The only permanence we know…….. #CuratingPreciousThoughts

“The sublime assurance that although everything we love — people, places, possessions — can and likely will eventually be taken from us, the radiant vestiges those loves leave in the soul are permanently ours, and this is the only permanence we’ll ever know.” – Patti Smith

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Homecoming King

hasan-minhaj-homecoming-king-825I followed Hasan Minhaj’s work from The Daily Show, even before his White House Correspondent’s dinner roast that took his popularity to the next notch. So, when a friend posted on Facebook that Homecoming King special on Netflix is the best show he has seen so far, I signed up for Netflix just to watch this special hoping it would be worth all the hype – and it was!!

The focus of this show is about Hasan’s growing up as a brown kid in a white neighborhood of Davis, California, being in USA during 9/11 as a Muslim/Indian American kid and how he and his family dealt with their identity in pursuit of American Dream. Stand-ups around race is not at all a new topic for comedy – but what makes this show stand out is Hasan’s boyish enthusiasm (his jumping around the stage, big expressive eyes and body language), and the way he used his own life experiences, without much generalization or offense towards any broader group, made it fresh and funny.

His narration is really good, especially the use of pictures and snippets of conversation on slides in the background makes the entire segment much more relatable. It starts from the story of his father meeting his mother, to him meeting his sister for the first time, from his crush in first grade to his high school prom to Pizza Hut commercial, it is all personal and heart-warming with an underlying truth about race and identity in each segment. Quoting Hindi phrases from his conversations with his parents makes it more authentic.

What I found unique in the show is Hasan’s courage to share his very personal experiences, even the times when he was not the ideal brother or son – it is as funny as emotional. When he mentions his father and sister a few times – I was laughing at the jokes but also felt the gratitude and respect he has for them.

It all ends on a happy note though – his parents’ support when he marries a Hindu girl, how his “refugee” sister became the 1% in USA, his first kiss, revenge, forgiveness and his meeting with Jon Stewart while auditioning for Daily Show. Overall, it is an hour of great storytelling and laughter riot.

The epic road trip….

The beauty of road trip lies in the subtle unspoken moments where you get to know so much about people, notice these little things to make fun of, understand them etc. And I felt like I was actually in the place and not that watching it like a TV. The vast open lands around us, speeding at 100 km/hour in a Mustang, oh the joy!

 

What happens in Vegas….

When we landed in the night around 8 pm and driving to out hotel, it felt like driving through this big fat Indian wedding. The people around were drunk and excited. The place that glimmers like hell during the night looks like a factory outlet during the day. The posters were not subtle 😉

My friends Manali, Priya & I were staying Stratosphere and went for the amazing deck view as soon as we reached. With a pepper spray in bag and high heels on feet, we ventured in the night to visit Circus Curcus, Venitian, Paris, Bellagio and Ceaser’s Palace. These places were bright & well decorated, almost classy and had an “entertainment” vibe.

People loved to photo-bomb, Subway food tasted yummier, and temperature was hotter. Next day morning, we rented a Mustang to drive to Grand Canyon. That’s our short & sweet stay in Vegas!

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Bhutan, The Dragonland

#Peace #Harmony #GoodFood These are the 3 words that come to my mind when I think of Bhutan. 4 of us went for a Bhutan trip in December 2016, mostly because other countries turned out to be too expensive around new year. When we were leaving the country, we had a pact to visit again!

Day 1: Unlike Western countries where I felt poor during my visits due to the currency conversion rates, I felt RICH in Bhutan 😉 For example, on our first day in Phuntshelong, we had full plate meals with extra curries & drinks for 4 people for total of just Rs. 490 (!)

Day 2: It took 4.5 hours to get permit in Phuntshelong (Mondays are always busier – try to avoid Mondays for permit if you are time constrained)
Then we were on a 6 hour drive to Thimphu with Tamang ji, a driver referred by friend. We were having hot momos, noodles, butter tea at various mini hotels in the middle of no-where on the hills. Thanks to the curvy elevated roads throughout, the sight from windows was a perpetual postcard. Our driver told us so many amazing facts about Bhutan during this trip
Hotel Norbuling in Thimphu was just amazing and I highly recommend this. We were freezing at 4 degree celsius temperature outside when we reached Thimphu. They gave us complimentary coffee, warm towels, their green-pea soup is just out of this world!

