Wednesday, December 31, 2014

And another year ends - Revisiting the 2014 List

It's time to look at the list of resolutions made for the year. My success rate has definitely gone down from the previous year and I know where my problems were. Nevertheless, I have taken on this task upon me and I need to stand by it. So, here's striking off the list -

Make a Daily Habit  - I must say I do keep up to it quite well, however, the past year saw me going through a Love-Hate relationship with books - I want to change the status to a simple 'Like' and want to set aside at 30 minutes to an hour a day to read. I want to make sure I don't have gaps and would like to read everyday.  Yes! I did it and no one can take this away from me now. I didn't stick to reading only novels which was the issue, Blogs, magazines, key articles, write ups, poetry and you name it, I am so pleased to have managed to keep some time aside everyday for reading.

Don't bank on the memory - Pick up the diary again. Don't write stories (as we know what happens after a couple of months), don't write only sad things (as we know we will never read them). Just pencil in a what happened that day and make a note if something nice or not so nice happened. Come on... that should not be so hard! Hmmm....This has been a Hit-or-Miss. There has been times when I did put in a note and times when I didn't, today I look back and realize that a lot of things sure happened this year but I don't quite remember. Will have to give this one a FAIL

Get out of the Comfort zone - I could rename this 'Conquer a Fear' - All this while I have either been driving people away from me or driving crazy those who stay. I want need to learn how to drive. Enough of laziness, enough of pushing things around, enough of escaping.  Need to learn how to drive - and this time in a correct methodical way. FAIL. FAIL.FAIL. All I have today is an application that I have completed for a provisional license. That does not give me any points to get close to striking this off 

Explore a Passion- Pick up the camera again and stop being (just) a smart phone photographer I can't completely say I have discovered my passion but Photography is something I have enjoyed doing. I want to take this up as a project and work towards it. The actual project may take another year or two, but I want to start my work on it. At the end of this year, I should at least have the content, a plan, research done. Yes. When I had every chance to be somewhere magnificent, somewhere special, somewhere memorable I had my camera with me and glad with some outcome. The project I took on is not complete, but has taken some shape

Be Good with Food - I don't think I eat a lot of unhealthy food but definitely want to keep a check at what's going inside my body and not go too crazy with junk food. One thing I consciously need to act on is not to waste food. I tend to cook too much and the rest is not used or I buy too many things and have to throw them as they have expired - Need to stop this.  I haven't been more happy with the type of food I have been buying, cooking and eating. There has been some waste but I can live with it. I will go for a green, but I know this shouldn't stop here. 

Change a tad bit of the lifestyle - Wake up Early - something I have 'NEVER' managed to do. The past year was the worst, I slept late, woke up late and ended up at work really late on so many days of the week. I would like to wake up nice and early and have some time to eat my breakfast and not skip it. 7am is the aim now.... would love to make it 6:30!  (Currently it's between 8:00 - 8:30am). I would definitely do a lie in every now and then, but I'd want the majority of the days to be an early start. Let's see! This will be hard. 
Oh dear! This did not happen. Though, I have not been too late at work, I can't say that I willingly wake up early on a day when I have nothing to do. 

Stay Connected -  I'll take the lesson from mom again 'You do your bit and don't expect the other to do the same for you'. I have realized that my happiness lies in being connected to the people I love - family & friends and I don't want to run into months of not staying in touch. I want to get through the year knowing that I stayed connected and not thinking that it's been 6 months and I don't have a clue. Yes. I can happily say that I did my bit. Though this year has taught me a lot about relationships, I don't want to spoil my mood, but I tried to keep in touch and I can say that with my hand on heart

(Try to) Give up something - I'm tempted to write no alcohol for 2 months again. But, I would say restrict - may be not have a drink every week. If I can skip a couple of weeks in every month I would think I've done well here. 
I want to add a second item - biting my nails :(  which has 'NEVER' happened until now.   Well... I cannot really say I consistently worked on the alcohol bit, but I was not too bad. But, I can say for sure that biting nails in any crisis (or the lack of it) is not an issue anymore. 

Need to stick to these: 

Stay Fit - Have enjoyed the gym from the past 3 months. I need to just keep at it and not quit. The Plan is to maintain the 3-times a week workout to stay the way I am if not better it. I have done some form of workout for 42 out of the 52 weeks this year which is not so bad I guess. Now, if you don't agree it's ok, but I'd like to see this as a success. 

Do something for someone- Volunteering has been good but the 10K run was good too. I want to do another 10K this year and enroll in at least 3 different volunteer activities. Did not manage a 10K but volunteered at Crisis. 

Do something you like-  Write, Click and Travel - as fancy as they may sound, I would like to do more of all this and in a way they can be interconnected. Write at least 3 blog posts per month. Write all travelogues till date and the on the new travels (hopefully) I take. Did not do any of this. The flow wasn't there and I did not push myself. 

Keep the Faith/Keep the Culture- Two Festivals to celebrate  -need to really work on this one.  I am pleased to say I did this. Being in India for Ganesh Chaturthi made it quite easy. But, I celebrated Diwali and atleast observed Ugadi and Dusshera this year. Very happy with this. 

