Picture of the Week #70

As we draw a close to the year 2010... the weathering heights of the Sahyadri mountains.  I hope 2010 was a good year for you and hope you met your goals for the year.  Here's to reaching new heights in 2011!

My Everything

Today is the day I marry the most beautiful woman in the world.

The loneliness of nights alone
The search for strength to carry on
My every hope had seemed to die
My eyes had no more tears to cry
Like the sunshine from up above
You surrounded me with your endless love
All the things I couldn't see
Are now so clear to me

You are my everything

Nothing your love won't bring
My life is yours alone
The only love I've ever known
Your spirit pulls me through
When nothing else will do
Every night I pray
On bended knee
That you will always be
My everything.

Now all my hopes and all my dreams 
are suddenly reality 
you've opened up my heart to feel 
a kind of love that's truly real 
a guiding light that'll never fade 
there's not a thing in life that I would ever trade 
for the love you give it won't let go 
I hope you'll always know 

You are my everything.

There's Magic In The Air

The beautiful Swarovski crystal topped tree at Toronto's Eaton Center mall, complete with a "fake" snowfall show in the evenings.

I think Christmas is as much about shopping and gifts as it is about family.  Those who disagree should visit any mall during the pre-Christmas season.

These days when everyone has everything they want, it is becoming increasingly difficult to give them gifts.  Compounding the difficulties are people's tastes for brands; a Philips MP3 player will not be appreciated by someone who only wants Apple's iPod.  Those who want Android, do not want an iPhone.

So, what do you give to someone who has everything he/she wants?

Picture of the Week #69

Seen at a corner of a busy intersection in Girgaon, Mumbai.

A Ghostly Sight at 3:00am

I had a wake up call at 3:00am on early Tuesday morning.  I got out of my warm bed and stepped outside in the freezing weather.  Why, you ask?  For a chance to see a total lunar eclipse (i.e. Moon falls in Earth's shadow) on the same day as the winter solstice (i.e. when Sun is farthest away from Earth).

I read somewhere that the two events are happening together after a few hundred years and will not happen again for another few hundred years.

So how was it?  Beautiful!  I had never seen a "coppery" moon.  Earlier in the night the moon was bright white, and during the eclipse it was totally orange... a ghostly sight indeed.  I didn't take any pictures.  The beauty of some things just cannot be captured in a camera no matter how hard one tries.

I just captured the sight with my eyes and let it sink in me.

It was beautiful.  This is what life is all about.

Picture of the Week #68

A typical tut-tuk seen on the streets of Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic (also known as Laos).  The tuk-tuk has become a sort of trademark of travel in Southeast Asia.  It's cheap (don't forget to negotiate), convenient and fun to ride!

Picture of the Week #67

Entrance to Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) in Bangkok, Thailand.

Picture of the Week #66

Mmmmm... mouth watering snacks seen on a road-side hotel on way to Aurangabad from Pune.

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You!

"Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed."
- Irene Peter

Articles / Posts

I've realized that it is quite difficult to write good quality articles or posts.  Being in the office from 9-5 does not leave me with enough time (or energy) to spend time writing/editing articles, and I don't like to write something just for the sake of posting something new.

As a compromise, I started my Picture of the Week series last September.  The series is not a new or unique idea by any stretch of imagination.  However, the series allows me to reminisce about my past travels and treks.  In addition, I get to post something that is meaningful to me.  I'm trying to make my picture-of-the-week more relevant to world events.  Here's an example.  In the future, I will try to be more consistent about writing little blurbs under the picture that will help tell the story behind the picture, like this one.

New Look

The days of this blog on Blogger are numbered.  I'm working on a new site that will feature a revolutionary new look and feel for my readers (i.e. me).  Alright, I'm exaggerating - but only slightly (hah).  I'll be moving to Wordpress and a custom URL.  I will move all content from this blog to the new one.  I'll also be adding a couple of new series and features that I'm quite excited about.

Stay tuned!

Picture of the Week #65

Today is the 2nd anniversary of Pakistan's state-sponsored terrorist attack on Mumbai.  Taj Hotel, seen here, was one of the many places where well-trained AK-47 wielding Pakis let loose their hatred on innocent people.  This time they came via the sea route to carry out the attacks.  I don't know whether to be more upset about the actual attacks or on the incompetent Indian government for doing nothing about the attacks.

