constantly disturbed by comparing to the way things are back home. Non-CFL lights, power sockets without ON/OFF switch so gadgets are in stand-by mode forever, dishwashers, big fuel-guzzling cars, central heating, instant hot water... Sure it's comfortable but... it's l'excessive, non? Anyway. I feel bad about it.
4. Great community care by Govt - libraries, Recreation Centres, facilities for each town/community. How nice for families and kids especially. There should be no crime at this rate what with all the perks you get with being an American. Hmmph.