I found joy in little things!

2020 has been quite a year for all of us! We have struggled in our own ways to keep things going. Tried hard not to become insane (most of us failed). But 2020 has also given us time to sit back and introspect. Introspection helped me get a fresh perspective about things I thought were very important. But I realised that actually it’s the little things that give you joy that are most important. This year, I tried to focus on doing things I have wanted to do for the longest time. Here are a few things I did (not intended to show off but maybe inspire or share some ideas for you to take up in case you are interested).

  1. I participated in a Dance movement therapy session. I have been a dancer all my life but had lost connection with the art form for two years now because of work pressures and life pressures. So I pushed myself to participate in this one and what a wonderful experience it was! It was a two-hour session with strangers and all of us were totally immersed in it. I got to move my body, feel my body and I got to remember that I am beautiful! Not a bad start at all.
  2. I went out for a walk. After the longest time I drove to Lodhi Garden with my son(!), walked around, enjoyed the sun, and clicked some beautiful pictures. Realized yet again that I have an eye for the right frame and I have not forgotten to drive! Being locked at home can make you forget the skills you have and what you enjoy doing.
  3. I painted a trunk. This trunk has a history. When I first came to Delhi in 2002 for my undergraduate studies, I had to stay in a PG (read pigeon hole) accommodation with absolutely no furniture. This trunk was my first buy in Delhi as a student. It has been with me ever since. Sometimes I used it as a cupboard, sometimes a book shelf, many a times as TV stand. Lately, it has been lying in our balcony. So, the other day, I was sipping some tea in the balcony and this idea of painting it popped up. Got some bright yellow colour and paint brush from the market and the next day I was on the job. What a satisfying experience it was! It just made me realise that there are so many things one can do while being at home.
  4. I painted bottles. I have always been fascinated with these beautiful wine bottles. I have always thought of picking one up and painting it. Please note, I have not learnt painting ever. Anyway, painting these bottles was more wishful thinking and was never a priority. But the whole trunk painting activity made me feel good and I thought of finally giving this a try. Painting these bottles gave me a lot of pleasure and made me feel that if I try, I can do anything!
  5. I cooked and enjoyed the process. During the lockdown I tried cooking a new dish every other day. The process was quite rejuvenating and the end results were mostly good. I realised that I have an intuitive skill when it comes to cooking. Many a times I surprised myself! Though I don’t get enough time these days, I still try and immerse myself in the process ones in a while.
  6. Made a dance video with my friends. Finally, followed my friend’s choreography and participated in a fun video. My son kept looking at me while I practiced the moves and it was such a delight seeing him making some sudden moves (he is just 15 months old).

These were the little things that helped me stay afloat. And, I continue to keep looking for these little joys and find my happy space! What about you?

The brand new mommy in the block!

Back to telling tales after a hiatus…

While I was away, I delivered a baby boy, adjusted myself to being sleep-deprived or managing with a few hours here and there, became an even better multi-tasker (I am known for my multi-tasking abilities!), got back to driving, mostly stepping out of the house once a week for an hour or two (this has been quite a challenge for a person who doesn’t like to sit at home even when unwell). And now I know the worth of the little joys and feel grateful when I am allowed those.

My baby is almost five months old now and it’s quite interesting to notice how he has made his space. First my womb, then my wardrobe, our bed, my phone (gallery), my mind, my heart, my time…he sure has made his space everywhere.

Meanwhile, each day is a new day when you are dealing with an infant. And hence you end up honing your skills and acquire new ones.

Meeting deadlines has always been my forte. But I have clearly reached new levels because now the deadlines are around an infant who can ensure that mommy is on her toes all the time. The key is to put systems in place and bettering it every day. Planning things in advance also matters but with an infant many a times when plan A fails, you have to be ready with plan B.

People say that women are multi-taskers and I totally agree. However I would also like to add that mothers are the epitome of multitasking.

Motherhood has also gifted me patience! You are dealing with an infant who is unable to understand you while at the same time you are trying your best to decipher their codes. It is this patience which helps you to think through a crisis.

The journey so far, while not being a cakewalk, has been fulfilling. It has made me a better person. It has made me more sensitive and considerate to my surroundings, has made me appreciate the necessity of time management and the drive for quality work. After all, no stone can be left unturned for the little one!

And now I am looking forward to balancing a healthy career and motherhood.

Wishing everyone a very happy and fulfilling New Year!