Picture of the Week #64

Khotachiwadi - in the heart of old Mumbai (Girgaon).  Enter Khotachiwadi and leave behind the chaos of Mumbai.  I envy the people who live in this century-old Heritage alley.

Picture of the Week #63

Seen here are riot police on the weekend of the G20 Summit hosted by Toronto (June, 2010).  I was there to catch all the action on my camera.  I must say, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Seoul, Korea hosted the Summit of the G20 nations on Nov 11-12.

Why once-in-a-lifetime experience?  Because the G20 is anti-tourism.  Nobody goes to a city that is hosting the G20 Summit.  Toronto was a ghost town during the G20.

Picture of the Week #62 - Happy Diwali!

Happy Diwali and Happy New Year everyone!

Picture of the Week #61

A typical road-side chaiwala in India.  Between having tea in a 5-star hotel or at a road-side place, I would prefer this any time!

Picture of the Week #60

The glittering Thaniya Mall in Bangkok, Thailand.  All that glitters is not gold!

Picture of the Week #59

A shot of Girgaon Chowpatti (Mumbai) in the evening.  This has become a favourite hangout spot for the many migrant works that come to Mumbai from all over (North) India.

Picture of the Week #58

A place that I can never get tired of - Mumbai's Marine Drive.  In the monsoons, the atmosphere here is simply electrifying!  Come here with your loved one, and what more could anyone ask for?

Picture of the Week #57

Picture of a poster put up on a hotel run by a Tibetan family in Sikkim, India.

Picture of the Week #56

Mehandi lagake rakh na, doli saja ke rakh na!

Picture of the Week #55

Walkeshwar - A quiet retreat in the heart of Mumbai.  If maintained properly, this place has the potential of becoming an attractive spot for spending a quiet evening.  However, the cleanliness here leaves much to be desired.

Serengeti Migration - A Daily Phenomenon?

Who says one needs to go to Africa to see the Serengeti migration?  Every city has its very own migration that occurs twice daily.  In the morning I’m a witness to, and indeed a part of, the thousands of people who spill out from the train and subway stations and rush to their offices in one of the tall office buildings.  Herds of people make their way to their offices in the morning and then back to the train and subway stations in the evening - it's like the Circular Migration of the Serengeti that we see on the Discovery Channel.

Replace the wildbeests of the Serengeti plains with people and you will wonder why such a phenomenon is called “one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world”.  Are people not natural?  Is going to the office not “natural”?  Such a migration has become a staple of the developed world where everyone has a herd mentality.

The entire phenomenon is quite amusing if you think about it.  Men in dark suits holding their briefcases and Blackberry's rushing to their offices; high-heeled women in shirts, skirts, trousers and heavy make-up who walk alongside their male counterparts; the occasional person in a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers who seems out of place… it’s quite an elaborate, yet amusing show to watch.

Normally, I don’t even notice the people as I’m “going-with-the-flow”.  However, there is no better way to physically “experience” going-against-the-flow than to head to the train station in the morning when the throngs are heading out of it.  I can feel the crowd’s resistance, and it gives me some degree of satisfaction knowing that I'm going against the crowd.  This feeling, I think, is a prerequisite to accomplishing something meaningful.

I did this in September 2008 when I quit my permanent full-time job to see the world and have some truly amazing experiences.  It was the best decision of my life, as it eventually led to me meeting my soon-to-be-wife.

So, as you sit in your little cubicle drinking office coffee and wondering if you should execute that idea that you have been thinking about for quite some time, then ask yourself if you want to be a part of the "Circular Migration" for the rest of your life - and just do it!

Picture of the Week #54

The beautiful Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai.  Can you believe it that this building was on fire in November 2008?

Picture of the Week #53

A dilapidated Chinese-made truck that are seen all over Burma.  These are so cheap that it doesn't even have a cover over the engine!

Picture of the Week #52

Houses on Inle lake in Burma.  Their transport is a sampan.  A tour of Inle lake can be arranged for US$10 for the entire day.

