American Odyssey Part 2 – Philadelphia

The second leg of my journey (technically the third, but I am not counting the business part of it), began on an early morning in Orlando where I caught the 6 AM flight on a non-stop to Philadelphia. After a peaceful flight I caught my first glimpse of the frozen Philly lake and the docks as the plane landed on an extremely chilly morning. I knew it was cold and braced myself for a really freezing welcome. As soon as I reached the luggage carousel I saw my Aunt Jovita run up to me with a huge bundle in my arms. And there was my jacket. Good ol’ A. Jovita had brought a large and warm jacket for me and I immediately got into it with my sweater beneath. It was great seeing Aunt Jovita (again another of my mom’s sister’s) and Uncle Francis and we began our journey back home to the suburbs.On the way we made a stop at the Rocky steps at the Metropolitan Museum and the Liberty Bell before we had an awesome Japanese lunch at Teikoku. The Rocky steps were particularly memorable as I love that movie and I did try reenacting Sylvester Stallone’s run to the top. With my large jacket I looked like the Michelin Man running up.

Philly is vibrant, crowded in places and cold. Getting back to the suburbs, the picture postcard like setting made it a sight to behold. While my first lunch in Philly was Japanese, the evening included meat puffs, ham and cheese croissants, pork ribs in honey chilli sauce – all prepared by my aunt. And they were amazing. Oh and not to forget, I joined my uncle on a trip to Rosy Kutti’s place – A malayalee lady who prepared chicken stew and appams Mallu style. The trip was made through sleet and snow in the evening, but it was well worth it.

American Odyssey Part 1 – Ormond Beach, Daytona, Orlando

Continuing the chronicling of a short two week trip to the US earlier this year, Ormond Beach turned out to be that quite getaway with the nearby cities of Daytona and Orlando providing a delightful nightlife that was as relaxed as a well fed swamp gator. From John D. Rockfeller’s beautiful winter home in Ormond Beach to the Daytona raceway and Orlando’s PF Chang’s , this was one beautiful, relaxed stopover. I owe my mom’s younger sister and uncle for hosting me here and for taking me around Florida. All my fears about catching a cold or any other weather related illnesses with the fluctuating temperature were laid to rest with the two doctors in the house.

Godzilla, meet Mario Miranda

After the poster raid at last years Comic-Con in Bangalore, I never got around to framing/laminating the artefacts. Thanks to my sister, I now have four posters mounted beautifully on different frames and ready to be placed in my apartment. They include two official Mario Miranda reprints, an Incredible Hulk poster and a massive Godzilla poster. My favourites: The Mario Miranda work with the priest and the altar boy and the Godzilla poster. And the Yoda poster is my sister’s.

Green fingers

I would attribute the above title solely to my parents. Landing late last night in Mangalore, I noticed a new layer of grass adjacent to our front verandah. As I got out of the vehicle the lights were shining down on a neatly trimmed lawn that I came to know later was a type of Mexican grass. It did stand out beautifully and I couldn’t help but make a rare comment on the green addition to our house to the delight of my mom.

Lawns definitely add to the soothing atmosphere of a home and along with this I have seen cherry trees and palm trees provide the right amount of shade and beauty to a yard. My parents green fingers may not have completely been bequeathed to me, but I do take pleasure in doing my bit of gardening whenever I can. While watering the yard this morning I noticed the phenomenal growth of the plantain tree that has already yielded a bunch. Constant manuring in the form of vegetable and fruit compost and plenty of water have helped this tree develop rapidly and no sooner did the first bunch get plucked and you had the next set popping out of the pods.

The coconut trees have benefited from this form of irrigation and manuring too.Additionally the falling coconut and plantain leaves act as a protective cover for the manure for it to fertilize the soil.

Next in line is a pomegranate plant that was given to my Dad by one of his patients. This plant is all set to join our garden and we are now in the process of identifying space for this. Would it be good next to the plantain tree or the Tulsi plant. A conundrum for now.

