Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Baby Diaries : Making friends with mommy :)

Image Source: Internet
Finally!! The little man and I seem to have become friends. A few days back, while I was begging him to sleep at 2 AM, he gave me a lovely smile that made me forget all the sleep deprivation and tiredness. Not the random ones that he directs at the ceiling and curtains or the ones that he gives in half sleep. Yes, he looked into my eyes and gave a smile meant just for me. A milestone indeed!

Having been together for more than two months now, I have learnt his ways better and he has started to recognize me too and shows it in his own little ways. He seems to calm down from his bawls if he hears my voice or if I hold his hand. He even smiles if I look into his cradle and talk to him just after he gets up from slumber. A slightly dimpled cute smile that shows his delight at being attended to even for the small shriek that he gave :)

With proper weight gain, he now feels like a sizable baby and I enjoy picking him up and cuddling him. His gurgles and baby talk, the interest with which he observes things around him and his wide array of expressions are a real treat to hear and watch. The way he pouts before crying is unimaginably cute. That one is my favorite expression (Quite a wicked mom, am I ? ;))

There was a time when I actually wondered if I was ever going to enjoy motherhood. The first one and a half months was a roller coaster ride of stress and worries. I guess it took time to get accustomed to being primarily responsible for someone after so many years of carefree existence. Motherhood does take its time to sink in. All those stories about baby and mom bonding instantly and motherhood feeling heavenly as soon as one catches the first sight of the baby sound quite unbelievable to me. Or maybe it is just that I happen to be different :)

I still do miss the times when work, books and music filled my life. I sometimes long for the couple life with just me and the husband living like good friends, discussing the day's happenings after coming home from work, enjoying dinner watching episodes of 'Everybody loves Raymond'  and travelling whenever we felt like it.

But now that the magic between mom and baby has sparked off, I am really beginning to enjoy this phase. Looking forward to write more about this wonderful journey in the baby diaries series!! :)

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Reminiscence, Some Thoughts and a Travelogue - Part 1

The first moments when you become friends with someone are very special and defining.  You are initially guarded, then gradually open up and the magic either works or does not. With some people, the bond just forms and strengthens with time. The rest become mere passing clouds.

Munnar is where the husband and I started our journey of friendship. Ours was a proper arranged marriage. We spoke over phone, met in person, decided that we will get along well and the wedding bells rung! So the initial phase was all a flurry with more of trust in gut feel, phone conversations and what was clearly visible before the eyes. Our first trip after marriage was where we discovered our many many common likes, explored the ones that were not common and enjoyed those too. That was where we found that we could talk for hours and laugh together without reservations, that we could slip into a comfortable silence when we felt like it and still feel together. That was where we shared many of the interesting anecdotes and self defining episodes from each others' lives.

If I think of the trip today, after nearly two years, I can still see images of lush green mountains, tea estates, lustrous lakes and two people walking hand in hand, taking in all the beauty around, feeling content to just be. Needless to say, we became the best of friends in the real sense of it. In a way two strangers sometimes do. Not simply because we were man and wife but because we truly got along. 

We embarked on the journey to Munnar from Madurai by car and the drive was lovely for the sights that we passed by and the constant chatter about them. Once the ascent up the mountain started, I had to be armed with a cartload of lemons for all the nausea it was inducing. The driver seemed to be having trouble too from all the weird reactions he was giving :) The husband for his part, was totally undisturbed pointing out scenery and gushing over its beauty. The lemon besotted me tried my best to enjoy it as much as a person fighting puke can. 

It was with great relief that I got down at the reception of Club Mahindra, our place of stay for day one. As I looked down at the panorama of a faraway beautiful lake surrounded by lush green tea estates, all the travel discomfort lifted off to be replaced by a sense of complete peace and happiness. 

After settling in, some rest and a light lunch, we ventured out to try out some of the resort's activities and to simply explore the surrounding mountains. I had never tried any physical adventure activity then and had great fun doing some rope adventure amidst the scenic setting. We then set out for a short trek up the mountains, enjoying the peace and quiet and taking in the abundant green and blue around. 

Club Mahindra has very tastefully done each and every part of the resort. For evening tea, we were directed to an open terrace and we enjoyed hot tea and snacks looking at the mist floating around mountains. The front portion of the resort overlooks the lake in the photograph above and tea estates that slope down towards it. They have two huge Jhoolas erected a little before the mountains drop to form this view. During daytime, you can enjoy the lake and greenery but the night view simply steals the show! The husband and I spent more than an hour after dinner sitting on the Jhoolah and looking out at the stunning canvas of the night sky scattered with stars.

Next day, we set out to visit some dams, lakes and waterfalls and did some boating as well. Each place stood out for its serenity and bountiful natural beauty. Here are some pictures :

PS: I usually post a lot of pictures in travel posts but could hardly find any from this trip that does not feature either of us :) This post is more of an effort to jot down the memories before they fade out rather than a proper travelogue - as the title suggests! It is also to make sure that this space does not become a mommy blog and so I have written about something other than the little fellow who has otherwise taken over my life now :)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

A New Arrival !!

On the 10th of September, a cute little bundle of joy came into this world to light up our lives. An unknown happiness rushed through my veins as I heard the first cry - a bit muffled from within and amplified many times as he was taken out.A short while later,  I looked up to see the baby that had been kicking away to glory within me until then - an angry little one annoyed at being taken out of his warm water filled familiar home. 'Its a boy!' the husband announced from behind.

The procedure was surprisingly hazzle free with the wonderful hospital staff and the doctor being extremely kind and reassuring. Kudos to them! The days that followed were quite tough with managing pains from a surgery and coping with being a new mom. My family was a rock of support with mom, sis and the husband working round the clock to take care of me and the new arrival. Handling a new born is a first time experience for the husband but he was surprisingly quick in learning. From changing dirty nappies to burping the baby after feeds -  he could do it all within a day's time! Dad did all the transporting work between the hospital and home and my aged aunts cooked traditional 'pathiyam' for me.

However,the magnitude of being a mom hit me full fledged only after I came home. With no all knowing nurses and doctors to run to for every small trouble or doubt, I became a nervous wreck. The first two weeks saw me breaking down for ever minor hitch that I had to face while caring for my newborn. Being the primary care giver for a completely helpless and totally dependent being is overwhelming to say the least. What if I do something wrong? What if his discomforts are because of my not understanding his cues properly?Am I doing my job properly? These questions plague me every now and then.

