About Sashi

I'm blogging! Just an endeavor to keep track of some memories before I lose my memory! Experiments and experiences with life :-) Sharing snippets, stories and thoughts ...here, there and everywhere!

Italy – You may have the universe if I can have Italy

I had heard of the quote “Italy is a dream, that keeps returning for the rest of your life.” Only after visiting the country did I actually realize the true meaning. I know I will dream about Italy for the rest of my life because it’s so hard not to fall in love with the lifestyle and the place that makes it who it is.  Italy is all about the Italians, food, wine and history. It is the one place that will make you feel very very young, because everything else is so old in comparison. We covered Rome, Vatican, The Amalfi coast (Capri, Ravello, Positano, Serrano), Florence (Pisa), Naples (Pompeii), Tuscany, Siena, Cesenatico and Venice. Every place was as different as the other in character and spirit. Rome and Vatican was all about history, Amalfi was about the coastline and blue waters, Florence was a world of museums and art, Tuscany was the lush green valleys, Cesenatico was the most happening place and Venice screamed romance!

I will talk about each of these places in detail in my subsequent blogs but here I am just giving readers a preview of Italy in general, a birds eye-view to call it so.

The people: Whatever you have heard about italians, is true! They are very good looking, fit, hot and happy people. I don’t think I saw many obese or bald people, and if I did see, they were probably tourists! The people were also extremely friendly and helpful. They seemed very relaxed and full of life. Most Italians are very well dressed and conscious of how they look. On the flip side, if you anger an Italian; just run for the covers!

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There was this one incident that happened during our trip that gave us a brief intro to that side of an Italian. It was late at night and we were in a taxi, driving back towards our hotel with a very friendly driver, who was giving us a verbal tour of Florence as we drove past the city. Suddenly, another car just cut him off and sped ahead. We were lucky that our driver acted quickly and averted scraping the other car. Nevertheless, our driver was no longer Mr. Congeniality! For the next 5-7 minutes we became part of a high speed car chase, which included an audio litany of the choicest Italian expletives and a visual of other screeching, honking cars as he tried to catch up with the driver who cut him off. Meanwhile, the kids were having a ball watching all this unfold in front of their eyes. Finally he was able to speed up in front of him, parks the car,  engages the brakes, and flies out of the car and walks up to the other drivers’  car. He asks him to roll his window down, gives him a good screaming and bangs on the hood and walks back to our car. He then profusely apologizes to us and asks us to give him less money for the inconvenience he caused us but that no one does that to him or his car! It was the most hilarious experience we had 🙂

Food & Drink: I understood food after going to Italy. I understood freshness. I understood the debate about small portions. I understood the importance of just enjoying what you work for; a good meal! In Italy they add work and life to food and wine, not the other way around. People seem to live to eat and they eat in a very relaxed manner. Drive thru eating must be an alien concept there. Every meal in Italy is a 2 to 3 hour affair. It’s slow and relaxing. It was very hard at first getting used to the slow pace of life in Italy. We would get very impatient when our food didn’t arrive in 15 minutes, but slowly we got the hang of it. We would just sit there sipping wine, eating bread and making conversations. The meals in Italy are recommended to be divided in 4 parts, the appetizers, first course, second course and desserts. The first course is some kind of pasta or pizza and the second part is some kind of meat or seafood.  The hot delicious, freshly made food would then arrive and you savor every bit of the mouth watering dish, as you wash it down with some delicious wine. The sauces they use are freshly made and cooked to perfection; just enough that you can taste every ingredient in it. Most importantly, we learned that an Italian kitchen carries very few spices and they rely mostly on fresh herbs and vegetables to get the flavor into the food. Finally the last part of the meal is the ‘dolci’; the desserts. We ate a lot of tiramisu and gelato, and we have to say that every one of them was delicious and different.

Coming to drinks, Italy is all about wine, wine and more wine. People drink from mid day to the end of the day. Food is paired with wine and wine is paired with food. Don’t be afraid to ask your waitress to suggest a good wine to go with your food. Do ask the price too before she uncorks because a good bottle of wine could cost anywhere from 40 dollars and up. The house wines are good and cheap, so take a chance and ask for a taste.

People don’t drink water in Italy. They just drink wine. So if you want water, you have to buy and you have to specify if you want still or sparkling. Asking for tap water at a restaurant will be frowned upon.