Exploring street art in the by-lanes of Lodhi Colony

We were heading towards Lodhi Garden, but then I suddenly remembered about the street art video I came across on YouTube recently (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYhPCRDgnzE). I have always liked the idea of street art. Had chanced upon a couple of them in Mumbai during one of my visits. Hence we took a detour and drove towards Lodhi Colony instead.

We drove through Meherchand market but couldn’t find any murals initially.  We kept driving, got into lanes and finally found two pieces of wall art, one was being worked upon. Now that we had tasted blood we drove further, parked our car and then started exploring the neighborhood on foot.

Slowly the beautiful art work unfurled before us as we walked between Khanna and Meherchand markets in the lanes and by-lanes of Lodhi colony. To me, it seemed like we were in a wonderland where fictitious characters came to life!

I had seen the wall art showcasing a hawker selling balloons in the YouTube video so I kept insisting on walking until we find this particular artwork. And finally, we found it!

02d82898-b292-4ef7-8265-ce447140d2ff

The Lodhi Art District, as the Lodhi Colony area called, is a project undertaken by St+art India (https://st-artindia.org/), an NGO established in 2014 by several artists. The first edition of the art festival took place in 2016 when more than 20 artists from India and from all over the world displayed their art on the walls of Lodhi Colony. This year the festival was called ‘Lodhi Art Festival’ and was scheduled between mid- January to mid- March.

The Lodhi Art District is an open exhibition of beautiful art work, a visual treat for all onlookers, passersby, photographers, tourists and the residents. Termed as India’s first open air art district, the best part of this place is its accessibility.

The Lodhi Art District has a mix of colorful and subtle art work, all of them a part of a narrative. There was a piece for every individual, something each one could relate to. I wished the artists were around so that I could talk to them and get to know more about their art. But it was also fun putting my imagination to work.

By the end of the tour I was reminded about Delhi’s beauty and charm!

 

Gateway to two pilgrim destinations Kishangarh!

The ghats around Pushkar Lake

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Thank God both my partner and I see what we see. I travel to make memories, rejuvenate and feed my inner soul!

Since we had to plan a quick trip for the weekend, most of the places in the ‘to cover’ list which were further away had to be crossed out. By the end, we were only left with Kishangarh (Pushkar and Ajmer). I have always wanted to experience the Pushkar fair. Since it happens every year around November, we were not too sure if we should plan a trip now in February. Nonetheless, we went ahead with our plans. And, we did not regret our decision!

Rajasthan, to me, is all about colours, vibrancy, music, forts, tales and the people! I have covered many parts of the region. Had done a family trip to Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur back in 2012. Had traveled to Udaipur on New Year’s Eve in 2016. Have visited Jaipur multiple times. Been to Bharatpur Sanctuary too. Kishangarh was my seventh destination within Rajasthan.

Kishangarh is a city in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan. The city also known as Marble City of India, is famous for a special kind of painting called ‘Bani Thani’. There are many tales about this style of painting which originated from Kishangarh. While there are quite a few things to see in Kishangarh, like the Kishangarh Fort, Nepheline Syenite, National Geological Monument, Nine Planets Temple, we decided to head straight to our stay (which was closer to Pushkar/Ajmer and around one hour away from the airport) as soon as we landed in Kishangarh. Before the Kishangarh airport was built, people had to travel to Pushkar and Ajmer by road which was time-consuming. People either directly traveled to Pushkar or flew to Jaipur and then traveled more than 100 kms to reach Pushkar/Ajmer.

On our way to the resort

We stayed at a beautiful ‘Ananta Spa and Resort’, which was surrounded by hills and hence had a picturesque view in the backdrop. We were quite happy with the place. The rooms were spacious, comfy and clean.

The next morning we set off for Pushkar city which was just 4 kms away from our resort. Pushkar is in the central part of Rajasthan and on the western side of the Aravalli Mountains. The city is known for its annual fair, which is the largest camel, horse and cattle fair in India and maybe the world. Every year traders, tourists, pilgrims and locals flock to the city in the month of October/November. Supposedly the Pushkar fair alone attracts over 200,000 visitors every year.

Just another day for me!

Pushkar is also famous for its temples. The most significant one in the city is the Temple of Lord Brahma. It is one of the very few existing temples dedicated to the Hindu creator, Lord Brahma in India and remains the most prominent among them. The Brahma Temple has many mythological tales about its origin. We heard a few interesting ones from the locals.

