Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Should you support Free Basics ?

We are so addicted to the word “free” and even without understanding, we just sign-up for everything!. How can a person who wanted “Net neutrality” can now support the “Free Basics” ?, If you do so, you have not understood both the words !!

About 1 year ago, Facebook launched "Internet.org" in India and it failed miserably as it was against the #netneutrality. Now, they have just smartly renamed the same as ``Free Basics``, thought Indians will not ever say 'no' to whatever is given for free!.

What is Free Basics ? : #FreeBasics is a platform launched by Facebook in partnership with Reliance in India, where some basic internet websites will be available free of cost (Check out here for all the websites available for free as per Reliance's website). That means, you don't have to pay internet charges for the data usage on any of the mentioned websites. However, if you enter into other websites, then you will have to pay the internet charges. And it’s Facebook (and possibly their parent telecom operator) decide on what websites to be enabled and what content to be displayed.

My simple question:  Why do we need anything for free? Whoever supporting/signing the petition are already capable to afford a paid internet!. In India, a monthly internet charge even now also is less than a single movie ticket !

Nothing is available for “free” in this world; and no company (especially, Reliance and Facebook) are running for charity. #Facebook is going to easily get a very big community for their advertisements and #Reliance is aiming to get a big customer base and business thru’ this bandwagon.

All we need is an unrestricted, un-curated internet, you decide whether it’s free or paid. And you call it as “Basics” or “Advanced”!. It’s up to you to support or oppose – but do it after your own reasoning!!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Pasanga 2

Everyone call the movie as “preachy”; but what is wrong in it? Let it be…it’s the “need of the hour” for India. #Pasanga 2 points out the issues of Indian education system. It’s is a movie about children, parenthood and parents misunderstanding on the idea and purpose of education.

The story revolves around two hyperactive kids Kavin and Nayana, who are a nightmare to their parents, teacher, and even to their neighbours. Their over naughtiness drives everyone wild and makes them move from school after school and in-turn, different houses and different areas of relocation!.

At one point of time, they move-in to an apartment where they meet an ideal family of Suriya – a child psychiatrist and Amala Paul – a  teacher with their two kids. Surya finds that Kavin and Nayana are suffering from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder),  and they help them to come out of it.  They eventually soothe the harassed and embarrassed parents; and make them to understand their parenting mistakes too!.

 While many directors in Tamil industry are using cinema as just a money making business, We should welcome Director #Pandiraj who has a sincere concern for families and kids. He makes us think about the commercialization of today’s education system, rank-oriented race, and scarcity of 'family time' in our busy lifestyle...

 I agree that #Pasanga2 is preachy, to the extent that in a scene, Surya is literally teaching a some parents about childcare and family values with a white board and a marker J! but as I said already “it’s the need of the hour”. For some of the sharp-valued dialogues, I myself nodded in agreement, for the mistakes that I have done or doing as a parent!.

If we overlook the drama and listen to what Pandiraj says, we – as a parent definitely have a lot from the film to take home!.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

அரசியல் பேசும் அயல் சினிமா

I love watching a lot of movies from my childhood, but have never been a follower of documentary films until I read the book "Arasiyal Pesum Ayal Cinema."

As far as I know, this book is one of it’s kind!!!. The author - E.P. Chinthan introduces us 16 different World Political documentary films in this book. But what makes it so special is that he explains and analyzes the historical reasons and political aspects around each film, rather than discussing about those films itself. This naturally builds-up an eager to every reader to know more about the issue; as well a fervent to watch the movies.

We all love mobile phones, and the smarter they become we love and buy them more too. But, are we ever aware of the dark side of these cell phones? Did we know that our demand for phones has been fueling finance to a civil war, which has killed more than 5.4 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo? !!!. An episode of this book presents a hard-hitting documentary “Blood in the Mobile (2010)” that exposes the illegal mining in Congo and how the leading mobile phone manufacturers are craving for them.

Chocolate has always been a favorite to almost everyone of us. But behind it’s wonderful taste, there is also a darker side that can make anyone to feel bad about!. An episode on a documentary "The Dark side of Chocolate (2010)" investigates the stories about child labor during the production and harvesting of cocoa beans, mainly in Ivory Coast.

Many children are slaves in these Coco farms throughout their life, without any education, money not even proper food. I was shocked to realize that this issue has been going on for many years and not any worthy actions taken till now. Thanks to the money power of Big Chocolate companies and our addiction towards them :(

Another episode extradicts an inspiring story, “The Coconut Revolution (2001)”. It’s a story of Bougainville Island people’s incredible victory over the Western Colonial power. This episode explores the hardships of Bougainville against the Papua New Guinea army and its mining plans to exploit their natural resources. The story also shows the Bougainvillean’s courage and creativity to fight it back successfully. It was amazing to know, how they managed to use coconuts to power their own villages, make medicines for all sorts of ailments, and even to fuel for vehicles. I never realized the many uses the coconut could offer!!!

The above ones are just off the top of my head, but each episode tells us a deep, impactful history of a country. Issues discussed in each episode is so dense and heavy, But the author explains it in simple terms, yet giving deep insider on how global economics is manipulated to keep the money flowing into the pockets of the wealthy elite of the world.

Personally, I find this book very valuable for not just giving me some world exposure; but it also has prompted me to think, to reframe my default view on social issues, to realize and stop whether I'm also indirectly propagating the same injustices.... ?

I am extremely happy that I get a chance to read this brilliant book; I can’t imagine how much efforts/ground work Chinthan would have put to analyze and script into essays!

