Dec 30, 2011

2011 - A Year full of Travel ! (A Picture Post)

2011 has been characterized by nothing but travel for me ! I did a solo trip through UK and Canada and also livened up the remaining year with a few short trips within India.
What better way to write the last post of the year, than a picture post of all the places I have visited !
So this year I marveled at some of the London icons ... 

walked along river Thames .... 

and through the English countryside ....

wandered around Edinburgh .... 

marveled at Ben Nevis, hidden behind mist ....

Saw the placidly grazing sheep in Scotland ....

Tried to find the famed Lock Ness monster at Loch Ness ....

Saw the Toronto Skyline from a Boat .....

Fell in love with Quebec City 

Had a exhilarating Maid of the mist boat ride at Niagra 

And closer to home ... 
Discovered the magic of Orchha 

and the craftsmanship at Khajuraho ......

So basically this year, I just relaxed and had loads of fun :)

I wish you all a very Happy New Year ! 
May the coming year bring new adventures and travels and loads of good reading and blogging !  
All my Love ! 

Dec 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday :Go Green !

Dec 26, 2011

The Versatile Blogger !

Shail and Ritu,Two of my favorite bloggers, whom I have read and admired for long have conferred the versatile Blogger award on me. And then Zradar another faithful reader of mine suddenly delurked to bestow this honor on me again!
I suppose you could call me versatile since I can never make up my mind regarding what exactly I want my blog to be about! I flitter about trying to write travelogues, funny anecdotes, feminism with occasional haikus and 55 fiction thrown in for relief.
Thank you Shail, Ritu and Zradar. It is indeed motivating to be recognized and awarded!

The rules of the award say that I must:

Nominate 15 fellow Bloggers

Inform the Bloggers of their nomination

Share 7 Random things about yourself

Thank the Blogger who nominated you

Add the Versatile Blogger Award picture to your Blog Post.
  Hmm .. 7 random things about myself! I just did a post on how quirky I can get and I had half a mind to simply link up to that post and leave it at that. but me being me I am sure I can find a few more peculiarities about myself to write here. So here goes:

  1. I hate to eat cooked fish but I love sushi and sashimi (raw fish)
  2. I am a Punjabi but I don’t like to eat Saag and Makki ki Roti. I am definitely a Parantha person though!
  3. In my house I want a special room dedicated to books. The room will have window seats with lots of sunshine filtering in,bookshelves filled with books, comfortable wicker chairs with bright ethnic cushions thrown on them and loads of plants. This is what I definitely want. About the rest unimportant things like the kitchen, bedrooms etc – I am a bit hazy!
  4. I am a silver junkie – I have a huge collection of silver jewelry and I wear silver all the time.
  5. Travel is a passion, something I can’t do without. I do a corporate job only because it gives me money to travel.
  6. I am a history buff. I can wander around monuments for ages.
  7. I love collecting bookmarks and notebooks. I have them from all over the world!

And now, I am going to twist the rules a little and nominate 7 bloggers instead of 15 (well rules are meant to be broken aren’t they!) So here are the 7 bloggers I read and think are truly versatile:

1.Preeti Shenoy of Just a Mother of Two: One of the first bloggers I began to read and one of the finest. Don’t go by her Blog name – she is definitely not just a mother of two :) She sketches, she paints, she writes (she is a published author of two books and a third is on its way) and in between all this she finds time to maintain a lovely garden and home,care for her family(and a dog!) and take holidays in beautiful locations like Bentota and Maldives :) 
Versatility thy name is Preeti !

2.The Indian Home Maker: Another blogger I truly look up to. Mostly blogs about gender issues and I love the animated discussions that take place on her blog. Go there if you want interesting perspectives on issues. Also an excellent photographer – Check out her header for the awesome pics !

3. Swaram of Song of Life:Love her attitude towards life and admire her for the social work she is doing. We need more like her in our country!

