28 August 2007

Who's Sari now? - a traditional dance story

Aussies were purchasing traditional food too - ice cream and packets of chips....like going to a Celine Dion concert and finding that the support group is Motorhead!

Indian culture truly is an amazing thing given its facets and its extensive and rich tradition.

Being married to an Aussie Punjabi means that I frequently get to experience aspects of that culture. To a small minority of people that might mean having a ‘curry’ rather than a meat pie and chips! To others it could revolve around meditation, yoga or getting in touch with your spiritual self. Though to some of my friends their ‘spiritual self’ revolves around sculling a scotch and coke or three!

Anyway, at the weekend just past, we decided to go to an Indian dance show that was being put on at the local civic centre. My wife and daughters got dressed in traditional clothes. My wife wore a Punjabi suit (salwar kameez) and the gals wore multi coloured lenghas. As for myself and my father in law, we decided to go in traditional clothes too. In our case as casual Aussies!

We got to the civic centre about 5 minutes before the show started. Inside the foyer there were a few stalls selling Bollywood DVD’s (no Tom Cruise or Hollywood movies here!), Indian handbags and henna displays. There was even some Indian food on offer.

The show was split into two parts. First part traditional and second part modern. The first part covered the story of Krishna Leela. This involved a series of dance scenes following the life of Lord Krishna. Having not seen many traditional Indian dances I found it very interesting. Although we had great seats there were a number of latecomers arriving that occasionally hindered our view. The latecomers were working on what Aussie Indians call ‘Delhi Time’. That is the latecomers are still on ‘Indian time’ which is approximately 5 hours behind Australian time!

At the end of the first part of the show the MC stated that there would be a ‘short break’ of 35 minutes. I was amazed. How can 35 minutes be a short break? Surely 15 minutes is but not 35 minutes! Was this another example of Delhi Time?

We went into the foyer to stretch our legs. While waiting for the second part of the show to start I noticed that there were 2 food queues. Indians were queuing up for the traditional food - murgh makhani (butter chicken) and rice. Meanwhile in the other line Aussies were purchasing traditional food too - ice cream and packets of chips (crisps to us English)!

By the time the second part of the show started I noticed that there were many more people in the auditorium than before. Naturally, the vast majority had come to witness the excitement of Bollywood and bhangra.

Straight away the audience was becoming more passionate as the dancers started going through their well choreographed steps. Then, when the first bhangra dance started, there was a huge roar from virtually all the Punjabi’s in the audience. At the back of the theatre a group of them were enthusiastically dancing away.

When the roar came, my mind went back to England where I would stand on a freezing terrace while watching a football game and cheering on my team (normally to defeat – I am a Manchester City fan, after all). It really was similar. I expected the chant “En-ger-land” to start but, of course, it didn’t.

Indian music is, on the whole, quite sweet and melodic. However, Bhangra is loud and raucous. Its like going to a Celine Dion concert and finding that the support group is Motorhead! The incessant drumming of bhangra music makes it a favourite of dance dj’s worldwide.

The other noticeable thing is that Punjabis are quite vocal, rowdy really, and totally get into the music and its meaning. On the night we went there was a stark contrast between the boisterous Punjabis and the rather polite ‘Hindus’. Maybe the predominantly Hindu audience were really English in disguise?

By the end of the show most of the Punjabi’s were on the stage dancing away with the dance troupe. I too was there with my father in law, and my two daughters who had danced away through virtually the whole second part of the show.

It really was an interesting night and if you get a chance check out your local Indian dance scene, or initiate your cultural experience by ordering a curry from your local Indian restaurant!

21 August 2007

Where am I?

"It wouldn't be too far, perhaps a 15 minute walk ......after all its a long way from Ashfield to Broken Hill!"

Technology really is a fantastic thing. Nowadays we can do so many varied actvities because of this. For example, we can transfer money from one side of the world to the other (lets say from Sydney to London) within minutes. We can also converse with astronauts in the International Space Station and help them with a myriad of tasks. We can also make average singers sound like world class opera singers if we wish. Probably the best thing that technology has brought to mankind is the remote control. Where would we be without this gadget? How many times would we have to get up out of our recliner chair to change the television channel? Only people over the age of 40 know the answer to this.

Anyway, one of the newer forms of technology is the GPS that you can install in your car. I personally do not have one, but I have heard they are fantastic. It certainly beats looking through a street directory with a torch in one hand and your other hand on the steering wheel. Naturally, the traffic light always changes to green when I am in this situation!

This brings me nicely onto the topic for this particular blog. A couple of weeks ago I had to go to the Wests Leagues club in Ashfield for a seminar. For the uninitiated, Ashfield is an inner west suburb of Sydney approximately 12 kilometres from the CBD. As I was at work I thought I would catch a train to Ashfield and then walk to the Leagues club. My instinct told me it wouldn't be too far, perhaps a 15 minute walk.