Picture of the Week #51

Cute Burmese children [Picture taken at Bagan].  Many Burmese men, women and children apply some kind of wood paste on their face, neck and arms.  It helps keep the skin cool in the hot Burmese summers and it also has medicinal properties.

Picture of the Week #50

The life-line of Burma - Ayeyarwady (formerly, Irrawaddy) river - that flows from north to south of Burma.  It is the country's largest and most important commercial waterway.

5 Things I Hate About India

Make no mistake about it, India is my mother land and I love it.  Having said that, there are some things that I absolutely hate (like "development"), and others that I find merely annoying (like stray dogs).  Here's a list of 5 things that I "hate" about India - I hope you find it amusing.

1) Stray dogs
There are too many damn stray dogs in India!  In the day time, they are shy and lazy, but one still has to be careful so as not to inadvertently step on a sleeping dog while avoiding the throngs of people.  At night, one better watch out since packs of dogs spill out on the empty streets and often have turf wars with rivals, and they surely don't hesitate to intimidate innocent bystanders - like me!

2) Pot Holes
Pot holes, pot holes and more pot holes - they are everywhere!  There's a popular saying - are there pot holes in the road or is there road in between the pot holes?  It's a shame that the roads of India's economic capital city, Mumbai, are littered with pot holes.. and people talk about Mumbai becoming the next Shanghai - until the quality of the roads improve, they can keep dreaming.  This can only happen when the corrupt-to-the-bone politicians stop giving road construction contracts to companies who do a poor job.

3) Garbage, Traffic and Pollution
It is sad but true, that cities are overflowing with garbage, traffic and pollution.  Bus depots, train stations, markets, residential areas, commercial areas... garbage is overflowing everywhere.  How far is the dump-it-over-the-fence attitude for garbage going to take us?  Not very.  Temples, especially the famous ones, are some of the dirtiest places where the devotees don't hesitate to simply dump their plastic and other garbage in the surroundings. In big cities, mere 15 kilometers seems like a huge distance because of traffic clogged roads.  On Indian roads, those who can afford it can breath A/C air (sitting in their cars), and those who don't breath pollution - there is no fresh air any more.

4) Development
I think "development" is a bad word in India.  It is nothing but encroachment, and rampant and unplanned development.  It's more like destruction - environmental destruction.  Hills are carved, blasted and flattened to make way for new roads and housing, lakes are filled in by greedy land sharks to construct more buildings, trees are cut down for road widening etc.  Why does development necessarily compete against nature in India?  The way India is "developing" is totally unsustainable and I think the payback for going against nature will be severe...

5) Crowds
Over-population has led to over-crowding in India putting a serious strain on resources and infrastructure.  It has also led to a general loss of respect for life.  On average, more than 10 people die everyday while commuting on Mumbai's over-crowded local trains - ironically known as the "lifeline" of Mumbai.  It's terrible that over-crowded buses in Pune don't even bother to stop at designated stops to pick up passengers; they just slow down a bit further from the stop so people who want to get off can jump off!

Coming up next: 5 Things I Love About India

Movie Movies Movies - Part 3

I have watched several movies in the last six months and thought I would post reviews on the ones that I enjoyed watching.  I don't post reviews on movies that I did not like.


Bound (1996)
Gripping... suspenseful... tense... edge-of-your-seat thriller are some words that come to mind when reviewing this movie.  It's about how a female ex-con tries to steal two million dollars from the mafia with the help of her new lesbian lover who is also married to one of the gangsters.  The only problem is - the mafia are not-so-easy to steal money from.  Also, in order to pull off their scheme, they need to trust each other completely - can they?

Harrison's Flowers (2000)
War is a terrible and useless thing and this movie drives home the point.  The battle of Vukovar shown at the end is far too realistic and gruesome to watch.  Watch this movie to get an understanding of the Yugoslav War of the 1990s.  The movie is really a tribute to all the journalists who lost their lives while covering this dangerous war.  The only negative thing I can say about the movie is the love story that is unnecessarily woven into the plot, which is, needless to say too unrealistic.

Inception (2010)
I didn't understand a single word of this movie, but I still loved it!

