Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Twenty Thirteen: The year in a post!

To be honest, I never liked the sound of 2013; there was a bad ring to it. So for that reason alone, I am glad it is over. What i learnt about life and myself in the last year: (Lessons learnt from 2012 in this post, and highlights from 2011 in this post)

  • I like to keep challenging myself. I do it quietly, hesitatingly, all the while questioning my ability on the inside but i do it with a weird sense of confidence that is latent but very potent.
  • This yoga class i attended a few weeks back and a chance comment from the instructor that stayed with me- she said: 'Injuries are very clever, they let you know your weaknesses; make them your friends and respect them'. I was so blown away by that sentence that i almost let go of the lizard pose she had us all in and went and gave her a hug. Injuries; physical, emotional and psychological- they all tell you what the chink in your armor is and it never hurts to know that and work on it. 
  • The weirdest experience happened outside of office when a man stopped me and 1) said things about my past that were absolutely true and b) predicted my future. 
  • I think life should be documented, what else is it if not a string of easily forgettable moments? This blog is one way of doing it but of course there is only this much that you can mention on a public blog. I have taken Ma's advice and have started sending emails to myself about the funny things, the compliments, the heart warming little incidents that one tends to forget..
  • Its funny  you know; how you live life scared of some things and then the things that actually happen- you would have never even imagined that that would happen to you! I struggled massively with some issues this year and in trying to get over them, i tried so many new things, understood so much about myself that i think i evolved as a person more in this year than in any other. I learnt to be very optimistic and enthusiastic about everything in general. 
  • Africa. Visit it. It calls me again and again. (The Africa Diaries here)
  • Travelling is one of the greatest joys of life. I think it was this year that i truly realized how much i love to travel. My advice: If you can afford it, travel. If you cannot afford it, travel. So this year I traveled to India (of course), Lanzarote (Canary Islands),Mombasa (Kenya), Salzbourg (Austria), Istanbul (Turkey), road trip in Scotland, Amsterdam (again), Stockholm (Sweden), and Dubrovnik (Croatia). 
  • Life can be perfectly fabulous without certain people in it. Don't take $%^& from people. If you are even vaguely/ remotely successful a lot of people will behave the way they do because they are jealous of you. Ignore, move on. 
  • I performed on stage for the first time in ages. I danced to a Bollywood song in London. Here is a post with the details and some pictures.
  • I discovered the immense joys of baking! Pictures of some stuff i baked here.
  • I changed roles at work and am now doing something i never thought i would/ could. This change in role also meant that I pretty much smashed the before-i-turn-30 salary target i had set for myself. I am very thankful for this opportunity and work my hardest.
  • I have realized that my biggest strengths are hard work and a good sense of humor. There was an email from my doctor that began ' Dear R, I must say your email made me giggle...'  To be honest, his email made ME giggle :)
  • I made a lot of friends. 
  • I have become an expert at throwing parties. I cook for 10 people without batting an eye lid and zero stress. 
  • I got back to exercising and am loving it. Here is a post on my love for yoga.
  • I painted, baked and embroidered.
  • I realised that being Indian is a very big part of my identity. I tried very hard to not let Holi, Diwali, Karwa Chauth be just ordinary days; i called up people, cooked or got them to cook, and actually celebrated the festivals. For holi, we had colour, for diwali we had patake and for Karwa we had the channi and fasting. And for all these, we had a lot of people. My house feels like a home when all this happens and I like that feeling.
  • I have made a ritual out of Sid's birthday. I cook a day in advance, invite his closest friends and make him feel all special :) We have also almost made a ritual of travelling for mine.
  • My brother decided to get  married to a girl I am extremely fond of and the thought of them being man and wife just fills my heart with immense, pure joy.
  • I realised that we might be scared, vulnerable and fearful. I also learnt that with wisdom, we can overcome such negative emotions.
  • this was one of the most eye opening and oddly enough, spiritual experiences of my life.
  • I watched all the episodes of Big Boss. Yes, kill me now.
  • This year I finished writing two books. Maybe some day i will talk in detail about the first one but suffice to say right now that the first one is very close to my heart- I breathed and lived it for 1.5 years; for the first time the story completely overtook every aspect of my life. I would actually sort out the nitty gritties of the plot in my dreams, so obsessed was my being with it. Eating, drinking, sitting in the tube- the story would do its rounds in my head. However, no respectable publisher thought it would sell in the Indian market. That was a tough blow. I learnt to not give up. Picked myself up and wrote another one. Harper Collins has kindly agreed to publish it. (Whoop whopp, hurraaaayyy). I learnt, very simply, to not give up on my dreams. If you dream often enough and work hard enough, it generally, does happen :) And that is why, yet again, life taught me how important it is to keep at it. Simply keep at it.

I think, all in all, I became more active, learnt to massively multi task, struggled, succeeded, threw tantrums, cried my heart out, laughed, made others laugh a lot, stood by friends, fought with people i am close to, spoke my mind, grew in confidence, felt incredibly vulnerable, was horrible and absolutely lovely in equal bits. That pretty much sums up 2013.

To a fabulous 2014 to all of us!

Love,
R

Monday, December 30, 2013

Well...

'Are you a person or a museum or probably 3-4 people in one and should be put in a museum?' my Scottish manager asked me a few hours ago, laughing.

I get that a lot these days; people who share my life with me asking me how i do the many things i do and honestly, the question takes me by surprise because i do not know how to live any different. 
I wish i did, but i do not.

I have a high pressure, full time, B2B sales job with targets and customers spread across UK, rest of Europe, Russia etc.

I have one book in the market and another i have signed the contract for and am finalizing the details for.

Yesterday I baked and iced a cake for a lunch party i threw for my husband's birthday and this is not the first time I baked and cooked for someone's birthday. 

Today i will hopefully complete an embroidery project that i have been working on for quite some time.

I was a little indulgent (and very tired from the last few days ) and hence decided to not do any exercise today and i do not like the feeling.. I typically do some core strength exercises or a nice 40 minute cardio session or go for a 40 minute walk atleast 4-5 times a week. Close friends have been witness to my biceps and triceps which i have been proudly showing off to anyone who will bother. 