4.Tikuli of Tikulicious: Heart touching, soul stirring poetry and very thought provoking posts. You will find some superb writing here !

5.Purba Ray of A-Musing:One of the wittiest bloggers I know. Read her to get a tongue in cheek commentary of the current affairs.

6. Salil Chaturvedi of saliloquy : Salil doesn’t update his blog very regularly, but when he does its worth the wait ! I simply love his poems as his writing style. His love for nature shines through his writings and the lovely pics he keeps posting of his garden.

7. Bikram of Me and My Random Thoughts : Our own Punjab da Munda in good old England. Right now extremely upset with me because I didn’t visit him when I went to London. Am I forgiven now Bikram :)

Dec 22, 2011

Dilli meri Dilli !

Delhi and I share a love hate relationship. I have lived here all my life but I never cease to complain about it. I crib about the long distances, the horrendous traffic, the increasing crudeness and brashness of its people but really I couldn’t be happy living anywhere except perhaps Chandigarh. And after a few days in Chandigarh I grow restless and start pining for Delhi.

This lovely city completes 100 years this year and I feel nostalgic enough to do a post on it! I have a whole mélange of memories of Delhi so instead of writing the usual post on Delhi’s history I am going to write about how Delhi has shaped me as an individual and what make this city so very special for me.

So here are few of my favorite things about Delhi -


The whole area stretching right from the Pandara Road Government Bungalows till the Rashtrapati Bhavan, taking in India Gate, the secretariat as well as the Connaught circus – that’s my favorite part of Delhi. The roads are broad and well laid out, the avenues neat and tree lined, and most of all the architecture is simply magnificent, something I can stand and marvel at again and again. To the mortification of the stiff upper lipped Brits I have even proclaimed that I like our Rashtrapati Bhavan better than their Buckingham palace!

Once, when I was a university student, on a whim a bunch of us decided to go to India gate one winter afternoon and spent the afternoon walking up and down Raisina Hill. The security was not so stringent in the 90s and the guards indulged us as we wandered about taking in the superb architecture of the parliament house and the North and South Blocks. It was February and the Mughal gardens had just opened to Public– we finished our day with a walk through the gardens - If you are even remotely interested in landscaping and flowers – The Mughal gardens in Delhi are something not to be missed at all!

Another favorite memory is watching the Beating the Retreat Ceremony at Vijay Chowk. I have never seen the Republic day celebrations live but have had the good fortune to watch the Beating the Retreat Ceremony twice.. To say it was awe inspiring is an understatement. The illuminated Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Parliament complex in the background, the military bands, colorful and resplendent in their uniforms weaving magic not only with music but also with their fluid and graceful formations – That is an experience one rarely forgets! 

 Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU)

 JNU is something very very close to my heart. I spent five fantastic years doing my graduation and post graduation there and can rightfully say that they have been the best years of my life. JNU enriched my love for languages and linguistics and I am one of those rare breeds who actually enjoyed my academic years ! 

There is a lot I can write about JNU – The aesthetic brick buildings, the sprawling green campus– most of it still a forest, the occasional nilgai and the deer we could see from our class room windows, and the peacocks that invariably came out during the monsoons and danced for our benefit, the fantastic nine floored library that has the best collection of books I have seen till date ….

But what I loved the most was whole intellectual and cultural ambiance of the place. It was JNU that introduced me to the“ Jhola culture” and I took to it like a fish takes to water. The ethnic khadi kurtas over jeans, the juttis or kolhapuri chappals, the embroidered cloth bags from janpath– these form a trademark of those five years I have spent there and frankly my dress sense still has a lot of JNU in it ! It was at JNU that I first learnt the true meaning of “adda – baazi”. The socio-political debates and discussions that took place in its cafeterias or the on the lawns that could stretch for hours and hours. I enjoyed every bit of them! I loved the way we could persuade our teachers to take our classes in the green lawns on a sunny winter afternoon, I loved the street plays you could simply sit on the grass to watch, and I loved the posters that are an ever present part of JNU walls – so much so that it is said that it is the posters that keep the walls up!


