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WEEKLY MAGAZINE, SEPTEMBER 2, 2012 Free with your copy of Hindustan Times

New!

Breakfast of Champions is high on fun & facts

Secret desire

Isha Sharvani wants to dine with Johnny Depp

Get footloose in Croatia ■ Cut through Goa’s tourist trap ■ Measure your happiness index in Bhutan ■

Travel extras

* The thing about cruises * Vacation fitness

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VIR SANGHVI

Flavours of Sydney

SEEMA GOSWAMI

RAJIV MAKHNI

The romance of rains

Olympian tech

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SANJOY NARAYAN Swede surprise


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B R E A K FA S T O F C H A M P I O N S

hindustantimes.com/brunch Brunch Opinion

NOW ON STANDS,

PACK YOUR BAGS ALREADY by Mignonne Dsouza

R100 ONLY!

ard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance? That’s exactly the attitude to adopt before taking off on a holiday – whether it’s a weekend jaunt or the trip of a lifetime. This time around, to spur you on, our travel special features Croatia “Familiarisation trip to southeast Asia? (it isn’t a secret any No, thanks. I only want to longer, thanks to go to Europe.” Game of Thrones), a swish romp through Bhutan, a guide on how to survive Goa from Christmas to the New Year, a cruising checklist and a reminder to get fit before you holiday. Bon Voyage!

BrunchQ is here, with a sexy, smouldering, revamped new look! Meet Bollywood’s perfectionist, and read a k c Che e h t candid interview with t u o llness porn star Sunny Leone. e w l ia c e sp the section in chQ Figure out the ‘bron new Bru code’ and enjoy India’s moments on the runways. Grab your copy now!

My Sunday wake-up call

YOUR COVER story (Is Tech Making Us Stupid?, August 26) was an absolute treat for a tech junkie like me. I read the whole magazine cover to cover four times. The famous quote, “we live in an era of smartphones and stupid people” was wittily and sardonically expressed. Brunch is my wake-up alarm on Sundays. — HARSHITA NARASIMHAN, via email Harshita wins a Flipkart voucher worth `2,500. Congrats!

A whole new world of communication Your cover story (Is Tech Making Us Stupid?, August 26) was an eye-opener and hit the nail on its head. The detailed insight on various categories was a techno-geek’s wet dream. — PANKAJ RAO, via email Your latest edition was special for a tech freak like me. Thank you, for the amazing editions every Sunday. — ROGER KSONDK, via email

The best letter gets a Flipkart voucher worth R2,500!! The shopping voucher will reach the winner within seven to 10 working days. In case of any delays, please contact chirag.sharma@hindustantimes.com

facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch Umesh Pal Sunday is completely different from other days of the week and this is because of Brunch. Vir Sanghvi’s article is like the icing on a cake. The article on evolving Indian food, hotel and restaurants was really amazing. Amrit Chhetri Rajiv Makhni’s article Is Tech Making Us Stupid? is amazingly informative, the perfect dose for Sunday morning. Papia Dass Thank you Brunch, you made my Sunday! Awesome articles, authentic food recipe, and a mixed emotional frank articles. Hats off to you always.

Cover Design: ASHUTOSH SAPRU Cover Image: THINKSTOCK

twitter.com/HTBrunch @coldnemesis A brilliant edition of @HTBrunch this time. The Gadget special – very informative! Kudos! @mynameisfaiz @HTBrunch The impact your article had on a 19year-old teen like me...never read an article more than once, yours made me read it 5 times!! @Repello_Muggle Really loved this week’s Brunch. What a brilliant read in the morning...loved the article on 1 book n 4 ways to read it! @Saksham18_LFC @HTBrunch Hats Off for picking wonderful topic on Gadgets. Helps knowing more about it.

hindustantimes.com/brunch

RECOMMENDS

Starting this week, check out what the Brunch team is up to. The movies we watch, the books we read, the food we eat. This section is the right amount of sugar and spice. Log on!!

Something Starry

MEN AT WORK

RAINY DAYS AND TUESDAYS

Huma Qureshi, actress

It’s pouring in Mumbai and Wasseypur’s Mohsina (Huma) is at a shoot, getting her hair done. If she wasn’t at work, she’d be curled up with a hot cup of coffee (beaten coffee, lots of milk, no sugar) and a good book. The most comforting one? Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince. But tonight, she plans to finish reading Lance Armstrong’s autobiography, which she picked up at Delhi airport. “I was quite heartbroken because of all the scandals,” she says.

by Mignonne Dsouza

Fix A Wet Phone

+ = ■ Don’t turn it on: Turning it on could short out your phone’s circuits ■ Remove your SIM card too ■ Dry the phone using tissues ■ DON’T use a hair dryer: this could blow moisture further INTO the phone. A vacuum cleaner is a better option (for 20 minutes only), but don’t hold it too close to the phone ■ Finally, soak the phone overnight in a bin of uncooked rice. You can also use silica gel packets and a Ziploc bag (if you have them)

EDITORIAL: Poonam Saxena (Editor), Aasheesh Sharma, Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi, Rachel Lopez, Mignonne Dsouza, Veenu Singh, Parul Khanna Tewari, Yashica Dutt, Amrah Ashraf, Saudamini Jain, Shreya Sethuraman, Manit Moorjani

SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

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1. Tiger Salman 2. Dirty Harry: Oh, the fella’s such a prince! 3. VVS Laxman loyalty 4. Monsoon music 5. Bihari vendetta

WEB

The Boy Who Came In From The Cold

So you’re planning to go skiing on your next vacation? Don’t head to the Alps, or any European ski resort. It’s now possible to have an international-style skiing holiday right here in Himachal Pradesh. Welcome to Solang! What and how? Log on now!

The Brunch Blogs This week, read Everything Alternative by Amrah Ashraf. The underground world of alternative culture hindustantimes.com/brunch

1. AK Hangal jokes on Twitter 2. Sachin’s hair 3. Vodka and Red Bull 4. Vote for <enter talent show contestant’s name> 5. Angry Apple

CHANGE OF WEATHER PLAYLIST by Manit Moorjani

■ 10,000 ft High and Rising - The Hooks

■ Here Comes The Sun - George Harrison

■ There She Goes - The La’s

■ Breakfast at Tiffany’s - Deep Blue Something ■ Warning - Green Day ■ Carnival of Lust - Poets of the Fall ■ Rock You Like A Hurricane - Scorpions

BAD LANGUAGE

by Saudamini Jain

Economics

LETTER OF THE WEEK!

MORE ON THE

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Photo: THINKSTOCK

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by Abhijit Patnaik

Behavioural economics, which tries to explain how psychology affects people’s economic decision making, has shown how ‘language matters’. Non-payers of vehicle taxes were sent a letter which read, “pay your tax or lose your car”. In some cases, it included a photo of their car. The rewritten letter doubled the number of people paying the tax; the photo tripled it. Paying huge electricity bills? Telling high users of energy that their electricity bill was much larger than their neighbour’s prompted them to use less.

DESIGN: Ashutosh Sapru (National Editor, Design), Monica Gupta, Swati Chakrabarti, Rakesh Kumar, Ashish Singh

Drop us a line at:

brunchletters@hindustantimes.com or to 18-20 Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi 110001


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Fit For A Vacation?