I decided to get directions from an Australian online website that provides directions all around Australia. I typed in Ashfield railway station as my starting point. Sure enough the website brought up the railway station as my starting point. I then typed in Wests Leagues Ashfield as my destination and clicked searched. When the results appeared on the screen I nearly fell off my chair!

This wonderful (??) website didn't bring up my desired destination. In fact, it didn't bring up anything even close to it. It actually gave me a destination of Westside Drive. The only major problem with this was that this address was not in Ashfield. It wasn't even in Sydney. It wasn't even within the realms of the furthest outer reaches of the Sydney basin. It was in Broken Hill!!

For non Aussies Broken Hill is way out yonder in the outback, virtually on the borders of South Australia. It's the typical outback type of town that you often see in Australian movies and beer advertisements. The website gave me directions to get to Westside Drive. I won't go through what they were except to say that if I followed the instructions then I would arrive at this destination in approximately 12 hours and 50 minutes and will have travelled 1,157 kilometres (roughly 719 miles).

I assume that this didn't take into account food and restroom breaks and maybe also a little snooze. After all, it is a long way from Ashfield to Broken Hill!!

Needless to say I didn't follow the route directions. Instead I went to the Wests Leagues website and found a location map. It was indeed close to the railway station. In fact, it only took me a 10 minute walk to get to my true destination. At least I was on time and not driving through the outback to Broken Hill.

So the moral of this story is quite simple. Even though technology has provided us humans with an easier lifestyle it still can have the occasional hiccup!

18 August 2007

500 and counting!

"the only other comment I have received is from a well known radio personality....when I checked the location of the hit it pointed to a cemetary!"

When I first started my blog I didn't really think about how many 'hits' it was going to receive. In fact, I didn't think anyone outside of myself would be interested in it. However, within a couple of days, I was starting to get hits from outside of Australia. To say I was surprised would have been a huge understatement. Well, just a shade over a month later my blog has passed the 500 mark!

So, to celebrate this achievement I thought it would be a groovy idea to look at some of the stats thus far.

To date my blog has been viewed in 16 countries (only another 200+ to go!). Technically it is 15 as I have included the Isle of Man (after all, they do have their own Parliament!). The list of countries include the obvious ones - Australia (home country), UK, USA, Canada and then the less obvious like Chile (2 hits - g'day to all my Andean readers!), United Arab Emirates and, of course, the Isle of Man! I am still awaiting a hit from the land of Borat. If you can help me to get a Kazakhstan hit then please do!

Naturally, the bulk of my hits are Australian (yes - shameless promotion and coercion accounts for a lot of them!). Just under 87% of all hits come from Down Under. Some might say that I am responsible for 85% of them but that is untrue. Maybe 84% would be closer! Only joking. Interestingly, aside from friends comments the only other comment I have received is from a well known radio personality in Canberra! This just proves that quality people are reading my blog!!

Cities and towns where my blog has been read include Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Auckland, Ulm, Palo Alto, Chatham, Pune and the aptly named Grass Valley! Overall, my blog has been viewed in more than 30 different cities.

The country with the highest percentage of readers has to be the Isle of Man as I had one hit from Douglas. Given the small population I can safely say that 0.0125% of the population has viewed my blog!

My popularity (blog speaking) isn't just from this world! I recently had a hit from Calgary, Canada - nothing unworldy about that, you might say. However, when I checked the location of the hit it pointed to a cemetery! Some might say there isn't a market for blogs in a cemetery but my stats prove otherwise! Similarly, I had a hit from Stockholm, Sweden which had the location as being in the middle of the Stockholm river!

So there it is, a brief overview of my blog stats. I have now put up an RSS feed for anyone who wants to subscribe to my blog. My stats indicate that I do have a handful of regular readers outside of myself!

Here's to the next 500...and hopefully lots of comments!

10 August 2007

Another trip on the Road to Nowhere

"I broke out into a cold sweat, my mouth became dry.....would I see Bree coming around the corner with a basket of cookies?"

There I was busy at work when I received a phone call from my wife. After exchanging pleasantries, my wife informed me that “we are going to Beaumont Hills tonight to visit Dad’s friend. Can you catch public transport and we will meet you there” Just to backtrack slightly, my father-in-law was staying with us for a few days having flown from BrisVegas to pay us a visit.

My first thought was where is Beaumont Hills? I had lived in Sydney for close to 20 years and had not heard of it. Anyway, a quick search revealed that it was close to Kellyville. KELLYVILLE! That could only mean one thing…another trip on the “road to nowhere”. I broke out into a cold sweat, my mouth became dry and my heart started beating faster. Surely not another bus trip on the infamous 610X!

For those of you not aware of this adventure read my earlier blog “the road to nowhere

My worst suspicions were confirmed. I would need to catch a bus to Beaumont Hills. This time though it would be the 617X and not the 610X. Would the fact that the bus number ended in a seven rather than a zero make my journey any easier? Only time would tell.