 My childhood memories are of theater and music concerts, of going with my parents to see plays at the Sree Ram Center or kamani or at the National School of Drama. I had the good fortune to see plays like Andha yug, Asadh ka ek din, Ghasiraam kotwaal before I reached high school. Even today give me a good play over a movie any day! I also thoroughly enjoy the classical music and dance shows that take place in this city – be it in closed auditoriums or places like the Deer park, Lodhi Gardens or the Purana Quila. One of my favorite memories is sitting at Purana Quila in late evening and listening to Bhimsen Joshi as he weaved his magic.My parents inculcated the love of theater in me and Delhi helped me enrich it further !

The ethnic wear

 I really haven’t seen people any where else carry ethnic clothes with so much panache  as we do in Delhi. For lovers of ethnic clothes Delhi is heaven. The ethnic dupattas,kurtas, jackets, silver jewelry that we find here– I love it and flaunt it too !

The Open spaces and the greenery 

Inspite of the high rises and the unending construction, Delhi is still a very green city. From the tree lines roads in South Delhi to its various gardens you can find a dash of green everywhere.I have spent almost every summer morning of my childhood taking a morning walk in Lodhi Gardens where we would sometimes run into Khushwant Singh! Be it the open grounds at Purana Quila, Deer Park, Ridge or the garden of five senses, Delhi’s gardens are a delight especially in winter and spring.

 The book shops

I am sure every city has its share of good book shops but there are some in Delhi especially close to my heart. Connaught Place has the best bookshops in town and for a long time I made regular forays into CP simply because of its book shops. I later shifted allegiance to the bookshops in Khan market because they were closer to school and home. Sadly most of the book stores in Khan market have been taken over by foreign retail brands selling shoes and clothes and with that Khan market has lost most of its sheen!

The historic Monuments

Delhi has a rich history and its historic monuments are a delight to a history lover like me. Starting from the Red fort, Humayuns tomb and Purana Quila to the lesser known ruins at Mehrauli and Tuqlagabad fort I have spent many a day’s wandering amongst the ruins and clicking photographs.

 The “Melas”

So many of them ! The annual Surajkund mela, the dastakar mela, the Diwali mela at the Blind school and who can forget the annual Book Fair at Pragati Maidan – a pilgrimage all book lovers like me must make ! Delhi”s fairs have something for everyone!

So this is what make Delhi so special for me. And what makes this city  special for all you other Delhi - wallahs out there :)

Dec 15, 2011

London Diaries (8): Walking across the Millenium Bridge - from the Ancient to the Modern

The Millennium Bridge is one of the 8 London bridges that span across the river Thames. On one end of the bridge is St Paul's Cathedral and on the other end is the Tate Modern art Gallery. 
I decided to walk to St Paul’s cathedral on a blistering cold and windy day. Under the overcast sky, the dull white structure appeared almost drab. But Like Westminster’s Abbey the real beauty of St Paul’s Cathedral lies inside it. Most of the people find cathedrals and churches boring to visit; they click a few photographs from outside and quickly leave for the next destination. But for people like me who revel in quietude, time spent inside St Paul’s was simply amazing. The sheer beauty of the cathedral, the magnificent stain glass and the paintings inspire peace and serenity. You are almost compelled to sit quietly and connect with yourself and God. Clicking photographs inside the cathedral is not allowed.
Here are some pics of the outside.

The most imposing thing about St Paul’s is its three domes. The outer dome is what is so prominently visible in the London Skyline and makes St Paul such an iconic landmark. The interior dome, that one can see from inside the cathedral is a masterpiece in painting and art. Between these two domes is yet another dome that acts more like a support structure. Three galleries run inside these domes. In case you are wondering why I am describing the domes in such details, it’s because I spent the better part of the morning climbing them to reach the galleries. All the galleries are accessible to public provided you are willing to climb dizzying heights to reach them.

