Posted in Travellogue

Paris

There are some cities or places we feel at home. We are drawn to the place, an affinity because we have emotional attachment of having grown up there or have some nostalgic links to the place. Paris happens to be one place where I feel at home, I can wander around the streets of the city aimlessly for hours. I have no prior nostalgic links to the city nor have I had any special interest in the city while growing up. Yet since my first visit to Paris, ten years ago, I have an ongoing love affair with the city. I am a why/because kind of person, everything must or should have a reasoning. Randomness is a concept which my brain refuses to accept. Normally when we want to go away and are looking at options for places to travel, I often insist on travelling somewhere new, where we have not been. I believe I need to challenge my senses and mind, by travelling to new places. Your eyes see different sights, you breathe the same air yet you can smell different aromas and fragrance, you taste different food, I find it refreshing and awakening. My mind has a tendency to switch to an autopilot mode in familiar area, because it is so familiar to its surroundings and senses. I find travel a perfect way to awaken my senses which otherwise  seem to go in to a slumber. I find Paris an exception to this. I love visiting the city, I have visited the city several times, yet very time the city keeps me engaged and enthralled. I am in love with the city of love, I do think the city , loves me back with equal propensity.
If you are familiar with the movie ‘ Midnight in Paris’ where the protagonist Gail Pender loves to walk around Paris in rains and thinks the rain makes the city look magical. I am very much like Gail, always look to past looking for answers, love Paris, yet I differ in his views of Paris. I find Paris magical in any season, in rains, in blustery winters, in blistering heat with sun beating down my neck and in autumn. I say magical because it always manages put a smile on my face, make my heart feel feather light, making even the mundane daily monotony look rapturous. People say Paris is not very friendly in fact is considered very rude. Perhaps there is some truth in it, may be it is a relative truth. Paris is beautiful yet derelict, passionate yet indifferent, amorous yet sometimes hateful. Paris is much like life, an oxymoron, full of conflicting emotions, a paradox. It is a good place to do a bit people watch, best place to visit museums and art works, with best touristy spots, a paradise for food lovers and fashionistas equally. As for me Paris is an emotion, and that emotion is Love.

As I said I love walking around aimlessly in Paris, looking at paintings in Louvre and Muse D’orsay, sitting by a Café on Monmarte sipping a coffee, walking up to Sacre Coure and sitting on the steps and listen to a busker play harp.( I have visited five times and everytime, he is there, playing harp), walking in the night by the River Sienne and watch the Eifferl Tower Shimmer, having a Berthillon Ice cream in freezing cold, looking at the odd objects in the Flea markets of Cligancourt, browsing the books in Shakespeare and co. And I enjoy doing a Patisserie crawl or what I prefer calling as Patisserie Trail.

I used the below and went around for a patisserie trail. Rue de Bonaparte also has very interesting shops , in case you want a little break from all the cakes and macaroons. 
http://foodloversodyssey.com/2011/08/food-lovers-walk-in-paris-rue-de-seine-and-bonaparte/
In the beginning of this year, I read a travelogue on Paris by a fellow blogger, and the photos and words made be long to revisit the city. I messaged my husband saying it has been two years since we went to Paris, and what better place to visit in February than Paris. And again in March I felt I need to visit the Giverny and see Monet s Garden ‘ We have never been to Giverny’ My husband seems to think I always find reason to visit Paris, but I what I find amusing is his response , when I say ‘ Do you not want to go to Paris?’ ‘Na , it been a while since we went to ‘Ol Pari’

PS: I am attaching the photos and not writing about them. A picture is worth a. thousand words, a visual expression!!

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Posted in Musings, Uncategorized

Me, myself and my solitude.

I have often experienced the overpowering need of solitude and seeking silence.I love Audrey Hepburn s quote” I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel. “.  I have realised from a very young age of  my need to detach and be with myself to be of paramount importance to me.  I have often thought of that to be a quirk in me. Coming from a very large family of cousins, aunts and uncles, from both maternal and paternal side, my parents have always been surrounded by people, incessant chattering and cacophony of noise and no doubt they enjoyed the social attentions and gatherings. And then they had me, anti-thesis of them. I have left my parents quizzical sometimes with my quiet retreating behaviour in to solitude.

Solitude has often been misconstrued and  confused with loneliness.  When you look up the meaning of Solitude on dictionary it is explained as a state or a situation of being alone.  Solitude is indeed state of being alone often voluntary and is positive and loneliness on the contrary is a feeling of being left alone, refers to isolation and is negative. I have been on a quest since long to understand and explain the difference between loneliness and solitude. You can be alone and not necessarily lonely, and similarly you can be surrounded by people, yet feel isolated and lonely. It is perhaps easy for me to perceive the difference between the two concepts  because of my inherent temperament or nature. I seek solitude and silence from time to time , I am a firm believer in Rumi s  saying ” In Silence there is eloquence. A little while alone in your room will prove more valuable than anything else that could ever be given you.”

We humans are social beings , we are driven by our  need to be part of a group, we require affirmations, a sense of belonging . I have often wondered  do people surround themselves with other people because of this social need or the fear of being alone. I also wonder sometimes if we have defined the circles and groups so rigidly that we try to fit ourselves in to these predefined moulds and spend years to fit ourselves in to the mould, trying to be someone who we are not, failing to listen to our true selves. I have a come a long way from thinking of my need of solitude to be my behavioural quirk to realising the importance of solitude.

