Oct 17, 2012

Happiness comes in small packages !

Usually we look for happiness in big things. We feel we would be happy if we had a bigger house/car or a better Job. We would be happy if we were married (or not married!)

We confuse happiness with the fulfilment of our desires. Happiness to us becomes something that we will get once we have all that we want. And if life doesn't go the way we want, we become sad and bitter and decide that it’s not our fate to be Happy!

Happiness doesn't come from big materialistic things. It comes from small everyday things that we usually forget to enjoy in our maddening pursuit of the “Bigger Things”!

For me happiness is the Methi Parantha my mother makes for breakfast, happiness is looking at the antics of the birds in on my veranda wall, happiness is a good book and a cup of coffee, happiness is people telling me they love my blog.
Happiness is also collecting the Parijat flowers during my early morning walks.

Parijat or Harsingar is a small white flower with a bright saffron stem. This extremely fragrant and delicate flower blossoms at night and drops as soon as the first ray of the sun falls on it. Somehow this pristine flower always has a very peaceful and tranquil effect on me.

There are a few Parijat trees in the park near my house and every morning the fallen flowers lie like glittering white jewels on the grass under the tree. Every day after my walk, I collect the flowers, put them in glass bowls and keep them all over the house.  It always makes the rooms more fragrant and cheerful!
A few days back I was not in a very good mood when I went for my walk. I was thinking of a beautiful pottery tea-pot that I had broken accidently. It was a gift from a dear friend and I valued it greatly. Pouring tea out of it had become a ritual I looked forward to every day. Now thanks to my clumsiness I could no longer use it!

As I walked towards the Parijat tree to collect the flowers, I saw a few branches lying under the tree as well. On a whim I picked them up and brought them home. I was looking around for a pot small enough to hold the fragile branches, when my eyes fell on the discarded tea pot. I decided to put the stems in that broken pot, arranging them so that the broken end could not be seen. Then I decided to put the flowers in my room, next to my books. 

Then I clicked a picture.

And as I looked at the picture, I realized that I had a few of my favourite things right in front of me .. Books, pottery and Flowers !

And that made me very happy indeed :)

Happiness is not something we need to run after or look for. It’s there, right in front of us.All we need to do is change our perspective!  

Oct 15, 2012

A fairy-tale called Quebec City !

This post is a continuation of my "Canada Chronicles" series.
 After I finished wandering around Toronto, I was at a loss with what to do with myself. Since I had spent a lot of time and resources traipsing about UK and Scotland, I couldn't take myself off to a week of hiking in the Rockies as I was dying to do. So I did the next best thing. I took a trip to Quebec City.
I couldn't have chosen a better to spend my last few days in Canada because that trip was the highlight of my entire Canada Trip.I discovered that Quebec City is quaint, delightful and quite magical!

Perched rather precariously on top of a steep hill, overlooking the St Lawrence river, Quebec City is a world heritage site and the only walled city in North America besides Mexico.

Quebec City has an old worlds charm and you feel as if you have been transported straight into a Magical land.
The old  town is surrounded by a huge wall and 
 as I looked up at the ancient gables and turrets, I felt I was looking at a castle out of fairytale.I almost expected horsemen to gallop out of the doors and a fair haired princess to look down from one of the windows !

 The city has a lot of tourist spots such as the magnificent Parliament hill, Plains of Abraham as well as the Chateau Frontenac hotel.

Parliament Hill

The Chateau Frontenac is supposed to be the most photographed hotel in North America.

Although the whole city is a tourist’s delight, it’s the old part of the town that is really picturesque and quaint. I spent very little time at the tourist attractions. 
Instead I spent all my time wandering around the cobbled streets of the old town soaking in the fantastic and unique ambience of the place. 
I found the place vibrant,thrumming with energy and absolute 
joie de vivre.
The shops were quaint,with very brightly painted vibrant doors and windows, Bistros with their chairs spilling over the side walks.

Every window had Flowers in all colours and shapes framed in them. 

I was fascinated enough by the cobbled streets, the cute shops and the lovely flowers everywhere,when I saw this ..

I also discovered something which no guidebook had mentioned. The old Town has this whole lane filled with artists displaying their watercolours and sketches.Most of the paintings were of the natural beauty and architecture of Quebec. 