A few ground rules (and pitfalls!) to keep in mind before you head for the hills or hit the beach by Aasheesh Sharma, illustrations by Jayanto

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OU’VE DILIGENTLY worked your way towards a vacation far from the madding crowd and workplace stress. The spouse and children have blocked the dates a year in advance. The bags are packed, hotel rooms booked and even the bosses agree that you deserve a holiday. But are you fit enough to head out? There’s more to a relaxing holiday than platinum credit cards, frequent flyer miles and sunscreen. You’ll also need the muscles of a loader, the stamina of a horse, an appetite for adventure and a sense of humour. Here’s what you should know before you start packing:

GET A HEALTH CHECK

“Be careful while climbing steep inclines or hundreds of stairs at a hill station. If you have a family history of heart disease or a personal history of smoking, I’d recommend a health check before you leave the city,” says Dr Rommel Tickoo, internal medicine consultant at Max Hospital, Delhi. Travel is advisable only if the results display good blood flow to the heart, says Dr Ashok Kumar, consultant physician at Columbia Asia Hospital in Gurgaon. “In ideal conditions, this means you should have had a normal stress test or negative angiogram,” he says.

CURB THAT MACHISMO

THE CHEAT SHEET

Heading for a holiday without being exactly combat-worthy? Here are some tricks to fake it through a vacation. ■ Make sure your hotel room is on the

ground floor if there is no lift. Avoiding steep climbs will keep the spotlight away from your waistline and your respiratory health. ■ Hail a porter before your underexercised shoulder or back muscles get exposed. ■ Unless you are on the right side of 30 and fighting fit, avoid showing off your adventurous self and avoid tourist traps such as pony rides, paragliding and rappelling. Instead, read up and romanticise the benefits of a walk on the beach. ■ Don’t scrimp on essentials. Hail a boatman, chauffeur or guide where it is needed. Your loved ones will thank you for it.

Lotus eaters from the metropolises, like many of us who lead pampered, sedentary lifestyles, realise how unfit they are the moment they step out of the airport. Here the size of the male ego might not necessarily be proportionate to one’s quadriceps. A pulled hamstring that grounds you to your hotel bed isn’t, after all, anybody’s idea of a vacation. Hospitality executive Pranay Gupta, 42, on a vacation to Manali, for instance, pulled a back muscle when he tried to help the cabbie unload the baggage from the SUV that was taking the family to the hotel. “Depending upon the person’s body shape and activity levels, they might aggravate back problems if they suddenly try to

lift large pieces of luggage,” adds Dr Kumar. Playing soccer with your eightyear-old in your backyard is one thing. Battling breathlessness and aching glutes quite another – as this writer realised on a recent vacation. As romantic as novelists might make it sound, taking the children to see the snow can be a challenging experience, particularly for a parent fighting gravity and obesity. According to a holiday health survey carried out amongst more than 3,000 Indian travellers by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, holidays are when most people throw caution to the wind with respect to their regimented schedules and habits and indulge in food, drink and merrymaking. But revelry doesn’t always mean you should skip your

fitness regime. Those who are out of shape should take baby steps towards attaining vacation fitness, says Dr Rajeev Gupta, orthopaedic surgeon at Action Balaji Hospital. “Begin with simple stretching exercises, such as back extensions. Go on long walks for a fortnight before your vacation, so you don’t run out of breath on treks. Also, avoid lifting heavy pieces of luggage.” aasheesh.sharma@hindustantimes.com

YOU ARE VACATION UNFIT IF...

■ You get breathless climbing stairs at work or at home. Imagine your plight when you have to take several flights of stairs for mandatory darshans at most hill stations ■ You have difficulty lifting your son/daughter’s satchel of books when you pick them up from school. It’s time you pumped iron at the gym before you haul large suitcases onto trains or cabs ■ You need a massage just to work off that walk to the Metro/train station. Work those calf muscles into shape before you head to a beach or hill holiday. Brisk walking will also improve your stamina

“Too much work, too much vacation, too much of any one thing is unsound” – Walter Annenberg SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

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A Desi In Thimphu

Also Visit

NATIONAL MEMORIAL CHORTEN A stupa built in the memory of the third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in Thimphu. The stunning contrast of the inky blue sky against the pure white walls will blow you away

If you’re thinking of visiting the Himalayan country as a tourist, don’t. Bhutan is best explored when you go there as a traveller by Yashica Dutt

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E WERE absolute ladies, with thorough ladylike manners, cooing occasionally at pretty things and photographing everything in sight, when I first saw it. Red, sculpted and varnished, it lay, so much at home among the fitfully coloured masks, that it could have almost gone unnoticed. Until, like a really simple anagram, once you saw it, you couldn’t have mistaken it for anything else. The sacred symbol of Bhutan shaped in the likeness (almost too well) of a male organ, poked right through my thinly veiled pretence of poise and the gloves were off. Giggling, I pointed towards the object in sight in the most gauche way. A regular sight for the salesmen PIERCING THROUGH THE SKY

The courtyard of the Taj Tashi,Thimphu, is perfect for an evening by the hills

in the quaint Traditional Paper Factory in Thimphu, the capital of the Himalayan kingdom, but not for my fellow travellers. The senior members of the journalistic group studiously ignored me, while contemporaries coolly confessed to prior knowledge. Clearly, I was the most plebeian of the lot. So, the next time I saw it painted on posters and calendars, cast in moulds, dangling from keychains, pinned as brooches, painted on brick walls, hanging from Bhutanese-style wooden doors or simply as replicas strewn carelessly in every tourist shop, I tried to be as composed as I could. “There was a monk; slightly crazy but also enlightened. Every time he scared off demons, he would take it out,” a school-going sales girl had informed me in the local market when I’d taken off on my own for some exploring. “It’s nothing to be

Also Visit

TASHICHHO DZONG The pristine architecture of the religious fortress located in Thimphu houses the throne and the king’s offices alongside a Buddhist monastery. Warning: don’t even think of ringing the bell. It’s not a temple!

TO HEAVEN AND BEYOND

The trek to Tiger’s Nest is vertical as the monastery built on the edge of a cliff

DANGEROUS LOVE ashamed about. You should nail it to But like always, love is not enough. the door for good luck. It really Reverence and respect bring a natuworks.” Not the advice I thought I’d ral balance to the royal equation in be getting when I landed after a Bhutan. I realised this fully while shaky ride in the Druk Air ATR visiting the Tashichho plane, amongst the waterAlso Visit dzong, a two-storied colour green and blue of NATIONAL LIBRARY fortress built in the typithe expansive Paro airBuilt over several stories cal Bhutanese style of port. from wood, it has the Guinness record for the multi-coloured wood Apart from the pierclargest book in the world. frontages, glass wining cold, the clean lines Don’t miss a black-anddows, brick walls and at the airport and the white portrait of Jawasloping roofs, housing the softly curled, Disney-like har Lal Nehru with a young Indira throne room and the offices cloud motif, what stood out of the king. We were promptly most were the huge, congratulaasked to remove our scarves and tory posters of the royal wedding of shawls and uncover our heads the fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyel despite the biting cold. And walking Wangchuck and his wife Jetsun down the cherry tree-lined track to Pema, held last October. the main gate of the dzong, Karma Being a young democracy (four had a warning handy. “Don’t look at years old; there were huge posters the building opposite the river urging citizens to vote too), the love [Dechencholing Palace, where all for the king was evident every time the members of the royal family live our ebullient guide, Karma, men– except the present king]. Not tioned him. He is, not to forget, unless you have permission.” incredibly handsome and has a stelThe warning came back when we lar looking (I heard someone menalmost met the fourth king (former King Jigme Singye Wangchuk) as he cycled away with his bodyguards, making us wait for 15 minutes for The ideal months to visit Bhutan him to pass, to avoid accidentally are between September and midrunning into him. “No, you can’t November, when the weather is take pictures or look directly at the generally clear and the days are king. The royal bodyguards will sunny and pleasant. However, it’s break your camera or throw it in advisable to always keep raingear the river,” cautioned Karma. “If you handy since a downpour is never ever meet him, you can’t shake too far away. hands with him, it’s not our custom.”