I have found solitude sometimes in the most crowded of places, sometimes in the garden or sometimes in a book. While living in Mumbai, I often visited a mall called Inorbit Mall, at times with friends and sometimes on my own. I have found the most profound moments of solitude there, people bustling in and out of the shops, mindless wanderers, shoppers with agenda , rising and falling voices drifting around the me, food smell wafting with the cool breeze from aircons. I would either be sitting in a coffee shop sipping a cup of coffee or browsing a book in a bookshop or simply sitting by and watching and hearing life rushing by. There was a sense of detachment paradoxically also feeling a sense of belonging to the human race. I once mentioned my experience of solo visits at the mall to my then colleague and to my surprise she mentioned she visits the same mall for the very same reasons. We all from time to time, have the need to hear ourselves. In Solitude is when we hear ourselves clearly and loudly, solitude is when we pay attention to ourselves and our thoughts. Solitude is being with yourself, listening to yourself and finding your true self. When you find yourself, you are truly not alone.

I have personally known a man who had been feeling lonely for a long time in his life, in spite of having a large loving family. He was the most handsome man I have ever met in my life, he could light up a room with his sheer presence, would be centre of any social gathering making people laugh with his jokes and funny anecdotes, he could speak eloquently on literature, books,cricket and Shakespeare, one who could whistle a Dean Martin or Kishor Kumar song effortlessly. Unfortunately he could not light up his own life with his laughter, nor could he sing himself to happiness, kept his loneliness masked beneath his beautiful face and ended up  dying tragically alone. He was weighed down by gender specific societal norms, men should take on all the responsibilities,men should be strong, men should not cry, men are defined by their earning power in the world, men should not grieve and the list goes on. He became so tuned to listening to societal responsibilities and call of duty, he never stopped to listen to his hearts voice.

I realised it is not a quirk in me, but we all have a need from time to time, the need to hear ourselves. In Solitude is when we hear ourselves clearly and loudly, solitude is when we pay attention to ourselves and our thoughts.  Solitude is being with yourself, listening to yourself and finding your own happiness.

My many conversations, musings and discussions with my friends on varied topics have helped shed light and understand myself better. I have a great amount of love and gratitude for my many dear bossom friends, who spend hours listening to me , sometimes engaging with me in some deep existential quests. I would not have reached here ,without their endless and tireless listening abilities. And in solitude, my mind recollects some of those conversations and I have some self realisation moments. It was a few years back I was having a discussion with a friend on what consitutes true love. And for whatever reasons every relationship in our discussion ended up stemming from desire or motive, or  then some were tainted with betrayal or hatred or resentment so it lost its essence as pure love.  I said that concludes there is no true love, but why do I feel that is wrong. And then he replied, I think it is because, there is true love, your true love is you. I was not convinced with his reply as it sounded very narcissistic and then we had our own errands to run and get back to our work, reality and had to end our conversation . I understand today much clearly I was so lost in my clinical analysis of facts that I did not hear my true self. I remembered the conversation one day while sipping coffee in my kitchen on a winter morning, gazing out of the kitchen door, on to the garden. We need to love ourselves unconditionally with all its flaws, a detached and pure love has no place for judgements. We see the flaws in ourselves and seek that flawless love outside of us  and end up again looking at flaws instead of love.  Your true love is you, you love yourself with all your inherent flaws, and look beyond the flaws at your true self.

Posted in Musings

Beautiful Hampstead

We all have our special  places or cities. A special attachment to a place, a place which cheers you up, where you are alive, where you are yourself and you shed all your worries and concerns. Hampstead in London is one such place for me, which raises my spirits

Hampstead has a special place in my heart, with its woodland  and walking paths, heritage homes, museums, cafes and streets bustling with people. Hampstead is very charming, often referred as Hampstead Village,  with its  cafes, high street shops and the heath with its vast green meadows spread out like a velvety carpet,  little ponds, tall trees are a very pleasing treat for the eyes. I have a very vivid memory of me and a friend of mine  walking in to Hampstead heath, one summer weekend, to talk about daily drudgery  and monotony of our life. We settled on a bench facing the pond, we could see and hear  kids squealing in joy and playing Frisbee on the other side of the pond, the water of the pond was glistening in the sun, and then a swan gracefully land on to the  pond,  there was a combined noise  of  swishing wings, water and the swift landing ,creating beautiful ripples in the shimmering water. We both sat there sitting silently, watching the beautiful moving feast in front of us. Nature has a very subtle yet powerful way  of reminding us the simple truths about life and bringing about the profound silence of the mind. I had read a quote by Rabindranath Tagore many years ago ,“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.” Though it was no way near the time for Sunset, but I truly understood and felt what  the quote meant. I have many times walked in to Hampstead on a gloomy overcast day, my mind buzzing with my list of to-dos and my brain already on an overdrive, a little walk in the Flask Walk, with its antique Bookstore, little cafes and  fragrance of flowers from the florist on Flask walk, are enough to brighten my day and make me cast aside the worries. Hampstead has many activities to offer, one could go on a walk to explore Hampstead village, there are many interesting museums and heritage properties to visit Keats House, Kenwood House,Freud Museum, ISOKON building, Burgh House, Fenton House,  and 2 Willow Road and it is also good spot for a bit of people watching, find a cosy corner in a café by the window , with a coffee.

Hampstead has been often called as residence of the intelligentsia. When I first heard the word I had to look up in a dictionary to find out what it meant, it refers to  intellectuals or a group of highly educated people, who  are critiques and guides and considered to have the power to influence culture and may be politics.  It includes writers, architects, painters, teachers ,composers , artists,  intellectuals etc. Many famous artists have lived for a short while in Hampstead and there are a many who have made it their home. To name a few  Rabindranath Tagore, is believed to have lived in Hampstead for a short while,  Agatha Christie is said to have lived for a few years in ISOKON building,  Roland Penrose, famous Artist, Historian and known for surrealist movement in England,  modernist Architect Erno Goldfinger whose home is now a museum.