I have a BIG circle of friends in London most of whom wish to spend time with me. 

I traveled last month to Croatia, am travelling to India in Jan and to Iceland in Feb and still itch to travel more.

I am ALWAYS reading. I am extremely listless without a book.

I HAVE to speak to my Mum atleast once a day.

And I typically have a LOT of time on my hands. So much time that sometimes i wonder what is missing...


So, to answer the question, i understand that this is probably not normal but i do not know how or why i do it. 

 

Monday, December 09, 2013

F.R.I.E.N.D.S


 2009. Induction meeting in Delhi for MBA graduates who were to be part of the fast track management trainee program of one of India’s largest telecom companies. Lots of us excited MBA graduates ready to set the corporate world on fire and all that higgledy-pigglidy.

A casual first meeting, I suppose; one that I cannot even recall now. Another face in the crowd, probably…Five of us were going to be based out of the same city and he was one of them.

Half a decade and half way across the world later he is one of my closest friends.
When? How? Really?

Friendships. It is interesting to see how the important ones began. You allow yourself a little smile when you go back into time and see for yourself in a little self-directed movie how it all panned out.

Nik and I were together in the same company for a grand total of 3 months in 2009. Remarkably,that was the only time we have spent around each other. The five of us were a big, tight group, the tacit promise of helping each other see through the horrors of the internship ensuring that we had much to talk about, share and laugh at.

A finance role in a telecom company was never going to keep him for long, and he left soon after to join an investment banking firm, to do things he really, truly wanted to do. I stayed on in the company for another three months and then moved to London.

Since then, I got married, wrote a book, wrote another, then another and then ANOTHER! (Not all of them will be printed s don't freak out about the number of books I have in the pipeline )

Every author has a friend who reads the books they write as they write it. Typically, its their closest friend. For me, my Dad and Nik do that. We have spent hours discussing the characters, the plot and why he thinks what I have written is great/ ok/ utter rubbish.  He was also the brain behind the title of the first one and he will name my second.

Today is his birthday.

Last year, towards the end of December, it struck me that the entire year had passed and I had not wished him a happy birthday. Had I missed it, I asked him innocently, as I paced my garden back at home in India.

The answer, of course, was that I had indeed and he had been waiting for me to realize that I had!

I still mentally LOL when I think of that conversation.

Good friends are precious, very precious. And while my behavior hardly shows that I hold that thought dear, I dooooo!

Nikhil is one of the very few people who understands me even when I do not say anything (and I mean this literally). He is also one of the very few people in front of whom I can be me without fear of being judged. And I count that as a luxury.

Along the years, we have helped each other take some of the biggest decisions we have taken. Often not by giving advice but mostly by just hearing the other one out.

As you get older  As Nik gets older, I, of course, stay 16, you tend to value  such friendships a lot more than you did when you were younger.

And, so, on this august day of Nik’s birthday, (;) ;) ) I would like to wish him a world full of happiness.

Happy birthday, Nik.

You simply rock J

R.

Friday, December 06, 2013

The latest craze

So there is something new that has caught my fancy.

Yoga.

Now, I have been doing bits and pieces of it forever but it is only of late that I have taken to it with gusto. I mix it with exercises that work on my core, use pink coloured light weights and feel so so so good when I am done with it.

For the longest time ever, I just waited to find that whole hour to go to the gym. It hardly happened. One fine day I told myself that enough was definitely enough, and promised myself that if nothing I will do 15-20 minutes of yoga before I leave for work each day. Something, I reasoned with myself, was better than nothing? eh?

Let me just add that 15 minutes of yoga are the best investment possible. Take my word for it. And, well, you CAN take out 15 minutes for yourself. Atleast!

I do breathing exercises, stretching, surya namaskars and add a little bit of core to it  (How I LOVE planks and push ups!)

The only point in putting this here is because for some reason, of late, a lot of people have emailed/ told me how much this blog inspires them. That is an odd thing to say because I never intended for this blog to inspire. AMuse yes, but inspire, no.

So be inspired to work out....just start with 15 minutes in the morning.

Take my word for it. Your body will thank me :)

Love
R
 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Letter to the husband...

Sid,

Today, 4 years ago, as i cried bucket fulls in front of the rather horrified pandit jee, with the aag as saakshi (and other equally dramatic stuff), you put the proverbial sindoor in my maang.

In other words, we got married.

Marriage, like most important things in life unfortunately, does not come with a manual. No well thumbed book to tell me what to expect and how to deal with someone i had never lived with. In fairness, by the same logic, both of us were manual-less, you as much as me,  and we fumbled and tumbled as we groped in the dark. Okay edit that. Came out all wrong. But having been my husband for the last 4 years, you get the picture? Though we are far from being veterans, i do feel we have come a long long way.

Because i married you I feel I grew up twice. Once with my parents at home in India. And the second time, because i married you so young, I grew up again here in London.

Marriage has changed me. And i hope it has changed you in some ways too.

In living with you, i live with someone who is a) very clever and b)very alert. Even the random ticket guy in Croatia, after asking you a couple of questions (including a trick question in the end) about the map on the ticket looked at me and said ' He is such a nerd!' I don't know how you know it all. But being the dreamer that i am, I am very glad that you do!

In living with you, I live with someone who is very good at his job. That is, to say the least, very inspiring. Given that we do similar roles now, if i can be half as good as you are, i will be very happy!

In living with you, I live with someone who wants to show me the world. Like we calculated the other day, we have traveled to 18 different countries in the last 4 years and have been to some of them more than once. You have made the studious, home body me enjoy and revel in travelling, you literally opened the doors of the world and its possibilities to me. I thank you for that. (Keep at it, by the way, I want to see more!)

In living with you, I live with an extremely confident man, who is very sure of himself. I know it is rubbing off on me a little bit ;) and God knows I can do with it.