If you are outside, make sure you carry a bottle with you as there are drinking water fountains all over and the water is clean and tastes much better than the pricey bottled water.

Some tips:

  1. Once your food arrives and you try to enhance it with added salt, spice or cheese and it was not offered to you; just know that your chef will be offended.
  2. If it’s a restaurant that makes freshly made pasta, then know that your only options are spaghetti, ravioli, pappardelle, taglierini and rigatoni. If you ask for any other kind like penne, rotini, farfalle, etc then they will either say they don’t understand what you are saying or they will tell you they don’t serve packaged pasta.
  3. Scallops and scalops do not mean the same thing!
  4. Try the mussels in every restaurant. Each has a different flavor and they are all good.
  5. If you don’t understand a dish, google it before you order, so you atleast have an idea what you will be digging into.
  6. Try the Limoncello! It’s a must. Try to get your hands on some limoncello from Capri or Sorrento as they are considered to be the best. Better still, try to get some home-made limoncello for the true, crisp taste of Italy.
  7. If you want something spicy, ask for ‘Arrabiata sauce’. It’s the closest to spice that you will get in italy.

Shopping: Italy is fashion central and we all know that. It is known for its leather goods, glass factories and intricate lace work. Don’t be afraid to bargain, start from the half-way point and work your way up until you both agree on a price. If buying clothes, try them on before you buy them. Italian sizes are much smaller than regular USA sizes, so make sure they fit you right. I loved shopping in Rome. If you walk around the streets and get yourself into those little boutique shops, you might just get lucky and get some good deals. We bought some clothes (mostly good chiffon) in Rome and some leather goods in Florence. Most stores take credit cards and all street vendors take cash, so be prepared. I found some really good clothes at great prices at Balloon (Rome) and Zara (Florence).

The only things that could have made our trip better was the weather. Unfortunately, this was Europe’s worst summer and the heat during the day was unbearable. Some places were very crowded and there are long lines to visit the attractions, so book ahead of time as it will help you skip the lines and the crowd. There are many people trying to take advantage of your tourist status, so be careful and decide where you exactly want to go. Google maps is very helpful. Download the ‘Rick Stevens Europe’ app, his tours are very helpful and easy to listen to. Download it ahead of time and listen to them as you walk around the monuments or museums, it makes it all so much more interesting when you know the story behind what you are looking at.

Overall, it was a wonderful trip and I hope to revisit a few places leisurely and redo them at a slow pace. The quote below, sums it all up!

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Regrets, Mistakes and More

Another school year has ended and as part of my yearly ritual, I sat down to reflect upon the year gone by in general, the mistakes, the lessons and regrets. But before I could answer that question to myself, I was stumped at the question itself. How does one define a mistake or a regret? I did what any hardworking researcher would do. I asked around! I got various replies and here is a summary of the responses.

Mistakes are actions done in haste, or  an error made in judgement, poor reasoning, calculations or plain carelessness. It is something you would not repeat if you had the maturity and growth you do today.

Regrets make you sad. They could be something you did or didn’t do because of a decision you made. It’s a disappointment, a sorrow, a yearning or remorse.

Lessons are what contribute to growth and maturity. It’s the learning that happens over time and what you carry with you as you move on.

All these three can stand alone on it’s own or be intertwined with each other. It depends on the situation and the issue.

Over the last few days, I have had many exciting conversations with family and friends about their thoughts on regrets and mistakes and surprisingly, most found it very difficult to answer the question. It is one of those things that just sits at the back of your head, you never think about but important enough to revisit every decade or so. A self-assessment if you can call it so. Talking to people about this topic, gave me a deeper understanding of most of them, and in some cases helped people understand their own selves better.

When I look back at my own life, there are many mistakes I have made and I have learned from every single one of them but I don’t think I truly regret all of them. They have all contributed to making me who I am today. Yes, I am blessed that none of the mistakes were scarring but they definitely changed me for the better. Regrets are few and I have always tried not to have regrets in life. It is just my personal motto. Even if it is as simple as regretting walking away from that beautiful dress on the mannequin which was priced too high… or as complicated as wanting to choose a different education path, it is something I have tried to minimize in life.

In my own assessment I would say, it was a mistake to get into engineering when my interests were more creative. It did nothing to me other than give me a college experience and be a springboard for my future masters and career. It was a mistake getting married at a young age and I wish I had a few more years behind me before I took that big plunge. I would have definitely had a much smoother landing into wifehood and motherhood if I had some more maturity.