The first gallery is the whispering gallery, so called because even a whisper can be heard on the other side of the gallery- an effect of the acoustics there. The Whispering Gallery is reached after climbing 357 steps of a long, winding circular stairway. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant climb because it was a narrow closed stairway and I tend to get claustrophobic very soon. I didn’t get a chance check out the acoustics there because a whole lot of tourists whispering together just created cacophony! But if look down at the cathedral floor from the gallery you do get a stunning view of the murals and the naive.

Next comes the Stone Gallery after another dizzying and claustrophobic climb of 150 odd steps. This gallery is open and you get a very panoramic view of London when you peep over it. My knees and back were creaking and shaking and protesting loudly by the time I had reached the stone gallery. But this view of London made the effort worthwhile.

you can see the millennium bridge and Tate Modern across Thames
Now all that was left was the Golden Gallery. Most of the tourists don’t go up till the Golden Gallery. It’s not an easy feat even if you are totally fit and not claustrophobic – and I was neither! But I persisted and decided that another 150 odd steps couldn’t hurt me.

How wrong I was. The climb up till the golden gallery was much much worse. The staircase was so narrow that my shoulders almost touched the two sides of the walls. I became so claustrophobic and breathless halfway though that I almost decided to give up. But there is a separate staircase for coming up and another one for going down so there was no way I could backtrack and go down. So with my lungs burning with the effort and panting like a fish out of water, I carried on. But the worst was yet to come – Till the last 50 steps the staircase was narrow but closed – it gave you a very claustrophobic but a secure feeling. The last 20 odd steps were nothing but a circular iron staircase going up the dome – I really couldn’t see the top of the dome even if I craned my neck. All I could see was this open circular stairway going up and up to nowhere ! And if you dared to look down you would get a dizzying view of the cathedral floor 365 feet below you. Oh and did I tell you I am scared of heights!

This is a pic I clicked from the iron staircase. Yes I was dizzy, hyperventilating and about to faint but I still managed to click a snap. Just to give you an idea about high up I was – those black spots are people and the brown ones are chairs!

Needless to say the view of London from the Golden Gallery is absolutely breathtaking.

As usually happened to me during my stay in London, the weather gods turned against me and the sun was completely obliterated by clouds!
Can you see the London Eye in the distance?

From the Golden Gallery, you can also see "Big Tom" – the clock face on the right-hand tower of the cathedral.

After an arduous climb down the galleries, with my knees wobbling and about to give in any minute, I sat down on the steps of the Cathedral to rest my tired and aching feet.
Then I decided to walk across the Millennium Bridge to Tate Modern Gallery.  Walking from St Paul's to the Tate Modern Gallery across the Millennium Bridge is like walking from the ancient towards the modern …

St Pauls Cathedral on one end of the Millenium Bridge

Tate Modern art Gallery on the other end

Frankly Tate Modern is a rather drab brick colored building that doesn’t look too inviting from outside. But it is one of the best modern and contemporary art galleries that I have been to and is definitely worth a visit even if you are even a teeny weeny bit interested in art. The most intriguing thing about Tate Modern is that its actually an old Power station that has been converted into an art gallery.

Here are some pics that I took

The turbine hall - now an art gallery

Dec 14, 2011

The one in which we burn our chin

Yes, I have a penchant for doing weird things, things that not only put me in some discomfiture but also make my friends roll on the floor with mirth. This time I burnt my chin. And not only did I do something so silly, I also put it up as my facebook status to make sure that the whole world laughs at me. Some of my more curious friends have been busy speculating on how I managed to accomplish this impossible feat. I’ve had guesses ranging from putting my chin on the gas stove, bringing a lit cigarette near my face with the lit end facing inside (I don’t smoke by the way!) to accidentally touching my face to a hot iron.