Mountains of the Moon (1990)
What is the source of the longer river in the world, Nile, in Africa?  Based on a true story, the movie follows the adventures of Richard Burton and his friend John Speke who set out to discover the source of the river.  Richard and John are brought together in the wild and get driven apart in civilization.  The African wild is wonderfully captured and one really gets the feeling of being in Africa.  This is a must watch for anyone who likes adventure movies - don't expect an Indiana Jones though - this is more historical and intellectual.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
A favourite on cable TV, I only got a chance to watch it recently.  It's about how a bunch of random criminals are brought together for a bank heist job and begin to suspect each other when the heist goes horribly wrong.  It's quite an interesting watch; there's more dialogue than action in this movie.

Shot Through The Heart (1998)
This is a tale of two friends - a Serbian Christian and a Bosnian Muslim - and how their friendship gets affected during the Yugoslav War of 1990s.  It's a must watch for those who wish to learn more about this war that tore the former Yugoslavia into several different countries drawn apart by different religions.

Shutter Island (2010)
The plot is quite unique and giving up anything about it would be doing injustice to anyone who hasn't yet seen this movie.  Leonardo DiCaprio's acting is top notch and anyone who enjoys watching a psychological thriller will enjoy watching this one.

True Romance (1993)
I would describe this movie in Hindi as hatke.  A lonely man with a mediocre job is setup with a prostitute, and they fall in love with each other.  The man tries to rescue the damsel from her pimp who happens to be a mafia gangster, and inadvertently kills him and mistakenly picks up an identical briefcase containing millions of dollars worth of drugs.  Thus begins a thrilling game of cat and mouse where the mafia are hot on his trail as he tries to sell the drugs in a get-rich-quick scheme.

Up (2009)
Most people get so caught up in the rat-race and the materialistic way of life that by the time they realize what they've missed, it's often too late to do anything about it.  So what have they missed?  Living their dreams.  We live in concrete jungles that's full of people - yet we're lonely.  We have all the materials things that money can buy - yet we are unhappy.  This is a tale of a man who lived the "American dream".  He had it all - a loving wife, money and a nice house with a white picket fence.  Yet, at the tale end of his life he feels he has missed living his childhood dream of exploring the world and sets out to explore and discover...


City of Gold (2010)
This is one of the best Hindi films I have seen in a long time.  In spite of it being a low-budget film (which implies unknown actors), the acting is top-notch and the plot is very realistic and interesting.  At no point does the film fall apart.  I would classify this as a semi-documentary/art-film.  It's on the life of Mumbai's textile mill workers who lose not just their employment and livelihood when their mills get shutdown (and land sold to real estate developers), but also their hopes...


Aatmavishwas (1989)
I don't normally like family dramas, but this one was a definite exception.  The acting is superb, and the storyline is engaging and entertaining to watch.  It's about how a stay-at-home mother is taken for granted by everyone in her family and how she gets her self-respect back through supposed "black magic".  Quite an interesting watch.

Related Posts: Movies Movies Movies Part 1 | Part 2

Picture of the Week #49

The famous night-market of Luang Prabang, Laos.  There are many beautiful handicrafts for sale here, but one must negotiate/bargain to get a good price.

Picture of the Week #48

Side-streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.  Checkout the jungle of wires!

Picture of the Week #47

A small train station near Kalaw, Burma.  There was a commotion as the train stopped at this station.  People rushed to purchase fruits and vegetables, in bulk, which are apparently cheaper here.  Many vendors make a weekly trip from here to Rangoon (via Thazi) where the produce is sold for a neat profit.  It's a 12+ (slow) train journey.

Picture of the Week #46

A two-wheeler bridge in Luang Prabang, Laos.  There is one "lane" each for incoming and outgoing traffic (bicycles and motorcycles).  There is a separate new bridge for larger vehicles.

Picture of the Week #45

The remote Tay Trang border crossing between northern Lao PDR and northern Vietnam.  Many Vietnamese businessmen/businesswomen purchase fresh vegetables in Laos and sell in Vietnam.  Other hand-made products such as carpets are also "exported' from Laos for sale in Vietnam.

