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152: Homeward Bound

1 Jun

I’m off to Bangalore for a short while, dear friends. It’s a break I have been looking forward to, naturally, and now that it’s time to leave (yes, I’m writing this after my successful book hunt at the airport – I picked up Maharani Gayatri Devi’s memoirs), the wait has become even more unbearable. What once used to take us days to reach by train, now takes us not more than 3 hours – we’re fortunate; but now even these three hours feel like a lifetime. My check-in was smoother than I’d imagined at this hour – and everything went off with a happy, genuine smile from both sides – from the lady at the check-in counter to the lady at security check to my coffee waitress. It’s a great way to begin a day, that’s for sure.

I hope to be able to write regularly, but there might be more cheating involved during this period than I’d like to acknowledge. I’m referring to blog cheating and food cheating, of course. Sometimes it is hard to draw the line between these secondary forces that pull me to Bangalore – is it the food, the weather, the memories, the walk back in time?, because the one thing I focus a lot on, is food. I’ll write more about memories on a later post; but food really seems to take precedence. Going back to what I was saying is that I hope I can maintain this venture while I’m busy stuffing my face with the madness Bangalore has to offer.

See you on the other side, dear reader! Have a pleasant and colourful June! :)

45: Travelling Then, And Now

14 Feb

Travel back then meant being excited right from when the trip was planned all the way till we said our byes to each other once our return journey was done and dusted. Travelling back then also meant waiting with more impatience and fervour than with bated breath. I used to especially love the entire process of packing my bags once I’d figured out whatever it is that I wanted to take along with me. Earlier on, it also used to involve picking the best mixed tapes to keep me company. Later when tapes gave way to discmen, MP3 players and then onto just a playlist, it still did matter what got on to a holiday and travel list, and what didn’t. All in all, there was a lot to do and it was done with a zeal and energy which was contagious.

Today is a different story. Travel today means to ensure everything is in place, taken care of, organized, and settled before I can even begin with my packing. By the end of it all, I really want to get done with the day, get a good night’s sleep and proceed on to D-Day. I don’t really enjoy packing anymore, unpacking even more. Maybe I’m just inherently lazy. And I procrastinate like crazy – a lot of what can be done earlier is kept till the last minute, such as – getting our laundry done, clearing the fridge out, getting pre-cooked meals in place, and what have you. All this looks so idealistic and pretty in mind; but seldom is achieved.

I remember the first time I left my marital home – I’d gone out of my way to ensure A had enough and more to eat. Of course he regressed to his bachelor days leaving more of it to lie in the fridge, which back then was surprising, but today I’m thankful…because I don’t have to do as much anymore. It’s easier to draw the line, go on a holiday, and not think too much about the many things I should’ve, could’ve or ought to have done. But here I am, ready for some travel (my bags are still not packed), but more at ease than when I first got married. The housework’s more or less taken care of, and I’ve left the rest up to A to handle…equal responsibilities no? *evil grin*

During this time I hope to not be as MIA as last week, and I hope to be more disciplined. But the thing about travelling is just that – there’s no time to do the regular stuff. :P All I really can think about at this very moment is to get into bed and catch a wink or two before it’s time for the next lot of stuff that needs wrapping up before the lady of the house puts her heels up. :)

I’ll see you on the other side, dear reader. A very happy Valentine’s Day to you too. :)

35: Of Monumental Gratitude

4 Feb

This is my third visit to Agra; the city of the one and only Taj Mahal. The first time I came here was with A for a day’s visit, back when he was courting me. Unfortunately neither of us were aware that it was the closed on the very day we’d taken time out to visit it – Friday. After all, who shuts a wonder of the world down for a day every single week, I ridiculed. We drove down on a Friday, obviously oblivious, and returned back thoroughly disappointed; I’d come all the way from Bangalore back then. Our second visit was dominated by family time and commitments, which left us with no room to step out. 
This time when we planned our travel, I’d left the idea on its own…if it happened, I’d be thankful, and if it didn’t happen, I’d have to wait till my time to see it arrived, I told myself. With that, we set off for Agra again, to visit family. 

