Thursday, May 31, 2018

Movie Review: Veere di Wedding

When the trailer of Veere di Wedding came out, I immediately knew it was one to watch with my girl friends. With work, kids and home, these chickas have a tough time coming out of the house alone - but they managed and I am so glad.

In one word, we absolutely LOVED the movie!

From the first scene to the last, the movie had us hooked. Since I don't intend to give out the story, I will not write the narrative here. And since I am no expert on screenplay, editing, lyrics, dialogues - I will not write about that either.

But whatever all that means - I LOVED it!!

You see the movie has certain punches that make you roll on the floor. I don't care about girls saying the cuss-words, and frankly they don't make me laugh. I am so glad the movie was much more than that.

Veere di Wedding is about the modern Indian girl and all that goes in her mind. Yes, they could have gone to Goa instead of Phuket to make it more relatable to the middle-class us, but then how would they show us the amazing clothes and interiors that left us all drooling throughout.

There was never a dull moment in the movie, no melodrama, no putting the men down or anything - it was about human relationships and the women actually made us laugh throughout. SO rare in Indian cinema where men get all the humourous quotes.

As for female bonding - ah, there are so many scenes that made me wish I could go for a holiday with my girl friends. The bond we share as girls is incomparable and it is shown so beautifully in the film. Like they have a fight in one scene and they just go on a holiday in the next - no offense taken by any of them. They stand up for each other, pull each other's leg, share secrets, bitch about each other, fight and make up - all signs of incredible female bonding.

Yes, this is a chick film. But men may enjoy it as well. For a change they will get to see our side of the story. Go for it peeps, and see the likes of Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Tansania take you in the world of female friendship which is a laugh riot.

The Punjabi tadka in the movie is hilarious. And the songs - oh Tareefan and Bhangra Ta Sajda are just my favourite. There is another song - Pappi - the choreography for which is so funny!

There is one thing though which I did not like - they have given out almost all the punch lines in the trailer. That reduced the fun I had... anyway! I hope some people don't reject the movie just because the women in it are not typical of majority of us, or they abuse in the movie, or the movie reminds them of Sex and The City. I hope they take it as how it is - a fun film showing female bonding, strong women who can stand up for themselves and, just, cheap thrills!

Go watch it with your veeras.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Dual in One - Our Happily Ever After!

Dual hearts, one soul, drama non-stop - in a Selfie!

Once upon a time
Not in Riverdale
Archie met his Betty
To start a fairytale.

They chatted about the world
And had common dreams
Far from the usual
They loved the same themes.

Love blossomed 
They wanted to EXPERIENCE MORE
After they said "I do"
A beautiful life they began to EXPLORE.

If a picture could speak
This filmy one is the one
That defines their dreamy life
The drama, their love and the fun.

Once upon a time
Not in Riverdale,
Archie met his Betty 
And this is their fairytale…

The story behind this selfie? Let's go back in time to LEARN MORE!

Archie meets Betty

It was the night of April 13, 2003. I had given my second-year psychology paper in the afternoon and was feeling pretty good about it. My computer was on and the green flower of the ICQ messenger service icon was blinking on my status bar. Like a normal 20-year-old female in India, I was receiving several messages asking my ASL (Age-Sex-Location, duh!).

By now I had been using the Internet for about 3 years and could easily filter the jerks from those who had some potential. A window popped up that caught my attention:

archie29: Will you be my Veronica?

It was cheesy and cute at the same time. And since I had a nick name that was just as ‘interesting’, I decided to respond:

rhythmdivine: Nah, I am more the Betty types.

Those two lines were the beginning of a life-long romance. Several chats later photographs were exchanged. Though looks don’t matter, I was glad he didn’t look like a character from The Hulk and he was just happy that I was a girl.

You know, boys!

We lived some 1000 km apart and were both studying. There was no easy way for us to meet. On my first birthday as chat friends we wanted to CELEBRATE MORE, and so we both decided to buy a web camera. It was then we had our first picture together, a different kind of selfie experience!

Perfect Selfie? - well, the best was yet to come!