Next, we visited the Savitri Mata temple. This temple is located at the top of the Ratnagiri Hill and is dedicated to Savitri, the wife of Lord Brahma. One would need to use either the cable car or the steps to reach the temple. You get a beautiful view of the city from the hill. There is an interesting mythological story behind its origin. It goes like – once, Lord Brahma was performing a yagna on the bank of the Pushkar Lake where the presence of his wife (Savitri) was required. But because she was late in arriving, Brahma married another girl (Gayatri) to complete this ritual on time. When Savitri arrived, she was upset to see someone else in her place and in her anger she cursed everyone present there. Later, she went to the Ratnagiri hills to atone for her deeds. The temple was hence constructed in her remembrance.

View from Savitri Mata Mandir

Next on our list was the beautiful Pushkar Lake, one of the most prominent spots of pilgrimage. The beauty of the lake is because of the ghats surrounding it. There is a total of 52 ghats around the lake. Out of the 52 ghats used by pilgrims to take a holy dip, 10 important ghats on the periphery of the lake, have supposedly been declared as ‘Monuments of National Importance’. It was a beautiful experience to witness the serene, calm atmosphere at the lake, with devotees offering prayers, taking holy dips, birds silently making their way in the stunning blue and bright sky.

Pushkar Lake

We then headed back to our resort and decided to relax for the rest of the day but only after we had our share of mouth-watering Rajasthani food. We were quite ambitious and thought we had the appetite to devour a whole Rajasthani thali. But we were wrong! The most common Rajasthani food are ‘Besan Gatte ki Sabji’, ‘Daal Bati Churma’, ‘Laal Maas’, ‘Rajasthani Kadhi’, ‘Ker Sangri’ and our thaali had it all and more!!!

img-1281.jpg

On the last day, we checked out and headed to Ajmer, one of the oldest cities in Rajasthan. Ajmer is famously known for the ‘Ajmer Dargah’, the Mayo College and its lakes. We stopped at the Ana Sagar Lake which is spread over 13 kms and is the biggest in the city. The lake is surrounded by hills which makes it visually attractive.

Ana Sagar Lake - Ajmer

On our way to the airport, we stopped over at the Nareli Jain Temple. It is a complex comprising of 14 temples built recently. It is known for its architecture and intricate stone carvings which gives it both a traditional yet contemporary look.

Nareli Jain Temple

Though Pushkar and Ajmer are mostly destinations for pilgrims, I think it has something for all travelers. I am not a very religious person but what my grandmother once told me made a difference. I remember I used to make faces whenever she asked us to accompany her to the temples. But one day she told me that I need not visit the temples for any religious sentiment but may visit it for its tales, architecture, views etc. That definitely made sense to me!

Goa, the place for every season

Candolim beach
The connect with Goa and the ocean!

I have visited Goa eight times in all. This may not be a big deal for many but I also know people who have never been to Goa. So this post is an attempt to help them make a plan. Goa is beautiful in every season so you need not wait for a December. I have been there in winter, summer, spring and monsoon!

I am a beach person and hence visiting Goa has become almost like a yearly ritual for me. I feel a connection with the ocean. The vastness of an ocean amazes and scares me at the same time. It amazes me to witness that at one moment the waves are wild and the next moment it’s all calm. It gives you many life lessons.

My first ever visit to the city was in 1999. This was during a school excursion when we were visiting Mumbai, Pune, Lonavla and Goa. This was also my first ever trip with my school friends and my memories are still very fresh. This trip was during the new year’s eve of the millennium year. It seemed as if everybody was in Goa to celebrate the New Year. It was over-crowded. It was supposed to be fun but I hated Goa then and only because of the crowd. During that visit, I tried ‘feni’ (a local drink made of cashew); again I hated it because I tried it neat. It was quite bitter in taste. We visited the ‘Basilica of Bom Jesus’, a beautiful church which is a UNESCO listed world heritage site. It is located in old Goa and holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier (one of the greatest Roman Catholic missionaries of modern times who was instrumental in the establishment of Christianity in India).

Old Goa
Basilica of Bom Jesus

I left Goa that year to not return ever, but who knew that from the next visit it would become a ritual?

The next visit was an offsite trip arranged by an organization I worked with in 2010. Employees from across India came to Goa for this trip. Day time was dedicated to presentations, case studies, learnings and conversations. Evenings were reserved only for fun! During this visit I started exploring Goa in its real sense. We visited shacks at the Anjuna beach and Baga beach. We tried sea food and drinks. By the end of the trip I had bonded well with my colleagues across India and with GOA!