Today, at long last, this happened. 


The only thing I remember saying when I climed the steps up to the mausoleum was an exclamation! I’ve never ever seen a building this beautiful, this humbling. I will talk about my experiences in greater detail sometime. However, all I’d like to say for now, is how immensely grateful I am for witnessing this piece of history, beauty, remembrance, love if you will, and melancholy that made me stop and stare, today. 

34: Reliving Irreplaceable Memories

3 Feb


Some memories are best captured by experience, then pictures and words. It’s been the longest time since I took a train journey, so when an opportunity presented itself, I was happiest that we took it. 

While waiting for our train to arrive, my path crossed that of the platform’s bookstall, where I picked this kids comic up just for keeps. They didn’t have Tinkle, which I associate with train journeys, among other things that kept us kids busy in transit. Magnetic ludo, snakes and ladders, trump cards, comics, and when we grew up a little more, a walkman along with prized self made mixed tapes. And books. Always. 

Today I’m like a kid at a candy store or for me, a book/stationery store. My excitement knows no bounds. And with that, I take your leave, because hello window seat. :)

Back On A Time Machine

14 Sep

A and I made a trip to Govardhan, a first for me, back in March sometime, if I’m not mistaken. Yep, procrastination, among other blatant excuses, has kept me from writing this post which I so badly wanted to document the moment I set foot into this famed and extremely pious town for many, many devout Hindus. This sacred town which is actually most popular for its Govardhan hill, lies in Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh. This is where Lord Krishna; an incarnation of Lord Vishnu’s – one of the lords of Hinduism’s Holy Trinity – saved the entire village of Mathura from Lord Indra’s wrath by sheltering everybody during a storm under this same hill which he lifted with his little finger. 

Devotees throng this place year round, often performing parikramas (revolutions) around the hill in various forms – barefoot, in dandaasana, by prostrating, by walk or by road…but always with a sense of devotion I’ve never seen before. Ladies, men, children, young mothers, middle-aged family members, the elderly, sadhus, kids even…everyone embarks this journey with an unshakeable and unbreakable steadfastness. 

I’ve never been to a religious place of this historical and mythological stature before. Not only was my time there punctuated by sights like these, but it also almost took me back to a place where time had decided to stand still indefinitely. It’s a marvel of sorts to stumble upon the pages of history for real. For a thorough city-bred girl like me, Govardhan offered me a view of what life used to be like when I was small, or not around, perhaps. It certainly took me back to all the maze-like gullies and cobbled streets overflowing with oversized bullock carts, buffaloes, open drains, wooden doors without locks, bricklane pathways that I had long left behind when we moved away from UP back yonder. It was both overwhelming and wondrous – a walk back that I filled with photographs and snippets to keep fresh in my mind for the times to come. 

Here is my picture story of Govardhan. 


Throwing Back, This Thursday

21 Jul

Because Thursday has somehow become synonymous with being reminiscent, today I thought of becoming a sheep and following the herd trend as well.

Last Thursday saw me wake up at my usual unearthly hour (for a holiday) and fumble around in the cool confines of our hotel room as I rummaged through tea bags to make myself a cup of tea at 7am. There was no bed to be made and the idea of slipping back under the sheets with my bevvy was an idea that toyed with my desire to throw all routine out of the window. However the practicality of balancing a hot mug of tea while remaining covered in bed didn’t seem very likely given the klutz I can be. So a sofa by the french windows whose drapes I’d slyly and slightly pried open without disturbing my sleeping husband (he doesn’t like the curtains open) took precedence.

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But the husband woke up soon enough and there we were, drinking our tea while he watched his tv and I read this rare gem. Soon after this entire tea ritual, I found myself being tempted by the desire to take a post bed tea snooze…I guess fluffy hotel beds with their sea of cushions and the idea of no regular weekday routine does the trick. We lazed around, read the newspaper, watched tv in bed and transformed into lazy hippos that didn’t have anything better to do; except that in sometime, our friend hunger began to make itself present.