A lot of them also do portraits and you can get your portrait made in a very short time.

By the end of the day, my feet were killing me from all the walking I did but my mind was a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours and images.

Quebec City left me totally enchanted and mesmerized.This is one place I shall definitely go back to ! 

Oct 4, 2012

Thursday Challenge -The Hemis Festival at Ladakh !

Today"s Thursday Challenge is "CULTURE" (Food, Dance, Clothing, Festivals,...) 

Last summer I had the opportunity to see the Hemis festival in Ladakh.
 It is one of the most visually enriching and vibrant festival I have ever seen. 

The Hemis monastery is one of the finest and richest in Ladakh. Situated on the outskirts of Leh – around 40 km from the city, Hemis monastery is most famous for the festival it holds annually for two days during the summer.

The monastery started getting crowded from early morning and it was choc a block with not only tourists but locals who had come from far flung villages to see the festival.We actually had to climb on the wall to get a clear view ! 

 Highlight of the festival are the masked dances called Chamm which are performed by the Lamas of the monastery. 

The costumes and masks are brightly coloured  and very elaborate. Since the faces of the lamas are hidden behind the masks, it’s their movements  as well as the elaborately decorated and painted masks that actually depict the nature of the character and the emotions the dancer is portraying.  

Most of the dances portrayed the victory of Good over evil ! 

Sep 26, 2012

Just Married - Please Excuse - Book Review !

What happens when a MBA fresh out of B school falls in love with her senior at work and they decide to tumble into the land of holy matrimony after just three months of courting – mayhem and loads of fun ! This is what Just Married Please excuse is all about!

Written By Yashodhara Lal who blogs at Y on earth Not ! Just Married Please excuse is a roller coaster ride of a young couple into marriage and then parenthood. The main characters are Y – the modern, willful and slightly strong headed girl from Delhi who falls in love with the much older Vijay from small town Jaipur. The book covers their journey right from their first date – where they drive 5 hours one way to “feed the ducks” to marriage and then on to the birth of their first child. It’s not only a tale of two couples from diverse backgrounds falling in love but also of the changing life styles in urban India and how a young marriage survives the changing times and two demanding careers!

There is no riveting storyline here, nothing to keep you on tenterhooks.This book is just a series of anecdotes from the couple's life.A lot of married people are going to read this book and shrug their shoulders and say something like "been here done that!"
However, what saves this book from being mundane and boring is Yashodhara’s extremely witty style of writing. She writes with a lot of honesty and candor and has the ability to find humor everywhere – She may not have found the incidents so funny in real life but she does make us laugh with the way she relates them in her book.

Another interesting thing about the book are the people who in a movie would be called “character Actors”. This includes the parents and the assortment of household help the couple hires. Most of them are quirky and add an interesting edge to the whole storyline. My favorite is Kajal; the maid Y gets from Delhi to look after the baby. Kajal loves the baby to death but gives us many moments of mirth thanks to her bumbling ways and her attitude towards the Jamai Babu (Vijay) of the house!
This is a very good first book by Yashodhara and I look forward to more tales from the Y and V household !

This book review is part of the Harper Collins/Indiblogger Book Review Program 

Sep 7, 2012

The one in which we go under the Knife !

I had some surgery two weeks back. Nothing major, something rather inconsequential but then knowing me, something funny is bound to happen to me even within the four walls of a hospital! 

For starters I am going through this stage of “I am a self-sufficient person and don’t need to rely on anyone” for quite a while (frankly for the last 15 years or so with no signs of abating). So to keep up this facade I decided I didn’t need my parents to accompany me to the hospital. The idea was to drive to the hospital, check myself in and the parents could make their entry once the surgery was over. Obviously all my objections were overruled and I was declared quite mad by the family. 

I was asked not to eat or drink anything before the surgery and that day of all days my bua (who had made a guest appearance from Chandigarh because she did not want to miss the momentous occasion of her niece going under the knife!) decided to make Paneer Paranthas for breakfast. The family sat at the table hogging as I sat there tapping my foot in impatience and trying very hard not to look at those absolutely delicious looking paranthas. In my humble opinion putting paranthas in front of a Punjabi and that too a hard core parantha lover like me when I can’t eat them amounts to no less than  first degree torture. 

