Friday, September 17, 2010

The Magnanimous

Nobody does it bigger and better than Oprah Winfrey!! Yes you heard it right. She is the queen of generosity. So magnanimous that sometimes i have to ask myself if this is a dream or real?

Watching the Oprah Winfrey show is just such a roller coaster ride for me. It's a high and low of emotions. You never know what that show is going to hit you with in the next 60 minutes. One minute i have tears rolling down my eyes, the other minute my heart is racing at 1000 beats/min with excitement.

Oprah has been hosting this talk show for 25 years now and finally its the farewell season. The final season began earlier this week and O' what a show it was !!! Everyone in the audience (300 of them , her most loyal viewers) got an all paid for 10 days vacation to Australia!!!! It's not even NY or your town next door. It's freaking Australia. Whooosh!!! And yes she is paying for it.

Over the course of so many years, she has touched on topics which are hot and some not. She has discussed issues that have plagued our society and those that have helped it grow. Talked to molesters, cheaters, criminals and achievers. About 44 million people tune into her show every week. Women believe in her, love her, cry for her and some even worship her.

I cannot get enough of her as a person and her generosity. I constantly find myself being awed by her. Asking myself how can one person have so much power and influence to make people's dreams come true. Yes it is true that she is gifted and God has blessed her with so much, but that is not a sufficient condition to be magnanimous. You really have to have a big heart to really care for the those less fortunate and to spread the love.

There are hundreds of millionaires and billionaires out there in the world, but very few as generous and powerful as her. How many of them think about making your dreams come true? Take the example the Oprah effect it cannot get any bigger and better than that. Every person or business that is touched to her turns to gold. Yes she has the "Midas" touch.

Can it get any better? You just dream and she just makes it come true. Here is an example of what was on one of her shows:
All the brides in the audience (All 50 of them) received:

1. A Vera Wang wedding dress (yes you heard it right "Vera Wang"!!! )
2. A $250 gift card from Kohl's to buy Simply Vera Wang clothes in their store
3. A $4000 gift card by Marriott Hotel for a stay anywhere in the US.
4. Free tickets by United airlines to go anyplace in the US.

There are million examples of her generosity and if i cited each one of them, it would take me days, probably months. My favorite on today's show was what Oprah did for a mother of three. The mother had been struggling all her life to make ends meet and educate her children. She worked three jobs everyday. Oprah not only made her ultimate dream come true by sending her and her kids to an all paid vacation to Italy, but she also paid off her $78,000 in loans and gave her a year's salary so that she could take the year off. It left me happy, happy to know that there is an angel out there who not only wants to help, but has the power and the ability to help and make things right for you.

Oprah will never cease to surprise me. She inspires me to not only be a good person but a better human being.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Peepli Live

Last weekend was exciting, eventful and hectic. Two of the much awaited movies were releasing on the same day. "Peepli live" and "Eat, Prey and Love". Needless to say, I wanted to watch them both and do it soon. So i dragged Sid into two movies and an American Idol event that weekend.

Peepli Live - A fantastic satire on plight of poor farmers and the how the media/politicians spiced up the tragedy, blowing it out of proportion to gain popularity. The movie as the name suggests is set in a small village called Peepli (in Orissa). [I had the chance to visit this village almost a decade back and still remember it for the beautiful, bright and artistic craft that they sell.] It's the story of two (farmer) brothers who loose their small piece of land to the government in exchange of a loan they are unable to pay back. The rumors have it that the government is paying farmers upto 1 lakh rupees if they commit suicide. So after much contemplation, the younger brother declares publicly that he will commit suicide so that his family gets the money. This one announcement sets the movie rolling....

This movies is not your regular commercial masala movie. The hero does not fall in love with any girls, there are no hip-shaking numbers and beautiful international hot spots. It's not about designer clothes or famous star cast. It's about the life and the plight of farmers and their distress. It's about how politicians and our governments make promises just to stay in power and win your vote. It's about how the media can easily and very conveniently distort a simple fact into a masala "sansani" khabar and keep us mis-informed. And caught in the middle of all this craziness are the poor farmers who in the end are left high and dry.