In 2011, I returned with my school friends. This was a fun trip. I drove the scooty for the very first time. Exploring Goa on a scooty is the best thing to do. Every lane has shops which offers scooties on rent. Just make sure you carry your driving license with you. Other than scooties you also get four wheelers on rent. It’s not a great idea to hire taxis (with drivers) as it’s costlier and you are dependent on them. I tried the local curry dish ‘Vindaloo’. It’s quite popular and you can find both veg and non-veg variants.

2014 onwards I visited Goa every year with friends. And with each year I have realized that my bond with Goa has deepened. That year I visited Goa with 20 friends and it was one hell of a trip! We stayed near Candolim beach in North Goa. We visited Fort Aguada (popularized by the movie ‘Dil Chahta Hai’). This Portuguese fort was built in 1612 to guard the city from the Dutch and the Marathas. The fort also has a light house standing tall. Entry is free of cost and you should try to visit it in the morning to avoid the heat during the day.

During a few of my visits, I also went to the Saturday night bazaar (flea market) in Arpora. You will find all kinds of things in this night market (it starts at around 6 pm and is open all through the night) from food to clothes to live music. We also went to Curlies which is a popular shack on Anjuna beach. Aviation enthusiasts should definitely visit the Naval aviation museum. Its located quite close to the airport and showcases a collection of vintage and current aircraft. You can also buy some souvenirs for friends and family back home.

By the end of these trips, I have realized that there is something for everyone in Goa! You can plan a trip to just party in Goa, try club hopping, or you could opt to beach hop, or you could just go there for a relaxing weekend and, take walks in the lanes, eat yummy food and drink to your heart’s content. I am sure nobody has ever come back from Goa without having a good time!

suddymoody recommendations and facts:

  • When in Goa try fish and pork dishes
  • Do try the grilled/masala king fish
  • Trying Port wine is a must
  • Visit Curlies at Anjuna beach before the sunset. You will get to witness a beautiful view of the sunset on your approach to Curlies
  • Stay in North Goa if it’s your first visit. That’s where all the action is (if action is your thing J)
  • Don’t drink and drive! Rules have become stricter – but not just because of rules, na?
  • The cashews there are not cheap but of good quality. You can take some home for your friends and family
  • Vagator and Arambol beaches are beautiful
  • Shacks on the beaches can charge you more but it’s worth it because of the view
  • You can try the Goan pork sausages. You will find it in the bigger departmental stores if you want to carry some home
  • For good food you can visit Fisherman’s cove and Fat fish
  • You will find many vegetarian restaurants too
  • Goa airport also serves as military airbase (air station of the Indian Navy)

The charming city…Kolkata

I keep going back to Kolkata as (No prizes for guessing! No I am not from Kolkata. But like most Bongs I have family in Kolkata :-D) my sister lives there. But that’s not the only reason. Each time I go back, I find something very charming about the city. But, just as my romance with the city begins, something tells me not to tread that path. I guess I share a love and hate relationship with the city!

Kolkata is a very vibrant city. You come across people who are always on the move and in contrast there are people who you see are just lazing, playing cards or carom. The streets are always bustling with vehicles, trams, and street hawkers. There are sweet shops and food joints in almost every lane you pass by.

Food is another major pull-factor for me to go back to the city each time. Right from the puchkas (golgappe/paani puri) to aloo chop to Chinese food – everything is just out of this world! I would recommend ‘China Town’ for authentic and cost-effective Chinese cuisines.

As much as I like the city, there are certain drawbacks too. I feel the city is too crowded, life in general moves at a slow pace, traffic is pretty bad all the time and most of the times the weather is humid.

My love for Kolkata has developed over the years. From not wanting to go to the city at all, to visiting the city every 6 months (on an average), I have come a long way!

Some things that really stand out are…..