When To Visit

SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

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tion ‘superhot’) wife. Probably the real reason behind their sweeping popularity, I guessed.


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How To Spend Your Money ■ One unit of the national currency, Ngultrum, is equal to one Indian rupee. There are no ATMs and it’s advisable to carry hard cash in denominations less than R500. That and R1,000 notes are not accepted. ■ INR is widely accepted in the country but you can change it into Ngultrum at Immigration. ■ Curios, jewellery and the

Gross National Happiness – It’s Real

Though we were informed later, it’s not that one can’t talk to him at all. In fact, he was known to have had a conversation with some unsuspecting European tourists. But it was the one time I truly cherished India’s ability to throw a shoe at anyone we wanted, back home.

INDIAN IN BHUTAN

That however, wasn’t the last time I was a happy Indian in Bhutan. I overheard glowing recommendations of the Indian educational system over an exotic jam-and-breadbasket breakfast in the mountainfacing Thongsel restaurant of the Taj Tashi hotel in TO WAY By Air: Board a flight from GO

Kolkata, Delhi, Gaya, Siliguri or Guwahati on the national carrier Druk Air. It’s the only operational airline in the region to reach Paro, the sole international airport. By Road: You can catch a bus from Kolkata for an 18-hour journey to Phuentsholing located on the Indo-Bhutan border. Or take a bus from Siliguri, which takes around four hours. Visa: Visas for Indians and Bangladeshis are given on arrival and one doesn’t need a passport to travel. For others, visas will not be issued without pre-paid bookings for a tour, which costs upwards of US$200 per person per night, plus the $20 cost of the visa.

Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Also Visit

TAKTSANG MONASTERY (TIGER’S NEST) Moving the heavens and earth to reach God, this two-and-ahalf hour long, almost vertical trek will take the most out of you. Built into the rockface in Paro, the trek is extremely scenic and makes the destination even more rewarding

Thimphu. Reading newspaper mentions of how important Indian currency was for the local economy, I felt oddly patriotic. But that didn’t make me a foreigner, at least not one who was gullible enough to be overcharged for goods that were mostly imported from India. Apart from handicrafts and the local artefacts, almost no product looked Bhutanese, something I discovered on visiting the popular weekend market in Thimphu. You can reach the market after crossing an ancient wooden bridge over a river. (I found the exact jewellery I’d bought from Janpath in Delhi). I ended up buying some fine Bhutanese chilli and cheese, the ingredients in almost all their dishes. The TV channels I watched at night, as I lay stretched out in the richly carved wooden suite (there’s no nightlife in Thimphu), were also Indian. The exceptions were a few Bhutanese channels which either showed promos of local movies or stage shows, in which local teens performed to dated Bollywood numbers. Apparently, no original content is allowed, yet.

The idea was first proposed in 1972 by Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the country’s former king and father of the incumbent, instead of ‘Gross National Product.’ Signs proclaiming Bhutan to be among the happiest places on earth abound in Thimphu. The idea stems from promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance. It broadly measures health, psycho-

Dance and song are closely connected in Bhutanese culture and are known to ward off evil spirits. I

logical well-being, time use, education, cultural diversity, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and living standards. GNH also mandates that at least 60 per cent of the country remains under forest cover at all times and all agricultural produce should be 100 per cent organic. And it seems the results are already visible, with life expectancy having doubled since the previous generation and almost 99 per cent of children studying in primary schools.

Also Visit

DECHEN PHODRANG MONASTERY The young boys training to Courses such as never felt as touristy as become monks are very needlework, sculpturewhen the Taj Tashi friendly and don’t shy away making, embroidery, organised a welcome from a photograph or two. carpentry and stitching dance by the Chipdrel Rotate the 108 prayer dancers, who hopped and wheels three times and were not only detailed sit for a chanting and extensive (many stuclapped on our arrival. Or session

the same night when, at a dinner organised in the courtyard, we witnessed about eight different dance performances, all religious and evil-warding. The general manager of the hotel, Ravi Nischal, even managed to drag our unenthusiastic group on to the courtyard. Dressed in the traditional costume for women – kira (a silk wrap-around), we eventually stepped on each other’s toes. India is a soughtafter educational destination, but vocational courses earn you great respect in Bhutan. I realised this at the National Institute for Zorig Chusum or the School of Arts and Crafts: an openair school whose uniform was Bhutan’s national costume (kira and gho – a robe raised to the knees for men).

If you ever meet the king, you can’t shake hands with him. It’s not the custom

ART YOUR HEART OUT

national costume (kira and gho) are popular buys for tourists, but you could buy local cheeses and chillies too. ■ The sale and import of tobacco products is banned. You can carry your packets after paying a 100 per cent surcharge.

dents were doing six-year courses), but also provided employment. Most shops set in front of the hotel were run by former students of the academy. But Bhutan didn’t grow on me till the hotel snuck in this surprise. Hidden carefully in the itinerary as a ‘picnic by river side’, we were treated to the breathtaking sight of a bright yellow tent perched on the crystalclear riverside of Thimphu Chuu. With Country Roads streaming from an iPod dock, recliners dipping in the river, a grand bar set up under the tree and a luxurious spread on the table, there was nothing more one could ask for. Dipping my feet in the cold, just-turned warm water of the river, it dawned on me. This was what I had come looking for.

yashica.dutt@hindustantimes.com

The writer’s trip was sponsored by the Taj Bengal, Kolkata, Taj Tashi, Thimphu and Druk Air

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries” – Aldous Huxley SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

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What Floats Your Boat

If you can’t decide whether you want to climb a rockface or laze by the sea, cruises are perfect for you by Sonali Shah

Cruise Control leasure cruising involves P spending a few days aboard a cruise ship as it makes ports

of call in various countries. You get to sail from port to port, from country to country, waking up in new lands. That’s much like a wanderer, only in extreme luxury! I spent three nights aboard the Voyager of the Seas, the largest ship to have arrived in Asia, and landed back on shore raving about my trip. Popular mostly among India’s rich, cruising is an expensive hobby. The returns though, are just as rewarding – you get to visit several countries in one holiday, enjoy the activities on the ship and taste several cuisines.

All In A Day’s Fun

n a good cruise ship, O you should be able to find both – places where

you’ll be able to mingle with the crowds and little corners where you can get away from it all. Captain Charles Tiege, the handsome third-generation captain in his family, has a bit of advice for first-timers: “The biggest mistake people make on a cruise is that they try to do everything on the first day itself,” he says. “Understand that the ship is a destination in itself.”

y day onboard the Voyager M of the Seas would begin at sunrise. Mornings were for

lazing by the pool. The bars weren’t far away either, ensuring everyone had a merry time. Post lunch hours were spent exploring, evenings were for concerts in the theatre, an ice show and at the casino. Each evening though, I was faced with a serious dilemma as I went through the day’s roster of entertainment. Several interesting shows were unfolding at several places on the ship. Eventually, the ice-skating rink won twice, as did the spa and the music show at the theatre. Post a scrumptious dinner, the place to be seen at was The Vault, the nightclub.

Apart from numerous sunbeds, there are split-level nightclubs, bars, libraries, theatres, ice-skating rinks, casinos, spas, mini-golf courses, amazingly equipped gymnasiums, game shows, comedy clubs, multiple swimming pools, lounges, basketball courts, surfing simulators, bowling alleys and much, much more. You can retire to your cabin’s private balcony and order room service as well.