Picture of the Week #44

A typical scene in Burma.  There is not much else to do in this country as far as "work" is concerned.  People employed in the tourism industry are relatively well-to-do, and so are government employees.

Career options are limited for a young person in Burma.  One either becomes a monk, joins the army or goes to another country (too expensive).

Picture of the Week #43

A legacy from America's "Secret War" on Laos. Many bombs were dropped on this country during the Vietnam War, although war was never officially declared on this country. Since then, thousands of Loatians have been maimed/killed by unexploded bombs that were dropped by American bomber planes a few decades ago.

G20 Summit in Toronto - Part 6

So finally today, I caught some live G20 action!  There was a big protest on Queen St. and Bay St.  They were protesting for the aboriginal community of Canada that is largely ignored by the government, and live in poverty on their own native land.  Poor education and unemployment are trademarks of Native reserves.

I got in the middle of all the action and took pictures like a true freelance photographer - it was fun!

I saw first hand what a peaceful protest can accomplish - positive media coverage and increased public awareness.


All G20 Summit Toronto related posts have been moved here.

G20 Summit in Toronto - Part 5

Here are some more pictures from the preparation that is going on in Toronto for the G20 Summit to be held on June 26-27 at the Metro Toronto Convention Center.  Most of the preparation seen in the pictures below is to prevent vandalism in the event there are riots.


All G20 Summit Toronto related posts have been moved here.

G20 Summit in Toronto - Part 4

The other day I was walking on Front St. near Union Station and a local TV news crew interviewed me.  I'm not sure if they showed that on TV.

Along with the police - TV news crew, journalists and photographers can be seen everywhere in Toronto's Financial District these days.


All G20 Summit Toronto related posts have been moved here.

G20 Summit in Toronto - Part 3

The pre-G20 Summit action has already started.  There have been a few small protests already although I didn't catch any of that action.

Here are some more pictures ahead of the G20 Summit to be held on June 26-27.  Today's pictures fall into three categories that show how each of these are preparing for the Summit:

1) The Government of Canada
2) The City of Toronto
3) Businesses


All G20 Summit Toronto related posts have been moved here.

G20 Summit in Toronto - Part 2

The intimidation has begun.

There is a huge police presence on the streets of downtown Toronto these days.  The police are well-armed and well-prepared (complete with riot gear).  They are everywhere on the streets and even in vans with dark tinted windows parked on the road side.


All G20 Summit Toronto related posts have been moved here.

Picture of the Week #42

An ingenious fish trap seen on way to Mt. Harishchandragad via nali-chi-vaat.

G20 Summit in Toronto - Part 1

Toronto is hosting the G20 Summit this year on the June 26-27 (2010) weekend.  The G20 ("Group of 20") Summit is the "premier forum for international economic cooperation."

At last year's convention in London, England, a historic pledge to inject US$1.1 trillion in the credit markets was announced to restore liquidity.  This year's Summit will probably focus on containing the spread of European debt crisis before it leads the world into yet another recession.

So, seeing as I work in the downtown Toronto core where many protests (by Environmentalist, Socialist, Human Rights groups etc) are anticipated, I'm planning to be citizen photo-journalist for the big event.  Since I have no intention of being part of any protests, my photographs and coverage will be from a third-party point of view.


All G20 Summit Toronto related posts have been moved here.

Picture of the Week #41

Mr. Gogawale ("mountain man") baba resting on Mt. Kamalgad.  He is the care-taker of a temple on this mountain and earns his living by playing host to trekkers.  He also acts as a guide.  The 81-year old gentleman has the stamina of an 18-year old!

Mr. Gogawale held a Masters degree and had spent a majority of his life in the mountains.  His love and passion for nature was awesome!  His biggest fear was the densely forested plateau of Koleshwar becoming "New Mahabaleshwar".

Picture of the Week #40

Children waiting for their first lesson of the day at 7:00 AM.  [Jor village, Maharashtra, India]

Picture of the Week #39

The famous "neck ring" wearing Padaung tribe women of Burma.  Long necks are considered attractive in their culture.

