Five Days in November – Book Review

Five Days in NovemberFive Days in November by Clint Hill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There was a time when I couldn’t read enough about the JFK Assassination and the various conspiracy theories about it. Traveling from one link to another on Wikipedia to buying an original DVD of JFK-the movie, only so I could watch and have a copy of the Zapruder film, like many people I obsessed on this event to an unhealthy degree. The last related book I read was 11/22/63 by Stephen King, which I loved.

‘Five Days in November’ was published 3 years ago, but I missed it somehow. When I did finally get it, it was like an after thought, and that too only because of the cover. So yesterday, when I finally picked it up, I was pleasantly surprised and very glad that I had not let it slip.

‘Five Days in November’ presents a very personal and intimate account of events from the inside. I’ve not been reading anything on this topic for years, and never picked up a book on it either, so for me the details in this book are a revelation. It is easy to see the high level of regard and respect Clint Hill had for the President and more so for the the First Lady, whose safety he was responsible for. I think it is not only well written but also sensitively written. Even though he is talking about personal details and emotions, there is no attempt to exemplify drama. There is no need.

It doesn’t go into any speculative deviations, but simply delivers fact and narrates a minute to minute account of what happened two days before and after the assassination.

Easily a single sitting read.

View all my reviews


Whale Spotting in Mirissa


Mirissa is a quaint little town in the southernmost part of beautiful Sri Lanka, famous for its pristine beaches and whale watching. Since the civil war ended in 2009, Sri Lanka has become a popular holiday destination in South Asia and pulls tourists from all corners of the world to its beach towns, biodiversity rich rain forests and scenic hill countryside. It is easy to settle in to the relaxed vibe of this country. The locals are hospitable, polite and very welcoming and the food is to die for.

I was in Mirissa, to celebrate the end of 2015 with friends and with the added, super exciting agenda of witnessing the world’s largest mammal in its natural habitat. Most people call this activity ‘whale watching’ but when you’re actually tagging a single whale and scramble to spot her a few times in the span of an hour, well, it doesn’t feel like the leisurely and pleasurable thing called ‘watching’ anymore.


That’s OK though, the whales (or even the dolphins and orcas we were promised we would see) are not to blame. They simply weren’t in the mood to put up a show that morning and preferred to have a late start, giving the afternoon batch of watchers the most amazing spectacle of marine life.

In any case, this only means that just like my national park experiences of zero tiger sightings, I now have a perfectly valid reason to try my luck with the whales again. Also, this was a good test run to be better prepared for next time. Even though I had done a bit of research on photography tips for whale watching, I wish I’d also found information on what to expect on the boat.

So in the spirit of being helpful to future travelers, here are the top 4 things to keep in mind when you go whale watching in Mirissa:

Take the early morning trip – In a country like Sri Lanka, even when you’re visiting in the best season of the year it’s going to be hot, and out at sea it can get pretty bright. So start early, book yourself on the first shift and make sure to carry sun block, sunglasses, a hat / cap, some cash and your camera. You won’t need much else, so travel light (Water and refreshments are provided on the boat). We started out at about 6:45 in the morning and by 8:30 we were baking in the sun, occasionally blinded by its reflection on the water.

Prepare for sea sickness – If you’re not used to taking boat rides in deep sea and are generally prone to feeling sick, then this would be something to prepare for. I honestly had no idea how my body would react because I don’t remember the last time I was on such a boat or so deep in the sea. Even in calm waters, it got pretty choppy and felt like I was sitting on a camel that was practicing lunges. The deeper we went into sea, the lurchier it got. The only thing that helped was being completely empty stomach.

The only sip of water I took, also made me throw up – and I missed a great photograph opportunity, when the whale was closest to our boat. On the flip side, in that sun, if you don’t hydrate yourself, you’re bound to feel a headache coming on pretty soon. SO decide which option is best for you – either don’t eat or drink until you’re on your way back, or make sure you’ve taken some medication for the sickness.

Choose the right lens. Shoot in ‘burst’ mode – Know that there will be no time – zero seconds – to change a lens or adjust settings drastically. The appearance of a whale lasts between 10 to 20 seconds, depending on how large she is, and if you get into changing lenses you’re bound to miss the sighting completely. The most likely lens you will need is a telephoto or zoom, because the whale tends to appear quite far from the boat, and make sure you’re shooting in the ‘burst mode’ so that chances of getting good shots are highest. All my whale shots above are on a fully zoomed 250 mm telephoto lens on burst mode. So, only if you’re lucky like those other boats, will you not need to zoom in that much.