Chat friends in a Selfie

Boy meets Girl

To LEARN MORE about us, in October 2004, on his way to his brother's wedding, he decided to take a detour and hop on a train to my city - Lucknow. I was a nervous wreck, and he was a naive and geeky IITian who had no clue how to impress girls. 

Unslept, unshaven, he walked towards me. The first time our eyes met, I cannot say I was impressed!

The second day was better when he looked more human. Several hours of real-life chatting later, he left. Cupid had done its work, now it was upto destiny to decide our fate.

Six months later, he got admission in IIM Lucknow. He came again, only this time, we were not chat friends, but a real life couple. 

Our second picture together was in a Cyber Cafe from their webcam! We were trying to perfect the art of taking good pictures together!

Besties in a Selfie!

Boy dates Girl

Our dates were discreet and short. I come from a conservative family and seeing me with a boy was not my parent's favourite choice. We were extremely cautious and met only in locations which were far from my place. Also, we were both doing our MBA from different colleges and between our tight schedules, semester exams, project reports and assignments, there was little time to love. 

Needless to say, it was an awful lot of fun and an adventure in its own way. Thankfully free calling between two numbers was introduced and our tiny handsets helped us cruise smoothly. There was no selfie camera in our phones, so he bought a digital camera with his meager pocket money. 

The timer setting helped us click a few pictures, and this one remains my favourite. But did we want more? - You bet!

Lovers in a Selfie

Boy and Girl say "I do"

After 4.5 years of being best friends and then lovers, we decided that we needed to stay together. Although we were both starting our careers and had absolutely no money to start a household, we couldn't wait any longer to declare our love to the world. 

We told our families and after a few days of anxious moments, we got hitched! Again a mirror helped in giving us a different kind of selfie experience! Although I wish it had captured MORE!

Bahu in Selfie

Boy and Girl in a new country

He got a job in the island country of Bahrain and moved there. My dependent Visa took nearly four months - a phase which was more trying than any other time in our lives. It was like we were not meant to get married that soon. 

After several visits to the passport office, immigration departments in India and in Bahrain, hopping  between my house and my in-laws place, my Visa was stamped and I landed in the tiny island country to be reunited with my husband.

Our reunion was like none other and we spent the next few months exploring the new country and our new life.

We were free for the first time and could date without being scared of being caught by a family member! It was one of the best years of my life and this mirror selfie captures it beautifully. If this picture is not perfect, then what is? Well, wait for it!

Man and wife in a Selfie

Boy and Girl travel the world

After two years of making a little bit of money we wanted to ENJOY MORE and so, we set our foot outside Asia. We travelled to France and Switzerland, to Turkey and Greece, to USA and Jamaica, and several other countries. Since we are not tripod kind of people and almost never ask strangers for taking our pictures, we  hardly ever had pictures together before the time front camera finally arrived.

Our memories were etched in our minds, the unforgettable trips were marked in our hearts, and the few couple pictures that we had in our digital cameras, made for great mementos. 

In our nine years of travel, my favourite country is Czech Republic. This picture captures the fairytale that has been our life. But perfection needs more work!

Travellers in a Selfie

Boy and Girl bug each other

As you can see from these pictures, Archie has lost a fair amount of hair. I've got some grey hair as well although I still look like I did in 2004, like I always will!

We have our moments of annoying each other, some arguments here and there, and a fair share of khit-pit

In these moments, I can raise my voice but he cannot. That is just a rule in our house. So what does he do to show his frustration? To CREATE MORE drama, he enacts his inner feelings! Not to be a buzzkill or anything, these are definitely NOT my perfect selfies!

Buggers in a Selfie
Buggers in a Selfie

Boy and Girl click perfect pictures

In the fourteen years that we have known each other, we have several pictures together. If I try to remember, most pictures have a story behind it. There have been countless times when he won't take a perfect picture and I would scream at him. Sometimes he won't take the background properly, on other times he would miss my complete dress! We have had fights because he is so repulsive to capturing a moment perfectly. 

However, In this new era,  we did manage to have a favorite selfie. It was clicked in the parks of Amsterdam while I was loving every bit of this amazing city.

I feel that this picture defines our life - dreamy like a poem, dramatic like a film, and perfect like a fairlytale. It captures our love for travel, our crazy poses, the precious moments in the process. It smells like freshly watered grass and oozes of romance...Ah, to me it is just perfect.