The husband was and continues to be the official psychiatrist for my maddening fears and stress related outbursts :) His visits and everyday catch up sessions over phone are the biggest energizers for me in what can sometimes feel like walking through a dark endless tunnel. Mom is being as patient as mother earth with all my inexplicable angry outbursts and nervous breakdowns. Sis is my Santa Claus - reminding me all the time that there is a world outside of baby care, talking to me about clothes, books and potential holidays. We have a blast every time she takes time out of her own hectic schedule(managing a home and two kids) to chip in with baby care.

Amidst all this hullabaloo, the little one's funny noises and facial expressions still manage to evoke smiles and laughter from the otherwise harried me. So there is something magical about a new born baby and being a mom I guess :)

After what seemed like ages, its been a month now and am slowly getting back my footing. There is still a long way to go to get back to my normal self but am at least beginning to. I do throw a fit every now and then and sometimes get extremely stressed out even if the baby is a little troublesome. But I am not harried by every sneeze and hiccup from him. I am slowly learning his ways and we are starting to get along! Looks like me and the lil one will be good friends after all :)

Thursday, 31 July 2014

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

I would wholeheartedly give more of myself to people around me. Without inhibitions. Without worrying if my affection is really welcome. Without doubts about them thinking that I am invading their space. Most importantly, without the fear that they would start taking me for granted and invade my life.

Image Source : Internet
I happen to be a qualified and certified introvert. I usually maintain a respectful distance from most people other than my close family and friends. I am a huge supporter of these qualities too. If you are an introvert by nature, you have every right to be. Having often been put off by people who invade too much into others' business, I have become weary of doing it even to a permissible level.

Barring the close family and friends circle that I mentioned, I am very guarded in showing my affection to people outside the periphery. I am afraid it would turn out to be inappropriate or unwelcome. Many times, I can see that it is welcome, but I still hold back. I am afraid that things would go out of my control once I reciprocate beyond the demands of propriety and that I would end up having to hurt their feelings while I take the effort to hold the reins of the relationship. Or even worse, if I would end up crossing what they think is the permissible limit.So my logic is, why risk it at all? But I do not know if it is entirely right.

One of my managers in a workplace where I had spent a considerable amount of time told me at the time of my leaving the company - 'Even if you do not want to be friends with someone, do not ignore them, it hurts'. If I was ever in doubt, I needed no further proof to the fact that I am very stingy with my love and affection even where it is welcome.

For the sake of the majority of cases where it would be appreciated (all of us appreciate genuine affection after all!), I should be able to handle the minority where things may go a little awry.But then, here I am doing the exact opposite! If I am ever able to conquer this fear and show more of well deserved love and affection to people around me, I would have taken a huge step forward in life and I would be a much better person than I am now!

This post is published for the Write Tribe Blog Carnival in response to the prompt - 'What would you do if you weren't afraid?'

Write Tribe

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Book Review : To Sir, With Love - By E. R. Braithwaite

After a lot of failed efforts with disappointing books, 'To Sir, With Love' came in like a breath of fresh air. It gave me the pleasure of reading a meaningful story written in very good language after a long time. The ones by contemporary authors have such repetitive plots and are seldom free from slang and swear words that I almost had tears of happiness while reading this very heartening story written in flawless language :)

The book is an autobiography where Braithwaite(the author) tells us about his journey as a 'black man' in a hypocritical English society in which racial discrimination and prejudice against black people is deep rooted . He begins the book by narrating how he struggles to find a job in spite of being extremely well qualified and having a wealth of work experience. After repeated failed attempts, he realizes that the real reason behind the refusals is his skin color. The callous attitude of the white people comes as a huge shock to him after his much respected stint in the army and the author has very poignantly captured how he feels at this juncture - the actual state of affairs in society dawning upon him, his future suddenly becoming bleak and the sheer unfairness of racial discrimination.To me, this was the most defining moment in the book.

Now coming to the main plot of the story. Braithwaite then manages to get a position as a teacher in a school which has children from a very poor background and unpolished society. The book thereafter talks about his very eventful journey in breaking the ice with the extremely ill bred children, winning their respect and how he succeeds in making gentlemen and ladies out of that seemingly hopeless lot. He also talks about the challenges he and the white woman he loves face in the hands of society that completely disapproves of the relationship.

Throughout the book, the genuineness with which he talks about the ups and downs in his journey is the main winning factor. It completely draws the reader into the author's life and all that it conveys.Every milestone that he achieves in his professional and personal life is heart rending to read and you can feel the triumph of his successes at each juncture. I would attribute this majorly to the strength of the author's feelings apart from his mastery over the English language. This might not have been possible if it was just a piece of fiction. The fact that the story is the author's personal journey adds authenticity to the emotions expressed in the book and it touches the reader too.

'To Sir, With Love' is not just another story. It makes the reader think a lot while reading and thereafter too. This is the kind of book that broadens your vision, puts things in perspective and improves your mind.  I would say it is a must read for all those who love good literature. 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Book Review : An Affair to Remember - By Harkeerat Anand

 In an effort to try and be a person who should be able to see the good in everything, let me start with the positives. 'An Affair to Remember' is quite a well written book and the author has certainly proven her ability to write in a lucid manner.Secondly, the ending was quite unexpected as all the reviews claimed. But after the doles of negativity that the author feeds the reader with through the book, I was quite exhausted when I reached this 'fabulous, unexpected' ending and was in no mood to appreciate it.

Cynicism and disrespect to the reader rule, throughout the book. The author has taken great pains right from her dedication and prologue to tell the reader how insignificant and unimportant he/she is to her and how 'she doesn't care' . Thank you, Harkeerat Anand, for saying those kind words to me after I took the effort to buy your book and worse, spent my time reading it because I bought it anyway. This is something probably no author has ever done to her readers. The prologue goes on to drone about how bad things have happened to her many times and by the time I finished it, there was a very bitter taste in my mouth and I regretted buying the book of an author who herself claims that I am beyond help because I had chosen to buy her book!

