Thursday, 11 December 2008

A musical journey that ended abruptly...

"If music be the food of life, play on." I make this little alteration of Orsino's famous line from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night; music is indeed the food of life.

I grew up in an atmosphere of music and it was but natural for me to take interest in it. My father always said that I started listening to music while I was in my mother's womb. I guess that was true as my life revolved around music. My family still recounts the times when I could go on singing nonstop. I started singing at the age of 2 and a half, I give the credit to the school I went to!

While growing up I participated in numerous inter-school and inter-college music competitions. Later started singing professionally with various Rock bands. I have had the wonderful experience of performing with the best musicians in Kolkata.

Along with singing with the bands I was also actively involved in the marketing of the bands which included getting sponsors, organizing the venue, and managing logistics such as sound and so on.

Apart from singing I also play the Piano and the Electronic Keyboard and am qualified in Classical Music under Trinity College, London, and Royal School of Music, London. I started playing the piano when I was 8. I taught about 200 students how to play the piano and the electronic keyboard, and what was very exciting was that the age group of my students was 4 to 58!

Singing in a choir was always a dream, and that dream came to life in 1996 when I started singing with Funtastiques, a Jazz/Pop Choral Group in Calcutta. Later when I moved to Hyderabad in 2001, I joined Hyderabad Choral Society.

Besides singing and playing I have been on the panel of judges for numerous music competitions. I have been a part of All India Radio, Kolkata as a singer. Worked with All India Radio, Hyderabad as a Casual Compere. Work involved compering programmes live on AIR, scripting, recording and dubbing, and also making features.

Till 5 years ago I firmly believed that if there was no music in my life I wouldn't earn a living. I say till 5 years ago as life took a funny twist and I surprised myself immensely. I was forced to try out another source to survive. Incidentally, the latter option of becoming a communications trainer turned out to be rather lucrative and I guess I lost the ability to struggle to live for what I believed in.

Today, I am a forgotten musician or the piano teacher who I used to be. I was seen at choir concerts, rock concerts, piano recitals, club gigs. But today, all that is history and it hurts. A musical journey that was so thrilling, so fulfilling has ended abruptly and I have nowhere to go...

Friday, 28 November 2008

Who has the answer?

I have been humming Bob Dylan's 'Blowing In The Wind' since this morning, rather unconsciously till it hit me and hit me rather hard. A thought crossed my mind, am I happy that I'm alive? I don't know...

The following lines are circling in my mind while I'm writing this...

How many times must the bombs and grenades fly before they're forever banned?

How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?

How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?

Who has the answer, does anyone know?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Know about Children's Day...

Children's day was first celebrated worldwide in October, 1953, under the sponsorship of International Union for Child Welfare, Geneva. The idea of Universal Children's Day was mooted by late Shri V.K. Krishna Menon and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954. 20 November is Universal Children's Day. First proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1954, it was established to encourage all countries to institute a day, firstly to promote mutual exchange and understanding among children and secondly to initiate action to benefit and promote the welfare of the world's children. 20 November is the anniversary of the day when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was then signed on the same day in 1989, which has since been ratified by 191 states.

However, while 20th November is universally celebrated as Children’s Day, in India this day has been preponed to 14th November, the date the marks the birth anniversary of independent India’s first Prime Minister – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

Source: Wikipedia

Saturday, 25 October 2008

A distant feel of Europe in Kolkata

While travelling in Europe I got reminded of Kolkata and Mumbai by just looking at the buildings. I kept telling Joy, only if keep these two cities were kept clean and our country had lesser population, these two cities would have looked as good as any European city.

Strange as it may seem, yet a reality, that we go to Europe to see a lot of what we already have in our country, just that ours is a little dirty and rather neglected! The British built these buildings for us, we failed to keep them alive!

I lived in Kolkata for a better part of my life, and I feel ashamed to realise that even I did not pay much heed to these brilliant buildings and monuments in my own city. When I went to Europe, I made sure to click photographs of everything I saw, but back in Kolkata I never ever thought of clicking a single photograph!