Since our package in Shimla wasn’t inclusive of breakfast, we had the flexibility to eat from wherever we wanted to; which led us to exploring the town and the possible eateries we could feed our growing hunger at. We chanced upon a simple, non-fancy but colourful cafe just opposite Shimla’s Town Hall where quite some rather good food in the name of massive stuffed omelettes were wolfed down. But my best memory from this place was this astoundingly amazing coffee I had the pleasure of finishing my meal off with.

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I was a little apprehensive about the coffee; as I always am about tea/coffee as mentioned about in my previous post; but desperately needed some. It was the best decision off the menu, ever. Hideout Cafe makes one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had; strong, robust, energising and far from insipid like many I’ve had before. Please order it if milk coffee is your thing.

To tackle that post-meal slumber which effortlessly slides down one’s eyelids without prior notice, we walked around town and explored what seemed to be the more commercial and therefore crowded, touristy spots of Shimla. It was a good walk, though one we wanted to complete asap because we don’t like crowds or too many people in general. Sauntering through Shimla’s narrow lanes was a pleasure because not only do you walk in clouds more often than not, but because the buildings make you feel like you’re in a fun historical book…the authenticity of it heightened because not all roads allow vehicular movement on them, except garbage vans, ambulances and police vehicles. Do walk along some of these roads in Shimla and you won’t be disappointed, I promise. They speak a different story.

That was last Thursday for me. There was a lot of walking around, driving around, eating (though I wish I could’ve had that orange slush and ice cream priced at 60 bucks which is a rare find in cities – both slush and that price), and exploring scattered with slumber now and then.

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A loves going to the mountains; he says it refreshes him completely – his mind, body, soul and his digestive system. Haha! This is not the first person saying this to me; S thrives on going to the mountains in Kerala – it helps her immensely in every way. And they’re both right. There’s something about being in the company of these majestic mountains and all their splendid magic. We become sponges, soaking up all that fresh crisp air, greenery and general wholesomeness. While I was there this time, I really thought long and hard about the ‘beach or mountain person’ question that many ask. That’s for a separate post; for I feel like I’ve found a valid, and surprising answer.

Also, the answers you randomly chance upon when in the middle of nowhere, is strange and mind-boggling.

Also also, while I was on holiday last week; this appeared in the world.

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Yet another app, yet more artwork ready to morph photographs beyond recognition sometimes…yet another addictive toy to add to the repertoire of your phone’s credibility.

So yes, like I said at the beginning, I’ve become a sheep today…and I kinda like Prisma too.

Fail.

But happy throwing back to your favourite times this Throwback Thursday.

Back Home

18 Jul

It’s so nice to watch the word ‘home’ being typed out so naturally…home; where I am with my husband, in a place that is ours and whose nooks and crannies we are familiar and comfortable with, whose walls we know and wherein lie the bed sheets and pillows that make sleep feel like the companion we know it to be. Home, where most importantly, the bathroom makes my now very rigid fussiness feel completely at ease. It’s good to be back home after what was a beautiful break from the heat, the city, the mindless humidity, the tiring demands of routine and of course, a break from work altogether.

I’ve never really written a travelogue because I don’t know how to, or rather, it hasn’t come to me yet. Travel has, always to be sure, been followed by getting back to work and a pile of work at that. Therefore, on the pretext of what I can only term as yet another excuse, getting down to writing that travelogue has never happened. I’ve realised it takes more than just those words you’d accumulated so carefully with your mind’s eye to write about travelling…that it, to a large extent, requires me to invoke the entire experience all over again in order to feel, see, and incorporate whatever it is that needs saying. And that’s why, I guess, that writing has been kept at the back burner to remain forgotten thanks to the demands of corporate/work life.

It was a marvellous break in many ways. It was for the very first time that I revelled in not having to worry about making my bed as soon as I got up or about following my morning routine which centres around the arrival and tidings of my house help. It was beautiful to waddle around in my shorts and to be able to pick up the phone and ask for things to be brought to me. Besides, there was no need to even venture towards cleaning up after. Of course living in hotel rooms has its many cons to the pros that sparkle their way to the forefront of a holiday experience, but the joy in not having to worry about all this was a (scary) reminder that a) I’ve gotten into a routine which has become more mechanical than it need be, and b) my life has become a lot about looking after a house. It was a realisation that did bite and one I’m still chewing on when it comes to that.