The major challenge of using this lens in a non-stationary situation, is to be able to minimize shake and get a sharp shot. But that gets trickier with the boat wobbling constantly. It can also get a bit disorienting when the boat moves quickly to come closer to a whale sighting – and locating the whale on a fully zoomed view finder can cost you a few seconds. Again, the only thing that makes this easier is shooting on ‘burst mode’.

On the flip side though, with plenty of sun, at least you don’t have to worry about exposures. I don’t think I would have got any pictures had I started adjusting my exposures manually. But then that’s subject to your photography skills and by all means test that out when you’re out there.


Choose a ‘front & center’ vantage point – If you can help it, try and find a spot that gives you a nearly 360 degree view around the boat. Our boat had these floor mats lined against the railings of the upper deck and while even a place along either sides of the boat are good, I had trouble getting a clear view straight ahead, as that is where the whales mostly appeared.

Many larger boats had these cushy seats on the lower deck, in rows like on an air plane, but they have only a 3 sided view and I’m not sure how much you can see when the whale appears on the opposite side from your seat, or when you’re in one of the back rows…. Then again, I haven’t sat on that boat and it may actually be perfectly suitable too, but it looked like there would be several obstructions to the view.

So that’s it! My 4 things to remember when you go whale watching in Mirissa!

If you’ve learnt something I didn’t on your whale watching trip, I’ love to hear about it. Until then, ciao!

Meeting Abhay Deol…..!!!!

I’m one of those really corny, kind of crazy, star struck people. And if I get the opportunity to meet one of my favorite movie stars, well there’s no stopping me then.

So well, as a complete matter of chance, I got to meet Abhay Deol – someone I totally adore!! I was sweating it out on d – (read: taking a brisk walk in really humid weather), when I got a call from a friend who works for an online Bollywood magazine.

She asked me if I would like to be a part of an event they were organising for a few fans who could meet with Abhay Deol and interact and chat with him. Oh man, i jumped right outta my shoes!!! Of course i was going to go.

The venue was JW Marriot at Juhu. Swanky for sure! Most of us were there on time and Abhay Deol made his entry 45 mins later in true star style.

Well first impressions of seeing him in person:

1. Very Skinny!! Or maybe skinnier than I’d like. I think I would give him stiff competition in an arm wrestling match for sure! But then again, maybe I would give a lotta people competition in a wrestling match ;). Anyhow, what I mean is, he was skinnier than the average male. He could do with some muscle definition (ok I’ll stop at that!).

2. Very Chilled out and down to earth. No airs about being such a popular movie star. Of course, I’m sure he’s used to being a part of many such events and on a much lager scale too, but still, very friendly and forthcoming.

So anyway, we commenced with a round of questions that each one of us could ask him. Most of the questions were centered around his past roles and his forthcoming films and his reasons for being an actor, which he responded to very comfortably. Except, this one guy, who asked him the most ridiculous thing. So here’s what he said:

“I have heard that you are very passionate about girls. WHat do you have to say about that?”

Oh man, you should have seen the colour on Abhay Deol’s face. Turning a deep red and trying to deal with that question with every person’s gaze fixed on him. So after some initial mumbling n fumbling, he tried to put it in perspective for the guy who asked him the question. He said:

“Whether its girls or your work – what matters is, that you do it with passion. If you’re not passionate, it’s not worth it. So that’s whats really important.”

So well, after this tiny blip, the remaining session went on pleasantly. After most of the interactive event was over, we were allowed to get pictures clicked with him and then we were free to leave. There were some reporters from NDTV who wanted to do a short interview with him so we hung around to watch.

I guess it was Abhay’s day to deal with obnoxious questions and comments. So this reporter was referring to his forthcoming film which is supposed to be a love story, and asks him if he’s learnt anything from it – since he¬† can’t hold a relationship for more than a few months himself.

Wow!! That was a pretty offensive statement, and offended Abhay Deol was. But then again he toned it down tactfully and told the reporter that he needn’t answer that since she’d already made her judgments about him and that she seemed to know it all. I don’t think she realised what she said……

Anyway, once that was over, another reporter from NDTV came and requested that some fans sing for Abhay. Of course I wasn’t gonna make that much of a spectacle of myself, had it not been for the friend who took me there with her. Also, being the only ones who stuck around while every other fan had left, we weren’t really given a choice. A guy from my friend’s office was very confident that he wanted to sing, but the reporter pulled us in coz she didn’t want “girl fans” to be missing from the frame and just a guy fan serenading Abhay would have been kinda odd ;).