Anyhow, breakfast was done with and we were ready to roll, with me driving and my parents criticizing me for driving too fast .I was in a rather irritated frame of mind and I swung into the hospital a bit too fast, almost scattering the guards and attendants standing at the entry. Now this hospital takes its duties on patient care a bit too seriously. It seems you can’t simply waltz inside and have your surgery. As soon as you enter the hospital you are put into a wheelchair even if you don’t need one - and there was no way I was  going to be wheeled inside when I could walk on my two legs.  As the guard opened the door for me, I saw an attendant ready with the wheelchair. Obviously not believing that this crazy woman could be a patient he asked me “Madam patient kahan hai”. “Main hoon patient” I snapped and bounded up the stairs while the attendant ran after me with vain attempts to put me in that wheelchair.

After the forms were filled out, I was settled in my room and then began the long wait for the surgeon. I waited and waited with my stomach growling louder and louder with each passing minute. After 2 hrs I was told that he was stuck in the surgery and would be delayed. By this time my father – never a patient man was marching up and down the room and muttering evil things about surgeons who don’t know the value of time. He at the best of the times is useless in all medical emergencies and was rather unhappy about being stuck in a hospital room with his daughter. The daughter meanwhile had resigned herself to her fate and was busy reading Kiran Desai’s hullabaloo in the guava orchard (a delightful book by the way – a review shall follow) and making valiant efforts not to think of food and water. But after a while even Kiran Desai was unsuccessful in diverting my mind and I had tantalizing images of crispy paranthas with butter, rajma chawal, pasta and chocolate cakes floating in my mind. I had one look at my father ceaselessly walking about and decided it was time he went home. Hell If I didn't have an IV sticking out of one arm and I could hoist myself out of bed in my food deprived state I would have gone home with them!  

Me: "Dad you should go home. You’ll just get tired sitting here. Anyway it’s time for your lunch I don’t think you should miss it." 

Dad: Nonchalantly patting his stomach – "No, No don’t worry I am not hungry at all. I had two Paneer paranthas for breakfast!"

What the *#%^&*!!

Anyway I finally convinced them to return home and they left after extracting a promise from the nurse to let them know as soon as the surgery starts.

Afterwards ..

Off course, the nurse forgot to inform my parents and I snapped out of the anesthetic almost immediately after the surgery – something no one had expected me to do. I woke up alone with a nurse patting my head soothingly and saying something on the lines of don’t worry your folks will be here soon. To which I responded, "No they wont, they never miss their afternoon nap". (Don’t ask me why I said that) Anyhow, the parents arrived soon after, extremely contrite and upset on reaching late. (yes, yes I am going to milk the situation and make them feel guilty for not being there for the next 20 years or so). 

The nurses at this hospital were very efficient except for one nurse who I am convinced was rather scatter brained and hard of hearing.

Dad had left and it was just me and mom in the room. Mom decided to use the loo. As luck would have it the lock was broken and she got stuck inside. I off course could do nothing to help her from my supine position on the bed. Finally I rang for the nurse. Enter this short nurse peering at me owlishly from behind thick spectacles. Although I was out of the anaesthetic I could barely speak at that time – so I croaked something on the lines of bathroom, mom, lock which this lady off course didn't understand. Finally she understood the word bathroom and thought I needed to go. So she goes towards the bathroom, tries to open the door, says Ohh andar to koi hai and walks off! The funniest thing is I could hear my mother’s frantic knockings from my bed but she didn’t hear a thing!! Luckily another nurse came in soon after and rescued my mom. 

The rest of my stay passed uneventfully except that the attendant once again tried very hard to get me into the wheel chair when I was discharged. Although I could barely walk, I refused, almost snarling at the nurse who said I would be more comfortable in a wheel chair. The poor staff was left shaking their heads after me as I hobbled out of the door. :p

Aug 8, 2012

Book Review: Hilawi by Ritu Lalit

Ritu Lalit is a blogger par excellence and blogs at PhoenixRitu. If you havent read her blog, I suggest you go over and do it right now!

When you have been reading a person for a long time, you set a certain expectations. You expect the person to stick to a certain genre, employ a certain writing style. Usually even writers play safe and stick to the style and genre they feel most comfortable in. It takes immense gumption and I must say a certain amount of dare to venture out of the comfort zone and enter into a hitherto unknown territory. Most writers don’t do it. But then if there is one person I can expect to go off the beaten track, it is Ritu Lalit.

