August 16, 2009
“I was a revolutionary who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosopher who lost his integrity in crime, and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum security prison. When I escaped from that prison, over the front wall, between two gun towers, I became my country’s most wanted man. Luck ran with me and flew with me to India, where I joined the Bombay mafia. I worked as a gunrunner, a smuggler, and a counterfeiter. I was chained on three continents, beaten, stabbed and starved. I went to war. I ran into the enemy guns. And I survived, while other men around me died. They were better men than I am, most of them; better men whose lives were crunched up in mistakes, and thrown away by the wrong second of someone else’s hate, or love, or indifference. And I buried them, too many of those men, and grieved their stories and their lives into my own.”
Some books are like an exquisite meal, meant for indulgence and slow enjoyment. Shantaram is one of those – written by Gregory David Roberts, the book tells the story of his escape from a New Zealand prison, his subsequent arrival in Mumbai, a visit to village India, and his life in the Middle Asian underworld. Although some of the events are based on the author’s life, it is technically classified as fiction since he merged different events and characters for narrative flow.
My favorite books are the ones that immediately draw you into their world and make you care about the characters, and this one accomplishes that marvelously. A few more choice quotes:
“The past reflects eternally between two mirrors -the bright mirror of words and deeds, and the dark one, full of things we didn’t do or say”
“Astounding and puzzling images from the city tumbled and turned in my mind like leaves on a wave of wind, and my blood so thrilled with hope and possibility that I couldn’t suppress a smile, lying there in the dark…In that moment, in those shadows, I was almost safe”
This book makes me want to jump on a plane to Mumbai and embrace the chaos and energy of the city myself. Highly recommend it.
January 29, 2008
Every once in a while I come across a thoroughly excellent site, and the Snow Leopard Trust definitely falls into that category – it combines exotic ornaments and textiles, charity, and one of my favorite things, big cats. Besides having tons of information about these majestic creatures, you can shop for handmade goods from the felines’ homelands of Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and more. It’s a great way to add a touch of the exotic to your home; of course, you can also adopt a snow leopard or two as well.
How can you say no to this adorable face?
July 10, 2007
Since I’ve been a little light on travel-related stuff lately – too much web 2.0/new media related stuff that I just felt compelled to discuss, let’s talk about the New Seven Wonders of the World. On a related note, does their voting system (you can register and vote online, by text message, or by phone) remind anyone else of American Idol?
The New Wonders:
- The Great Wall of China
- Petra in Jordan
- Christ Redeemer in Brazil
- Machu Picchu in Peru
- Chichen Itza in Mexico
- The Roman Colosseum in Italy
- The Taj Mahal in India
I find the personalization of the selection process very interesting. Of course, choosing the seven world wonders is a subjective thing anyways (who can really determine what someone else thinks is the most wondrous wonder?), but this sort of makes me think of the whole web 2.0 phenomenon (yes, I can relate everything back to that).
First of all, the wonders are chosen democratically - the winners were the ones favored by the people who had the ability and chose to participate in the vote. Same thing with highly ranked websites and blogs. Second, people and nations campaigned to their favorite picked (SEO and general promotion). Third, well, this is technically the second list of world wonders, thus actually making these seven wonders the 2.0 version.
Now, I haven’t personally seen any of these wonders (although I’m not arguing with the choices) and since these are the 7 Wonders 2.0, part of the fun is being able to join the conversation and pick your own – in no particular order, here are my seven manmade wonders:
- Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. A true fairy tale castle.
- The Eiffel Tower in Paris – but only when it is lit up at night.
- La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – even unfinished, this is a creation of epic proportions.
- The Chicago skyline – some of the most amazing architecture on the planet.
- The Sevilla Cathedral, or the Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede – it is an amazing testament to the dedication and skill of its builders.
- The Alhambra in Granada - it is exquisite, especially if you can get there (read: sneak in) before the tourist hordes.
- Fes el Bali in Fez - one of the oldest medinas and urban centers in the world.
What are your wonders 2.0?
Perhaps I’ve been working on too many Web 2.0 type projects lately, but the conversational style and 108 short sections of Elizabeth Gilbert‘s memoir Eat, Pray, Love reminded me of nothing more so than a blog. I mean that as a compliment – if this book had been a blog, it certainly would have been a popular one and probably one of my favorites.
The story of Elizabeth’s journey towards spiritual healing (I’ll admit I sort of hate that phrase, but it fits) after a bitter divorce could have been cliched, but her friendly, relatable voice makes this book like you’re having drinks and catching up with an old friend. I’ll admit that it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but considering the number of copies this book has sold, somebody besides me has to like it.
From the New Yorker:
“At the age of thirty-one, Gilbert moved with her husband to the suburbs of New York and began trying to get pregnant, only to realize that she wanted neither a child nor a husband. Three years later, after a protracted divorce, she embarked on a yearlong trip of recovery, with three main stops: Rome, for pleasure (mostly gustatory, with a special emphasis on gelato); an ashram outside of Mumbai, for spiritual searching; and Bali, for “balancing.” These destinations are all on the beaten track, but Gilbert’s exuberance and her self-deprecating humor enliven the proceedings: recalling the first time she attempted to speak directly to God, she says, “It was all I could do to stop myself from saying, ‘I’ve always been a big fan of your work.’”
Although the title suggests that this book is a travelogue, Elizabeth’s actual travelling takes a backseat to her personal discoveries – hers is an inward voyage, and I give her props for being courageous enough to take her readers along on the journey.
June 11, 2007
Exactly one year ago today, I moved into my adorable little apartment in Chicago. For the first time, I would have my own place, free of roommates and their assorted problems and issues (I’ve actually had some very cool roommates, but sometimes a girl just needs her own space). It’s in a vintage Art Deco building that’s a little under a century old and full of character and charm. It’s in good condition, however, and full of quirky details and there’s awesome views from my windows and the rooftop. The decor, however, is more eclectic than vintage inspired.
Here are some pictures – the wall hanging and a lot of the textiles are from India.
The turquoise dresser is only “vintage” thing in the apartment – it was my grandparents’ and is considerably older than I am.
This my cute little kitchen, where I mostly heat up frozen things from Trader Joes and set off the fire alarm but occasionally prepare a decent meal.
When I moved to Chicago, I also adopted a gorgeous black cat with emerald eyes. Her name is Eva and she’s my lucky black cat. Eva’s many roles include slayer of spiders, consumer of catnip, and giver of hugs and kisses.
Isn’t she a sweetheart?
Edit: I realized that by posting a picture of my cat on the web, I’ve officially crossed some kind of cat-lady line. If I’m living alone in a big old haunted house with fifty cats when I’m 80, at least I’ll know where it all got started.