However, there wasn’t much to ponder over since we were mostly on the move barring the times it rained. There is always so much to see even if we don’t do the regular touristy stuff, which is always. I think what works for us is that we despise crowds and that we both love going for walks/drives and chancing upon the things we do. We are still getting used to each other while on holiday, but we’re learning, that much is for sure.

Many pictures were taken, a lot of food was had even if it was over highway stops filled with refreshing glasses of chai (sometimes thick, sometimes ripe with cardamom, sometimes gingery, sometimes thin; all perfect in their own way) and maggi. It’s heartening to see boards of maggi adverts appear because not only does it make a quick snack/meal but it also makes the hysteric in me feel safe. Omelettes and maggi; two things I can almost always have anywhere in this country without a second thought.

I’m glad we got this chance and that we took it. We did see and learn a lot, as always. We also did get to see a side of our country neither of us had ever visited before. I wish I could write and share more while it’s still fresh in my mind; however I’ve also begun to realise that the after effects of travel are far more pronounced now than they were when we were younger. Here’s me signing off to gather my energy in time for the next post here. :)

Timeout

14 Jul

A and I decided that a break was in order for the both of us. A lot of our life centres around the breaks we take like, some sort of energy bars that need consuming before we resume on the year’s journey, brimming with demands and things to be done. 

The weather has been absolutely cruel – I’m sure it’s normal for the people who are used to it, unlike I am – and so we decided to rejuvenate our lost energy in the mountains. I’ve obviously been a lot more sceptical what with the fragility of the Himalayan region. But the idea of sinking into pyjamas and sweatshirts, fingers cupped around steaming mugs of chai and of course, just getting away, was more than enough to keep my hesitancy on the back burner. 

I hope we get to spend the next few days just soaking in all the character, magic, narratives and hidden stories of the pieces that put our trip together. 

There’s something about road trips, irrespective of how tiresome they end up becoming, that just makes your heart skip a beat…that mak you want to stay up and not miss a single thing. 


Here is me breaking the stereotype of a sarson ke khet (mustard fields) and butter chicken dhaba Punjab. Out in the distance lies Himachal Pradesh in those mountains. 

Traveling is humbling. 

Travel is the best education.

Missing, In Action

17 Aug

In this one month of my being missing but certainly not being out of action, there have been countless times when I’ve wanted to make a run for the laptop in order to write and document everything I wanted to write. I realize that most of my posts have beginnings with this theme, historically. However, apart from the fact that my physical proximity to the laptop wasn’t always assured during these moments of wanting to write, the urgency to come here and write got trumped by the conflict of witnessing the experience in its entirety versus skipping along to document whatever I was witnessing. Think of it as trying to capture moments on your camera in the need to hold on to them forever without actually having experienced the moment in its entirety at all because you were too busy thinking about how to make it look, feel and documented. Happens a lot, doesn’t it? You emerge with what you think/believe and perhaps are amazing moments captured, except looking at that picture seldom elicits the response it would have had it been experienced untouched. Call me old-fashioned, but I do believe in that philosophy. And that’s exactly where we’re not headed because there’s such an urgency to capture everything in the attempt of keeping it forever that you forget to live in the moment. Ironic are our advanced ways of keeping things permanent. Don’t we know that even memories aren’t permanent?

I digressed. But I needed to make that point because as opposed to coming here and writing about every single event at the gain of higher stats, followers and readers, sometimes it makes better sense to take a seat back and harness the actual ability to look back, recollect and be able to weave your words from those concretised memories/experiences. It’s clear that this blog doesn’t follow a primary tenet of blogging – that of being regular in order to gather your reader base and so on. I’m presuming there are an infinite number of blogs out there and that we all really do not actually have the interest nor inclination to peruse through the masses – we’ve just run out of time and/or would rather spend our time attending to the added activities in our daily life that we believe makes it more promising to live, I suppose. Unless you’ve got a kickass blog that’s magnetized the world; which this is clearly not. So we’re safe here. I don’t feel weighed down by the burden of keeping up as such.

