Friday, March 24, 2006

Lakme Fashion Week

For fashionistas in the country, the Lakme India Fashion Week spells five days of flamboyant colours, exquisite designs with some of the best designers in the country showcasing their work, and of course, a lot of glamour to go with it. Scheduled between March 28th to April 1st, at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, this extravagant event is being organized by Lakme, a leading cosmetics brand.

And I am lucky enough to be taking part in it :-)

My friends Dev and Nil have their own label called "d. by Dev R Nil" and they got into the show under the emerging designers category. So, I get to spend the week in Mumbai helping them with the runway show, schmoozing with buyers and hopefully attending fabulous parties. Yey!

I wont be able to finish the Memoirs of a Roadtrip till I come back, but at least (hopefully) I will have some juicy Mumbai stories to tell. Have a great week everyone.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Memoirs of a Road Trip - Ranthambore

We drove from Jaipur to Ranthambore on the search for wild tigers. Nothing like a safari to really bring out the white imperialist in you!

Situated in Eastern Rajasthan, where the Aravali Hill ranges and the Vindhyan plateau meet, the Ranthambhore National Park was once the hunting preserve of the Maharajas of Jaipur. The park's abandoned fortress, lakes and above all it's "friendly" tigers has allegedly made it one of the most filmed wildlife reserves in the world.

Ranthambore National park is supposed to be famous for its tigers and in theory it is one of the best places in the country to see them in the wild. However, it turns out that they are not so easily spotted, especially during the day. The park covers an area of nearly 400 sq. km. and we covered significant portions of it on a "canter", a bus with it's roof cut off that is supposed to give you that nice safari feel.

The area was beautiful but alas no tigers were spotted.

We arrived really late at night from Jaipur, we were pretty much brain dead

One of the grossest things I've ever eaten - potato stuffed naan with strawberry jam on top - doesn't it look like raw skin or something

They woke me up at the butt crack of dawn to go on safari - I was not a happy camper

Don't we look butch

Tiger print! We are on the right trail

Monkey - Loads of these

I really had to pee ok - I could have been marking my territory or something

Lots of ugly dear like animals

Abandoned Mughal Hunting Lodge

No tigers were seen, but we had fun nonetheless

Like I said, at least it was very scenic

Leaving our hotel, we got the distinct impression that the staff was going to miss us. They even gave Adi flowers!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Memoirs of a Road Trip - Fatehpur Sikri

(*NOTE*: It occured to me that I have nto given due credit to James and Adi for all the pictures. I am currently without a camera, long story, but all of the pics from the road trip were taken by them.)

It completely slipped my mind, that on the way to Jaipur from Agra we stopped off at Fatehpur Sikri. This is one of the most beautiful sites I've ever visited. Built during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory) was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only some 10 years. The complex of monuments and temples, all in a uniform architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid.

The pictures below cannot capture the wonder of the moment as Adi, James and I explored with the awe of children.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The 6 month milestone

Oh My Bloody God!! I have survived six months in India. I'm not quite sure how I did actually, but to be honest it has been one of the most amazing experiences to date. I have learned a lot about myself, the personal development that I have been able to accomplish here has made the time and money spent here worth it. Professionally I was not able to grow much in the sense of skills development, I gave more that I took, but it did serve to remind me what it is like to work in the field again, which I had not done in a really long time.

In the last six months my patience has increased. I have grown more tolerant of noise, pollution, people, smells, chaos. I have become pickier on what I eat, where I stay, and what I will put up with. I have become more tired and more vocal. I have always considered India a country of contradictions and extremes. And I find myself fitting that description more each day. Living here has definitely been more expensive that originally anticipated. Granted I could sit at home reading a book instead of out socializing. But I did not come to Kolkata to be a hermit, I came to experience what the city had to offer and that I have done. I met someone who was a previous Fellow. This individual actually SAVED money while he was on the fellowship, outstanded at this I inquire how on earth he could do that short of turning tricks at night. Well, he never went out, he didn’t make any friends, he didn’t learn the language, he didn’t see anything. One year in India and he never left his town. LOSER WASTING HIS TIME!!

The reality is that I have met some incredibly amazing people here. People who have enriched my life in India in ways I could not have imagined possible (Manu, Avo, Neela, Mona, Deepti, Ryan I love you). But in the same token the hardest part has been being away from those back in the west that made me complete (Chris, Dave, James, Alba, Chirag, Subodh, Aaron, Joy, Terrance I miss you more than you can imagine). But I don't know where that leaves me.

I came to India mainly for 2 reasons. 1) Career builder, can't work in international development if have not put your time in the trenches. 2) Personal test - Can I really do this? My time here has thought me 2 things, 1) That much like a graduate degree, it doesn’t really make you any better if you have worked in the field or not or if you have a masters degree or not, but it adds legitimacy; 2) NGOs the world over are all the same. For those of you who don't know anything about my work life. The reality is that I have been working in the HIV field for 10 years now and have amassed a nice set of skills and abilities. By this point in my life I'm pretty good at what I do, I just don't get to do it often. The past six months have been a great opportunity for me to just show off, and I am not complaining. But know I am bored. Yes I am contributing, yes it is rewarding, no it is not a challenge, so let's see what comes up next for me.

There are a few people from back home who I want to especially publicly acknowledge for helping me through the past 6 months. In alphabetical order: Ameet - you are such a beautiful person and I am lucky to have you in my life; Chirag - one of the sweetest and kindest persons I know, thank you for the love and encouragement you give me; Chris and Dave - the dynamic duo who I aspire to be able to be half of what they are words cannot express how I feel about you; James - one of the most amazing people I know, your love and support know no limits I don't know what I would do without you.

I don't know what else is in stored for me at the moment. I'll definitely be keeping you posted though.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Memoirs of a Road Trip - Jaipur

After our day in Agra we moved on to Jaipur, the Pink City of Rajasthan. Jaipur is a small town trying to be a city, and if it wasn't for its over-hyped tourist appeal it would not have much. I had a good time. Being a bit "tourist-out" by this point, Adi and James preferred to focus on what one does best in Jaipur - shop for ethnic kitsch. I on the other hand, preferred to hang with some friends and take it slow and go watch a movie. Bottom line, Jaipur is pretty, I'm glad I went. But the company was definitely the highlight of the city.

In front of the Hawa Mahal (some sort of courtesan window thingy)

Don't ask me, I thought it looked gross

Jaipurian Scenery

Post-Sumptuous Lunch

Tourist are allowed pics like this one

Group Pic at the City Palace


Random Pretty Fruit

Pretty Doorway Structure

Who wants lamps?

Pretty Doorway Structure - 2

Vikram (another AIF Fellow) graciously hosted a dinner party at his place. Good times were had

Pretty Doorway Structure - 3

Street Scene

James and the Giant Peach colored wall with guns

Janter Manter - one of several astronomical observatories raised by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur. The various abstract structures within the Jantar Mantar are, in fact, instruments that were used for keeping track of celestial bodies. Yet, Jantar Mantar is not only a timekeeper of celestial bodies, it also tells a lot about the technological achievements under the Rajput kings and their attempt to resolve the mysteries regarding astronomy.