With Hilawi she ventures into a genre of fantasy and suspense, and she doesn’t just hesitatingly tiptoe into this arena, she does it with her characteristic panache and aplomb! In Hilawi, Ritu takes mythology, fantasy and ancient folklore and intertwines it with the present day to bring us an enthralling tale of intrigue and suspense.

Hilawi is the story of Yaduvir and Gargi
 – twins who with one phone call find themselves jolted out of their hitherto uneventful lives and thrown head front into the world of myths, half-forgotten legends and  magic chants as they try to unravel the mystery behind Hilawi.

In my opinion, Fantasy is the one of the most difficult genre to write in. Most writers have taken mythological tales and simply rewritten them in the modern format with a little bit of spice and fiction thrown in. Ritu on the other hand, takes the ancient legend of sagar manthan and weaves an entirely new tale around it that is set in the modern times. Only a writer with a fertile imagination and a certain amount of ingenuity can manage to do that.

The writing style is simple but crisp, with strong clear characterization, and a plot that twists and turns and changes within the blink of an eye.
This book is a roller coaster ride, your heart is always your mouth but you enjoy every moment of it. It’s extremely fast paced and you feel you will miss something even if you as much as skip a sentence by mistake. Ritu skillfully keeps her readers spellbound and totally enthralled till the very end.
This book is definitely worth a read !                   

Jul 30, 2012

How to hit where it hurts !

Sometimes I feel that most men in this country consider eve teasing and leching at women as their constitutional right, especially since the Police or the law does nothing to prove them otherwise.

We have all had to deal with “lechers” who ogle at us as we walk down the street, men in buses who try to touch and grope and stand too close. Most of us ignore such incidents. This is our biggest mistake. Ignoring these men will just make them more confident. They need to be taught a lesson. I have lost count of the number of times I have stomped on a man’s foot in a crowded bus or poked him with a safety pin. Once a group of us even confronted the men who were ogling at us through the window of the café we were sitting in.

I also strongly feel that every girl needs to learn some self-defense tactics so that she knows how to defend herself if the need arises.

Last week, my company organized a session on self-defense for women. As much as I applaud this initiative by them a part of me is also very angry that in this godforsaken society of ours, the crime against women are on such a high that organizations are actually having sessions on how to protect yourself from a potential rapist!

I have listed some of the things that we were taught there. Some of you may already be aware of these points, or may want to add more points that you think are worth sharing. Please feel free to do so.

1. Pepper spray is one of the best defenses. It is 100 times stronger than your average chili powder and will debilitate a man for at least 10-15 minutes. Keep it handy where it can be reached for easily. For example instead of putting it inside your purse, put it in an outside pocket.

2. Safety pins come in very handy if someone is standing too close to you in a bus – try poking the man really hard with it. You can also hit him with your elbow or stomp on his feet with all your might – works very well especially if you are wearing heels!

3. There are many handy “weapons” in our handbags. We can use our keys and pens to poke the man in his eyes, credit cards to slash against the neck or arm, even a comb if used with a lot of force against the arm can tear skin and draw blood. Even better, take the comb and run it with a lot of force on the upper lip of the man – just under the nose – if done with enough force it can actually tear the lips and gums.

4. Keep a whistle in your purse that has a very piercing and sharp sound. In a danger situation, try blowing on the whistle. Works better than shouting for help.

5. Suppose you have been pushed down grab whatever comes in your hand – sand/mud and fling it in his face. Or try to grab a stone and hit him hard with it.

6. If you are alone in the lift with a man who looks shady to you, simply press all the buttons till the floor you want to go to. This way the lift will stop at every floor.

7. When travelling alone by an auto or taxi at night, call someone and give them the vehicle number and other details. This way the driver will know that someone has his details. Even if you can’t get hold of anyone on the phone, pretend to have a conversation with someone.

If your car is parked in a lonely spot, always take out your car keys before you leave the building to walk towards your car.Make sure you are not standing in a lonely spot rummaging in your purse for the keys. Same applies to house keys. 

We were also taught the various ways in which you can hit a man and debilitate him for the few precious seconds that you need to run. We also identified the various body parts you can cause injury to and how you should do it:

·With your fingers, poke him in the eye with as much force as you can. A finger straight in the eye is extremely painful.

