Faridoon Shahryar's Blog

Sunday, July 24, 2016

San Francisco Diary Day 2:Golden frienship, family away from home, Rajini mania courtesy Kabaali

San Francisco Diary Day 2: Golden friendship, A family away from home, the Rajini mania courtesy Kabali
By Faridoon Shahryar

Acclimatising to a new time zone and the demands of jet lag are made easy if you find good people and loads of laughter to go with it. The day started with a long phone discussion with my childhood friend Mohd Tariq Yaqub who stays very close to my hotel in #Fremont #California. While talking I walked around the hotel and we talked in detail about the misuse and misrepresentation of religion. Tariq is highly well read and quotes serious authors and more importantly he has culled out analogies based on his own understanding of the burning issues of terrorism.

Tariq took me to the #Facebook headquarters. It is a stylishly built colorful building. The way Taj Mahal is a tourist attraction, the #Like sign outside the Facebook office is a tourist attraction in #SanFrancisco. We had lunch at the Indo-Pak #Shalimar restaurant and feasted on scrumptious Nahari, Chicken Seekh Kabab, Tandoori roti and Tandoori chicken. Once again we had long discussions on varied topics. Tariq is one of the biggest examples of how a man can brilliantly change his destiny by sheer self belief and phenomenal hard work. It was great catching up.

In the evening Prabha Koka ji and his extremely well mannered smart son Satwik took me to for a night show of #Rajinikanth starrer #Kabali. Their hospitality and warmth is extremely touching. It seems Prabha ji, her husband Vaino and Sarwik are an extended family to me here in San Francisco. Kabali is a well made entertainer inspired by #Godfather. Rajinikanth is brilliant in the title role. It was fascinating to see him do what he did. But the emphasis on 'Tamilians' more than 'Indians' wasn't something that didn't go unnoticed. #RadhikaApte is brilliant. She exudes her magical brilliance consistently.

It was a day wonderfully spent. Looking forward to tomorrow when we start the day with an interview with #WorldFilmFestival Festival director Lida Mohaghegh. I think it will be a perfect way to start the proceedings. So see you tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

San Francisco Diary Day 1:Time Zoned, Lessons from the sunlit sky, Charming Boyhood, Indomitable Ali

San Francisco Diary Day 1: Time-Zoned, Lessons from the sunlit sky, Charming Boyhood, indomitable Ali
By Faridoon Shahryar

It has been a roller coaster 24 hours. It is 4 am in #SanFrancisco and I've been awake for the last two hours, jet lagged but confident that things will settle down from tomorrow. It is an interesting experience to see sunlight and more sunlight for the entire duration of a 20 hour flight. Travelling between time zones is taxing but a unique experience nevertheless. I like observing the shift in landscape from the plane window. There's so much that you see that you may have never imagined. The course of the gurgling river waters, wide ocean expanse and their changing colours, varied shapes and sizes of vegetation, sea of clouds...a hell lot of food for the imagination.

During the #Mumbai #Istanbul flight I saw #Boyhood. It is a film that I always wanted to watch but somehow kept missing it. A film literally weaved over twelve years, with changing camera technology, growth in the protagonists, the mere fact that how the actors and the team must have retained the interest level...fascinating! I always look out for social or political statements that a movie, book or any art form makes. #Boyhood makes a solid progressive, liberal point but it also puts across the radical point of view too without judging it.

As the plane descended at the #Istanbul airport, the landscape from the plane window was breathtakingly beautiful and serene. There had been a failed coup in #Turkey merely a week back. I was a bit apprehensive as it had also involved fighter jets and an attempt had been made to take control of the airport. The news papers at Turkey airport and even the #NewYorkTimes and #WaltStreetJournal painted a chaotic picture. President Erdogan has cracked a whip, emergency has been declared for three months and it is a volatile situation. Such a beautiful country, great history but mired in a state of confusion and despondency.

The flight from #Istanbul to #SanFrancisco was over 13 hours. I read #ShashiKapoor's biography and found it engaging. Mr Kapoor was an extremely good looking and universally loved actor who sailed between hard core commercial Hindi films and classy independent cinema. The biography so far details the love story between Shashi and Jennifer Kendall, his struggle in the early days, how he attained fame with commercial potboilers and how he selflessly supported independent filmmakers. It also details the criticism that a few of his independent films received. Criticism and showing-the-shortcomings makes biographies interesting. Only mushy praise is so one sided and boring.

I saw the documentary #IAmAli on boxing giant #MohammadAli. What a charismatic man and how little I knew about him. The fight against racism, the ability to be a master entertainer, a stoic self belief, bang-on prophecies, refusal to be a part of Vietnam war, his affinity with nine children, balanced out by details of his womanising ways and children out of wedlock, audio conversations with children, wives, friends interspersed with lovely songs...it was time well spent! I also saw #MelGibson and #JuliaRoberts starrer #ConspiracyTheory. I enjoyed Mel Gibsons's madness and the movie wasn't bad but it wasn't great either. I also saw #MissionImpossible2. #TomCruise is simply amazing. More importantly he has maintained himself superbly. The scene where Tom Cruise saves #ThandieNewton as her car meets with an accident and she holds on to the car door hanging in the air and Tom grabs her hand has been duplicated by #ShahRukhKhan and #Kajol in #Dilwale.