Coming to the story, it is about a young man who is stuck in the corporate ruckus of long hours of pressurizing work, peanuts for salary and bosses taking all the credit.How he gets back at the system is what the book is all about. But amidst the mangled mess of scenes that keep shifting back and forth between the confused happenings of the real world and the protagonist's even more confused mind,  the main plot is hardly visible. Am I an unintelligent reader? Maybe, and the author has anyway repeatedly told me that throughout the book. Numerous detailed descriptions of various chemical reactions that can cause explosions (which, by the way, you and I being commoners unlike the author, would never know about - yes, she says that) do not add to the already failing 'charm' if any. Add to all this, continuous negative opinions about the city of Bombay, the protagonist's frustration over his pointless existence, repeated references to urinals and male private parts and viola!! You get 155 pages of negative energy for only Rs 67 if you buy from Flipkart. Oh yes, that can be quoted as a positive - the book size and the price. Though I now wish I had spent that money on a bar of chocolate or ice cream. I would have at least enjoyed them.

I feel sad to write such a negative review on someone's effort to write a book and have it published too. I may have forgiven all the cynicism and negativity the author has passed on through the book if she had not repeatedly belittled and disrespected her readers. Where is the need for this in a book? Is that what I get for taking the effort to encourage her debut novel? However, both Good Reads and Flipkart are filled with positive reviews hailing the book. I seem to among the minority who did not like it. If you have read this one, do tell me what you think about it.

All this apart, I have learnt an important lesson from the author. And that is to never willfully spread negativity if I can help it :) So I shall finish on a positive note. My next read is 'To Sir, With Love' - by E.R Braithwaite. It comes across as a very heartening story and I am really looking forward to read it! With ardent hopes that my next book review will be a positive one where I can exhort you to read, I sign off for now :)

Sunday, 15 June 2014

An Everlasting Bond

My sojourn with books began as a very small child. Even before I learnt to read :) With a dad who reads extensively and an elder sis who had already been drawn into the world of books, reading caught my fancy quite early in life. As a little kid who could make no sense of the letters in a book, I would simply take one, turn pages and chant a line which I had learnt from a TV ad, pretending to read. Funnily enough, the line was 'No more bathrooms' :). It featured in an ad from a company that sold luxury bathroom fittings I think and I somehow took a fancy to it. So every night, when dad and sis buried themselves in their books and so did mom for she had no other choice, I would also sit with a flashy book, turn the pages and religiously chant 'No more bathrooms' much to amusement of all of them. I'd do this exercise for about 10 minutes, announce that I had finished the book and only then would I dutifully go to sleep.

In spite of this encouraging beginning, I had trouble learning to read when I was in class 1. I still remember the trepidation in my heart on the day when we had to read a page from the story 'Hansel and Gratel' for an oral test. I knew the contents of only the first page, not that I could read it, but because it was a simple one liner that I had heard many times in class.I was roll number 1 and was frantically hoping that the teacher would call out to read in the roll number order so that I could simply say the one liner from memory and get away. But as luck always has it, she started according to seating order and when my turn came, I got a huge paragraph which I could make absolutely no sense of ! Yes, I could individually make out the alphabets but had no clue how to read them when put together. Now if I think of it, I can only wonder why :)

Finally it was mom who taught me to read, not my teachers in school. After she got a complaint from my class teacher, we both went together all the way to Higginbothams  in Mount Road, bought Hansel and Gratel and exercised with it until I could read all the pages. In fact, I was given so much practice that I started reciting the book with eyes closed after a few days and defeated the purpose :)

After that, there was no looking back. The library that we regularly visited as a family and had simply been a monument of un-understandable books until then, opened out an arena of new possibilities. Sis picked the first book for me. It was titled 'Amelia Jane' - a story of a very naughty toy in a toy cupboard. It was about how the other toys had a tough time dealing with her and how they finally set her ways right. With Amelia Jane followed by Noddy, the reading bug won over me. I became a happy part of the amazing world of books and slowly graduated like all kids do - from Noddy to Enid Blyton's adventure tales to Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew mysteries and then diverged into multiple authors. Books began to engulf my life. I still remember how much fun I had reading the Naughtiest girl series and fancying a lovely boarding school like the one that features in the book and enacting Nancy Drew's mysteries with my friends.

To this day, one of the greatest pleasures of life for me are the hours spent at the library or a bookstore. It feels very much like being among loved ones. To be lost among the shelves without any regard for time is such a luxury. The exhilaration that sweeps over when I find a book that I may like is simply priceless. Even if I I walk out without picking any book, the exercise is so therapeutic. I can perfectly understand all people out there who love window shopping :)

Even though we now live in the world of flipkart, amazon and kindle which have made books a lot more accessible and buying a lot easier, I would still say that the smell of books in a well stocked library and the experience of holding a physical book is unparalleled :)

I am so glad to have been drawn into this priceless world of books. Beyond entertaining the reader, books open up the mind and broaden one's perspective. There is a limitation to the experiences we can get, the places that we can visit and the people we can meet during our lifetime. But books can give you exposure well beyond this physical limitation. I could attend boarding school with Elizabeth, be a part of Jane Austen's bygone era and English society, live in Harry Potter's enchanting magical world and peek into the brahmin housleholds of Vinayk Mudali Steet without having to actually live in those times or visit those places. Apart from this, I strongly believe that reading enables you to understand people around and evaluate situations that you face in life in a much better manner. It shapes your thinking and character and enriches your personality to a great extent.

Books have been my constant friends in life, crossing the hurdles of age groups, place and time. They have changed along with me and evolved in the same pace. And yes, these best friends of mine do sometimes elude me very much like their human counterparts. There are days of frustration when I am unable to lay my hands on the next good read and go groping in the dark, stumbling and falling. But nevertheless, the next gem does come and land in my hands, transporting me to a different world and refreshing my mind, intellect and soul. This is a very special bond that I will treasure for life!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Travelogue - A trip to the royal land of the Ranas - Part 3

You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

We woke up to the beautiful view of the sun shining over the shimmering waters of the Pichola lake dancing merrily right outside our window. It felt heavenly to sit and watch the lake and the palaces across in the early morning light. After a short period of time spent thus, we headed to the yoga session that is held everyday morning at the hotel. Post an hour of relaxing yoga, we went down to get ready for the day and hit the restaurant area for breakfast. We chose our favorite alcove like spot in the dining area for that morning. 