A must read if you're interested in world politics and history.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Chennai Floods - Nature’s fury !

Feeling extremely sorry for the people of #chennaifloods and #Cuddalore. Many people, even those who lived in proper/luxury buildings have also lost all their belongings with the #flood waters.

When a city develop, it’s infrastructure should also get developed at the same or faster pace!!!. But unfortunately this did not happen in Chennai; Well not only Chennai; I would say most of the Indian Cities). I myself have lived in Bangalore, I know that a 2-3 days of rain is more enough to chock the city to halt. I guess same is the story for Mumbai and Kolkata as well ?

It would say, it’s a warning signal for all the Indian cities. Chances are we won't listen to the warnings. We will continue to build by covering up water bodies :( ; but still at least some of us should take a lesson from this disaster and correct ourselves.

And it’s the high time that the government should really think to build large monsoon drains and canals and channel rainwater to man-made reservoirs. It will elevate our summer water problem as well. The present map of the cities must be compared with the maps of 1950-1960, to see the differences in the green belts, lakes, water bodies, rivers, streams etc. If any water reservoir, drainage area or other environmentally sensitive areas are found to be encroached upon, then the government must restore them and also prevent further encroachments.

Above all, we as a responsible citizens, should never throw our rubbish and waste into monsoon drains and canals to chock them. 

It's really awful to see the picture of people leaving Chennai in groups :(

Friday, November 27, 2015

Stop Cribbing !!!

The Irony is: most of my friends who shout against Aamir Khan’s comments now, are those who were standing in front of the US/European Consulates at 5am early in the morning, complaining everything about India and flew outside years ago :)

Common-on guys, just think…, lets’s not forward/repost every catchy stuff we see on social media !  #aamirkhan #intolerance

Friday, September 18, 2015

A DAY TRIP TO BRUGES / BRUGGE

I was little bored of monotonous work and thought a short day trip to another place might give me a chance to get energized a bit. Since Bruges is not too far, just an hour and half from Antwerp, we gave it a try and was pleasantly contented with the trip !

We took train from Antwerp to Bruges Central, the City center is very close to the central station, so we thought we go into the city later in the evening (we had time till 10pm, It’s one of the bright days of Belgian summer :). We headed directly to the #boudewijnseapark.

Boudewijn Seapark is a water theme park located at Sint-Michiels, Bruges, roughly 15 minutes of Bus trip from the Central station. I would say it’s an ideal theme park for small kids, my 4 years old kid enjoyed every moment of it. Dolphin show was the coolest thing to me. The park also provides Sea lion and Seal Show. There was an indoor playground, and bigwigs aqua's splash was fun. We felt sad that we did not carry our swim attire, otherwise would have enjoyed little more fun with my kid in the waters!

If you’re with a small kid, I would recommend this place to give a try. For adults it may be little small and boring, again it depends on person to person.

Around 4pm, we came back to the historic center of Bruges and the Markt were just fantastic! We enjoyed the beautiful architecture and happy people watching around the entire square. We’re bit late to climb the historic bell tower to experience the incredible panoramic views of the Bruges!

I heard that there is also an remarkable brewery in Bruges called the Half Moon Brewery. They have some of the best beer in Belgium and it is certainly worth taking the tour as well! This would be a great mid-day stop in Bruges. But, it was not a thing for me. Many people also recommended to visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood, which actually believed to have the blood drops of Jesus, I missed that too.

We’re really short of time for the museums but we at-least wanted to go for the #Dumon Artisanale Chocolatier., but so bad that too was closed when we arrived. I should reserve them for my next visit.

Anyway, we just enjoyed a perfect mix of walking, culture, exploring and of course little bit of fries and waffles. Though it was really a short trip, we felt we happy and very much pleased.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Grand Place - Grote Markt , Antwerpen

Grand Place building is nothing but the #Stadhuis or townhall of #Antwerp. But, It's not just an ordinary town hall.

If you’re touring Antwerp, this town hall is something that is hard to miss - it's the large beautiful building with all colorful flags flying, on the banks of river Scheldt. The town hall is so beautiful and steeped in rich colorful history. It an attractive example of #Brabantine Gothic architecture, which was constructed in 1565 and still standing strong. (Infact, the city is celebrating it’s 450th birthday this year in a grand way! )

The town hall is an impressive architecture and located in an equally impressive square. So far, we have not gone inside, but I heard that the inside is also so gorgeous and has some excellent paintings. No wonder it is a #UNESCO World Heritage site.

The square has an attractive statue in the centre – “The statue of Brabo” which has an interesting story behind. It’s childish!!, but still let me share what I heard ;P 

The story goes like there was a Giant who controlled the river. If you were unwilling to pay the toll he would cut off your hand. One day a sailor, Silvius Brabo, challenged the Giant to a dual. Brabo won and cut off the Giant's head and hand. He threw the hand into the water, which is #Flemish for hand throw or "#handwerpen". That is how Antwerp got it's name ! 

I have been here in the day as well during the night time. Hands down!!!, the building looks amazingly beautiful at night as they are lit up. You should come here both day and night to compare for yourself!

If you’re on a short tour, It's a quick stop but is definitely a worthy to visit and spend some time over this wonderfully-crafted building and on the river side cafes, pubs, relaxing spots around it (the area is called as #GroteMarkt). You’ll not be disappointed! 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

ZOO Antwerpen

#ZooAntwerpen is just next to my office. And my company allows all their employees to take lunch from the Zoo cafeteria on cheaper rates. So we occasionally go to the zoo for lunch :). Otherwise, I am not a big fan of Zoos!.