Talking about time, it has been of the essence off late because there’s wedding work I’m thinking about doing but haven’t actually gotten down to doing because my thoughts of just how much there is to do bog me down and I try finding respites as much as I can. Escapist me. Between fast fading mental checklists that haven’t even made it on an excel sheet or Evernote, there was something else that took over my life the past few weeks – five seasons of Game of Thrones. Yes. Don’t even bother guessing which took precedence over the other and waste your energy, will you?

Never having been a fan of history, forget shows of this kind, a friend brought it my way and asked me to have a watch (she had only S1) just so we could engage in a dialogue about the show and its similarities to our society today. Despite having attempted a watch much earlier on and failing miserably to move past minute 2.5, I decided to give it a try because I clearly had nothing else to do or to spend my time on. Weddings can take a backseat, apparently. And wedding plans did so take a backseat as I gobbled up one slow episode after another. Needless to say, I hated some, loved some, loathed some, wished for some to be tortured, hoped for the safety of some and of course, fell hopelessly in love with only Jon Snow. Thank you, dear television show people, that was a fine way to reward the world that loved Jon Snow ever so much.

So GoT took me by the collar and made me sit by the laptop till I finally emerged to conquer all the backlogs I had left. I’m not sure what about it made the world go ga-ga over it, unless of course it was Jon Snow, in which case, I’d agree and join the ga-ga bandwagon happily. That apart, yes, someone did say how our society today and the one in GoT is similar. I’d like to agree. Of course we pretend to be more civilized and responsible and all that jazz, but really, who are we kidding? It’s a nice watch, this one. Its episodes are about an hour long each, with ten episodes a season. So do dedicate 50 hours of your precious life if you must and perhaps you may emerge a fan too. Of course you can do other things like make arrangements for your wedding, in case you are getting married. No one will judge you for choosing the latter, I’m certain.

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Somewhere between seasons 4 and 5, because I now measure units of time by my GoT watching activity, I went on that much needed, and my very first, South Indian road trip. It was more marvelous and the pictures half capture the real depth of the blue in the sky and the actual fluffiness of those clouds. And the luscious green and the blackness of the tar. And no, I’m not talking about colour enhancers.

It’s good to take off. I believed it was the stuff existential and annoying Facebook quotes were made up of, except that when the time comes, take off you must. Wind in the hair and all.

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People always ask the cliched “Are you a mountain or sea person?” question, guilty as charged here as well. Of course some people have a ready answer. Me? Sometimes I think I was born to be confused because of course there are no ready answers. There is just beauty and more beauty and it’s all about experiencing the magic of it all. Nature is tangible magic, I believe, therefore sponging up my dose of magic as and when I can is something I’m always on to. Imagine a hound on a trail, if you must. Except, let’s substitute violence and gore with calmness and peace.

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It’s really that simple. The promise of the luxury of time, peace, happiness and mojitos on a hot, monsoon afternoon… I think it’s a darn good bargain. Until you wake up from your reverie and see those fast-fading checklists come back to light because you realize that a wedding, one’s own wedding, needs to be attended to.

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The Big, Fat, Indian Shaadi. It’s nearing though it still hasn’t struck the shores of my consciousness yet. Complete with real-life drama, entertainment, a gazillion people, conflicts, rona-dhona, reminisces, freaking out sessions, navel-gazing moments, forceful growing up situations, happy and dreadful shopping sprees, over enthusiasm which seldom involves the couple and so on, it’s hard to not be a part of the crazy bandwagon. Before you know it, you’re on it and you’re moving along, mostly clueless about where you’re heading.

So yes, Indian weddings, they are a completely different ball game together. Even for those who think they’ve got it all covered.

All the best to those mental checklists I still haven’t penned down out of the fear that they will never end.