Tourists pay to pose with her and take photographs - it's almost like a zoo.
What else is she supposed to do to earn a living?  Her people are fighting the Burmese government for their own autonomous region.  As a result, many are displaced and have become refugees in their own country (like the Kashmiri Pandits) and in neighbouring Thailand.

Picture of the Week #38

Bhagwa atop Mt. Kamalgad!  Jai Maharashtra!

Picture of the Week #37

A simple transport in a not-so-simple world.  [Mumbai, India]

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day! [Picture taken in Tshoka village, West Sikkim, India]

Picture of the Week #36

Beautiful wadi atop Koleshwar plateau.

Aisa des hai mera!

Picture of the Week #35

What is this?  This is happiness!  Oh, childhood is such a magical time of life.  Seen here are all smiles after I showed them their digital picture on my camera.  [Sawarne village, Maharashtra, India]

Picture of the Week #34

Just another day...  [Dhawale village, Maharashtra, India]

Picture of the Week #33

Life is not easy for these pretty young girls.  [Dhawale village, Maharashtra, India]

Picture of the Week #32

As you can see, this place is truly romantic.  Many couples come here for a romantic getaway.  I would love to come here again some day... [Tonle Bati lake, Cambodia]

Movie Movies Movies - Part 2

Updated: April 6th, 2010

I have watched several movies in the last six months and thought I would post reviews on the ones that I enjoyed watching.  In case you didn't know, I love watching movies!


Avatar (2009)
- There aren't many movies that can live up to the hype, but this is one of them.  The movie is a seamless blend of reality and fantasy... of mythology and technology... of science and magic.  The characters are well-developed, the world is vivid and rich with imagination, and the plot is unique with a fairytale ending - I wouldn't have liked it any other way.

If you haven't seen this movie yet, then what are you waiting for?  This movie is the reason why movie theaters were invented!

Being Cyrus (2005)
- This is actually a Bollywood movie that is entirely in English - a bit strange that is.  Anyhow, it's a well made thriller movie without any obvious loop holes.  Watch it on a Friday night.

Casualties of War (1989)
- This is a war movie and I like war movies.  It's based on events that happened during the Vietnam War (or the 'American War' as it is known in Vietnam).  It's a story of how American soldiers kidnapped a young Vietnamese girl and gang-rape her during a long "mission".  Only one man dares to fight (Michael J. Fox) and give justice to the victim.  But does one man stand a chance against the "system"?  Watch and find out.  They say all is fair in love and war...

Flawless (2007)
- In the mood for a heist movie without the accompanying gore and violence?  This movie shows how an old man steals millions of dollars worth of diamonds from an ultra-secure storage facility without shedding a drop of blood.  Good watch.

Gorillas in the Mist (1988)
- This is an interesting semi-biography movie on the life of Dian Fossey who dedicated her life for the conservation of mountain gorillas in Rwanda.  If there are still gorillas in Rwanda, it's due to her conservation efforts.  Today, the government of Rwanda charges US$500/person to wild-life enthusiasts who wish to spend an hour with the endangered gorillas.

Paranormal Activity (2009)
- I still get the chills down my spine when I think of this movie.  It is, hands down, the scariest movie I have ever seen.  Horror movies don't normally scare me but this one did.  Probably because I watched it in the theater.  Patience is required to watch this one since the story is built up very slowly.  If you can survive the first 30 or so minutes (I almost didn't!), you will enjoy it.  Don't watch it alone or with children!

Sometimes In April (2005)
- I watched Sometimes in April... in April 2010.  It's not a family movie.  It's not a popcorn flick.  It's not a date movie.  It's very real.  Whatever is shown has really happened.  And it's horrible.  The movie is about the genocide that happened in Rwanda in 1994.  Nearly a million... a million people were killed in only 3 months... from April to June.  How many people even know about it?  The world didn't care, because as an American government official said, it was "Rwandans killing Rwandans".

Men, women and children were killed indiscriminately with AK-47s, machetes and Uzzis.  Weapons were supplied by the United States, Germany, France, Belgium, Israel and China.  Even after the killings started, the so-called "civilized world" did nothing to stop it.  Why?  Because there was no oil or gold or diamonds in Rwanda.  The US even denied that genocide was happening in Rwanda, but later "apologized" for it.