I do regret not working for a couple of years before I got married. That experience would have done wonders to my confidence and I would have been more responsible for my own actions and decisions (now I just blame my mom for everything!). I regret not learning how to play a musical instrument, I feel I would have been good at it and it’s sad that I never attempted to do that. And then there are those smaller regrets that come from being immature, at how you handle people and life. These are regrets that have turned into lessons and now I know what not to do. Regrets of leaving people hurt or being insensitive to their stories. These are the sorrows you carry in your heart, hope for time to heal and a lesson to never do it again.

Regrets, mistakes, lessons and more are a part of growing up. The more you age, the more regrets and mistakes you have to talk about and you have just as many lessons learned from all of them. They are all just a bitter-sweet part of life!

So take some time to introspect and understand yourself. What do you consider as mistakes in your life? What regrets do you carry forward? And what are some million-dollar lessons you learned from life that has made you who you are today?

 

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STRANGER IN THE MIRROR

 

We passed each other at that twilight hour,

You seemed to know me and so did I,

But I walked away with lowered eyes,

Only to turn back and catch you looking at me,

Joy and beauty in my heart is all I see,

With you I reveal setting myself free,

 

You talk like me

You feel like me

You are my soul

You make me whole

You are that stranger in my mirror

 

Connecting over words and phrases

A fire deep inside that blazes

Separated by a world in between

Yet a love so obscene

Can I not love myself thus?

Cos I am the stranger and the stranger is me

 

The Power Of Staying In Control

 

I woke up this morning to a chat with a friend in Chennai about the magnum opus ‘Baahubali – The conclusion’ that was recently released. He started by telling me how magnificent the movie was. He then proceeded to tell me that there was some technical difficulties and they did not play the second half of the movie. Needless to say, riots broke out in the theatre, the screen was torn, seats were ripped and theatre trashed! I was truly shocked and disturbed.

How can educated people in this age and time behave like this? More alarming was the fact that he tried to convince me what he did was right. Reason being that they had paid for the movie, and the theatre owners did not inform them of what was going on. My only argument was; if the movie could have been played, wouldn’t they have? There is no reason why anyone in their right mind would stop a movie midway to incur the wrath of the patrons. Obviously there were technical difficulties which they were unable to resolve and they were working on it. There was also a lack of communication protocol that has to be followed in such emergency situations. But nothing can condone trashing a theatre for an unexpected error. The producers still made their money and got away but the theatre owners who have paid huge amounts of money to bring this piece of entertainment to you has been made to incur a huge loss that he may never recover from. The other hundreds of people employed by the theatre will also go jobless until the theatre is fixed and up on its feet again. Was the release of the anger worth this much of financial loss? Was there no real solution to this?

Yesterday, at my school, following the usual protocol we had a fire drill. The alarm was pulled, classrooms were evacuated, students counted, and the teachers were asked to take the students back to the classrooms. But there was a glitch. Much to our annoyance we couldn’t turn off the fire alarm. It was was still blaring all over the school! We tried every trick possible, called a bunch of technical people, and everyone worked fervently to get it fixed. Meanwhile, I asked the secretary if the phones were ringing off the hook from teachers demanding to know what was going on, especially since we had many special education students for whom the blaring sound would have been a problem. She said: None! I was truly surprised. After about 15 -20 minutes of no success, I shot out an email to staff, telling them we were working on fixing it. Eventually we did fix it, but that’s not my point. Later on the union leader stopped by and we asked her if the staff got restless about the alarm situation and if she got any complaints. She said, “Not at all, we knew you would be working on it. Why on earth would you put us through that pain?” Yes, it’s obvious but it made me happy that they were so patient.

Going back to the Chennai incident, I was truly shocked that people took it to that level. This a state that is constantly screaming that it is ignored by the centre and as much as they try to intervene, it is the people that impede the progress of the state. It is time people take charge of matters into their own hands and turn things around. People need to realize how much power they have, especially the youth. There are many countries wherein the youth have taken charge and are turning things around. India now has a prime minister who is so supportive of positive change and is a huge inspiration that one person can make difference. A few months back, it was the youth who showed their unity at Marina beach and put up a united front and forced people to give attention to some issues. Sadly, the message was again lost and misused.  Tamil Nadu is a state that has produced the most brilliant minds of the century and if they put their minds together, I am sure they can revolutionize the state of affairs much beyond a technical error at a movie screening. Chennai is an example of just one incident but people do need to wake up in general and start taking more responsibility and be aware of the decisions they make.  Exercise that power of control; sometimes it can make a bigger statement than actually losing it!