In living with you, I live with a man, who lets me try out, no, not  just try out but actively encourages me to do everything I want to. Whether it is sitting for 20 minutes and staring at the fish as they wiggle about in sea, snorkel in Africa or go and speak to Sunil Gavaskar at Heathrow Airport- you always egg me on. And sometimes a little egging on is all that one needs to make an ordinary day, extraordinary;)

In living with you, I live with a man who is not a jealous, clingy husband. the day I had my book launch, you took my bag from me and said ' For today, I am your chapraasi. I will carry your bags and bring you water or whatever it is that you need from me'. You probably do not even remember it and probably said it in jest, but it was one of the sweetest things you have ever said to me.

In living with you, I live with a man who still opens doors for me and lets me get on the escalators first.

When you taste the rajma and say ' its good, but not as good as yours' dismissively looking at the cook who is stocking the refrigerator, I laugh a good few minutes before i tell you that this rajma was indeed cooked by me. The sheepish look on your face is priceless.

In spite of the horrible Baingan ki sabzi that you made the other day, I would recommend marriage (while i would not recommend putting three green chillies in a spoon ful of sabzee). Definitely recommend it. With a disclaimer. If you are getting married, be ready to change. Not because someone will force you to but because, as you adjust to another way of life, as you experience another person's ideologies and mannerisms, some of them will unknowingly rub off on you and make you different from what you were.

In a good way.
In a positive way.


Don't get carried away, Sid. You can be quite the pig head at times. But then so can I so lets call it quits there ;)

On that lovely note about pig headedness that is such an integral part of us, happy 4th Wedding Anniversary.

Love,
R





Friday, November 15, 2013

What do i write about?

Like i mentioned earlier too, i have been writing like a crazy woman for the last 2 years, only not often on the blog. And it seems i have run out of practice now!

Also a lot of things i would have spoken of as an anonymous blogger, i refrain from given that I have come out of the closet ;)

So why don't you tell me what you want me to write about? Leave your comments or email me and i shall get back.

R

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Meme!


Sunday Stealing meme and my answers

1.Are you a young heart or an old soul?
Young heart. Silly things: a throaty laugh, rain, balloons, toddlers, fluffed up cake- they make me happy.

2. What makes someone a best friend?
If they can be happy for you when good things happen and sad for you when bad things do. The former is much more difficult than the latter.

3. What Christmas present do you remember the most?

None. I don't celebrate Christmas.

4. Tell me a movie/song/TV show/playbook that has changed your life.

None. People have changed/ shaped me not movies/ songs or playbooks.

5. Name one physical feature that you like about yourself and one that you dislike.
Well, I have been told that I have expressive eyes and would have liked to be a little taller.  Other than that, I firmly believe that we are all beautiful.


6. Can money buy happiness?
No but it can buy comfort and a lot of other things.


7. What’s more important in a relationship: physical attraction or emotional connection? 
At least one of the above is abs necessary.


8. Is there anyone close to you that you know you can’t trust? 
For the longest time ever, I did, but now I have proactively culled such people out of my life. Inherently, however, I do not trust a lot of people.


9. Where was your favorite place to go when you were a little kid? 
The servant’s quarter. Old books were left discarded there and I would spend hours going through them. Geeky, I know.


10. Have you spent a night in the hospital?
Yes, I have. More than one and I am still trying hard to forget them though it is almost one whole year now.


11. Do you enjoy being only with 1-2 friends or with a large group of people? 
Earlier it was the former. But once bitten twice shy so now I keep myself surrounded with  loads of fun people, none of whom I am exceptionally close to. Safer, easier and more fun.


12. Have you ever been bullied? 
No.


13. If your partner wanted to wait until marriage until having sex, would you stay in that relationship?
Yes.


14. Do you believe in God? 
Yes.


15. Out of all the social networks in the world why use a blog? 
Once I start speaking/ writing it is tough to stop. Twiiter and FB status updates just do not suffice.


16. What is your quirkiest habit?
I have to, have to, have to be on the left of the other person I am walking with.


17. What is normal? Are you normal?
I don’t know what normal is. I do not think I am normal.


18. Someone close to you is dying! You have the choice to let this person live for 10 more years but if you do you cause the death of 10 strangers.
Save that person who is close to me. I am very selfish that way.


19. What is one thing you could never forgive?
Lying. Consistently.

 
20. When you’re alone in your own home, do you talk out loud to yourself?
Yes. I am mad. I do that in office too, so it is no secret. People sitting next to me are used to it and just mumble a ‘you are doing it again' and I try and shut up. 


21. Who is your favorite super hero?

Don’t have one.

22. Could you be in a long distance relationship?
Was in one for about a year. It is not easy.



23. Do you know what makes you happy?
Yes. I love few people but I love them ferociously. Seeing them happy, safe and healthy makes me happy.


24. Who was your first crush?
First major crush was a senior in college (obviously)


25. Where is your favorite place to go out and eat?
I love MaPo Tofu and Royal China!


26. Are you an early bird or night owl?
I can be either but prefer to be the night owl; mostly because I cant sleep peacefully till I get the work done.

27. Give me an unpopular opinion you have.
-

28. Do you believe in giving kids medals and trophies for participation?
No. Win it to deserve it.


29. What song best describes your life right now?
None.


30. How do you express your creativity?
Write
J


31. Give me the story of your life in 6 words. 
I work very hard.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Random updates

I am alive and well, thank you for asking. I have been writing like a woman possessed, only not on the blog (More on than sooner rather than later, watch this space for news *wink* *wink*). Right, so I know I have been absolutely horrible with the blog. Now is the time to set it right by...well...putting up a post!

Random updates are as follows:

  • In a matter of 1 hour 15 minutes I did the following: cooked daal, 2 vegetables, 11 rotis. I also did the dishes and threw out the rubbish. Am I superwoman or am I superwoman is the question.
  • Sid is on his way home from the Nordics. He should get a citizenship, I think, given the amount of time he spends here.  Being the good Indian wife that I am , hot, home cooked food will be waiting for him.
  • Talking of food, I have begun to bake a lot! I find it extremely therapeutic even though I do not have a sweet tooth at all. The solution is then simple- I bake exclusively for friends, mostly for their birthdays. Here are two of my bakes, baked for two different friends.