It is one of the oldest Zoo's in the world and has a very decent variety of animals to look around. The elephants are the most popular animals, especially since the birth of #Kai-Mook (Belgium's first ever baby elephant). Apart from them, you can take a glimpse of some strange animals such as aardvarks, armadillos, tree kangaroos and koalas to name but a few (I haven’t seen them anywhere before; learnt these words only after going there).

The Zoo is just next to the central station, that makes it as the first tourist attraction to most of the visitors of Antwerp. However, the smaller area keeps much of the creatures locked up in small cages. They are not befittingly kept :(. I guess Antwerp should relocate the zoo to some other bigger place outside the City and make a better use of this central area.

This is a good place to go in Antwerp, especially if you have kids. I haven't visited that many zoos, but this is one of the good ones that I have seen so far. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fell in Love with Venice !

When I told about my Venice plans, almost every friend of mine said we should see the Venice, but warned that I might get disappointed too. Crowdy, Dirty, and much touristy most said (funny is that these were said by some of my Indian friends :).

I have to admit the first couple of our hours in the Venice was not that great. First of all, our bus got so much delayed, and we lost about 40 minutes trying to find our hotel amid the alleyways. We reached our hotel only by the noon almost. We had to have a very short lunch and run for the sight-seeing. It was very hot, we had to wait and stand in a crowded bus before we finally reach the City Bus stands.It was around 4 Ò clock in the evening, when we’re presented the beautiful view of St. Mark’s square. 

But every minute, after those first couple hours was a pure delight !!!
Venice – the city is full of history, romance and grand architecture, there are countless places to visit. But, we really underestimated, had only 2 days, so focused mainly on the city's major sights and attractions, on day-1. We had a great trip all over the historic Basilica di San Marco and the surrounding Piazza San Marco constitute the heart of Venice. On the 2nd day, we enjoyed one of the best beaches, Glass factories, and the colorful houses at the Murano and Burano’s—both neighboring islands that are just a short boat ride away.

Without any doubt, we thoroughly enjoyed the complete trip. However, I always feel the same or more happiness and excitement when I sit in front of my computer for hours, trying to write more about that trip too.

Well, am not sure whether my travelogues are going to help anyone; but I’m happy that these writings make me feel like re-living the cherished moments of the trip again, whenever I read them, even  after many days, months, or years. So let me put together all the moments of this trip too in the coming posts @ TRAVELOGUE-VENICE-ITALY

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tulpenpluk 2015

Well, this weekend we went to Berendrecht #Tulpenpluk (translated as Tulips Pick) and  I must say, "We just loved it".

It’s a fantastic initiative by the City of Antwerp. Every year during November time frame, the district commune of Berendrecht plants thousands of tulip pulps on the meadows near the Berendrecht Port. And all these pulps bloom beautiful during april., and be opened up to the public to come and enjoy!

This year Berendrecht meadow was filled with 160,000 colorful tulips and we’re all allowed to pick upto 10 tulips per person and take back to home :)

We went from Antwerp Central to the Berendrecht by public transport; from then there was about 15minutes walk to the tulip meadow.

 By the time we reached, the crowd had already turned out well over and we joined-in over the long queue. But it was not that bad, the queue was fast moving.; and in about 20mins of queue, we got straight into the meadows !

The meadow with all colorful tulips looked so beautiful, under the bright spring sunshine. We snapped hell of nice pictures and grabbed a  few beautiful tulips for home too.

Furthermore, there was a lot of nice events such as a ducks ‘parade, children's village, hay stack maze, kids painting, picnic area  ...etc. 

After spending a good amount of time, we returned home, and our house got brightened by the beautiful bouquets :-).

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Anne Frank House, Rijks & Van Gogh Museum

Like every other European City, Amsterdam too has many museums. Heard that at least 75 of them are still very active and attracting 1000’s of visitors everyday! .

Anne Frank House, Science Museum, Rijk Museum and Van Gogh museum are a few that we could see, well just from outside ;P . There was no time to get into all the museums in a single day. Madame Tussads itself took half of our day.
#Anne_Frank House:  
After Madame Tussads and lunch, we planned to go to the Anne Frank House. From the day we came to know about the book “The Diary of a Young Girl” (Anne Frank ‘s biography), we always wanted to visit the Anne Frank House; but there was already a mile lengthy queue and we realized that we could never make it happen. If I come back again to Amasterdam , am sure to see this place.

During World War II, Anne Frank hid from German soldiers with her family in this canal side house. Anne Frank couldn’t not survive and captured by the Nazi troops from this house, but in 1947 when her father published her wartime diary , the world came to know about Anna and her families struggles against the Nazi. After that this house started attracting so many visitors from all over the world, and become a museum later.

#Rijksmuseum:
It’s the National Museum of Holland., is located at the Museum Square in the  Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum.

Well, it was our second of three museums scheduled for that one day; and we’re almost at the closing time of the museum. So we did not go inside, but had a good time outside the museum gardens. The gardens at the rear side of the museum was so beautiful and are ideal for a relaxing picnic.

#Van_Gogh museum & Vondelpark:
We were eager to get to the Van Gogh Museum nearby…But unlucky againJ, the Van Gogh museum was under construction, but some of his painting samples were kept outside for public.

Last of all, we saw the “#IamAmsterdam” sign, a giant sign where each letter is the size of a person. While this isn’t unique in and of itself, it led to us visiting Vondelpark as well, a park filled with locals, tourists, kids and adults enjoying playgrounds, jogging trails, and great weather!