Since I refuse to assuage their curiosity on Facebook I have been asked if I’ll blog about it(As if putting it up as FB status was not enough!). Obviously I am not going to blog about it! The last thing I need on my very prim and propah blog is people making fun of me. Certainly not!!

So this is what really happened :)

I had a cold. Colds are bad – they make me irritable, cranky and honestly I just can’t think straight when I have one. So in order to unblock my very blocked nose, I decided to try some herbal medicine. The label on the medicine bottle informed me that the medicine must be taken in warm water. Now, the conventional way of heating water is by putting it in a pan and heating it. But you see, I believe in doing things differently. So I put the water in a steel katori (small bowl) and the katori on the Gas burner. After a few seconds I turned off the gas, touched the rim of the bowl with my hand and decided that it was not too hot and I could lift it using my fingers. I poured the medicine in, lifted the bowl to my lips and as fate would have it, sneezed at the very last moment. My hand trembled and the base of the bowl touched my chin – off course the fact that the rim of the bowl might not be too hot but the base will definitely be extremely hot had not crossed my cold befuddled mind. So now I have a bright red burn to show for my stupidity.

We all know Aruna Irani by the mole on her chin and I will now go down in history as the lady with the nasty burn on the chin!

And after you all finish rolling on the floor laughing about it – can someone please tell me how to remove that damn scar from my face?

Dec 1, 2011

Thursday Challenge #7 - Doors !

Todays Thursday Challenge is Doors.
Here are some doors I captured during my travels:

 I love the way this door is decorated with flowers ! Specially since its a Fudgerie and had the most delicious assortment of chocolates inside !
Captured in Quebec City !

 This is a Pub in London - What vibrant colours ! 

And finally the gate to Hampton Court ! 

Travel does open a lot of doors doesnt it :P

Nov 16, 2011

Play of Light and Shadow (Wordless Wednesday :15)

Jhansi Fort

Nov 10, 2011

Hard Rock (Thursday Challenge#6)

This week"s challenge is Hard (Rock, Ice, Brick, Steel, Cement,...)

This Rock near Gangotri really intrigued me .. its interesting the way its neatly sliced into two !

The mighy Ganges roars down from Gomukh into Gangotri here. The Rocks seem really hard, but look how over the many centuries, the River Ganga has managed to wear them down create so many crevices .....


And Finally ..... :P

Nov 4, 2011

Marriage - Simply a Convenience ?

This article in yesterday’s newspaper caught my eye. It talks about how singles in their 50s are now looking towards remarriage or Live In relationships. I find the idea very intriguing and interesting! There is no harm in getting married or Living In with somebody even if you are in your 50s. I have always maintained that marriage should not be treated as something one “Must” do at a certain age. Marriage should ideally be meeting of two like minded people who love each other enough to want to spend their lives together – irrespective of the age they are at.
What caught my attention in the article was this one Para :

“Most women still prefer marriage but many say they are fine with live-in companions if they provide them financial security" ………. A 51-year divorcee in Vejalpur, is keen to find a partner with whom she can live to the fullest, watching movies, eating out and travelling. "Once bitten, twice shy, I do not want to get into a marriage without knowing if my relationship with the man will work or not. However, I need financial security and want the partner to put some money in my name first”

What irked me was this Lady’s desire to get married for the sake of “Financial Security”.

Its funny isn’t it that women in their 50s – most of them who have gone through marriages earlier are still looking for a partner just because they need financial security! Expecting financial security or help from your partner once you are in a committed relationship is a different matter but just getting married because you want to be financially secure is so ridiculous.