Dining On Deck ou will also end up spending Yhallsconsiderable time in the dining as each gourmet meal is a

hearty multiple-course one. Some of the best chefs work their magic in the galleys so that you can enjoy your time onboard on a full stomach. A good percentage of ingredients are refilled at the ports of countries the ship passes by, ensuring availability of local, and often exotic produce. Each course that arrived at our table commanded a silence as everyone closed their eyes and lost themselves in the flavours.

What To Pack

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he first must-carry item is a bottle of sunscreen. Follow this by formal wear, casual wear, swimwear, camera, comfy footwear and a journal to preserve the memories. As a precautionary measure, also pack tablets to avoid motion sickness.

World Of Ports Photo: THINKSTOCK

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TANDING IN front of the thundering Hubbard Glacier as the wind plays with your hair has often been described as a life-altering experience. The best way to revere ‘the longest ice face of Alaska, the most active glacier’ with 1,350 sq miles of blue ice, is from aboard a cruise liner. Hop onto a large cruise ship, bid the shore goodbye and gear up to experience the fun of cruising.

To-Do List

Photos Courtesy: VOYAGER OF THE SEAS

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nother enticing aspect A about the voyage is the ports of call. Shore excursions

arranged by the cruise acquaint you with new cities. You’re free to explore the city by yourself too. Seasoned cruisers however, love it when the ship calls on a port – when everyone else is ashore for the day and they can have the entire ship to themselves. brunchletters@hindustantimes.com

Cruise along www.royalcaribbean.com www.maraclubcruises.com www.cruises.com www.carnival.com www.princess.com

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder” – Jacques Yves Cousteau SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

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BEYOND MASTERCHEF

Australian chefs are all the rage in India. And judging by the meals I had last week, Sydney is one of the world’s great food cities

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Vir Sanghvi

T’S A FUNNY thing, but when it comes to famous international chefs, educated Indians are surprisingly insular. In much of the world, such French chefs as Guy Savoy or Pierre Gagnaire would evoke murmurs of recognition. Great American chefs like Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller and Mario Batali usually see their reputations travel ahead of them – except in India where they are largely unknown. Even when it comes to British chefs, the only one most Indians have ever heard of is Gordon Ramsay. And he is famous for his swearing, not for his food. Other British stars like Philip Howard, the Roux brothers, Fergus Henderson or Marcus Wareing are hardly household names in India. Strangely enough, the only global chefs most Indians have heard of are Australians. Matt Moran is famous on the basis of his appearances on the Australian version of Masterchef, which is such a hit here. And Kylie Kwong has a country-wide reputation in India on the basis of her TV shows. Other Australian chefs who make guest appearances on Masterchef – such as Mark Best – are much better known in India than, say, Alain Ducasse or Joël Robuchon. Even India’s best-known expatriate chef – Bill Marchetti – is an Australian (no, he’s not really an Italian). Given that so many Rude Food readers associate great chefs with Australia, I was always a little embarrassed about MELTING POT never having been there. When I had eaten food Chef Christine cooked by Australian chefs, it was always excellent. Mansfield (left) I ate at MJU in London when it had just opened uses Indian, over a decade ago and Tetsuya was behind the stove Thai, Malaysian, himself. And it is always a pleasure to eat David Chinese and Thompson’s take on Thai cuisine which I have now Indonesian done in three different cities: London, Bangkok and influences as a Singapore. starting point But eating food cooked by Australians outside for her own style of cooking of Australia is not the same as eating in their origat the Universal inal restaurants. And so, last week, I took off for Sydney to do something I should have done a decade restaurant ago: check out that city’s food scene. (below) Sydney has no Michelin Guide, so it is hard to place its restaurants in a global context. But most international food critics have always claimed that it has some of the world’s finest restaurants. And having eaten at some of the city’s best places, I’d have to agree. At least one, if not two, of the restaurants I ate at would get three stars in the Michelin Guide and most of the others were pretty amazing. One reason why Sydney’s food scene sparkles is because its chefs combine Western techniques with Asian flavours and high quality Australian ingredients. A good example of this culinary synthesis is at the Universal restaurant where the chef, Christine Mansfield, uses Indian, Thai, Malaysian, Chinese and Indonesian influences as

a starting point for her own style of cooking. Among the dishes I enjoyed was a sausage salad which took inspiration from the spicy sausages of Chiang Mai in Thailand. Except that Christine did her own take on the Thai sausage, making it at the restaurant with quail and pork and then air-drying it for three days. Another dish paired Sichuan-style duck with small, sweet scallops in an Indonesian-style gravy. An oxtail consommé formed the base of a third dish of veal but Christine moved away from the heaviness of a French-style consommé to produce a lighter soup which was almost Vietnamese in its taste. After dinner, I asked her where all the Asian influences came from. Most seemed to derive from her own travels throughout the world. She is a frequent visitor to South-East Asia, has run a restaurant in London, and is often in India. She showed me a book she had done on India and its cuisine and it seemed very impressive, though sadly, I seemed to have missed its publication in India. If Christine loves India, then India loves Matt Moran. He is the laconic fourth regular on Masterchef who appears periodically to add a serious cheffy touch to the proceedings. I went to two of Matt’s restaurants in Sydney. The first was his flagship Aria, near the Sydney Opera House. (Aria! Geddit?) Though Australia is an informal country that thrives on casual dining, Aria struck me as being the sort of place where well-heeled businessmen take their guests. I had his signature dish: a consommé of Peking duck with lots of mushrooms. It lived up to its reputation though frankly, I could have

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Photo: CC/AIA WEB TEAM

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PICTURE PERFECT

Quay (below) is glamorous and has the most awe-inspiring views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge


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done without the over-abundance of enoki mushrooms. Other dishes were interesting. It’s nice to see a famous chef putting a pie on the menu. Naturally, Matt’s was a fancy pie made with duck and peas but it successfully combined fine dining with the goodness of home-cooked food. A starter of Kurobuta pork served three ways worked well too: braised pork belly, a pork croquette and crisp scratchings. Less successful was corned Wagyu beef which gained nothing from the use of expensive beef and was dried out as corned beef can sometimes be. Matt Moran also runs Chiswick, a casual restaurant overlooking a garden. I thought it was more successful in what it set out to do than Aria. The two rooms were large, bright and cheerful, service was warm and friendly and the food was simple but well-executed: perfectly-fried fish and chips, nice juicy steaks, and fresh Australian oysters. It’s not fine dining. But it’s fun dining with high quality food. Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out what the fuss about Icebergs is. This is one of Sydney’s most expensive restaurants but the room is tightly packed and not particularly nice. Service is well-meaning but slapdash. And the food is distinctly so-so: five different steaks, a few pastas, etc. People say that you’re paying for the view of Bondi beach, which is truly spectacular. But that doesn’t explain why this is such a popular restaurant and a celebrity hangout. Most guides to Sydney will tell you that the title of best restaurant in town is a shoot-out between Quay and Marque. They are both very different places. Quay is glamorous and has the most awe-inspiring views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Marque is a medium-sized room on a street full of restaurants (Kylie Kwong’s restaurant is next door) and the emphasis is on serious food not on glamour or views. From an Indian perspective, Marque has the advantage of being Mark Best’s restaurant – most of us will know him from his appearCHEF’S ORDER

Peter Gilmore (left) who cooks at Quay is regarded by many critics as being Australia’s best chef and is famous for his desserts, the best-known of which is the snow egg (below)

MATT EFFECT

The laconic fourth regular on Masterchef, Matt Moran’s (above) restaurant Aria (above left) struck me as being the sort of place where well-heeled businessmen take their guests