Sitting here and dining transported us to a different world ..
As soon as we settled in, a cute little cake arrived commemorating my birthday, taking me by surprise. Sitting inside a palace situated in the middle of a beautiful lake with a birthday cake in front of me on my D-day, I felt immensely special :) The husband had really hit it off for my first birthday post marriage!

After a nice cake cutting ceremony and photo session, we settled down to have a sumptuous breakfast. Post that it was time to pack and say goodbye to this dreamlike place. We were winding up our packing in the room and lo! Another cake arrived, this time an ethnic one with an elephant printed on it and decorated with ladoos.

The ethnic birthday cake :)
After enjoying this second celebration, we arrived at the reception with bag and baggage. The hotel staff gave me a lovely gift of Agarbhathis that represented aromas from different parts of India and a framed photograph of the cake cutting. They thus made our trip a truly memorable one.

As we stepped into the boat that was to take us to the shore, we felt like we had traveled back in time to live in a past era of kings and queens for a day. We then sailed away from the palace to the mainland and to the present, bidding a fond adieu to the Lake Palace.  

Back in mainland, we had a full day of sightseeing in front of us. We started off with a museum that had vintage cars of the royal family on display and then headed to the city palace. It was extremely huge with winding corridors, claustrophobic stairways and really small rooms. And we were given a dose of the blood stained history of the royal lineage through paintings and accompanying stories all through. It hit us that being a king is not all glamour and royal living after all. With life and kingdom under constant threat from even near and dear ones, how much of the pageantry would they have enjoyed? 

With these thoughts zooming in our minds, we next headed to Sajjan Garh, a palace built on one of the peaks of the Aravalli range. The building of this palace was started off by one of the kings who died early in his youth and hence never got to see it to completion or live there. It was completed by his successors and was used as an astronomical center to watch monsoon clouds and as a resort for the royal family. The palace has the most stunning panoramic views of the huge mountains around, the lakes and the city below. The sight outside every single window just took our breath away!

The Sajjan Garh perched atop the Bansdara peak

Each window framed such stunning views

A panaroma of the city as seen from Sajjan Garh
From there we headed to the Nehru park located in the middle of the Fateh Sagar lake. Before taking a ferry to the park, I filled my hungry stomach with yummy ragda patties from a road side chat shop. No trip to any place is complete without tasting the street food after all!

At the park we walked around enjoying the greenery within and the surrounding expanse of water. 

Nehru Park  
After this long yet relaxing and enjoyable day of site seeing, we checked into a quaint little hotel called Jaiwana Haveli for our last night at Udaipur. I would recommend this very professionally run hotel if you ever go to Udaipur. It is a bathe and breakfast kind of place but very neatly maintained and  managed by two brothers who are extremely helpful with all the information and directions you may want about the city. The food is good and the highlight is the mind blowing views their open air restaurant has of the lake and the lake palace. The husband and I spent 6AM to 8:30 AM at the restaurant next day morning and still couldn't have enough of all the beauty we saw around us. I have never seen such a beautiful shade of blue painted all over. I will give a rest to words here and let the pictures speak. 

This was the most beautiful view in the entire trip!!

Soothing blue wherever the eyes turn
To experience the flavors of the real Udaipur, we visited a nearby temple which had festivities going on well past midnight! Old women were singing and dancing away to glory and it was a nice sight to watch :) It was also really spooky to walk back through the dark lanes to reach the hotel at midnight. But fun nevertheless :)
Next day, we walked the bazars, traveled by local transport and I had my fill of shopping. I bought the famous bandhini and some pretty accessories.

We then bid goodbye to this historic and royal city. After an enjoyable bus ride that took us to Ahmadabad, we flew back to Bangalore and hit the bed at around 2 AM. I was in office next morning by 10 AM with red eyes and a huge smile speaking for itself about the wonderful trip that this one was :) One of my most memorable birthdays indeed! 

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Travelogue - A trip to the royal land of the Ranas - Part 2

I started writing this travelogue quite a while back. You can read Part 1 here. Before the memories fade, let me get on with the remaining parts :)

Day 2 dawned and after a hearty breakfast, we landed outside the office of a travel agency to board the bus to Udaipur. While waiting, we were entertained by a huge herd of cows with big horns having their feed of fodder right on the road. These huge cows are a very common sight on the roads of Ahmadabad. Many times, our car would pass really close to one of these horned biggies and I would shudder with fear. They are there everywhere - on the main roads, side walks - you name it.

They rule the roads!!
The bus arrived after a good half an hour's wait and we filed in with a bunch of school girls and some teachers . The kids created  quite a riot throughout but their excitement was infectious and we couldn't help getting drawn to it. They boisterously demanded for their choice of movies to be played and cheered every time a favorite number came up. In the meanwhile, the scenery outside was fabulous! Lush greenery, mountains and small rivulets accentuated by light rains all the way :) It felt wonderful to watch outside the window and get lost in the mesmerising scenes.

The shiny rain washed roads

Soothing greenery all the way
After about 4.5 hours of a very pleasurable journey, we alighted at Udaipur and headed straight to a famous restaurant that serves authentic thali to have our lunch. I ordered a Gujarati while the husband ordered Rajasthani.

The bountiful and delicious thali
After a sumptuous lunch, we headed to our place of stay - The Taj Lake Palace. The hotel is located in the middle of Lake Pichola and was the summer palace used by the erstwhile royal family. It is now maintained as a luxury hotel by the Taj Group.
This part of the trip was supposed to be a surprise planned for my birthday and my husband kept me guessing saying we were going to an island. But it broke when trip advisor played spoil sport by flashing a pop up in front of my eyes a few days before the trip. He was sourly disappointed, having spent hours and hours planning things without my knowledge. I was even more disappointed seeing that I had defeated his efforts :(
However, we got over it in a day and were now eagerly looking forward to a day to be spent living like royalty. We alighted just outside the jetty and entered to catch the first beautiful sight of the Lake Palace standing regally amidst the waters.