The pictures that follow are not taken by me, sadly! Thanks to many photographers and Google, I have gathered a few pictures and have posted them. I hope I'm not stepping into a copyright issue! At this moment, I make a promise to myself, that I'll post my own photographs on this page soon... 



Top of New Market, earlier known as Hogg Market... I didn't know it looked so beautiful...



Victoria Memorial... truly European, isn't it!



View of the Raj Bhavan.



GPO, Kolkata!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Concert Trips

In the last 7 years Joy and I have hardly travelled out of Hyderabad, besides this year of course; we made up for quite a bit! But the times when we travelled together for sure, were to watch concerts in Bangalore.

Right from taking the bus, to travelling second class on trains, to flying, we've done it all! Never planned ahead of time, but somehow managed not to miss any concert that we wanted to watch! And, friends have also been great. Not only did they let us stay with them, they also accompanied us to the concerts!

Our concert trips turn into quick vacations, though the place of visit is the same every time. What we do different is visit different pubs and restaurants each time. But, there's one thing I never miss in every trip is walking down Brigade Road and Residency Road. It may seem strange to many; however, I just love walking down these roads and shop for things I don't quite need!

One such trip was to hear (and see) Scorpions play live in Bangalore. It was at the usual destination, Palace Grounds. We reached a few hours before the show was to start, stood in the huge queue, with the tiny hope to stand at a place from where we'd atleast be able to see the big screen if not the men at play! To my huge surprise, and all of us, we found ourselves on the first line! Unbelievable! Needless to say we had a ball. The songs we sang while growing up, sometimes at local gigs or a house party or just along with cassettes and CDs, we were actually humming along live with the original band!



(pic. scubabum.blogspot.com)

We went to Mojo's, a favourite food and beer drinking joint and headed for Ruby Tuesday for dinner the next evening and feasted on some really good food. While in Bangalore, especially during Christmas, how can you not once drop in at Opus?

To know about Opus visit the following link. http://opusbangalore.blogspot.com/om/

Our 1st concert trip together!



















(pic. www.indiatraveltimes.com)

















The times when I travelled alone (i.e, minus Joy)

To catch Sting in action at Palace Grounds in Bangalore on February 4, 2005. He was touring to promote his Sacred Love album.















Yet again to see God descend on BKC ground in Mumbai! I'm talking about Mark Knopfler. When I saw the man on stage I felt my life was worth living! Money For Nothing, Walk Of Life, Brothers In Arms... my teenage came alive!















It was May 2007, I was in Mumbai for some work. A couple of friends called to say that Aerosmith is coming to Bangalore to perform. I have never been their huge fan, but enjoyed half a dozen of their songs right from school days. Therefore, I had enough reasons to be at the show! Joy didn't want to go as he felt watching Aerosmith is like watching Vengaboys! (ugh!) So, I had no choice but go alone to the concert. The good thing in this trip was that I could catch up with a lot of friends!












(pic. google)

Catch Dream Theater perform live in Singapore!


The trip to Singapore happened only because Dream Theater was coming to perform there, the closest destination from India. For Joy, it was his dream to catch his favourite band play live, for me the travel came first and then the concert. But most importantly, it was our first international travel together!

After a lot of deliberation we worked out our travel itinerary which turned out to be a little more expensive than what we expected. Well, there was nothing in this world that could've stopped Joy from going, and definitely not the expense, so I decided to go along with the plan.

The concert was held in Fort Canning Park. I have been to quite a few open ground concerts, but this place was remarkably different. No checking/frisking at the gate, no pushing, no moshing, the fans gathered there only to experience pure music.

What was interesting to note was that I met 3 acquaintances from Hyderabad at the venue besides the 3 friends who were with us! It rained that evening, not once but twice; quite unusual in Singapore to rain at that hour. We were all drenched, but noone moved. I stood there watching these boys' undaunted spirits to enjoy every bit of the show, and listening to the sounds of music.