Another reason I have an affinity to Hampstead is because of the two house in National Trusts care, where I volunteer from time to time. It is through these two houses that my love for Hampstead began. 2 Willow Road, home of Erno Gold finger, is one of the earliest Modernist properties in London. It is because of this house, I have learnt about the surrealist Movement of art, modernist art and architecture. Erno ,an Austro-Hungarian by birth , studied in Paris, married an English woman,who moved to London, built this house for himself and his young family. He had to face a lot of opposition, from the local residents and council, who were not very keen on having a modernist property in the area. But he persevered, made a  bit of modifications on his original plans and got his plan approved from the council. The house is here today, standing the test of time, as a testimonial of perseverance and standing up for what you believe in. It is said that one of the petitioners against  this modernist property,  was the famous Ian Fleming, and it is rumoured  hence he named the villain in one of his books as Goldfinger. However, there is no concrete evidence as to why he used the name. Ian Fleming is known to use names that he has come across in his life in his books. The house has a certain quality about it, it grows on you and you fall in love with it over the time. It is a very functional house, unlike its contemporaries it is not ornate, with ample natural lighting, plenty of storage, and everything in the house is much thought through. And the house beyond doubt is way ahead of its time, given the fact that house was completed in 1939. Often visitors say it is hard to believe that it belongs to that era. I love volunteering at the house , I meet people from different walks of life, some of them have immense knowledge about arts, and I end up learning something from them, some share their anecdotes from another property and sometimes standing by the  large windows with the view on to the Heath, I just watch the dynamic painting in front of me, meadows with daffodils and other new spring blossoms, and as the season progress the scene through the window keeps changing, yet never fails to enthral me.

The other house I volunteer at Hampstead is a 17th century house called Fenton House. It is very different to 2 Willow Road, it houses  three different collections from three different collectors. The house was left to National Trust by the last owner of the house, Lady Bining, with its  large porcelain collection.  The house has been furnished by the trust taking in to account the era, and some based on photographs published in the Countrylife magazine. When the trust opened the house to public, it housed the porcelain collection and a collection of musical instruments, by another collector named Benton Fletcher. He had nothing to do with the house, it is just that his collection of musical instruments is housed in Fenton House. Later on there was a collection of paintings bequeathed to the house by another collector by name of Peter Bakworth. Now the house has three collections, porcelain, musical instruments and paintings. Its  a pleasure to volunteer when  someone comes to play the instruments, or there is a musical tour in the house, the music brings the house alive and I find it very uplifting. The house has amazing views of London skyline from the balconies of the house on a clear day. The house also a beautiful garden, a kitchen Garden and  Apple orchard. I am waiting with anticipation for the apple blossoms to come next month. Every autumn, the trust organises an event called  Apple Weekend. It is a fun filled event for the entire family, you can taste the apples from the orchard, there is storytelling for kids, badge making, you can buy apple products, food stalls and the garden is dotted with deck chairs for you to relax and unwind.

It is through this opportunity of volunteering, I have met some wonderful people, I started learning and know a great deal about modernist and surrealist movements, I  got introduced to visit and explore  Hampstead, which I have come to love now and I  have had some memorable experiences.  Just last week, while volunteering,  I had an amazing cup of coffee at Willow Road while watching the daffodils swaying in the breeze from the windows of the living room, which an visitor mentioned makes the house more  dynamic, because the house is being experienced in its truest sense. I couldn’t agree more.

Posted in Travellogue

Fours days in Germany-December 2016

Its been 20 odd days in to 2017, I am still writing about Christmas. Having been down with flu for a few weeks since Christmas, I have not had much chance to think and gather my thoughts around our Christmas market trip to Germany in December. Today I had the desire and also the opportunity to sit and curl up on the sofa and write after many days.

Here is the link to it.

Four days in Germany

Posted in Uncategorized

The humaneness of Humanity

” I, like you, am rooting for that. I, like you, do believe in the goodness of people, prayers, gratitude, thousands who are extending their hand in help. ” Beautiful post .. with beautiful thoughts..

Antarmukhi

I felt compelled to write a post. I have been doling out ‘quotes’ for the past few months. It has been enough for my mind to keep sensing, feeling, processing, learning & adapting with the help of these one or two liners. That is, till today morning. As I prepared for the day ahead, I got some free minutes, a rare feat I may add. As I glanced through the newspapers, I came across three poignant photographs. A child sitting in a bright orange chair of an ambulance clicked in the dead centre of a picture. It would have been a cute or an adorable picture save for the torn, bloodied clothes, the dazed, war-ravaged injured face of his. He, for me, became the epitome of trauma. He wasn’t crying, he was in shock. He seemed too numbed out to even register himself or his surroundings, all the life-saving symptoms…

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Posted in Musings

It’s the most wonderful time of the year..

There is something magical about Christmas. Call me a romantic or dreamer , I love Christmas, every little drama associated with it. I like the Christmas movies, streets festooned with decorations and light, high streets and shops decked with twinkly Christmas lights, mad rush in the shops, Christmas fair and Markets. I wait with anticipation for the Regents street and Oxford Street lights to be switched on . When I walk back home in the evenings in to our street looking up at all the homes  decked and lit up , windows with  warm glow  of lights, lovely Christmas Wreaths, I feel a sense of elation.