I wonder what kind of marriage this will be. Obviously a marriage of convenience where the woman will have a Husband to “protect her” and “provide for her economic needs” and to hell with the companionship part! So none of us should be surprised if a man wants to get married because he wants to be “Looked After” – After all the woman is marrying him only for financial security so in return he can expect her to tend to his needs !
On one hand it heartens me to see that women in our country are looking towards Live Ins or second marriages even when they are in their 50s –Such things are generally frowned upon in our society. On the other hand it sickens me that most of them want to get married because of those age old reasons of social acceptance and security.
 I sometimes feel that most marriages in our country are actually nothing but marriages of convenience. Women ideally get married for security, stability and social acceptance and Men because they need to provide a good Bahu to their parents and someone to look after them and their families. Where do love and companionship factor in these marriages?

I wonder what leads to this attitude. Why is it so ingrained in our women that they must look towards male members for financial security? Unless women change this attitude the perception and behavior of the society towards them is not going to change!

Women must realize the importance of financial independence. They must understand that they need to take the responsibility for their own financial well being and not depend on their Father, Brother or Husband to provide for them.

Self reliance is the key here and that self reliance will come from educating and empowering women. Every woman must be educated enough to be able to work and fend for herself if the situation so arises.

What do you think – Is marrying for financial security a good enough reason? Are most marriages in our country simply marriages of convenience?

Nov 3, 2011

Khajuraho - Poetry in Stone (A picture post)

This week's Thursday Challenge is CREATIVE (Fine Arts, Crafts, engineering, Music, Clothing,...)
I don't think I have seen a finer specimen of creativity and craftsmanship than the Khajuraho temples.

The temples are exquisitively carved ....... 

and have a symmetry and harmony to them that has to be seen to be believed ........

 The sculptures look so realistic that you almost expect them to start talking to you .....

Nov 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday -14:Two Birds !

Can you see the bird above and the Iron bird below ?

Toronto Skyline

Nov 1, 2011

Book Review: Conversations by Rajeev Nanda

Author:Rajeev Nanda
:LeadStart Publishing

How many of us have conversations with ourselves or with people close to us – not mundane conversations about day to day things but thought provoking conversations that force you to introspect and analyze your whole thought process.

The book “Conversations” is all about that. “Conversations” is an amalgam of stories and poems –all of them exploring human emotions, attitudes and perceptions. And almost all of them challenging our belief systems and forcing us to think out of the Box. The stories are all conversations between ordinary individuals – a soldier who is posted on the border who suddenly questions the logic of war, College friends who decide to form a “truth club”, a couple who is forced to rethink their values and attitudes about commitment and the meaning of marriage, an old lady on her death bed who gives a thirty something lessons on how to live life passionately – each of these stories make you think and question your attitude towards life.

The author Rajeev Nanda is an IT professional but writing has always been his first love. You would not expect a Technical Geek to come up with such a profound and thought provoking book but Rajeev does surprise us here. As he explains in the introduction to the book, two near death experiences left a great impact on him. The first was when the bus he was travelling in collided with another bus. Although his bus hung precariously from the bridge, He and his co-passengers were saved. The other bus however fell down the bridge and there were no survivors – except for a little baby clutched in his dead mother’s arms. In another incident in terror torn Punjab of the 80s, the bus he had just got down from was blown to pieces by a bomb in it. In his own words, These incidents as well as the writings of Arsitotle, Ayn Rand ,Amrita Pritam and Nietzshe made Rajeev “think about life and what we do with our time on this planet. “

This book is frankly not for people looking for something “light” to read while travelling. This is a very intense and serious book. At a time when chic lits and books about friendships, quest for love and college life are the most in demand, Rajeev has indeed been very brave to attempt this book. For me this book was a very refreshing read from the usual genre of today.

However I do have some complaints regarding this book. The stories could have been crisper and sharper. The author tends to ramble on for great lengths especially when he is describing characters and situations. The reader tends to lose interest in the middle and become exasperated by the long winded and sometimes boring descriptions. The book is philosophical and stories interspersed with words of wisdom but somewhere in these dissections of life and its perceptions, the art of storytelling has been lost. The stories might make you think, but I am afraid to say they lack the zing that makes a good story.

All in all, however Conversations is definitely worth a read.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

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