Sometimes people should not take rules too seriously. I figured that when I saw a few hundred people with their cameras at the venue! I don't have any photograph of the concert.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

GOONJ - A mission I feel strongly for

I'm a tiny part of this huge organisation... yet I am happy to be there!

Visit the following link if you care. http://www.goonj.org/

Singapore, January 2008

Going to Singapore was one among the many wish lists I have had while growing up. However, the trip to Singapore happened rather suddenly because Joy's favourite band Dream Theater was coming to perform there. Had it not been for the band I would've had to wait for some more years to get there. Also, it was our first international travel together!

After a lot of deliberation we worked out our travel itinerary which turned out to be a little more expensive than we expected. Well, there was nothing in this world that could've stopped Joy from going, so I decided to go along with the plan.

We reached Changi Airport around 9 in the morning, completed the immigrations formalities, and headed towards the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station. It was easy to find the way out as there were direction signboards everywhere. A two-compartment train from Terminal 2 took us to the MRT station. When we reached there we found ticket vending machines. Though we knew which station to go to, we found it a little difficult to choose the route we had to take as there were 3 of them. An elderly gentleman just came by and showed us how to read the MRT map and decide on the route. It was a very helpful tip; we picked up a map from the counter.

Since we were travelling very light we decided to go to Mustafa and Little India before checking into the hotel. Did not think travelling in an unknown land could be so easy. If one knows how to read English one can find and go to any place in Singapore. It is a very organised city, none that I had heard of in India.

It was afternoon and we were feeling a little tired and hungry, so we headed for the hotel which was 5 or 6 stations away. We chose one of the Hotel 81 group of hotels; they are reasonable and quite good. Our hotel was in Paya Lebar.

The same evening we had planned to go to the zoo to experience the Night Safari. We travelled around the city on our own completely, thanks to the internet, we had every detail worked out. We went to Mustafa as there are buses that take visitors to the zoo from there. We knew the bus timings too! We stood there for a while and saw no bus to only realise that we were standing at the wrong point. We asked a few people around, and took a taxi to reach the next pick up point. While waiting we were wondering how would we recognise the bus. In a short while we saw a very colourful bus with pictures of animals on it. We knew we had get on it. It was a very comfortable ride and we paid a very nominal fare, considering the distance we covered.

Nestled in 40 hectares of lush secondary forest, the Night Safari offers visitors the unique experience of exploring wildlife in a tropical jungle at night. We were told that there are 1000 nocturnal animals of 100 species in vast naturistic habitat.

As we entered the premises we saw a tribal performance with fire.
















Then we proceeded towards a show called creatures of the night. It was held in a small amphitheatre. We saw a variety of well trained animals and birds performing to the instructions of a great team of animal trainers. It was a very nice experience to feel so close to nature.
















After the show we came out to get on a tram ride to see the zoo. Joy and I had to wait for some time as there was a big queue ahead of us. I took advantage of the time and quickly ordered for some food and stuffed them inside my bag.

Our turn came, and we board the tram. It was a 2-compartment tram with a driver's small cabin in front, open from the sides. There were no tracks; we moved on a slightly bumpy road which gave the feel of moving in a jungle.

There were subtle lights everywhere and we saw many different kinds of animals; we weren't counting though! There were lions, tigers, rhinos and many animals moving in the open. We were approximately 30-40 feet away from them! I knew we were completely safe and the animals wouldn't harm us, yet I felt a little fear deep down me; after all animals are animals. What if they wanted to get back to their wilder lives! Photography was forbidden here, and I followed the rules unlike many others!

The tram ride lasted about 45 minutes. It was an experience I had never dreamt of earlier; it was wonderful! By the time we finished visiting the zoo it was almost 11 in the evening and the last bus was about to leave, so we almost ran. While returning, I realised the distance we covered to get back to the city, didn't feel it while going to the zoo. Joy and I got off near Mustafa and took a cab back to the hotel.