View of the Lake Palace from the shore

The ornate boat jetty at Lake Pichola 

A short pleasant boat ride took us to the entrance of the palace. It felt magical to step into the regal structure standing right in the middle of the lake. We were welcomed with a shower of flowers and a royal umbrella held for us as we alighted :) 'To us, you are king and queen' they said and we sure were beginning to feel like one :)

The boat we took to travel between the hotel and the lake shore

After the check in formalities, we were shown around the various facilities inside. We slowly started taking in the beauty and grandeur of our surroundings.

The reception area of the Taj
The palace room where we had opted to stay had a beautiful view of the lake around and the city palace situated across. The decor was very ornate and ethnic as befits a palace.

The Palace room
After some rest, we headed to the swimming pool. It turned out to be one of the most ethinic looking pool areas I have ever seen!

The Swimming pool lit up for the night
The husband went swimming while I sat on one of the walls and was content staring at the placid blue lake surrounded by heritage palaces and mountains. And I was completely transported to a different world.

The pool deck overlooked these serene surroundings .. 

.. and these regal heritage buildings
In the evening, a heritage walk around the palace had been organised. If you visit this place, do not miss the heritage walk. A guide and a group of us started out from the palace entrance and were taken around each and every section of the palace with a briefing of what each area had been used for, when it was in use by the royal family. The Taj has taken great pains to preserve the palace in look and usage.
The Lily Pond located at the center of the lake palace - this was the place set aside for the royal ladies to play holi 

A walkway inside the hotel - the king seen in the portrait is apparently responsible for the near extinction of leopards in the surrounding areas - thanks to his reckless hunting

A terrace inside the palace that opens out to the lake's panorama
After this very interesting tour, we were all given refreshments. A dance performance of a local art form was organised for the evening. It was a fabulous show of grace and balance.

One of the many astounding balancing acts that the performer did.
We spent the remainder of the evening roaming about the palace and watching all the breathtakingly beautiful views it offered from various vantage points. Post dinner, we called it a day after really feeling like king and queen for a whole day :)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Reading Ruskin Bond ..

And I am disappointed :( Yes, I know he is hailed as one of the greatest writers ever. Lured by the praises and discerning that his books are flavored with beautiful descriptions of nature(which I love reading for it brings those scenes alive in front of my eyes), I picked up an omnibus from Flipkart.

I did enjoy reading 'The Room on the Roof' and 'Vagrants in the Valley'. The descriptions of picturesque Dehradun were delightful to read and the theme of a young boy breaking free from his shackles and boldly making his way in the world, trying to shape his future even as he struggles to sustain himself was heartening to read. My empathy and appreciation went out to the many people who must be living such lives in the real world. I also enjoyed reading about the bond of friendship that ties Rusty and his friends together and the unadulterated fun that they all have even though life is pretty hard for them. The ending which is not so conclusive adds to the story's value. It is left to the reader's imagination to figure out whether Rusty does make his fortune or if he would reach London at all, for that matter.

Bond has beautifully sketched the lives of people who are left to their own means in this world and has completely explored the concept of strangers coming together for brief periods in life. Now, the two novels that I have talked about so far are actually one single story. Vagrants in the Valley is a sequel to the first book. They can and probably should have the same theme and flavours.

But then I started reading 'Delhi is not Far' and lo! The same theme of a man struggling through life all by himself while nurturing a distant dream, strangers being friends and helping each other, each person wanting to break free from his current circumstances but held a prisoner in them, and ... hold your breath - repetition of a character and a related scene from the previous novel! I cannot accept this from a writer of that stature. There is a mentally retarded character named the 'Goonga' who can speak only a word which is 'Goo'. The scene where the Goonga is harassed by customers at a tea shop and the protagonist shows kindness to him features in both the novels.This is the point where I lost my patience.

I do not know if I am being too hasty in being disappointed. Maybe I should not judge such a widely acclaimed author after reading just two and half of his works. Or should I have given some gap between reading one and the other? I did. I almost gave it a month. How long a gap is required? A year? But I would still remember every detail and even if I did not, the next story is sure to bring it all flooding back into my memory,  thanks to the remarkable resemblance of theme, characters and story line.

I do not want to offend the many hard core fans that he has, but I am certainly entitled to my opinion. I feel really sad when I cannot complete a book and this omnibus is staring at me from my table with three fourth of it left unfinished. Oh how I hate this feeling!

Do any of you know his other novels in this collection to be different? If yes, please tell me which one and I shall gladly pick up the book and pursue it again. For, I did like his way with words and the pictures he paints with them. Just that I am unable to bear the monotony. If you have indeed offered something even slightly different in your other novels, I would gladly join your fan club Mr. Bond! Believe me, I wish to.

PS: I am aware that some amount of research on the internet can get me the answers I seek but as I already said, I have run out of patience. I bought this book after quite a bit of review reading and seem to have gone wrong in choosing it .So if fellow readers can help, I would be glad :)

Saturday, 8 March 2014

What can 'I' do to make my life better?

This post has been written by me for the Write Tribe Festival of Words - 3. Today's topic is 'Women'.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

Empowering Women is the most widely discussed topic today. We have done it to shreds, discussed each thread in every possible dimension and maybe very soon, even the media will be exhausted with handling this topic. But sadly, in the real world, it hasn't gone that far. Educated families living in metropolitan cities still bargain over marriages, men who at least in the deepest realm of their mind think of their wife as someone who ought to be subservient still outnumber the few gentlemen who know she is priceless and the ones that do not have a spine to stand by that woman who has left behind everything that is familiar to her in order to live with him are out there everywhere. First of all, the concept of only her 'leaving everything behind' is in itself a major flaw.

But these are all deep rooted evils and it is going to take quite a while before we can wipe them out. And it all depends on other things changing - men, their families, the society at large. Instead, let us look at what can change within the woman herself. Is that not a more hopeful case to pursue ? I may not be ready to change in order to be fair and just to the world. But if it is for my own good, I certainly will. Human nature, isn't it? 

When I was thinking along these lines, the first thing that came to my mind was a story of Swami Vivekananda. He was once threatened by a big group of chattering monkeys and he began to run away from them. They chased him menacingly. A sanyasi who was watching this told him 'Stop running and face the brutes' which he did. The minute he turned around and faced them, they all ran away.

