Sunday, January 28, 2018

#598 : ¡Muy bien! - Spain Diaries - An Introduction

It's been a little over two months since I landed in Madrid. My time here has been nothing short of fun. Exploring a new place and adapting to a new culture is certainly fun and is also slightly daunting. I plan to chronicle my time here in Spain via a series about the food, the people, the culture and various places I visited.

An introduction is in need before I go on - I'm here in Madrid for a short term project based assignment for my employer. I'm put up in a hotel minutes away from my work place. I typically work 5 days a week with the 5th day being shorter than the rest. I get to explore Spain during the weekends and other public holidays.

Chennai is quite well connected to Spain, particularly Madrid with a lot of flights by various carriers like Emirates, Ethihad, British Airways to name a few. I took an Emirates which had a 2 hour stop over at Dubai. The Dubai to Madrid leg of the journey was operated by Emirates and Qantas jointly. Madrid is 4.5 hours behind Chennai. Thankfully I traveled on a weekend making it easy to manage the jet lag. I had 2 other colleagues travelling with me in the same flight. We landed in the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport at 7.50 PM (UTC +1:00). Given it was November, the winter had just begun. Thankfully we came quite prepared to ensure we didn't freeze before we could board the cab to the hotel. Paid EUR 40 for a 24 Km ride from the airport to our hotel.

  • DXB to MAD - Its an 8 hour flight. Prepare to be tired and dehydrated.

  • Madrid is  quite a dry place - My skin went from dry to super dry in just about an hour. It is wise to come armed with a moisturizer and a lip balm. Preferably a strong one. However, it is best to use the ones locally available ones as those are made for this kind of a climate. More about this later!

  • The people are quite friendly, but they don't speak English well. After all Spanish is the third most spoken language. Be ready with a snap shot or a perfect address of the location you want to reach once you land.

  • November and December - Cold, January is Colder and the wind makes it even more difficult. You can really notice the days getting longer! - If you are here for work like me, Inner thermals aren't really needed. You need a decent sweat shirt and a good jacket. I purchased my sweatshirt here in Madrid from Decathlon. Chennai isn't the best place to go winter shopping. A good pair of gloves and something to cover your head is also a must.

  • Shoes - Best solution to wade through the cold. Also, I'd recommend using a good foot spray to ensure your foot stays moist.

  • EUR is the currency. I carried some cash and the rest as a Forex card given I am here for a long time. Most of the cabs accept cards, but it is best to carry some cash in case of emergency. Also, it would be wise to carry coins since most of hotels have a coffee vending machine.

Stay tuned! More about the food and people soon!

PS. This post is strictly for people like me who haven't been abroad before for work.

PPS. This post will be updated as I add more posts to the Series. 

1. ¡Muy bien! - Spain Diaries - An Introduction

2. ¡Buenos días! - Spain Diaries - The People

3. Paella - Spain Diaries - The Spanish Food

4. Madrid - Spain Diaries


#597: Book Review : Waterboarding by Bragadeesh Prasanna


Waterboarding - involves the torturer to pour water over the face of the captive, over a damp towel to give a sensation of drowning. While the mind knows that he is not actually drowning, the captive's body sends contrasting signals to the brain making it a very painful experience- The kind of a title that you would expect of a psychological thriller or a love story which would probably involve an absurd character. This story turned out to be neither, however, the title was very relevant to situation the protagonist Ved is in.

Post a life changing accident, the protagonist Ved's memory is blanked out. He relies on his friends - Sara and Ramesh to fill in the gaps. What follows is a story of a complicated man and a perfect love triangle.

The story was simply gloomy. It is fairly apparent that the writer intended it to be this way. The characterization, the narration all of it gave just one feel - The feel of gloom. Having read the previous work of the writer, it was quite a surprise to see his writing undergo a paradigm shift. His previous work was more of a rant rather than a coherent story. Though this plot is fairly similar to of his last publish novel (300 days), this story was a much better read in terms of writing in general and the narration/characterization in particular. The writer has crafted all the characters with care showing enough amount of their traits and aspirations. However, there were parts of the story where I felt a couple of secondary characters weren't of much use - like the prostitute and the friend who comes from US. It felt like they were are in a mild deliberation to properly tie everything up and bring in a conclusion.

To sum it up, the book was a good but a gloomy read.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

#596 : Book Review : Destined by Rubina Ramesh

As the world around me rang in the New year with fireworks and celebrations, I curled up inside the comfortable quilt in my tiny hotel room's bed with this very book and a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea. 4 hours into the dawn, I was done with the book. What a way to begin the new year!