I was not very happy with the food I picked up in the zoo for dinner, so Joy went and picked some chicken fries and soft drinks from a restaurant near the hotel. He found out that the food joints were normally open till midnight, wish we checked earlier, anyway the dinner wasn't all that bad.

The next day we went to Sentosa, Mustafa and Swaminarayan Temple in Little India, China Town and various other places. We used Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) primarily to travel around. We hardly needed cabs and that way we saved a lot of money.

One evening we went to St. James Power Station, a music and night life destination in the Harbour Front area. It has 10 night clubs, each playing different genres of music live! The club we went to was playing Latin American music. Great music, great ambience! A litle later we moved around the entire place; I had a ball!

Needless to say that we had a great time. I don't think anyone will disagree with me if I say that Singapore is one of the finest places one can go to.




















All blue...!!! we forgot to change the night mode on the camera!

P.S. We chose not to click photographs at many locations as Singapore is a very eco friendly place, and we wanted to follow the rules.

Random pics of Malaysia





































































If only...

While I was growing up my teachers always said that I was poor in English grammar. Actually no, it was not just me but almost all of us, with the exception of a few good students. With my best effort I could not figure out what was wrong and none of the teachers said anything beyond that. Therefore, I grew up with a feeling of rejection as I was poor in English grammar! Strange though, I was fairly good in Spoken English. I never participated in any form of public speaking, never cared to write anything with the fear of making mistakes. My confidence level was definitely much below average standards.

Life went on, and at one stage in life I realized that no one ever pointed out any mistake while I spoke. In fact, some people felt I spoke well. Honestly, when I heard that for the first time I was shocked!

Today, I am a communications trainer by profession. Over the years I have learnt, it’s not always about being a brilliant student with a very good knowledge of language that one can become a good speaker or a writer. Nor does it ensure one's confidence level. I have read many books, including grammar books, to fine tune my English grammar skills. I am a confident person today as I wanted to be one. It was not easy as there are many people in this world who are born to criticize.

I find many youngsters who are extremely diffident to speak, especially in public. I get reminded of my school days when I so wanted to say something, but I wouldn’t with the fear of making mistakes and feeling humiliated in public. In all my training sessions I make sure that every participant gets a chance to speak. They are encouraged to speak their mind and they are assured that they would not be mocked at if a mistake occurs. It works, and it works well. Those introverted withdrawn participants start to talk with no reservation!

If only people were a little less biased, a little less critical, and a little more encouraging…

Sunday, 10 August 2008

European Dreams

Travelling to Europe has always been a dream, and travelling a few times to cover different parts of Europe an even bigger dream. But dreams sometimes come true! On April 2008 Joy and I set out for the 1st chapter of our dream journey amidst a lot of apprehensions and excitement. Since this was our first major trip abroad we chose to travel with a tour operator. For two to three months I called various tour companies, went through a big list of travel plans and prices, and finally decided to travel to Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Holland, France, and England with Thomas Cook. The itinerary set by Thomas Cook looked very exciting, and the pricing was very attractive. Infact, a trip to Dubai was a bonus from Thomas Cook!

The next 6 posts will cover almost every detail that I remember of our travel experience in Europe. The order is Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Paris, and London.

Switzerland

It was last April our dream trip was about to begin. The point of start of the trip was Mumbai. Joy and I reached Mumbai in the afternoon so that we could rest a little at my parent's place before starting the long journey to Zurich. There is always good food at my parent's place as my mother loves cooking. We spent the afternoon chatting, eating, and discussing the itinerary. Later in the evening my parents dropped us off at the airport; our flight was past midnight. Like good passengers we reached much ahead of time, finished with the airport formalities, and went to the lounge to board the flight. During this entire time I was feeling extremely excited about everything, just that I couldn't show it. I wanted to dance like a little girl!

We took the Emirates flight from Mumbai to Dubai, and then from Dubai to Zurich. Dubai airport is huge, we just got to see a bit of it only. We reached Zurich and after the formalities at the airport we met our tour manager who was waiting for us. Everything was happening very fast from this point on. We started walking out of the airport, yet I was unable to believe that I was actually in Switzerland! 