· If the assaulter is facing you, try choking him. Don’t try to choke him by putting both your hands around his neck. That doesn’t work. Put your fingers near to where his tonsils are (on both sides of the wind pipe) and press hard.

· Punch him on the nose. Or even better try putting your fingers in his nostrils and push upwards with all your might (yuck I now, but it might give you those few seconds to run!)

·Grab his ears and pull with all your might. If if you are grabbed from behind under your arm pits – raise your hands and get hold of his ears – then pull downwards as hard as possible. A lady tried his and literally tore off the top of the ears of the assaulter.  

· Grab hold of his finger and pull backwards with all your strength till you hear a click sound. A Broken finger is extremely painful ! 

· Bite anywhere and bite hard enough to draw blood

· Punch the man hard in his stomach or hit with your knee.

· With your leg or knee, hit him between the legs – but divert his mind by hitting somewhere else first because if he moves even a bit you will end up hitting him on the thigh which will just make you lose your balance.

· Kick him hard in his shin, especially if you are wearing shoes.

· Take your foot behind his leg and hit him hard on the back of his knee or shin – he will just topple over.

· If he is behind you,hit him hard with your elbow. Try raising your elbow as high as you can so you manage to hit his face.

· If he has grabbed you from behind and pinned down your arms, raise your leg backwards and hit him hard between the legs or stomp on his foot, or bite on the arm holding you down till you draw blood.

Last but not the least don’t Panic. A cool mind helps you think rationally. It’s not always physical strength that matters. Most of the time it’s the presence of mind and courage that helps you save yourself.

Jul 27, 2012

Oprah and the Art of putting your Foot in the Mouth!

I used to almost like Oprah. I've never watched her show, but I was among the crowd that attended her session at the Jaipur Literary fest. Although I really couldn't understand the adulation even then, she did come across as someone sensible to me. Then last weekend I saw her show “Oprah’s New Chapter: India” On Discovery.

I was prepared to see poverty, the slums, the cows and the half-naked kids. That’s how we are usually portrayed in the west. What I was not prepared for was Oprah’s totally crass and insensitive attitude.

The show begins with Oprah paying a visit to where else but the slums.! Perhaps we should promote Dharavi as one of our tourist destinations! She visits a young family (A couple and their 3 daughters) living in a 10X10 room and after kissing and cuddling the kids and saying how honored she felt to visit them, she got down to business. While sitting with the family in their small room she kept emphasizing how this family of 5 was living in such a cramped space. And to make sure that the viewers don’t miss her point, she slid across the entire room to indicate just how tiny it was. Then she had the insensitivity to ask the young daughter if she was unhappy or if she ever felt cramped living here. More shocked exclamations and “Oh my Gods “followed when the girl promptly replied “No”. 

After spending about five minutes pontificating about the size of the room and repeatedly wondering aloud about how they manage to sleep and live here, she turns to the father and asks him if he was happy and satisfied with what he was doing for his family. After getting the poor man all teary eyed and riddled with guilt she then turned to the kids and remarked how difficult it must be to see ones father cry ! I am sure the kids who till that point were just excited to have a celebrity visit their home were left feeling ashamed of how they lived. How sensitive of you Oprah, to make a young impressionable child suddenly realize how much she is lacking in life! I hated the uncouth way she treated those decent people who so gracefully welcomed her in their home - For god’s sake this was a family and not some exhibits in a freak show! 

And in her myopic way she doggedly refused to see how all the girls went to school, spoke in perfect English to her and looked so very confident of themselves. That the house, however small was neat and clean,that there was a LCD TV on the wall and the parents deserved appreciation for what they were giving their girls and not pity or guilt trips.

I suppose she wanted to highlight the economic disparity in India because next she visited the Somanis, a rich family living in the posh part of Mumbai. The family welcomed her grandly and literally served her food in silver thalis. So what does our lady do? She sits down at the table and in that very condescending manner of hers remarks “I hear some people in India still eat with their hands”. Dear God! I expected a lot more cultural sensitivity here. Who sits down with a meal with their host and then nonchalantly pass comments on how they eat? Just stop playing the dumb, ignorant foreigner! This is just like sitting down to dinner with a Japanese family and remarking “So I hear people in japan still eat with two small pieces of wood?”