  • I went to India recently and it was the most heavenly 2 weeks. *sigh* Just a dull ache now remains, reminding me of the subtle joys of being at home.
  • It is getting very cold here now, I went out today wearing a sweater, a woolen scarf and a long thick coat. And still found myself shivering! :/
  • When I shiver, my teeth chatter, like really actually chatter. Does that happen to anyone else? or is just in the comics....and err....me?
  • Interestingly (not sure if that is the right word), I took the wrong trains both when going to work and when coming back. I must have been in some winter induced daze.
  • I met a friend after 8 long years last night! We were not great friends in engineering college, I mean I never disliked her, far from it, but we never really got talking. And I really enjoyed her company last night! Here is to friendship!
  • Talking of new friends, one must also talk about old ones. Some friendships have a date stamp on them and they die a slow/ sudden death. I have learnt it the hard way that there is an upper cap on the number of times you can forgive someone. If they continue to..errr...be the person they are, you will have to end it. Sad and heart breaking but I have also reaslied that I do not wish to have negative energy in my life Jealous, insecure people with huge complexes are best left outside of the sphere of people you interact with on a daily basis.
  • Oh, by the way, I met Amitabh Bachchan in Amsterdam. Yeah! Have a look at his autograph and feel free to die of jealousy.


  • Work has become very very very busy and hectic. I am enjoying it and learning new things so, so far so good.
  • A doctor I met today almost spat out his coffee when I told him my real age. He thought I was about 8 years younger than my actual age. I have not stopped grinning since.
  • So we have travelled to Lanzarote (Spain), Salzbourg (Austria), Mombasa (Kenya), The Masai Mara(Kenya), Scotland, Istanbul (turkey) so far this year. And I just came back from a work trip. I am however, already itching to go and the next stop is going to be Croatia in November. I am uncharacteristically excited about it. I was dragged around the globe for 2.5 years by Sid before I truly began to enjoy travelling. And now that the bug has bitten me, it is amusing to say the least.

That's the random list. I shall be back with more...and I promise that I will try and blog more regularly.


Love
R






 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

If

I was reading a post i had written from around the time of my wedding.

Close to 4 years now. And yet...I identify with each written word. Only retrospectively do i understand the power of what was.

Love
RP


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Random updates

 
  • A big dream seems fairly distant now. I have been working hard at it but sometimes success takes its own sweet time. I am this close to giving up but I know that I am not a quitter. I am keen to see how things will pan out. If only...
  • I returned to London yesterday after spending last week in Turkey. It was a good, relaxing holiday which we had taken with the in laws.  I will put up a picture post soon.
  • Now is also the first time in 6 weeks that its just the two of us at home. The house does feel a little empty.
  • I saw Inkaar today and was totally blown away by Arjun Rampal. He is an absolutely fabulous actor and I don't know why I was surprised by this!
  • I am down with flu and cough, fyi
  • Monday onwards I start a completely new role at work. I never thought that one day I will be doing B2B sales in Europe! And here I am, all excited about it. Really really looking forward to it :)
  •  I am also planning a surprise for someone...I love planning surprises! Yohoooo!
  • I have cut off all carbs from dinner in an attempt to lose 1.3 kilos of weight.
  • I made chocolate and pistachio cake for Sid (and a friend) today and ate half of it myself. I think I am now overweight by 3.3 kilos. *Sigh* Here is a picture of the warm, soft and absolutely delicious cake fresh from the oven :
  • I have started experimenting with nail paint colors. Instead of the usual pinks and reds I am now using oranges, purples and (lo and behold) ornage and purples! I know- does not sound too appetizing but well, better to do it and regret it than not do it ;)
  • I read a John Grisham in Istanbul and have just ordered 'Game of Thrones'. I also really really want to read ( I mean re rereread) The Harry Potter books. And Pride and Prejudice. Sometimes I crave these books as if they are long lost friends...
  •  On weekends when I should sleep till ten, I am generally up by 7. Arrrggghhh. The unfairness.
And as randomly as this list began, it ends ;)

Love
R

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hakunana Matata! The Africa Diaries- Part 7 (The last post!)

Hakuna Matat! The Africa Diaries-Part 6
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries- Part 5
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries- Part 4
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 3
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diares Part 2
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 1



The Game, Masai Mara, Kenya.

And finally we talk about the animals, or the 'game' as it is called. You cannot visit the Mara and not think about how it is them who belong and you who is the outsider in this world.  It is a world in itself, a world that is so far away from the grey of London that you begin to wonder which one of them is the illusion.

Often, in the Mara, you will feel like someone who has no right to be there, like some who should just let this little world of the Mara be.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we went for a night safari. I was busy admiring the night sky when Ondari, our guide, turned off the ignition leaving the lights on.

'Look there' he said pointing. I strained my eyes and when I figured out what he was pointing at my blood almost froze.

For lazing but a few feet away from us, in the middle of tall grass, were 3-4 lions.

As the women in jeep began to hyperventilate, Ondari stifled a laugh.
'Now see this ' he said.

I realised that he was being sarcastic, because the next instant he had switched off the lights of the jeep plunging us all into deep darkness.

So there we were, in the middle of Kenya, surrounded by grass that was as tall as me and darkness that seemed impregnable, sitting absolutely still as lions yawned less than three feet away from us

There is something about being that close to the king of the jungle when you cannot even see what he is upto that freaks you out completely.

'Now, let me tell you a story' said Ondari placing his hands behind his head as if we were all little kids,  sitting on the floor in the veranda, around our favourite grand parent.

We groaned collectively and Ondari laughed.

Lets just say I will never forget the thrill and excitement of those few minutes.


Each day Ondari would take us for game drives, we would drive through the grass for miles and miles in search of game, stopping every now and then for pictures but never really getting out of the jeep for obvious reasons.