We went to the Zurich train station to board a train to go to Lucerne, and from there we got on another train that took us to Engelberg. Our train passed through small villages, crossing houses, schools, open fields. Some young school boys got on the train with water bottles and apples in their hands. It was wonderful! 

One very interesting thing we noticed that the number of bogies kept reducing after a few stations. Also, we learnt that the train stops on certain stations only on demand. A passenger who wishes to board the train needs to press a button, only then the train will stop. 


On the way to Engelberg

Engelberg

After a picturesque ride the train pulled into the Engelberg station around 5 in the evening. Engelberg, a village in the canton of Obwalden, is situated amidst the snow-clad Swiss Alps, and we were to spend 3 nights there. When we got off the train the station looked like a movie set; it was small and beautiful! Our tour manager said that we would walk to the hotel as it was a five-minute walk. As we were going out of the station we had no idea what sight lay outside, but only in a few moments we realised that we’ve almost reached heaven. Oh what a splendid sight it was! I had only seen something so beautiful in movies. Guess it was at that point Joy and I started feeling the real excitement of the trip.

We reached Ramada Hotel Engelberg and checked in, still unable to digest the fact that we were in Switzerland. Quite tired with the journey, physically, not mentally, I decided to freshen up and take a quick nap before heading out to see the place around. As I pulled the bed cover I found two cubes of chocolate placed on the pillows. We later heard that it is a custom in Switzerland.

After a little while I figured that there was still bright daylight outside, and it was 7 p.m.. Joy and I did not realise that the days are that long in that part of the world. Very intrigued I got off the bed, thinking that a nap is not a great idea at that moment, and I went to open the balcony door. The door seemed a little faulty as it was a little slanted and was not opening. I called Joy for help. With a little effort we opened the door and what we saw outside was nothing less than a dream. True to the promise made by our tour operator this location indeed gave a real feel of Switzerland.


On the way to the hotel


View from the balcony

We sat in the balcony for sometime clicking photographs from every angle possible. Then we went out to buy some food as we were hungry. There was a pizza shop right opposite the hotel. So we went there, but there was noone there to open the door. We went to another restaurant and found that was closed too. While wondering what to do we saw a super market and went inside it. Fortunately, there was a food counter there. We went to the first floor and found a large variety of yummy looking sandwiches and we picked up a few. When we went to the counter the lady at the counter refused to take the Euro cents we had with us. Joy and I were wondering what went wrong, we were giving them their own currency in coins, so what was the problem. Only then we learnt that the currency of Switzerland was Swiss Francs and not Euros. We had fifty euro notes and the lady said that she will give the change in Swiss Francs. We weren’t too sure whether we would be shopping in Switzerland at all knowing how expensive the place was. A little careful research would’ve been useful I thought at that moment, but it was too late to think about it. I fortunately had a five euro note, so we took one big sandwich with that and left the place, rather unhappy. We went back to the hotel, shared the sandwich and some biscuits that I had with me and dozed off.

Around 8:30 in the evening both of us got up with the sound of the phone ringing. Our tour operator was calling as we had to go for dinner. Dinner was organised about three buildings away from our hotel. We got up quickly and literally ran down to the lobby. We then walked to the guest house where dinner was served and met the group we were to join for the rest of the trip, and also met the real tour manager! The group took a different tour option which included Italy and Austria. They were all Indians from India, felt as if I was in India!

The dinner was awesome. A good variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian north Indian dishes. Joy and I had a hearty meal. While leaving the dining area we were told that we needed to be ready by 7:30 the next morning. Well, that was not the best thing to hear after such a great meal, but there was no choice!

The next morning I got up rather early and both of us went down to have breakfast. The hotel organised a pretty good spread, but I couldn't eat much as it was too early to eat. Joy seemed to enjoy his breakfast! When all of us finished our breakfast we headed towards the coach that would take us around. In fact, it was on the bus that I kind of met the rest of the group. Our tour manager introduced Joy and me to the rest of the group and welcomed us on board.