The least I expected from her was to do her homework. She should know everybody in this country – irrespective of their economic or social status eat with their hands. Or perhaps she was naïve enough to think that we of the land of snake charmers and elephants have never heard of cutlery?

During the meal she continued to enlighten the viewers about how every Indian family is a joint family and how the Mother in Law still rules and the daughter in Law still does her bidding.

Next, she took herself off to a Bollywood party where she cornered poor A R Rahman and instead of talking about his music proceeded to be amazed by the fact that he had an arranged marriage and still lived with his mother. Insufferable!

My problem is not so much that Oprah showed the side of India many of us don’t want the world to see. Yes, we do have our poverty, we do have horrible infrastructure and we do have our widows of Vrindavan. It would be ridiculous to bury our head in the sand like ostriches and cry foul every time someone criticizes us. What I do take umbrage to however, is her insensitivity, her gross ignorance and her insistence of portraying India in a skewed manner.

I agree that India is a land of dichotomy and in the caricatured image that the western media usually portrays of us, everybody is either wretchedly poor or unbelievably rich. But beyond the glaring poverty and the opulence, there is another India – An India of the rising urban middle class, An India of technological progress, An India of women Power – where despite the enormous gender issues that we still face our women are so much more empowered than their counterparts of even a generation back; an India that is fast on the track to becoming an economic superpower. I wonder why all this is never mentioned! 

But then as the undisputed queen of melodrama Oprah knows what gets the show’s ratings up and what doesn't!

Oprah is an extremely popular chat show host, and with popularity comes immense responsibility. She knew this show would be watched by millions across the world, and I expected a more balanced, sensible and unprejudiced approach from her. Instead her show was riddled with stereotypes and clichés, her manner patronizing and her research shoddy.

Sorry Oprah, but for the millions of Indians who actually liked you, you just fell off their pedestal with a loud thump !

Jul 25, 2012

Book Review:The Mad Tibetan - Stories from then and Now By Deepti Naval

I have been a great fan of Deepti Naval since her Miss Chamko days (Anybody who has seen chashme baddoor will know what I am talking about!). In my opinion, she is one the finest actors we have. It was at the Jaipur Literary Festival that I realized that she was an equally good writer. We attended a session in which she read out a chapter from her book “The Mad Tibetan – Stories from Now and Then” and I was instantly hooked. Apart from the fact that the storyline was captivating it was her very emotive and expressive reading that kept us riveted to our seats. Obviously I simply had to buy the book after that !

Deepti Naval is a recluse and guards her privacy fiercely. Unlike most of the celebrities at the festival, she shied away from being photographed and hardly interacted with people. Some of her reclusiveness and search for solitude is reflected in her stories. So is her love for nature and her very perceptive understanding of life.“The Mad Tibetan – Stories from Now and Then” is a superb collection of short stories that covers almost all aspects of human nature and relationships. Her choice of characters is unusual – loners, madmen, recluses, failures. Deepti nonchalantly accepts all quirks and peculiarities as a part of life as she digs deep into the human psyche to unearth and explore deep rooted emotions, feelings and insecurities. I have rarely seen such profound, accurate and stunning portrayal of human complexities. 

The stories cover a wide range of topics right from a tale of two young girls and their trauma as they face the ridicule of the whole town because they have to get their heads shaved, to and old piano tuner and his despair as he battles loneliness and poverty in his twilight years. 

A story that I really liked was “D”. Deepti recounts meeting an old friend whom she recognizes but whose name she is unable to remember. Her anguish at not being able to put a name to that face is almost palpable. The most riveting story is Thulli, where Deepti recounts her sojourn into Falkland road of Bombay in search of prostitutes so that she can study them for her role in a movie. It’s excellently written and moves you beyond words. But my favourite story is the Mad Tibetan - Perhaps because as someone who likes her solitude and also likes to travel I could relate to her desire to live in Ladakh that too in the winter when the landscape is desolate but very peaceful.

Deepti’s writing style is very distinct. I am tempted to describe it as austere and intense at the same time. Her very striking and poignant characterization as well as expressive descriptions of situation and place paint images that are astoundingly vivid and realistic and leave you with a very strong almost visual impact. 

Read "The Mad Tibetan" if you are fond of Deepti as an actor, read it even if your are not .. This book is not to be missed if you have a passion for words ! 