Between these two destinations we spent a good amount of time before  we started back our boat trip back to the Amsterdam Central station. It was a very relaxing finish to a nice trip.

Ofcourse, this trip is not of my typical way of touring. We just passed through all the places without getting-in to them, exploring nothing…, but never failed to click the snaps at all the attractions..;(

Anyway, I consoled myself that “it is okay, when you are a tourist, to do some things that are just a little touristy :) .”

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Madame Tussauds, Amsterdam

Our first stop was at the #Madame Tussauds (which doesn’t need any introduction, right?). It was walkable from the Central Station, we reached in another 10minutes. Good that we had purchased the express entry tickets, so we could avoid the long queue and entered directly in to the museum.

I’m not a big fan of any celebrity in particular, nor a fan of wax figures, so I can’t say Madame Tussauds is my favorite spot. But it was not disappointing or boring.  The amount of work and dedication put into the making and maintaining the wax figures is really impressive !!!.

We could meet many movie superstars, political leaders, sport heroes,.. and many global celebrities.  Seems this particular Madame Tussads gives some special focus to their local culture, the first floor is full of Dutch royals, politicians, painters … and pop stars.

I would have expected some more exhibits in the museum, however the existing ones itself gave good opportunity to enjoy and to be photographed. Ever thought that we would meet Barack Obama, Ronaldinho, Michael Jackson and Einstein in just half a day? :P .  I liked the Charlie Chaplin exhibit as I could dance along with him and appear in a video with him whilst doing this.

A bit pricey for the little time (2-3 hours max) we could spend there. If you've never been to any Madame Tussauds elsewhere, you can go ahead and visit this one, you may like it.

Now, a short history about the Madame Tussads Museums: Marie Tussaud was born in 1761 in Strasbourg, France. Her mother worked as a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius in Switzerland, who was a physician, skilled in wax modelling. Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling.

By her 17 years, she mastered the art and during the French Revolution she modeled death masks for many prominent victims. They became very popular and her death masks were held up as revolutionary flags and paraded through the streets of Paris.

Following the doctor's death in 1794, she inherited his vast collection of wax models and spent the next 33 years travelling around Europe. By 1835 Marie had settled down in Baker Street, London, and opened her first wax  museum., which became the origin of all the today’s Madame Tussads all over the world.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Amsterdam Canals & Cruises

Our decision to go for the boat pass turned out to be a very good one. Indeed only from the boat, you could catch more details of the unique and beautiful buildings all along the city.

Most of the tourist attractions can be reached via these canals. There are quite a few boat tour options, we picked up the whole day pass , which allowed us to hop-in and off any number of times/boats, throughout the day. These boats also had a audio tour - we could hear a narrator explaining what we’re are passing and its history, specialties …and etc.

These canals are also the venue also provide a popular place for recreational activities, from boating to parades. Many of the city's special events are held upon the waters of the canals. Once you get familiarized with the waterways and their routes, you can catch cruises all over the places and see every corner of the city.

These Canals don’t seem to be formed naturally, rather they are consciously planned and dug. The canals have been part of the city's landscape since the early fourteenth century. However most of the current canals were built only during the seventeenth century. Obviously, they are the primary and most beautiful mode of transport within the city., but actually they are much more than just a pretty sight.  Their main purpose is to control the floods coming in from the sea. Natural & artificial dikes present in the canals prevent flooding of sea water flowing into the city.

With more than 100 km of Canals and 1500 bridges within, Amsterdam is truly the "Venice of North Europe".  And Undoubtedly these beautiful and scenic canals are one of the big attractions of the city. I would say, Its a "must to do" in Amsterdam ... :)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Trip to Amsterdam

Amsterdam – the capital of Netherlands, is our first tour outside Belgium.

Most of my friends had already created an image about #Amsterdam that it’s only for the young adults ; and is why Amsterdam is often referred as the city of drugs and sex. But, I went with my family and still did not get disappointed. There’re a lot more good and beautiful things you can enjoy in Amsterdam.

Our travel from Antwerp to Amsterdam was through train. The journey was about 2 hours, and we reached Amsterdam Central at 8.40AM. I always prefer to explore any city by walk, but this time , went for a whole day boat pass as am with kid, can’t walk much.

Amsterdam city has so much to offer, a single day is not at all sufficient. We just tried our best to cover the places as much as possible. We started our tour with the Madame Tussads, and could touch-up Science Museum, Rijk & Van Gogh museums via a long boat ride within the short duration. After dinner at around 8.45PM, we started back our return journey to Antwerp.

Will write more about some of the interesting things/places that we experienced during our trip, in the following posts...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Aquatopia - Aquarium Of Antwerp

It was a little rainy weekend, wanted to plan something of indoor sort. Aquatopia was a perfect fit for the day. We visited aquatopia and were pleasantly surprised !

The aquarium is in a prime area just next to #Antwerp central station. It has a huge collection of underwater species. we got to see so many of them that I can’t just list. It accommodates more than 10,000 fish and a large quantity of reptiles.

The key attraction is the big shark tank. With a capacity of 360 000 liters of water, I guess this is the biggest shark aquarium of Belgium. Visitors can walk through a thick glass wall tunnel or over a bridge that hangs above the tank.

Another very special (but little scary to me :P ) was the reptiles section. It’s open and there are some that climb up the tree and jump on you! The snakes section was also open but with a door that can be only opened or closed with switch. Still it was scary too!. But I'm sure they cannot be dangerous as all precautions would have been taken by the aquarium.

