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Monday, December 29, 2014

Breathtaking Broadway on Ice dazzles at the Royal Opera House Muscat

Top post on, the community of Indian Bloggers

Bold and Beautiful, they dazzled
( Pic courtesy ROHM)

Almost twenty five years ago, I accompanied my parents as a young girl to Talkatora Gardens, New Delhi to watch in fascinated awe as skaters danced and twirled to beautiful music that seemed to touch the soul. In those moments, I desperately wanted to be one of those skaters, and perform the same magic that they were performing on stage that evening. 

Two hours later, the show finished.We came home and talked about it endlessly. My family probably forgot about it some time later, but that magical interlude stayed with me forever.

Cut to the present in Muscat.

To our delight,  we learnt that Broadway on Ice would be one of the highlights of this Season at the Royal Opera House Muscat(ROHM) and we made sure we booked our tickets well in time. That was in September and we saw this magnificent show on the 26th of December.But some things never change and many years later, I felt like that same little schoolgirl as I watched that very same magic unfolding on stage.And I must add, this time it was probably more spectacular as it was being performed at the magnificent Royal Opera House in Muscat, which has by now firmly established its position as one of, if not 'the' best Opera houses in the present day world scenario.

Willy Bietak’s 'Broadway on Ice' is a show that stunned and delighted  audiences of all ages. Featuring a cast of 16 world-class figure skaters, two singers and a pianist, the performance showcased beautiful figure skating, with impressive jumps, spins, and lifts, set to songs from well-known musicals including Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, Chicago and Funny Girl.Many of the skaters are former athletes, Olympic skaters and national skaters who became show skaters following their competitive careers. Honestly, I really don't think one could ever surpass that level of skating!
Even the curtains were stunning

The skaters included Marc-Olivier Bosse, Andrew Buchanan, Wesley Campbell, Danny Clausen, Aaron Gillespie, Robin Johnstone, Alexandra Schauman, Elizabeth Putnam, Erin Reed, Scott Smith, Cole Stanbra, Arielle Trujillo, Angela Vandermissen, Samantha Veloso, Natalia Zaitseva and Lukasz Rozycki.  

One of the many beautiful acts
(Pic courtesy, ROHM, Oman)

Modern with a very interesting twist
                    (Pic courtesy, ROHM Oman)

'Broadway on Ice' in Muscat also  featured three special guest stars who accompanied the skaters with their vocal and musical skills. They were the incomparable American singer Davis Gaines, Austrian soprano Ira Lauren and the veteran American pianist and composer Lincoln Mayorga. 

Veteran American pianist and composer Lincoln Mayorga takes centrestage 

(Pic courtesy, ROHM Oman)
With my husband Avi 

While it was a show that lasted over two hours- time passed rather too quickly and like the rest of the delighted audience we came out beaming from ear to ear. Now I'm only hoping that I don't have to wait quite so long to catch my next performance of Broadway on Ice.

ROHM A real jewel

The fabulous interiors

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Myriad Shades of Magnificent Prague-My Video now on You Tube

The iconic Charles Bridge, the stunning Prague Castle which thrives on its legends, the legend of 'Golem, our daily walks in the incomparable town square, the Jewish quarter which brought a lump to the throat. I've tried to encapsulate all this. 

Not sure if I've succeeded but am happy that I tried.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

South South East- A Life in Pictures- A Steve Mc Curry Exhibition in Oman Opens

 Sharbat Gula, a Pashtun, probably the most iconic Afghan woman

 "Her eyes have captivated the world since she appeared on the National Geographic cover in 1985. The photographer remembers the moment too. "The light was soft. The refugee camp in Pakistan was a sea of tents. Inside the school tent he noticed her first. Sensing her shyness, he approached her last. She told him he could take her picture. “I didn’t think the photograph of the girl would be different from anything else I shot that day,” he recalls of that morning in 1984 spent documenting the ordeal of Afghanistan’s refugees." (Cathy Newman, National Geographic)
The portrait by Steve Mc Curry turned out to be one of those images that sears the heart, and in June 1985 it ran on the cover of National Geographic."Her eyes are sea green. They are haunted and haunting, and in them you can read the tragedy of a land drained by war. She became known around National Geographic as the “Afghan girl,” and for 17 years no one knew her name."
Last evening, 'South South East- A Life in Pictures' by Steve Mc Curry opened at Bait Al Zubair, Muscat and the legendary photographer was there in person. I really don't recall similar a moment in all my years  in Muscat as when Steve made his entry into the hall. Everybody present wanted to have a chance to meet and ( best of all) have a photograph clicked with him.  I was lucky, I managed both!
Steve addresses the gathering with 'The Afghan Girl' in the background
The exhibition which opened on December 16, will conclude at the end of February 2015. 

