Unraveling of a ‘What The Black’ Mystery

Ah, I wrote ‘black things I would still like to buy‘ and mentioned that it was part of #WhatTheBlack activity. Now that promo is over, it is time to unravel.

An aside: This reminded me of a dialog (though it is not quite the same thing) from the movie ‘Prestige': Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.

#WhatTheBlack was an interesting campaign around the theme of colour black which resonated with me, and few small things that indicate beginnings or begin our morning literally. It was an interesting campaign to build a mystery, pique your curiosity just enough to wait for next day’s clues. Frankly I couldn’t; I could have guessed the product. Here are all the ‘clue’ pics:

Day 1 – A black egg, you break it to find a rock, solid chocolate :) Egg is symbol of beginnings.

Day1_1Day_1_2

Day 2 – Black newspaper, a thing you begin your mornings with

Day 2

Day 3 – a black tissue paper, a black glass (presumably for coffee) and an empty

Day_3_1

Final unravel – Tada!

This is what the #WHATTHEBLACK product is: COLGATE SlimSoft Charcoal toothbrush.

prize

You can find more about this special toothbrush here.

5 Black Things I STILL Want to Own

Whenever I say with glee and smug satisfaction, Black is my colour. My Ma contends that black is no colour at all. Few weeks ago when my father was very unwell, my parents were scared of a relapse. You know how parents have some superstitions. My Ma stealthily takes me aside (so father doesn’t hear) and say, ”you know, dear, I am very scared. You were sitting in a black dress near your father’s bedside. Why would I see you wearing black? It is bad omen.” And I calmly reply, ”Mama, that’s because I wear black a lot. Haven’t you noticed last three days I’ve been wearing black dresses.” Ma couldn’t argue with that and I am very happy to let you know there was no bad omen. My father, thank God, is doing well.

So, with so much black clothing and black devices, are there any more black things I aspire? oh yes! 5 more black things I could do with:

1. Black ornate bathtub: I love bathtubs. When I go on vacation, before booking a hotel I check, Do you have a bathtub, sir? It maybe awkward, but let me tell you it is very important criteria especially on a vacation. :) I found something like this on Pinterest, but I could with do more ornate one. ;)

bathtub2. Black three-sided bookshelf: Actually the bookshelf does have four sides, all I want is my bookshelf to surround me on three sides in a room. yes, heard it right. On three sides. My current bookshelves are proving to be very inadequate. I want something like this (again Pinterest image of a wardrobe actually), but of course, with a preference for a larger space in middle to put a bed, where I can lie and read in those very comfy postures.

bookshelf3. Black Moissanite ring: I am not fond of jewellery, esp gold ones. Diamond is passè. ;) I want a simple ring with black Moissanite. Something like this would do nicely. (It costs around $1500 last I checked.)

ring4. Black iPad: yes, you heard it right, I want a black wi-fi enabled iPad. Hopefully I will win it in #WhatTheBlack

5. Little black dress: I know, I know. 2 months ago, I bought 17 dresses, most of them black. In fact, my wardrobe is predominantly black. I remember posting this FB update few days ago, leading to a wry query in the comments  about ‘Morticia audition?’.

FB_rant
Yet, my search for that perfect little black dress is incomplete. There is still one out there that is waiting for me.

This post is a part of #WhatTheBlack activity at BlogAdda.com.

Planning a Dream Trip via Skyscanner: Japan

After completing my Euro trip, I have been eying to visit Japan since long. It is like a dream – you board a flight and woosh – you’re transported to a completely new culture. Murakami and Guy Kawasaki have long since beckoned me with their works. It doesn’t help that Japan is land of samurais, geishas, mountains, bentos, castles, mountains, temples, shikansens, onsens, kabuki, ikebana, shiatsu, takarazuka revue, zen and zazen.

But hey, it’s Japan that means no communication in English, and it means completely different food for a veggie like me – so you need better preparation. Much better preparation than that I had needed for Europe. But first one must get basics right – visa, travel tickets, hotels and then one can spend time to plan more intricately.

First question that comes in mind: which is the best city to enter Japan – Tokyo, Nara, Kyoto, Sapporo, Okinara, Hokkaido? More clearly, which place has the cheapest flights? Even though I hadn’t made up my mind if I would visit Okinara and islands or Hokkaido, I was sure I would visit Tokyo in my first visit.

Japan is expensive. If not careful, you would go over budget in a blink and that is one thing that can cramp the pleasure of travelling. And in that planning the trip via Skyscanner was a lifesaver.

Picture12

The first search in skyscanner made clear that Tokyo was cheapest way to enter Japan compared to other Japanese cities. Another search confirmed that I wasn’t saving any money by catching a flight to Tokyo from let’s say Mumbai. Bangalore was as good place as any to start the journey.