 

Solitude

Moments in life just slip away,

Some just stick and stay,

Falling slowly onto the earth,

Today is all we have at hearth,

Some words impress the heart,

Some just hurt till you fall apart,

Few tears express the joy in the soul,

Few smiles hide the sorrowful hole,

Solitudes are precious reminders of friends,

Sinful happiness and playful interludes,

Traveling on a path you look behind,

A solitary journey with nowhere to go.

Dear Zindagi: It’s not so complicated

This is not another movie review from me. Let’s just call it a review of my thoughts post watching a movie! The movie in focus here is the latest offering from Gowri Shinde; Dear Zindagi. I will not go into much details about the movie but I will sum it up by just saying that it forces you take some time and look at the youth today and somewhere you might end up connecting with your own youth. There are a few moments from the movie that sparked some discussion within me and my family. One of my kids loved the movie and the other didn’t. The spouse would have much preferred a song-dance-fight routine. Nevertheless, the ride back from the movie was not silent. There were questions flying around from everyone, spouse included and any movie that can spark an animated conversation, in my eyes is worth a thousand stars!

Some salient points from the movie that we were teased into discussing were as follows:

  1. Only 2% of the world is good looking and it’s important to have a good looking face to look at when you wake up. A friend and I were discussing the movie and we were arguing if that was a shallow thought. But the truth is that’s how the world functions. Looks are important. If you have the looks, the initial path is made easy, sustainability is completely a different ball game and that is where substance matters. But if you already have the looks, your first impression is a cake walk, the red carpet has already been rolled out. All you have to do is walk without tripping!
  2. If you do not hesitate to go to a doctor for a physical ailment, why hesitate when you have a mental ailment. This is something society has still not come to terms with. How easy it is to tell someone, I am going to see the doctor for a colonoscopy or a pap-smear but how often do we hear someone say, ‘I am going to see a doctor because I have anxiety and depression or anger management’. Nil. It is still considered a taboo topic. The truth is it’s a rough complicated world out there. People live in a nuclear world. We bond with ourselves. We keep others away. We carry many burdens and we have no time to share it with others. Result: Utter chaos in the mind! It needs help and it’s important to recognise that need and handle it accordingly.
  3. The inability to express our true feelings. The lack of expression. I am going cultural here. In the south asian culture, it is not considered prudent to express your feelings. Its an unsaid, untaught rule that you should keep your feelings in. Do not show your anger, even if you are burning inside. Do not laugh loud. It should be subtle and sweet. Do not hit anyone even if they deserved it. Do not…do not…do not lose control. End result: Botoxed faces! You learn not to share your true feelings. You fail to express your love, or anger or disgust in a timely manner until it’s too late and everything explodes!
  4. Why look to one person to fulfil all your needs. Really why? Let’s take our body for example, you eat carrots so you can see better, fibre to poop easy, okra to grow some brains, onions to keep the testosterone up (breath mints a must!), Spinach to keep the blood clean…so on and so forth. So when we use so many different foods to supplement our body needs, why do we look for all qualities in one person. Why burden him or her so much? They are not made to order, they are what they are even before you met them. Don’t try to change that. One person alone cannot be handsome (remember only 2%), be humorous, be sensitive, be courageous, be an intellectual, be polished, be rich and so on. Manage your expectations. The result will be a fairly simplified life.
  5. All tough paths are not always the right paths. Somehow we are trained to think that life is supposed to be difficult. The easy paths are wrong and the difficult ones are right. Not at all. Not everyone wants to swim across the dead sea with salt stinging their bodies to make a point. Some just sit behind their laptop, write a blog (like me!) and feel satisfied they did their piece for the world. I am totally using Dr. Khan’s words here because I can’t say it any better than him. Sometimes it’s not necessary to chose the difficult path, especially when you are not ready. Why set yourself up for failure. Take the easy path, grow, learn, toughen-up and then take the tough path. You will have a better chance at success.