What does this story tell you? It tells you that no one can subjugate you without your permission. People take you for granted only if you allow them to. You set your own limits. If people are treating you badly, you allowed them to do so in the first place. You showed them that you will take it silently. I have noticed this in life several times. People see you the way YOU want to be seen. YOUR conduct decides it more than anything else. 

Will it not make a little bit of difference if each woman ponders along these lines. When you are subjected to unfair treatment, sit back and think where you went wrong in allowing this to happen. And correct it if it is still within your power. If the children think you are a machine who exists just to cook the food they demand, show them you need holidays too so that they realize your value and do not take you for granted. 

What I have said here is in no way a solution to all the evils that plague women today. It may not work for millions of situations where women are utterly helpless. I am dumbstruck and helpless if you ask me how to get them out of the rut. I can only fume within, shed tears and pray to the almighty. Those issues are too mammoth and deep rooted and I am no God to give solutions to them. Even if i did attempt that, I would only be writing paragraphs about the problems and utopian solutions that everyone is going to brush aside. 

I only say that this solution lying inside your own mind may do the magic of raising your image in your own eyes and thereby, in those of others too. And hence make them at least think twice before they twist your arm (not literally!). Be the dutiful daughter/daughter-in-law, doting mother, loving wife and whatever other roles there is. Yet, show them all that you are still an individual and have a mind and will of your own. Put across the message that you may do a hundred things for them, but only because you wish to. And that you are NOT to be taken for granted. How do you manage to do that? By sincerely believing so yourself. A high self esteem never fails to show.

I leave you with a very powerful quote I came across today.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Invisible Scars

It started off as a mere squabble between the loving couple and built up momentum as both failed to 

control their temper. Words were said that shocked them both. They made up a little later, but the 

verbal exchange had made deep gashes. If only one of them had the wisdom to practice restraint..

This post has been written for The Write Tribe Festival of Words - 3. The theme for today is to write 55 fiction.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

The Cosmos conspires .. But always for our benifit

Does inspiration always have to come from earth shaking incidents? Many times some small events that happen repeatedly try to tell us something. A message that God wants us to understand.These small things in life actually teach us a lot more than the big storms.
There is one such learning that struck me long back through a series of happenings and has been an inspiration to me ever since. The time span that ties up the whole thing is huge and I can only be in awe of God's wisdom and farsightedness, looking at these. It was no nerve wracking ordeal or a great victory that changed my life or any such big thing. Without further ado, let us get to the story.

As a school going kid of about 12 years, I was going through The Hindu newspaper's additional - The Literary Review. I was already drawn into the world of books by then and always read this additional with interest. That day's edition carried a very striking picture of a man in glasses who was completely bald with a very genial smile lighting up his face. He was reading a book in the picture. Below the picture was written 'P.G Wodehouse'. Something about his face was very striking and I went on to read the article which told me about him being the king of the humor genre in the literary world.

Years later, I was a happy part of the world of Jeeves and Wooster, and had become a great fan of the Wodehouse novels that featured them.

Again, years later, during my second year in college, the lecturer put a random question to us in class, asking us to name all the search engines we knew about. A variety of answers came and amidst the cacophony, I discerned 'Ask Jeeves' among many others. Full stop.

The following year, three of us were sitting as participants at a quiz contest at an inter collegiate festival. The scores between our team and another was very close and we were heading towards a nail biting finish. That round had to do with connecting images they showed on screen. As we started at the white screen expecting the next one, the genial face of an old man staring at a book and a search bar with the title '' flashed on the screen. Within seconds, my brain cells ran down memory lane and flashed images of PG Wodehouse in the Literary review newspaper, the 'Ask Jeeves' search engine from the class discussion and Wodehouse's Jeeves whom I loved reading about. I pressed the buzzer in less than 5 seconds and found myself giving out the connection between the pictures - The author and the search engine named based on his novel and guessed that it had changed from Ask Jeeves to A wrong answer would result in negative points and I waited with bated breath for the quiz master to respond. After a slight pause, he started saying 'That was a ...' and paused again. My heart was already in my mouth. 'Brilliant answer!!!!' he echoed and the hall erupted with claps and cheers. We had won!!

That day, I realized that even the smallest and insignificant things that we do in life never go a waste. Every second that we spend in this world is God given and He has ensured that it never fritters away. Even the simple things that we do like looking at hoardings as we pass by in a vehicle, listening to someone or ruminating about something in our mind pays off in the future. Then do we even have to doubt about the significant efforts that we make? Maybe they wont pay off immediately and look like wasted effort at the moment . But at a future point of time, when we least expect it, they will suddenly turn up in our aid and prove that our efforts were more valuable than we every thought.

My sister recently found herself in a quandary. She got an opportunity to get trained and teach English speaking through drama and theater to small kids. The financial return was negligible and taking the time to do it was going to be a challenge considering the fact that she had her 5 year old kid and 2 year old toddler to look after. Nevertheless, it was a priceless new skill she was going to learn and enjoy doing. She decided to take it up and when she asked me about it just for assurance, I only had this incident and its learning to narrate to her. She has started taking the classes and is having a ball of a time doing it. Even today, it gives her so much of satisfaction and happiness for she thoroughly enjoys doing it. Some time in future, I am sure I will see her reap benefits from it which she had never imagined.

This post has been written by for the Write Tribe Festival of words -3. The theme for today is to narrate an inspiring story.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Book Review : My Family and Other Animals

Bringing out humor in writing is not an easy task. Making the reader laugh with just your words and the scenes it manages to create in his mind is quite an art. You can dish out doles of sinister crime scenes and create a sense of despair by explaining pathetic or violent situations in excruciating detail. But making a reader feel light in the mind and double over with laughter? Now that calls for a master writer. And Gerald Durrell is undoubtedly one. Durrell was a naturalist, zoo keeper and conservationist by profession. From childhood, he displayed a strong inclination and interest in wildlife. And so, quite naturally, the animals for which he had great love play a major part in all his books. 