Picture1

Cheapest flight is to Tokyo

So, that’s decided I  time I visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Hiroshima  (all are close to Tokyo); Okinara, Mt Fuji and Hokkaido will have to wait for next time. I planned for 10 days in  December, a month when I always try to visit a new place, a personal ritual. Skyscanner was obviously a best choice since it scans all flight sites such as expedia, makemytrip, cleartrip, ibibo etc for best deals – hence, it is a lifesaver.

Picture2

Flight to be booked to Tokyo in December

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Bangalore-Tokyo flight – cheapest one available on the day

The Tokyo plan is roughly like this:

Motto: Have fun, live in bit relaxing luxury and do bit different things.

  1. Shiastu treatment
  2. Eat an izakaya (A buffet with both Japanese and Asian-Western fusion dishes all at a very affordable price)
  3. Geisha dress up, it happens in both Tokyo and Kyoto. (Tho I have never aspired to dressup in Indian tourist places such as Kashmir, HP)
  4. Watch kabuki and geisha dances
  5. Helicopter cruising from Tokyo bay at night
  6. Day trip to Nara – JR train or a bus will suffice. To be decided later.
  7. Trip to Onsen (steam bath) – since I am going in December, imagine the pleasure of onsen in snow-capped places. Bliss.

Here is more of Tokyo in pictures: http://www.skyscanner.net/news/tokyo-pictures

Next stop – Hiroshima

I don’t like my holidays to be too packed. Plus they say some people have a trip in Japan going in and out of trains. So I thought I would deviate from the norm and use a flight for this trip. Faster as well. Skyscanner helped again. :)

Picture4

Tokyo to Hiroshima flight – 1.5 hrs

After going through usual sites like Peace Park, memorial etc in Hiroshima, I head to Kyoto, by JR rail this time, which I have been ignoring. I should utilise my week rail pass that I intend to buy. (I tried car hire from Hiroshima to Kyoto using skyscanner before I remembered I didn’t have a driver’s license.)

Picture5Next stop – Kyoto

Two of the key things to do in Kyoto was to go to green tea picking and visit Takarazuka theatres. (Google for more info please).

Hotel bookings

Since all major flight travel bookings were done, I then turned my attention to booking hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima. This was another easy job with Skyscanner as it has at its disposal LOT of options from various sites. At Skyscanner, I can search hotel results using filters such as popularity, price, stars and name. I checked these three factors when booking a hotel: location, price and reviews. At the end of the day, I was happy that I had found reasonably priced, good hotels!

Picture11

I booked hotels based on three key factors: Location, price and ratings

(See the highlighted tab in the first screenshot)

Hiroshima

Picture6

Easy hotel search at Skyscanner.com

Kyoto

Picture7

Hotel chosen at Kyoto – fast, reliable search

Actual hotel screenshots from the original site where you’ve to book. Nice place, isn’t it?

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Actual site where you can book the hotel in advance without any cancellation charges. Booking.com has been my favorite site. Glad, skyscanner scans along with hundreds of others!

Tokyo

Picture9

Finally the Tokyo hotel – not so expensive but good ratings!

And then back to Tokyo via JR rail to catch flight homeward. Sounds like a dream plan? To me, it is. :)

Total cost of trip

  1. Flights: 46, 483/- + 21, 809/- = 68292/-
  2. Hotels: Hiroshima: 2795/- + Kyoto: 4603/- + Tokyo: 8709/- = 16097/-

Total: 84394/-

(I still have 15k spare for other things and accommodate last minute travel plan changes.)

A sweet glimpse of this dream trip:

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May this dream come true. Amen!

(This post is a part of Skyscanner travel wizard activity at BlogAdda.com)

Book Review: A Newlywed’s Adventures in a Married Land

(I must begin with apologies to the author who sent me this book so long ago and I unprofessionally forgot about it. The memory of this lapse would nag me at most inopportune moments when I was in no position to make amends. This delay is writing the review is deeply regretted especially since it was an entertaining book.)