Having grown up in India, where Diwali is celebrated with more pomp and show, my exposure to Christmas was very limited and probably only limited to what you see on movies.  When I moved to London, it was Autumn, and just about when the days are getting shorter and it gets dark very quickly. There were a plethora of conflicting emotions running around inside my brain.I was terribly homesick, missing my family and friends ,I was working full time in India, suddenly I  had no where to go, I had many things to do at home,I was trying to sort things out in a new City, and a new country, trying to make sense of and understand my surroundings , it would get dark outside by 4.00 pm, there were no birds chirping,very eerily silent and I had no friends or family nearby. India is a cacophony of sounds, and I used to live in Mumbai, a city which never sleeps ,I could hear noises and chatters constantly , the neighbours television,the traffic, the odd conversations from neighbouring flat etc . I was feeling miserable and terribly lonely. I would constantly wonder what have I brought upon myself and my husband who probably was facing the same challenges , would listen to me moan about being miserable. And then one day in late November we went to Oxford street, with no pretext, just exploring the new  city we were in , and the Christmas Lights were on ! The theme was Enchanting Christmas, there were blue twinkling lights all over the street, I was so dazzled and captured by the sight,  suddenly everything was bright and shiny.  We wandered  around and ended up in Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. The Christmas Market with little wooden stalls and shops selling  all sort of gifts, ice skating rink with people happily gliding on ice , with Christmas songs playing , smell of cinnamon and wine and smoke rising  from foods stalls,  I was drawn in to a festive cheer. That day on our way back home on tube , I asked my husband, ” Do you think we should put some lights for Christmas at home. ? ”  and he replied, “I suppose we could. “. And that is how  our little Christmas tradition started. 

We all have our favourite parts or moments of Christmas. My personal favourite moment of Christmas celebration is cooking Christmas dinner with my friend , and our respective spouses busy with PlayStation somewhere else in the home , dropping in to the kitchen from time to time to check on the status of food. And after the Christmas dinner, we would all gather in front of television with our desserts to watch a movie. I love the serenity of that moment, all the excitement ,talks and chatter drifts into a blissful sweet slumber. 

I always associate Christmas with lights ,merriment and laughter.  The numerous unknown people on that day years ago in the Christmas market, laughing with their friends and family , their cheery disposition cured me of my misery,  Christmas gave me something to look forward to. Smiles and happy faces are infectious and you never know when cheerfulness can rub on you. So here is a wish this holiday season, have yourself a Merry little Christmas, spread the joy of laughter and happiness this holiday season , you never know whose life you are lighting up..

Posted in Travellogue

Home is where your heart belongs !!!

Sitting here in the Delhi, in quiet contemplation, cannot stop thinking of London. Back home, the Christmas lights would have been strung up, the warm coats and jumpers would be out, it is the time for hot chocolates with marsh mellows and Mulled Wine, there will be a mad rush to buy gifts. I love everything about Christmas, the fairy lights, the fairs and markets, the cold and of course Father Christmas. I would like to believe in good behaviour being rewarded.

When I left London, a few weeks ago it was  Autumn. There is some thing magical about the  Autumnal glow of the Sun,it is warm and sweet as Honey, and the sun beams streaming in to the house cast beautiful shadows, creating beautiful play of light and shadows, often leaves me wondering what if I  were to dip my palm in to the ray and scoop a little out  and eat it. Ah the sweetness of the Autumnal Sun!  The leaves turning beautiful shades of pink ,orange and yellow , shedding their vibrant leaves, teaching us in a way sometimes letting go is beautiful.  It is a sight to behold watching rainfall of leaves descending from the tree, shaken by a not so gentle breeze and scattering the roads and roadside with colour. I have often wondered which is more beautiful to watch , falling autumn leaves swaying and swaggering towards the ground, having been freed from tree or watching a snowflakes falling from the sky. I have not yet made up my mind.

My roots are in India,my extended family is here,I have wonderful friends here,yummy food, I have had most amazing time since I have come here,  yet  sitting here I cannot stop thinking about  London,  my walks in woods, my cycling training , my friends in London and my home. Absence makes the heart go fonder. Perhaps all the wandering and travelling has made me realise where  I belong. Strange feeling it now ,with all deglobalisation happening around the world. Also on a personal level I question myself with mixed emotions of sense of belonging . Where do I belong ? As a human race where do we belong ?  Last week a dear friend said  ‘ Humans began as wanderers, Nomads.It is in our nature to wander around and travel, we have forgotten it and we keep on trying to fit in and belong .’ Until she mentioned it I had never given it a thought, perhaps I truly do not belong anywhere, I am just a wanderer. For now I live in London and call it my home.

Thinking about home, belonging and wandering  I started writing my travelogue about our Trip to Vienna. Click on this link to read my Viennese Wanderings.