SERIOUS BUSINESS

Marque is a medium-sized room on a street full of restaurants – and the emphasis is on serious food not on glamour or views ances on Masterchef. But Peter Gilmore who cooks at Quay is also regarded by many critics as being Australia’s best chef. Dinner at Quay was four courses of which the stand-out was a first course consisting of strips of jasmine-scented poached chicken jostling with shavings of scallops, Chinese artichokes and a smoked eggplant cream. The dish was held together by the bridging flavour of black sesame oil. Other courses were excellent too: braised lamb with cumin for instance had a gentle flavour, while a pig’s cheek done two ways brought sophistication to what should have been a simple, hearty course. Gilmore is famous for his desserts, the best-known of which is the snow egg, which he tried to get contestants to make on Masterchef. It is a cross between a Baked Alaska and Floating Island, pulled off with so much delicacy that it deserves to be regarded as a classic of the genre. My own favourite of all the meals I had in Australia, however, was dinner at Marque. I had 12 courses, so I can’t possibly give you a full rundown. But the stand-out courses were a surprisingly light venison with beetroot and liquorice, a crab chuwanmushi topped with foie gras powder and a Sauternes custard served in an eggshell. Mark Best’s cooking takes in a variety of influences from Alain Passard to Raymond Blanc to Ferran Adrià to Thomas Keller to René Redzepi. And yet, the great thing about his food is that his style is entirely his own. Cuisine of this kind can only be found at the world's very best restaurants (it is hard to think of many three-star restaurants in France where the food is better) and though his use of ingredients marks him out as an Australian chef, his style defies national categorisation. After dinner, I asked Mark if he had ever been to India given that Masterchef has such a following here. He said that much to his regret, he had never been but that he was dying to go. “If anybody invites me, I’ll be on the next plane,” he laughed. I’m sure there will be no shortage of invitations. Australian chefs are all the rage in India. And judging by the meals I had last week, Sydney is one of the world’s great food cities. SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

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STYLE STATEMENT

Mark Best’s cooking takes in a variety of influences but his style is entirely his own

Universal Restaurant www.universalrestaurant.com Chiswick Restaurant www.chiswickrestaurant.com.au Icebergs Dining Room www.idrb.com Aria Restaurant www.ariarestaurant.com Marque Restaurant www.marquerestaurant.com.au Quay Restaurant www.quay.com.au


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LISTEN TO THE FALLING RAIN...

LASTING IMPRESSIONS

Raj Kapoor and Nargis in Shree 420, nestling under one black umbrella in pouring rain, remains the most iconic scene ever

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S I SIT down to write this, the skies have darkened outside and the rain is pelting down. There is something intrinsically hypnotic about its rhythmic cadence. And despite my best efforts to stay indifferent to its charms, the downpour draws me in. I find myself staring at the raindrops like one mesmerised, tracking the progress of each fat droplet, watching as it splatters down on my windowsill. I watch fascinated as the areca palm on the balcony gets wiped clean of all its dust and grime, emerging from this cleansing looking greener than ever. And that evocative smell of petrichor – as the rain hits parched ground and releases the scent of the vegetable oils absorbed by it during the heat of summer – brings back memories of monsoons past. As you can probably tell by now, I love the rain. I love its sounds, its smells, and its sights. And I love the fact that it comes around faithfully every year, bringing us respite from the dusty, dry heat of the Indian summer. Even if you are a city-dweller who is no great fan of nature, you cannot deny that there is something ineffably reassuring about the arrival of the monsoon. Its annual visit, at roughly the same time, give or take a week or two, tells us that the world is still spinning around nicely. It signals the end of summer and takes us through to the balmy nights of autumn. And no matter how sparse or bountiful the rain, it lifts our spirits, which have been wilting under the incessant, unrelenting heat of the sub-continent. It’s no surprise, then, that nobody gets the romance of the rains quite like we do in India. Almost everywhere else in this sunshine-obsessed world, a rainy day is always a matter of some disappointment. Generations of British children have grown up on the nursery ditty, ‘Rain, rain, go away; Come again another day...’ In America, people aspire to retire to the sunshine states of California and Florida. And in the cold climes of Europe, where warmth is always at a premium, the arrival of rain is not something that is ever celebrated. Not so in India. In part, this is because of our peculiar climate conditions. Summers are hot, dry and punishing. And then, just when you think that you simply can’t take even one more day of that scorching heat, the monsoons come with their dark clouds, their thunder and lightning, their sharp showers, and their gift of lower temperatures. How can you not dance with joy at their arrival? But that’s just part of the story. Far more important is the fact that there seems to be something unique in the Indian psyche that responds with blissful ardour to the sight of those grey, gleaming clouds that come bearing rain. Our literature bears witness to that love. Probably the most famous Sanskrit poem ever, Kalidasa’s Meghaduta, is about a cloud. A Yaksha who has been exiled importunes a passing cloud

Photos: THINKSTOCK

Yes, there is no sweeter sound than that of the Indian monsoon pouring down

Seema Goswami

spectator

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FOR THE LOVE OF RAIN

I love the rain – its sounds, its smells, and its sights. And I love the fact that it comes around faithfully every year

to carry a message to his wife on Mount Kailash. He tries to convince the cloud to take on the task by describing the many beautiful sights it will witness on its way. Ever since, clouds and the rains have been a recurring theme in our history, literature and legend. Emperor Akbar’s court musician, Miyan Tansen is widely credited with performing the raga Megha Malhar to bring the rains down (he is also supposed to have sung raga Deepak to make the candles light up spontaneously – but that, as they say, is yet another apocryphal story). More recently, Hindi cinema has done its bit to shore up the tradition of ‘rain songs’, celebrating the arrival of the monsoons with an obligatory sequence of a curvaceous heroine in a sari getting soaked to the skin. But the most iconic scene ever remains that of Raj Kapoor and Nargis in Shree 420, nestling under one black umbrella in the pouring rain as they look deep into each other’s eyes and sing, Pyar hua, ikrar hua hai; pyar se phir kyun darta hai dil. The rain gods were evoked to great effect by Dev Anand in Guide, with the S D Burman number, Megh de, paani de, chhaya de, becoming something of a classic. And that same tortured longing for rain and the joy when it finally arrives was portrayed decades later in Aamir Khan’s Lagaan with the haunting AR Rahman score of Ghanan ghanan ghir ghir aaye badraa. And now, in the days of social media, my Twitter timeline comes alive with tweets extolling the rain as soon as the first drops fall. My friend and journalist Smita Prakash, has a particularly evocative phrase for it; she calls it ‘Clooney weather’ in honour of her heartthrob George Clooney. Former RAW chief, Vikram Sood, crows about how his ‘gulmohur is singing’ in the rain. Even Pamela Timms, food writer and a Brit – not a people generally known for their love of wet weather – tweets a link to a Bollywood rain song as the skies pour down. As for me, I can’t quite explain why (or how), but a rain shower has the power to transform me back into the little girl who would strip down to her chemise and run up to the terrace to get a good old dousing the moment the first drops hit dry ground. Of course, being all grown up now, I desist from such childish antics – but God, how I wish I was six again!

There is something ineffably reassuring about the arrival of the monsoon

SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

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seema_ht@rediffmail.com. Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami


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REAL FRONT RUNNERS

What’s the tech secret behind the greatest sporting spectacle in the world?

Rajiv Makhni

Acer hit a home run with every spectator with S3 Ultrabooks, Iconica W Tablets strewn all over

The following are eat-your-heart out facts: ■ I was invited to the London Olympics. ■ I was there as a very special invitee and sat in all the VIP areas. ■ I attended most of the finals including football, boxing and the closing ceremony. ■ After being invited to walk the red carpet at Cannes (on two nights), being a special invitee at the Olympics completed an amazing super double for me this year.