I researched the route and armed with a timetable waited for the 617X to arrive. It pulled up to the bus stop and I got on. I nervously asked for a ticket to Beaumont Hills expecting the bus driver to tell me that I was on the wrong bus (as per the last bus trip). However, he said in broken English “$5.60, mate”. I took the ticket and tentatively found a seat that gave me a great view of the road ahead.

The journey itself was fairly pleasant except for when the bus braked hard and nearly hit the car in front of us. While on the bus my wife rang me to tell me they were delayed and for me to get off at Beaumont Hills and find a café or something similar and wait for a while. I would then get picked up and we would all drive to our destination. It seemed a great idea at the time. Every suburb in Sydney has cafes, shops etc. I could easily keep myself entertained for 20 minutes.

How wrong was I to be!

I got off at a bus stop and really thought I had entered the Twilight Zone. My first thought was that I had been transported to mid America – the home of the nuclear family, the white picket fence, gleaming white teeth and immaculate hair. I pinched myself to see if I was awake. I was – though my arm was now hurting. The next thought was am I really in Sydney?

The first impression that I got was where had all the lamp posts gone to. It was soooo dark. Maybe alien forces from a planet outside of our solar system was collecting them like some people collect stamps. Also, aside from the wonderfully huge houses, all the lawns were immaculately kept. It must have been bin night as all bins were out, facing the same way and definitely not overflowing (like where I live). There was no rubbish dancing down the road and certainly no sign of graffiti. Even the school looked like a erm school!

I decided to walk around trying to find an elusive café or shop or something similar. All I found was houses, houses and even more houses. Doesn’t anyone in this suburb drink coffee? I thought. Suddenly it dawned on me as the second jogger passed me in an immaculate tracksuit. I am really in Stepford! My imagination was starting to run wild as I got a vision of these ‘perfect’ Stepford Wives in their floral dresses preparing an equally bland meal for their husbands and children. In fact, the area also gave me the impression of Desperate Housewives. Would I see Bree coming around the corner with a basket of cookies?

I was brought back to reality by the ringing of my mobile phone. My wife had got lost and wanted my help. The only problem with that was that I wasn’t sure I was in Sydney! Anyway, despite a creek cutting the road into two my wife finally found the correct route and picked me up. We then drove to our destination down extremely dimly lit streets.

As for the rest of the night we had a great time! My father-in-law’s friend's family was really nice and the Indian food was superb! Also, I didn’t notice any home made cookies sitting in a basket so that was very comforting - especially to me.

All in all, a surreal experience that ended well.

04 August 2007

Shameless Promotion (and a free set of steak knives).

"has been read by 0.0125% of the population....promise them more chocolates"

The amazing thing about blogs is the fact that they can be read by people from all around the world. That is, of course, if you have set your blog settings to allow all viewers to read your epic tomes and given them the option to leave comments.

So far, yours truly, has had hits from a number of countries and exotic locations around the world. Although 'exotic' is not a word I would use to describe Chatham in England! The one location that really amazed me was the hit that I received from the Isle of Man. Now I am not going to go into details about this tax haven that is situated between NW England and Northern Ireland as I may use it as subject matter for a blog down the (beaten) track. However, by my calulations my blog has been read by 0.0125% of the population of the Isle of Man!

This got me thinking as to how I could shamelessly promote my blog and therefore get hits from all around the world. So here are my top 8 ways to do this (drum roll please):

  1. Invite all your family and friends around for a party. When they are leaving give them a farewell gift of chocolates containing a 'with compliments' card that has your blog address. Promise them more chocolates if they visit your blog.

  2. Ring a leading talkback radio station who are interviewing a senior politician. Whilst discussing the GDP of the 'Peoples Democratic Republic of Wango Tango' ask the pollie what effect the GDP of that country will have on your blog.

  3. Go to a live television broadcast and hold up a sign saying "free money" with a link to your blog. It doesn't matter that you are not giving away money as its the hits to your site that counts!
  4. Admit that you are an ex-lover of Paris Hilton and that you will reveal all through your blog. You should pick up lots of cheap hits this way. On second thoughts, maybe this isn't a good form of shameless promotion...

  5. Sponsor a show on Community television. The best and cheapest option is to sponsor a show after midnight. Not only will you save money but you will attract the right type of audience to your blog – night owls, shift workers, caffeine impaired persons etc.

  6. Convince a salsa dancer with a top Sydney dancing troupe to email all her friends around the world. Also, advise her to spread the blog gospel while she is away at a salsa convention in Malaysia (hi, Jo!).

  7. Visit websites of obscure countries and leave messages on all forums that you find. Don’t worry if they cannot read English – just provide a hyperlink to your blog. Before long you will have hits from places like Turkmenistan, Angola etc.

  8. Buy some cheap t-shirts and arrange for your blog address to be written on them. For increased effect get your family, friends and pets (dogs, cats, stick insects etc) to wear them as well.

Well there it is, 8 great ways of increasing traffic to your blog. I was going to try and get to 10 but tiredness, combined with my need for another coffee, has limited me to 8!

Naturally, this author would never undertake any of the above ways to increase hits. Or would he? You decide!