Vienna- The city of Music

Posted in Travellogue

An island Trip

The last couple of months of my break plans are on a bumpy road. I have had to defer the 90 mile walk, I  have successfully lost all the photographs from my Temple Trip to Tamil Nadu; a technical glitch on my laptop/icloud back up ended in  wiping out photos from March to May. Such are the maladies of a world dominated by technology. Let me try the law of attraction  and skip the negatives and think of  positives; had a friend got me addicted to listen to songs from Coke Studio, have started my swimming lessons and  learning to ride a bike. These are not great feat or achievements in themselves, considering the Paralympics  held in Rio. But listening to a Persian song on Coke Studio, of which I do not understand a word, I am transported to a  world of love and beauty. Such is the power of Music, a beautiful language, which transcends borders, cultures and barriers and in a minute transports  you to a world of calm and love and if I add to it, the fact  that  a friend sitting  miles and miles away, in another country, thinks about me while listening to a song and pings  me the link, ” listen to it, you will love it “.  Listen to it , I did and since  have  become a fan follower of Coke Studio on Youtube. I like swimming and  there is something fun about swimming. A famous swimmer once said ” Swimming is all about having fun, and I am a firm believer, that you keep swimming as long as you are having fun, but I can say it becomes much more fun as you get older and learn more about the sport, life and especially more yourself.” And as goes about cycling, I have  rarely cycled as a child and have a terrible fear of traffic. In an attempt to overcome  the fear, I am learning to cycle. In spite of the fear, I enjoy cycling, cycling in the woods, surrounded by tall trees , forming a canopy over you, warm sun rays streaming through the leaves, squirrels and rabbits rushing across the trail, rustling of the dry leaves gently rolling on the path, and the smell of grass, mixed with mud and rain,  is  very calming and is almost akin to meditation. And I then went on a small getaway to a small island, which was very rejuvenating.

Here is an account of my trip.

/And the Journey continues … Jersey

Posted in Musings

The one who cannot drive….

What do you call a person who does not drive a car? For the last few days, my lack of ability to drive a car, has been a source of quiet contemplation for me. Never have I have given it so much thought. I have always brushed off the need to learn driving “I do not need to drive”. Most of my adult life has been spent in Mumbai and now in London, where I have always relied on local suburban trains and underground services. And those who have lived in those cities and do so now, would agree, driving around in a car in the city is not very feasible and is extremely expensive. And for driving anywhere else I have extensively relied on my husband, who is very fond of driving , obviously not in traffic and inside cities. Its his love for driving, which prompted us drive from Land s End, England to John o’ Groats, Scotland.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have to amuse and keep company to two little kids, who have  to be taken to various  summer activities. And I had the opportunity of explaining to my less than 10 year old nephew, the inopportune situation. And upon finding his lovely aunt’s inability, his beautiful innocent eyes, were full of bewilderment. ” Are you kidding me, you are an adult, and you can not drive !!!”. Hence began my ethereal quest on my inadequacy, not to learn driving, but to see how many more share the similar inadequacy.

I have never felt the need to drive a car nor not driving as lack of independence. On the contrary I find it liberating.I have always used alternate modes of transport – public transport extensively. Even while on holidays, I have tried using public transport wherever possible. A couple of years back , I decided I wanted to go on a day trip with a friend out of London. We zeroed in on going to Brighton, but the night before the trip due to weather conditions we changed the destination to Cambridge. We took the underground to Kings Cross , from where we bought a ticket to Cambridge and boarded the train to Cambridge. But I suppose I have lived in cities with very well connected public transport system and I have been able to find my way without driving a car. But a little boys innocent question prompted me to look for a name for the inadequacy.  I did not find a name ,but I found there are many celebrities who do not drive and have never had a license. I sort of find a solidarity with them, the similarities I guess end there.

So I am left with my own devices to find amusing activities which does not  involve driving. I must confess it’s difficult, given that I am in USA, driving around is essential , especially if you are a parent. We go to parks riding on a bike or walk around in the neighbourhood , go butterfly spotting and bird watching. We spotted many cardinals flying about in the backyard., spotted many swallowtail butterflies while walking to the park. We went to the park and sat on swing. I sat on a swing nearly after two decades. And I swung on the swing like never before.

This so reminded me of the Black Swan theory. I was so enamoured by the theory when I first read it. It is a theory from Nassim Taleb s books Fooled by Randomness and The Black swan. It refers to an incident of huge negative impact, which  often offer some  positive benefits.  The book talks  about being resilient during negative events that occur and be able to exploit positive ones.  I would like to read the book again.

 

Posted in Musings

My Experiences in the last four months

It s been nearly four months since I have been on a break from work. I picked up my tablet with an intention of writing about my Scottish isles trip. Yet my mind wandered off and I started pondering about the last four months and its effect on me. I started with a soul searching trip to India, did I find anything ? Did I find a pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow/trip? More importantly have I reached the end of Rainbow? What have the last four months been like for me ? I started to make a list.

1. I have eaten food like never before, relishing and tasting every morsel- smacking my lips after a cool buttermilk, eating a guava on the streets of Mumbai and rolling my eyes in pleasure, eat traditional south Indian meal on banana leaf with hands, taste the sweetness of a Baklava with a friend on the streets of London, drink Elderflower cordial en route to Oban, eat Dosa with friends in London.

2. Laughing out heartily with friends, till tears started rolling out.

3. Sit Still by the kitchen door, watching the birds, bees and butterflies.

4. Joined a Sewing class and made a new acquaintance, who is also on a break from work.

5. Started reading War and Peace and still reading …

6. Preparing for a 90 mile walk later in the year in Yorkshire.

7. Experiencing the little nuances of life with same bewilderment and amazement that of a child.

8. Feeding ducks by the pond not far from home.

9. Started volunteering as a reading helper in a School, through Beanstalk.

10. I have lived the last four months with out fear, with out thinking about future or any negativity.

Can these be termed as achievements? I have not changed anybody s life nor have I done anything magnanimous.

Yet, I am grateful for having this opportunity of self retrospection, I am blessed with beautiful and wonderful friends and family who have stood by me in worst of my times and laughed and smiled for me in happier times, and are with me now reading this blog, shaking their heads and laughing.

I often now get remarks when I meet friends and family, who say ‘you look the same yet not so same at all, you look so different , but in a nice way’. I must agree I have changed, I am positive, I am alive and with a life full of infinite possibilities.

Buddha:” If your Compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”

PS: I am still working on my’ to do list on break’.