I highly recommend this movie.  Everyone should watch it.  It's important to understand.  Never again should this happen.

Tears of the Sun (2003)
- This is a 'save the damsel in distress' movie set in the jungles of Nigeria.  The armed rebel violence that has engulfed Nigeria is shown quite accurately.  The methods used by the militia to kill and maim people are quite gruesome.  It really happened.  It's a good movie to watch if one wants to get a quick history lesson on Nigeria - Hollywood style.

There Will Be Blood (2007)
- Most people probably haven't heard of this one.  It's an art flick about an "oil man" who makes a fortune in the very early days of the oil industry.  It's about greed, religion, politics and family.  It's a great movie that drives home the point that behind every great fortune is a great crime, and that crime doesn't pay.  Don't watch it if you don't enjoy art movies.

Training Day (2001)
- I can't believe I had missed this gem.  Set in the City of Angels (Los Angeles), this is an excellent movie on police, gangs and double crossings.  To live and die in LA, it's the place to be...

Up in the Air (2009)
- I think this is a masterpiece.  It's about a man whose job is to fly all over the country and inform people their services are no longer required to the company they work for.  It's certainly not an easy job.  I have matured as a movie watcher and like meaningful cinema with a good message - and this is one of them.  Some memorable quotes:

"Let me get up.  Let me get out.  Let me find something... my kids are my purpose... my family."

"It's not all about the money.  Money can keep you warm, pays your heating bills.  It can buy you a blanket.  But it doesn't keep you as warm as the support that my husband gives me."


3 Idiots (2009)
- I don't think this movie needs "another review".  Everyone has watched it by now.  Some things don't make sense, especially towards the end - but who cares?  It's still an entertaining movie.  The movie sort of makes fun of the Indian education system and it's many flaws.  Ragging is shown as comic relief, however, in reality, it is a disgusting culture in Indian colleges.  Instead of helping freshers, the senior students are too busy making their life miserable to the extent that some freshers even commit suicide.  The movie does not really touch on Indian History, which is probably the most manipulated in the world; first by the British and now by our own government to appease the minorities.

Probably the biggest flaw in the movie is the message it conveys in the end (which runs counter to the message it tries to convey earlier), which is, "you are not successful unless you become rich".  I thought it was totally unnecessary to show that.  Nevertheless, Aamir Khan won't disappoint you (as always).

Jail (2009)
- I had high expectations from this movie seeing as it was made by Madhur Bhandarkar.  It's a well made movie and an entertaining one, but doesn't quite live up to the mark of his previous films (especially Page 3 and Chandni Bar).  The Indian Justice system is one of the slowest in the world and the film shows this quite accurately.  It's easy to imagine oneself to be the main character as what happens to him can happen to anybody.

Rocket Singh (2009)
- The movie is about a recent college grad, who barely manages to pass, who wants to become a salesman.  Generally speaking, in India, those who don't get any other job go into sales.  There aren't many movies on this topic so it was a welcome change.  Many people have cribbed on Ranbir Kapoor's acting skills (or lack of), but I think he did a good job.  A very intelligent friend of mine in Mumbai who is in the same profession said the movie quite accurately depicts the general atmosphere and people in a sales firm.  Although it flopped in the theaters, I thought the movie was quite entertaining with a good message.

Wake Up Sid (2009)
- There are many movies on the topic of "coming of age" and this is another one. Does one really get tired of watching such movies?  Not really.  Ranbir Kapoor has acted well in this and suits the role.  Most people will be able to relate to the main character (maybe not to that degree) since we all have to go through the phase of "finding oneself".  The best part is, unlike real life, the movie actually has a happy ending.  This is a good weekend movie.


Harishchandrachi Factory (2009)
- I watched this one during my last trip to India.  Frankly speaking, because so many things were going on in my mind, I did not really understand the movie - especially the first half.  However, I started getting into it in the latter half.  It's a well-made movie that shows the birth of the film industry in India.  This movie was sent to the Oscars but I think there were other better ones that could have been sent.  This is a good history movie and should be shown to school children.