Carrying Over from the Last Year:

Try something again- I want to grow plants and NOT kill them. My aim is to maintain atleast 5 pot plants which I hope will nourish under my care. Yes. Yes. Yes. Oh Boy! Am I happy with the result. 2 of my 8 plants died but I have constantly had lush green pot plants and 2 full flowering cycles. 

Better planning - this is a wide topic. To start with its planning holidays, planning for activities during the  weekend,  planning my time when I go home - If someone asks me what I did when I last visited home, I dont have much to say - I want to change that. 
Need to work at this one. I am quite ashamed to say anything more about my planning which has been chaotic, mad, frustrating (not just me but the people around) and a failure. 

That's 9/14 - just about fair but I know I could have done better. 

What can I say, it's not looking that good but hey! another year beckons and gives a chance to pick it up again....though I must admit that for once I am strongly feeling that I should not bank on the 1st of January to give me the push. Hopefully a few years from now, I don't need to make a list like this and all the goodness comes to me with no real push. Lets see....It's been an OK year, hoping for the next to be better. Happy New Year folks! 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Day Walk

Christmas day in London is one of the quietest days, well, for the likes of us who don't celebrate. The husband has been taking on work the last two weeks of December every year which makes me plan a bit more about what I can do with myself. 

I find it odd when people wish us Happy Holidays as this is the time of the year when we both are very busy in our own ways - he with his long 14hr days of work and I trying to get the year's quota of getting through a 100 things I had in mind. 

Working at the charity during Christmas in the past few years has to be one of the best things I could have done with this spare time I have and this year too I decided to do a few days at Crisis

I picked Christmas day this year as I knew HE is at work and I will otherwise end up watching a lot of television or browsing way too much and eating more than I should.  The catch at picking Christmas day was that as there is no public transport and I STILL don't drive, the only option was to walk back home or hire a cab and I decided to do the former.

A 4km-odd walk on any other day would mean nothing to me, but this day it was going to be interesting. No buses, no shops, restaurants open, everyone either tucked away in their cozy homes or away from London visiting families things had to be different on the streets - funny to think that the 7 years I have lived here I had never stepped out of the house (if I was here) on Christmas Day! (I can still hear my Dad-in-law going there is no point in getting out, no one will be out, nothing will be open and you know the flow)

I walked back after finishing another satisfied day at Crisis. The first sight of a convenience store being open caught me happy. I got my share of snacks almost thanking God...what if the road ahead was hard! I was pleasantly surprised to see the bespoke restaurants open and pretty full. The traffic on the streets too was not that low. The best thing I noticed was other fellow walkers - it was not the usual hurried pace, the rush and push to get to the destination. You could actually see people notice things , stop and have a look and actually observe other people on the streets too. A very un-Londonlike behavior. 

People seemed to enjoy their walks holding hands, giving cuddles and some perhaps were trying to offload a bit of the turkey meal they might have had that afternoon. Passers by smiled at each other and walked on. The Christmas lights, the decorated trees stood still- it was all put up for this big day and yet, they stand alone, all by themselves with no sense of celebration around them. It was great to NOT see the city lights and instead a dark sky with a bright moon. It was surreal not to hear the traffic or avoid the glares of harsh headlights of thousands of  vehicles which claim the streets. I am a believer that walks can only do  good to us and a walk in one of the most beautiful cities on a day when we can say 'London is closed for Business' is mesmerizing.

I would definitely relate to this picture on a Christmas day and yes! when London does not work, it gives you an opportunity for one of the best days to walk around. 

The Rush

No, I am not talking about the movie 'Rush' which by the way I love. If you haven't watched it do so - it's brilliant, it's inspiring, it's sportsmanship at it's best. 

.....It was the end of November and I looked into the list of resolutions I made for 2014 in total panic. A month left and I have not been very good this year in keeping up the expectations I set for myself. I started with a total frenzy in order to get things moving with the list - bottom down, what are the easiest ones, which ones can I still save and what will have to move into the next year. 

A few days into December not much had changed but for the tone I have set for myself this year, total laziness, getting occupied with one thing and losing the bigger picture and most importantly a serial procrastinator that I have become. If I can say anything was consistent this year it was the habit of putting things off - shamelessly, irresponsibly and sometimes (I need to admit) intentionally.

I picked up 3 of the 8 unfinished books and looked forward to relax into it by reading it on my days off just to stand here today with another book added to the unfinished group, those which I started reading and dropped mid-way only to say that they were not interesting enough.  Yes! 9 is the number of unread books today. 

I have at least a dozen lists of various things left at different places at home and in the office - the list of things I need to prioritize and get through. Well, looks like I am getting better at making lists and not striking them off.  I have unfinished business cluttered all around me and I seem to be oblivious of it all. 

There was one thing I could rescue in my list - a plan to connect to family during a festival by sending hand written notes. I had planned that for Diwali and God knows when that came and went. So, New Year's was my time to get this sorted and I totally went all for it - so much that I ended up writing 2015 as the date on a few cards and only realized it after sealing the envelope. Well! I'm sure those who have that card and open it would have a chuckle and think of how me as a right idiot.

In all the madness I feel within me, the one thing I am genuinely trying hard at is to relax, have a sense of calm which was with me for a good part of this year but seem to have disappeared. 