Men’s rooms and celebrities

I am convinced. The best way to catch a celebrity who happens to be in the same building as you is to wait near the washrooms and then catch a selfie/groupie or whatever they call the pictures taken with varied angles. Now, post the Pankaj Udhas concert at the KSCA grounds, a few friends and I were waiting near the boundary for Pankaj Udhas to come out of the green room. We wanted a photo with him after the wonderful concert that evening. He went past us with the coterie of KSCA office bearers and a ring of guards and made his way to the exclusive lounge. The doors were shut with guards posted outside and we followers were left ruing a chance to get at least an autograph from him.

Two minutes later, as we got ready to move back home, we see Pankaj Udhas slip out and make his way to the men’s room. OK, this was our chance. We waited a few metres away from the men’s room and after a protracted period he came out and we immediately waylaid him. Well, waylaid is a bit harsh, we actually went up to him and told him how big a fan we were and our families were of him. He gently and patiently spoke and listened to us and then readily posed for a photograph with all of us. And we got a selfie too. He was more than happy to have us around him. At least that’s what I gathered from his body language.

Pankaj Udhas was quite a gentleman and took the time to pose for these snaps that I have posted here. And yes, we got photo-bombed by the security guard.

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Pankaj Udhas live

I am writing this post in real-time, in between a break at the KSCA cricket grounds in Bangalore where singer extraordinaire Pankaj Udhas is rendering some of the most beautiful ghazals from his collection. Known for his lyrical ‘nasha’, Pankaj Udhas has been a ghazal favourite and I jumped at the opportunity to attend a “by invitation only” show that rekindled some of the most unforgettable tunes of the ’80s and ’90s.

Pankaj Udhas sounds just as he does on tape. The smooth as whisky voice, the clear lyrical diction and the beautiful Karnataka Cricket Association setting makes it a moment of bliss. Forget the crowds around the food and bar counters and we have the stars shining down bright in the cool evening breeze.




Florida Diary

I am writing this post on a cold Florida morning, sitting on the dock behind my aunt’s place with seagulls flying about and a speedboat on its way in the near distance. From this dock I get a panoramic view of the Peninsula bridge and get engulfed by the mist every half an hour.

By the dock behind the home
By the dock behind the home

I have been down in the US for a little more than a week and from the warm environs of California I am now in cold and not so sunny Florida. The weather has played hide and seek with the warm, sunny Floridian weather nowhere to be found. But don’t get me wrong, the place is stunning. From the Atlantic shores to the beautiful parks and recreation centres and hosted in a lovely Ormond Beach address, my holiday has officially kicked in after the work visit to Anaheim, CA.

Ormond Beach is a quiet exclusive community off Daytona Beach and an hours journey from Orlando. Exclusive – considering the fact I am hardly 300 metres away from the winter home of John Rockefeller. I had last been to Orlando in 1984 and it was a purely Disney visit at that time. This time Orlando meant P.F. Chang‘s and shopping in some exclusive stores – Dillard’s to be precise. And of course a visit to ‘Mary, Queen of the Universe‘ Basilica, a pilgrimage point for many around the area. Florida is laid back, You get the feeling the moment you enter the small plane that gets you from Charlotte to Daytona Beach. The Daytona Beach airport is as small as a mini mall. But the lack of traffic and crowds make this a perfect vacation spot and I am soaking in every bit of it.

Ormond Beach
Ormond Beach

I am not a great fan of shopping, but travelling does present its fair share of shopping experiences. And I learnt about new brands too from my sister. “Get a Coach bag for mum, get a roomba for yourself, J’adore from Dior for me”, these instructions from my sister made me that little bit educated about the finer details in shopping. As I get ready for Philadelphia, the cold winds from Florida would be like warm summer compared to the freezing temperatures up north. I have my woolens ready for the next leg of my journey which I am told would include Casinos, New York and maybe Manoj Night Shyamalan’s haunts from the past.