Monday, August 29, 2005

Disneyland Hong Kong: Much Ado about not much to do

[with due apologies to Bob Dylan]

How many people must at one spot stand
before Disney finds there's a crowd?
And just how many rides and shows must it make
to get them involved and move out?

The answer, unfortunately, is still blowing in the wind and Disneyland is yet to hear any of it.

photograph credits: ME

Dunno how many visitors sunburnt themselves under the unexpected sun yesterday, but the number sure rivalled Bombay's Victoria Terminus rush hour, or for that matter, HK Central's lunch hour. The trains to the park were packed in the morn when we joined the throngs, and I would guess, right through the day too. But that's all right, and well-expected. At least there was the air-conditioning to save one's sanity.

The real assault to my senses began when the sun broke out as I entered the park - though I would blame the theme park's logistics, and not the climate, for the fiasco. Disney's done a fine job with its modelling - the Main Street's quaint, with all the air of a Hollowood set. And the different 'lands' (tomorrow, fantasy and adventure) aren't bad (nope, not great). But how could the architects forget that this is not Europe where people die for every glimpse of the sun but the sunny locale of Asia? There are no shaded paths to walk under, and at some attractions (such as the not-so-attractive Tarzan Treehouse) no shades as you queue up! In short, unless you carry your own umberella in the manner of sun-phobic women, it is not possible to avoid getting slowly roasted.

The problem gets worse, of course, when there're too many visitors around. To my mind, their number may have exceeded the theme park's reported capacity of 30K when I visited. The resultant long queues extended out not just from the major attractions, but even the 'fast-food' restaurants! Imagine waiting one hour for chips and burger, and you know why I'd had my fill of the place by just 4 pm (as did quite a few others judging by the number of people in my compartment during the ride back home in the evening), though the place was open till 10 at night.

To be fair, it wasn't entirely a nightmare. But the small windows of enjoyment at the colourful Broadway style Lion King musical or the fancy roller coaster in space were simply not worth the hassle. And half the time, it was clearly bad logistical planning that was the root of the problem. For instance, to visit Tarzan's abode, we had to take a 1 minute boat ride through a water body - which would not have been such a slow affair if they'd just built a bridge across. After all, why create a bottleneck for no reason? Then at the Lion King, we had to wait for 35 minutes in a packed enclosure, thankfully shaded but not air-conditioned, before we could enter the auditorium to be able to get any seating - and that's when I had a fast pass!

All in all, it was 200 bucks down the drain. Once the park officially opens on Sep 12, (I visited early thanks to the discounted passes distributed to Standard Chartered for the weekend) I don't see how Disney plans to avoid the overcrowding, the resultant chaos, and ultimately, the disappointment of its guests. There is simply not enough to keep people of HK interested for long, or induce people outside of HK to specially make a visit.

The experience reminded me of Appu Ghar (Delhi) when I was a kid - some 15/20 years ago: More of waiting, less of playing. That place clicked despite the problems because there was no other choice available in the city that time - but HK has an up and running Ocean Park. It seems to me that the moneyhole Euro-Disney will soon have a buddy to debt-up with.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Of cats, kittens, and other things that matter

The trouble with a kitten is
Eventually it becomes a

This is one of the very very very few Ogden Nash poems that I don't agree with.

after all
are no trouble at all

Indeed, as their perpetual yawning and stretching away from us shows, we are quite an irritating and avoidable bunch for them.

Still I've given his grievance much thought, I can come to only one conclusion about the problem he had with the feline: He can't digest the fact that the cat is way beyond him in efficiency and effect in its disdain for the world.

While Ogden sat for hours on end, or maybe days, to poke fun at yet another target - toying with Miranda who just turned thirty, or summarising away the baby who did little else than walcum the talcum - the cat surpassed his belittlement in just a few seconds with a most effortless yawn. Yep, and each every cat can do it. Plus, that ultimate achiever of too-boring-to-even-be-loathed directed itself not to just one element but towards everything on the universe (i.e. everythings beside itself and pieces of string).

Oh Cheer up Nash, cats do not have the capacity to make up whimsical rhymes as you did. (Of course, they do not need to, nor would they ever condescend to gift anyone a prose of their own!) And if they did, remember what Avis said - you're number 2, so you've gotta try harder...