Trying to calm the beast within me, now, 2 days left in the year and I know I cannot do much, but to hope for a another beginning, another good day, a better plan and no rush. 
And while I am attempting to relax I still think that 'Pankh Hote tho ud aati re' is the best tune on the flute and I am happily listening to this as I finish another lot of incomplete notes from my lil diary. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The burden of not being ambitious

Coming across as a "not so ambitious person" in this super competitive world kind of sucks. Sorry for the use of such language, perhaps for the first time on this blog, but, the reality is.. it does. 

What's the career path like? Is there one in the first place? Where do I want to see myself in 2 years time? I seriously have no answers for any of this. But, if you ask me, this is how I have been for as long as I remember. I simply don't think about these things, I don't have a clue in hell where I'm headed, I have made no plans what so ever to see where I want/ need to be. Don't ask me about 2 years, I wish I could tell you where I would be in 2 months time.

Oh! Let's put the whole career &  professional life aside and lets just talk about plain simple day to day life alright. 

Do I want a big house to live in? Do I want the best of everything? What about my vacation plans?  Have i gotta plan about how I am going to be the host to many a family? Have I thought of all this or aspired for it? Not sure is the answer. Really?  As unreal, as untrue as it may sound, I don't have these big plans made and filed away, all I have is the routine of day to day life and the joy of day turning into night. Taking it one day at a time is the mantra and I am the preacher of it.   Hmmm ....did I say the joy of day turning into night ? 

Well, I notice that I have been mocked directly or between the lines about being so boringly mundane about everything I do. I did have to spare a thought about it and hence this post.

I wondered and questioned whether I really am this uninterested, un ambitious person and the answer is that I perhaps am. But reading a quote somewhere helped put everything in black & white very clearly! I was like, bang on! How true is that , why on earth couldn't I think of it and put it this way? 

         " Inspired by the fear of being average" 

Yes! That is what it is! I knew there had to be something to get me out of bed every morning. 
 However, I see that this fear for me is in the everyday things... Cooking, cleaning, hosting family and friends home or if it's a presentation , the preparation for a meeting that I put in at work. I want to & strive towards getting all the little things I get my hands on 'Right' , as 'right' as I can make it.

Unfortunately, these small things just don't matter or are not considered as being Ambitious or having a drive of any kind. Never mind about the minute life things that make up your day, you don't shout out that you wanna reach the moon then that's it! You are not much of anything in the eyes of one too many.
 Well getting a bit too philosophical, isn't it? I'll stop with this and carry on being what I am and doing what I do, if not anywhere, I'll at least get to the next day and if not for anyone, I'll be happy and pleased with myself! 

... My two cents on this...a rather weird feeling I keep going through.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I follow 'Foodism'

A very common Sunday of mine starts with a nice warming cup of coffee followed by a good south Indian breakfast - either a simple home made uppittu (Upma as it's known) or dosa or most likely a visit to SB, Saravana Bhavan has been our new friend for Sunday breakfasts, one that's almost a brunch. 
We just returned having had our fill on this grey-is-the-colour-of-the-day kinda Sunday. I have made myself another cup of tea - well, the weak type where the tea bag goes in with loads of hot water and a dash of milk which I shamefully call tea but is a lazy substitute for it. 

Well, I am that person who thinks about what I'm having for lunch and plan for dinner while sipping my morning cup of coffee. I am quite a foodie and off late I see that this is getting into more of an obsession. 
Today will be slightly different, with a tummy that's so full and a nagging ache in the back, it will be a day when I would give my kitchen and myself a rest (at least for the first half a day) and try to re-live the foodie moments on this page.  

I believe in eating at least one freshly cooked meal every day and that constantly motivates me to try something different. 
And the more home sick I get, the better is the food - in my humble opinion.  

My mind automatically travels to those days we went to 4th Block Jayanagar for no rhyme or reason but definitely returned with a tasty palate. 

So while I was pondering over the thoughts and memories, I thought my home-sickness had reached it's highest best when I clicked this pic - the joy of filling up the little containers of the masala-dabba which I termed 'South India in a box' defines my upbringing and deepens my roots and connects me with the food I cook. 

Home-Made is the bigger yearning than anything else. So I tried giving a go at quite a few things - the itch to get it done was huge and in all this I have enjoyed the journey. 

The Iyengar bakery craving is something that might never stop - when the simple masala toast and congress kadlekai  which is ideal with the afternoon tea made my mouth water, my kitchen ended up witnessing it. 

It's weird how my mind switches from I-have-to-eat-healthy-NO-MATTER-WHAT and I-don't-care-about-the-calories-IT-HAS-TO-BE-TASTY!  So, I see myself in making strange concoctions of a kind to fill me up  - some work, some don't.

The healthy being a carrot-ginger-Orange juice drink which I picked from the 'Joe and the Juice' bar which names this drink aptly 'Go-away-Doc'.  This coupled with cherry-tomato bruschetta went down a treat.

The unhealthy being my 2-cheese Macaroni which was a random craving on another day which had to answered.  Tried the mascarpone cheese which was a good creamy add to the nutty cheddar. 
A home-made (yes! I go again) guacamole for the nachos one evening as having the nachos served at All-bar-one was what my taste-buds demanded this weekend. 