  1. Passionate people – People in Kolkata are passionate about a lot of things. They can talk endlessly about literature, culture, food, and football! During the world cup season (and otherwise too), every person (from kids to adults) talks and discusses about football with much passion. During my most recent visit, I got into a conversation with a cab driver who was dropping me off at my sister’s place. All throughout the way he kept talking about the world cup. I was happy listening to him till the time he said ‘bolun to didi Argentina harlo keno?’ (please tell me sister why did Argentina lose?). And I had no answer (as I don’t really follow football). I thought he is going to judge me but I played along ;-).
  2. The Ganga boat ride – Two years back I had visited Kolkata with a group of friends. I was entrusted with the task of taking them around the city (because they assumed, being a Bong, I will be an expert city guide ;-)) and that’s when I got to actually explore and know the city. We visited the Victoria memorial and walked around the streets. We took the tram ride (for the first time ever) and I was quite excited about it. I made them have all kinds of Bengali dishes which they quite liked. The main attraction however was the boat ride on the river Ganga. We took the ride from Princep ghat. During the ride, we could see both the Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Setu with the sunset as the backdrop and it was a breath-taking view! You may bargain for the ride if you want. But, by the time you finish your ride I am sure you will end up tipping the ‘majhi’.
  3. Street food to go with the ‘bhar er cha’ – Every time I visit the city, I make sure I don’t miss out on the street food and the tea served in clay cups. This is a must have for all tea lovers. The tea tastes even better when served in these cups. And with the monsoons setting in, this is the ideal time to grab some cutlets, pyaji (onion pakoras) and tea.
  4. Visiting ‘Kumortuli’ before Durga puja – I had read many articles about this place called the ‘Kumortuli’ in Kolkata but it’s altogether a different experience when you actually visit this place. During your visit, in those narrow lanes, inside dilapidated houses, you will come across several artisans/traditional potters working hard to give shape to Durga Protimas (idols) of all sizes. In case you have any queries for the artisans, please wait for their tea breaks. This is where all the idols you see at the Puja Pandals come from. Depending on the time you visit this place (closer to puja or much before puja) you will witness the different stages of the idol making. This is a paradise for people who are into photography. Even amateur photographers like me would get beautiful shots from one such visit!

I am sure you must be wondering being a Bong and while talking about the Bong city, I did not mention about sweets at all. This is because I am one of those rare bongs who has a missing sweet tooth hence I don’t enjoy talking about it too.

More pictures…

The 8 best pictures from my Bhutan trip!

Bhutan, as you must have already gathered from my previous posts, has truly been inspirational to me. Every morning during my trip, I was excited to wake up to enjoy the beautiful view from my window.

During the 7 days trip I took more than 100 pictures (couldn’t resist) 😋. All of them have  a different tale to tell.

So here are the top 8 (couldn’t stick to just 6 this time as there are many good ones to choose from) pictures from my ‘Bhutan 2018’ album.

Hope you enjoy going through them and their tales 😀

Picture 1: This one was taken when we were leaving the Paro museum. There were these three little girls oblivious of the surrounding (onlookers), enjoying each others company and the games they played. The world seemed wonderful for a few minutes as I imagined myself to be one of them (a happy little girl). Those moments gave me an overwhelming sense of happiness… and I had to  capture it.

Picture 2: This was taken on the last day of our Bhutan trip. Hence it is a significant one. We woke up to a scenic view after a very rainy night. We could see the beautiful clouds trying to hide the otherwise noticeable hills. A feeling of nostalgia hit us while we sipped our coffee.

Picture 3: This was taken at the base just before we started our trek to the Tiger’s nest! This view almost made me quit the trek even before we started. The trek seemed an uphill task to me. But glad I could make it to the top and come back and wave a good-bye from the same point.

Picture 4: This is the night view of the Punakha Dzong taken on the second day of our stay at Punakha. I kid you not, I must have taken more than 30 pictures of the Dzong. From all possible angles, far and near, during the day and night…I left no opportunity whatsoever to capture this beauty. We could have easily gone back to our resort after a very hectic day (read sight seeing, rafting, eating), but we decided to stay back and wait for it to get dark and glad we did so! This is certainly not a view that should be missed 🙂

Picture 5: This is a picture of the suspension bridge at Punakha. While waiting for it to get dark (for the Punakha Dzong view), we decided to try walking on the suspension bridge. I went half way through the bridge and then I looked down! I couldn’t risk going any further and let me tell you that the walk back was quite scary (I am scared of heights). And then I saw this monk confidently walking on this very shaky bridge and coming over to our side. I admired and I clicked!

Picture 6: This was taken inside the Punakha Dzong. Amid the beautiful spring blossom, I saw some visitors approaching the Dzong. Among them was this fierce lady who came walking up the stairs. She looked a little run out but definitely not somebody who was ready to give up. So I clicked to refer to it on days when I feel a little worn out.

Picture 7: This is the nunnery at Punakha. We witnessed hundreds of nuns sitting in the prayer hall and praying and chanting together. What a lovely aura it created! This picture was taken right after the prayer services when we witnessed a sudden burst of red in an otherwise scenic but pale background. This was magic for me!

Picture 8: This picture is from our first day in Bhutan (Thimphu). We walked around the streets, we also visited the weekend vegetable market and we noticed happy faces all around us. No honking on the streets, no haggling in the market…it was indeed very peaceful. And then while crossing a bridge, we came across this dog. Nobody was shooing it off, no disturbances, strangely detached…it was definitely at peace!