I loved the movie for its story line, for the unconventional actors and for the excellent, crude but hilarious dialogues. [It had been a while since i had heard the typical dehati dialect]. In the light of the recent mass suicide by farmers, Peepli live does a fantastic job of showcasing and bringing to our attention an important problem in our society. With about 60% of the Indian population still relying on farming as their primary occupation, it's high time we paid attention to their stories too. It brings out the weakness in your political system. How easily development assistance programs are introduced but not really implemented. How promises are made only to provide hope and mock the system.

Peepli live is more on the line of a documentary than a main stream movie. It's a definite watch if development issues interest you else it's like watching another series of kisan yojna on TV!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Are you infected by the tweet bug?

I have had a twitter account for over a year now. I log on it once a month, follow 14 people now and have 1 follower. I started an account just to see what the twitter buzz was all about but somehow have not been able to convince myself to make it a big part of my life. There are many reasons for it, the prime one being that i am not a celebrity, a reporter, a journalist or anyone significant who people would like to follow. I do not want to be under the constant pressure of thinking smart and witty things to say on twitter so that people like it enough to follow me.

I personally feel that twitter is a very powerful tool which can be used to help or hurt people. Today anybody and everybody is on twitter. Some tweets we follow by the second, some fail to fall on our ears. Thanks to twitter i now know which city Amitabh Bhachchan is in right now. What is he eating, how does he feel etc etc? Social networks like twitter and facebook give you a sense of closeness. Just because i follow Amitabh Bachchan on twitter i have started to believe that i know him better. That is a real friend to me. I have never met the guy, never spoken with him ever but yet there is a sense of closeness that i feel. I feel like he is tangible and within 140 characters away from me.

Is this sense of closeness or realism false? Shouldn't we be wary of the fact that outside the realms of this fake world of internet, life is a different reality? I am in noway implying that whatever he tweets is fake, but that just because i have the power to read his tweets real time and comment on it does not make him my close friend. Does twitter/facebook/orkut gives you a false sense of comfort and hope? A feeling like you are closer to someone (electronically not really)???

Well this then brings me to the questions why do we tweet, why are we on facebook? Some are to massage their ego, to satisfy the narcism that is breeding in them. Some genuinely like to keep in touch with people and find it convenient to open their lives online that offline. Some just use it as a tool to reach out to the masses. What is your compelling reason? Why are you add(ed/icted) to it? Why do we choose to follow someone on twitter or add an acquaintance to our friends list?

"With great power comes great responsibility". While you can reach out to million with just 140 characters be mindful of the fact that you can also piss them off with just those 140 characters. So i feel when we chose to be a part of such social site in some sense we are choosing to make our private lives public. We are giving our friends and followers the right to only only read what we want to say but also the power to comment on it. And how we react to their reactions in some sense shows the kind of a person we are in real life. That i feel is the real you. Not the twitter you, not the Internet you!!

I recently came across this very interesting and relevant discussion by Barkha Dutta which sparked off this blog. If you are a twitter user please share your experience with me. I would love to know what makes you tweet and do you feel sites like twitter / facebook/ orkut are just a passing fad which will be replaced over time with other Internet fads?

Here is the link to Barkha Dutt's show (courtesy Jaya)

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I have been looking for paintings to fill the empty walls of our home for a while now. Since the decor in our house is a bit modern and mostly in dark wood i wanted something bright to light up the rooms. I have visited numerous stores for some months now and nothing really stood out and then just like that one fine day,while volunteering for the folk art market in Santa Fe i had two painting in my hand. The stories to both the paintings is interesting.

The first one to the right is titled 'peces'. It's a Cuban painting which i literally grabbed at a bargain price at the Santa Fe folk art market last month. These painting were selling like hot cakes at the market specially because they were super cheap. Believe me they sold out in minutes and if you were not there to grab one it was gone.

I really loved this one for its creativity and bright colors. The painting is simple yet striking and bursting with rainbow colors. I loved how the artist had taken something as simple as sea creatures and added beautiful contours and splashed them with various colors. The octopus and sea horse complete the story under the sea!! Absolutely love this beautiful piece and wish i had grabbed some more!!

The second picture is another masterpiece by a folk art artist from Uzbekistan.