There were the big things we saw, the lions and the cheetah and the elephant and the zebra.
And there were the little things. The gorgeous Kingfisher buzzing like a helicopter, the fascinating red and white butterflies that danced in the grass, the birds that swooped in when you least expected them to...the list is endless.

There was so much that I found out about the animals:
  • The warthog (don't know what it is? google for Pumba and you will ;)  ) has a very short memory span. When being chased by lions/ tigers they do begin to run but soon forget that they have a lion at their heels and start to chew the grass. I found this absolutely hilarious!
  • Hyenas, not tigers or lions, have the strongest jaws which is everyone is scared of the hyenas
  • Elephants can eat up to 300kgs of grass in a day
  • Elephant poop is something you need to make sure that you do not step on. Apart from obvious reasons, elephants cannot digest all that they eat and often there will be a huge pointed log in it, undigested, waiting for you to step on it.
  • Rhinos have poor eye sight. They work on smells
  • Hippos spend a lot of time in water bodies submerged in the cold waters. (They do have such ugly skin :/) When we were in air, on the hot air balloon, the Captain showed us little brown paths that led from water bodies to the jungle. A male hippo and his family would all take the same path each time, every day.
  • Lions have super eyesight. This one day we were in our jeep about 10 feet from a lioness who seemed to be staring in the distance. Ondari took out his binoculars to see what had attracted her attention. Turned out to be some friends of ours who were out for an escorted walk!
  • Rhinos are difficult to spot. We saw one 3-4 times however, always scuttling along with her little baby.

It is a different world, a very very beautiful world. Here are some pictures


We spotted the cheetah as we made our way from the airport to the lodge. They seemed like twins to me. :)


A closer shot-

This is what I call a BIG yawn!


Giraffes are aplenty in the Mara and I absolutely fell in love with these gorgeous animals. As you will see, I loved clicking pictures of the giraffes. The one below is, even if I say so myself, a damn good shot ;)


A journey of girraffes 

This picture is another of my favourites.  There is a little story telling itself in this picture, the plains in the distance, the lone tree and a mother and child walking together into the horizon, Aaah...it certaily appeals to my aesthetics :) I took some 200 shots as the jeep sped past to get this one.

My fascination with the bottom of animals continues!


This is how close we usually were to the game:


There were jeeps lining the road and she walked strutted as if the world belonged to her. Slowly but surely, with grace and fearsome indifference to the gaping humans that surrounded her, she walked in utter beauty!

I love the simplicity of the this picture



A couple of lions being chased by the hyenas. Yes, you heard it right. The whole action scene unfurled in front our eyes...it was one of the most fascinating few minutes in the Mara.


You can see the jeep and the lions- this gives you an idea of how close we were...


The mighty elephants! Bottoms of three elephants and three trees!


The Mara, parting words ;)

If you have not travelled to Africa, I will now tell you that you should. I breathed easier and lighter there. I was happy and relaxed there ( I am not relaxed on holidays) because even though i did not belong i completely belonged. I felt alive and awake, breathing in everything that nature presented to me.

I was speaking to the Aussie pilot of the hot air balloon as we bobbed up and down the sky.
'And so that was the first time I came to the Mara' he said concluding a story he was telling me.

'And' I asked.

'I never left'

'How many years ago did you...' I began my next question.

'15' he said quietly.

I knew exactly what he meant. The place can be extremely and powerfully magnetic for some people and I realised with a start, belong to that category.

As I squinted my eyes in the Sun and held on to my hat lest the wind blew it away, and took in my first sight of the Mara, I knew that this place will change me.

Did it?

Yes, some part of me, as I said to someone a day before I left, has changed forever. Because I now know of a place where i can be so much at peace. It is far away from where I live but it exists. Knowing that is enough.

I hope with all my heart that I get to go back. As you can probably make out, I left a little bit of myself there :)

Love
R

Friday, July 12, 2013

Hakuna Matat! The Africa Diaries- Part 6

While I am rarely short of words (close friends often, politely, tell me to shut up so that they can atleast get a word in), I am struggling at the moment.

The task at hand is to describe the beauty of The Mara. I have toyed with the idea of making this just a picture post and rejected it.

So, these posts are going to be very heavy with pictures, because really I have nothing more to say apart from ' gosh, it was so beautiful'

Imagine wild, open spaces.
Your eyes can see for miles and miles.
Trees dot the landscape.
Grass is almost your height and sashays like a beautiful woman who knows how gorgeous she is
The grass glitters as if it were made of gold when the rays of the Sun fall on it
You simply stare and stare and stare....and then stare some more.

The picture below is of me, taking in the first sights of the Mara. I had just gotten off a 12 seater private plane that had phadphado-ed so much up in the air that I was ready to lecture the pilot and to tell him off. Once my feet were firmly on the  ground,  I had walked away from the crowd to spend some time alone with nature...just soaking it at its best.

Lost in my own world.
Mesmerised.
Captivated.
At peace.

I remember this moment very well...the gorgeous beauty had already swept me off my feet and I had not been in the Mara for 5 minutes

I am not really the romantic sorts, but this is when I finally understood what people meant when they spoke of love at first sight.



 
Masai men and women in the picture below:
 



 
 
The trees are unique and add a lot of character to the landscape. As our open jeep rattled on for hours and hours each day in search of the plentiful game, a lone tree would attract my attention and I would stare at it without blinking for many seconds.



The soft hues of the low lying mountains in a distance provided an excellent backdrop. I would lunge out and rustle my hands in the grass. Ondari, our guide, told me that snakes lurched in the grass and I pulled out my hand immediately.

Ondari laughed for about ten hours after that. :/


The picture below is one of my favourite from the Mara. The bright blue of the sky, the dull blue of the mountains, the golden of the grass, the green of the bushes and the brown of the mud.

And the lobe topi taking it all in, much like me.


The air in the Mara was so fresh that I found myself breathing in many times in a day, my lungs hungrily taking in the pollution free air.
 Another tree that caught my attention ( there are about a million such pics in my album!)