DZT_1267

Photo courtesy The Rebellious Bride at http://www.rebelliousbrides.com/2012_03_01_archive.html

‘A newlywed’s adventures in a married land’, as the title suggests, is a newly married woman’s adjustment to married life in an unfamiliar, foreign city. Mythili’s life undergoes an elephantine change when she marries the man she loves and follows him to Manila, capital city of Philippines away from her family. She also has to deal with the accompanied shift in her identity: from a successful crime reporter in Bangalore to a wife in Manila on dependent visa. Mythili , while recording her impressions of Manila–jeepneys, flashy malls, tanduay and Tagalog, does her best to settle in her new life. But it is not easy. When her husband inevitably returns to work, her job searches prove futile, she increasingly feels she is lonely, homesick and devoid of purpose. Continue reading ‘Book Review: A Newlywed’s Adventures in a Married Land’

Book Review: Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince

Mahabharata is a fascinating, mammoth work of fiction with millions of sub-plots. Personally I have found Mahabharata much more intriguing than Ramayana. The sheer amount of conflicts, latent themes and contradictions engage your mind in constant debate. (The only other book that has turned over my mind such is perhaps Wuthering Heights.) No wonder dozens of variants and narratives for the same story exist. Not only variants, the whole saga has been written from perspective of so many characters such as Draupadi (The Palace of Illusions), Duryodhana (Mahabharta ki ek saanjh), Karna (Karna ki atamkatha), Bhima (Randamoozham) and so on. Arjun is a similar attempt with the third Pandava prince, Arjuna in focus (notice I do not say Arjuna’s perspective). This means, story of five brothers will be told closely as well. Even with five different personalities, the five brothers presented a single entity as Pandavas. Panchali only solidified that unit.

The language of the book is simple and does not draw away from the story, and often it feels as if this book is a collection of parables. I treated this book as a refresher of all the stories I have read before in Mahabharata. Also, book doesn’t always attempt to present the events in chronology, however, the way it was presented, I assumed that it was expected that readers are familiar with Mahabharata. This, though I gather may have been intentional on author’s part, was a mild irritant to me. In terms of narrating history and choices of sub-plots with Arjuna as focus, the book has been successful. However, did it provide occasions to pause and debate or throw a light on a philosophical perspective, or bring out innermost conflicts of Arjuna (other than those well-known at battlefield)? In that, book is wanting. Other than few notions of Arjuna – his arrogance that humanizes him, his mild indignation at what he thinks is Bhima’s naivety, and lastly, his belated realisation of everlasting love for Draupadi – Arjuna remains same character that we knew him from our earlier reads. Book doesn’t conjure anything new in in our minds. For example, Mahabharat ki ek saanjh is compelling in presenting an argument from Duryodhan’s perspective. But then, as I clarified, it is not really a perspective book. It is a re-telling,Image where Arjuna lies at the crux of it. It is fast read and worth a trip down the memory lane of your favorite epic.

P.S: 1. I noted a disconcerting gender usage. When Arjuna hits Duryodhan in his nails in the battle, he ‘cries like a girl’. Oh, no.

2. It was a relief to once again read a mythology book where the characters did not say, ‘hell, yeah’. Touche! ;) Also, unlike last few review copies I read, the editing was decent and I didn’t not find any of those punctuation issues that are eye sores when reading a book.

Book Review: Amreekandesi – Masters of America

I have read many first books by very popular bloggers. They have mostly managed to disappoint me successfully, be it Sanchos, Dorks, Reluctant Detectives or Mighty Bongs. ;) I have donated the signed copies of these books to the unsuspecting. Reading some of these books also made me very angry, since I had bought them after reading, as it turns out, untruthful reviews full of undeserving praise. So, as a rule, I have learnt to keep away from books from blogger-writers. Until Amreekandesi wrote a book.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Amreekandesi – Masters of America’

Book Review(s): ‘A Bolt of Lightning’ and ‘Dating, Diapers & Denial’

Satyen Nabar at the launch of his book with Naseeruddin Shah

Satyen Nabar at the launch of his book with Naseeruddin Shah

A Bolt of Lightning is story of Shiva, who has so far been a successful corporate executive. Unsurprisingly, work stress is getting to him, his marriage is disintegrating. When it seems his wife has moved up on career ladder, he seems to have been stuck somewhere in his career, even after coming all this far. And there are his friends, Adi and Sid, who he is not seeing as much as he would like to.  After few unforeseen setbacks, Shiva moves to Goa to ruminate or recuperate. It is when story shifts from Metro city to Goa, Shiva undergoes a-life-changing-experience. After this event, he embarks on a journey of self-realisation,  and makes peace with ‘real life’.  I could not help but notice the author’s emphasis on keeping a restrained, realistic end.

All the elements of a racy book can be noted– a prophecy by a face reader in train, drugs and foreigners in Goa, doctor jokes, death and suicides, life-threatening situation, and strands of spirituality. As a story, his book is a breeze to read. Though I must confess, I was not the right reader for this book, I don’t much understand spirituality and journeys of self-realisation. Or, maybe I am a skeptic since I haven’t undergone a mammoth life-changing experience. Self-discovery and realisation for me have been painfully slow, one moment at a time.

Continue reading ‘Book Review(s): ‘A Bolt of Lightning’ and ‘Dating, Diapers & Denial’’


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