The exhibition of more than 40 images is a stunning collection of his work from Afghanistan, Burma, India, China and Yemen. Titled 'South South East: A life in pictures', this is the first time that McCurry has exhibited in Oman with the opportunity for his work to be appreciated and bought by all those interested.  
Another photograph from Afghanistan
Steve McCurry has been one of the most iconic voices in contemporary photography for more than thirty years, with hundreds of magazine and book covers, over a dozen books, and countless exhibitions around the world to his credit.

The Burning Oil fields in Kuwait, 2000
Born in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, McCurry studied films at Pennsylvania State University, before going on to work for a local newspaper. After several years of freelance work, McCurry made a trip to India. Travelling with only a few clothes and some film, he made his way across the subcontinent, exploring the country with his camera.

Some months later, he crossed the border into Pakistan. There, he met a group of refugees from Afghanistan, who smuggled him across the border into their country, just as the Russian invasion was closing the country to all western journalists. Emerging in traditional dress, with a full beard and weather-worn features after weeks embedded with the Mujahideen, McCurry brought the world the first images of the conflict in Afghanistan, putting a human face to the issue on every masthead.

Another stunning series

Steve clicked by me while clicking something

Incomparable masterpieces

Magnificent detail

One of a kind

A memorable selfie with an obliging Steve

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Some Thoughts and Statistics on boredom

Statistics can be fun sometimes. Yet at other times they can leave us really amazed, with the enormity of what they actually represent.Such as what I have here.

Image courtesy- Internet

A fairly recent study conducted by the Daily Telegraph on 'Boredom' tells us that the average adult spends upto six hours a week, feeling completely and utterly bored with life.Looking a little bit further, that translates to 13 days in a year, or a total of 786.5 days of the average adult lifespan of 60.5 years.

According to Wikipedia, 'Boredom' is an emotional state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do and not interested in his/her surroundings. The first recorded use of the word 'boredom' is in the novel Bleak House by Charlers Dickens written in 1852 in which it appears six times, although the expression to be a bore had been used in print in the sense of "to be tiresome or dull" since 1768.The French term for boredom, ennui, is sometimes used in English as well.

Image courtesy Internet

As to the reason for this boredom- it simply boils down to having "little" or as came through in the cae of this particular study, what is perceived as simply not having "enough money."But I differ with that because I've personally met many people who are not 'rich'in the typically understood sense of material wealth but lead a peaceful and contented life on the whole- simply by virtue of the fact that they have the love and warmth of family and friends or  at other times, they are involved in community service-viz doing something to make others happy. 

One more key element of boredom is control.  Boredom often occurs when you have little control over your situation.  Waiting rooms, lectures, and airline gates are all places where you have little control over your situation.  Normally, we react to unpleasant situations by changing the situation.  If you don’t like a book you are reading, for example, you close it and do something else.  Boredom tends to rapidly set in when you are unable to change the situation.  

Finally, a real problem caused by boredom is that it leads you to dislike the things that are the object of boredom.  Here's a real  life example-In Class X, for example, I was forced to read Great Expectations  as it was a course book. While I adore reading, this book became a complete 'no no' as far as I was concerned.  I struggled to get interested in it and spent long hours staring at the pages trying to lose myself in it.  To this day, I really do not like Great Expectations.   The negative feelings that came with the boredom have stuck to the book.

As the authors of the review point out, these negative feelings can actually impair later performance.  Stress can decrease people’s ability to pay attention and can narrow people’s working memory capacity.  These effects can be a particular problem in school settings.  Students need to be able to work at peak capacity to get the most out of school.  So factually, boredom can create long-term difficulties for students.

What can you do about boredom?  Obviously, there are times when you are stuck.  If you are listening to a lecture that you cannot leave, then you just need to find a way to get through it.  When you have some control though, use your understanding of boredom to help you out.  If you can, try to do a meditation exercise to lower the 'extent of boredom' level.  If you can lower this to some extent, it will definitely help. Also, keep some music handy.  Music you really enjoy can help push out  distractions in the environment.  It can also positively influence your mood in positive ways to counteract the pain of being bored.  

Think about it- you could agree or disagree with any/all of what I've written above but then I'm sure you certainly have your share of life's bored moments.

Simple fact is, we all do... 