It's a miniature which i had been eying for two days at the market. I loved the detailed work and the fine drawing on the painting but did not have the heart to buy it because it was expensive. Everyday i would visit the stall and check it out and ooh and aah about it to the artist but never bought it.

Towards the closing of the market i was on my way to say my good byes to all the people i had met at the market and i stopped at the stall from Uzbekistan. I hugged the artist good bye and commended him at his beautiful work and then a miracle happened, he asked me to pick any painting i wanted as a gift from his side :) At first i said no i could not accept it but since he insisted i grabbed my favorite. This beautiful piece now adorns my dining area.

This is a painting of traders on their way to trade their things in the market. In olden times they had to travel far and wide to reach the market. What fascinated me about this picture was its size, detailed work and the beautiful expressions on the face of the merchants. Even though its a miniature, no detail is left out. The drawing is super fine and one look at it almost tell you the entire story. It almost reminded me of miniatures from India. The resemblance is starking. Thanks to the very generous artist i now am a proud owner of a painting from Uzbekistan :)

Manchego on Main

Manchego on Main was where we spent our saturday evening with a few friends. It's a really small (10 tables) Spanish tapas place. The really cool thing about this restaurant is BYOB (1ith no corkage fee!!).

Since they don't take reservations, the wait is really long (an hour and a half) but in the meantime you can walk around on main, grab some drinks else where, there are options! They offered us some hummus with pita while we waited, which i thought was a nice gesture.

My recommendations from the menu include:

Goat cheese, honey and dried figs on bread (might want to save this for the last, its the best and a bit sweet)

The Penelope bocadillo was good. It was hot and the combination of the basil with the sun dried tomatoes and cheese was scrumptious.

The chicken and mushroom skewers just melts in your mouth. A must eat if you like chicken

For desert we tried the cheesecake, which was tasty but a bit frozen. So that dampened the yumminess. The chocolate mousse cake is a killer. Simply amazing!!!

The service is ok, a bit on the slower side (considering they have only 10 tables). Other than that a neat place to visit if you are in the neighborhood. Just be prepared to wait for a while on a busy weekend.

2510 Main St

Santa Monica, CA 90405
Neighborhood: Santa Monica
(310) 450-3900

Friday, July 30, 2010

Live from the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market

Sitting in my living room in Santa Monica, I was browsing through the Oprah magazine one afternoon, when my eyes fell on an article on the upcoming International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, NM. Since then life has not been the same. I checked out their website and right then and there decided this was something I want to be a part of. In a few weeks it was all finalized, I was going to be one of the 1,569 volunteers at the Market.

My two hour direct flight from LA to Santa, Fe took me to an airport the size of a restaurant. As I stepped into the city I knew no better of its rich culture and exquisite art background. In a matter of few hours I was blown away by its beauty, art and rich heritage. The people are warm and friendly and willing to go out of the way to help.

6:30 am July 9th, I checked into the volunteer booth and had butterflies in my stomach. I spent the next few hours setting up “booth 72”. I was going to be an Artist Assistant for an Indian weaver “Shyamji” from the village of Bhuj in Gujarat. A fine artist, shyamji has been in the business of making hand-woven stoles, scarves and shawls for centuries now. This is his traditional family business being handed down from one generation to another. He and 16 of his family members work on dying, weaving and completing unique, colorful and beautiful pieces of fabric.

This was Shyamji’s first time at this fair which was hosting 170 artists from 51 countries.
The focus of this market is on the numerous and remarkable artists' cooperatives. Half of the participating artisans are new to the market, and their work was selected for its authenticity, quality, and marketability. The market keeps 10% of the artist sales and the artists keep the remaining 90%. This year the artists were hoping to have a sale of $15,000 on average over the three days.

The Market open first to a handful of collectors who donate $5000 and above to the organization. These are the ones who are quick to pick up the best and the dearest pieces at display. Then roll in another group of early buyers who pay $125 and are the ones who like to take a first cut at what’s on display. Come Saturday and Sunday, the market is flooded with thousand’s of buyers’ hungry for the art at display. Last year we had a good 23,000 shoppers and this year saw even more.

