The year end post – 2016

It has been a year since I last published on my blog so it is only fitting that my first and last post of 2016 be the year end post. There was a lot to talk and write about this year – from good to bad to worst, mostly the latter. However, it’s better to sum up the last twelve months now with the benefit of hindsight. If you were to read things (and by things I mean mostly tweets and memes) it would seem as if people cannot wait for 2016 to be over. I feel like one of the most enduringly optimistic qualities we as humans possess is the belief that as clock strikes 12 on Dec 31st, somehow things will change and get better. A new dawn, a new day sort of thing. I think at 29 (I have no clue how I got to this age this fast), I am past this but it is still nonetheless a nice way of reflecting back on things, events and people that left an impression on you. So without further adieu here’s my 2016 year end post broken down by priorities categories

TV shows

There was a fair bit of Netflix and chill 😉 in our household this year. Both Sid and I are homebodies so we go through tv series quite quickly. However, our tastes tend to vary. I love me some trash reality television from time to time whereas he will watch anything with superheroes or sci-fi themes in it. I know it’s a cliche but it’s true! So, shows get vetoed off within the first ten minutes sometimes and there is a collective hurrah if we find a show we both want to watch. The list below comprises of things we have seen together and enjoyed watching. Because god forbid if I get Sid to watch an episode of Project Runway with me (now, that will truly be a new dawn!)

  1. Stranger Things – Probably my most favorite show of the year, Stranger Things was great because it was simple. Simple fun. What it had going for it was memorable characters and wonderful child actors who infused these characters with immense like ability and charm. I can’t wait for season 2.
    stranger-things
  2. The Night Of – This show had a strong start, a somewhat slow and stagnant middle and an end that was arguably dissatisfying. However, it was terrifically acted and some parts of it were gut wrenchingly emotional thus leaving a huge impression on us. It was hard not to care for Nasir Khan played exceptionally by Riz Ahmed so much so that after a point the show became more about the people rather than the facts about the case.
  3. The Night Manager – A beautifully shot and well acted show but in hindsight the story was a bit underwhelming. Had it not been for Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie, this show would have been mediocre.
  4. Black Mirror – thanks to Twitter recommendations we discovered this show and finished the first season in one sitting (it was just 3 episodes before you think of us as people with no life 😛 ). The show makes you uncomfortable but also makes you question things. I wouldn’t recommend this show if you want to lift your spirits. The morbidness of it all can be a bit depressing. Having said that, we went back and saw Season 2 and 3  and every episode has something unique to say and the show is so relevant for the times we live in. Insightful, compelling and so much more than just a television show. Special mention to the episodes ‘Nosedive’ and ‘San Junipero’ from this season.
  5. The Americans – why doesn’t this show get more attention and love is beyond me. Season after season they knock it out of the park.
  6. Silicon Valley – Sometimes I feel the characters and situations come off as too far fetched (and I hope they are) but it is still a consistently engaging show. Also, Gilfoyle and Jared Dunn are fantastic to watch.
    silicon-valley
  7. Catastrophe – I saw the first season of this show on a flight, loved it and couldn’t wait to see the second season. Brilliantly written and acted, I just wish there were more episodes. It’s so good.
  8. Survivor – always interesting to watch and one of those rare reality shows that offers great insight into people. Sid and I have seen all the 33 seasons and the show’s catchphrases have found their way into our vernacular.
  9. Modern Family – a perennial favorite. I feel like I miss out on some jokes in the first viewing and inevitably have to watch it the second time. The writing is that good. Also, Phil Dunphy should be president of the world.
    phil-dunphy
  10. Descendants of the Sun – On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being The OC and 10 being Breaking Bad, DOTS would probably be a 2 or 3. It lies in the seemingly frivolous and superficial rom-com space but when shows in this space are done right they are very entertaining. It was a colleague who pointed me to this show and after resisting the urge to watch a K-drama I finally gave in. If you were in Singapore it would have been hard to miss how popular this show was. The humor, acting, music, locations were all top notch.

A quick shout out to TVF Tripling and telugu web series Mudapappu Avakaya for being a breath of fresh air when it comes to Indian shows. I had my parents staying with us for a month during which time we saw endured hindi serials with them. They sure don’t lack in drama. Or should I call it sci-fi given the number of reincarnations, the super-advanced aging process, plastic surgeries and extra terrestrial species (I refuse to consider some of the people on these shows normal humans) that exist on these programs.

Movies

  1. Zootopia – I was genuinely surprised by how good this movie was. All the subliminal and obvious messages in this movie are great not only for kids but also for adults. Plus brownie points for the “Godfather” references
  2. Deadpool – It’s very rare to see movies where the lead character and the actor that plays that role are so in sync that it becomes hard to imagine anybody else in that position. Ryan Reynolds IS Deadpool. I liked that they did not dilute the edginess of the movie to appeal to a broader audience. The shock factor was strong with this one.
  3. 10 Cloverfield Lane – An interesting psychological thriller that had me engaged throughout its duration. There aren’t enough good thriller movies out there so this one makes the list.
  4. La La Land – All the critical acclaim notwithstanding, I thought Whiplash was a better movie. Now that that’s out of the way we can focus on La La Land. When I walked out of the theatre I didn’t really feel much – perhaps I was expecting too much considering both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are my absolute favorites. Au contraire, Sid, the president of the ‘I hate musicals’ association, thought the movie was quite good. The performances and the musical numbers were great but somehow it did not have that much of an emotional impact on me in totality, despite the beautiful ending. It was only the next day that the movie or rather specific scenes and moments from the movie hit me. I think I would re-watch this movie just for those few scenes.
  5. Finding Dory – Yes, it got ridiculous towards the end but I loved the characters so much that I am willing to give that a pass. Baby Dory has to be one of the cutest things I have ever seen.
  6. The Lobster – Probably one of the most innovative movies I have seen in a while. Sid and I saw this movie together on a flight and were thoroughly amused by it. Buoyed by fantastic performances from its leads, this movie should definitely be on your radar. It’s weird but good weird.
  7. Nocturnal Animals – Beautifully shot – can’t expect less from Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals drew me in right from the get go because the of the atmosphere it created and Jake Gyllenhall (gosh he is handsome). And that ending was haunting. Sid hated the movie – he slept through the middle portion of it and could not wait for the movie to end.

*Haven’t seen Arrival, Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight, Jackie yet

  1. Kapoor and Sons – Loved everything about the movie. A movie that has terrific repeat value which is very rare these days.
  2. Dangal – I loved the first half of the movie – it seemed authentic and the child actors were brilliant. The second half, while good, was overlong and melodramatic. The struggle of an athlete would have been compelling in itself without the need for a caricature of a coach. But these are minor gripes in an otherwise great movie. Aamir was brilliant in the movie and it was nice to see one of our usually ‘ageless’ superstars act in a vanity free role.
  3. Pink – Another fantastic movie from start to finish. While the courtroom drama was compelling, it was the journey of the women – strong, independent yet vulnerable – that was interesting to watch.
  4. Udta Punjab – What an actress Alia Bhatt is turning out to be. Her scenes in the movie were gut wrenchingly brutal and emotional. Whilst everyone else performed exceptionally well, for me this movie was all about Alia Bhatt.
  5. Neerja – It got too dramatic towards the end but for the most part Neerja was a well acted movie that did justice to its namesake. I tear up very easily anyways so Neerja was tough on me, especially the scenes with Shabana Azmi. Again, not a movie you might like if you appreciate subtlety.
  6. Kahaani 2 – I admire Vidya Balan’s commitment to her character – she is an actress in a league of her own. However, comparisons to the first movie are inevitable. This one obviously doesn’t soar as high as its predecessor but Kahaani 2 was less a thriller and more the story of a child abuse survivor and it’s admirable that these stories are being made and accepted.
  7. Fan – If you look at Fan just at the surface level, it is rather mediocre. But, it’s the non obvious nods to stardom, success and ego that elevate this movie. Especially considering it is Shah Rukh Khan who plays the role. I found the character of the movie star more fascinating than the fan. The makers could probably have done without the over-the-top action sequences in the latter half but even with all its imperfections, Fan is a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.

*Haven’t seen Parched, Phobia, Raman Raghav 2.0, Aligarh. Plus, I may be in the minority but I found Airlift to be very cringeworthy. Dear Zindagi was frustrating to watch and I couldn’t wait for ADHM to finish despite the performances. I liked parts of Sultan and MS Dhoni.

Some food for thought

  1. Although I wasn’t in India, thanks to news and my family (or rather their Whatsapp joke forwards), I got a sense of what the demonetization saga meant. I think the idea to reduce corruption, increase transparency are great at the intent level but in a country as huge and diverse as India, the devil is in the details. Hopefully all this works out for the good. Even if it doesn’t, at least we got some more Rahul Gandhi jokes!
    You know what would be good though – depopulation. Someone please talk about this because the root cause for most of our country’s problems is that there are just too many of us.
  2. Every time there is a global sporting event it serves as a reminder that we as a country are underperforming. This year’s Rio Olympics was no different. It was heartwarming to see fantastic performances from some of the athletes, especially Dipa Karmakar, PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik. However, if we want things to change maybe we should channelize our collective frustration more often rather than every four years. Also, maybe focus more on building facilities and infrastructure rather than falling over one another to gift flats and BMWs to athletes.
  3. This was also the year of Brexit, US presidential elections and anti-immigrant rhetoric all across the world. On one side we seem to be moving to a more global, connected world and yet some minds are getting narrower. It’s also funny how everyone wants to close the door behind them. These are complex issues with no easy solutions which makes it that much more important for us to rely on basic human decency in times of doubt.