These are some of the churning thoughts that we were discussing. In talking with the kids, I told them an important takeaway for life. The importance of self-awareness and communication. You can easily tell when your head hurts but you need self-awareness to realize your heart hurts. The reasons can be many and not important right now but accepting and respecting those feelings is extremely important. Do not ignore it or push it away. Treat it as you would a physical pain. Once you recognize it, the most important final step is communication. Yes, talk about it! Choose your person but choose someone who will make you feel better not worse. Someone who can tell you there is an issue without judging you. And when you find that person amongst the other 98%, treasure them. They are hard to come by. In fact statistics says that, in a lifetime you will only meet one or two (if you are extremely lucky) such people. Just learn to communicate your thoughts and feelings, clearly and in a timely manner. Not just to that friend but also to the person who is the cause of those feelings. This will help mitigate any future arising issues and nip the molehill from becoming a mountain.

Yes, life is not easy. But there is no need to complicate it any more than it already is. I have a favorite quote, ‘You live life only once and if you live it right, once is more than enough’. So celebrate what you have, exhale, just smile and say hello to life itself.

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Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: A tale of unrequited love

Love. It is the most written about topic. It is what most movies are made about, especially Indian movies. A love that wins and a love that fails. Stories depict characters falling in love, going through hurdles and either surviving to tell the story or not so someone else can tell the story. But that is not the reality that most people experience. Most people fall in love, feel that tug in their heart but don’t confess to it. They love silently, from a distance. Most people hold it in their heart forever and just move on. Then there are another set of people who manage to confess their love but turns out it’s one-sided. The latter two is what really happens in the world out there.

‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ celebrates this one-sided love. The theme of the story is unrequited love and its power. Millions of common people will identify with it because that’s what love is about; broken promises, broken hearts, weaknesses, anger, madness and a lot of solitude. If you ever fell in love, even if it was brief, you are bound to identify with atleast one of the characters in the movie. The nostalgia and melancholy will set in and tug at your own heart until all those memories come flooding back.

The movie shows you the power of loving alone. Shows you that you are not alone as long as you have your love with you and not really needing the person to be with you. If you are looking for a feel good movie, this is not for you. This is a movie that shows what mature love looks like. Karan Johar has come out of his comfort zone of candy floss pink romances and embraced a more realistic greyed aspect of love. He manages not to succumb to dictated plot lines of love that wins. Instead his movie celebrates love failing again and again.

The lead pair, Anushka and Ranbir have done a fabulous job. They have truly matured in their acting. Anushka looks beautiful and Ranbir has managed to give a subdued but powerful performance without the histrionics of Ved in ‘Tamasha’. Aishwarya as usual looks artificial and lacks the depth and passion the other actors are able to portray, especially relevant because her role is all about passion and she fails to scorch the screen. Fawad has a brief role but leaves an impact.

What kills the movie is the pace. Although important, Karan takes a long time to develop the characters and you are left waiting for the story to begin until you realize there is none. You have to view it just as pages from an incomplete diary. The last fifteen minutes of the movie is also a spoiler. Karan could have done without that bit. He stepped away from realism and ended it on a melodramatic twist that was just not needed.

The music and dialogues are definitely a plus. Channa mereya is a personal favorite, along with Bulleya and the Break-up song. Being a lyricist the title song is the best with lyrics so profound that every line speaks volumes. One such being ‘Mujhe aasmati hai teri kami’.

Few other dialogues from the movie worth thinking about are:

Boyfriends na filmon ki tarah hote hai … kuch time pass toh kuch blockbusters

Rishtey ke alava aur bhi rishtey hote hai

Love teda hai … lekin us tede love mein bhi sukoon paana sirf kuch logon ko aata hai

Pyar mein junoon hai par dosti mein sukoon hai

Kisi ne kabhi aapko suddenly chaata mara hai … phaat … us chaante ko ishq kehte hai … aur woh chaanta aur zor se padta hai jab koi teesra aa jaata hai

Main kisi ki zaroorat nahi … khwaish banna chahti hoon

Aasaan hai kya aisi mohabbat karna … jiske badle mohabbat na mile

Mohabbat karna hamare bas mein nahi hai … us mohabbat se door chale jaana … woh hamare bas mein hai

Ek tarfa pyar ki taqat hi kuch aur hoti hai … auron ke rishton ki tarah yeh do logon mein nahi bat’ti … sirf mera haq hai ispe

Finally, the movie leaves you with the question, would you sacrifice the peace of friendship for the madness of love? Love can be tough. Can you handle it?

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