I hope to explore #SanFrancisco in the next few days and I hope I shall have fun being a part of #WorldFilmFestival.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Diary of day 7 of the India By The Nile festival 2016, Egypt

Diary of Day 7 #IndiaByTheNile #Luxor #Egypt
By Faridoon Shahryar

I visited the magnificent #ValleyOfTheKings in #Luxor for the second time today. When I visited this world heritage site last year, the number of tourists were considerably higher than what I witnessed today. In fact it was totally deserted. It was heartbreaking to see the local vendors desperately trying to sell their articles to the trickling tourists filtering in. It seemed like a matter of do or die.

The same story had been repeated at the magnificent #TempleOfHabu and the imposing #ColossiOfMemnon. There were very very few tourists and the desperate vendors tried all the tricks to sell their wares. They were willing to reduce the price massively. It is a crisis situation. The Russian plane crash in #Sinai has adversely affected the tourism industry in Egypt. What purpose does war of religion serve if it leads to inhuman poverty and depression for common people? I can feel a lot of pain all around. I dread to think what will happen if drastic efforts are not taken to improve the tourism industry in Egypt.

The #OberoiZahra sailed early in the morning. I woke up early and spent quality time on the Sun Deck soaking in the #Nile aura. All the three meals were awesome and will be remembered for a long time to come. The conversations with fellow journalists from the Indian media contingent were interesting too. We shall be taking off shortly for #Cairo. I am damn sleepy. I wasn't sure how tired I will be once I reach Cairo hence decided to wrap up today's diary here itself. So much for now. Good night.

Diary of Day 6 of the India by the Nile festival 2016, Egypt

Diary of Day 6 #IndiaByTheNile 2016 #Egypt
By Faridoon Shahryar

It was one of the most perfect days of my life. #Nile has a tremendously calming influence. The water is delicately somber and there's something mysteriously intoxicating about the whole experience of watching #OberoiZahra moving ahead taking graceful strides through the heart of Nile.

I woke up early in the morning but then I slept again. I don't know when we started cruising early in the morning. You don't feel any impact as the boat moves forward or when it takes a start. Our first excursion was the #TempleOfKomombo. Built over a span of 400 years (200 BC to 200 AD), there's a lot of history imbued in these ancient structures. The salesmen in local market outside the temple desperately tried to sell us their wares. It is sad how things have dramatically changed in #Egypt in the last few years. In 2010, before the first revolution, Egypt was earning 20 billion dollars per year through tourism, but now that has been reduced to half a billion. The shabby condition of security systems outside the ancient sites in #Aswan and elsewhere tells a sad story in itself. One of the prized tourist destinations till a few years back, Egypt needs the tourists to flock again. I was here last year. I can say it with all honesty that things are far more relaxed than what they were an year back.

The most unforgettable moments of the day were the ones spent on the top deck, observing the magnificence of Nile. The dining room is in the basement level. As we had our lunch, it seemed as if the waves wafted past us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

In the evening we went to the #TempleOfEdfu. We enjoyed a horse ride for reaching our destination. This is one of the most well preserved monuments in Egypt. It was built over a span of 180 years (237 BC to 57 BC). The tale of Horus and Seth was inscribed in totality in an enclosure. The symmetrical design, the perfection, it was surreal.

I swam twice during the day. It was very windy in the evening as we collected our wits and had tea at the top deck. It was so windy that it wasn't too audible when we spoke amongst each other. The meals have been excellent and I must say that the Chef and the entire team is simply brilliant in putting together fantastic courses. The evening meal was a rage.

One of the best parts of the day was the conversations that I had with fellow journalists that are part of the Indian contingent. Journalists from #IndianExpress #TheHindu #Telegraph and a couple of travel journalists are extremely well informed about current affairs and have a sound opinion as well as information about anything and everything. We discussed Bollywood, politics, Kashmir crisis, environment, gender inequality and much more. The meeting of minds and a quest for intellectual growth motivates me a lot in indulging in meaningful conversations. So when I say a perfect day, then the intellectual stimulation had a big role to play in that. We went and sat at the top deck post the meal. It was time to grab as much fresh air and to let the wind cast its spell. This moment will never come back. Let's make the most of it. We are stopping over at #Essna for the night. Good night :-)

Diary of Day 5 of the India By The Nile festival 2016, Egypt

Diary of Day 5, #IndiaByTheNile #Aswan #Egypt
By Faridoon Shahryar

You realise the worth of life when you do nothing, just let the cool wind caress you gently on a laid back moonlit night, close your eyes and forget all your worries. Top deck of luxurious #OberoiZahra gave me that opportunity a short while back when I lazed around post a sumptuous dinner. We are on a two nights three days #Nile cruise between #Aswan and #Luxur here in #Egypt. It was an early morning flight from #Cairo to Aswan. We were shifted to Oberoi Zahra from Aswan airport.