Overall, it’s a very nice place to go for 3-4 hours indoor. Especially children would enjoy hours of everything that #Aquatopia offers.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Getting Around Antwerp - Public Transport

Public transport in Antwerp is amazing. The city has trams and buses for getting around town.

De Lijn – the transport company has a dense network of buses, trams, and pre-metro connections in the city and wide area around it. The main bus station - Franklin Rooseveltplaats, is at a walking distance of about 5 minutes from the Antwerp-Central Train Station. Buses and trams are well connected to almost all the corners of the city.

The network is very easy to use with well-signed stations, schematic route maps and aboard the trams the electronic display announces the stations as you arrive.

As for the fare prices: There are a variety of ticket options – Although a single ticket is a bit expensive €3, other discount options like, day passes €6 and 3-days pass €12 are really economic. These tickets can be bought from vending machines, newsagents, supermarkets, De Lijn offices, tourism centres… or even directly from the drivers (but at slightly higher cost).

Personally, Tram is the favourite of me & my daughter!!!. They are more convenient, quick, and comfortable.. above all it feels so nice to see these cute trams running around the city!! Even if we move to any other city in future, wherever we see a tram, we are sure to remind about “Antwerp” J

Saturday, March 28, 2015

"French" Fries or "Belgian" Fries?

I always thought that French fries belong to the French. But it’s not – it’s actually a Belgian!!!.

People here claim that Belgium is the origin of the fries and it’s true that the fries has always been in their food culture. 

The story (?) is that the American military troops had a chance to taste these fried potato stripes in Belgium, during their World War -1 stint ; and they named it as the “French Fries” since majority of the Belgian soldiers spoke French. Till then it'd become a part of American food too, and they made it popular as the French fries !

I also hear from some of the French speaking friends that " it’s just a story" created by the Belgians and the fries were originally invented by the French men only. Also, there’s a talk that the Spanish too claiming the “pride of the fries origin”. 

Whatever it is…, who cares from where the fries came from. We just love tasting the crunchy, salty, tasty fries :P . Is in it ?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Belgium: "One Country - Many Cultures "

Belgium may be just one country in the world map, but you’ll get to see a lot of invisible lines dividing the country into pieces linguistically and culturally!.
It’s mainly due to the numerous invasions all through it’s past. The Belgian land has always been occupied by either one of their neighbors; start from the Roman Empires to Spanish, Austria, France, Holland, Germany…. and the list goes on!.

The first and the big dividing line that I noticed is the Flanders-Wallonia border.
The northern half of the Belgium is called as “Flanders””, bordering the northern Netherlands (Holland region) and north-west France. Dutch is the main stream language here. This includes the main cities such as Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges and Leuven.

To the south is the “”Wallonia””, predominantly French-speaking. Wallonia was rich with Metals and Coal., and was the more prosperous half of Belgium till the World War II. After the WWII, the weightage of heavy industry came down sharply, and there by the Flanders surpassed Wallonia in Wealth.

This difference in economy status & growth has made a huge difference among the people of respective region. I don't find any Flander appreciating the Wallonia, or vice versa.. They are always feel separated :(

Brussels is the capital of the country, which is located on the Flanders side, but most of the people here are not Dutch speaking, it’s primarily French :P . There's also a little German-speaking crowd in the city!.!!!

So naturally, all of these differences make out an extremely complicated government system. There’s a King in Belgium, at the same time it’s a democratic country with a huge parliament!. There are three regional governments, with jurisdiction over the French, Flemish and German areas.

It's actually a bit more complicated than that any alien could think of :) .

Katrathum Petrathum (கற்றதும் பெற்றதும்)

KatrathumPetrathum, is a superb collection of Sujatha’s essays that came as a series in Anantha Vikatan periodical. I was one of the regular readers of Anantha Vikatan at that time, and I must have already read most of Kattradhum pettradhum.

Each essay is unique and from a wide range topics - some from his real life experiences, some are science dissertations, some about literature, history, culture, a few short stories, a little bit of local and politics, books, cinema,… and what not? This book talks about almost all the topics; I could think of. It’s a great compilation !!!

Few lines of the books have made me think about that topic for days and months. And few essays have made me realize, feel, get emotional and even to laugh out loud….. Too many intellectual pieces!!!!

No doubt that #Sujatha is a clever writer and, more importantly, a very knowledgeable in many fields. And so I have no wonder why he was such a popular writer with everyone - his readers, cinema industry people, editors of publishing companies, media, etc.

If you want to read, you can download an ebook here

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Statue Code: Horse and Rider

Read an interesting article claiming, a code in sculpting the statues for the war heroes., they say that the horse’s legs position tells the story of the rider. 
  • If one leg is raised, the rider was wounded in battle.
  • If two front legs are raised, it means that the rider had died in battle.
  • If all four legs are on the ground, then he survived the battle/war. 
I am not sure, whether this is really true or just a myth.

Actually I did a piece of research without even moving out of my deskJ - looked up some famous statues on “Google Images”, and then looked up the biographies of the people depicted to see how they died. And it’s very interesting to see a plenty of statues do follow this rule.However I can’t find any authorized source on it..  Interesting!!! Isn't it?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Stadspark, Antwerp - “Something for everyone”

The park is located in the heart of the city and very close to my apartment,..

It’s one of the nicest parks that I have ever seen…. an oasis of calm ... especially after a busy day/week, you’’ll sure to unwind in this beautiful and quiet city park. . The park has a beautiful lake with cute ducks, swans, thousands of pelicans and pigeons. And a fenced part of the lawn gives residence to a number of sweet little bunnies!