 Though I have seen myself giving a try at cooking different cuisine, I am probably better and most comfortable in cooking Indian.And I can say that in the past month or so that my kitchen has made it's way to the 'Paratewali galli'. I am pretty much stuffing my chapati dough with whatever I get my hands on. Can you see that just to give the authentic 'Gobi Parata' a twist, I mixed brocolli to it? 
One of other paratas being this which is a food-blog I follow and enjoy!  

Retail Therapy these days is heading straight to the 'home' sections of any store and I am so excited to have picked a couple of utensils, some kind of kitchenware and of course a stop over at the groceries which sums up my shopping trip almost every single time. 

My most favourite shops have now become the food and grocery outlets - going to Tesco or M&S food gives me unspeakable joy while I spent a couple of hours at a cloth store and got completely bored and irritated. 

Lastly, some of the food blogs have made me drop everything I had got my hands at reading and if you happen to be someone who enjoys browsing through ForestFeast is highly recommended as it beautifully combines food, photography, writing and painting with the most key ingredient 'Simplicity'. Having given more than a recipe a try, it is my hot favourite now. 

I have no patience in waiting for my food to be photographed -my food travels from my pan to the plate and into my mouth with not enough time for this step called 'presentation', though some may say it's important, it's not high on my list at the moment - so pardon the crappy photos on this blog. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Brand Averse

I remember this from childhood that we Indians have been crazy about Brands. Well, for a long long time in life I thought it was just us Indians. Again, I was so so wrong. It is now clear that the 'brand' craziness exists in most of the world. 
Whether you as an individual endorse it or not you are constantly surrounded by the brand favoritism that happens all around you. 

I guess the first time I became conscious of the existence of brands was back in school and it all started with whether one owned a pair of 'branded jeans' - a Lee, Wrangler or Levis became the claim to fame for every tom, dick and harry. I remember those those who didn't own this covering the waist of the jeans just so they did not reveal the non-existence of a label.

The next obvious one to follow was a pair of branded shoes. A Nike, Adidas or a Puma was such a cool thing to have for the teens however the parents didn't understand why and how a pair of shoes would cost as much as it did. 

The present world has taken the brand favour to a whole new level. 
It took me a while to digest the fact that a 'mulberry' handbag that was gifted to a friend had to be serviced every 6-months. A handbag that had to be serviced. Right! And to top that it came at a cost more than a round trip to India. 

As I sit to write this down on my couch in the living room I look all around me and see how little I possess things that have a label on it. I am NO Saint, I do pick things that are branded, but the reasons why I pick them are not because of the 'name tag' that came with it - it's more so because of the 'price tag' being it's worth. 

I do own a few things with big names but if I come to think of it. How can I hide the fact that I am still very much in love with my 'iPad' and my 'Canon' DSLR and did I mention the extra lens kit I have with it.  They were all gifts. 

A recent conversation led us into talking about this friend's wedding gown that would take 6 months to be made and is shipped from abroad. What was that was a common cry from all of us. However one of the other friends had to say how not fussy she is about wedding wear/occasion wear and would pick anything straight from the shop -of course like a sabyasachi or a neeta lulla. I had nothing more to say after that. 

Unfortunately, we seem to be judged by what we own, what we wear and what we are carrying. I look around me now, my photo frames are all collages made by me - some of our travels and the years gone by and the other a huge one of the wildlife pictures we clicked in Kenya. I have a painting made by Amma and all others are made by random street artists in different places.  The handicrafts are made by local artisans and were picked from street markets. 

Today, I don't have much to show, but I am content. Something about the source not having a 'label' makes me more happy and grounded. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

There's always a first time for everything

Sometimes, Only Sometimes I am in this state of mind where most things with respect to bitter-sweet life seems perfect. Hold on, I haven't got into the zen-mode yet, but in the past week or so I have noticed this calmness which I am so pleased and thankful about. I wanted to record this hoping that during those crazy turbulent times which by the way happens on the majority of the days in the year, I can read this note and remind myself that after every bad there will be good and after every storm, a calm. 

There is absolutely 'Nothing' happening in my life at the moment. The morning is taken over by mid-day and evening and night and it seems to be on a repeat mode without a shuffle. Well, I suppose you cannot shuffle night to day anyway. Things are 'Not' at it's best - work wise, personal life, plans in life and so on and so on. I have little or nothing to say about my previous day on my daily call to Amma. Days are rolling by at the speed of light and I dont seem to recollect what git me occupied in the past week. The uneventfulness of the situation is written all over and shouts a big 'absolutely nothing happened' to me when i try to remember the past weeks. Yet! There is a tranquility in me which is a rare rare thing. I always thought I just cannot sit quiet, stay calm, be at peace. I was convinced that I was born without the genes that makes one be that way. 

I am packing my days with little things that makes me happy and I am surprised to see these little things had never made it to my list of things that I enjoy. If I ever decide to spell them out, people would be sure that I have lost it and the signs I had shown before were true. Plain simple things are such joy and this has always been my takeaway from life. Who recollects a ponsy moment more than a down to earth one? Not me!

For the first time, I didn't panic for not having the flow to write. 3 weeks gone and not a word written didn't make me jump into writing for the sake of absence. I was perfectly at ease, I read many many blogs in this space of time and marvelled the way they were written. All the ones bookmarked are either simple personal blogs or food blogs. Some of them are's made me drop all the books I was reading trying to read. 