Posted in Travellogue

On a train to Edinburgh

Train journeys mean happiness to me. I have very fond memories of travelling by train as a child, in India, to visit my grandparents. I used to be excited days ahead of the travel, I suppose it  was a combination of no school, no homework, endless days of fun with cousins, and the journey it self.  So I decided I want to travel by train to Edinburgh on our small getaway to Scottish Isles. Here is an account of my train journey

On a train to Edinburgh

Posted in Bibliomania

The Little Paris Book Shop

I like reading, is an understatement. I have always found books as very good companions, they are a little island of my own away from the cacophony of the world. When I decided to take a break from work, I started buying more books, thinking I will have a lot more time to read. Not that I do not buy books otherwise. I can say I buy books occasionally and the occasions come very often. I went slightly overboard with the thought of being on a break, I bought War and Peace, which I always wanted to read, and the series on BBC rekindled my desire. I bought two copies of the book, two different version of translations in English, along with other books. One of the copies was a gift for a friend, I often pass on my afflictions to my friends and trouble  them, ‘go on read it ‘. When I was paying for the books, the guy who was taking the payment was greater book enthusiast than me. He was very happy to see me with two versions of translation thought I was going to read both the versions of translation and recommended a few other translations, eventually I did mention that only one of them was for me and the other was a gift. I love these little chitchat at the till with another shopper or with employees at the till, where someone says I have to read this one, oh you should read this…. book, or good choice I love the book, have you seen the film which has been made of this book…

It is  surprising that I have not written about  books or reading on the blog. Neither have I read any book in the last three months. I have often stood in front of the bookshelf and sifting through the books that I have not read and pondering, which one should I read. None of the books would  pique my interest and then berating myself for having the time and not reading, I would try and make an effort by randomly picking up a book. But the book would not be able to hold my interest for more than 5 pages. I would go on to do something else. I would wonder may be it is a case of a reader’s Block.

I was rather feeling blue last week and moping about in the house,going  from Garden, to Kitchen and settling in  living room. I sat there sweeping a glance across the room, to find an activity. I sat with a lap top with the intention of doing a research on gardening in order to tend to my ailing rock alpines, when a tiny little Blue spine caught my attention sandwiched between Expo 58 and Unexpected Lessons in Love. On finishing with my work on laptop I  walked over to the shelf and picked up the book. It ‘s one of the books I bought to read during my break. I often sat in front of the shelf with a intention of finding an interesting read and have  looked past the book. And on that instance I found the synopsis and the blue tinted cover of the book Eiffel Tower very beckoning. I started reading the book and was captivated.  Viola! my reader’s Block ended.

It is a kind of book I would read , curled up on a sofa with a nice cup coffee , read slowly and fall asleep nestling the book or having fallen asleep with the book sprawled all over my face. When I say I fall asleep, it is  not because the book is boring or not my type, but the book is therapeutic, it  lures you in to a charming little world, cures you  out of boredom, with its beautiful writing.  There are parts of story which I cannot relate to or dislike because it is out of character of the protagonist  , but the narration is charming , witty at times and full of memorable quotes. The book  is an ode to books and book lovers. In the genre, I would string it along  with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It introduces the reader to a wonderful protagonist, Monsieur Jean Perdu, who runs a book barge on River Sienne in Paris and calls it a Literary Apothecary.   There are other interesting characters in the book like the very Monsieur Jordan, who has attained  fame at 21 and is not able to handle it.

The books is scattered with wise and catchy  quotes, that’s what is capturing my interest and  making me read the book. I am just quoting a few lines below, from the book. The book did cure me of boredom.

Memories are like wolves. You can’t lock them away and hope they leave you alone.”

” A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novel to the appropriate ailments, that’s how I sell books.”

” You see I sell books like medicine. There are books that are suitable for a million people, others only for a hundred. There are even books written for one person only.”

Posted in Travellogue

Temple Towns of Tamil Nadu-Kumbakonam

Today I thought I will write about Kumbakonam. By the time I was nearing Kumbakonam and the counts of temples visited was going up, the heat and the temperature was rising . Braving the rising temperatures, scorching Sun and  driving around the tar roads, I saw beautiful sights  and experiencing the surrounding of Indian countryside, roads lined with trees, surroundings with coconut groves, banana groves, rivers, saw  a beautiful moonrise in the Paddy fields, glowworms referred in Tamil as Minmini Putchi  floating over the farm. These are sites which I had long forgotten. The moon rise reminded me of a tradition in Southern India called Nila Sappaddu, means Moon Meals, referring to a tradition of  eating food under open skies in the night with the Moonlit sky and stars. I have done that so many times with my cousins at my grandparents home on the terrace or in the garden, where one of the aunts and uncles will tell a story and all the little ones will have food under the Moonlit sky.

The first trip that I took on my break from work was in March and we are nearing end of May and I am now hard pressed on time for finishing my account of my soul searching trip to Southern India.

Now, I am looking forward to our little trip to Inner Hebrides in end of May. Please click the below link for full details of trip to Kumbakonam

Temple towns of Tamil Nadu-Kumbakonam

Posted in Musings

Being a Childfree woman

I have often humoured advices, comments, and curious glances from friends, family and mostly from social acquaintances on being  a childfree couple.  I have gritted some out, laughed at some,  worked out methodical ways of weeding those comments out and forgetting them because believe it or not, some of the comments and advices are invasive and sometimes are border lining on being offensive.  They often rear their heads now and then on social occasions. I have accepted these as being part of my life, of something which I am going to  have to be answerable to  or explain for the rest of my life as having made a very different life choice. I have never given these comments  much importance earlier or analysed them.