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OW THAT the gloating is done, let’s get down to reality. What am I, a fairly small fry, doing at all these ‘super hot rod impossible to get invited to’ world events? Frankly, I have no idea!

EPIC ERROR

My best guess is that my name has got mixed up with someone else’s (though with a last name like Makhni, it has to be a blunder of gigantic proportions) and I’ve erroneously ended up on some serious celebrity list. Well, until someone discovers the error, I’m all for making hay while the sun shines. My journey to London for the Olympics was pretty awesome and the purpose was for me to experience the sporting event in all its glory. What they forgot was this – when you send a techie anywhere and for anything – he’s going to find the geekpath and the nerdtrack behind the event. Thus ladies and gentleman, I present to you – the tech secrets behind the greatest sporting spectacle in the world.

THE ARMY

A SLICE OF TIME

Time slicing uses live feeds, put together with stopmotion technology. Footage is edited and put together in real time STEP UP NOW

Electronic Starting Blocks detect the pressure of a runner’s heel

IT’S RAINING TECHNOLOGY

of those cameras and putting it together with stop-motion technology, footage was edited and put together in real time. Then there was the Dive Cam, a camera system rigged up to dive with the diver of a pulley and into the water. This coupled with the WetDry Dual Cam system (one camera is above water and the other is underwater, but both move and film the same subject at the same time) were the reasons you were able to see those stunning images of a diver entering the water in one continuous shot. Technology was also at its best to give us the real winners and accurate results. Electronic Starting Blocks for athletics (detects pressure of the runner’s heel along with lasers and HD video recordings), Taekwondo Sensor Outfits (socks and clothing fitted with electronic sensors; as soon as contact is made, the sensors registers the blow), Quantum Timers (starter’s pistol linked to the timer and the pistol’s sound broadcast electronically behind each runner so as kill any controversies over the speed of sound), swimming pressure pads (each swimmer’s race times are registered by an electronic pad at the race end line, this pad registers the time only when 2.99 kgs of focused pressure is applied) to laser beam tapes (an athlete passes a laser beam that cuts across the track along with a HD photo finish camera that shoots 2,000 frames per second). Another aspect showcased was true computing power and what it took to run this Olympics like clockwork. Think that’s just a typical PR tagline? Mull over these numbers: 13,500 desktops, 13,000 computer monitors, 2,900 notebooks, 950 servers and thousands of technicians were deployed across all the venues. The company behind it all was Acer. I wasn’t without access to a computer for more than 30 seconds of walk time. And the products they had strewn around were pretty formidable as each area had S3 Ultrabooks, Iconica W Tablets plus free broadband Internet and printing. Acer hit a home run with every spectator and as Mr Anton Mitsyuk, MD of Acer confirmed to me, they were just living up to their new tagline “Explore beyond limits”.

techilicious

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The first thing to hit me was the serious efficiency that the games were run with. This was mostly due to the staggering number of volunteers for the event. From white-haired grannies to dread-locked 16-year-olds, this was an army of over enthusiastic helpers. At times the ‘help’ was almost in your face as I was assisted for things I didn’t want any guidance for (directions to come back to my seat, nearest bathroom, how to get back to my car, was I hungry and 100 other queries at every 15 feet). This army ran their ship like a take-no-prisoners, help-all-thatyou-see, well-oiled machine. But beyond this giant platoon of forced direction – it was technology that made this the most amazingly managed Olympics ever.

Technology made this the most amazingly managed Olympics ever

JAW DROPPERS

First, the broadcast technology that was the big jaw dropper. There were so many new techniques used, but here are those that will change the way sports is broadcast from here on. Time Slicing – you saw this in the Matrix trilogy – but those special effects were shot over 30 days and cost millions of dollars in post production. At the Olympic gymnastics broadcast, you saw it in real time. How did they do it? Well, the secret lies in using more than 30 cameras laid in a horseshoe pattern around the action. Using live feeds from each SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

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ABOVE AND BEYOND

There’s a lot more that I was shown and demonstrated that is beyond the scope and size (note once again to editor) of this column. For instance, the controversy behind how sportspersons are using rocket science level technology like laser wind tunnels, the RespiBelt, Dartfish cameras (amazing, look it up), air vests, waterless swimming and even nano coating your own body to train. This Olympics used more technology than ever before and if they really had to give a gold medal – tech should have got it. Now, I’m waiting for my invite to attend the Grammy’s for the next year. After all, who else can go behind the scenes and tell you the technology that truly powers Lady Gaga? Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, CellGuru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com /RajivMakhni


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Jens Lekman and Kristian Matsson are among Sweden’s growing export of talented musicians

THIS IS WHERE I BELONG

Kristian Matsson’s latest album There’s No Leaving Now is about his native Swedish environs

POP GOES THE MUSIC

Fellow Swede Jens Lekman’s music is unabashed pop with melodies that linger in your head

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HEN YOU first listen to The Tallest Man on Earth (who’s actually a 5’7” Swede named Kristian Matsson) you could be mistaken into believing that he’s probably mimicking Bob Dylan, so similar is the 29year-old’s singing style and songwriting to the legendary musician. In fact, some critics feel exactly that way and Matsson, in his three-record career till now, has often faced that criticism – that he channels Dylan. But a closer listen to any of his albums, particularly this year’s There’s No Leaving Now, can change your perception. Hugely influenced by American folk giants such as Dylan and Woody Guthrie he may be, but Matsson’s songs are all about where he belongs and his local Swedish environment. Like many of his compatriots in music, The Tallest Man on Earth sings in English. His songs are firmly rooted in the locale of where he lives – a small Swedish town; his music, particularly on his first two albums (Shallow Grave and The Wild Hunt) is sparse and his songs balladic. But unlike his influences – which are quite obviously American folk music – his lyrics are often deliciously ambiguous, melding together nature, emotions and wise thoughts. His voice is raspy and nasal, which explains the comparisons with Dylan, but then that perhaps, is the charm that makes his songs endearing. On the new album, There’s No Leaving Now, Matsson has departed a bit from the sparse minimalism of his earlier work and added more instruments and layers to the sound. The Tallest Man on Earth sounds even better live. At this year’s Newport Folk Fest, he did a show on a small stage but it drew so many people that the local police had to be called in for controlling the crowd. Matsson’s live shows see him switching between half a dozen guitars and a piano and for one who’s essentially a folksy musician , they are frenetically energetic. Check out some videos and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve been listening to The Tallest Man on Earth for much of the past week, delving into his back catalogue as well as the new album but that’s not the only Swede who’s been on my recent playlist. Like

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Sanjoy Narayan

download central

THE SWEDES ARE COMING

THE JUKEBOX

helonious S Monk, the jazz pianist and extraordinary improviser, died at 64 in 1982. Even if you aren’t a big jazz buff, listening to Monk can be a great aural experience. Besides a huge body of solo work and his albums as a bandleader, Monk collaborated with many greats including John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Art Blakey. In 1988, Clint Eastwood produced a documentary on Monk (Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser). The film has rare archival Thelonious S Monk footage from the 1960s and is a great primer for anyone wanting to know the man and his music. Now, you can watch that film online (link on the web version of DC). Some trivia about the great pianist’s middle initial: it stands for Sphere; Monk adopted it so that he didn’t seem square. Hip?