As an artist assistant I helped Shyamji not only interpret but also showcase, sell and promote his wonderful talent. We had buyers from all country’s, ethnicity and religion. People bought scarves and shawls not only to adorn themselves but also to use it as table runners, table cloths and bed-spreads. Some ladies even suggested using those as Sarongs. Our pieces were all hand-woven and varied between cotton, silk and wool. For the Artist’s Choice Shyamji chose a beautiful hand-woven shawl in pastel colors which took him 2 months to make. Prices ranged from $35 - $300 a piece.

By the weekend the market was buzzing with people pouring in from everywhere. There were food stalls to feed the hungry shoppers. Volunteers worked around the clock. Performances from various countries including Oman, kept the people entertained. Whether it was the kutch work from India or the Cuban paintings, people grabbed exquisite pieces of art and hunted for deals.

The 36 hours spent in Santa Fe has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I came home richer not only in the wonderful paining and other gifts that I brought but also in friends I made at the event. The hospitality, warmth and generosity of the people living in NM definitely make sure I visit it again. So all you folks out there if you are looking for something to add color in your life and enrich your artistic skills, the International Folk Art Market is the place to be.

I would like to share some pictures I took at the market. Here is the link to the same:

Monday, July 26, 2010


Some of my favorite restaurants in LA

1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 450-1429
Food: Great truffle pizza.

Geoffrey's in Malibu
17400 Pacific Coast Highway
Perfect setting and food!

Pizzeria Mozza
641 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 297-0101
Food: Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton are owners of these fabulous restaurants.
Amazing pizzas would be an understatement

R&D Kitchen
1323 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 395-3314
They have the best vegetarian burger

The Tasting Kitchen
1633 Abbot Kinney blvd
Best Halibut i have ever had

The Lobster
1602 Ocean Ave.
Santa Monica, California 90401
Scenic View, great for brunch

Valentino Santa Monica
3115 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Tel. 310.829.4313
Best Italian food and deserts hands-down. They have 2,795 selections of wine with
81,670 bottles

Pink Taco
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 9006
Tel. 310. 789.1000

The Tasting Kitchen

This weekend my husband and i decided to spend our saturday night dinner at Gjelina. We discovered this restaurant a few months ago and loved their food. The only annoying part is the long wait time (generally 45 mins to an hr) if you don't have reservations. So as luck would have it, we were asked to wait for an hour + for a table.

While walking around in Abbot kinney and waiting for a table at Gjelina, we decided why not try some other place. And we walked into a cute, fairly chic restaurant The Tasting Kitchen. OMG!! as luck would have it, someone did not show up for their reservation and we happened to get their table. Yaaay!! No wait and we decided to bunk Gjelina!!

Our table was at the upper level of the restaurant. The decor was very minimal but very smart. The room was buzzing with loud chatters. The wall behind us was adorned with torn pages of random books (What a smart and inexpensive way to cover the wall!!). A huge black board showed us the map of Italy, had various pictures of types of glasses and today's special. Right across from it, a black and white Italian movie reeled in the back ground.

Since this was our first visit we promptly asked our server for recommendations. Let me just warn you, this is one of those places where you can never go wrong. Everything we tried was fabulous. We started with wine, i had a glass of Riesling. We quickly ordered our appetizers. The butter lettuce (with blue cheese and tarragon) is the best. A burst of fresh flavors in your mouth. Toast (figs and fromage cheese) just melts in your mouth. The cheese was super fresh and light. Skip the castelvetrano olives (they are good, but just olives, so unless you want to eat a handful of olives i would not order it) . The french fries were nothing unique!!

We then moved on to the main dishes. I ordered a halibut (with beans and vermouth) and Sid ordered a simple pasta. (Warning!!! - There is not a whole lot of choice for vegetarians. Most of their dishes have pork!!) The halibut was small in portion but one of the best i have ever had. The soft silky fish just melted in my mouth. Full of flavor, the beans were an unusual but good accomplice. Sid's pasta was simple but another feather in their cap. It was homemade and bursting with flavors.

For desert we ordered the sticky toffee desert (apparently it was their best selling desert) and i could see why. It was a small warm toffee pudding topped with a yummy cold ice cream. Warm and comforting...made me wanna eat some more and more.