Some holiday cheer

  1. Learning how to swim
    At the beginning of this year I decided I wanted to learn how to swim; partly because I wanted to get over my fear of water and partly because it is one of those skills that everybody should learn even if they don’t use it regularly. It took me 2 weeks to just learn how to float in shallow water but once I got over that initial hurdle it got easier. I wish I had learnt how to swim when I was younger because one has lesser fears then but nevertheless I am very happy to say I can swim now! I am still awkward to watch in water and to a bystander might even look as if I am sinking rather than swimming but technically I can swim.On a side note, a behind the scenes documentary of how Sid taught me to swim would be a fantastic comedy+drama.
  2. Traveling and road trips
    2016 was the year of road trips. We drove all around New Zealand’s South Island which was by far our most favorite trip ever! We also did the famed Pacific Coast Highway drive in USA which was stunning. We love listening to music or podcasts and just talking about life as we drive around so here’s hoping 2017 brings many more road trip opportunities. Plus, I have become an expert in gps navigation, music management and snacks handling since Sid is the one who does the driving. I am happy that we invest our time and resources into travel because we like to experience different cultures, people and places. I also know we are fortunate to be able to do this. Travel because you want to. Not because you have to.
    [You can read more about our travels here and here]
  3. Reading more books
    2016 was a good year for my reading. I finished a book a month on average which is a huge improvement from previous years. The running theme seemed to be edgy thrillers (one of my favorite genres) because I find myself more engaged  with these but I am hoping to read more diverse books next year. I really want to read books around India’s culture and history that aren’t too highbrow. Any recommendations?

Favorite quote/life mantra of the year

quote

What are your new year plans? We will actually be in a new country this new year. It’s a big (apple) move and any anticipation has been walloped by the amount of packing I have done in the last few weeks. My dreams these days comprise of bubble wrap, tape and cardboard boxes. But, I am low key excited and hoping for more interesting adventures. Having said that, it is bittersweet to say goodbye to a place that has given us such fond memories. Singapore will always have a special place in our heart.

So as another year comes to a close, here’s wishing we are all happier,healthier and wiser in the next one. Have loads of fun and Happy new year everyone!!

new-year

PS: I am a south Indian who has never seen a ‘real’ winter. So send in your best wishes as I move from the tropical sunshine of Singapore to freezing temperatures. I reckon I will bundled up in fourteen layers with a red nose. It’s going to be a pretty sight!

Posted in Year End Posts | 2 Comments

My favourite movies and songs of 2015 – Year end post Part 2

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To read the first part of my year end post series, go here.

Favourite Movies

English

Inside Out – There was so much intelligence in the story and so much heart in the execution that it would be an understatement to say I loved this movie. The best animated English movie of the year for me. Also, who else was obsessed with the “Lava” short that aired before the movie? The Lava song has been playing in our house for a while now and occasionally I catch Sid humming along – that is always a good sign!

Ex-Machina –  I was very sceptical before we saw the movie primarily because the whole “robots + AI = End of Humans” plot has been rehashed so many times that finding novelty in these movies is not easy. However, not only did Ex-Machina break new ground, it also featured possibly my most favourite dance of the year (Ok, tied jointly with Drake’s Hotline Bling). Alicia Vikander was brilliant in her portrayal and the movie left me feeling slightly scary about the amount of technology we have surrounded ourselves with.

Jurassic World – An actress who could rival Bolt whilst running in heels , dinosaurs you can root for and Chris Pratt. Enough said!

Spy – I just realized that there are very few good comedies I have seen over the past few years. And I can watch anything from Woody Allen to Kevin Hart. So, imagine my joy when I saw Spy. I laughed so hard during some scenes that Sid had to literally hold me from falling off the seat. Melissa McCarthy’s Susan Cooper was funny yet endearing and her chemistry, especially with Rose Byrne produced some of the most laugh out loud moments of the movie.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – I have developed a bit of a soft spot for Tom Cruise movies recently. Partly, thanks to my action movie loving husband and partly because his movies are actually quite good even if you discount the daredevilry and stunts.

(Movies that I also liked but not as much as some others did)

Bridge of Spies – Now, I need to throw it out there that I love Tom Hanks as much as everybody else – he is niceness personified, but excuse me for leaving the theatre a bit disappointed after watching the Cold War drama Bridge of Spies. This was a Spielberg movie and had potential to be so much more. Yet, it became a really good (but not great) spy drama. I wanted a bit more depth and a little less simplification.

The Martian – All the reviews I had read were praising this movie to the nines and it deserves most of that praise. However, I love science and a bit more of that would have elevated the movie for me. I understand that Interstellar suffered some backlash for having “too much physics” but this one had too little for me. I later read online that the movie stayed quite true to the book and hence some of the audience reactions were unfair, so I take some of my criticism back. Matt Damon was awesome though!

Black Mass – The best Johnny Depp movie I have seen in a very very very long time. Engaging and very Scorcese-like in some parts, I found myself invested in all the characters and thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – I really like all the actors in the cast – especially Mark Ruffalo and RDJ. The movie was a bit meh but the acting, as always, elevated the movie.

Telugu

Baahubali  – I have long maintained that S.S. Rajamouli is too talented for his movies to not have a wider audience. So I was very excited, yet nervous when Baahubali became this beast of a movie with nationwide release. I am glad that it was received so well because we need more movies with historical context that delve into our culture’s rich legacy. I am also glad I saw the movie in Telugu because it felt more authentic. I later saw the movie in Hindi when it was aired on TV and it did not feel the same. The dialogues were too contrived for my liking, so if you have the patience I would recommend watching it in Telugu (with subtitles).

Hindi

Talvar – My favourite Hindi movie of the year. A tough story to tell, considering how recent it is in everyone’s memory. Props to the director for being unapologetic in taking the parents’ side because otherwise the movie would have no moral ground to centre itself on and would have played out more like a fact narrating session. Bollywood, please give Irrfan Khan more opportunities – he can single-handedly make a scene hundred times better.

Piku – When I first saw the movie, I loved it. Except for Amitabh Bachchan’s portrayal of a hypochondriac Bengali father. His accent felt off to me and his acting a bit forced at times. But, that was a minor gripe. On re watching the movie a couple of more times his performance did not grate on me so much. Deepika was the star of the movie with a brilliant performance to add to her already overflowing kitty of achievements. Her chemistry with Irrfan was another pleasant surprise.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan – I have a tough time with Salman Khan – both the actor and the person. For the most part, I do not enjoy his movies or acting but Bajrangi Bhaijaan was an exception. I liked the movie more for the novelty of its story, the wonderful child-actor Harshali and its broader message of niceness and kindness. I cringed at the climax but given the overall enjoyability of the film, I am going to let that pass. On a side note, why is Kareena not doing more films with better parts? She is way too talented to relegate herself to parts that do not do justice to her acting prowess.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha – While I could dwell on how refreshing it was to see a movie that celebrated its female protagonist’s weight in a realistic way, that would be diminishing the other important themes running parallel in this gem of a movie. From depicting a son’s struggle to stand up to his overbearing father to sportingly mocking the entire arranged marriage process, Dum Laga Ke Haisha stayed true to its roots – even when it broke into song by channelling the 90’s.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns – Imperfect yet entertaining, the second instalment of  TMR introduced us to one of the most charming and lovable female characters in a while – Datto. I don’t think the movie would have been as good without her. Be prepared to be frustrated with unanswered questions as to the character’s actions and choices throughout the movie, but it is a good sign because it shows you are invested in the characters. Kangana Ranaut is unbelievably good.

Note: Lots of highly buzzed about movies such as  Joy, Concussion, Room, Spotlight, The Danish Girl release in January in Singapore so this list is due for some editing in the near future. I have also not seen Court which is India’s official entry to the Oscars and Masaan. 

Favourite Songs

This is going to be a very long list. Pardon me for not being decisive enough to narrow this down but I listen to music quite a bit – usually the more popular and mainstream music anyway, so I needed to give myself a free reign. The list is in no particular order.

  • Hotline Bling – Drake

  • Adele (no explanation needed)
  • Let It Go and Hold Back The River – James Bay ( We i.e. Sid and I accidentally stumbled upon this artist and he quickly became a favourite)

  • Want To Want Me  – Jason Derulo
  • Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd
  • Sugar – Maroon 5 (My love for Adam Levine just grows)
  • Stitches – Shawn Mendes
  • Shut Up And Dance – Walk The Moon (I can’t help but dance while listening to this song)

  • Like I’m Gonna Lose You – Meghan Trainor ft. John Legend
  • Runnin’ – Naughty Boy ft. Beyonce (I am surprised this song and video did not become more popular)

  • Worth It – Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink
  • Biscuits and Dime Store Cowgirl- Kacey Musgraves (I had written in my Year End Post -2013, how much I liked Kacey Musgraves’ music.)
  • Soundtrack of Piku
  • Soundtrack of Tamasha (I especially loved the song Wat Wat Wat. The movie was a royal mess though)
  • Chains and Jealous- Nick Jonas
  • Photograph – Ed Sheeran
  • On My Mind and Love Me Like You Do – Ellie Goulding
  • Style and Wildest Dreams – Taylor Swift
  • Lean On – Major Lazer and DJ Snake

In summation, I thought 2015 was a meh year for movies while the music was more entertaining. Let me know if there are any good movies or songs I missed out on watching.