English, and then some…

24 Jan

I’ve always wondered about the concept of traveling alone. There’s quite some amount of romanticism attached to jetting off to unknown places by oneself, armed with just about enough self-confidence, courage and of course, money. I’ve seen people do it, have family who pushes for it (but who hasn’t necessarily done it), watched friends talk about it and certainly seen so much of it happen by means of photographs and anecdotes splashed all across Facebook. And read the many blog posts one comes across, especially if you’re a woman and preferably single…because what better than to just throw it all to wind and take off without being accountable or responsible for anyone else in your life, right? Talking of which, and to digress a bit, this was one piece I came across a while back and bookmarked in the hope to share it someday, with you. It’s about how every woman should travel alone. Do give it a read. It’s rather enlightening and refreshing and scary all in one.

Because we’re so attuned to doing things together with someone/people at almost all times (culturally, anthropologically and of course socially), there automatically arises a sense of adventure and novelty in venturing out alone or even doing things alone, to the point of attaching a sense of romanticism to it. Of course it’s a new feeling from the usual. Sometimes it is exactly what we need without it automatically becoming exactly what we always want. And so, I figure, we feel a certain romance about making new discoveries with our very own person, capacities and capabilities. Yes, it is a heady feeling to be able to stand out and feel a sense of victory for doing it all on your own, when the norm displays otherwise.

I fit somewhere in the boring norm of preferring to do things in company of others, barring the exception of shopping. I am a weird girl that way. And so it isn’t a surprise that I haven’t ventured out into foreign lands by myself with the determination to be the next best explorer my ego dreams I have the potential to be. I don’t say it’s impossible to do things alone, I certainly don’t. I just find it more appealing to be in (the right) company.

But it so happened that the time had come for me to take that step out, alone. And what have you, it wasn’t to someplace within my own country, but to Singapore. It was exciting and intimidating; the ratio of both being heavily skewed because really, the assurance of Singapore literally being the safest city/country in the world made all the difference. It was a lovely experience, I did things I wouldn’t be able to do in my own country/city without having to look over my shoulder or be on call with paranoid family at all times. It felt good to be out there like a small inconsequential drop of pollen flitting around a strange land. It was different. To be alone and not known was intoxicating because my travel came at a time when I needed exactly that. And soon enough, I was back here. It was perfect.

Before I realised it, it was time to be on the move again; this time to Thailand. I wasn’t traveling alone and the thought of more travel was too good to be true. But it was true and soon enough, I was in a country/city which seemed more foreign than I have ever felt in my life. Despite being in company, there was something starkly unnerving about the place…and that was this – the disappearance of something so innate and inborn (in my opinion); the disappearance of language; of a language I live in. And this realisation happened time and again when you’re down to your most basic form of communication; through gross representations of things you’re desperate to say via actions. And still being at sea. This isn’t to say that English is non-existent in Thailand. It is just that when something as basic as communication is impeded, it makes you realise just how we take things for granted. To assume things will be okay because we live in a bubble of a language thought to be global but really isn’t, is a rude shock for people as ignorant as me.

It struck me then that my travels to the UK and Singapore were such a breeze even in solitude because I had the biggest support and company of English. I definitely do not wish to sound or behave elitist because I do come from a culture and a country whose historical and cultural being is steeped in so much more than learning and understanding English. But Indians and our connection with English calls for another discussion that is empirically steeped in history and culture.

Maybe there is a reason why we’re told to take off alone. Because when you break the shackles of your own comforts of family, friends, associations and even spoken language, you find yourself standing on a ground that is at a level that enables your true sense of self-discovery. It is extremely unnerving and difficult. But it isn’t impossible. Because what I learnt when I was in Thailand, be it in company or alone, was that give and take all the strings that you hold on to or are attached to, you’re dealing with just another version of yourself out there; a self who shares a history of being closest to what you’re made up of; a self culture has taught us to call strangers. But if you are to look at it, we aren’t strangers at all. Because barriers of spoken language apart, something more innate and inborn took place; the exchange of wants, needs, feelings and to some extent, thoughts, took place. That through it all, communication took place. Because…