Looking forward to a good hindi movie is something I have done for ever. A couple of days after having watched the movie '2 states', the hubby brought it up all out of the blue in between a random conversation that the movie that we watched the past weekend was 'good'. His words ' I too had a lump in my throat in a couple of scenes ' just cracked it for me. I had a big grin...this was the moment when I could confirm that he is now a Hindi movie convert, from watching none at all to casually asking what's on the movies, to actually liking it and best of all looking forward to the next one. This is a huge success to the huge huge Bollywood buff in me.

Zumba! The latest thing that has gotten into me. Love the music, the dance, the attitude and most of all love the know the good sorta pain? That. I admit being a Miss.Two-Left-feet but have enjoyed these sessions immensely. I am also beginning to believe this is doing a better good to my body than just running which I am trying to sneak in at least 1-2 times a week. 

Beginning to care for the few pot plants that we have started to grow is another big surprise. I was sure that I must be some kind of an expert in killing plants, but these little ones have not only survived me for a couple of months, but are in full bloom. What joy!  Like I believed that the advert which said 'plants come to my home to die' was made just for me, beginning to believe I can change that. 

So...basically I am trying to collect Life's little moments and making it count. 4 days of leave now and for the first time again, I have ones, weird ones and it's all going to make this 'MeTime' completely worth it....Fingers Crossed. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Empty Streets

A couple of weeks ago I made an overnight trip to Geneva for a client meeting. I had resigned myself to a trip that would include an evening of staying in the room and preparing for the next day's meeting, going through the documents received and clearing the inbox which was long due.  I had looked forward to a short stroll in the city either pre or post dinner to brush against the new place, new streets, new people that travel brings with it, something that I enjoy doing irrespective of where I go. 

Little did I know that my hotel was booked in a little town in France that was no where close to the city we are talking about (Geneva borders France and Switzerland). This place, Divonnes les bains in which most letters will be skipped if I plan to pronounce it was at the foot of the hills which overlooks the mightly Alps far on the other side of the spectrum. We drove many miles away from Geneva to reach this place and the closer we got to the destination, the absence of activity, of people seemed to take over the landscape. 

I checked into this hotel, well, studio apartment and from my little cold balcony I saw a pristine steam with trees and shrubs and a cute little bridge over it. How picturesque, How Europe! 

I didn't think much of it to be honest as I was happy to know I have wi-fi access which worked the first time I tried it! I got busy in my preparation for the meeting, I had 3 other documents in my inbox waiting for my attention. I also caught up with my colleague to discuss the plan of attack ( sometimes planning a pre-sales meeting makes me feel like planning for a win, No! a war...well, you know what I mean!). The colleague was pleasant but clearly disappointed that beer was served in a whiskey glass. Let me not discuss anything more of what his thoughts were or mine :) 
Yes! For a non-beer drinker that I usually am and for the German-beer-drinker that he is we both settled for beer in France which is so very wrong!

Having completed the 'work' for the evening, I decided to take a stroll in this little town...village? ...the place. 

A 2-minute stroll to the center of the town got me to a church facing a square and some weirdly random shops around - a boutique, a barber, a sushi restaurant and a shoe shop...

A little stroll from there gave options of a creperie, a patisserie - which got me convinced I was in France.

There also was this token Indian restaurant which I dared not to visit.

A few people - lets number - may be 10 in total were walking about minding their own business, in fact like as if they were in a hurry to catch a train or something. I wondered what was so 'busy' in this little place.

I was awing on the sight of the perfectly golden crowned, snow covered Alps at a distance and refrained clicking any pictures on my mobile as it would have done no justice to nature's beauty. 

I took a left here, a right turn there, walked straight ahead somewhere crossing random things. And just in the non-dramatic setting were things like this and that and the most surprising of all  - A Casino! 

Well... I thought the emptiness of the place, it's streets would make my stroll that evening an uneventful one... but the very fact makes me think today. 

I enjoyed the quiet of the place which in a way made me hear my innermost fears, dreams , those wants, the needs and the quiet serenity. I liked the silence, the solitude, the tone of nothing, the noise of peace but I also remembered how I can easily go mad without the chaos of day to day life. 

I can't help but term this place 'Beautifully Dead'.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Having a Business Mind - NOT!

Fruit Garden is a little shop near home which stocks Asian groceries, organic and health foods. Every time I wait at the till to pay for my shopping, I can't help but notice the different types of little bites - cookies, fudges, health bars, protein bars, nut bars and so on that this shop sticks and it always tempts me to try one. They are pretty expensive for what they are and this stops me from picking things up.