Hope you are all getting on with your year end party planning and secret santa gift exchanges. I am off now to start writing about what made the headlines in 2015 and my three cents on it. Should be interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Life, Movies, Year End Posts | 3 Comments

Things I loved in 2015 – Year end post Part 1

Is it too early for this kind of a post? 2015 has been such an interesting year that the moment December started, my blogging itch was in full force. I usually do one year end post but I wanted to break it down in parts this time around to cover more ground. So, this post is going to be a list of random things I loved (love is a strong word, but I am going to use it liberally in this post) in 2015.

Youtube

I can’t remember the last time I flipped through my TV to watch a show. If I am bored or am in the mood to watch something, I just go on Youtube. From music videos to chat show interviews to make-up tutorials to funny gags – the quality of content can be consistently better depending on what you choose to see. Plus, it is entertainment on demand – you can watch it anywhere, any time as long as you have Wi-Fi.  Here are some of my favourite YouTube channels

  • Yoga with Adrienne – for single handedly getting me to use that yoga mat which was lying in the store room. I started off with her 30 days of yoga challenge and really enjoyed it.
  • || Superwoman || – Seriously, who doesn’t love Lilly? She is all kinds of cool and awesome.
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – For some straight up, ballsy humour that tackles issues I am ashamed to admit I sometimes know very little of.
  • The Ellen Show – I have laughed and cried hysterically watching Ellen’s show. It is tough to find genuine kindness in today’s day and age so a little bit of Ellen goes a long way. Plus, those adorable kids who come on her show are goals!
  • Kaushal Beauty – I often stumble around youtube trying to find Indian beauty gurus so imagine my delight when I found this channel. Although Kaushal is a British-Indian, she does plenty of Indian wedding, festival make up tutorials to have me hooked.

  • Zoella – Great beauty, lifestyle channel all around. And Zoella is the cutest!
  • KathleenLights – Insightful and sometimes hilarious – Kathleen is one of my favorite youtube stars. Check our her channel for drugstore makeup options.

 

Blogs/Websites

I can read blogs all day long if I had to. Is there a job somewhere that would pay me to just read and comment on blogs? Trust me, I would be great at it. This year I ventured out of my comfort zone of reading travel or personal blogs to more community-oriented websites. Here are some of my favorite finds

  • xoVain and xoJane – These sister-sites are bloody brilliant. xoVain is centred more around beauty and makeup whereas xoJane covers a wide spectrum of issues. I have found so many interesting articles and viewpoints on these sites that I am worried I might run out of reading all their stuff quicker than they can post new ones.
  • ViviannaDoesMakeup – While Vivianna also has a fairly popular YouTube channel, I find myself reaching out for her blog more. She writes effortlessly and beautifully about everything , even candles and perfumes which are hard to put across in words.
  • Caroline Hirons – I have spoken extensively about how this blog changed my skincare game in an earlier post but I can’t stress enough how much I owe my vastly improved skin to simply following Ms. Hirons’ rules. Every girl/woman should bookmark this site.
  • The Blogess – Straight up, one of the funniest writing on the internet.
  • Crusoe – The Celebrity Dachsund – Travel and dogs, two of my favourite things in one place.

 

Podcasts

So, I am quite late to the podcast party (In my defence, I wasn’t really invited), but thanks to a post from Pioneer Woman, I decided to take the plunge with ‘Serial’. Little did I realize that it would consume an entire weekend and force me to make a pitch to my husband to listen to it too. In fact, I re-listened to some episodes with him just to see how he would react to some of the things.

Serial got me researching on what else existed in the podcast universe and after a bit of trial and error I found some really good ones

  • Serial – (mentioning again for the record) Do go and give it a listen. It is sad and disheartening at times, but like everyone else the facts of the case kept me thinking for a long time. I can’t wait for Season 2.
  • Call your Girlfriend – Two long-distance besties talking about everything under the sun is the perfect idea for a podcast. It reminds me so much of the conversations I have with my sister (who is also my best friend and my unofficial first-born – she will always be a kid to me) that starts on one topic and before we know it we have covered everything from tennis to fashion to Bollywood gossip. Thank you Whatsapp voice call 🙂
  • This American Life – I have a lot of catching up to do because this show has so many episodes but I started off with this list and thoroughly enjoyed learning about everyday American things.
  • The Mystery Show – Slightly offbeat mysteries are uncovered in each episode. It isn’t a standard ‘here’s a crime, here are the facts, let’s investigate’ sort of a show but more about getting to understand the story behind why some things mystify us and capture our imagination unlike other things.
  • Criminal – I recently started listening to it and so far I am liking it. It doesn’t have the depth of Serial but if you are into this genre, this is worth giving a listen.

I would love to get some more suggestions – I commute for an hour every day and I am tired of listening to my playlist, so hit me up with recommendations in the comments below.

 

Cooking/Baking

I am an above-average cook, I have always been. But, over the past one year cooking has become therapeutic to me. I feel stress-free when I get into my cooking, especially after ‘one of those’ days at work. The one site that has changed my life is Veg Recipes of India. It is the next best thing to calling your mum for quick recipe breakdown! I have also been loving the BBC Good Food website for non-Indian food inspiration – their baking section in particular is amazing.

A new addition to our kitchen has been the Nutribullet. I had read so much about it that when we visited the electronic store, I bought it on a whim. This bad boy has literally changed our life. We eat so many more fruits and vegetables thanks to the blending magic of Nutribullet. It preserves nutrition and fibre from your fruits/veggies much much better than a mixer grinder or regular blender. My mother loved it so much when she visited us for a week, that she bought one herself too.

I am thinking of doing a post exclusively around my adventures in the kitchen but am resisting it since I seem to be veering into some serious domestic life territory here, but I just might!

Hikes and walks

It is easy to quickly run out of ‘traditional’ things to do in Singapore given the size of the place but it is equally amazing to find new things to do in the Lion City as long as you keep an open mind and/or  Google a hundred variations of ‘cool stuff to do in Singapore’. One of the best parts about living in Singapore is that if you like the outdoors you will never get bored because there are beautiful parks near every neighbourhood. They are full of greenery and water bodies and well-marked walking trails. Whenever we feel like we are being too lazy, we just explore a new walking trail or hike and it instantly lifts up our mood. We do it at our own pace and ensure our mobile phones are tucked away so that we I am not instagramming  the hell out of every flower. (on a side note, how is instagramming not a word yet? )

Writing

It might not seem like I have been writing a lot given the status of my published posts but I have an overflowing drafts folder that I need to clean up. Between working, laziness, distractions, reality television etc.,  I have not finished a lot of pieces. Some of them might not even be relevant any more but I need to attend to it. On the bright side though, I have written more consistently on my travel blog – The Round Trip Ticket, which you should check out, if you haven’t. If you prefer pictures to text, then you can follow our travel adventures on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/theroundtripticket/

I have also written a lot of mails this year. A lot! That counts too, you know.

So here are some of the new things I (re)discovered and enjoyed in 2015. Would love to hear what you were enjoying this year in the comments below. Happy December!

PS: I have started a draft of my favourite movies/tv shows/music of 2015 and am realizing there weren’t a lot of good movies this year. Am I missing something?

PPS: It is super hot in Singapore. In December. This should not surprise me but with Christmas trees and lights and snowflakes – yes snowflakes, being put up everywhere, the irony is not lost on me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Life, Year End Posts | 1 Comment

What I’d tell my younger college going self

This post is going to be a bit random. One of those kind that I used to write a lot back in college. Come to think of it, the inspiration for this piece comes from my younger college self who wrote about everything from relationships to animals to doing something for the society at large. As I browse through my blog I realize how much I have changed as a person. Am I more mature and well-aware and knowledgeable and patient – a resounding yes! But I am also not as forthcoming, open and intuitive in my writing. My earlier posts were not great pieces by any standard. But, even today when I read them I can’t help but smile. There was an innocence and openness about those posts that I seem to have lost touch with. My words are more measured now and a lot more thought goes into what I say and how I say it. I guess this is what growing up means. But, this trip down memory lane was fun in a strange way. It brought back memories, albeit faded ones, about how I looked at things, people and issues 8-9-10 years ago. I am not one for regrets, but I am also not one who would not want to change some things if given an opportunity. So now that I have set the context, here are some things I wish I could tell the younger, more naive Namrata:

1. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed to be yourself: When I first joined college, I was not quite sure of how to be. Reserved or boisterous, dress up or dress down, talk to people freely or take my time. No matter what option I chose, I was never certain. I guess this is a typical 17 year old problem but I wish someone had told me to not worry so much about how I came across. After all, everyone else around you is of the same age and going through the same things.

Channel your inner Zooey Deschanel - if that's who you are.

Channel your inner Zooey Deschanel – if that’s who you are.