Matsson, Jens Lekman has been around for a bit. He lives in Gothenburg and has two albums out – 2004’s When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog and 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala. But Lekman is no folkie. His music is unabashed pop with melodies that linger in your head. Blessed with a baritone voice and an ability to write songs that are at once sweet and pop-ish as well as thoughtful, he tells stories, often with an underlying wit and dry humour. On his first full-length, he has songs that reference his environment. On Do You Remember the Riots?, Lekman refers to the protests and riots that broke out in 2001 during the EU summit in Gothenburg but the song is about dumping a girlfriend during those tumultuous times! Elsewhere, Lekman takes a gentle swipe at how other musicians – Lou Reed and Cliff Richards – held misconceptions about his native Sweden. Lekman’s music is bittersweet and melodic but always playful and fun – even when he’s talking about despair, breakups or emotional lows. If Lekman was just another pop musician channelling honeyed confections that only sound good, I don’t think I’d spend too much time on him. But it is his lyrics that set him apart. On The Cold Swedish Winter, which is about love and yearning, on his first album, he sings: When people think of Sweden/ I think they have the wrong idea/ like Cliff Richards who thought it was just/ porn and gonorrhea/ And Lou Reed said in the film “Blue in the face”/ that compared to New York City/ Sweden was a scary place. By the time you read this, Lekman (his first name, incidentally, is pronounced Yens) will have his third full-length out. It’s called I Know What Love Isn’t. Both Lekman and Matsson are among Sweden’s growing export of talented musicians, most of whom write songs in English, and being at the beginning of their careers, worth keeping track of. I don’t think they’ll disappoint. To give feedback, stream or download the music mentioned in this column, go to http://blogs.hindustantimes.com/download-central, follow argus48 on Twitter

MORE THAN WORDS

Unlike his American folksy influences, Matsson’s lyrics are deliciously ambiguous SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

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CONTINENTAL DRIFT Yesterday it was a poor man’s Greece. Today it is on every must-visit destination list. Croatia has arrived on the world map by Amrah Ashraf

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WONDER WALL

HEN I TOLD my friends that I was planning a trip to Croatia, most thought I was kidding. Some of them had never heard of the country. Some tried to coax me into going to London or Paris. The rest thought I was plain stupid to waste my money on a country that is on no one’s wish list. But I was determined. I had first seen Croatia’s beauty on HBO’s Game of Thrones (King’s Landing is actually Dubrovnik) and I knew that it was only a matter of time before mass tourism followed. Right now, it’s an unspoiled gem, and tops my list. I am a paranoid flyer. But luckily, I was travelling with three friends and after flying for nine hours, with me clawing into their arms for most of it, I knew that these girls really loved me. Croatia, apart from its clean air and unparalleled beauty, has very warm people. The immigration officers are a jolly bunch. Cabbies open doors, strangers smile, you’re welcomed everywhere with open arms (they are huggers). Our 60-year-old bus driver even asked for my friend’s hand in marriage! In his defence, my friend was definitely passing glances at him.

Dubrovnik, aka King’s Landing (sadly ladies, I didn’t find my Jamie Lannister there) is a mix of bays, pebble beaches, hidden coves, olive groves, and forests of cypress and pinewood. The ports and marinas are sprinkled with ships, boats, yachts, kayaks and canoes. Mini islands are lush green. And the Adriatic Sea is so clear, you can see 30 feet deep. The city has a princely charm: Baroque facades, Renaissance palaces, fortresses and a Franciscan monastery. But what is even more compelling is how it juggles ‘what was’ and ‘what is’. A Diesel store stands adjacent to a palace or museum. For every monastery, there’s a gruff tavern serving O ujsko beer. For every souvenir push-cart, there’s a high-end store selling crotchet napkins. There’s no sense of displacement. The Old Town of Dubrovnik, shaped like a cereal bowl, is circled by the mighty ancient walls built by the democratic government of Dubrovnik, protecting its people from foreign invaders like the Saracens, Turks and

Dubrovnik is King’s Landing on HBO’s Game of Thrones

ORANGE TOWN

You cannot construct a house in the Old Town of Dubrovnik minus the orange roof SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

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Venetians when it was an independent state. They run for almost two kilometres but have allowed for foreign influences to seep in. The Gundulic Square has one of the most beautiful twisting Spanish steps. The Placa or Stradun – a limestone drag on which you can see your reflection – leads to the heart of the Old Town and is flanked by medieval churches and Baroque museums. You can see Greek, Roman, Venetian and Slavic influences in its alcoves, windows and doors. Down below, the Stradun lights up every evening with a motley crowd – Kate Moss lookalikes in six-inch heels, cigarette smoking boys making passes at women, tourists gobbling gigantic pizza slices and bare-chested dudes in beach shorts. The merrymaking usually starts at a local pub or a nearby park where young revellers down medica and rakia shots before switching to Jagermeister with beer. These people completely redefined my understanding of tippling! Once the main clock tower strikes midnight, the real party shifts indoors (most clubs let girls in for free). Party till the crack of dawn, eat at a local bakery and pass out for the rest of the day. You could spend months circling the Old Town without feeling like you’ve seen it all. It has some beauti-

SHORE THINGS Several pretty islands dot the Croatian coastline

LOPUD

An hour-long ferry ride from Dubrovnik will take you to Lopud, a four km-square island housing fewer than 220 people. It has the only sandy beach in Croatia – Sunj – and has 30 churches and beautiful guesthouses all over the island.

MIJET

Mijet is an archipelago of pristine wildness. It also has two connecting lakes which eventually meet the Adriatic Sea where you can go kayaking or just jump and swim. Hire a bike to explore the wilderness while butterflies accompany you. Or walk past the ruins of an ancient church. Catch the last ferry at 4 pm or get ready to camp out in the wild.

LOKRUM

Southeast of Dubrovnik, Lokrum is a a special forest vegetation reserve. It has one of Croatia’s best nude beaches and a small lake called Mrtvo More (dead sea), linked to the sea. The water is calm, crystal clear and ideal for swimming. You can also explore the island on a kayak.


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ful museums and galleries. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Steve McCurry’s photos at one of the art galleries. Most museums focus on 16th century religious art. If that’s not your thing, spend your day shopping for souvenirs like my friends did. Take a quick detour from the main

PARADISE ON EARTH The Plitvice Lakes National Park lies in the Lika region of Croatia. There are 16 blue-green lakes each separated by natural dams of travertine. Most lakes are fed by waterfalls. The tallest waterfall is Veliki Slap at 70 metres (230 feet) tall. Go hiking and explore the many trails and caves or take a boat to enjoy the water. You can also pitch your tent at their campsite or find accommodation at villages close by.

street to the higher lanes in the city. The long winding stairs and narrow labyrinth paths lead to secluded areas where your only company is the strong fragrance of fresh flowers and sleepy cats. Here, trios and quartets play music for themselves and are more than welcoming. Here, I discovered the real Dubrovikan life. Breakfast seamlessly merges with lunch as conversations go on and on. BAROQUE AND ROLL Lunch, usually, is fresh fish, bread, St Blaise’s Church is a fine example of potatoes, cheese and cake along with Baroque architecture in Croatia generous quantities of some honeyflavoured liquor. Then locals throw on now. No orange roofs, just Legotheir bathing suits and dive off the shaped apartment blocks. No nearest cliff into the greenish-blue Spanish stairs, No Greek alcoves. No water below. Then it’s time for midtaverns. But fancy pubs and restauday coffee at quayside cafes and more rants, traffic signals and McDonald’s hours of chatter. and Zara outlets. Still, there’s is a I spent more than a week in strange pulse to the city that grips Dubrovnik’s lanes, falling in love you in no time. every day with someone or some- WAY TO GO VISA: Apply at the Croatian thing – swimming, scampi fry, Embassy in New Delhi. Visit O ujsko beer, the lazy cats, cathehttp://croatia.visahq.com/ for details. drals, walls, pebble beaches, a Kurt CURRENCY: Their local currency is Cobain lookalike, the girl with dreadthe Kuna. One Kuna equals R9. But locks and an old grumpy sailor. Then you cannot convert rupees to Kuna, it was time to move on… so just carry euros to Croatia.