You could see many localities come here regularly and  enjoy a leisurely walk or a jog. Kids going wild on the playarea, which features a variety of fun games. Some Daredevils performing a sneaky show with their skate. Some good old couple laying in the grass with a book and headphone. 

The park carries a long history behind. Heard that the park is a leftover from Herentals Fort, a stronghold of the sixteenth century city wall. It was also once the place where the German forces had their Belgian headquarters during the second war. The remains of the bunkers is now burried under the park grounds. There are a few World War memorials and monuments are still standing tall and stunning here.
We love the Stads Park verymuch . It truly has “Something for everyone” #tour_antwerp

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Moving to Belgium (Part-5): Visa for Dependants - processing from Belgium

As I already said, If the primary applicant's already in Belgium, the dependent visa process in very complicated. Along with the re-issue of documents and Legalization, one worry will add-up - that's the quality residence at Belgium. Below are list of documents needed.

1. Belgium Residence ID of the primary applicant
2. Proof House - Sufficient space for the family to live
3. Medical Insurance for your spouse/family
4. Bank Statement - 6 months
5. Salary Slip - 6 months
6. Employee Attestation
7. Request letter for legalisation
8. Marriage Certificate - to be legalized
9. Birth Certificate - to be legalized
10. Color Photos of the primary applicant

You have to move in to a bigger house in Belgium, based on the number of dependents. Their local officials come and check your apartment before they give clearance for the house (Sl#2). It's not only the space, they also check for all the safety (electrical, fire, security, open area....and many). If you’re in Belgium to earn some money, your plans will be gone!. If you want your wife and Kid with you, be ready to spend 1500+ Euros for apartment rental.

My advice is always process your dependent visas along with the primary applicant visa. Never do the mistake thinking that you’ll call your dependents later, which may end-up like you’ll never get your dependents :P

Moving to Belgium (Part-4): Visa for Dependants - processing from India

I don’t want to scare you much, but it’s true that getting dependent visa is not that easy, especially if the primary applicant is already residing in Belgium. I processed  my dependents visas along with mine. It’s comparatively easy, yet I had to go thru’ a lot of surprises and had to sacrifice a few nights sleep with full of tension and worries.

Below is the list of basic documents that are needed , when the primary applicant is in India / your home country. 

1. Birth Certificate - should be issued in the last 6 months & Legalized
2. Marriage Certificate - should be issued in the last 6 months & Legalized
3. Police Clearance Certificate  - should be issued in the last 6 months & Legalized
4. Passport
5. Filled Visa Form
6. Color Photo (both yours and your wife/husband)
7. Medical Certificate

The list may look simple, but what made it complicated was the phrase “ - should be issued in the last 6 months & Legalized” :P

Re-issue of documents:
Belgium consulate asks for all the documents to be issued within the last 6 months. In my case my marriage certificate, Wife/Kid’s birth certificate all of them were 4-5 years old and I had to get all the documents reissued. Actually, the re-issue of documents is not that difficult. All the recent birth and marriage registrations are available online. Corresponding municipal offices reissue them with-in 10 working days from the date you apply.

I also got my Daughter’s and wife’s birth certificate on regular channel within 10 days (still I had to travel 2-3 times to my native which is 14 hours away from Bangalore :(. But it was nothing, I had yet another complicated problem to tackle with.

My marriage certificate was in Tamil Font, when we apply for the re-issue, we actually get a “true copy of the original marriage certificate”., Which means that they just take the copy of the already registered Tamil marriage certificate and put today’s date seal as reissued.  Somehow after a lot of efforts I got my marriage certificate re-issued in English.

Legalization of documents:
Legalization ( a.ka. Apostille) is the process of getting the required documents authenticated by the
Typical legalization process involves many state government and central government offices. Then no need to tell about the delays involved, right? Following-up at every stage was horrible and it's follow-up itself, was taking a big chunk of my office work time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Moving to Belgium (Part-3): Visa for Primary Applicant

Well, the next stage after obtaining the work permit is the visa stamping process.

Visa for the primary applicant is much easy. You just have to submit the below documents to the VFS Global centers and they get you the visa within 5-7 working days, provided all the documents are in place and correct as per the visa requirements.

1. Two Application form to be filled in completely and signed by the applicant.
2. Four Recent (not older than six months) passport-size photographs in color with white background. (3.5cm x 4.5cm)
3. The Passport should be valid for at least twelve when applying for the visa and with at least one double blank page reserved the visa
4. Also all the old passports (if there’s any)
5. Your original work permit/training permit obtained by the Employer
6. Police Clearance Certificate – issued by the relevant passport office.
7. Copy of your Medical Reports (from the authorized hospitals)

Note: All official documents must be recent i.e. not older than 6 months, attested by local, competent authorities and then legalized by The Ministry for External Affairs, Consular Division, Patiala House, New Delhi. In case the original certificates are in any of the local languages, then an official translation in English must be attached which must also be duly attested and legalized by Indian Authorities

Monday, March 2, 2015

Moving to Belgium (Part-2): Work Permit & Visa Guide

Foreign nationals who wish to work in Belgium must need a work permit. However, the nations of the European Union Countries and Swiss do not require the work permit.

There are three different types of work permit:
  • Work permit type A : This is valid for all salaried professions and all employers, for an unlimited period
  • Work permit type B : This work permit valid for one employer for a period of one year, however this can be renewed at the end of every year – typically all the employers will process this category only, as this work permit is bonded with them.
  • Work permit type C: for any salaried profession with any employer for a limited duration. This work permit is issued to foreigners who are allowed to reside here for reasons other than employment.
If you are a potential employee for Type-A & C , you must apply for work permits A and C yourself, have to submit the application file to the provincial Dienst Arbeidsmigratie.