2. There is huge world outside of college, don’t forget that: It is very easy to get caught up in college life. Apart from academics, you have college activities, hostel life, new friendships, boys to crush on etc. Living in a college is like living in a bubble. What people say within campus starts becoming more important than it should be and one starts to second judge one’s own instincts. It is thus essential to step out once in a while. Talking to parents or school friends can be a great way to disconnect from college life. Joining a class outside campus or volunteering somewhere can help you make friends who do not go to the same college and are hence insulated from judging you based on any gossip or rumour. Expand your circle and network and I don’t mean on Facebook!

3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; don’t be afraid to apologize: In college, you say tons of stuff – sometimes under peer pressure, sometimes to hide your own insecurities, sometimes for fun – but if it comes to your attention that you hurt someone, say sorry. Making mistakes is part of being human and there is no shame in it. If you feel in your gut that what you did or said was wrong, apologize. Meet the person whom you might have intentionally or otherwise hurt and say sorry. Or, drop an e-mail or text. But do mend fences and say your peace. How the other person chooses to respond is beyond your control but doing the right thing can never be wrong. I distinctly remember doing this in my final year of college and feeling good about it. I wish I had done it sooner though.

Take a note from Ms. Tina Fey's book

Take a note from Ms. Tina Fey’s book

4. Don’t be too judgemental College is for many people their first foray into the real world outside the sheltered confines of their home. You will meet people from different backgrounds and cultures. This is the best part about college. So, try to get out of your comfort zone and talk to everyone. If you like someone, become friends irrespective of what anybody else thinks. Try to give time to people before forming an opinion about them. Remember how you would feel if someone were to judge you based on a sporadic event. Also, let go of your biases. Especially those that are insensitive.

Don't be ignorant or judgemental.

Don’t be ignorant or judgemental.

5. Make the best of every situation: Despite your best efforts, there will be hiccups in your college journey. You might not do well in a test or get into a fight or fall prey to some nasty rumour. While these incidents will effect you and cause you to drown your sorrows by watching more tv shows than you usually would, learn to look at them a bit more positively. People tend to have short memories so face every challenge head on and don’t bother too much about what others say or think. Your true friends will stick by you no matter what. And if they don’t, you can always burn them with your awesomeness!

There's nothing that some good ol' positive attitude can't solve

There’s nothing that some good ol’ positive attitude can’t solve

6. Don’t take matters of the heart to your heart, so much so that they fill you with negativity. College is very rarely the right place or time to take decisions about love, life and marriage. Sure, there will be exceptions but not every friendship is meant to turn into something more. So, don’t get heartbroken if a relation doesn’t work out or lose sleep if you reject someone’s feelings. Be considerate and honest about other’s feelings but not at the expense of your own.

Don't be a child!

Don’t be a child!

7. Have more fun: Man, I wish I had had more fun in college. I wish I had let loose and not be reserved. I am not saying being reserved by nature is a bad thing, some people do tend to take more time to come out of their shell. But don’t let that become a recurring excuse. In my case I sometimes held back deliberately, so looking back now I feel an extra dose of recklessness on my college resume wouldn’t have been such a bad thing.

Shake it off - shake it off

Have tons of fun and definitely wear sunglasses when dancing in the rain

But more than any of the above mentioned points, the one thing I would love to drill into the mind of my younger self would be to cherish every memory. College is a unique experience – unique for everyone who joins with you and grows with you. Take in all those moments – good, bad, sometimes ugly, sometimes exhilarating and bundle them all into a small space in your brain and heart. You might not always need them but knowing that they exist is always a comforting thought. And fodder for posts on your blog!

*All gifs used in this post are courtesy of Giphy.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Getting my ‘fit’ back

As someone who enjoys the idea of exercise and being fit, in principle at least, it shocks me that my absolute lack of motivation when it comes to doing active things has carried on for as long as it has. Let me also state that I am not obese (at-least not now as I type away on my laptop with a packet of Kettle potato chips in one hand) but I am not fit either. To put numbers to this observation, I cannot run for more than 5 mins without gasping for breath and calling out for help for resuscitation – that last part is an exaggeration. I hate the idea of sweating. Why couldn’t us humans be more like elephants – just needing a roll in the mud or a swim in the water to cool off! Plus, I run funny.

I feel you Phoebe!

I feel you Phoebe!

So, when I go on a run with my husband, he does the running for both of us. I try and run whenever I feel like taking a break from slow walking and people gazing. I realized that this was not going to work out for me and decided to try something else. Yoga was the obvious choice. By virtue of being an Indian, I thought I would naturally be good at yoga. No prizes for guessing I sucked at it. My yoga teacher had to contain a smile whenever I tried standing still on one foot. I had to contain my smile whenever those funny breathing exercises came up. But, overall Yoga was good. It is one of those things that will not give you instant results but if you persist with it your overall health can improve. Given my propensity or lack of it for patience, I concluded that while Yoga will always be something I can go back to or do intermittently at home, I needed something more fun. My prayers were answered when I discovered Zumba.

Now, for people who enjoy dancing, Zumba is tons of fun. It gives you an overall workout but you feel like you are in a dance rehearsal learning new steps with cool music in the background. I loved it and even if you cannot find a class you can always search on youtube and dance along in your living room. The only downside – it doesn’t necessarily target any specific body area or problem. I really thought that I had found the solution to my fitness woes with Zumba but I was wrong. Travelling to and from my class (is a bit of a pain in the Singaporean heat) along with scheduling issues resulted in a painful breakup with Zumba. I thought I would heed my own advice and train using online videos but that is yet to translate into meaningful action.

As you can see I make way too many excuses. Unfortunately, none of that has prevented me from hoarding work out clothes in department stores and buying stuff that I probably don’t need to. Every time I make such a purchase I have a rational argument with myself – “You need to look good when you exercise”. But on the upside, I burn some carbs walking in and out of the changing rooms!

All this mockery came to a much needed halt a few weeks back when I visited the doctor for a check-up and came to the realization that I needed to be more healthy. Nothing serious but there are so many factors such as genes, hereditary tendencies and lifestyle choices that can have an adverse affect on your health in the long run. I have started off doing some simple things which I am listing below:

1. Tracking my food habits using MyFitnessPal app. Trust me, once you get used to logging in your daily food intake, it will open up a whole new world of data for you to understand what you are putting into your body. This app is great because it has a huge repository of food which is a massive USP because it is hard to find Indian food in most of the other apps. I already find myself eating healthier food.

2. Taking the stairs whenever I can. Singapore is blessed with escalators and elevators at every nook and corner. So much so that, people do not mind queueing up near escalators for minutes instead of taking a flight of stairs. This activity may not be an exercise in itself but I like doing it because it makes me feel fitter.

3. Cooking at home more often. You do not realize how much better it is to eat at home until you actually stop eating out. It is inevitable to have one meal at work (lunch in most cases) and yes you can eat salads and soups but you will have those one or two off days when the team goes out for something more fancy. Coming back home and cooking dinner is not always possible but I have made a conscious attempt to get up early or prep over the weekend so that we minimize the no. of times we eat out. This has had the biggest impact on my heath in a relatively shorter span of time.

4. Playing badminton. I realized that when I am doing something competitive, I tend to push myself harder. This is exactly what I was not getting with running, zumba and yoga. Thank God for badminton because apart from being a fun sport to play (which sport isn’t? Err, Golf) I do not get bored or feel tired while doing this activity. I play every week with my husband and it is such a great couples activity to do as well.

5. Reconnecting with my old clothes. After I put on a bit of weight I realized there were some clothes that I could not wear. Not until I lost that weight. Slowly those favourite shirts moved to the back of my closet and newer ones replaced them. Every now and then I keep shuttling those clothes to the front to try and see how far I have come along in my quest to lose weight. There is no greater joy than being able to fit into an old pair of jeans. It is also one of the best motivations to keep you on track!

6. Trekking/Hiking: I hate going to the gym. If you are like me and prefer walking out in the nature over that on electronic machine then go on treks and/or hikes on weekends. You can go with your partner or with friends. It s not only a great way to exercise but also allows you to explore new places and newer views. Bonus points if you love photography.

Of course, eating healthy and regular exercise are your two best friends when losing weight but if you are unable to stick to your diet plans or are not feeling motivated to exercise daily, keep doing smaller things on a daily basis to stay on track. All of these are small steps but they are in the right direction and have slowly but surely helped me get back on the track to being fit.

I am in the early stages of my fitness goals but I will report back once I have accomplished something more concrete. After all I love my skinny jeans from 2008 way too much to watch it gather dust sitting at the back of my closet!

