Sunday, January 06, 2008

Flashback in the New Year

As New Year says 'Hello', I am glumly reminded of the fact that it has been an year since I have been out of the country. Standing at the London Eye, watching the fireworks last year, I was not very sure that the year ahead would be without breaks at all. I had a faint hope I could go home sometime in between. Alas, it was not to be. But this New Year brings cheer with it, because, by Makara Sankranti, I will be back home for vacation.

The year that passed was a year of new acquisitions. Late as it was, but I did get my hands on the XDA Orbit. Quite common now, but at the same time last year, it was quite a sensation, and a fine sense of ownership would wash over me each time anyone asked to see it. This continued for a period of about six months, from when it started to become common. There was a similar kind of joy with the bluetooth stereo headsets, the high capacity hard-disks and the electronic gadgetry, though the joy this time was shortlived owing to their plummeting prices.

The year that passed was a year at the movies. I have never seen as many movies in one calendar year ever. If there is anything such as a good bargain, then it is the Cineworld Unlimited card. For 11 pounds per month (now 12), getting any number of movies, any number of times, any time of the day and at any theater in the UK is a superlative deal. Especially if the normal cost of a movie ticket is 7 pounds (now 8) for an adult. From watching Nehle Pe Dehla almost alone to seeing people watch Sivaji standing, I have done it all. I have been able to watch much-hyped big banner movies WEEKS before my friends saw it in India. I have seen them a lot cheaper too, if you think about it. If you wanted to watch Chak De India, Aaja Nachle and Om Shanti Om on the first day (as I did), you would probably pay more than what a non-member would pay here (approx. Rs.2000). The card is the first thing I recommend to any colleague who comes from India. So much so, that now, we are a sizeable number and at one point of time, we used to calculate the monthly cost-per-film and try to reduce the ratio the next month by watching more movies. Yeah, we are like this only.

The year that passed was a year of luck. How else would you define having seen from a distance of ten feet, the two most bankable stars of Bollywood - Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan. It has been my fortune to be roomies with an FTII alumnus, who has immense hunger for films and their making. He is a member of the British Film Institute and the National Theatre. It directly results in getting passes/tickets to premieres (Chak De India premiere at London), award functions (IIFA at Yorkshire) and film festivals (London Film Festival).

The year that passed was a year of appreciating good food. When you get up early on a weekend (#1 on my 'Will-not-do' list) and travel 75 miles (#2 on my 'Will-not-do' list), just to get some breakfast, you know you miss India very very much. Over the year, I have travelled to London innumerable times, just to eat Idli/Dosa. Nothing else. I have noticed that the curry you make at home is better than the bland stuff which comes when you order from an "Indian" restaurant. I have learnt that my room-mates cook so well, that if I can rake up some money, I can persuade them to shift from IT to catering. I look back with extreme satisfaction that some of the best food I have eaten over the last 12 months was cooked by my own roomies. Back home, my grandmother, my mother and my three aunts all make coffee the same way, yet there is a distinctive taste of each coffee, and I could make out who made which coffee. Now, I have forgotten how filter coffee tastes. Here coffee is either a black hot espresso or a sugarless, milky latte. Being away makes you realise the value of things taken for granted.

The year that passed was a year of travelling. Brussels, Bruges, Ghent in Belgium. Rotterdam, Amsterdam and the famous Keukenhof in the Netherlands. Cardiff, Barry Islands, Swansea and the beaches of Port Eynon in Wales. Glasgow, Fort William, Fort Augustus, Isle of Skye and the Loch Ness in scenic Scotland. And in England - London, the temples at Birmingham and Neasden, Sheffield, Ipswich, the cathedral of Norwich, the beaches at Great Yarmouth and the Isle of Wight, the Roman Baths at Bath and Bristol. It's an utter pity, a shame in fact that I haven't found time to write about them yet. Each of them was an experience in itself and deserves mention.

The year that passed was a year of fun. Of driving on the motorways at 100 miles per hour - as fast as a Shoaib Akhtar delivery. Of experiencing the first snowfall. Of pelting each other with snowballs and making snowmen in the parking lots. Of seeing black ice on the roads. Of taking steam baths in the gym. Of converting a flatland in the park into a cricket patch (not a pitch). Of seeing only five hours of daylight. And then sixteen hours. Of waking up to dull grey mornings and watching out of the window, with a cup of hot tea in one hand and a phone back home in the other. And of the joy of having taken a seven-year young relationship towards its logical milestone.

2008 promises to be fun. Here I come!