The Masai Mara means ' The Dotted Land'. If you were to look at this land from the skies, the scattered trees make the land look spotted. And hence the name:) Charming, is not it?





A shot from the gate to the Mara. Another of my favourites (Someone take me back please :)  ):


The lone, dried up tree- very poetic, very melancholy, very striking.


The only tree I could see for miles and miles.



Having breakfast under the trees and in the open...


In talking about the landscape, I want to talk about two more things we did.

The first is the night safari. Accompanied by Ondari who drove the jeep, another man who carried this huge lantern sort lamp and another man who sat silently with a huge gun, we set off after dinner.
This is not about the landscape because there was no light apart from the headlights of our jeep. For miles and miles, darkness engulfed us like a blanket.

And so I looked up at the sky and for the first time in my life wished i had a better camera. I use a point and shoot and am generally happy with it because I really believe a good picture is more about the eye of the photographer than the quality of the camera.

Suffice to say, that once I had seen the sky, I refused to look around me, transfixed by the gorgeous beauty of the sky on such a clear night. I ofcourse took pictures but they have all come out black and not been able to even remotely capture the gorgeous beauty. I still recall the wonder with which I looked at the night sky. It was gorgeous.



The other experience I wish to document here is the hot air balloon ride. I will just let the pictures do the talking here.







 We are now very close to the end of this series. The penultimate post is going to be about the animals and the last one about the people and general conclusion.

As I write these the memories of the Mara come back to me and I feel an incredible urge to pack my bags and go back.

Such is the magic of Africa.

Hakuna Matata!

R






 

Friday, July 05, 2013

Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries- Part 5

Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries- Part 4
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 3
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diares Part 2
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 1



Back in Nairobi, I kissed Eddie.

I would not have done this on my own ever (ever, ever!!) but my husband of three years insisted that I do.

Wait, it gets worse.



 Eddie is a giraffe.

A gorgeous doe eyed giraffe.
With  a ten foot long, twenty foot wide purple tongue.

Here is a picture. And I will speak no more about it.
I still cringe when I look at it.



The second part of the packed day was spent in the Masai Market. The market stocks Masai arts and craft and is  a magnet for the tourists. It was in the by lanes of this dark, dingy yet gloriously colourful market that someone called out to me. Sid was further ahead haggling with a vendor and I was just walking around taking in the sights.

'Why aren't you in school' shouted a man at me.

Oh well.

'Sorry?' I said though of course I was beyond pleased.

' you should be in school at this hour' the man said again.

'I left school 13 years back' I said trying hard to keep the smugness out of my face.

'Really' said the man settling his wares. He was possibly in his late twenties.

' Where are you from' he asked studying me closely.

' Where do you think I am from?' I retorted.

' khem cho? ' he said grinning from ear to ear.

' no, not khem cho', I said curtly. I have never even visited Gujarat.

The man took a while but we soon zeroed in on London.

'Princess Diana' he said knowingly. I mentally LOL-ed.

I nodded my head. Yes, princess Diana

He man paused and then said
'Are your shoes good?'

I looked down at my sketchers.

'Yeah'

'Did you buy them in London?' he asked again.

'Yes' I said wondering where this was going.

'How much ' he asked.

'How much for what?' I asked perplexed.

'For the shoes' he said shrugging his shoulders.

To say the least, I was taken aback.

'No I don't want to sell them'

'Take this' he fiddled around in his shop and then pulled put a mask 'and give me your shoes'

' no' I said.

'Okay' he said patiently 'No problem I give you money'

'No'

'Dollars'

'No'

'Lots of dollars'

'N...err how many'

The man thought for a second

'Five',  he said.


And with that ended our short, quick stay in Nairobi. I could hardly wait for the next day because then I would head out for Masai Mara or 'The Mara'.

I am going to divide the last three posts of this series into write ups about three aspects of the Mara. The land, the animals and the people. The three posts will sum up the most beautiful place I have ever been to...
Hakuna Matata!

Love
R
PS:  The posts have been delayed because...err...I am travelling again. Bear with me, please :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 4

Previous posts in The Africa Diaries

Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 3
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diares Part 2
Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 1




This post is going to be about 2 hours that I spent in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Operative word being 'in'.

The brave hearts amongst you will shrug their shoulders and move on wondering what the halla is all about but for (what can only be described as a )phuddu like me- it was an experience of a life time.

We  The others decided to snorkel. I merely shrugged my shoulders and politely informed everyone that while I will not stop any one from willingly offering themselves to the dangers that lurked in the murky waters of the ocean, I for one, won't touch it with  a barge pole.

Sid tried to convince me but I shook my head. That special, decisive shake of my head that says that 'No, pati, this is final. I shall not budge'

We would need to get on a boat that would speed into the Indian ocean for a good 30 minutes before we would anchor and get out to snorkel.

That thought alone freaked me out.

Sorry. Not me.

The others were pretty excited. and as we waited for the staff of the resort to sort things for our little adventure, I could feel their excitement rub off on me.

'So do you swim?' asked one of the members of the staff.

I shrugged my shoulders thinking of my swimming lessons from Sid and the flirty Aussie.
'I can swim from here to there' I said indicating a distance of about 20 feet. I still don't know how to breathe while swimming and this is pretty much all the distance I can cover before I begin to splutter for air.
The man thought for a minute.

'Not good' he said.

'So I can't snorkel?' I asked.

'No,' he said ' we wont risk it, after all it is the middle of the ocean'

I was surprised. Not because of what the man had just said (obviously it made sense) but because of the pang of disappointment that rushed through me. Wait a second, did I want to do this?

As others picked fins their size (and I never thought I would say this) I sat still.

'Go get the snorkeling equipment, the fins are kept in the bay' said Sid walking upto me.

'No, there is no point'

'Why?'

'That man says I cant do this' I said referring to the fact that I cannot swim.

Sid paused for a minute and said one of those things that I am sure meant something very non-profound in his head but came out sounding all deep. The second part of his comment murdered it with bare hands though.