Posted in Life, Sports | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The year end post – 2014

I hear you Michelle :)

I hear you Michelle 🙂

Wait, what? Year end post? Is it just me or did time just fly this year? For all practical purposes 2014 was supposed to be my year, at least in my head. Done with MBA (and studies, I swear), done with long distance, done with uncertainty. But guess what, life never pans out the way you expect it to. Life has a twisted sense of humor about it. So, here I am sitting in my house, typing away on my laptop, not knowing what 2015 has in store but still thankful for all the good things to have happened to me over the past twelve months. One of the biggest lessons I have learnt this year is to learn to be happy in one’s own space. It is easy to compare and contrast your life with someone else’s but Facebook check-ins and LinkedIn job updates do not tell the whole story. So, doing one’s own thing has never been more important than in today’s times. I do have moments of negativity creep in, but I’m only human. (Gosh, I need to get Christina Perri off my track list). But, enough of life lessons. Let’s move on to the more interesting part – my year end lists. If you have read my blog previously you must know how seriously I take these year end posts, I have been writing them for 6 years now which makes it a nice little tradition and I am a sucker for traditions [Find the previous posts here: 20132012 2011 2010 2009]. So without further delay, here it goes

Favorite music

While I love that ballads from John Legend and Sam Smith were lapped up by everyone, the success of songs like Anaconda by Nicki Minaj shakes my faith in the music universe. But, that is what is great about music – there is something for everyone. Here’s a roundup of music I loved this year:

1. All of Me – John Legend

2. Stay With Me and I’m Not The Only One by Sam Smith – Safe to say I am mildly obsessed with his voice. Plus, he sounds even better live. Now, how many current artists can we say that about? Listen to his magical duet with Mary J Blige:

3. Animals and Maps – Maroon 5 (My favorite band right now)

4. Sing, Thinking out Loud and Don’t – Ed Sheeran (His voice is incredible and undeniably unique)

5. Flawless, Partition, Drunk in Love, Pretty Hurts and Blow by Beyonce. I just love Beyonce. Period.

6. Chandelier – Sia

7. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars (Watch the video and I betcha you will start dancing) Probably my favorite song of the year as well!

8. Guts over Fear – Eminem ft. Sia (Two of my favorite songwriters in the same song! Plus Eminem is the only rap artist whose songs I listen to religiously)

9. Blank Space – Taylor Swift

10. Rude – Magic (Reggae in the house! Sid loves this song too, so it had to feature on my list)

11. Budapest – George Ezra ( In my humble opinion, this guy could be really great in the future)

12. Hideaway – Kiesza

13. Dark Horse – Katy Perry ft. Juicy J

14. Who you love – John Mayer ft. Katy Perry (I am a sucker for a good love song)

15. Black Widow – Iggy Azaela ft. Rita Ora (Not a big fan of either of the singers but the Kill Bill inspired music video and the song itself are pretty catchy)

16. Love Runs Out – One Republic (I love the band and Ryan Tedder in particular)

Top movies of 2014

Gone Girl – I haven’t read the book so my interest around seeing the movie was based solely on the trailer, which I loved. I saw the movie with Sid on the first day and we were both blown away by it. David Fincher is the master of suspense but he captures the psychological complexities of his characters in this movie quite brilliantly as well. If Rosamund Pike does not clinch an Oscar nod for this role I would be very surprised.

Interstellar: I have to admit that I am an unabashed Christopher Nolan fan. He combines mainstream commercial elements with decently intelligent scripts and delivers entertaining movies one after the other. Interstellar was more science documentary than blockbuster viewing and the last act of the movie was all over the place, but I still tip my hat off to the Nolan brothers for bringing worm holes back in vogue! Physics was always my favorite science so I may be biased here but how often do you see a movie that forces you to think, analyze and deliberate.

Edge of Tomorrow: The predictable title and unimaginative promotions did disservice to this very fine movie . My love for Tom Cruise has waned over the years but I adore Emily Blunt so my expectations from this movie were high. I did not expect it to be as good and entertaining as it eventually turned out to be. Tom Cruise in fine form is still one of the most charismatic actors on screen and he proves that with this movie. It may not be as high on adrenalin as the Avengers flicks but it compensates for that with some clever scripting and screenplay.

Nightcrawler: I read rave reviews and oscar buzz for Jake Gyllennhal online for this movie so I dragged Sid to the theater to watch it. If there was one word to describe this movie, it would perhaps be Twisted. I mean, the protagonist in this very dark, sometimes comic but very scarily real movie is like none you have seen in recent times. There were some scenes where the entire audience gasped or let out a loud sigh shocked at the proceedings on screen. This movie might not be for everyone (Sid almost fell asleep somewhere in the middle) but I loved it!

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: I really enjoyed the first movie and thought Andy Serkis was phenomenal as Caesar. The second installment in the series delves more into the man vs animal debate with the entire setting shifting into a more dark, apocalyptic world. The movie is entertaining and keeps you invested thanks to some great visuals. Who else thought Koba was the star of this movie?

I wasn’t as enamored with Captain America: Rise of the Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy as some others. They were good movies just not memorable enough in my opinion. [I am loving the new and improved Chris Pratt though!]
(The Imitation Game, Foxcatcher, American Sniper and Birdman release in January in Singapore so will update the list once I get around to watching them. I am gutted they don’t release before I publish this post but I am 110% confident that these movies will blow me away)

Queen: Seldom does a Hindi movie blow me away the way Queen did this year. The movie was fantastic on so many fronts – great female lead in Kangana Ranaut, lovely music, earthy real dialogues and a warm message to top it all up. I hope more such movies are made where you feel that the makers invested time and brain cells into the process.

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya: I really like both Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt so it is no surprise that this movie features on the list. The movie is neither path breaking nor cliched in its story or execution and depends solely on its cast to elevate the film. Plus, I am a sucker for DDLJ so this movie felt like a nice, modern day tribute to Raj and Simran.

Hasee Toh Phasee: I also really like Parineeti Chopra and think she is one of the better female actors we have today. This movie won me over partly due to the novel female character and partly for its music. (I think Siddharth Malhotra is super handsome but he has a way to go when it comes to acting). To have a female protagonist who isn’t all perfectly pretty and dolled up in designer wear, is quirky and not dumb was a welcome change.

Mardaani: We all know Rani Mukherji can act but it has been a while since we saw her flex her chops the way she does in this flick. Sid and I saw this movie not knowing what to expect – we had neither seen the trailer nor read any reviews, so boy were we glad that this movie turned out to be so good. Crisp story telling on the back of a great story and fine acting from the entire cast makes Mardani one of the better movies of the last year.

I enjoyed watching 2 States, Happy New Year (I know I shouldn’t be defending my choices but I quite enjoyed this movie. Not all movies need to challenge you intellectually and if paisa vasool entertainment is done convincingly and with a certain amount of skill, it works!), Daawat-e-Ishq as well.

Drushyam: I love Venkatesh as an actor. I grew up watching his movies and think he is one of the finest actors in Telugu cinema. Of late he has had a tough time finding his space in the movies given the influx of young talent in the industry. Drushyam was such a fantastic movie not just for him but even in the larger scheme of things. Granted it is remade from a Malayalam film, but its success bodes well for Telugu cinema where hero idolization, over the top fight sequences and predictable plots have ruled the roost for way too long. My only hope is that movies such as these where characters and not heroes are the center of attention continue being made.

Karthikeya: Honestly, we watched this movie on a whim. It was a weekend, we wanted to see a Telugu movie and everyone was saying how good Karthikeya was. So we went ahead. I loved this movie. I was pleasantly surprised at the great visual quality of the movie despite not being a high budget flick. The story is different and keeps you engrossed while all of the cast, especially the lead Nikhil, perform well. Also, I though the songs and shooting them in South India gave a grounded look to the movie.

Manam: Probably my favorite Telugu movie of the year. When you are assigned the task of bringing together three generations of the Akkineni family for the first time, the expectations are high. So it is to the director Vikram Kumar’s credit that he doesn’t fall into the trap of conventions and instead tells a story that seamlessly navigates between the leads – Nagarjuna, Chaitanya and the legendary thespian Late Mr. ANR. I also liked that the focus was not just on the male leads and even the female actors were given author backed roles. The music, cinematography (especially in some of the flashback scenes) and crisp editing made this movie a fantastic experience. One of the rare times when I felt like watching a Telugu movie in the cinemas for a second time.

Oohalu Gusagusalade: I think the best work in Telugu cinema is being done by small, independent film makers. The focus is more on the content and delivery which is great because I have had it with all the regressive, repetitive crap. This movie is one such small budget movie that has a very refreshing take on a love triangle. The performances, especially from the female lead, are very good as is the cinematography. The comedy is clean and some parts of the movie reminded me of a Sekhar Kammula movie.

Movies I didn’t like in 2014

Entertainment and Humshakals: Every year I feature a movie on this list that I haven’t really seen. This year that coveted spot goes to to two movies. I had the bad luck of seeing the trailers for both these movies and that was all that I needed. I genuinely think Sajid Khan has learnt his lesson after receiving the kind of flak he has for Humshakals but I read somewhere that Entertainment actually made money. What? Excuse me while I go and puke at the sorry state of affairs in Bollywood.

Haider: I know I might be in the minority here but I did not enjoy watching Haider. I really liked the performances from the cast members – barring Shahid Kapoor, but the movie was all over the place. It had the potential to be great but faltered. Plus, I hate pretentious pseudo intellectuals praising a movie merely because it handles a different subject. Making a movie is not just about picking a tricky theme, it needs to be executed well too. On a side note, can Tabu please act more. She is such a fine actress and deserves to be seen more on the screen.

Yay! moments

1. The Mangalyaan Mission – Probably the proudest moment for India this year.

2. Getting to watch Serena Williams play live ( I will also get to you Roger, one day)

3. Deepika Padukone teaching TOI a good lesson in journalistic ethics.

4. Travelling with Sid – There is nothing better than seeing different places and exploring different cultures. Wait, let me rephrase. There is nothing better than seeing different places and exploring different cultures with your partner. As a direct result of that, I started a new travel blog : The Round Trip Ticket!