My Family and Other Animals describes Gerald and his family's move to an island called Corfu and their life in that very bountiful and picturesque place where nature is at its best. The element of humor that is present throughout the book infects you from the beginning itself. The way the author describes the eccentricity of each of his family members, the mother's infinite patience that makes her bear everything with fortitude, the smallest of events that always turn out to be disastrous because of the unexpected appearance of Gerald's secret animal collection throws you into fits of laughter. There was in fact a point of time when I seriously considered not reading in the bus while travelling to work. For, I often found myself break into peals of laughter while reading and people around started giving me quizzical looks doubting my sanity.  

Apart from these, the breathtakingly beautiful descriptions of the island of Corfu and the carefree life that the Durrell family leads there, with each of them pursuing their interests really took my fancy. I mean, here we are, going to a serious formal workplace everyday and adhering to strict clockwork like schedules at home and work, trying hard to manage both. And there in Corfu, they live in a happy go lucky manner, writing books, chasing butterflies, gardening, sunbathing and doing picnics as if life is one long holiday. Am not sure if I would opt for that even if given a chance, but I did fancy living that way when I read about it. It was just in my imagination after all and there, you can do whatever you want :)

At the outset, though it does look like the family is simply frittering away their days, the passion that each of them have for their chosen pursuit is very evident throughout the book. Gerald's interest in learning about wildlife and their habitat, his elder brother's love for writing, books and literature, the mother who keeps a lovely garden and her ability to cook even for an army are all heartening to read about. It is these interests that each of us have for different things that makes life livable. Be it music, reading, writing, cooking or anything. Life becomes unbearably mundane without that one or many things which we enjoy doing and which does not weigh upon us like work. I felt this very strongly while reading the book.

So if you want to laugh your guts out while you enjoy experiencing life in an exotic island in your mind, pick up this book and read on. In your interest, I advice you to avoid reading it in public places if possible. It doesn't feel great to be looked at like a loony who laughs by herself for no apparent reason. Hey, but on second thought, that is an experience too. So go ahead, try that also if you want to :) 

This book review has been published for the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

Monday, 3 March 2014

Free Write - Giving Wings to my Imagination :)

Yesterday, as I was thinking about the topic I can choose to let my  mind and hands loose on paper, the first thing that struck me was 'Free Write' itself. I have never done this before. Being a person who constantly tries to be a perfectionist(only when it comes to writing) but one who makes mistakes and repetitions in spite of best efforts, I have always been the kind who would write a post and keep it in draft for days wondering if it is worthy of publishing. So this is going to be a one of it's kind exercise for me. The very idea sounds liberating. Not having to worry about the subject, how my words flow, looking up the internet for correctness of information and checking if I am using words in the right context. I feel like I have grown wings and am about to fly! And yes, I have already taken off!

Many times, I have wondered if I was putting in too much of thought into what I write here. This is my own space after all. No one is going to edit my writing or reject it saying it cannot be published. My blog has gone into slumber many a time because of this obsession with wanting to post only my best efforts. Is that right or wrong? Well, I still do not know. But I do know that when I pick up old posts in my blog to read (which I do every now and then), I want to feel satisfied that my writing at least has my own approval if not of anyone around. When I see my list of posts, there should not be even one that was posted for the heck of keeping my blog in action. So what if I am not able to post for a while? When I do post, it should be worthy of reading even if only in my opinion. I am by no means saying that all that I have written here is great stuff. Not at all. All I am saying is, in my own eyes, my blog should always have what I deem as acceptable content.

Having said that, am sure there is an experience that awaits me in future. Have you all ever taken out and read your old articles or poems -  the ones that you wrote while you were still kids?  At that time, those pieces of writing would have been the pride of you and your parents most probably. You would have also been widely appreciated for your writing skills and cheered as a budding writer. How do you feel when you read them now? I always smile or end up rolling on the floor laughing looking at my ideas and how much I prided myself for having authored them. The childish rhyme for every two lines in that poem, those words which I had learnt afresh then and used all over thinking them to be very 'hi-fi' - these are things that never fail to amuse me. Do try out this exercise if you haven't done it before. I assure you it will be great fun. Apart from the amusement, you can also pride yourself over how much you have improved.

Coming to the experience that awaits me in future, I hope I will feel the same way when I read my blog posts ten years from now. There cannot possibly be the same level of improvement that has been there from writing as a child to writing as an adult. But I do hope there is at least a little bit. Maybe the fact that your rate of learning drastically decreases as you become older will be proven. Hmm .. Let us see :)

This post has been published for the Write Tribe Festival of Words - 3. The theme for today is Free Write.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Blog Love - Featuring Neelima Vallangi's Blog - The Wandering Soul's Wander Tales

This post is published as a part of Write Tribe - Festival of words 3.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

Today's theme is to feature a blog that you enjoy reading.

I would like to feature Neelima Vallangi's blog - The Wandering Soul's Wander Tales.

Neelima and her blog by no means need an introduction. I am featuring this blog as a fan of her great writing and the person that she is.

Neelima is an avid traveler who enjoys visiting offbeat travel destinations. Her blog is collection of her awe inspiring travel experiences, each of them accentuated by truly brilliant photographs.  She is a professional travel writer and photographer who has had her work published in prestigious magazines like National Geographic.

You cannot help but get rubbed off a bit by her wanderlust when you read her blog. Each and every travelogue that she writes takes the reader to amazing destinations in India and some brilliant adventures that would leave you with your mouth wide open in wonder. Her posts also have very useful tips that you can keep in mind if you consider doing those trips yourself.

What Neelima seeks for when she travels is very different from what the usual holidaying crowd does. Don't we all love the rains and the spell it casts on landscapes? But how many of us would go chasing it to enjoy its beauty? Well, Neelima has.Her series of posts on monsoons in various destinations in India is a feast for the mind and eyes for its content and brilliant photographs. You can read it here.

Neelima is not just a travel enthusiast. She is a hard core traveler by heart and soul. This comes across very clearly in her writing. She is one of those few people who have had the courage to follow their heart's calling. Managing a full time job along with so much of travel and professional writing is no mean task. Also, she is probably one of the few women who have the guts to do solo travel. Read her inspiring post on solo travel here. Apart from the posts she does on her tours, I really like those that she writes about her love for travel and the landmarks she has made in the travel world. They are very awe inspiring to read and always give me goose bumps. Read this where she has described her journey in getting her work published in print.