Natarang (2010)
- This is a good movie on an off-beat topic.  One can now say that Marathi film industry has blossomed.  The soundtrack is excellent and hats-off to Atul Kulkarni for his hard-work and acting.  Natarang Ubha, Apsara Aali and Khel Mandala are some of the great songs from the movie.  Sonali Kulkarni who plays the character of Naina Kolhapurkar has also acted well and looks very beautiful.


Cidade de Deus (2002, Spanish) - English Title: "City of God"
- This movie is highly rated on imdb.com, so I decided to check it out.  It's about gangsters in a neglected Brazilian town.  Although it's a good movie that's worth a watch, I've seen better movies on gangsters, such as Vaastav.

Related Post: Movies Movies Movies

Picture of the Week #31

The bandaged iconic Taj Mahal Hotel nursing wounds caused by India's friendly neighbourhood Pakistanis.

Picture of the Week #30

Picturesque town of Sapa in Northern Vietnam.  The town is nestled in some of the highest peaks in Vietnam and it's close proximity to Hanoi ensures that it is a popular weekend destination for city slickers.  I climbed Vietnam's highest peak (10,310 feet) in one day while I was here; it was an exhilarating trek and a personal challenge for me.

My Words of Wisdom

I saw a terrible accident a few days ago on the highway.  There was smoke coming out of the car and someone was trapped inside it.  It wasn't clear whether that person was dead or alive.  "Jaws of Life" were being used by the fire fighters to cut through the metal doors and get the person out.

That made me think how short and unpredictable life is.  Anything can happen and without warning.  We are here today and gone tomorrow.  We waste so much time and energy being angry, upset and unhappy.  In the end, it's just not worth it.  We have to learn to be forgiving towards others, and more importantly, ourselves.  Don't put your ego ahead of everything.  It's okay to make mistakes.

Sometimes we just need to sit back and think about what is really important to us?  Too often we are running behind the wrong things (like money or something similar).

One never knows whether we will have a tomorrow or not.  So don't waste your Today on negative things.  We should do whatever that is in our hands; for everything else, just hope for the best.

Learn to give.
Learn to forgive.
Learn to love.
Learn to be happy.

This is to everybody:

If I've upset you - I'm sorry.
If I've wronged you - Please forgive me.

Remember, Don't Forget Your Passport!

You may be wondering where the name of this blog came from?  Don't-Forget-Your-Passport!  Many many years ago I used to watch a show on TV called "Don't Forget Your Passport".  It was a great show featuring off-beat destinations like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Bolivia.  I'm not sure if the show is still on TV.

This show inspired me to travel on my own.  I always wondered whether I could do it or not.  Now I know.  I can be independent, find my own way and survive in a foreign country whose language I don't speak, without being scared.  In fact, instead of being scared, I now find it exciting!  I feel... this is what life is all about: Dreaming... Believing... Discovering...

After meeting Dr. Prakash Amte and Dr. Mandakini Amte in 2007 in Toronto, a new dimension has been added.  I don't just want to see things, but I also want to do my part in helping the poor people.  I started with bringing used (but still nice) clothing from Canada and donating those to people in small villages (wadis) in India when ever I went trekking.  That is my way of giving back to the society... and villages in the Sahyadris are very close to my heart.  I'm not doing great things, but I'm doing what I can.  I'll try to do more in the future.

[Angkor Wat in Cambodia - the largest Hindu Temple in the world - Picture by Neeraj]

Cambodia was the first country I traveled to on my own.  My flight from Toronto was via Hong Kong.  When I reached Hong Kong I was quite nervous about how I would manage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, seeing as I was reaching in the evening and did not even have a hotel room booked, nor did I know where I was going to stay.  But when my flight took off from Hong Kong I saw some mountains and all my fears and apprehensions were instantly gone and I had a smile on my face.

Such is the magic of mountains for me.

This blog is dedicated to the show that gave the world to me.  Not only did I discover the world, I discovered myself.  Thanks and Cheers!

And remember, Don't Forget Your Passport!

Picture of the Week #29

Colours of India [Kala Ghoda Art Festival in Mumbai, Feb. 2010]

"Berang si hai badi zindagi kuchh rang to bharoon..."