5. Watching Bruno Mars perform live at his Moonshine Jungle Tour, Singapore. I mean, this guy is beyond talented. If you get a chance to see his concert, do not think twice. You will dance, lose your voice singing out loud and appreciate Bruno and his band – The Hooligans for being true artists. Plus, there is no twerking, auto-tuning and all that nonsense.

6. The Clean India campaign: Although the idea is not novel, the approach is. Kudos to PM Modi for bringing cleanliness and sanitation back into public discussion. India needs a mass scale, ground roots campaign like this.

WTH moments

1. The chief minister of Telangana – KCR and his countless gaffes. I wish we could recycle all the crap that comes out of his mouth and put it to some good use.

2. The sorry state of law in India. Every time you think maybe things are getting better, a news story hits you and makes you sick to your stomach. Women are of course suffering the most but like the Haryana case proved, so are men. As are the poor and underprivileged. And the middle class. Everyone. We need better functioning of law and order.

3. This video of Arnab Goswami and Subramaniam Swamy. Absolute facepalm! News channels in India are going to the dogs.

So, you read what I thought of this year. Did I miss out on any awesomeness? (Apart from the TVF’s Permanent Roommates which I will see shortly). Before I digress, here’s wishing all of you a very happy New Year. May 2015 be filled with adventure, love and laughter for all of you. And here’s hoping we all become better people too. Cheers!

Posted in Life, Movies, Sports, Year End Posts | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Skincare routine and favorite products

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed below are completely my own. I realize that different people have different skin types and there is perhaps no one magic product that suits all. It is always better to try out samples of products and do a test before applying them on your skin, even more so if you have sensitive skin, acne or other problems. Also, this post is not about make up products but is focused on skin care, which really is the foundation for everything else.

I know it feels odd to have a piece on skin care on my blog. This blog has for the longest time been witness to my random rants, personal opinions on movies and sports to mundane life observations and even arbitrary madness(I once wrote an entire article about a lizard in my room). But, change is the name of the game. That is not to say that I am going to become a beauty blogger. I am not qualified enough to do that but over the last couple of years and specifically last few months, I have turned to the internet and some blogs in particular to figure out what the ideal skin care routine should be like along with product recommendations. The sheer amount of information available on the net can be overwhelming. Contrasting reviews and unknown brands can make you feel a bit lost but I spent a fair amount of time decoding data and tried to find products that I thought would be good for my skin.

Some people are blessed with great skin and clear complexion. I do not have bad skin but it wasn’t great either. I always had a very basic approach to my skin care – face wash, moisturizer, sunscreen and compact powder. That was all I needed. I thought I was doing an amazing job to be honest. Looking back I realize my skin went through quite a bit of torture. From not paying much attention to the ingredients in a product to prioritizing clothes and other spending to skin care, I have made my share of mistakes. That is all in the past though. In fact skin can be sometimes forgiving despite use of mediocre products when you are younger. I turned a corner when I became 25. I read an article in a magazine that spoke about how people in their 20’s neglect their skin only to realize later that some damage is irreversible. That, along with access to more products (both online and retail chains) definitely brought about a shift in my attitude. So, if you are interested in knowing more, read on.

The steps in skin care

I have shamelessly picked this up from skin care guru Caroline Hirons and it has now become a standard part of my routine. I do not follow all the steps in the routine (such as eye cream at night and serums in the morning) but I guess as I grow older they will become a part of my routine.

Morning: Cleanse – Tone – Eye Cream – Serum/Other Treatment – Moisturizer – SPF/Sunscreen

Evening: Cleanse – Tone – Eye Cream – Serum/Other Treatment

In the mornings, if I am staying home I stop at the SPF stage. If I am going out I follow it up with a primer and BB cream. The compact powder stays in my purse for touch ups because I have oily skin and Singapore is a humid place but after using a BB cream I do not feel the need for using powder on top immediately. I use a liquid/powder concealer only when I am going out for special occasions and want no blemishes whatsoever on my skin. While it might feel like a lot of products on your skin, bottom line is as long as you are using good quality products and remove them properly before going to bed, your skin should be fine. In fact, cleansing – toning – moisturizing are the three basic steps advised by almost all beauty experts. Because I have oily skin, earlier I would sometimes skip using a moisturizer out of the fear that it would create an oil spill on my face but now I use a mild moisturizer daily and feel that the oil production on my face has reduced. In fact, if I do not use a moisturizer my skin produces more oil to compensate for the lack of hydration!

My favorite products

Cleansing: I used a foam based face wash for the longest time. In fact, when I was a teenager I thought more the foam, the cleaner my face would get. That myth has now been laid to rest. I stay as far away from foam based products as I can. I use a mild facial cleanser in the morning (can be milk based) and a cleansing balm in the evening (because it helps to remove all the make up and products off as well).
Products I love: The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Face Wash (do not confuse it with the Tea Tree Foaming Cleanser), Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm and Ren Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk

Cleanse Away :)

Cleanse Away 🙂

Toning: I frankly never used a toner till about a few months back. Now that it part of my routine I can already feel the difference in my skin as these products give your skin an even tone. I use two toners – one as part of my daily skin care routine and one that acts as an exfoliant that I use once a week to remove dead cells.
Products I love: The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Toner (for regular use), Alpha-H Liquid Gold with Glycolic Acid (once a week, overnight. Whenever I use this product I do not apply anything else over it for better results as suggested by the brand itself)

Toners! Alpha H is one of my all time fav products!

Toners! Alpha H is one of my all time fav products!

Eye Cream: This is one category that I have not completely figured out yet because I am not looking at anti-ageing products yet. I use an eye cream only for brightening purpose or if there is some puffiness around my eyes.
Products I love: Body Shop Moisture White Shiso 2 in 1 brightening cream

Serum: I do not use a serum in the morning and skip this step to go straight into my moisturizer. But in the evenings I use a serum as an overnight night cream. I have to confess though that I am a bit irregular with this step but whenever I use a serum my skin feels soft, hydrated and supple the next morning.
Products I love: Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum – Fragrance Free, Estee Laudeer Advanced Night Repair Serum ( I used this product for a few weeks when I bought a sample and really liked it. It is very expensive though and I might not buy it again. Still on the lookout for other serums.)

My go-to night cream

My go-to night cream

Moisturizer: There are tons of good moisturizers in the market. There are also tons of not so good ones. Choose a moisturizer based on your needs and the weather’s effects on your skin. All I looked for while buying my moisturizer was that it should preferably be fragrance free (I am not big on products with a strong scent) and not make my face too oily. I finally found two good products that I use regularly and keep switching between
Products I love: Neutrogena Oil Free Moisturizer For Combination Skin, Olay Total Effects Moisturizer

Favorite Moisturizer and Eye Cream

Favorite Moisturizer and Eye Cream

Other must haves in skin care routine

Scrubs: Most scrubs I have tried in the past have been effective. They remove dead skin, clean your pores and leave your skin feeling brand new. Thus, I have not experimented with too many products in this category. In fact, ever since I started following the above mentioned routine the need to scrub my face has gone down drastically. I use a scrub once every 2-3 weeks unless of course I feel like I am facing a sudden skin crisis.
Products I love: Everyouth Walnut Scrub, Body Shop Tea Tree Facial Scrub

My favorite face scrubs

My favorite face scrubs

Face Masks: In a complete contrast to scrubs, I had very little luck with face masks in the past. I found most of them to be ineffective. After a bit of research I found a few really good face masks that have now become my most favorite part of skin care because they produce instant results. Top of my list is products from GlamGlow. I use Glamglow YouthMud Exfoliate once every week or ten days, especially on Fridays, and it gives my skin a wonderful glow that lasts me a couple of days. For a more cleansing type of face mask I use Origins Active Charcoal Clear Mask that helps draw out all the dirt from your face. I also like masks from Neutrogena that are effective and great value for money.

GlamGlow YouthMud - Facial in a Jar

GlamGlow YouthMud – Facial in a Jar

Phew, that was quite a long list. But not long enough. There are quite a few products that are on my radar and once I get around to trying them I will update my list. While some of these products are pricey I do not mind spending a little extra considering I no longer need to get facials which in itself saves me quite a bit of money. Plus, most of these products last a long time and though it might seem a lot to pay in one shot, the benefits are enormous. My skin feels healthy and better. I would love to hear about your favorite products and skin care routines, so do leave a comment below 🙂

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90’s Bollywood – of mullets, bad makeup and masala movies!

My couch potato days are back again which means I have all the time in the world to sit on my bum and watch the telly. Or watch TV shows on my laptop. Or better still, do both at the same time. Case in point, I can listen to Katy Perry and watch Mad Men simultaneously. Not lying. If only this was a talent that could be put to some use. But, I digress. So one day, after realizing that there wasn’t really much left for me to see in terms of movies/TV shows, I decided to go random on the remote and ended up stumbling upon some gold, literally. The mother of all Hindi channels- Star Gold. Well one could argue with that title but allow me to defend it in the following passages.