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Day 3: In the morning we started from Norbuling, got a permit to Punakha and started our trip. We went to visit this Buddha statue on top of the hill in Thimphu, it is surrounded by mountains all around and was work in progress. This statue could be seen from any point in the town and it so so peaceful. From here, we started for Punakaha, and it was just….OMG.

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There is a beautiful monastery on the bank of a river. The wall art is nothing like I have ever seen on any monastery before! And the surroundings…I could hear was the gushing of the breeze, flowing of the river, rustling of the leaves from trees aged hundreds of years and chirping of the birds.
We reached Paro by evening for an overnight stay

Day 4: Now this an exciting day, the day of Tiger’s Nest. It involved full day trek to top of mountain on a rough path. Fun fact: They have an option of horses to carry you till half way up for a fee. It was a great trek – peaceful surroundings, physically challenging & with a good company.

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In the evening, we went for a stroll in the Paro main streets, went to restaurant called “All Seasons” that Tamang ji recommended. He was so caring & professional, so at the end of the meal we set up a Facebook page to promote his business.

Day 5: Our last day in Bhutan, we were going to Sikkim for a few more days and we will miss this country forever

Random facts:

Food:

– They have an yummy and healthy curry called Datschi which is a must try even though their butter tea did not spark my taste bids
– Their food habits are really healthy – they don’t have the concept of snacks, fast food chains, etc. You also don’t see any road side eateries and fast food shops. They eat rice, with an option of 4-5 curries, pork, beef and chicken.

People:

– People here are warm and simple
– Their king is an awesome man, he led the country from a monarchy to democracy. The more I read about him, the bigger my admiration was. There is a photo of fifth dragon king & his family in almost every household & commercial property we visited – and I can understand why
– Around a few years, when the road from the capital city Thimphu to Phuntshelong was not good, apparently the king invited 1 person from every family to come & contribute to the work for 3 months and the road was finished
– We saw so many houses perched on top of hill, without nothing around. When we asked if it wouldn’t be inconvenient, the driver mentioned that they go to city once in 2 weeks and get the stuff they want. They have farm lands around the house they are happy living there. What a simple life!
– A few people we spoke to said they did not want to come to India to do their current business despite having the chances to get much more money because they think India is chaos. Hmmm!

#100books – 1. I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork

samuel-bjorkWhat is #100books ?- I wanted to share the details of some really amazing books that I read but are not the typical bestsellers. I accidentally “discovered” most of them – some in airport stores of different countries, some in friends’ old hard disks and some are new releases. So, sharing the awesomeness. Here we go with the first one!

I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork

This Nordic Noir is a definite page turner and I could not stop reading after a certain point. The characters are simple and and their emotions are relatable. There are so many plot twists, open ends and it appears messy at certain points. But the author does a very good job of bringing them all together in the end. Though the climax seems a bit cinematic with surprising reunions & too cheesy, it is a highly commendable work in keeping the reader guessing!

It is about a series of murders of six year old girls in a complicated pattern with vague & intertwined clues. It is dark & scary in the beginning, but then the following investigation pattern by the homicide specialist team where they connect the clues, separate the noise from actual stuff, get distracted by the killer, keep guessing different theories is what makes it interesting. I really like some characters like Tobias Iversen, a brave & responsible 13 year old boy who basically raises his much younger among a dysfunctional family and later goes to rescue a girl from a religious cult, Emilie, a good teacher who cares about her students, and of course the lead characters Munch & Mia, who, despite al their flaws are dedicated & very good at their job. The book revolves around the personal demons from the past that these lead characters deal with. But they are not the typical geniuses for whom all this crime business is a cake walk like how they show in fictional crime content on TV. These characters break their heads, get played by their rivals, get stuck with dead ends and yet make it in the end.

The killer is portrayed as someone who is very clever and planned this for years and is also in the protagonists’ lives for years without their knowledge. This gets even creepier when the murders of little girls follow a pattern with the storyline carrying an impending tragedy when we know that “there will be more”.

The book is neat with a balance of different kinds of relationships, no typical hot female detective characters or underlying sexual tension & flirting  between lead characters to sell copies. Instead, the author balances this with family drama between sisters, brothers, fathers & daughters, granddaughters, etc. It also speaks of team work and caring between colleagues of this close knit special homicide unit in Norway.

The best part about this Scandinavian crime fiction is its  gripping narrative which kept me on the edge throughout. This was a total paisa wasool the investment of my time & money. Finally a fun fact – when I Googled the author Samuel Bjork, I found out this is just his debut novel and he is also a songwriter!