A really tiny piece called the 'Indian bar' caught my eye and it was full of goodness as it said on the board - dates, almonds, pistachios and cardamom all beaten up and mixed together - can't go wrong with that combination, can you?  This tiny bite was 70p which is a lot for what it was. I started my conversation about this to the shop keeper who is a pal now and he mentioned that it's a very fast seller and though expensive, it is really very tasty. Now, all my resistance in the past months was futile and I had to try it. 'No one can eat just one' doesn't apply only for pringles or lays you know. This bite was indeed quite tasty.  I also spoke to him that if I can make it, I would sell the same for 40p and jokingly chatted if he can stock my product - his quick answer being  that another Indian lady who frequents the shop had a similar idea and the taste was not quite the same when she tried it.
During my walk back home, I pondered on stopping by Tesco to buy these ingredients to make at home. But by the time I got home and started getting into the mundane evening chores my mind slowly drifted from the whole business idea - making some to stock it in the shop was a out of the question, I couldn't be asked to make some for myself!
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine and me did almost of week of research and looked into the paper work to start up a Indian chat stall in one of the markets in London. Well, a Saturday business where we can cook some simple one pot Indian meals and sell it. Though this idea came by for our love of markets, street food and cooking, the thought of starting something up on our own gave us the thrill.
Of course, by the end of the week when we went through the process steps that we need to go through to get a license, to the logistics issue, to not having a large kitchen and extra space in either of our homes to stock the pots, pans and groceries and to the final thought of giving up the precious Saturday did not look like it was worth the effort. Was it not easier to stop by one of those stalls, buy the food, sit under a tree or on the lawn, or by the river to rejoice the food?
There were many other small ideas that came and died a silent death with my I-don't-wanna-take-a-chance, it's-too-much-effort, the-returns-aren't-really-that-good or in other words a 'I'll-stick-to-my-day-job-and-do-nothing-more' attitude that runs in me.
The hubby on the other end is quite an opposite.  Though he does have the ' it's-too-much-effort 'problem, he definitely does not have the other traits I have. In the past 6 years, I have noticed him speak and do things that I might not have imagined in my wildest dreams. That thought would have NEVER occurred to me. He too is busy with his day job of being a doctor which is far more tedious and time consuming than mine - so I will not hold him against not really starting anything but appreciate the fact that his passion towards it doesn't die as quickly as mine.
He mentioned recently out of frustration that he should have been born in a Gujju or Marwari family where everyone is up for doing something on their own. The people who surround him, in other words me and his dad of course lack that drive.
Someday, I wish I can come around to doing something than just making notes of what I could have possibly done, but for now I understand that I don't really have a 'Business Mind' whatsoever.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

London Diaries - Green Spaces - Richmond Park

This post is a bit outdated or perhaps I should call it 'Not in Season'.  The plan was to visit, click and write about Richmond Park  in the Autumn months where the landscape has the autumnal feel and colours to it and when it's  the rutting season of deer. So, in that aspect this post has been a bit delayed as we are in spring now. Nevertheless, here’s a note about the park and the deer that it’s known for.

Richmond Park is quite unique to the rest of the parks London has to offer.  It feels like you have gone a long way away from the city to this natural reserve, a forest area and that’s the best thing about it. You are very much in the city but so out of it too giving you the best of both worlds.

Our first visit to the park was on foot and we realized that we wouldn't get too far walking. One look at the map and the scale made us head right back. We made many trips after that day where we typically visited Richmond Park either as a destination for a drive in the evening or in the summer months where we can hire bikes to go around the park which by the way, is great fun. There are a few little trails that you can pick from and it does make a good day out.

Going on bikes is also perhaps the best way to spot the deer that the park houses.  It’s just amazing to be able to spot deer just steps away from you in their habitat while you can stop by and watch the scene.

It’s been a long standing plan to visit the park in the Autumn months to see the colour of the trees turn yellow and brown and also to see this rutting of deer which only happens in the autumn time. It pretty much has been a 5-year plan to be able to do that (you know those 5-year the ones we studied in school about the Indian constitution). Last Autumn we finally made it happen. 

We managed to do an early-ish visit on a weekend and had a lovely morning out.
We didn't really see the deer in a lot of action, but them camouflaged with the drying grass made a lovely sight. Here are a few clicks. It was one of those grey, dull, the-sky-is-going-to-fall-on-us-any-minute type of days, but we waited a fair bit to get some pictures. Unfortunately, there was no blue sky. Take a look....

Friday, March 14, 2014


 I don't usually write a review about a movie or a book as I don't think I am worthy enough to publish my say on someone's hard work.   This isn't a review, though I am happy to recommend anyone reading this to watch the movie - if you haven't already. 

Highway, is perhaps the first movie that made me think I should write about. Now, let's be clear,  I am not saying it is the best movie ever. I would probably not go away and watch it 100 times over like I do with a few other movies, some that I had written about a while ago. I didn't love all the songs, I did think it was slow paced, I thought it could have been shorter, which, by the way, I think about every Hindi movie I watch these days. But, in spite of sounding so negative about it so far, there were enough things in the movie that made me think about it, made me go back to it even when it was over. 

This movie made me connect with it in more ways than one. I could relate with the character, with the free spirit, with the travels and tales that come with it, with taking each day as it comes and mainly with 'NOT having a plan'. It must sound like I live in a fancy fairy tale taking each day as it comes, not knowing where I am headed, just go with the flow and all that. But, in all honestly, when I give it a thought or two, I have been doing that for more years than I care to remember. 

Traveling is something that can catch up with most people pretty easily. It's addictive. You plan a travel, make your bookings and go away for a while and I bet, a few days after you return, you're most likely browsing and reading about the next potential travel if not booking it. 

I love to travel too but my travel needs to have a factor of nature to it. A week in the most expensive beach resort just does not attract me. Instead, tell me we are going for a cycling tour of 3 days for 8hrs a day and I am all up for it. Guess you know what I am talking about.  That thrill to experience the place in your own way, by touching it, but connecting it with simple things like climb a hill, wash your feet on a brook, look up at the sky and observe the stars and just marvel at the solid mountain range that stands so strong. Highway brought out that person who enjoys going out and about and relishing the moment - whatever the place and situation has to offer, feeling that place and taking in what it has to offer. 