Deepti reading out from her book at the Jaipur Literary Festival

Jul 4, 2012

Bhoojo To Jaane ! - 2

Sand dunes and camel rides with Snow capped mountains in the background ! Now where in the world can this be :) 

Jun 28, 2012

Canada Snapshots - Thursday Challenge (Wood)

Today's Thursday Challenge is  WOODEN (Furniture, Buildings, Crafts, Trees,...)

I saw these in a shop in Canada and fell in love with them ! 
I guess you can call this wood craft :P
Cute aren't they ! 

Jun 25, 2012

Canada Snapshots - A thousand Islands !

One thing I really enjoyed during my trip to Canada was the boat ride on the  1000 islands. 1000 islands is a group of more than a thousand islands dotted upon the St Lawrence river. Some of the islands are relatively big and some tiny enough to hold just a small house.The river here actually forms an International border between US and Canada so some of the Islands fall in the US and some in Canada.
Most of these islands have been bought by the rich and the famous and they have built beautiful summer homes there. The houses are so spectacular that I spent most of the boat ride half hanging out of the boat lusting after them and wishing that one day the good lord gives me enough money to buy homes like these.
The bridge across the St Lawrence river with US on one side and Canada on the other.

Some of the islands are tiny enough to hold just one house ! Most of them have flags to show which country the Island belong to ! 

This family owns two islands and have built a quaint little bridge to connect them. How cute is that ! 

Most of the residents spent their summers doing this 

or this 

This is life eh ! 

Jun 22, 2012

Canada Snapshots - Walking the Trails !

 The best thing that I liked about my stay in Canada was that it was a very relaxed laidback time. My two weeks in London were spent in hectic sightseeing and rushing about and I think the only time I sat down in those three weeks was when I boarded the flight to Toronto. 

My brother stays in a small town off Toronto and away from the hustle bustle of the big city. The town had a lot of nature trails and there was one right behind my Brother’s house. At all times, it had people walking their dogs,hiking, cycling, fishing in the small creek or simply 
barbecuing in the open. The Canadians love the outdoors, or perhaps because it was summer in Canada and summer is so much anticipated there, that everybody who can walk or crawl was out there soaking in the sun.

There were a few trails right behind my brother’s house and I had a marvellous time walking them. 

The trail behind my Brother's house ! 

The creek nearby ! 

I loved walking along the creek 
 I spotted a lot of wild life as well. Chipmunks and interesting birds whose names I don’t really know and I could never capture on camera ! But I did manage to capture this cute Bunny ! 

An unusual tree I saw .....

 When I was not walking the trails, I was sitting by the lake enjoying the peace and quiet. ! 

Jun 20, 2012

Hello Ji. Kiddan? Welcome to Kanedda !

I really haven’t written anything about my travels to Canada last year, so the next few posts are going to be dedicated to that wonderful country.

 I landed at Toronto’s Pearson airport after spending two weeks in UK. I had the most marvellous time there and London is way on top of my list of favourite cities. But let’s face it, The British are a formal lot and when I landed I was more than slightly jaded after two weeks of the British stiff upper lip and 8 hours of snootiness by a BA air hostess. The reason that my spirits rose immensely upon reaching Toronto can be attributed to the fact that as soon as I entered the airport, I found myself face to face with an extremely handsome airport official. I was so enraptured by his blindingly good looks that I could barely tear my eyes from him to take the form he was holding out. I was soon to discover the Canadians are as a rule tall, rugged and rather handsome. This revelation off course played a huge role in my stay there being a success! 

Also, I felt as if I had landed right into the heartland of sadda Punjab. The immigration officer was a Punjabi and so were majority of the airport staff along with most of the passengers. I heard more of Hindi and Punjabi at Pearson airport than one would hear even at our very own IGI. And I dare say, the people around me were speaking much better Punjabi than me ! 

After collecting my bags I was looking around for a trolley when I realized that you needed to put a coin in the designated slot to pull one out. All I had with me were currency notes and for some reason, the ATM at the airport wouldn’t allow me to withdraw money. The way to the exit was quite a walk and the prospect of lugging my two very heavy suitcases till there was not a happy one. I looked around for someone I could ask for help. The nearest airport attendant at hand happened to be a Sikh. He was tall and rather plump and his white beard flowing over his ample belly made him look like a benign Santa Claus. I poured out my woes to him. He took one look at me and asked me where I was from. I had the good sense to say Chandigarh instead of Delhi. He gave me a huge smile, took out a key, released a trolley and said, "Koi gall nahi jee, le jaayo Trolley! Welcome to Kanedda !"