Oh well, I wish you were still around and writing for us. My cats don't speak to me any more :X

p.s. some quote websites seem to have mutated Nash's rhyme to "The trouble with a kitten is that when it grows up, it's always a cat." I am sure what I have on my website is the correct version, having read it in one of his poetry books.

p.p.s. actually I don't have any pet cats at the moment. Damn apartment rules and regulations. But if I had, they would probably be ignoring me (which is not really a problem, because as we all know, chasing is the fun part :D)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Long Live India ! (but hopefully in an upgraded version)

It is a trifle late to post Independence Day musings, but newspapers are still flogging the topic (on websites at least) and I was reminded of a statement by my grandfather: wo waqt behtar tha. kam se kam jo maarta tha woh angrez tha, ab to apne hi log kaisa bartaav karte hain. Zyaada chot lagti hai. [translated - those times of the British were better. If the white man was hitting us, we knew he was an outsider who could not be expected to feel for us. But now it our own who exploit us - and it feels worse]

I've heard him say this just once, and it is the only time I have felt annoyed with him. I felt like arguing with him at his blasphemy - to say that pre-independence we were better off! The shame of it! To admit to the 'better' rule of people who tortured us, impoverished us, brutally killed us - those who left us to suffer bloody riots in a partition that they fuelled as well as they could!

The line goaded me for quite a few days, and I hotly answered back in my head many times over - though at some level I wondered if he knew better what he was talking about. After all, his knowledge wasn't a result of just movies and history books like mine.

I finally realised the true import of his words during my daily religious reading of the newspapers. Littered with every abominable exploitation that you can think of, they slapped me with the answer in every headline. Woman forced to march naked in her village. Rapist asked to marry his victim. Thousands of crores of welfare money eaten by Babus. Schools without teachers. Jails with innocents. Corruption. Corruption. and then some more corruption.

It wasn't my grandfather who was insulting freedom fighters - it is the powerful of today. And I grudgingly wonder - would the independence heroes still have made their efforts if they'd known that the crimes would still persist, only some of the victims would change?

Perhaps they would have still, in hope. And I guess, despite his statement, my grandpa will not be welcoming the Brtitish rule back, far from it! But I do wonder - where will India's next freedom revolution come from? The first one could not quite make it to its destination all the way, so how can it inspire the next? [It was not just to overthrow the British - it was a desire for a better India, without persecution, poverty and the ills of a heirachical society with an exploitative powerful class]

I'm sure many will suggest killing off all the politicians we have. It's a good start indeed, but not quite enough. Coz ironically, though we are quick to see how politicians are milking us to their advantage, we're quite blind to how we treat those below us in the earnings ladder.

Read this piece by Sainath, whom I've been lucky enough to be taught by a few years ago. I am not sure how many of you will agree with his words against slum demolitions that took place recently in Bombay, but I am hoping you will see how callously we think of decisions that affect those below us. It seems so black and white, that illegal occupation equals legitimate kicking out. But is it? Would you have thought it all right if the British, through their negligence, caused poverty, which then forced the poor to live in illegal slums in a city to find work, and then burnt down these slums overnight? That's not justice, that's nightmare, and we're the ones who're standing by and cheering.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

For starters...

... let me begin with what I want to end up as. It would be a fitting introduction, coz I've spent a good part of my life-span conjuring it. or rather conjuring them. There are many versions, and many desires - not much different from Bollywood potboilers and tabloid headlines. For instance, I've killed some dictators, quite a few terrorists, and many many hearts. I've been an admired actress, a hypnotic singer, and a best-selling writer. I've even sported shiny skin and striking poise at sixty, without going through the rigours of a makeover reality show.

At this point, you must be thinking, as I often wonder myself, this cannot possibly all happen. In fact, not even one of these is going to take place. But then at times like this, I get inspiration from George Bush. If that man, whose voice and frowned-head-equals-compassion-face has the same effect on me as chalk screeching in soprano over blackboard, can win two elections in a row - boy, I can do anything.

So it is that I am still day-dreamimg. After all, staying alive has its trials: bad news, and what's worse, true bad news. What I'm counting on for relief is kicking back, in thoughts and in words.