Monday, January 30, 2017

December 2016 and January 2017

The last few months of 2016 were crazy in so many ways. First there was the money issue (when the higher denomination notes lost their value overnight) which created a mess of economic proportions. The insane queues at banks and ATM's and all the scrambling that was happening to make sense of it all, made November quite memorable. 
Around the same time, Trump came out victorious which I thought was pretty hilarious... a sort of validation that people are the same everywhere, based on who we elected here. 
Anyway, after the chaos of November, December came with her own brand of drama. I heard of Cyclone Nada, but I was busy in Nagercoil then enjoying a birthday party...Even that was fun, surprising the birthday girl who did not know that I was at the airport with dad. She walks up and down and I'm hiding behind the newspaper pretending to read it, then I see Manoj by her side, and they finally come out and she is hugging my dad and after that I walk up behind her and tap her on the head, she turns and screams, Kavithaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.... 

Then on my way back to Chennai, while I was in the train, something seemed off. Usually by 9 pm everybody goes to sleep, lights are switched off and the gentle chugging of the train is the only sound you hear. But on that day, 4th December, nobody went to sleep, everybody was glued to their phones and laptops; a few folks were talking to the TT in hushed tones. So I climbed down from my berth and walked around trying to figure out what was going on. I asked the attendant, and he said, Amma is serious, she suffered a cardiac attack and everybody is worried about the situation in Chennai tomorrow. So amidst all the hushed talk and whispering, a bunch of passengers decided to get down in Trichy in the dead of night and take another train back to Nagercoil to avoid any problems that might arise in Chennai the next morning. The rest of the passengers slowly settled down, the night gave way to day and nothing much happened. There was no high intensity theatricals as expected by the people in the train...I reached home without a hassle, the city seemed dead silent though, there weren't many people or vehicles on the roads. So anyway, the whole day passed listening to the voices on TV while we went about our jobs... and finally around 7pm and then later 11pm, Amma was finally declared dead. The end of an era, I never knew what to make of her but she had more guts and spine than most politicians. So that was the Amma saga in politics... her death is shrouded in a lot of controversies, no idea what really happened and who the next faux 'puratchi' leader will be, and what drama they will weave into our lives... 


Right after amma passed away, cyclone Vardha hit us all with her maniacal fury. The raw feral power of her was captivating, window panes came crashing down, banners, roofs and trees were flying all over the place... her intense power was mind blowing. A live beast, you could hear her howling outside as she ripped through everything in her path... the whole experience was nerve-wrackingly awesome. We were without power for three days... 
so the candles came out... 
The tree was also set up quite early, cause there was nothing else to do...
 So after all this, the next big thing was Nam coming over for a few days... and all the shopping we did... all the food we ate... all the pictures we took... t'was like the good old times.
Then it was Christmas...wore an ikat saree for the midnight service.
After Christmas celebrations, we (me & Jen) boarded a train to Bangalore to spend a few days with Nam and Jude... 
Christmas in Bangalore 
Candlelights, Christmas ale and the cold night air... memories are made of stuff like this...
Then we took a train back home,..
And it was epic when the boys came on 31st....the entire family was home together after 5 years. It couldn't get better than this... here I'm pouring champagne after the New Year's midnight mass...
Christmas in Nagercoil
Nativity scene ...
So December with all its great and epic times gave way to 2017... and so far the activity hasn't ceased. We went to watch the sun rise at the beach...
and meditated too...
Then there was a baptism to attend... wore a dark blue saree for the ceremony.
Every Pongal, The Hindu organises the Literary fest... which is quite engaging. It was nice listening to Shashi Tharoor, Kanhaiya Kumar, Perumal Murugan and a host of other literary figures. Compared to the authors and writers who spoke, the politicians seem more fluent, witty and engaging, they are never at a loss for words. It was the same last year too, when Omar Abdullah had come down...

Then the jallikattu protests erupted over the state, which I couldn't really understand... not many people have witnessed a jallikattu event, yet they all joined together for the protest. I mean, banning jallikattu seems rather drastic, let the people have fun with their farm animals, why ban that... I understand that there are instances where the animals are provoked and tortured, so the best thing to do would be to enforce rules in the sport, not ban it. Generally, people revere their animals here, I've seen it.. they tend to take care of them. If the PETA and anybody else is really interested in animal welfare, then please ban fireworks first during Diwali, I'm pretty sure more animals and countless humans are affected by that every year. You see how it is... even the protests, do something for the farmers ... they are committing suicide nationwide...
Okay, I've written enough... wishing you peace always... have a great and exciting year everybody.
video
P.S: How could I forget about Sherlock!!!! Well, after ages they came back with a new season, and I really don't know what to make of it... it was a bit too melodramatic. But Sherlock is still rave worthy, the abominable bride was better than this current season though... 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Rome, 2015