Needless to say, a very auspicious start to my stay :P 

Jun 18, 2012

What’s in a Name!

My overwhelming desire while I was in London last summer was to see a traditional Pub with oak furniture, fire burning in the hearth, draught beer drawn from a keg and perhaps a game of dominoes being played in a corner. Unfortunately most of the pubs I came across were modern establishments but I did come across something interesting – Unusual Pub and restaurants names!

Here’s one on Convent Garden, ostentatiously named after the famous Puppet Show.

And my all-time favorite, I saw this near Westminster.  Perhaps its frequented by detectives ! 

And I suppose even writers must eat ! 

And finally a Pub in Windsor named after Royalty. It was initially called The grapes, then the Knight Tavern and Finally renamed the Duchess of Cambridge Pub.
Oh heck I suppose even royalty needs a pint now and then :p 

Jun 15, 2012

The two kinds of Sunshine

Delhi summers, 2.30 in the afternoon. Hot enough to make you feel like a baked potato (or a fried chicken) even inside an A/C car. Tired after driving the whole day through horrendous Delhi traffic and running errands in the heat, all my thoughts are on reaching home as soon as possible.

I try zipping through a green light before it turns red but it changes before I can cross it and so cursing under my breath, I stop the car. I am on the dreaded BRT corridor so I know I am in for a long wait. The sun beats down mercilessly, forming shimmering mirages and almost melting the tar off the road. There’s not a single soul in sight, it’s so hot that even the beggars and the people selling fresh coconut slices refuse to budge from under the shelter of the trees. I increase the car A/C to full and thank god for the black tinted car windows that I have neglected to take off even after our honorable supreme court asked us to. I try to turn my mind away from the heat and think of other things but I am too restless and impatient to do so. 

Suddenly there is a knock on my window. Expecting a beggar I turn towards it with a frown. A small boy of about 11 stands there, holding a bunch of glossy magazines in his hand. He asks me if I will buy a magazine. I can hardly hear him through the closed window but anticipating what he is saying, I shake my head in a No. He asks me again, this time showing the magazines to me one by one. I turn my head to look in the other direction. After a while I notice, or rather sense him still standing there. He is there all right, still holding up the magazines. Catching my eye he smiles, white teeth flashing against brown sunburnt skin and waves the magazines enticingly towards me. Once again I shake my head in a firm no. Not one to be deterred easily, he shows me the magazines one by one, Health, Femina, outlook, India today, some travel magazines. He sees me glance almost involuntarily at the travel magazines and immediately flicks one open to show me the different articles, his smile making his face look almost impish. Again I shake my head, this time gesturing with my hands for him to leave, but I can’t help smiling back a little.  Undeterred by my refusal, or perhaps egged on by my smile, he continues to stand there.  I find myself observing him. His clothes are faded but clean. Scrubbed face and hands and neatly brushed hair, he doesn’t really look like a beggar or a street urchin. I notice that his eyes crinkle up mischievously when he smiles.  

He keeps imploring me to buy the magazines and I keep refusing, but his smile is contagious and I find myself laughing back as I shake my head ruefully. Finally I start fiddling with the car radio, and pretend to be busy changing channels. I look up to see him still standing there patiently. He holds the magazines in one hand, wiping the sweat streaming down his forehead with the other. For the first time I notice that his shirt is clinging to his back and shoulders with sweat and his eyes are almost screwed shut against the harsh glare of the sun. He notices me scrutinizing him and his face breaks into a grin. Grinning back, I finally give in. I roll down the window and buy a magazine and I am rewarded with a smile sunnier than the sun above and an enthusiastic “thank you mam !”

I honestly don’t know why I am writing this here. But something about that little imp of a boy and his smile appealed to me and I just had to blog about it. When I think of him it’s not with pity for a small boy trying to make a living in the heat, but rather of an cheerful, enterprising soul who early in his life has learnt never to be deterred by something as trivial as the summer sun or  a no from a cranky lady sitting in a car !


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