I am a 90’s kid. So, anything that reminds me of those simpler times immediately strikes a chord, notwithstanding things such as Govinda’s awesome fashion sense and Akshay Kumar’s not so awesome chest hair. The Bollywood of 90’s was all about celebrating mediocrity – we took pride in substandard CGI and special effects, our heroes were not Dabbang, there was no talk of 100 crore clubs and all one needed was Shahrukh to realize that falling in love could transport you to the picturesque Swiss Alps. Over the years though things have changed like they ideally should. Now we watch top notch Hollywood movies with brilliant scripts and realistic acting. Even Hindi movies are picking up their game, albeit in a small way. This trend has me worried because who will give us the next Gunda or Jaani Dushman? Will we ever see another movie with a No.1 in its title? Well, worry not dear friends because this is where channels like Star Gold come to our rescue. Over the past few weeks I have seen more 90’s Bollywood movies than I ever imagined I could survive. Since they were such an integral part of my growing up years, I thought I should do a tribute, a list of things that characterized that era. So, here it goes

1. Dance like you are in your bathroom: Now, I firmly believe that dance is a form of expression and hence putting labels on it is subjective and unfair to an extent. But, Bollywood took that liberty to a whole new level thanks to some inspired choreography and dance moves. As expected, Govinda leads the pack.

tujhko-mirchi-lagi
[For more such awesomeness check this out : http://indiaopines.com/10-reasons-love-govinda/%5D

As much as I am not fond of this brand of dancing, I cannot help but smile and dance along to these numbers. Treat to anyone who gets this song out of my head.

2. Fashionably unfashionable: Every generation thinks that the fashion choices they made while growing up were poor. For many the gold standard is 80’s. But, in the 90’s most of our Bollywood stars were bent on outdoing each other when it came to wardrobe choices and hairdos.

Exhibit A: GovindaJuhi
[Source: http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=3657070%5D
Now I do not know who the mastermind was behind this epic photo but looks like someone put a gun to Juhi’s head for her to appear in this atrocity.

Exhibit B: Karisma
[Source: http://www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=3966156%5D
Karisma Kapoor was a decent actress. More so in the latter stages of her career. This picture from the early stages of her Bollywood life hurts my eyes. In the picture to the left she looks like a Banjaran who was given free access to shop at thrift stores while in the picture to the right she seems just a step away from completing her transformation into a sunflower.

3. The David Dhawan school of comedy: People are accused of classism when they disapprove of crass and/or massy comedies. I am on the fence on this issue because I enjoyed certain portions of movies like Raja Babu, Main Khiladi Tu Anari, Coolie No.1, Bade Miya Chote Miya etc. I did not however enjoy these movie entirely, even as a teenager. When I try to rewatch these ‘classics’, I cringe and laugh out loud at the same time. I thought that the over-the-top acting, double entendres and disregard for female characters would end with the 90’s but we have Sajid Khan to thank for keeping this tradition alive!

By the way, can someone please explain what exactly is happening in the picture below? Hmm, not very Nawab like of Saif now is it?
Akshay Kumar Saif Ali Khan keemat (2)

4. Family dramas and romance – Bollywood Ishtyle: While senseless comedies were flourishing on one end, the 90s also saw a boom in family dramas and a revival of the romantic genre; something which the 80’s had conveniently left behind in its quest for Bappi Lahiri disco music. The people to thank for this trend were the Barjatyas and the Chopras/Johars. I grew up dancing to Madhuri’s songs from Hum Aapke Hai Kaun but the diabetes inducing goodness of people in that movie is almost unpalatable now. Also, I might have jumped at joy when I first saw this scene almost 20 years ago, but this is borderline stupid.

[For your benefit, please skip to the 8th minute and watch how Duffy the dog saves the day]

PS: The only movie that comes unscathed from this genre is DDLJ. We can argue about that later.

5. Sunil Shetty was a legitimate hero and scored a hit in the form of Gopi – Kishen. Enough said!

6. Let me end this list on a positive note. Farida Jalal was around playing the adorable mum or daadi based on the situation and she would always make me smile. That was nice considering we also had Alok Nath, Rakhi and Reema Lagtoo.

Notwithstanding all the mockery I made above, I do have a soft spot for the 90’s. Those were much simpler times and audiences were more forgiving, less cynical perhaps. In fact the 90’s gave us some great movies, music and moments as well. But that is fodder for another post. Till then, I leave you with two songs which in a sense summarize what was both good and bad about the 90’s. For the record, I loved these songs when they first came out and I love them to date! Plus, Govinda-Karisma were a rockstar jodi!


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The different types of sports fans

Have you ever looked at a guy sporting a Chelsea jersey, humming an Emraan Hashmi song,strolling casually on Juhu beach and thought to yourself “Does this guy really follow the English Premier League”? I might be accused of being judgmental here but there is a very high probability that our man in question most likely bought that shirt from the Versova market because he thought that the bright blue color looked uber cool and/or complemented his skin tone. This keen but slightly tangential observation leads me to the topic for this blog post- Who is a real sports fan and how can we identify him/her? In my opinion, sports fans of all genders, shapes and sizes can be broadly categorized into the following:

1. The Sportskeeda: They are at the top of the pyramid. They eat, breathe and live sport. Talk to them about cricket and they will know everything from the no. of centuries made by every batsman to the no. of abuses hurled by Virat Kohli. Talk to them about tennis and they will tell you why it is so much more than just the grand slams. Look at their Facebook timelines – it will be inundated with posts, links and photos of sportsmen which is a reflection of their passion. They will alter their sleeping patterns just so that they can watch a match live and not think twice before spending a fortune on a match ticket.

2. The Numbers fan: A sub category of the Sportskeedas, these group of people would make great mathematicians like Ramanujan proud. They dole out statistics by the dozen and dream about stuff like Duckworth Lewis method. Mention a match and be prepared for an onslaught of win/loss records, averages and stadium statistics.

sports

3. The ‘Brand’ ambassadors: From sporting Manchester United Jerseys to using MRF bats – they wear their hearts on their sleeves – literally!. These fans are not staunch loyalists (which is why they would buy the overpriced merchandise) but rather staunch exhibitionists (which is why they did buy the overpriced merchandise 🙂 ). This group constitutes of those who do not really follow football but will go to pubs on the weekend, wear the colors of the team, get sloshed and post about it on Facebook. It is the hangover they care about more than the result of the match.

liverpool

4. The Peacemakers: They are the Rahul Dravids of the sports fan universe. Or the Switzerland of countries. People who do not support Federer or Nadal but Murray, or people who wish well for the South African cricket team fall into this category. They usually do not stir up controversy or become part of heated debates thanks to their choice of teams or players. They are the yin to the yang of the Brand Ambassadors. Imagine these two conversations

Person 1: Hey which team do you support?
Person 2: Liverpool. How about you?
Person 1: Manchester United.
[Back and forth about Suarez’s diving, Rooney’s balding, use of inappropriate language, Liverpool’s title campaign, MU’s recent incompetence, some more inappropriate language]

Person 1: Hey which team do you support?
Person 2: Liverpool. How about you?
Person 1: Arsenal.
Person 2: Cool man.
[End of conversation]

5. The Rahul Gandhis: Akin to the politician, these people are clueless. About sports. They will ask you about US Open in March and would not know which installment of IPL is going to happen next. But, in their defense, they make their lack of interest and knowledge obvious.

6. The Arnab Goswamis: Remember that pesky classmate with whom you always ended up fighting. Imagine he/she just grew up and now you squabble over sports rather than bench space and stationary. These sports fans will never let you get your opinion in because they just love to talk and argue and talk and argue. It is difficult to have a conversation with them if you do not agree with them. They will get personal, hijack your Facebook posts and research the internet for any shred of evidence to disprove you. The world is a much peaceful place though when you do agree with them.

Arnab Goswami

So, which category do you fall in?

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The year end post – 2013

13 has always been my lucky number. Had it not been for bingo, or “tambola” as we like to call it here in India, I would perhaps have not known differently. But when you are a kid at a new year’s party and win the grand prize despite having a 13 on your ticket, you throw reason out of the window! So, its no surprise that this past year has been pretty good for me – I traveled, I studied, I worked, I earned a bit, I spent a lot, I definitely grew up and cue the sad music folks, I turned 26. Yes, the reality that I have lived for a quarter of a century is yet to sink in and I threw a bit of a tantrum ala Mindy Lahiri on my birthday but thankfully, Sid was around and he is older than me. So relative comparison saved the day. I am exaggerating but isn’t it sad that till 25 you feel normal about your age but the moment you turn 26 it suddenly feels like you are maybe not that young anymore. Sucks, I tell you. Makes you reminisce about your life thus far and that trip down memory lane is both fun and not. But I like my birthday because it falls so close around the end of the year – time when everybody is in festive spirit, at least on paper. For me it makes good fodder for a post because writing a year end post is a ritual that I have been following for four years now and I like having a ritual like that no matter how good or bad the year.[Find the previous posts here: 2012 2011 2010 2009]

So, here we go
Disclaimer: None of the lists are in any particular order.