Yet for the past one year or so  these have  started bothering me or irk me at some level. I suppose these incidents have been in my sub conscious mind and one such question at a social gathering, prompted me to start my research on the internet. I found many website, social forums, for people who do not have children with or without choice, and found out that there is term to call people like me, Childfree or Childless!! There are support groups for us, there are forums which are not so fond of us.

I am a proud PANK, – Professional Aunt, No Kids. Most of my dear and close friends are not child free, and I am a lovely aunt to a pretty niece and a boisterous nephew. I would like to point out my relationship with my friends and brother s family has not been effected either by their or  my life choices. I have the most amazing time with their kids and  I am fairly confident that they are very fond of their Quirky Aunty Usha, asides from the fact the my friends, brother and sis-in-law , often have a feeling ‘That Aunty Usha needs a little chat’. I have never felt being left out in anyways or feel out of place around them.

I was posed a question at a social gathering at a friends house , which has prompted this post. I was standing with a group of ladies, a  bunch of little munchkins playing behind us. I was narrating my soul searching trip to India with all animosity, I was interrupted by a new social acquaintance, ‘Which one is yours?’, in my eagerness to finish my anecdote, I quickly turned around to check if there was anything mine, and realised she was referring to the kids, I replied ‘None’ and carried on chattering. It is later in the night when I was thinking about the incident, made me wonder, why is it when a women is of certain age, it is assumed, she must have a ‘Mini Me’ running around somewhere. I have also observed that I am subjected to more scrutiny on this subject than my husband. I have often been subjected to comments  as a couple you are selfish,  as a woman you are incomplete, is your husband ok with not having kids, you are the lucky one aye, you will regret it one day, I suppose you should go to this doctor he/she is very good, why don’t you try surrogacy ? You do not know true love till you have one of your own? I am so sorry you don’t have children….. I have  never discussed these earlier for fear of being mistaken to be resentful, until recently. I mentioned the innocent question to my friend and the feelings associated with the question.She suggested I should write a post about it.

When I look at popular  blogs and forums written by Childfree, it starts with a statement, we love children…., just like how I have mentioned about having fun with kids . Guilty.  I suppose we feel we are answerable for our choices and we need to explain our  love for children. I have done it too.

Many of the forums talk about sometimes loosing out  friends, and end up with nothing in common , because you are the odd one out. I suppose I have not  experienced it with friends. I have experienced awkwardness in social gathering with social acquaintances’, and in most of the cases I  probably am the only childfree in the room, the topics are normally restricted to school runs, private schools, ballets, potty training etc, where I suppose I have very little to contribute, so I end up listening patiently, then circulating in the room, and then sitting with the little ones and playing with them, which ends up in more comments,’ Oh you are so great with children, you should have one. ‘ Right, playing and engaging kids for half an hour does now qualify me to be a parent. I may not be a parent, but I do know the challenges of parenting and I love and admire all my lovely friends, whom I have watched cope with the challenges of parenthood and learn the nuances of parenting. And they are doing a wonderful job of it. Alternatively, if I stay away from kids to avoid such comments, there are occasional head bobs, narrowing of eyes and hushed whispering.

I recently joined in a group on Whatsapp for classmate from University. I was thrilled to reconnect with my batch mates and exchange a few banter now and then, talking about ye old days. Yesterday, being Mothers Day  messages poured in to the group. I am not Mothers day averse. I always like to celebrate mothers day with my Mother, or my Mother-in-law and wish my friends who are lovely mommies. One of the messages on the group was a tad in bad taste, and lacked compassion. I am pretty certain the person who forwarded the message did not realise it, does not think the same and has nothing personal against me. It probably was a forwarded message from someone else. It left me wondering, how there was a thin line between celebration and insolence, sometimes  we cross the line in self importance, unknowingly.

” From a mom to Mom.. We traded sleep for dark circles, salon haircuts for pony tails, Long baths for quick showers, late nights for early mornings, designer bags for school bags and we wouldn’t change a thing!!!We don’t care about what we gave up and instead Love what we get in return!! That s what being a mom is all about!.

I am not a mother, I used to work very long hours up until recently, I  had dark circles. I left for work at 7 am and came back home by 10 pm on a regular basis. I did not have time to go to salon or have long baths, many a days I did not have time to eat lunch.  I have often got discount cards  to get a make over , from Salons near my workplace  whenever I walked past them. I have often wondered I  must be looking a mess since it happened to me on more than one occasion.  I have designer  bags, Guilty again . The bags are gifts from my brother and my husband, which I do not think have any bearing to my child bearing or non child bearing capacity. I loved my work and was passionate about it. It was my choice. So is motherhood, in the present days. I am not trying to belittle motherhood. I know and understand how as being  a childfree woman I am more answerable to the society than a man , so is motherhood more pressurising on a woman than a man.

I have personally known people who have gone through tough times and have to accept being childless, is the mothers days sometimes not uncompassionate to those? Should there be a Childfree women/men s day like a mother s day or father s day ? Are we forgetting our humaneness in all this? Are we forgetting free will?