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Ball with a Big Heart-WGO and OCA set to hold the ‘Masquerade’ Crystal Ball on 12th of December

Every now again, it’s nice to swap the sweatpants and regular party fare for a bit of decadence and luxury. And what better way to manage it, but set up your very own Masquerade ball. This year, the Women’s Guild in Oman ( WGO) and the Oman Cancer Association( OCA ) are all set to give you a fabulous Crystal Ball which has Masquerade as its theme. Not only will you have a fabulous evening on the 12th of December, but you will also have the satisfaction of knowing that the money you spend on purchasing a ticket will be put to the best possible use, as all funds raised during this ball will be presented to the OCA.

Pic Courtesy- WGO 

As a WGO Committee member since 2008, I'm very proud to  be associated with a Women's organisation that does so much to help newcomers settle down in a foreign country, then sets up long lasting friendships in addition to raising funds for causes which merit them within Oman.

Dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries, the Masquerade Ball began as part of Europe’s carnival season. Less high society and more cirque du célébration, villagers would gather in masks and costumes to take part in elaborate pageants and glamorous processions. Quickly spreading across France like wildfire, some of the most notorious balls of the day would be held to celebrate Royal Entries: the grand occasion of welcoming kings and queens into their cities. A standard item of masquerade dress was a "Vandyke", improvised on the costumes worn in the portraits of Van Dyck: Gainsborough's Blue Boy is the most familiar example, and a reminder of the later 18th-century popularity in England for portraits in fancy dress. Masquerade balls were extended into costumed public festivities in Italy during the 16th century Renaissance (Italian,maschera). They were generally elaborate dances held for members of the upper classes, and were particularly popular in Venice. They have been associated with the tradition of the Venetian Carnival. With the fall of the Venetian Republic at the end of the 18th century, the use and tradition of masks gradually began to decline, until they disappeared altogether.

A Masquerade Ball with an Italian Twist
( Pic courtesy, Internet)

The Oman Cancer Association’s objective is to create public awareness for all types of cancers, through community based programmes. The concept of self examination and early detection is the key to early diagnosis and this is also the focus area of the OCA.The OCA works hand in hand with health care providers in the field of cancer management as a patient support group. The Association is also working with decision makers to highlight the patients perspective and supports continuous medical education and assists in research. Most importantly, it raises funds to support the associations programmes and work closely with other patient advocacy groups- locally as well as internationally.

The WGO’s mission is to “offer fellowship, an opportunity for women to meet each other, to enjoy a varied program of speakers and events, and to raise funds for charitable purposes”. At the first meeting, 13 women met at the home of Hilda Staal, including Eloise Bosch who still lives here in Muscat and is a WGO member to this day.  The first bazaar and fundraiser, raised 700 OMR. Since then the organisation has flourished and the membership of 2013/14 reached almost 2,000 members with around   24,000 OMR donated to local charities. The WGO’s members and business partners, as well as other prominent organisations in Oman contribute hugely to the success of the WGO. It is through their on-going patronage that the WGO is able to consistently donate significant funds to various charities, and help those less fortunate than others.

Looking forward to seeing you at the Masquerade Crystal Ball on Friday 12th December.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunset at the Hilton Marina, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE on a lovely November evening

In my last blog post, I'd mentioned that November has been a month filled with travel. So here is the first post on a treasured memory from Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates.

The chirping of birds as they turn in for the night, the date palms swaying gently in the breeze, the stunning twilight hues and the melodious voice of the Muezzin as he called the faithful for prayer truly moved me.

This was one of those  beautiful moments in time and I had a compelling need to record it and share it with as many people as possible. 

Hope you feel the same way too.

Monday, December 1, 2014

More Travel Tales-This time from Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla and Mashobra-A Sneak Preview

Barely three weeks after our trip to Europe, I have many more  travel stories to share.This time from the Gulf and India.

Covering Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Mashobra and Naldera this was a packed three week trip which just ended yesterday.

Home again, with all my photographs downloaded and safely catalogued, I thought it was time to get down to a sneak preview of what I will be writing about in this blog as well as my other one called 'Food For Thought'.

Our first stop, The Hilton Ras Al Khaimah

Breakfast, next morning

The fantastic interiors 

And the beautiful exteriors 

Tea at the Peacock Alley, Waldorf Astoria, Hiton, Ras Al Khaimah

Exquisite interiors 

The Himalayas beckon- Sunset one memorable evening

Taking a real break- My favourite Coffee and reading corner

Refreshing the mind, body and soul

Here's hoping that you will stay and share my journey and the many, many travel tales that I will bring to you all through December....