Monday, June 11, 2007

What a Treat !

Guess, whom did I see at 10.00 am on 6th June, 2007, while waiting for the elevator at my office buliding "Paigah Plaza" at Basheerbagh, Hyderabad ? Well it was the handsome "John Abraham". I was totally dazed seeing him in his short hair cut, clean shaven look. He looked dashing. When I entered the building premises, I noticed some huge equipment vans and film crew members moving around. So I did know a film shooting was going on somewhere here.

Paigah Plaza, one of the oldest office space buildings in Hyderabad, seems to be developing into a favourite location for shootings. Earlier a particular scene for Mahesh Babu's "Sainikudu" was shot here. But then I couldn't see Mahesh Babu. I understand that the rental charges for this premise is very less, therefore the preference for this very original location.

As a few of us were waiting in the "Q" to get into one of the two elevators available for this 12 floored building, I noticed some activity and security personnel walking in. And there I see a dashing young guy, who looks familiar and in a split second I recognise him. As both the elevators had gone up, John had to wait for over 5 minutes. And when one of the elevators came down, he was hesitant to get in , as we were already waiting for it. But someone from the "Q' asked him to proceed on to the 12 th Floor, a penthouse, where ''a living room sequence was being shot". Before John got into the elevator and moved up, he asked the other crew members to wait on and not rush till all of us who were waiting had got into the elevator. Proved to be a decent and polite guy!

Then I saw Elahe Heptulla getting off the elevator and I curiously asked a crew member which movie was being shot here. It was for Percept Picture Company's latest Hindi movie 'Ashaayein" directed by Nagesh Kukunoor.

But I regret not having asked John Abraham for his autograph. Better luck next time!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Destination Dubai - Shoppers' Paradise

It's great to be back after a two month hiatus.

This summer vacation turned out to be a much needed break from the daily rut- a visit to Dubai with my husband(Phani) and daughter(Adithi).

Some unexpected turn of events instigated us to plan a month's stay in Dubai, with my brother (Nagaraj aka Raju) and his daughter(Gauri). The homework began on a war footing, starting with the procurement of my daughter's and husband's passport. Thanks to my friend Sreedevi, a bureaucrat, who used her contacts and helped with the quick issuance of the same. And then followed the other processes like booking flight tickets, getting visiting visa, medical insurance etc.

Dubai is one of the seven states that constitute the United Arab Emirates.

I and Adithi left for Dubai via Pune on April 6th, 2007 and Phani joined us a week later on April 13th, 2007. It was Adithi's maiden flight and visit abroad. She had a great time playing with other kids in the Airport lounge when the Air India Express flight was delayed by three hours. On the flight, she was annoyed by the full blowing AC which left her cold and wanting to use the toilet frequently. Once we landed in Dubai, she was thrilled to see her cousin, mama and mami. She was impressed with mama's white Sunny Nissan car, but again the AC in the car was a nuisance for her. The weather was pleasant and as we neared Karama, where my brother and his family live in an apartment, I felt I was in Navi Mumbai; a cleaner version rather!

Karama is chock-a-block with South Indians and Filipinos . Karama Shopping Centre is one of the oldest shopping centres housing some well known jewellery shops like D'amas and Joy Alukkas and a few Indian garments stores. At walking distance is LuLu Centre, Karama Market, Day to Day, Spinneys and the upscale shopping center "BurJuman".

BurJuman was hosting a Chocolate and Coffee festival called "Haute Chocolatte", where we got to taste some fine blends of coffee and the famous Galaxy Chocolates for free. A well known chocolate sculptor " Prudence Emma Staite" was commissioned to create some amazing works of art with chocolate. A four feet tall, hand sculpted chocolate model of the famous seven star hotel
" Burj-Al-Arab" ( the yacht shaped hotel built in the sea) was the star attraction.
Bur Dubai is another area predominantly packed with North Indians, Pakistanis and Afghanis. It houses the Dubai Museum, a Krishna and Shiva temple adjacent to a mosque and the famous supermarket "Carrefour". It is a pleasant experience to walk by the creek side. It also presents a great view of the towering buildings.

A visit to Dubai Museum is not to be missed. It is a small museum with excellent display on the history of Dubai. Kids will thoroughly enjoy the museum. It also houses a Souvenir shop, an ideal place to buy gifts for family and friends.