One of my wildest fantasies have been to hitchhike a ride on a lorry (well... a truck!) in India and voila! the movie is shot mostly on a truck and the road and the pit stops of this journey. The way the cargo lorry system operates in India makes me wonder. It probably is such a lonely job, when you see those drivers take these truck loads to many miles away with almost a week or so on the road and the only point of contact with people, the communication and interaction would be when they stop for a refreshment, that little cup of tea may be. There must be so many stories associated with a travel like that, but it makes me think if they really think about it as an adventure. Do they not think of it as their job? their Bread & butter? Surely, it's hard,being away from family, being on the road constantly without really a familiar place, I bet they do it for a living and not for the kick that the travel gives you for the likes of you and me. This character is perfectly portrayed by Ranveer Hooda in the film. You know that this man holds many stories with him behind that hard exterior one sees. Haven't we seen many such people, many of these lorry drivers taking a little break at a dhaba on the highway? 

Imtiaz Ali, the director, must be a wanderer of sorts. The way he has brought in the music of the road, of the region blend in to the main story makes it so real. The things that Veera, played by Alia Bhatt ends up doing - talking to herself, gape at a hill and the next minute you are climbing it, the many stops for chai, sitting on a rock and just looking at the scenery or should I say the non-existence of a scenery. Something as simple as making Maggi in a little hut up the hill or the fact that she doesn't think about the next day. She's living that moment like she's in a dream world captured me really dearly. 

"Jahan se tum mujhe laye ho, mein wahan wapas nahi jaana chahti.
 Jahan bhi le ja rahe ho, wahan pahunchna nahi chahti.
 Par yeh raasta, yeh bahut accha hai.
 Mein chahti hoon ki yeh raasta kabhi khatam na ho."

These words did it for me.  I cannot remember the number of times I have wished that the ride never ended, that feeling of coming to an end and not being able to re-create the moment happens when we reach the destination. All we have left is the memories of the road. 

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” 

How true was this man saying this? I don't think I agree with this more at this stage in my life. Let's see what a few years down holds for me. But for now, I am happy to stick to this.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Window Seat

Yes, I have one on my train from London to Nottingham. From the time I remember, I have never said no to a train journey. I sometimes feel like I live in a little fantasy world I have created for myself where the simplest of things gets me thrilled.
It’s almost a decade ago that I was working in Chennai and made weekend trips back home to Bangalore (Yes… Bangalore and not Bengaluru!).  My world revolved around trains, booking centres and train stations. I also had this bizarre idea about working in the train station where I can announce the arrivals and departures in Hindi & Tamil. Something about naming the unknown and faraway places gave me a weird thrill. Like a train from Chennai to Delhi – wow! A long way to go.
I have to  get a window seat, preferably forward facing and no matter how many times the same route is taken, I have to look out for every station called and look outside at the passing landscape even if it was a rather plain non-dramatic scenery.  So a night journey was something I didn’t look forward to as much. I couldn’t sleep well – with the restlessness about where we are and how far we have come to the worry of what’s happening to my belongings and finally the Ticket collector nudging you to check your tickets just when you thought you could doze off.
The trains in the western world are, needless to say, different. For a start, they are extremely clean. They can be cozy, well, if the air con setting is correct, if not it can be quite chilly too. They are definitely fast, so you can really cover a lot of distance is not so much time. However, for  me, are 3 things about train rides here to back home that make a world of difference.
The uneventfulness, if I can say that is what doesn’t make me remember anything special about the train rides here. For a start, there is hardly any form of conversation with anyone, so you see I can sit there typing all this up! Secondly, it’s the food – the cold drinks, cold sandwiches and a few packs of chips (well…crisps as it’s called here) just don’t do it for me. God! Do I miss the fresh hot food coming out of the pantry car – and I am specifically talking about the Lalbagh Express which provided all this and enough entertainment for the rides back home. For a third, it’s the fact that it is so quiet which isn’t a bad thing, you can actually listen to music, read and sleep (if you can) at peace. But peculiar as it may seem I miss that Chug-Chug -Chuk-Chuk sound that is so characteristic of trains.
I have more stories to speak about my train rides 10 years ago than I have done in the past 6 years – and I know I have done more here than back home.
Nevertheless, the train journeys in the UK make you go through undramatic Rolling Meadows, the countryside is beautiful and can be quite picture perfect on a lovely day, but there is no huge change in the landscape – there is a monotony to it which is actually quite peaceful.
Train rides bring out the side of me which often does not surface.  It’s one of the few times when I don’t think much, the mind is inactive and just watching the scenes pass by taking in what comes along the journey

Friday, February 14, 2014

Have been thinking. May be a bit too much.

Ok. So let me face it, I have been quiet for over a month and have had a bloggers block ( calling myself a writer is something I am not ready to do yet). 
I have had thoughts on various things. Have been wanting to tell the stories of so many different tales running through my mind,  but have had my issues to translate those thoughts onto paper...well, electronic paper.