I have made certain choices in life, I am not ashamed of my choices neither am  I sad nor selfish. I am happy with my choice, I would not want to explain or answer every now and then for my life choices. I am human too.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Museums and Art Galleries

A visit to National Portrait Gallery

I have become an ardent fan of  Magic FM s breakfast show presented by Nick Snaith. Last week as  part of the May Bank Holiday, Magic was hosting all week event called Magic Payday, where by a phone number would be picked up randomly and that said number would win GBP 10,000 pounds. I have been told by a friend that we should inculcate positive thoughts, it is a theory called Law of attraction, if we think positive, we attract positivity and  by merely thinking something, we can will it to happen. Apparently, we all have the power in our mind. For instance, if we think negative, we beget negative, and if we think positive we get positive outcome. I have often wondered if this is true. I do believe we should have a positive outlook and positive frame of mind, but whether we can make something happen by positive or negative thoughts, I am not so sure. I believe good and bad happen in life, how we handle  is what is important. Sometimes things go bad and it creates negativity and makes me react negatively, on which I have control over. I can choose to be positive, I am not sure if I can will something positive to happen or stop negative things to happen. I am currently in high crest of  positive waves,  I decided I was going to register my phone number and give this theory a try. I registered my number without a doubt that I was going to be the winner of Magic Payday. I was certain in my heart that I was going to get a call from Nick Snaith. I drove my husband mad with my air of positivity – ‘ Nick Snaith was going to call me on Friday morning, to tell me I have won 10K’. On Friday morning I waited with the phone in my hand and listening to Magic FM. When the actual winner was announced on the radio, I called my husband and informed him my positive thoughts had not done the trick  to make us win Maypay, but just cost us the text money. We both had a hearty laugh over it and perhaps I still have a long way to go in discovering the power of  mind. Yet I enjoyed the whole experience of positivity, registering my phone for the Mayday Pay day and waiting for the call, in my heart I was certain, I was going to be the winner and I would be getting the call. In spite of not getting the call, I had a wonderful Friday.

I have a number items on my  list of things to do on ‘My  To Do while  on a break’. Its been two months since I have stopped working and I decided it was high time I started to get on the top of my To Do list.  One of them being visit museums and art galleries on my own as many times as possible during the break. I have been meaning to visit the National Portrait Gallery and since there was an exhibition of Dutch Flower artist, with that positive vibe charging in my veins, I decided it was the time to visit the Gallery.

The exhibition is beautiful, it consists of 17th to 18th century Dutch artists’ work, but just flower art work. The artwork was just marvellous, so vibrant and life like. The artists’ had captured the still life, in the form of flowers and vases, and insects around them. In some of the artwork, the paintings of flowers in glass vase had reflections of windows/doors on them, in some there were tiny lady bird bug, or a dew drop of flowers, a droplet of water on the sill. Such attention to detail, was really enthralling. The exhibit is small, but is very captivating. The exhibition is on till 29th August 2016, if you are interested in flowers and paintings, and you are in London, I would urge you to pay a little visit to the National Portrait Gallery.

Once I finished viewing the exhibition, I decided I would pick up an artist/art work of my choice and look at that artwork in peace and in leisure. I chose John Constable’s Hay wain painting. I have a special admiration for  John Constable’s paintings, the way he paints the clouds ,the countryside and woods. And Hay wain, my personal favourite ,  with its rural backdrop and mill, is very comforting. And every time I see Hay Wain, I always find a new minute detail which I missed the previous time.

The next one, I saw was Claude Monet’s Thames with Westminster. The painting with its shadows and shrouding mist has an air of romance/mystery. I always find it very amusing how an impressionist paintings when you look at them closely are just brush strokes with no specific form, yet when you view  it from a distance it takes a beautiful form, a lovely scene, and has a depth to it. Like life, when you add the little moments together, they make a beautiful day or a beautiful life.

The last one I saw was Gainsborough s unfinished painting of his daughters with a cat. I was not intending to look at anything else , yet I stopped at this painting  with out knowing it was Gainsborough, to admire the work. There was something captivating about the girls’ gaze, and then  I read the title it said ‘ the painters daughters with a cat’. I looked closely but there was no cat in the painting, there just a shadowy  outline of the cat, hence it is unfinished.

After the exhibition, I met a friend at a Turkish restaurant for  dinner. The dinner was delicious, the company was great. My hypothesis , positive thoughts and outlook leads to positivity, since I had a wonderful afternoon and evening. I read somewhere a quote , I am not sure whose. I love the quote

“Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.”

 

Posted in Musings

Breakfast,Coffee and music etc

I am going through a new phase. The mornings now a days are very dear to me, unlike earlier, where I used to feel like battering the clock when the alarm would go off in the morning. I am not sure how long this phase will last, but it is here and I am going to bask in it. There is a serenity in the morning  sitting  by the kitchen door, listening to  music playing on the radio, munching on hot, home-cooked breakfast, sipping hot coffee, watching the birds swoop in and perch on tree tops or on fences, beads of dew glistening on the grass and feeling the warmth of the coffee and of the morning sun .  It awakens the senses with a gentle nudge, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the dew soaked green grass, the music, the aroma of warm breakfast wafting in the kitchen, the birds with their open wings swishing around, the sounds,smells and sights mingling together, kind of lulls the mind in to silence. The unwanted thoughts and chattering of the mind vanish like a vapour. The tranquillity of standing by and watching the little nuances of life is wonderful.I have a sense of contentment, and as if this is the moment I was waiting for, a moment of peace, a state of mind,being in present. I truly understood the meaning of the Italian phrase ” Dolce far Niente” made so famous by the book Eat, Pray and Love. Ah the sweetness of doing nothing !!!

It all started with a nagging feeling to take a break from work and prompted me take a soul searching trip to Southern India. Thanjavur- the rice basket of south, will always have a fond place in my heart, where I have had beautiful trip with my friends and had felt a sense of peace there. I always wanted to revisit the place and I grabbed the opportunity with both my hands when it arose and am glad to say, I went there again. Here is a little account my trip to Thanjavur.

 

Temple towns of Tamil Nadu-Thanjavur