So we hummed along while that guy sang a song from one of Abhay’s movies. Abhay of course was very amused and kept giving us looks of encouragement so that we didn’t feel like fools as much!

In the end it was all good. We got to chat some tiddy bitty more and laughed around. We even got to take pictures on our cell phones with him. It was all very gracious on his behalf…..especially since we had made the effort to stay and sing. And as he left, there were some more moments of light conversation and laughter and bye byes….leaving us all dreamy-eyed!!!

Here’s my official magazine picture with him. It’s a treasure!!

ūüėõ I’m a sucker for movie stars!! and of course I’ve been quite the show off on Facebook….making it my profile picture and screaming to all my friends that I MET ABHAY DEOL!!! ūüėÄ

Links to the website:

the butterfly effect!!

I had bunked office and was enjoying the hindi dubbed version of “Austin Powers – Goldmember” when suddenly from the corner of my eye i saw this big black thing fluttering in through the window and landing right next to me on the sofa.

Well on first intinct, i flew off the sofa without even realising what the hell it was that came down beside me. Anyway, once i was on the other side of the room i saw that it was a big black butterfly with blue-green dots on its wings.

You know generally i am a very nature/animal friendly person. i mean i’m crazy about dogs n cats n any goddam four legged¬†furry thing. but things like birds and butterflies and all things “winged” kinda creep me out.

So there i was wondering how the hell i was gonna get rid of this butterfly Рwhich was quite pretty actually, big enuff to cover both my palms but i was in no mood for imparting admiration right then. After some initial shooing and waving my arm wildly at  it (which seemed to make no difference whatsoever) i blew a big puff of air to lift it off the sofa. Soon did i realise that that was a stupid thing to do. Coz the butterfly went bezerk. She tried to fly but because the fan was on and there was too much wind for its light body to get stable, the damn thing kept tossing in the air towrds me.

Now it may sound wierd, but the idea of the butterfly¬†sitting on me just did not go down well. i screamed and hopped and ran¬†across the room to the other side, and smartly put off the fan.¬†This helped coz the¬†b’fly settled down under the dining table. so¬†i mustered all my courage to pick it up by the wings¬†with my fore finger n thumb n toss it out the window – but alas!! courage is a ¬†rare commodity and the moment i touched¬†it, i got the creeps and let go – and she fluttered off for the next 30 seconds banging into the wall n what not (what a dumb thing she was. the windows were open n i was holding the main door open but she still couldn’t find her way out)¬†– with me squealing, getting goose pimples all over my body¬†and running about in a 150sq foot room¬†inclusive of a¬†big cabinet, a 5 seater sofa set, a full size dining tabe and 6 dining chairs. My ankle still hurts form¬†bumping into¬†the cabinet so hard!!!

Anyway, the damn thing settled again n then i got one of my “bright” ideas – i thot why not trap it in a polyhtene bag and¬†set it free outside the window. so i found a transparent bag and quickly¬†dropped it upside down on the b’fly. Aaah, that was a smart thing to do, but now how the hell do i pick it up. So with one swift swipe of my arm i liflted the bottom end of the bag, and before i could do anything –¬†as expected, she came out again and headed straight to my face.

So finally, as i waited¬†in a corner and she settled on my towel, i resolved to end this stupid chasen catch episode once and for all. I got up, walked to the towel (she didnt seem to notice me) and held the b’fly by her wings – i could feel the force of the wings as she was trying to get loose – and¬†afraid that i’d get the creeps and let go again – i ran to kitchen window, all the time muttering the four letter word over n over againand dropped her out…………i half expected her to come back – but that was it – i had done it – i had triumphed and i was exhausted!!!!………..¬†BAAAAHhHH!!! BHAGWAAN BACHAYE!!!!¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†


And so I begin……..


Well I finally got down to making this blog – and having done that – i’m kinda stuck bout what i’m supposed to do next. i’m sure the name of my blog should convey the idea.

Ainwayee… – as in “just like that!!” or “with no rhyme or reason” is the essence of this space and since this is the one space that i can really call my own – i aint gonna compromise with the content (dont ask me what that is – i’ll be figuring it out eventually. :))¬†I intend to be spontaneous – so read at your own risk!!!

Nevertheless, i look forward to a long and not so intellectual journey through this blog………….

Expect anything here!!!

C ya ūüôā