Shades Of Words


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On the long and winding road…

You know you have been bitten by Travel bug when you plan a road trip across 6 states; with sight seeing stops at 3 cities, travel for 1600 miles in a bright red car…and you do all this in a span of 4 days…

We started planning almost a month back with Dipanjan and Vaishakhi, one of our close friends here. Eventually though, they could not join us for the trip, another set of friends Sudeep and Anindita joined us. Starting with New Orleans as the destination to experience Mardi Gras madness, we also added a visit to Elvis’s house at Memphis, a drive on US 90 with view of Atlantic ocean by our side and stopping by Dauphin Island for a few hours. Armed with ‘what to do’ knowledge, print outs of Google Maps, a talkative GPS and a bright red car, we started towards our first stop at Memphis. (Just to add, our current home base is at St. Louis, MO).

Elvis Lives

Drive to Memphis was pretty exciting as it was first day of our trip. Spending the night at a motel, we visited Elvis’s house the next day. To be honest here, none of us are big fans of Elvis. Elvis purchased the house, Graceland, when he was just 22 and paid around $100,000 for it. His house is now turned into a museum and people can go in and take a peep into his lifestyle. It was amazing to see how the King of Rock and Roll used to live. Most amazing part of the house was ‘Jungle Room’ where everything from rugs, furniture to paintings is very tastefully done and is very different. We only took the mansion tour so did not see his collection of bikes, cars etc.

Every piece of furniture was unique in this room

Memphis reeks of Elvis’s music that can be heard almost everywhere (at least at all places where we went). We were no fans of Elvis when we went to Memphis but his music converted us. I think it was a great souvenir to bring back from Memphis.

Crowds at New Orleans Bourbon Street

Our next stop was at New Orleans where we were headed to experience Mardi Gras celebrations at its peak. Recent win of Saints in Superbowl added to the celebrations of Mardi Gras. Everywhere we went, we heard their chant of ‘Who dat’.

We reached French Quarters with plans to start with a brunch at Café du Monde. Not surprisingly, almost 100 other people had the same plan as ours. So the really long queue, made us skip it!

Talking of French Quarters, the whole area was crowded and full of music. It was full of life and a sense of craziness prevailed throughout our stay. We walked through streets admiring the architecture and quaint beauty of old buildings. While absorbing the quaintness of the whole area, we kept bumping into groups of people who were drinking (continuously).

People who threw beads from the balconies

We finally reached the (in)famous Bourbon street and were immediately acquainted with its claim to fame. Bourbon Street has many strip clubs and you can find many half naked men and women advertising their strip club. This was where crowds were busy collecting beads. There were many people in balconies ready to throw beads at ones who were willing to flash. And then there were people in streets who wanted the beads. So there was a lot of action on streets, if you know what I mean ;-(  I must also say that the music flowing out from pubs was awesome. Sudeep refused to budge from one of the pubs and Vipula ended up joining the crowd for a dance…

Outstretched hands requesting beads

Evening fell and time came for the official Mardi Gras parade. Waiting for parade to start was a difficult time. We waited silently coz our faces were frozen, got almost squashed to jelly by the ever growing crowds and survived a fist fight going on next to us! In the end, our efforts paid off and the parade started. We caught many beads and other knick knacks. After a while it became monotonous and we quit.

Views on the US 90 Scenic Drive

Next day we drove to Dauphin Island and on the way drove on US 90 highway scenic drive with views of Atlantic Ocean. It was a bright sunny day and views of the beach were amazing. We came across another Mardi Gras parade on the way and it was a pleasant surprise.

Dauphin Island – We were a bit late to do much but this was a beautiful place

Finally we reached Dauphin Island but were too late to do any sightseeing. So we spent some time taking pictures and headed towards our night halt at Birmingham.

Replica of Parthenon

Next day was the day to drive back home. We drove to Nashville to see Parthenon replica. It was closed but we managed to take some pictures. The high point of Nashville visit was lunch buffet at Sitar Indian Restaurant. This is a must visit restaurant for any lover of Indian Cuisine. All of us loved the food and finally headed home.

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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Only god knows how many blogs I have read that recommend this book. Unable to find a copy in my library,  I got hold of the next best thing – the movie.

“Miss Pettigrew..” is the story of a middle aged drab governess,Guinevere Pettigrew, who is unable to keep a job. The first few moments of the movie find her being kicked out of her current position , literally on to the street. Homeless and starved, Miss Pettigrew goes begging for a job to her agency who refuse to find her a position because of her negative reports. Overhearing a need for a governess at the house of the singer-actress,Delysia Lafosse, she rushes to the said residence. That one move spins Miss P’s world around for 24hrs.

Delysia Lafosse is young and glamorous, willing to take desperate measures to become a broadway star. Her endless string of men and parties shocks Miss P but she needs a job and is not the one to moralize. More or less in the fashion of Mary Poppins, Miss P fixes relationships and problems and in a span of few hours becomes very important to Delysia.

I really dont want to say more and could not even do justice to the movie and the plot by trying. By the sets and the clothes it looks so much like a chick-flick but dont get misled. Its the story of a struggling actress, its the story of a homeless woman who just wants to stay off the street, its the story of London’s 30s fashion society and very subtly its the story of England getting ready for war. And yes its a love story. But the best part, none of these threads take themselves too seriously.

Amy Adams is delightful and I could not imagine anyone more perfect for the role of the flirty and glamorous Delysia Lafosse.Frances McDormand is extremely believable for her part as Miss Pettigrew. They are supported by a competent cast and lovely cinematography.The clothes, the sets, the cars all add to the lovely art direction and take us to the pre-war era.