Esha Mehra, the protagonist, is a young woman with dreams and aspirations of marrying the man she loves and progressing in her career just like her peers. Her dreams are shattered when her family is struck by tragedy yet again. Her father is diagnosed with cancer. Esha is forced to choose between her father and love.

The story progressed in a break neck speed right from the start. No halt, no pause and no beating around the bush with eloquent waxing. Not that I had a problem with the pacing, just that one part of me wished that the writer should have taken it a bit more slower. For example, the break up phase was way too quick for my taste. It would have been a bit more realistic if Esha were to mop about it for a while. After all she was breaking up with her friend turned boyfriend. People don't get over that quickly. I also felt that the writer has handled one issue women face - the choice between parents and their love life - with kid gloves. Esha didn't really eloquently wax about that part of her feeling for me. Yet again, it's just my way to seeing things!

The best thing about the book is the writing. Hard hitting phrases - That seems to be the writers style. Especially the following lines,

"So?" she glared at him. "I shouldn't feel hungry? I knew what you call my 'responsibilities' at a very young age, Rohan. The time you were flying kites. So freaking don't lecture me about responsibilities. I took my mom for chemo when I was eleven years old. I watched her wither in pain night after night, while doing my homework and getting ready for school. And do you know what happened when my mom died?"

"What?" Rohan whispered. He felt it in his bones that here lay all her pain.

"I felt relieved, Rohan. I fucking felt relieved."

Silence. Rohan just stood there stumped. Not moving at all.

Those are the kind of words and phrases which hit you squarely on your head when you are least expecting it! Evidently, the writing and editing is crisp. The characterization is near good. Brownie point for the stunning cover (Incidentally designed by a fellow bookworm Flyorie BL)  In short, the book was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It was worth every minute I spent lying awake smack in the middle of the night instead of sleeping or partying  on the New Year night! (Okay, didn't have company, I would have just slept!)

Note : Thanks to The Book Club and the writer for the review copy.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

#595 : Another Year Gone! - 2017

"Another year gone!" Dumbledore said cheerfully. "And I must trouble you with an old man's wheezing waffle before we sink our teeth into our delicious feast. What a year it has been! Hopefully your heads are all a little fuller than they were..."

- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. 

What a year 2017 turned out to be. Sitting all alone in a different country, it is not difficult to slip into a pensive mood, reflecting and looking back at the year that has almost gone by. 2017 turned out to be a year of learning. I learnt to adapt right from the start of the year to the end. I was just a little over 20 days into being married when the year began. Adapting to new place, people, food and culture is not an easy thing and that's exactly the challenge 2017 hurled at me. Again, at the end of the year, here am I, in a different country adapting to a different environment, food and people with out my loved ones near by. Thus by large, I spent the whole of 2017 adapting and re-adapting. However, I have no regret at all in doing what I did.

I managed to take some time out to make beautiful memories - A neat trip to Kodaikanal and a short one to Pondicherry. Of course, towards the end of the year, the trip to Cordoba, Aranjuez and Toledo. I did discover that I loved clicking pictures, especially when the visuals in front of me were vivid and rich.

Reading wise, 2017 was one of the best year I had. A Harry Potter re-run, my first Neil Gaiman and what not.  Thanks to all the kind folks who gifted me books.

I'm not divulging much am I? As they say, be happy and tell no one.

However, I have a list of goals for 2018. The use of the word "GOAL" is deliberate here. Resolution aren't my thing. Here are my top 5 goals for the year.

  1. Being Thoughtful and Mindful - I have never been the type to be expect much from people. That just worsened when a certain relationship I had turned toxic. I stopped emoting much and that leaded to me being less thoughtful.  I ought to pick myself up and become a better human.

  2. Cutting out all toxic relationships completely - Some people enter our lives just to teach us few important lessons. I learnt mine the hard-way. High time I flush such people out.

  3. Click better pictures and build a scrap book - I hope to learn the art of photography a bit. Not that I am keen on buying a professional camera. I simply hope to learn the science of light and lenses.

  4. Read a variety of books - Manu Joseph, Jeeth Thayil, Shashi Tharoor - Just the starters there. Wish to go wild and explore this year!

  5. WRITE - I ought to complete what I stared. One full length novel is about 20% done and a collection of short stories 15% done. However, not really beating myself up over this. Writing is a creative process which requires immense discipline. My life right now is way too exciting to bring in that discipline.

Its the first day of the year, here I am miles away from home in a tiny room reading a nice book while sipping a hot cup of tea. What a way to start the New year! 2018 - you better be good to me.