CAPITAL CONNECTION

Photos: THINKSTOCK

Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, is a 685 km drive north from Dubrovnik, and really a world away from the cereal bowl. While exquisite Dubrovnik is soaked in history, Zagreb is here and

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GETTING THERE: There are no direct flights from India to Croatia. Fly Turkish Airlines to and fro with a stopover in Istanbul. Apply for a Turkish visa beforehand if you want to explore Istanbul because they do not have visa on arrival for Indians.

Photo: AMRAH ASHRAF

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Unlike Dubrovnik, the four of us didn’t stay with a friend, but rented a furnished two room-hall-kitchen in the heart of the city for 450 Kunas (R4,050) per day. Because we were living at the main square, we spent no money on exorbitant taxis. We walked to the shopping malls, museums, art galleries, parks, pubs, restaurants and the movie theatre. Zagreb is also home to the unusual Museum of Broken Relationships. Yes. Really. It houses items people from all across the world have donated as signs of their broken relationships: wedding gowns, ex-lover’s T-shirts, love letters, fake breasts, an axe, even handcuffs. Each object tells a story. The whole experience was sad, hilarious and poignant. When I stepped out of the museum, I knew that this was definitely not my last trip to Croatia. After all, I need to give the museum my story. Big enough reason! amrah.ashraf@hindustantimes.com


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Revel Without A Pause

SPACE JAM

To avoid crowds, walk along the beach till you find an isolated spot

TO WAY GO AJITANAND HATTANGADI: Purchase

model Tinu Verghis sums it up best, “At this time, Goa turns into a mela of alcohol-frenzied maniacs.” So, can you still have an enjoyable holiday during the busiest time of year? Yes, there is a way to escape the crowds, find the right parties and enjoy a meal without waiting for hours.

STAY AWAY

Firstly, avoid the popular bits of the coast. Verghis recommends avoiding north Goa. “Find a beautiful house to stay in,” she advises. Ajitanand Hattangadi, who used to manage the popular Tito’s club in Baga, and now runs the Bardays Inn restaurant in Calangute, picks Palolem, Agonda, Morjim and Arambol as his destinations.

BIKE AROUND

How to survive Goa in peak season. Yes. It’s possible. Sunshine state regulars show you how by Mignonne Dsouza

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HAVE LOVELY memories of Christmas in Goa. The one year we celebrated the festival at my grandmother’s house, we combed Mapusa market for aunties selling homemade sweets, walked to church for an early mass and spent the rest of the day stuffing ourselves. But away from the delights of a village Christmas, Goa can be anything but serene. Goa resident

Everyone agrees that the best way to avoid the traffic jams is to hire a motorbike. “This way you are away from the madness and mobile too,” explains Shilarna Vaze (former resident and owner of Ninja Sushi, a Mumbai-based catering outfit). However, Gaurav Arya, a hotelier and Goa resident, sounds a warning note. “You may think you know enough to ride a bike, but unless you really do, you won’t be able to deal with others who also can’t drive,” he says. Drunk driving is also a problem in Goa. “People get carried away and don’t think of theirs or others’ safety,” says singer and frequent visitor Anushka Manchanda, (who is Arya’s girlfriend).

PLAY AND PARK

Parking can be a hassle in Goa in peak season. “Park at the end of Baga, opposite Britto’s and walk,” Hattangadi advises.

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tickets in advance for Sunburn and Tito’s. It’s the best way to avoid the long queues. ANUSHKA MANCHANDA AND GAURAV ARYA: Stay away from the over-commercialised restaurants. Always ask for the price of fish before you order if it isn’t on the menu. TINU VERGHIS: To party, go to Cirrus in Vagator. That is the only place in Goa that plays good music through the year. Relax, make love consensually and breathe the salt air. Mandovi Hotel in Panjim serves the best prawn curry rice with kismur. SHILARNA VAZE: There is no official garbage collection in North Goa so please stop littering! Avoid Baga, Calangute, Candolim and Anjuna on New Year's Eve like the plague. Find a quieter beach for fireworks and work your way to a party after that.

Sunburn and Tito’s revellers are advised to leave early to avoid traffic jams. On New Year’s Eve, Vaze recommends making sure you’re where you want to be by 8 pm or wait till 2 am to head out.

BE A BEACH BUM

To find a deserted stretch to frolic in, Verghis advises riding along the off-roads of south Goa. “From Vasco down to Palolem, it’s just beautiful,” she says. Arya adds, “Remember to never venture into the sea without keeping someone informed.”

ORDER FORM

A table at Goa’s famous restaurants isn’t easy to come by because of the sheer volume of tourists. There’s only one thing to do, says Vaze. “Make reservations. Log on to Whatsup Goa for restaurant details.” Finally, on New Year’s Eve, make your own pre-party, advises Manc-handa. “Get together with your friends in a hotel room and chill before you head out for the night.”

Photo: THINKSTOCK

Photo: GETTY IMAGES

mignonne.dsouza@hindustantimes.com


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PERSONAL AGENDA

twitter.com/HTBrunch

Dancer/actress

Isha Sharvani if i could... I’D GET A HORSE

I love those animals

SWIM WITH DOLPHINS IN AN OPEN SEA

I WOULD GO SKYDIVING

I’D GO BACKPACKING FOR THREE MONTHS...

Photos: THINKSTOCK

To get away from it all

SUN SIGN Libra

BIRTHDAY

September 29

FIRST BREAK

SCHOOL/ COLLEGE Home schooled

HOMETOWN PLACE OF BIRTH Ahmedabad

Gujarat

What is the most ridiculous word you’ve heard someone use to describe you? People call me “boneless” because they think I’m that flexible! Favourite cuisine? Indian food, always! A person you can’t do without. My mother, father or brother. A fashion tip for the monsoon. Wear lots of colour, especially aqua blue. A fashion trend that you swear by. Always wear comfy casual clothes. A song to describe your life. Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh. What makes your day? A beautiful cup of tea in the morning. What ruins it? Any kind of delay. A Hollywood celebrity you’d like to dance with. Christian Bale. Favourite street food. Dahi batata puri. A fashion trend you can’t stand? Sequins on Indian clothes. Three people you would love to invite to dinner. Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard and Christopher Nolan. The last thing you spent R10 on. Orbit White chewing gum. A tune you can’t get out of your SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

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A dance performance on stage at the age of 13 in Kerala

A WESTERN DANCE FORM YOU LOVE.

Ballet.

HIGH POINT OF YOUR LIFE

Not had one yet

LOW POINT OF YOUR LIFE

I put up an optimistic front when I have low phases

CURRENTLY DOING

Just finished shooting for Bejoy Nambiar’s David, and competing in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa

head. Jiya Jale (from Dil Se, 1998) because that was my song for Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa recently. A recent movie you would’ve liked to be in. The Dark Knight Rises! One lie you’ve got away with. One I would like to get away with: my age! The movie that makes you cry. Dancer In The Dark (2000). The movie that always brings a smile to your face. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001). One thing you can’t stand. Liars. If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be? I can’t imagine not being a dancer. Your favourite sports? Tennis and cricket. Dancers that inspire you? My mother, Daksha Sheth. What would you wear on a hot date? A smart, casual top paired with a skirt. What colour dominates your wardrobe? White. How do you like to spend your weekends? Chilling at home, reading, or watching movies with my friends. Yoga or the gym, what do you prefer? Yoga. Your ultimate travel destination? London. — Interviewed by Kasturi Gandhi


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Hindustantimes Brunch 01 September 2012