Best Movies of 2013

    Rush – Of all the sports I follow, I have been the most inconsistent with Formula 1. Yet, one of my most favorite sports stories on celluloid was the wonderful 2010 documentary ‘Senna’. Rush does a pretty good job of telling its own story though. In the able hands of Ron Howard, this movie becomes more than just about fast cars and competition, instead dwelling into the psyche of its protagonists without pretense.
    This Is The End – One look at the star cast and you will wonder if this movie was made in Judd Apatow’s garage! James Franco, Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel and a host of other actors play themselves in this semi-spoof, self-deprecating Apocalyptic drama. I have a feeling guys will enjoy this movie infinitely more than girls but if you ask me, I was in splits even through some of the gross humor.
    Prisoners – I can watch anything with Hugh Jackman in it. That’s how much I love him. But Les Miserable tested my patience. Prisoners is a very different role for Jackman though, more serious and subdued, just like the tone of the movie which reminds you a bit of Mystic River. Having said that the taut screenplay coupled with fine performances from both Jackman and Jake Gyllenhal made this movie an early favorite for me. I am not sure how much potential it has at the awards given that there has been a surge of great movies in the latter half, regardless of that this movie should be on your to-watch list.
    Captain Philips – Based on the real life hijacking of an American ship and the subsequent kidnapping of it’s captain by Somali pirates, this movie is thrilling from start to end. The last 20 minutes in particular are fantastic and will make the audience go through an emotional roller-coaster. I have always loved Tom Hanks (who doesn’t) and he could bag an Oscar nod just for the last five minutes of the movie where he shows his talent to the fullest.
    Before Midnight – I saw the movie because I am a massive fan of the previous two installments – Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. I really enjoyed this movie too, but I can guess that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It draws out more like a play than like a motion picture with long dialogue and philosophical interactions. So if you are into that kind of thing, you will love this movie. The lead actors are both terrific in their characters and if you are even slightly bohemian in your soul, give this movie a shot.

* I have not seen Gravity, Blue Jasmine, The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle, but I am 100% confident they would have all made the list. Especially American Hustle.

    The Lunchbox: Great script, great acting, overall great movie.
    Bhaag Milkha Bhaag: Despite the historical inaccuracies, the movie was a glowing tribute to one of India’s greatest sportsman with a fabulous performance from its lead actor.
    Chennai Express: I went in with very low expectations and perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it more than I should have. Deepika was brilliant and SRK was well, SRK. I am a south Indian, not a Tamilian, and I was not offended by anything which in itself is to the movie’s credit.
    Kai Po Che: Easily one of the best movies of the year. One of those rare cases where the movie is far superior to the book from which it has been adapted. All three male leads tuned in fine performances and the maturity with which the story was told is a testament to the director’s capability.
    Special 26: Despite suffering from the second half curse which plagues most half decent Hindi movies, this movie’s success is a good sign because the story was the king here.
    Lootera: Perhaps my most favorite Hindi film of the year. I have never been a fan of Sonakshi Sinha but this movie changed that. Her expressive eyes emoted more than what any dialogue could have and she was complemented beautifully by Ranveer Singh whom I much preferred here than in Ram Leela. The music and background score were also amazing. Vikramaditya Motwane is the director to watch out for.
    Madras Cafe: The very fact that this movie got made and released is praiseworthy. I just wish the makers had the liberty to use real names instead of saying “inspired from real life events” when everything was so obvious. John Abraham should just produce movies for the rest of his life.
    Go Goa Gone: Fun film, great music and a blonde Saif Ali Khan. Oh, there are zombies too. Bollywood is coming of age in its own small way.

Worst Movies of 2013

    Grand Masti: Every year there is a movie which features on this list despite me having not seen it. It does not take a genius to figure out that this movie would have been regressive, vulgar, offensive and unfunny in more ways than one could imagine.
    Race 2: Now, I actually enjoyed the first Race. The plot twists and the music did not give one time to dig deep into logic and plot holes. This time around though, the story was outlandish to say the least. I can see why some of the actors chose to do the movie but bowing down to commercial pressures like this is sad. I beg Abbas-Mustan to not make a third installment.
    Shuddh Desi Romance: I had high hopes for this movie given I like both the lead actors and the director’s previous work. Alas, I had hoped too much. To paint a picture of relationships in Tier 2 cities and towns of India could have been a great premise but the characters are half baked, you never really understand what is driving their actions and after a point you just stop caring. That never works.
    Zanjeer: I do not understand the remakes business of Bollywood. Half the movies are remakes of old movies and the other half of south Indian films. To be honest, the remakes are not even well done. Zanjeer has Ram Charan stepping into Amitabh’s shoes which in itself had me laughing. Ram Charan may have a great lineage and dancing ability but he is not considered a good actor even in Telugu cinema, so why was he chosen to essay this iconic part baffles me. Priyanka Chopra hams it up and annoys you every time she comes on the screen while Sanjay Dutt feels like a misfit. I watched the movie on a flight only because there was nothing else to watch and it proved to be a long journey!

Best Music of 2013

    Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke ft. TI and Pharell ( I love the song and the pointless video because they are both such darn good fun)
    Stay – Rihanna ft.Micky Ekko ( I am a massive Rihanna fan and she knocks it out of the park on this one vocally. Also check out the song Kids by Micky Ekko which is pretty kickass in its own right)
    Get Lucky – Daft Punk ft. Pharell Williams (Its groovy, catchy and I haven’t got tired of it yet!)
    Mirrors – Justin Timberlake (Do not dismiss him just because he’s too mainstream. Listen to the song…better still watch the video. Also, the album 20/20 experience is great)
    Royals – Lorde (Its my favorite song of the year. Hoping that this young singer doesn’t go the Miley Cyrus way)
    Counting Stars – One Republic (This band has always played second fiddle to some of the more glamorous bands such as Maroon 5 but their work has been consistently good. This song plays to their strengths and the writing in particular is pretty great)
    All songs from Unorthodox Jukebox – Bruno Mars (Hes my favorite male vocalist right now and his music is so versatile that he reminds me of Prince and Michael Jackson. Special mention to Locked out of Heaven, Gorilla and When I was your man)
    Wake Me Up – Avicii (Enough said)
    Radioactive – Imagine Dragons (Although technically not a 2013 song, it charted well this year and deservedly so. Also check out their song Demons)
    5 AM in Toronto – Drake (A close second for my most favorite song of the year. The beats are amazing but if you pay attention to the rap you will realize why Drake is regarded so highly these days. I also prefer this song to the more successful Hold On We’re Going Home)
    Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Rey (Its a haunting haunting song. Beautifully sung. But I prefer Summertime Sadness, released in 2012, to this track)
    Thrift Shop – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (With even Eminem praising the new rap stars on block it is no wonder that they feature on the list. Please watch the video on youtube and be entertained!)
    Merry Go Round and Blowin Smoke – Kacey Musgraves (My only exposure to country music has been through songs of Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson. But I think I have a new favorite now. Both these songs are songwriting triumphs and a welcome departure from the old school country music.)
    Say Something – Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera (I am not a huge fan of ballads or slow numbers but when I heard this song on The Voice, I knew it would be an instant hit)
    Soundtrack of Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (Every song is a gem)
    Dhat Teri Ki (Gori Tere Pyaar Mein)
    Party all Night, Lungi Dance – Yo Yo Honey Singh (Please do not judge me. I am quite embarrassed by this too but the songs are all great fun)
    Khoon Choos Le and Babaji ki Booti – Go Goa Gone soundtrack
    Main tere agal bagal hoo – Phata Poster Nikla Hero ( The lyrics are insane and its not path breaking music in any way but I love the song every time it comes up on the radio)

Yay! Moments
1. The results of the recently concluded state elections. A special mention to AAP for doing so well without having enormous resources at its disposal. I do not agree completely with their philosophy but they have the right intentions and that is a good enough reason for the yay!
2. Seeing my beloved football team Liverpool doing better in the league than the previous seasons. Makes it easier to support them.
3. The finale of one of my most favorite shows ever ‘The Office’ which served as a strong reminder of how awesome the show and its characters have been over the past 9 years, despite the lackluster last two seasons.
4. The progressive nature of the Pope who seems to have a pragmatic and more humane view over issues such as homosexuality.
5. The rise of Rohit Sharma. After years of disappointment, feels good to see him play to his often praised potential. Don’t get me started on the South Africa series though.
6. Getting my parents to use WhatsApp. They love it and so do I.
7. Getting to visit Disneyland with my sister. It’s been ages since we went on a holiday together, so being surrounded by all that cuteness was just the perfect thing.

WTF Events/News
1. Everything about Miley Cyrus – from the twerking to the inappropriate dressing. Its a pity because both her top 10 songs weren’t as bad as you would imagine them to be.
2. The obsession over the royal baby. Its 2013! The royals seem to have moved on. Time we all did too.
3. The sad end to Lance Armstrong’s lies and deceit. Never nice to see a sporting hero fall from grace.
4. The back and forth over everything Telangana. I am so tired of listening to news about this issue that despite hailing from the state I have become indifferent to it. The political class of Andhra Pradesh should be ashamed.
5. The popularity of the Harlem Shake. I just did not get it.
6. The sad state of women in our country despite the protests last year and the implementation of so called harsher laws and promise of swifter justice.
7. The Lunchbox getting snubbed for India’s official entry to the Oscars. We had a good shot with this fantastic movie but then these are the same people who chose Paheli and Eklavya previously.

That pretty much sums up the year folks. So, on New Year’s eve you might either end up going to a really cool pub where an international DJ whose name you just googled in the morning is playing (no judgement, it gives you bragging rights) or most likely end up watching TV specials. But, just for old time’s sake do try and call your parents, friends, family at the stroke of midnight and get pissed off that the lines are busy. Then, wake up in the morning (or afternoon, as per alcohol consumed) to that oddly familiar yet nice feeling of finding your phone and Facebook wall inundated with messages. That sounds like a decent start to a new year now, doesn’t it?

2013

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