'No one can tell you what you can or cannot do.' he said as I stared at him transfixed,  'Go get your fins now'

So I 'got my fins', just in case.

We piled onto the boat and before long were speeding into oblivion. The four of us climbed to the top of the boat. The Sun was shinning, the wind played its wild game with our hair and the only color I could see around me was blue. As the rest of my gang chatted away and clicked pictures I busied myself in doing what I do best. Striking up conversations with strangers.
The picture below  was taken by Sid (I did not know he was clicking me, of course).

The man, I forget his name now, was a fisherman before he took the job on our resort.

'So you ever feel afraid of the sea?' I asked him pointing to the expanse of blue ahead of me.

'Do you ever feel afraid of your home, Madam?' he asked me smiling.

'The sea is your home?' I asked charmed by his response.

'I was born in it. I live in it and one day, I will die in it...' he said quietly. I have no doubt he meant every word of what he was saying to me.




(Please note, it is the wind billowing my maxi dress. I am NOT this fat!)

Soon the boat stopped and dropped anchor. The waters, we were told were not too deep here- a mere 6-7 metres.

More than enough for me to drown in, I thought ruefully to myself.

In the meanwhile, Asan, the man who had been steering the boat, smiled broadly at us before leaping into the waters with a piece of bread in his hands. A little later, as the four of us gathered around the glass bottom of the boat, he appeared directly beneath it, the piece of bread in his mouth. In front of our astounded eyes , within seconds, tens and hundreds of fishes had congregated around Asan's mouth keen to get a share of the bread.


(The fishes feeding out of Asan's mouth. This picture gives you an idea of how things looked underwater...a lot like this but just more surreal, more mystical, more blue)
 
I admired the ease with which Asan had galloped into the waters. I admired how at home he was with fishes feeding out of his mouth. Ofcourse, I did not know it then but in a mere 2 days, I would have a fully grown giraffe eating out of mine. Like I say very often in this series, more on that later :)

Snorkeling was not going to be dangerous. The waters were fairly calm, the weather was great, Asan would with us all the time, we would be wearing life jackets and there would be the air tyre to cling to.

'Wanna come?' asked Sid right before he hopped into the water.

'No' I said shaking my head. It was a bit too much for me.

The other three began to snorkel and would pop back up every now and then , mumbling excitedly about how absolutely fantastic everything was under water. Sure that I would not go in, I found myself leaning over the edge of the boat taking every detail in. The way the water lapped gently. The sun rays falling on the waves. My excited husband.

(Asan and Sid)

I was engrossed in the sea when a gentle hand tapped me on my shoulder. The ex fisherman I had been chatting with earlier was standing there with a bright orange life jacket in his hands.

I smiled at him.

'You think I am leaning over too much and will topple over?' I asked eyeing the life jacket.

'No Madam' he said smiling ' I know it when someone the ocean calls out to someone'

 I grinned at him and shook my head.

'No, you are wrong' I said.

The man was silent for a second.

'Madam' he said quietly in a thick accent 'I never insist that tourists do this. But to you I will. You will not know what you have missed...it will change some part of you forever'

There was something about the way he said those last words...something about his voice or words that something in me told me to trust.

Without another word (and i am not exaggerating here) I put on the jacket and after listening to instructions that he rattled off one last time, I put faith in someone, something, let my fears flow by me and let go of the ladder that led into the sea.

(That's me about to let go of the ladder. The arms in the picture belong to the ex fisherman who was standing right there his careful eye on me all the while)
 

In what can best be described as a surreal moment, I realised with a start that I was in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Okay, not literally, but you get the emotion.

And now I come to the most difficult part of this post. To describe to you the experience itself. It was not about snorkeling. I have snorkeled in Maldives where the water is clearer and the fishes brightly coloured. No, that was too perfect to be real.

Below the waters, a completely different world awaited me. It was almost as if someone had played a magic trick and transported me somewhere else. The waters were dark and deep. Subtle drama emanated from the dark, melancholy of the blue which was broken only by the weird shapes and colours of the coral on the floor of the sea far beneath us.

The fishes (mostly with white stripes and the occasional bright coloured one) roamed around us freely and fed from the piece of bread I carried underwater. I brought my hand closer to me and the fishes automatically drew closer to me. I was in their magical land.

Because I had the mask and breathing tube on, it was almost as if I was in a cacoon exploring another world. There were silence around me and in me. And there was magic, around me and in me.

After some time, I realised that I was muttering aloud to myself, my own voice reverberating and echoing inside the mask.
'Oh my gosh, this is so beautiful' I was saying repeatedly to myself, my hands moving in the water trying to grab the fishes.

A little later Sid joined me and we swam in the waters together communicating with gestures, pointing out to each other the odd shaped/colored fish or the extra green of funny shaped coral. It was not just spectacular, it was mind blowing.

I was the last one to go into the waters but i was also the last one to come out of the water.
(The pic shows Asan and I. I had just begun my snorkeling session)
 


'Was it good?' asked the ex fisherman as he offered me his hand and pulled me back into the boat.

'It changed some part of me' I said to him.

The man smiled but said nothing. Because he knew that I meant every word.

Back again at our favourite spot ( the top of the boat), the others chatted excitedly about the experience; I remained silent. The others lunched on fruits, I did not even even look at the food. Something had changed. And I wanted to hang on to what had just happened.

Even as I wrapped a towel around myself, my body aching, and stared at the waves gently bumping along the way, I knew this was not an adventure that i would gush about later to friends. In fact I have hardly spoken about it to anyone except for Mum, Dad and Sid. It was far more complex, far more complicated...

 I came out of the water feeling the calmest I have ever known myself to feel.  I had known for sure that a) I would not even attempt it b) even if i did, i would probably make a fool of myself and panic c) what's the big deal anyway? its just fishes in water, is not it?

The feeling of tranquility that descended on me the moment I submerged myself in the water was mystical. Others panicked a little bit but I took to the waters like I was born in it. I felt at home. At ease. At peace.

