20 Apr 2008


now for a small break from Russia......

we had a small puja at our hotel, New Vasantashram, last week......as much as my folks believe in it, though I'm not an aeteist, I despise pujas. You sit there, in front of an eye-burning fire, the smoke tearing your lungs apart, your body decked in finery and sweat......

after a few hours of sheer torture, it was time for 'pet pooja', ie, feasting.....we ate in banana leaves [instead of plates], heaped with generous portions of rice, puris, beans, 'saar' [spicy orange gravy to go with rice], raita, citrana [coloured rice]......hmmmmmm.............then it was time for dessert.....

my eyes sparkled at the mention of piping hot kheer, an excellent epilogue to the meal......the cook [a simpleton, I guess], poured the hot kheer on my banana leaf!!!!!! as much as I enjoy doses of video games, this was certainly not fun! I had to struggle to balance the liquid kheer on the leaf, without letting it touch the chutney or flow out on my pretty salwar-kameez AND try eating it at the same time ...... now that was challenge!

i struggled for ten minutes, rolling the leaf as a pipe, clipping the edge, tipping it this way and that, holding the struggling white vermilcelli and milk between my fingers [yes, there wasn't a spoon], while the 'bhatrus' [those who performed the puja] laughed, wobbled their hairy jelly stomach in bouts of roaring laughter.....

how i managed to get up with my legs asleep, without falling or spilling the kheer out is another story.....i won't bore you with that though!

8 Apr 2008


the next day, Monday, all of us were smartly dressed well-ironed formals. i felt like a pretty wannabe-secretary straight out of a Hindi movie, complete with black formal pants and a smart black blazer, straight black hair and an important looking file. but today, I was exceptionally nervous as i had to make my opening speech on behalf of the five of us representing Germany [in different comittees] in front of 300-odd delegates.

all the schools were seated country-wise [according to the countries we were representing in our comittees] in a huge hall in the place called the 'international bussiness center'. my hands were cold and I was shivering with anticipation. Coats and bags were piled on the walk-way and i was scared of tripping and making a spectacle out of myself [i've very accident prone you see]. One of our deputy secretary Generals was screeching in her piercing hawk like voice, "DAALLLLEGITS PLEASE MAANTAIN DECORAAAM, TAKE YOUR CHEERS" [delegates, please maintain decorum and be seated].

Finally, the opening ceremony started [after about ten-fifteen looooong, booooorrrrinnnngggg speeches that acted like sleeping pills for the coup of us]. the Secretary General was picking out chits as to which countries would deliver their opening speeches [in batches of seven]. my country, Germany was picked in the second last batch when I was virtually dying of anxiety. Finally, when it was my turn to speak, my shoes clipped noisily against the wooden floor of the stage and then i realized..... i was speaking to a bunch of half-dead, gum-chewing, ipod-listening people. most of them had curled up around the comfy seats and were peacefully snoring! Nevertheless I delivered my speech about peace and human rights along with quotes by Kofi Annan. i received congratulatory note from another delegation, and appreciation from a few of my classmates, so i was quite content by the outcome. two of my other classmates: a representative of Bangladesh and a representative of U.K. also delivered quite apt speeches [few of the only ones i could actually understand]. then there was this crazy delegate of Iran who made a rap song about his country which was ripped apart by other delegates. the delegate of U.S.A. went a step too far and said, " if you don't agree with us, we'll screw your country." which created quite an uproar.

post lunch, we were asked to go to our respective comittees for an informal lobbying session. one of my classmates and me were in the same committee: the ECOSOC, where we were to discuss the role of transnational businesses, steps to eliminate the negative effects of brain drain and ways to control urbanization. we could choose to sit on any table to discuss the topic we were well versed with and discuss our draft resolutions. on our table, the delegate of China and me were the only active [or rather hyper-active ones], so we merged our resolutions and saw that our merged copy didn't compromise with either of our policies. China, a developing country, and Germany a developed one, so our resolution covered areas to benefit both developing and developed nations. however, the other resolution had more signaturies [very clever] and thus more support.....we were anxious to see the outcome the next day...........

that night we had a delicious four-course Russian meal in a quaint Russian restaurant overlooking the beautiful winter palace. so, the day ended on a rather good note......

6 Apr 2008


The cold dark streets of Russia, with shady looking, mud ridden cars wizzing by, interlinked lanes shining under the moonlight, the occasional droning and drudging of the trams.....i felt like i was flying above them all....but this time I wasn't in Aeroflot, instead, I had my nose pressed against the huge, double-glassed windows of room number 6051 in a hotel overlooking an eerie street.

I had risen at around five in the morning [Russia time], taken a bath and was all ready for my [9' a clock] breakfast. my yellow bag was loaded with my camera, passport copies, money and a few creams and balms. everything was so unaturally quiet that i found myself drifting into a fairytale reveire only to be shaken by a gasp from my room mate who came to investigate the rather large shadow crouched behind the curtains.

Breakfast was a variety of cheese and breads and meat slices, omlettes, cottage cheese pudding [a rather sour delicacy], jam and chocolate tarts, muffins, juices, yogurt...cereal, milk.....whew!! [this sounds typical Enid Blyton] i had a little of almost everything, taking care not to load the imp in my tummy as we were geared for a rather long day.

half the schools had not yet arrived as the conference was to begin on Monday. So, all of us, along with our guide Cathy, visited quaint, historic cathedrals, an eerie graveyard with the busts of famous Russians, an expensive souvenir shop [we stopped here for a long time], the jaw-dropping winter palace, the cathedral of spilt blood and several yellow coloured buildings which gave dull, sun-less Russia a vibrant feel.

for lunch we stopped at a pizza place, where no-one [including the waitresses] understood a word of what we said. most of us chose a pizza with what looked like door knobs on them [they were actually pieces of chicken and mutton]. though I'm accustomed to eating veg fare, i was keen to try out new things since this was a once- in- a- life- time oppurtunity [and the veg food was rumored to be awful here] and as our rather irriated teacher told a bunch of fusspots, its a shame to have khakras and theplas in Russia. the pizza with goat cheese [which tasted like omlette according to Vivek, who generously handed me a piece of it] was absolutely lip-smacking.