Type-B work permit can be applied and obtained only by the employer. Along with the below documents and applications, your employer will file the petition at the Belgium officials, through their attorneys.

In an ideal scenario, you’ll get your work permit approval in about 2-3 weeks.

Documents Required for Work Permit:
Below are the documents need to be submitted along with the work permit application.
1.       Resume: should be updated from the first project of your career till date.
2.       Project Description – Short Description of the project at Belgium
3.       Degree Certificates
4.       Copy of IT returns for the recent two years
5.       Copy of Bank statements for last 3 months
6.       Color scanned copy of all the pages of the passport
7.       Copy of Medical Reports – only from the hospitals, authorized by the Belgium Immigration
8.       Acknowledgment received from EPFO COC or Employer signed form received from EPFO COC after submission
9.       Photographs – 3 Nos , as per Belgium Visa Specifications.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Moving to Belgium (Part-1) : Work Permit & Visa Guide

When my employer started processing the Belgium work permit, I thought it’s going to be a cake walk ; thought European visas are not that complicated and troublesome as the US – L1 and H1B’s procedures.

It may be true if you travel alone, but definitely not that easy, if you take your family with you. I had to see a lot of surprises at almost every stage. Main issue was my company’s immigration team’s lack of knowledge on Belgium processing, as well due to the lack of  information available over internet.

I’ll try to write about the Work permit and Visa  pre-travel procedures /experiences here, so that it could help the needy ones (someone who’s terribly looking for some information/documents on Belgium visas :P).

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Union Budget 2015 - What's there for me ?

This Budget simply defends the statement "Rich getting richer, Poor getting poorer" J.

Corporate tax is reduced to 25% Whereas service tax is increased to 14%. Individual tax slab is not increased. Middle class people, like me will suffer huge burden on their shoulders..!!

However, the finance minister Arun Jaitley has not forgotten to throw out a few pieces to the salaried middle class tooL . Below is the summary of tax benefits we get. 
  • Deduction u/s 80C - Rs.150,000;
  • Deduction u/s 80CCD - Rs.50,000;
  • Deduction on account of interest on house property loan (Self-occupied property) - Rs.200,000;
  • Deduction u/s 80D on health insurance premium - Rs.25,000;
  • Exemption of transport allowance - Rs 19,200;
          Total = Rs.4,44,200
Yes, I agree. I too cry like the one in the ignorant crowd - where everyone is looking what is there for them in the budget, but don't want the government to give the slightest benefit to Industrialists who are going to create jobs for Indians thru' which a lot of families also benefit. 

But what to do, we have such a positive belif on our politicians and tt’s human nature to think only about the immediate benefit, right J

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

TRAVELOGUE-BELGIUM

Well!.. finally we are in Belgium now :)

We live in “Antwerp” - a city known for its diamonds, its best brewed beers and  ofcourse for the world’s most delicious chocolates!!!. It is also a place that averages a mere 1320 hours of sunlight a year, which translates into slightly over 4 months. It is about 40 minutes drive from the capital Brussels, and the second largest city in country next to Brussels.  

As always, am excited to know about the new place, new people, new culture, history…etc. I wish, I should write the whole story of my Belgium trip, starting from the work permit/visa procedures to the day-today life here. But, this time work is too hectic, not sure how well I could fulfill my wish ;P.

I already have a big list of interesting stories to write about, so I'll try to post often. Keep reading the stories at the label TRAVELOGUE-BELGIUM

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lakshmi Narasimhar Temples - Singrikudi, Poovarasankuppam and Parikkal

We had the privilege to visit all these three Lakshmi Narasimhar Temples - Singrikudi, Poovarasankuppam and Parikkal,  on a single day. These three temples lies on a straight line in the map. Singiri Narasimha and Parikkal Narasimha temples are in a straight line and facing the Poovarasan Kuppam Narasimha.
Sri Lakshmi Narashimha Swami Temple, Singrikudi/ Abhishekapakkam

We started our trip from the Singirikudi temple. This is temple is situated about 3kms west of Abhishekapakkam road junction , off Pondicherry--Cuddalore Highway. We reached the temple very early at 7.30am before even the temple opens, and had beautiful first darshan. Here, the God Narasimhar is found in sitting posture as Ugra Narasimhar by killing the Demon King Hiranyakashipu with his hands. This seems to be one of the very ancient temples. After a very peaceful darshan and prashadams, we started at 8.30am, direct to the Poovarasankuppam.

Sri Amirthavalli Nayaki Sametha Sri Lakshminarasimha Swami Temple – Poovarasankuppam
After a quick breakfast in between, we reached the Poovarasankuppam temple at around 10.30am. Poovarasankuppam about roughly 20-25kms North of Panruti and the same distance East of Villupuram.

It’s believed that the lord appreared here in the same form of Narashimha after the Hiranya Samharam at Ahobilam, hence, this temple is referred to as Dakshina Ahobilam. A unique feature at this temple is the posture of Lakshmi. One eye of the Goddess is turned towards the Lord and the other eye is welcoming the devotees. 

This is also another very ancient temple, There are culverts inside this temple dating back to the 3rd Century AD. Also, there are references to construction during Narasimha Pallava’s reign (7th Century AD). There are also inscriptions indicating Krishna Deva Raya’s visit to this temple (about 500 years ago).