We had a wonderful but "dear" dinner. We did eat a lot (i mean between the two of us 4 appetizers, 2 entrees, a desert and 3 glasses of wine). I would definitely look forward to another evening there. It's a young vibrant place full of energy. The staff is warm and friendly and the food scrumptious. Do visit it soon and share your experience with me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I wait for you again

I wait in hope day after day
Is it here yet or is it wait another day?
My fingers can't stop refreshing the page
Eyes wait expectantly staring at the blank stage

My mind roams all over like a lost child
Checking for updates in the web worldwide
I wait and wait for it is on its way
My heart knows no better than to just stand at bay

I stare in space for another few hours
Let the time roll, dreaming of flowers
Yet another day has gone by
It's not here, I can't explain why

I don't know what i am waiting for
I don't know what's to come?
Are you on your way?
Or is it anxiety again in broad day??

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Great Breakfast place in Santa Monica

So one of my favorite breakfast places in Santa Monica, CA is 'Jack N Jills'.I like it for two reasons:

1. Tasty food with a pleasant staff
2. It's right around the corner and conveniently located (Between 5th and 6th street & Santa Monica)

While they have two locations, one in Santa Monica and the other one in Beverly hills, I find myself in the SM location almost on a daily basis. Some of my favorite dishes include the House Scramble - scrambled eggs (called house scramble) with Goat cheese, spinach, sun dried tomato, avocado & fresh basil...mmmm. The blueberry mini muffins which come as a side with most of the dishes are perfect bite size and just melt into your mouth. The Evangeline Crepe with Artichoke hearts, tomatoes, fresh pulled chicken and cheese in a basil cream sauce is scrumptious. For salad lover the chicken cilantro lime salad is very satisfying.

They have a full breakfast/lunch menu and open till 4pm everyday. A wide variety of Sandwiches, salads, pancakes, eggs, coffee etc makes this place perfect. The only thing really missing is Waffles!!!

I would not recommend their cupcakes, they kind of suck!! Yes i am comparing them to Sprinkles cupcakes :) so if possible stay away from their deserts in general. It is definitely not their forte. The tea and coffee menu is large but i have never really enjoyed their coffees that much. It's either tooooo hot to burn my tongue or not the most tasty i have had.

In terms of pricing, they are moderately priced. Not too cheap. A meal on average can cost around $15-20 per person, unless you are just eating side dishes (under $10). They are always packed on the weekends with a wait time of 15-20 mins. It's not that bad considering you can walk around in SM and the food is good. Parking can be a pain as they do not have a dedicated parking lot, its mostly street parking so you might have to look for one. But there are plenty of 2 hr free parking lots around the corner!!

All in all i would definitely give it a try ...imagine a Saturday morning scrumptious brunch followed by a walk on the sunny SM beach...could you start your day any better?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Oxy campus 2010

Occidental College is tucked away in east LA - Eagle Rock and is one of most beautiful campuses around. It is here that i truly experienced teaching in a small liberal arts college. I served as an adjunct in the economics department for the academic year 2009-2010 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

The campus is comparatively small but beautiful. It is blooming with flowers everywhere. Students and staff are warm and friendly making this a perfect place for anyone looking to either study or teach in a liberal arts college environment.

Amongst other things what is different at Oxy is the personalized attention that each student is given through a small class environment. It not only makes a class more interactive but also enables different teaching styles. Their Diplomacy and World Affairs program (DWA) is what sets them apart from other institutions.

So if you are looking for a more intimate setting to either teach or learn...Oxy might just be the place for you.

Pretty Lilies

So one day my husband walks in home with a bunch of Lilies. At first sight there were nothing impressive and most of the bulbs had not even bloomed. So i arranged them in a vase and set them aside on the counter. Two days went by and not much changed and i thought to myself "well what a waste of money...this is not even pretty..."

And then the miracle began, they started to open and as they bloomed i must admit they looked gorgeous. They were big and bright almost smiling at you and making you feel fresh and pure. The more i glanced at them the more i admired their beauty.

They adorned my house for more than a week spreading radiance and freshness all around.