It is a moving five star hotel with state of the art facilities and impeccable service by a polite and courteous staff. I went to the Gym in the morning and swam in the top deck swimming pool in the evening for a long time. The lunch and dinner were served in a royal manner. The food is excellent and the Chef actually comes and enquires about your personal requirements.

We went to visit the 'Unfinished Obelisk' in Aswan. It was extremely hot when we ventured out in the afternoon but the ancient sight was worth it. Later we went to Philae Temple for which we had to go in a boat since the temple is situated in the middle. It wasn't Nile, it was a reservoir culled out from the water of Aswan Dam. The water was cold and very fresh. The smell was very nice. The Philae temple was a revelation. But what I liked more was the calming peacefulness of the ambience. The boat ride while coming back left me with a wonderful feeling since I was touching the cold water and the wind was very welcoming.

As I prepare to call it a day I am listening to light instrumental music. Somehow for me it is very important to recharge my batteries. I take myself seriously. I take my work seriously. I take my family and friends seriously. So for me to do full justice to all those mentioned above it is very important that I must remain in a relaxed state of mind. This trip to Egypt has been a perfect recipe for that. There are two more days to go and I hope I will be able to dip further in the reservoir of unique experiences. So much for now. Time for me to hit the bed. The cruise will start its voyage at 5 in the morning. Hopefully when I shall wake up tomorrow, I'll be in the middle of the Nile. Sounds fun. Good night guys. Take care. As for all my Egyptian friends, thanks a lot for all your positivity. Best regards. :-)

Diary of Day 4 of the India By The Nile festival 2016, Egypt

Diary of Day 4: #IndiaByTheNile #Egypt #Cairo
By Faridoon Shahryar

Date: April 26, 2016.

It was a day dedicated to conversations and it was deeply satisfying at the level of spirituality. Sometimes when you observe the pain of others, you can relate to it in an unspoken way and it is cathartic because our own pain appears less.

In the morning I was interviewed by Ola Samir for an Egyptian website. It was interesting how she recorded the conversation on video as well as it's audio. The questions were interesting.

I and Tahir went to Maharaja Restaurant in Zamalek with Marwa Love Salman whom we've known since our last trip. She's extremely well behaved, courteous and intelligent. It feels wonderful to know people outside of your own country who treat you with such respect.

We went to Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture in the evening and were pleasantly surprised with Egyptian fans who are learning Hindi/Urdu due to their love for Hindi films. They danced and sang for us. A girl couldn't speak a word of Hindi but she danced superbly on #ManwaLaage with all the trappings of a classical dancer. A boy was a total filmi chap as he sang and danced like a pro. A mother and daughter duo are both learning Hindi/Urdu in the same class. An Arabic man sang Amar Akbar Anthony for us and sang the Arabic translated version as well.

The next stop was Cairo Opera House where first of all we treated ourselves to a nice cup of tea. Later we interviewed Mr Sanjoy Roy, the director of Love Story, A Bollywood Musical which is one of the attractions at India By The Nile Festival this year.

The best was saved for the last as our Egyptian good friend Nadia Jereidini along with her wonderful friends Amira Mohamed and Hanan treated me and Tahir out for dinner at Mahraani Restaurant on a big boat stationed at the Nile river. Great ambience with carefully crafted artistic decor and nice soft music. The food was awesome. Chicken tikka, seekh kabab, naan, gaajar halwa with ice cream and then there was chhoti ilaaichi, laung and saunf to complete the course. The mint tea was a delight. When you talk to people whom you trust, a lot of positivity flows without making any efforts. You get to feel the pain of your friends that's hidden by their bright smiles. If you're a friend then you should care about the pain of the people who make a difference in your lives in whatever capacity. The precarious manner in which the world is perched at right now, it is important that we must make efforts to help each other irrespective of the religion, cast, creed, colour or any other barrier. It may sound clich├ęd or pedantic but we must keep Humanity first. Everything else will follow.

Good night!

Diary of Day 3 of India By The Nile festival 2016, Egypt

Diary of Day 3 of the #IndiaByTheNile festival 2016

It was an incredible day. I received so much of selfless warmth today that I am truly overwhelmed. We went to India House in the morning. Indian Ambassador to #Egypt, Mr Sanjay Bhattacharya warmly welcomed us. He briefed us about the bond between #India and Egypt and how the trade and cultural transactions are further strengthening the bond between the two countries. When I did a one on one interview with Mr Bhattacharya he apprised me about the huge love for Bollywood amongst local Egyptians.

A dear Alig Danish Habeeb came and met me at the hotel and later in the afternoon he treated me to lunch in an Indian restaurant. It was a wonderful time spent.

After a passionate session of swimming in  the afternoon, I went to meet the members of Indian Egyptian Friendship Association. It was an unforgettable evening. They showered such affection, funny jokes and a superlative love for Bollywood films and stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan etc that I was truly overwhelmed. The interesting part that I've been noticing in Egypt is that women are generally progressive and it is a wonderful thing.

The evening reached its climax as we covered the concert of #IndianOcean group. Talking to Rahul Ram post the concert was a great experience. He's a gifted artiste. It was an amazing day,