The first thing we saw that day was a glacier falls, deep inside a mountain – the Trummelbach Falls. They are the only glacier falls of their kind in the world, which have been made accessible. It was beautiful.




Inside the Trummelbach Fall

Jungfraujoch

After that we proceeded to Jungfraujoch – the Top of Europe. We went to the beautiful town of Lauterbrunnen. One gets to savour the scenic splendour from aboard the ‘cog-wheel’ train, which goes to a height of 3,454 meters to reach Jungfraujoch! This is a trip to another world – a wonderful world of eternal ice and snow. We experienced the magic of the mountains and visited the Ice Palace on top of the longest glacier in the Alps. For lunch we had local meal with champagne specially arranged for us at the Bollywood cafe! 





Interlaken

Later in the day we visited Interlaken, a charming city nestled between two lakes and surrounded by the splendid Bernese Oberland Mountains.



Mt. Titlis

One of the most memorable experiences of our Europe tour was visiting Mt. Titlis. Titlis is a mountain in the Urner Alps. It overlooks Engelberg; in fact, we could see our hotel from there. This site is famous for the world’s first revolving cable-car. The cable car system connects Engelberg to the summit of Klein Titlis, the 3,020-meter-high mountain station, through the three stages of Gerschnialp, Trübsee and Stand, though Titlis Rotair or the revolving cable car leads from Stand. It was a spellbinding experience as we were ascending the snow-clad mountain to experience the snow and ice on top!





Indian masala tea stall in Switzerland!

Lucerne

Later in the day we proceeded to Lucerne, a city in north- central Switzerland. I had heard about Lucerne but I never really tried to find out anything about this place; and I was glad that I didn't. I wouldn't have felt the surprise and wouldn't have felt the excitement if I had known more about this place. The city, the lake, the mountains, everything about Lucerne is beautiful! The place was bustling with people, there were cars, buses, trams everywhere; yet there was an amount of peace and quiet all over. Everywhere you look you can see the beautiful mountains surrounding you. 

After getting off the coach we first headed towards the Lion Monument. The monument commemorates the Swiss guards who were killed during the French Revolution in 1792.

While Joy and I were clicking photographs and video shooting around the monument our tour manager Anurag asked me if I could spot anything around the lion. Joy and I looked and looked and we gave up. Then Anurag showed us the shape of the pig that was bordering the sculpture of the lion. Apparently, the sculpture had a falling out with someone associated with the contracting of the memorial that he created the pig shape out of spite.



We then went towards the Kapellbrücke. It is a covered wooden footbridge spanning diagonally across Lake Lucerne. This bridge is unique since it contains a number of interior paintings dating back to the 17th century, although many of them were destroyed by fire in 1993. The bridge was rebuilt, and it is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe.


There was an old man sitting on the bridge and playing the accordian. Almost everyone walked past him as if he wasn't even there, while some dropped coins in the hat that was on the ground; I stood in front of him for a while and heard him play. He looked up and I told him that he was very good. I don't think he followed English, but he seemed to have understood looking at my expression and he acknowledged with a smile. I had a few coins and I put them in his hat and walked along. 

While we were moving around waiting for the rest of the group members to gather I heard the sound of something resonating a little distance away. Joy and I followed the sound and discovered something which we had no idea existed. An unusual but a very enjoyable experience of hearing a large group of alphorn players performing at the square... what a sight to behold! I captured the rest of the performance on the camcorder; I'll cherish it all my life!

Here is a picture...


Alphorn players in concert

We walked around a bit, clicked photographs, bought very typically Swiss souvenirs, the cow bell, post cards etc. The things are cheaper here in Lucerne compared to many places we visited in Switzerland. After a while we went on a cruise on the serene waters of Lake Lucerne, in a group of course! Sigh!



Joy clicked while I was listening to music waiting for the others to arrive



On the boat

With the cruise we ended our Switzerland trip. The next day we were to leave for Germany.