After a very pleasant darshan, we quickly packed-up, as we need to reach Parikkal before 1pm since the temple will be closed by 1.30 and will open again around 4 pm.

Sri Lakshmi Narashima Swami Temple, Parikkal –Villupuram
We could reach Parikkal only at around 12.30 and there was already a heavy crowd over there. For a moment, we thought, whether we will have the fortune to see the darshan before noon or to stay till evening. We’re blessed, had the good darshan at Paraikkal too, well before 1.30 pm.

People said, it’s a great fortune to get the darshan of all these three temples on the same day. We’re very blessed and made it on the same day.

For more details, you may also refer the post Divine Blessings


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Who's going to Win the "ICC Cricket World Cup 2015"

ICC World Cup -2011 Final: India v Sri Lanka at Mumbai – What a day it was ! , just feels like yesterday. But we are all set for the next big world cup – 2015 already. Time really flies J.

So who’s going to win the World Cup 2015? Who are your favorites?

I am not saying “India” this time , team India looks to be at their worst form ever :P . We may reserve a Semi-final seat, crushing poor UAE , Zimbabwe and West Indies. But definitely, getting into the finals or winning the trophy looks a mere impossible task for the #Men in Blue :( .

I feel Australia seems to be the favorites of the World Cup -2015. As of today, they are the #1 ODI team in the world. If they put their best efforts together, the 4 time champions may lift the trophy once again on 29 March,  in the finals at Melbourne.

First reason, is their home advantage. I don’t think they have lost any ODI series at their home country in the recent time. They are such knowledgeable and confident on their home grounds. Ofcourse, their batting is too dangerous, their bowling is too good. Most of their players are at their peak form.  If they could handle their big threats South Africa, they are sure to lift the cup one more time!

Again, as people say "Cricket is a funny game", any thing can happen. Its’ a proven history that the favorites never win the trophy :P . Let’s see how the series goes?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

American Sniper (2015)

I’d been noticing a lot of talk over the “ American Sniper” for quite some time. Especially the terrific box-office stats just hard-pressed me to watch the movie.

The film is actually a biopic of Chris Kyle, a Texas Cowboy who became a Navy SEAL sniper, credited with 160 confirmed kills while on duty in Iraq. Soon after retired from the services in 2009, he wrote a book about his war & life experiences as “American Sniper”, and this movie is just the on-screen version of the book. Bradley Cooper has played Kyle and Sienna Miller as his wife – Taya, and directed by Eastwood.

Plot: A few years ago, I saw a movie where an American soldier posted in Iraq during the invasion, who goes through a severe psychological changeover. He’s so into the war and he’s so good at war techniques and  he finds it difficult to go back to his normal life back home in the peace. Social life makes him awkward. Shopping seems like a boring activity to him. And the only thing that makes him smile during the whole day is when he speaks to his mates at the warfront.

That movie was called as “The Hurt Locker”. I saw the same plot here too, but this movie is called as "American Sniper" :P , it’s a very similar film.

My Comments: There’s a lot of debates and controversies already over the film’s authenticity, making and message. I don’t want to write anything more and get into trouble :). Let me just share that how / what I felt about the movie.

American Sniper might have been an important movie, especially for the US Veterans. But, it’s not that exciting and engaging like other war films; many scenes were too lengthy and redundant- particularly the war fronts. (Ofcourse, that’s how the war scene would be :P , but still an interesting screenplay could have made a difference).

Bradley Cooper’s performance as Kyle and the struggle he portrays as a man forever altered by war, seeking to find his identity when it’s over – is simply remarkable. It’s definitely a great movie for Bradley Cooper at least !.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Don't refuse to "Get Up"

Life is similar to a Boxing bout.

Defeat is not declared when you fall down; It is declared when you refuse to ‘Get Up’!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ai (2015) - Tamil Movie

OK! my 1st movie review post of the year is “Ai” – the biggest project of Indian film Industry, so far. Ai a romantic- thriller flick, directed by Shankar, with Vickram and Amy Jackson as the lead actors.

Coming to the plot:  Vikram is an upcoming body builder who becomes Mr. Madras (Telgu, Hindu versions may have different titles like Mr. AP or Mr.Delhi.. or so) and he aspires to become Mr.India. Also he’s madly in love with a top model Amy Jackson. Due to certain circumstances, Amy approaches Vickram to act in an Ad film with her. She gives him the necessary makeover, and in the process of the shoot, they fall in love with each other.

But howcome an Indian romantic movie can go without a twist in the love ? here too a turn arises. Amy’s professional enemies got envy on Vickram and shot him with a deadly virus called “I”. The virus changes Vickram’s appearance upside down as well his life. Rest of the story is about how he takes revenge on all the villains who did this to him.

What do I feel: To start with the cast, I would say no one other than Vickram could have done these characters so well – An aspiring body builder, a super stylish model, a haunting hunchback and a playing a beast. He has outclassed in all the three get-ups. Vikram’s hard work can be seen in every frame. Amy is just awesome, looks so glamourous and tried her best to perform also. Santhanam and other supporting crew also look good. The making of choreograph ,action sequences and make-ups are excellent and truly international.

What goes bad was the un-gripping screenplay of Shankar :( . Shankar missed to create an interesting screen play , seems to be badly missing late writer – Sujatha. The movie itself is very lengthy, runs for 3hours+ and sadly it feels more than that. And A.R.Rahman’s music is also not that catchy. Whatever, still I would recommend to watch my friends for Vikram's effort.

Thursday, January 1, 2015