I tremendously enjoyed it. Do watch it. I plan to watch it again, soon 🙂


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Paranormal Activity

I did it again. Against my better judgement I let my friends convince me into watching a horror movie. I think I should just admit it that I love a good ghost story – just like anyone else. God knows, I do love reading them.

Its highly probable that you have already heard and maybe seen this movie. Released last year by Paramount Pictures, this extremely low budget movie has been one of the box office winners.

Belonging to the ‘Blair witch project’ of horror movie film-making, ‘Paranormal Activity’ is about the lives of a young suburban couple living in a haunted towhouse.

The film opens up with Micah expalaining to his live-in girlfriend , Katie, why he is lugging around a huge video camera. Katie and Micah have been experiencing some unnatural activity in the house and Micah says that if they capture their home and daily life on a video they might have definite proof about a supernatural presence. The whole movie is shot using that video camera and hence has a very home-video effect.

Katie mentions to a psychic who she has called home for consultations , that she has been haunted since she was eight and the weird things have been happening to her since she has moved into the house. The pshycic explains to her that she is probably being followed by a demonic presence and needs to get hold of an exorcist. He also advices them against antagonizing the spirt.

Katie and Micah are opposite sides of the spectrum – typical to any good ghost story.Micah is clearly a skeptic and believes that whatever is happening in the house can be controlled by them. He keeps trying to instigate the demon so that he can capture more ‘cool’ proof on the camera. Katie, on the other hand, wants to get away and let things be. Though she sincerely believes that getting a camera is only making the presence act out more , she is never able to convince Micah to get rid of it.

As a viewer, the most exciting part of the movies are the night recordings , when Micah and Katie are bed, and things begun to happen. And mind you,initially these are just subtle stuff, light noises- door creaking. Then these get bigger and scarier.

I was convincingly scared by this movie. The extremely natural acting, the in your face scariness, and the oh-so-real suburban apartment enhanced the whole effect of the movie.

I slept with my lights on :).


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A Strange Disappearance

A strange Disappearance

Book Depository recently made a large number of ebooks free on their website which resulted in me going on  a downloading spree. I tried to download books that I usually would not pick up from a store or from the library. Interesting titles and covers helped ofcourse. I noticed a series of books by Anna Katherine Green and on googling her up I realized that she is considered as the ‘mother’ of mystery novel writing in US. I downloaded a bunch of books by her and “A Strange Disappearance” is the first one that I read.

I really did enjoy the book.It was very ‘Wilkie Collins’ in its style but less obtuse. The mystery was fairly simple. A young maid has disappeard in odd circumstances from the house of a famous diplomat, Mr. Blake. The only who seems to care is the old housekeeper Mrs. Daniels. She approaches the police and is helped my Mr. Gryce , the police detective and his junior assitant. The novel is narrated by this assistant. Thuogh Mr Blake does not issue an investigation, the assitant on his own accord, decides to observe the goings on at Mr. Blake’s residence to get to the bottom of the mystery. We follow him follow Mr. Blake around the town and in the countryside and discover pieces of information that all seem to tie back to the disappearance of the young girl.

Several questions arise in the first few pages – What was the realy identity of the girl who has disappeared? Why does Mr. Blake haunt the alleys of New York? Who is the woman in the potrait in his study? What’s the secret in the abandoned innhouse?

The story is interesting and quite a page turner for that style of writing. The descriptions are very effective – I felt the hair stand on my neck quite a few times.

I think Anna K Greene will make for very good comfort reads.


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Queen of Dragons

After having reading the entire series of LOTR and Harry Potter,and never taking a liking to Terry Pratchett, I believed that I had read all there was to be read in fantasty fiction. At the end there are only so many underdog heroes, dark lords and imaginary worlds that you can take. But the beauty of fantasy fiction has always been in the power of magic and the belief that such a world could exist. And I missed the craziness and wonder of it all.

I thought it was time for me to go back and pick up something from the genre – so I spotted this book on the library shelf and brought it home with me.

The first thing that I realized when I was through 30-40 odd pages was that this was a romance – a mills-and-boons romance no less – and the whole fantasry world is woven around it.
There is this drop dead gorgeous , heroine, Princess Maricara and then there is this drop-dead gorgeous hero , Lord Kimber. They both bristle with beauty and arrogance and are rulers in their own world whose lives come together when they need to defend their race. The Drakons.

Drakons are creatures who can turn from human to smoke to dragons and vice versa.The Sanf imincus have risen are out to slay the dragons and erase them from this world. The two surviving kingdoms of the drakons  must join forces and fight against these.

All the ingredients of a good fantasty fiction world are there – the mythical creatures , the power of magic with the drakons, the ring to bind them all (oops..in this case the drumer..the stone that can rule the drakons). There are loyalties to be questioned, there is jealousy an betrayel.But in admist all this tension and mounting crisis – the leaders must seduce each other because the law demands that they be together(seriously??!!), make love and when time permits prepare for the battle!

I do get that its a romance novel, but the romance is so cliched and sort of comes in way of whole crisis in the dragon world. I mean if the end of your kind and your carefully protected world was near would you seriously be romancing the first hot female dragon you see. Sheesh.

Needless to say I am disappointed. And I dont mean this as any offense to the writer or fantasy fiction readers. This books is a page turner and gripping too. But in this category – there are so many more better writers and stories out there.

Verdict : Skip it