My first time in Rome and it was a blurry of opulent and grandiose churches, nothing really stood out, except for the church of the holy steps. I remember that church distinctly because people were kneeling while climbing the steps (apparently those are the stairs Jesus climbed when he was sentenced by Pontious Pilate), everything else is just a blur... all the churches were crowded, teeming with people. The Sistine chapel was bursting with tourists, hardly any space to breathe, pray or reflect. In that sense, Rome didn't really imprint on me, it would have been nice to skip all the churches and crowds and just walk the streets, like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. But that wasn't possible, we didn't get to see the Trevi fountain either, which I was kinda looking forward to, had saved a few ten rupee coins to throw into the water, but that place was under construction so we had to skip it. Anyway, 
here's the defining image of Rome, the Colosseum, we didn't go inside, just saw it while driving around the city.
This is the Lateran church... nicely framed against the blue sky...
A pock marked tree...
Had lunch at an Indian restaurant, food was quite good...
Then visited the Vatican museum... which is quite huge and crowded...
Saw this tapestry of the Rising Christ, which was quite captivating...
And The Pietà by Michelangelo, housed in St. Peter's basilica... this is stunning, the features on the face, the folds on the clothes... quite exquisite 
St. Peter's Basilica
Went to the same Indian restaurant for dinner and wine...
Then came back to our hotel, a mass was held in the dining room... after which we night revelers set out to explore Frascati by night. (Frascati is where our hotel was located, on the outskirts of Rome). Had ice cream, cold coffee, walked around a bit and then drove back to the hotel... 
Woke up quite early, reached St. Peter's square and waited in the sun to see the pope. Man! it gets really hot in Rome, we were roasting out there in the square. ... the heat was relentless.
Crowds and crowds of people waiting to see the pope...
Here he comes, that white dot among the blackish dots is Papa Francesco with his guards. The whole crowd goes berserk when he appears, he takes the stage, some scriptures are read in different languages, he says the Our Father and gives his blessings. then he is driven around on the pope mobile, he stops now and then to kiss babies and sick people on the way... and finally he leaves. The whole experience was exhausting yet with friends around, quite fun. After this we shopped a bit, had lunch nearby and then drove to Milan...
where we had risotto for dinner...
Our rooms in Milan... sadly couldn't go out to see the Duomo (Milan Cathedral), I mean we were in Milan to catch the flight back to Chennai, the Cathedral was not part of the itinerary, but we were so close... and we missed it. Woke up early, drove to the airport and ate some good...
plane food...
More food...
Saw a German movie in the plane, Hin und weg (Tour de Force), quite poignant. Landed in Doha, shopped a bit then boarded the flight to Chennai. Qatar airways is really good, they don't herd you into a dimly lit corridor if you are bound for India, which the other airlines like to do. Anyway all that aside, this was a crazy trip... and even though I really did not want to go initially, I didn't want it to end as the days went by. 

P.S: Finally in January 2017, I finish this 2015 travel series... re-living a bit each time I post something. Here's the entire series for this 2015 trip...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Loreto, Assisi

After visiting Padua and Venice  in the previous travel post, we ended up in Loreto, where after some good breakfast at the hotel 
along with these awesome chocolatey biscutey things I picked up in Paris we set out to explore the famous church we saw last night. We walked to the church of Loretto where a few friends (priests) of our parish priest were waiting for us, and they explained the legend surrounding the church of the Black Madonna in Loreto. 
Legend has it that this is the house of the Holy Family where Jesus grew up.
Apparently there was some pillaging going on in Nazareth, during the reign of some ancient figure, and to avoid damage to the house of the Holy Family, angels carried the structure across the skies and placed it in Loretto in Italy, as depicted on this stone plaque. (I know... I don't know what to make of it either. But it all depends on you, what you believe, you make it your reality.)
So after walking around, we went to the underground chapel and a mass was celebrated there. 
The statue of the black Madonna (the church caught fire ages ago, and she turned black, so they call her the black madonna)
Pretty intricate gates in the church...
Ornate ceilings...
The light was creating all kinds of effects in this beautiful church...
So after visiting Loreto, we got on our bus and travelled towards Assisi. 
This is the church of St. Francis in Assisi, where the tomb of St. Francis is literally chained and clamped down here, in this chapel, to prevent the saint's body from being stolen, apparently it has happened many before...
The church constructed by St. Francis of Assisi
The upper church above the main church
The facade of the church built by St. Francis of Assisi
The Hills of Assisi
Beautiful streets of Assisi
A cafe...
Pots like this sprout out all over the place...
Pretty...
Walking in Assisi was like stepping into a postcard, this little hilltop region is picture perfect. Every nook and corner and cranny is aesthetically planned and decorated. It was the most beautiful place we visited on this trip, apart from Switzerland, of course.
Another pretty flowering plant...
Church of St. Clare...
More flowering plants...
Check out this door, the entrance and the flowering window above it...
Some cool dragon entrance decor...
Winding steps of Assisi
Looking down from Assisi
Got into the bus, drove for a while and stopped here for lunch...
Of Spaghetti
Chicken legs and
a tarty kind of sweet...
Then started on our drive to Rome...
Reached a quaint hotel on the way for dinner...
Pretty decor...
Shabby chic lamps and books..
A glass bottle filled with corks...
Our Indian broom stuck in a corner as decor...
Some more cute decor..
Some pasta for dinner
Vegetables and olives
Reached Hotel Roma Sud on the outskirts of Rome
Our room in Rome
Me and mom went to a shop nearby to buy drinking water and then I spotted this cold coffee cream churning away in a corner, so ordered one... awesome stuff. Then went back to our rooms and slept soundlessly for a few hours till Michael Bubble woke us up with his 'Home' song...