Off late I have been asking and prodding on about a 'what if' for almost everything I have laid my hands on. Though this is making me restless, far too much than what I can handle,it's given me an insight into what I am or where I am in my life today.

This year I told myself that if I have a chance to do something that I perceive as interesting I will do it. Work took me away to the faraway land of the USA ( funny I still think of the US as far away land). I jumped at the chance I got to visit the nearby sights - Sedona, the Grand Canyon and a weekend in Las Vegas....I wondered if I didn't have that tiny streak of just do it, would I have had the experience of travel? Would i have even taken the leap of what I do today - in terms of work and also personally. I might have been at one place doing the same thing.

I strongly believe that some incidents that happen to a person just dies with that person. I have been giving myself a hard time thinking about what if that sort of an incident never happened, would I have been a totally different person? I guess there is no right or wrong answer to it. I also know that there is no point in questioning, that there is no better feeling in thinking it through either...but can't help shutting it out.

Why do I have to be grounded to home and all things family? I give/am giving myself immense stress in keeping everyone happy and trying to bring peace for no fault of mine. What if I could put my foot down on one thing - could have kept one person totally happy and the other may be upset, but atleast I might have been sane knowing that I don't have to play this balancing act constantly, without anyone realising how much harm it's causing me...but will this happen....I don't see it in this lifetime knowing the type of person I am.

Sometimes I wonder if I could have been this simple girl who had no ambitions,no drive, no aspirations of going and getting something. What if I was just happy and content and in total peace being the girl who studied some degree, got married, had children, stayed home and looked after the family and was busy from morning to night in her world....would I have been all right with this? I am not so sure again. Though it seems like that perfect little world, I can't see myself enjoying it and being happy with it. 

You know, in spite of all the journey of thoughts, 'what if' dear God really knows me better than me and has planned all this out for me just for my own good? Is a beautiful note that settles me. That hope that no matter what the little brain thinks the greater person has thought the whole story through is an unbelievable feeling. It's like going to bed and sleeping just to wake up and see all's in place. 

Well, well, well.... so as you can see this mind of mine has been going all over the place. Some thoughts have been good, some positive, some totally crazy and some make me wonder whether I am normal anymore( I see myself smiling as I write this). 
However, when it comes to my blog I have stopped doing a 'what if' and plan to complete some experiences in the past few months that are sitting incomplete and put them up here pretty soon. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cure the Crisis

Little experiences in life add so much to the way you do and see things. One such event is what I want to talk about here. 

A few years ago I volunteered at this little charity which runs during Christmas for the homeless people - it was a small unknown place and I loved being a part of it for my time there. I remember it as being enjoyable, also a bit frustrating and very exhausting (I know....I am so bad). I thought a bout it as a nice thing to do and left it there. Though the thought crossed my mind that I could do more of this, I never got my act together. 
This Christmas I picked it up again. Having known that I have days off during the time and not much to do I decided to enrol myself with 'Crisis at Christmas' who are perhaps the biggest organization in all of Europe doing work around homelessness.

Not knowing what I really wanted to do, I put my name as a general volunteer. If you are a professional, you can also add yourself for Kitchen duties, IT Support, Medical Services and such others. A general volunteer could be doing anything from serving meals, to sitting at the information desk, to manning the entrances and exits, to keeping a check at the luggage lounge or the art and craft centre, the shower facilities and so on. 
A complete volunteer led group that it is, you could see some really amazing organization of tasks, duties, roles - everything just seemed to have run so smooth. Each of us had another volunteer paired with us for every activity, so it never really felt like you were in it alone. It gives you a chance to interact with all the other wonderful people who give up their personal time to do this and understand why they connect with it. It's inspiring to hear the story behind why they choose to do this, also interesting and perhaps  a reality check on how we are so engrossed in our lives that this experience is somewhat surreal. 

Crisis arranged an induction programme for first time volunteers to give us an idea of what to expect, the do's and don'ts and it was such a well planned presentation that I was already quite sure that the process would be smooth.
It's amazing to see professionals  - doctors, dentists, hair dressers, masseurs, advisers provide their services. 
The kitchen staff ensuring that the people (our guests as we learn to call) get proper meals - a hot plate of food. The shower rooms are kept ready so they can have a warm shower, the IT room is ready with computers for the people to have a little cyber space, the TV room and cinema is showing movies everyday, the art & craft room is open for the creative lot, sports rooms with table tennis, luggage room to store their belongings, tea & coffee all day long.
It was great to see the happiness when they had their hot shower and came out all fresh, the excitement to know that they can get a haircut or enjoy a full hot meal with a dessert. They were thrilled to know there was a masseur, Relieved to know they can leave their belongings overnight at a place where they don't have to worry about it being stolen.

These were things that are so inconceivable to the normal you and me. How often do we think whether we cannot have that simple hot shower or a meal a day or get a haircut and look presentable ? Perhaps Never?  
The worry that you have to carry everything that you possibly own always on you. Can't leave it anywhere....don't have a place to leave it. 
It's hard to imagine and live knowing that as the night falls and the crowds recede, the shops close, businesses end there is no place to go, that a new footpath, garden bench, parking lot needs to be searched for a place to retire for the night.

That very thought makes me count my blessings, that I am so lucky to have been born, raised and living a life where everything is kinda normal where my worries seem so small when compared to what some of these people have.