We then traveled on a 150 m [or longer] escalator. Initially, i thought it goes straight ahead, so my heart skipped a beat when it took a sudden downward plunge. for around five minutes i couldn't see land and had Russian advertisements and smooching Russian couples on the opposite escalator to entertain me. We then stood before two rather large, automatic doors [ I initially thought they were elavator doors] which opened to reveal a train. the train whizzed so fast that i found myself swinging like a pendulam despite clutching on tightly!

we had the whole evening free, so after dinner at the Russian McDonalds, all of us curled up in a common room and watched AliG [wierd!] till we were dead bored and sleepy.
the first part of the next day, the morning, the breakfast, the bus journey was rather the same. two other schools shared the bus with us today and we were taken to another old cathedral, the winter palace again, but this time from the inside. the palace was beautifully done up and also had a throne for the king who died here [after he was assisnated near the cathedral of split blood]. it wasn't a really big room, since the king supposedly had a phobia for open spaces! we also saw the famous Hermitage muesuem which had masterpieces from some of the century's most celebrated artists!
in the evening, we attended a cultural programs, a mix of tradtional countryside music and lively dances, followed by an introduction a representative of each school had to make about the school they came from. each speech was a letdown, except the one made by the representative of our school, Ambika. Her speech was the only well-formed, well-thought out, elaborate one and I felt so proud seeing the Indian flag pop up in a powerpoint introducing each school from each country.
after this, we had an elaborate, four course Russian meal at an old university. all schools were seated at 'hogwarts style' long tables where we were given delicacies made of mushroom, grain, chicken, mutton....hmmm.....delicious. the vegetarians had to make do with rice and boiled vegetables, [but that's what you can expect in Russia, where meat is a real delicacy, and veg food has little or no place.] I was glad that I had experimented with typical Russian meals as there's no point fussing and cribbing about the food, its a part and parcel of traveling and visiting new places.
back at the hotel, most of us were given a dressing down for being terribly fussy and imprudent at dinner, so the day ended rather sourly for the fusspots!


I recently had a really tiring trip to Russia, with a few of my classmates and teachers to attend the Saint Pettursburg International Model United Nations, which was a big 'ooh-aah' for most of us as this was our first international conference ever!

Fifteen of us arrived [half-asleep] at the international airport in Mumbai from where our flight was to leave at 7. But, obviously, because of those stupid airport procedures we had be there around four hours early. To our displeasure, the arrival-departure boards we going besurk with the timings of our flight. Initially we discovered our Aeroflot flight was a day late, then it moved down to ten hours and finally to fours hours late!

After a rather dreamy breakfast [sheera acted as an energy booster for me] and hours of snoring and drooling on the airport chairs, we finally boarded our plane at 11 a clock in the afternoon. The journey from mumbai to moscow seem to take forever [not to mention the time difference trying to make it seem shorter than it actually was] and pillow fights [courtesty, Abdullah], endless sessions of whispering [I couldn't hear those dark secrets, of course] , a rather queer Russian movie and cloud-watching didn't seem to help at all. I tried falling asleep but was woken up by a low, groning voice, "Fish or Chicken?" [Uh! i thought they usually asked "Veg or Non-Veg"] and so, chewing slowing and cautiously like a cow [the food was tasty though] I spent the rest of my monotonous flight.

All equipped for the killing cold in a dark blue cap [with a large pompom of top and a bow around my chin], a huge red jacket, cosy gloves and a bright coloured scarf, I attracted sniggers from virtually everyone around me. We were out for barely a minute and then had to stand in the sweltering hot, crowded, creepily silent Moscow airport in a two hour long line! The airport was packed with people towering over us who were somber and silent and didn't even exchange stares or glares! we were the only ones chatting rather loudly till our turn came.

Of course, Aeroflot was as efficient as my [darned] printer yet again. The fifteen of us were split into two different flights, while our teachers were coming in another flight an hour later. After a good dressing down from our teacher, who was purple with choking rage, Aeroflot put us together in one flight which was supposed to leave from another airport three hours later. We boarded a bus, our hands red from the biting cold and clutching our slippery bag handles and reached the airport within half an hour for the rest of our relay race: to catch our last plane on time.

So began a one-hour-five-minutes [or longer!] ride to St. Pettursburg in a rather uncomfortable plane [the seats were as flexible as Prabu Deva and seemed to bend and dance in all angles]. By the time we reach our hotel it was two in the morning [so around four in Mumbai] and of course walking along the endless corridors all the way to our rooms [gasp! gasp!] took another hour or so. I vaguely remember floating along the corridor, sleeping [while walking] on the handle of my bag!

whew! a whole day of aeroflot and disturbed sleep! i shuddered to thing of the return journey.......


to all my blog readers, i'm extremely sorry for being slack and not updating my blog, but so many things were happening around me, that i just withdrew from blogging for some time. but now i'm starting all over again and i promise to update you with juicy tidbits every week....watch out....cause I'm back and my blog is going to be bigger and better than ever!