I was calm and wondrous and happy and wide eyed. That little time in the sea told me that there were many things I thought I could not do but I you know what, I can! That little time in the sea also told me that because of my own fears I might have missed out on so many many adventures that could have changed me and moulded me into a different person.

And most of all, and this bit really does not make sense, the little time in the sea told that  it would all be okay.

Thank you, the blue and the  black and the mystical and the magical of the Indian Ocean in Mombasa. A very heartfelt thank you.

Love
RP

PS: I know I am a day late. Sorry!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hakuna Matata! The Africa Diaries Part 3

I don't do water.

And certainly not the sea.

This began to change when I visited Lanzarote, Canary Islands in February this year for my birthday and Sid patiently spent hours in the shallow pool reteaching (if that is even a word) me how to swim. I got extra help from a very flirty Aussie swimmer who spent close to an hour 'helping me learn to walk the water, mate'

Anyho.

Coming to Mombasa.

We checked into the Serena Beach Resort and Spa. Leaving the boys to figure out the technicalities, S and I automatically gravitated towards the rich blue that we could see in a distance. A quick detour to the acqua marine of the pool surrounded by the lush green coconut trees that swayed gently in the breeze coming in from the Indian Ocean and we were smitten.

We spent less than 10 minutes in our rooms, long enough to change into swim suits and headed to the beach which we chose in favour of the more docile swimming pool (which was 'infested' with rowdy young boys at that moment anyway).


The gorgeous lush resort opened into the beach.

I breathed deep as I took in the sight of the beach.


White sand.
Bright Sun.
Coconut trees that whistled and whispered in the strong breeze
Clear waters.
Gentle waves.
Atrocious amounts of sea weed that oddly enough added a lot of character to the sight that met my eyes
A quaint yet brightly coloured masai boat anchored in a distance, a quiet reminder of who this beautiful land belonged to


Scared of water, I typically just go in ankle deep even when the waters are clear (yes, you read it right, ankle deep!) but there was something about this stretch of sea that seemed to simply call out to me. The clouds gathered and it became darker but I soldiered on and before I knew it I was a good 15-20 feet away from the beach! When I looked back and saw that the beach was so far I absolutely panicked, but that is another story all together and we are not going to go there.

The boys swam and hollered around and I gingerely picked out slimy weed from the sea, my nose wrinkled in disapproval that amused my husband no end. So there is yours truly having quite the moment, mesmerised by the ebb and flow of the waters around me when something would just slither past my legs. Not screaming with diffculty I would reach out and pull some more weed. That is when it was time to crinkle my nose and throw the weed away. In the sea.
So, yeah, it did not help much.

Anyway.
So there I was doing my thing, happy and content. Sid and B were far ahead into the sea hopefully swimming when I first spotted him.

With one hand dangling beside him and the other lightly on the sail, the contraption effortlessly in his control, he skimmed the waters with style.

Mombasa's own James bond.

Or Ronney as we would later find out. Crusing the waves like a pro. Ronney, the wind surfing instructer who offered a 45 minute course for less than two pounds. An hour later I was on the surfing board taking lessons from him.

'You' he said pointing to me ' seem to have a good body'
'I am sorry' I said indignantly settling my swimsuit as demurely as you can in the middle of the sea.
'Good wind surfer's body' he said.
'Aah, that ways' I said feeling kinder towards him.

And with that, feeling quite confident, I hopped onto the surfing board like a pro. Then proceeded to fall at the rate of about 30 falls per minute. I am not exaggerating. Okay, maybe a little bit. Suffice to say that I fell quite a lot. Ronney explained to the me the mechanics of the waves and the science behind the winds.

'Become the water ' he said passionately to me.

'Become the board' he said equally passionately a little later.

'Become Ronney' he then said dramatically pointing to himself as I tethered dangerously on the board unable to control the sails. The moment I heard him ask me to become him I guffawed uncontrollably, lost the little balance that I had and the entire contraption fell on me.

I carried on my right thigh a HUGE red mark for days afterwards.

Roney's conclusion, when we ended our session was that I have very good balance ( he told me I could dance on the board) but little strength.

'You eat too much rice' Roney said accusingly as I tried to looked ashamed of my rice eating self.
'Try eating more keri keri' he added helpfully.
'Keri keri?' I repeated.
'Yes, keri keri'
'Okay, keri keri' I said not daring to find out what keri keri was.



After my session ended, it was time for another first. My first fresh coconut. Okay, I have spent all my life in northern India. Coconuts don't grow there, so all you 'I gew up on coconut' freaks do not get all superior because my first fresh coconut experience was indeed quite special.

I sat crosselgged in the Indian Ocean, tired and exhausted from Ronney's wind surfing lesson and drank fresh coconut juice as the waves lapped around me.

It was during a lavish twenty course dinner at the resort later that night that I first spotted him. Blonde hair, blue eyes and the cutest smile I had ever seen...*swoon* but more on him in Friday's post.

After dinner, the four of us ambled along to our rooms walking past the multiple pools that the resort boasted of. Deciding to take a detour we found ourselves sitting on sun beds under the coconut trees beside one of the many pools, the muted  sounds of the sea reaching us in gentle rustles. (I worried all the while that a coconut from the trees around us would *ploink* fall on our heads, it was so windy after all)

'The stars' I said to Sid dreamily looking at the clear sky and pulling my jacket tighter around me ' Pretty stars! what are your names!'
A minute later, Sid had fished out his phone, directed it towards the sky, opened some app and began to rattle off names of stars that I obviously wanted to know.
Duh-uh.

However, I got pretty excited when the app told us that though we did not know it, we were actually looking at Saturn.

That is how the day ended. With Sid and me trying to figure out which of the million stars that twinkled back at us was Saturn.
I was content and already in love with Mombasa. What I did not know was that the next day would bring withitself the single most incredible experience of my life. An experience that would teach me so much about myself.  More about that on Tuesday
 

 


 

Hakuna Matata,
R

PS: I am trying to post on Tuesdays and Fridays. See you on Friday. Or Tuesday ;)