text 20 Oct Enchanted Garden in Changi Airport

Singapore’s Changi Airport differentiates itself from others by having these unique areas in the airport. These areas give weary travelers a place to relax and make them actually look forward to transiting in Changi again. The Enchanted Garden is one such place that I spent a few minutes to relax on my way back from Sydney. A few pictures below.

text 9 Oct A Trip to Sydney

I was on a work related trip to Sydney for a month and a half, and used the time to see a few places there.

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Opera House - the most recognizable landmark in Sydney

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Another view of the Opera House

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The Sydney Harbour Bridge

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The Sydney Skyline

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The Sydney Tower

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View from the Sydney Tower

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Another view from the Sydney Tower

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Town Hall in Parramatta, a Sydney suburb

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Kangaroo relaxing in the Taronga Zoo

More photos:

Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Sydney Tower

Taronga Zoo

Parramatta

text 5 Aug Empire of the Moghul - Raiders From The North: Book Review

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If you desire an escape into the past, in the plains of Central Asia filled with horses, blood, tribes and treachery, Raiders From The North offers plenty of it. First in the Empire of the Moghul series, the book opens with young Babur who is thrust into become a king at the age of twelve. It traces his life and times where he wins a few wars, loses his kingdom, becomes a vagabond and at the end becomes the founder of the Mughal empire in India.

The book is a tribute to Babur, hailing him as a hero and lavishes praise on him. Though Babur is portrayed as an irreligious person who drinks alcohol and seldom prays, he is also shown as a just ruler who trusts his people. The authors who go under the pen name of Alex Rutherford have done extensive research based on the historical texts available. They have used Baburnama, the official biography of Babur and other texts authored by the Mughals.

The standout feature of the book is the narrative, which is fast-paced and gripping. The attention to details is also amazing, serving to paint a vivid picture of the era in the mind of the reader, transporting him/her to that time. I enjoyed the book and will recommend it to those who love historical fiction.

text 20 Jul Temptations of the West: Book Review

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Pankaj Mishra is a journalist, essayist and novelist who is acclaimed for his political opinions on India and the sub-continent. Temptations of the West: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond contains treatises on the author’s travels through India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Tibet. Pankaj Mishra provides honest, fearless reports from the areas he visits. The incidents and conditions that he reports are hardly covered or purposely censored in the mainstream media. Reports from Kashmir, Pakistan’s play in Afghanistan and the political reasons on events and the governments responses, are well covered. He also mentions the threats he and his family have received due to his frank coverage.

He starts from Allahabad, where he had stayed as an university student, detailing the terrorist activities in the region and the reasons for it. He also touches upon the Nehru dynasty who had been based out of Allahabad. He then moves to Ayodhya and brings to light the business of communalism. He rounds off part one of the book, by talking about the glamour of Bollywood highlighting his interviews with Mahesh Bhatt.

In the second part, he covers the volatile situation in Kashmir and exposes the falsehood that mainstream media reports about the events there. He continues into Pakistan and Afghanistan, and details the nexus of the ISI, the Pakistani army and the Afghans - Taliban and the Mujahedin before them.

In the final part, he provides an overview on Nepal and Tibet. While Nepal has moved on to become a democracy, Tibet is beginning to lose its culture and tradition to the Han Chinese. Whatever is left, seems to be only for showcasing to the tourists.

Overall, I liked the book and will recommend it to anyone who wants a honest, on-the-ground view of things rather than relying on the mainstream media that reports based on its paymasters’ and overlords’ whims and fancies.

text 25 May Silk Road: Asia to Europe By Road

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I have always wondered how it would be to travel from Asia to Europe over land and this has led me to read a few travelogues on the topic. A Ride to India Across Persia and Baluchistan by Harry De Windt is a book written in 1891 that I had read a few years ago. This was obviously very dated and did not satiate me. Searching on Amazon.com led me to Tom Coote’s Tearing up the Silk Road: A Modern Journey from China to Istanbul, through Central Asia, Iran and the Caucasus.

The book is a travelogue in which the author traces the ancient Silk Road route. The Silk Road was the trade route that connected Asia with Europe in the past. Silk, spices and other goods for trade were transported through this route. The author starts from China, goes through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Turkey. Major cities that he covers are Chengdu and Urumqi in China, Almaty in Kazakhstan, Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara in Uzbekistan, Mashhad and Isfahan in Iran, Tbilisi in Georgia and finally, Istanbul in Turkey.

While the coverage of places visited is good, lack of photographs and maps alongside their descriptions is a big miss. Enclosing these would have helped the reader get a better picture of what the author saw.

In order for me to understand the route traversed, I have mapped out the route below.
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If one wishes to read this book, it would be better to have a map such as the above with the route traced out and photographs of the places visited to fully enjoy the trip along with the author.

text 11 May Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns: Quick Review

Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns is a movie on politics and rural mafia. I do not know if it has any links to its prequel as I have not watched it. The movie is slick, well paced and has several twists. Irfan Khan and Jimmy Shergill have as always given good performances and are well supported by Raj Babbar, Mahie Gill and Soha Ali Khan. Soha looks a little old in the movie though. Tigmanshu Dhulia, the director of the brilliant movie Paan Singh Tomar does not disappoint.

Good: Fast pace, twists
Not so: A big star could have made it a bigger movie
Overall: Definitely worth watching

text 7 Apr Visit to Entertrainment Junction (Toy Train Museum)

Along with my visit to Cincinnati downtown, I also visited Entertrainment Junction (that is actually the name not a spelling error). The place claims to be the world’s largest indoor train display. Whether that is true or not, it does have quite a few models on display organized based on eras starting from olden western trains to the modern railways.

Here are a few pictures:

Inside the museum

Western railway - olden style

Bridge over a river

Modern railway with a control tower

Full set of photos here




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