'The Wandering Soul's Wander Tales' is much more than a collection of travelogues. The writings in this space take you through the journey of a person who has fought stereotypes, followed her heart and made a mark for herself in a world that took her fascination years back. To me, it is a symbol of success and happiness that becomes yours if you have the courage to follow your heart's calling against all odds.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Mentor

Preethi's heart was beating fast as she went through her heavily researched presentation for the tenth time. She was to brief the technical team in front of her boss Vinay and provide guidelines for the implementation of a high profile project. She had been a programmer for quite a while, all the time enviously eying Karan(almost her age) who led projects on the business front, talked to customers and spearheaded application launches. She was really good at these too, just that she needed some experience and her boss had handed over a new project to her much to her delight and Karan's dismay for he was asked to simply guide her and stay away otherwise.

They assembled in the meeting room and as Preethi was setting up her presentation, she heard Karan start off saying 'Let me brief you with the business requirements' and a cold sweat broke on her brow. He went on like a pro with just the white board, marker and his brains as the aid and finished with 'Preethi will now give you the technical details'. Resigned to her fate and disappointed, she went on to discuss database table structures and program logic as always, nursing extreme hatred for Karan. 'If I am not given a single chance to run on the track, how will I show that I am a good runner?' she thought with pain and resentment seething in her heart. Karan, too young and early in his career to possess a mentor's maturity and ability to stay off the course, left the room with smug satisfaction.

Note: This post has been written by me for the 'Write Tribe - Festival of Words - 3'. The theme for today is to write a 9 sentence fiction. 

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Those once in a while Dreamlike Spells of Reality

Breezy weather with the sun playing hide and seek behind the thick blue-gray clouds
Morning tea in the balcony mesmerized by the green expanse that it opens out to
Hot chappathis and yummy subji for breakfast
One and half hours of music class which leaves me feeling happy and content
Sitting by the swimming pool with the breeze caressing my face as the husband enjoys his cold plunge
A simple home cooked lunch
Doing laundry with melodious movie songs playing in the background
Evening prayer in absolute quietude
Loitering in the local market buying refills for the kitchen stores
Catching up with the street food varieties of Mumbai on Fox Traveller
The sun and the increasingly thickening clouds pull off wonderful stunts outside ..
Illuminating just the tree tops of the lush green thicket below our home ..
The show is however stolen by the rains that lash all through evening
A peaceful and enjoyable stroll as it drizzles at 9 in the night

Now whoever said heaven is unattainable for mere mortals!!

PS: I wrote this post many months back. It has been lying in draft mode. Today, I suddenly happened to read it and enjoyed the nostalgia.
There are many days when we do things we like and enjoy. But this sense of complete peace with oneself and contentment eludes us most of the time for some reason. I am glad I recorded one such rare day :)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Travelogue - A trip to the royal land of the Ranas - Part 1

Travelling is like a breadth of fresh air amidst the routine clockwork that we all tick to. The unwinding that it provides makes all the everyday madness worthwhile. My husband once remarked 'We should make a trip, go back, earn money and then make the next trip':). Even if that is what life is all about, I would say it is one worth living! We both are of one mind when it comes to this subject. So when my birthday came up, the best gift to give was a travel holiday and we set off to experience a regal one at Udaipur.

On a Friday morning, we flew into Ahmadabad with palpable excitement. We had planned to spend day 1 there. I have not travelled much in North India and was really looking forward to experiencing the colourful culture. The trip began well with a glimpse of The Man of Gujarat. On our way to the Akshardham temple (the first destination in the itinerary), we were sidelined into a by lane for about five minutes and a convoy surprisingly small for a chief minister passed by as we caught sight of Narendra Modi. Only five minutes! I have memories of waiting for ever on the roads of chennai for a seemingly endless train of cars to pass by. We were already getting a taste of 'Modi's Gujarat'.

After reaching the Akshardham temple, we surrendered our valuables at the entrance and set foot into the sprawling temple premises. As soon as we walked a little into the grounds, we heard wild cheers of excitement, quite unexpected at a temple. The answer came a moment later when we saw that the sides were lined with theme park like rides and people were roaring as they were tossed and twisted about. But why inside a temple shattering the peace and quiet it would have otherwise provided? Brushing this question out of our minds, we walked on and first hit the canteen for we were monstrously hungry after eating stale sandwiches for lunch in the flight. The canteen was exceptionally clean and well maintained, befitting a place of worship. After eating some delicious rotis, panner butter masala, rice and dal, we went into the temple. The architecture was very grand and beautifully accentuated by well kept lawns. We enjoyed the silence inside the sanctum for sometime and then walked around the lawns, taking in the peace and granduer. 

We next headed to the 'Adalaj ni vav', a very ornately built step well. This place has a very interesting history behind. It was built by a Mughal ruler who had conquered the area and wanted to marry the wife of the fallen chieftain who was killed in the battle. The lady demanded that this step well which her husband had started building be completed if she were to accept him. The ruler painstakingly built the well. After it was completed, the lady was brought to the site so that she could inspect it. She circumvented the well thrice and jumped in commiting suicicde in the very same well. Caught in a situation that she could not escape from or give in, she had intelligently used it to serve the people and had sacrificed her own life too! Lofty morals indeed.
The step well looked more like the interiors of a temple and we spent some time observing the intricate architectural style and clicking pictures.

The sunlit top is the mouth of the well. 

A close shot of the ornate carvings on the pillars
Our next destination was the Gandhi ashram. It was August 15th and we were happy to pay homage to the Mahathma on this important day. It turned out be a very serene and quiet place right on the banks of river sabharmathi. We went around to examine the spartan accommodation of the great people who had once inhabited them and then sat on a short wall by the banks admiring the river for quite a while.

The serene Sabarmathi flows amidst a bustling city

The place where Mahathma Gandhi met his visitors
Post that, we visited a Jain temple and then a mosque. We finished our rounds of Ahmadabad with a yummy dinner of Gujarati dishes at a nice restaurant that had a very different and airy ambiance 

A vanity cart stationed at the center of the restaurant
Having visited a potpourri of destinations, we really did get a taste of a different culture.We then checked into a cozy hotel for a good night's sleep to get set for day 2 - Udaipur!