Another amazing place is the upscale shopping centre " Mall of the Emirates" which comprises "Ski Dubai" a 22, 500 square meters (equivalent to 3 football fields), 85 meters high (approximately 25 stories) and 80 meters wide, 5 different runs of varying difficulty and length, longest run of 400 meters of indoor skiing facility which is covered with real snow all through the year.

Lamcy Plaza on the Oud Metha Road, is a cozy shopping centre with the interiors depicting the London Tower Bridge.
, Japan's leading living ware store which has quality products at reasonable prices is located here. I loved this place.

Mercato Mall, named after the Italian word for 'market' is designed in a distinctive Renaissance architectural style. The interiors resemble an Italian Courtyard. It is located in the posh Jumeirah Beach Road residential area.Deira City Centre is another popular shopping mall with a whopping 1.2 million square feet or more of retail selling space. It houses the hypermarket "Carrefour".

Other famous shopping malls are the Ibn Battuta and the traditional souq located within the Madinat Jumeirah - The Arabian Resort, which we were unable to visit.

A ride on the public transport city bus - a Mercedes with AC to the Gold Souq located in Deira was a royal experience. The yellow metal in all its glory at the countless jewellery shops leaves you mesmerized.

IKEA- a Swedish privately owned company which is the largest home furniture and furnishings store in the world, is located in the Dubai festival city. Shopping at IKEA is a splendid experience. Utilitarian products at competitive prices leaves you wanting for more.

Desert Safari is great fun and an adventure in itself. We had a roller coaster ride in the desert, seated in a Land Cruiser which took us Dune Bashing.

It was a hair raising experience, followed by dinner at a desert camp, with a wonderful belly dance performance by a gorgeous looking dancer.
A Swim in the crystal clear, greenish blue waters of the Arabian Sea and the clean and beautiful Jumeirah beach with its fine white sand was a delight. Adithi loved picking up shells on the beach.
The greenery in Dubai is evident with the well maintained parks; a cool weekend get away, with excellent play area for children. Zabeel park and Creek park are spread over acres of land and have an entrance fee, whereas Karama park and Rasheed park are smaller in size with free entrance.

We also visited my niece Gauri's School " Our Own English High School", and adjacent to it is the well known "Indian High School" where Suma (my sister-in-law) teaches.

We drove past the world's tallest building under construction, the "Burj Dubai".

Visit to other UAE States:

Driving at 120 km/hour on the Vacuum cleaned Sheikh Zayed Road to the neighbouring state of Abu Dhabi which is the largest in UAE was fantastic. We visited Phani's brother-in-law Dr. P.Kallu Rao who stays in Abu Dhabi.

The greenery in Abu Dhabi and the city of Al Ain which is an agricultural and dairy hub leaves you in awe of their contribution to the environment by triumphing the hostile climate. We took a taxi ride on the 'Corniche Road' to Marina Mall at Abu Dhabi. The view was breathtaking.

And a picnic at the hot springs located at the foot of the Jabeel Hafet mountains, Al Ain, with Giri ( an old friend) and his family was enjoyable for the kids.

We were invited for lunch by our friend Tanuja, and her family who stay at Ajman , which is one of the seven states of UAE. My brother drove us en route Sharjah , the neighbouring state of Dubai. The home made delicacies spread out for us was mouth watering. It was an assortment of Chinese, Italian and Mexican Cuisine. Tanuja is a great cook and a multifaceted person. Adithi loved their home and we were very touched by their gesture. Exactly ten years ago, I had visited them at their home in Chennai and they had extended the same warmth and hospitality.

A month flew by in a jiffy and it was time for us to return on 4th May 2007. The weather was getting hotter too in Dubai.

All-in-all it was a great holiday and shopping experience. Thanks to my brother who drove us to all the places despite his busy schedule. The wide roads; good traffic sense; clean rest rooms at shopping malls, parks and petrol bunks; the best of automobiles, charmed me. The only thing that disappointed me was the Internet browsing. There is no freedom of browsing through all the sites, as quiet a number of them are blocked by Etisalat , the telecommunications service provider and Internet services provider.

So folks, if you are an avid shopper like me, visit Dubai. Make sure you carry your credit and debit cards and gear up to walk-n-walk through the huge shopping malls. Shop till you drop and board the flight, the Duty Free Shopping at the Dubai International Airport is a bonanza!