In May 2011, I visited southwest of Germany, covering Stuttgart and neighbouring areas. I had awesome experiences and was overwhelmed by the trip, as it was my first one to Europe.
I participated in various activities and was fortunate to gain access to several places, thanks to my Press Card. The best moment though, was when I got to sit inside the Audi R8 Spyder series.
I wrote a short article for JetWings magazine, recounting my one week spent in Germany. This is one of my favourite stories till date, and I would love for you all to read it and let me know how you found it.
Travel story on southwest Germany (The file is a tad heavier than usual ones; please be patient as it loads.)
The already scarce Jewish population in India is dwindling, but their fascinating houses of worship have the Ner Tamid (lamp of eternal flame) burning bright and strong. The synagogues here in India are beautiful and I feel honoured to have visited one in Mumbai during their 125th anniversary celebrations.
Here’s a feature I have written for JetWings magazine on synagogues in India. JetWings in the luxury travel magazine by Jet Airways, one of India’s premiere airlines.
I will definitely appreciate your feedback on this story!
Of crooked roads, twisted laughs and a quirky ride.
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Paul Dano and Alan Arkin.
Genre: Dark comedy | DVD priced at: Rs 599
If you could accompany the Hoover family on any one road trip, it should be the one where they all pile into their weather-beaten Volkswagen T2 Microbus and head to California. For on this trip, you will not only have interesting co-passengers but also an unlimited supply of drama, topped with copious doses of dark hilarity.
Little Miss Sunshine is an American road film that takes the route to satirical drollery with the story of a dysfunctional family. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 and has garnered some serious praise. Husband-wife duo of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris direct this film, that depicts how winning-crazed our society is.
The Hoover family sets out on the trip from Albuquerque when the protagonist, the 7-year old Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) qualifies for a pre-pubescent beauty pageant (for the title of Little Miss Sunshine), to be held in California. Olive has a heroin addict for a grandpa, a bankrupt father, a frustrated mother, an uncle who failed a suicide attempt and a stepbrother who maintains a vow of silence. Sounds weird? Oh, rest assured, you’ll grow to love them.
Along the way, their bus encounters a number of mechanical problems, matching the family’s situation. Overcoming several hurdles along the way, the family reaches California for Olive’s pageant. The film climaxes with a shockingly authentic portrayal of a pageant – preteen girls with stylised hair and glamourous eveningwear. Picture Olive here, with her large glasses and chubby cheeks sans any make-up.
It is the twisted sense of humour that complements the realism, and holds the story together. For a large part of the film, the family is out on the road battling gruesome heat and as the viewer, you feel the heat too. What stands out amid all the chaos and catharsis is the easy naturalism. The visuals are fresh and eccentric, allowing the characters’ personalities to take centre stage. Another notable aspect of the film is its music, which is a mix of indie rock and folk music. Denver-based band, DeVotchKa has provided majority of the score. They used unusual instruments such as the sousaphone, theremin and bouzouki to give an odd, humourous feel to the music.
Little Miss Sunshine is not to be confused for a children’s film, for it is definitely not that. The film has some dialogue involving profanity and shows substance abuse. That said, from the photography to the sets, the music and the superb performances, the film captures the Hoovers in all their absurdity, angst and affection. It’s definitely a road trip you don’t want to miss.
Europe too expensive for you? Visit the tiny island of Mauritius to live a laid back French lifestyle, without having to shell out much. Enjoy the sea-laden air, local sega dances and interesting water sports.
I landed at Mauritius thinking, how different can be it from Mumbai? After all, majority of their population is Hindu. And then I met Mauritian people – Hindus who conversed in fluent French, and barely managed Hindi! That is because even though the population today is Hindu by birth, Mauritius was a French colony till the 19th century. Other vestiges of this fact are their relaxed lifestyle and a love for dance.
I knew one should not hold our Juhu beach as reference when visiting island nations such as Mauritius, but with just the first glance at their public beach, and I was blown away. An endless stretch of soft sand with clear waters in shades of blue and green lay before me. I was thrilled at the thought of water-sports here, and my excitement took shape in the next couple of days.
A stone belt that weighed 30 kg and a stone-brimmed glass helmet with a pipe for air circulation – this was my gear for a walk in Mauritius. Well, a walk under the sea. I had signed up for ‘Underwater Sea Walking’ and would be taken down to the seabed for a walk. Unlike how it is with diving, we choose a spot that is only 8 to 9 ft deep.
I climbed down a couple of steps into the water and our guide placed the helmet on my head. But hey, wait a minute! This helmet isn’t closed, there’s space at bottom just like in a regular helmet. Water will obviously enter… And I can’t swim! I’ll drown, don’t push me yet…
The guide gave my helmet one strong push, and down I slipped, underwater. My ears shut out and I started frantically waving my hands in an attempt for the underwater guides to save me from drowning. I was gasping for air with my mouth. I tell you, I have never felt such fear in my life before.
The underwater guides had to hold my arms and gesture me to be calm. It is only then I realised that I was alive, and still panting. My guide waved me to look around and it is only then that I saw how beautiful it was. Schools of tiny fish swam by and I stood floored at the sight of the world underwater. My guide handed me some food to attract the fish close to my hands, and promptly took pictures as I secretly panicked. Four other friends soon came underwater, and we formed a little train to walk around on the seabed, feeling mighty cool and a tad foolish, thanks to the helmet.
It is due to a certain law of physics (or something like that), that water couldn’t enter my helmet and the pipe attached at the head of the helmet was the source for normal air. No oxygen tanks needed here. And needless to say, everything else – snorkelling, parasailing and such – paled in comparison.
In following days of my stay at Mauritius, I visited the large Casela National Park. We got to feed deer, ducks, and a few other birds of small flight. I was excited upon spotting emus and wondered how far they could fling a person with one kick. There’s a trivia bit about how an ostrich can kill a man with one sharp kick and that inspired the thought. It was only after I returned to Mumbai and was going through the photographs, I realised that fortunately, I missed getting the answer to my question. Emus were in the same enclosure as the deer we were feeding. Only, yours truly ‘thought’ they were in the adjoining one. While I was blissfully picking up fancy quills shed by the birds, I could have well known how far an emu kicks.
These three-four trips outside the hotel were the only activities I agreed to be a part of in Mauritius. The rest of the week saw me on the hotel’s private beach, with a book in hand and a vodka bottle not too far away.
For more pictures I took, have a look at this earlier post.