Hero Heroine in a Selfie!

I am glad I was online that night. I am glad I responded to a random stranger. I am glad he found his Veronica in me. 'Cause we were meant to be... we are DUAL IN ONE!

Dual in one? The title of this post is inspired by the latest  Mobiistar phone  that has a  front, dual selfie camera which  can capture 120 degree wide angle shot. Just like we aim to EXPLORE MORE in life, the brand promises us to "Enjoy More" through the products functionality.  Now my favourte selfie can have more of the location it has been captured in, including my full dresses! I am also waiting to try the potrait mode in all its glory. All of this for budget conscious people like us.

We aim to create many more memories and experience more of this beautiful life. To RESTORE MORE of these moments, Mobiistar phone's camera sounds exactly what we need!

Breakfast at Doctor's!

It was a Monday morning, the last one before one of my besties, A, was going to join work after a long hiatus. We had always loved our breakfasts together and so we had planned an outing on this day. This last selfie from our breakfast that lasted more than 4 hours was our inspiration.

Me, A and S

It couldn't capture the beautiful dining area though. More on that later.

Four hours of breakfast? You ask. Well, the three of us are big chatterboxes. Sometimes we have started our breakfast at 10 in the morning, went to someone's place after we were done, told the boys to join us for coffee in the evening and then had dinner together. Our breakfasts are always epic!

Not just breakfasts, we love to dance! Every time we have gone out with the boys in the evening, we have partied till 5 a.m.. This one remains our favourite cocktail party where we stayed for almost 10 hours.

The backgroud
The girls - Me, S and A

This was no ordinary party. And the background of this picture was more creative than our matching skirts. It was S's son's first birthday party and we did a stage performance on various peppy numbers. The decor was mind-blowing and we had incredible fun.

The picture couldn't capture the entire background.

Anyway, coming back to that fateful Monday morning.

A night before we had an event where there was a buffet in a lavish five star hotel. I ate fish and chicken and salad - none of which was appetizing. So much for free food in a luxury hotel? I couldn't be more unhappy.

I was feeling weird in my stomach at night but I ignored it and went to bed.

That morning I woke up at 4 a.m. and threw up in the toilet. The picture wasn't looking too bright. I took a medicine in a hope that I would be fine in a few hours.

At 7 a.m, there was an action replay. I messaged my girls that I was not feeling too well and would not be able to go for breakfast. It was heartbreaking but what can one do in an emergency situation!

After listening to my woes on messenger, S called me and asked if I wanted to go and see a doctor. Now I am heavily averse to medications and believe in home remedies. I told her I have taken meds and ORS and was not feeling that bad.

The husband asked me the same question and I told him I was fine and sent him off to work.

Within an hour, the situation got much worse than it was in the morning. I had never felt so ill in my entire life. I hesitantly picked up the phone and told S that we could go see a doctor.

Since I was not able to contain even a sip of water the doctor suggested that I should take antibiotics from an intravenous drip. I nearly jumped up from my seat! I had never had a needle inserted in my hand for any kind of stuff to go inside me. He was suggesting antibiotics and glucose for initial recovery.

I called up the husband and told him about my agony. He said he would come from office and help me through the ordeal. Since S was by my side, I took the brave decision to go for it alone. It was anyways not that bad that people should leave work to tend to their wives!

We went to the emergency room and got the procedure started. The nurse said that the entire course of medication will take 3 hours. Just for little food poisoning? Oh, I was furious.

Now A was at home not knowing what to do with her last day of freedom. Since there was nothing life threatening, we invited A over to the hospital.

3 hours of chit-chatting later, we looked like this.

Oh, we had a hard time containing our voices since we didn't want to disturb other patients. The nurse was smiling all throughout looking at us!

Now why is this my all-time favourite selfie with these girls when we have so many other cool pictures including the one in jazzy, sequence skirt?

This picture captures the true essence of friendship - in sickness and in health. We may party till wee hours in the morning. We may laugh like maniacs in the restaurants at breakfast. We may pull each other's legs all the time. We may abuse each other. But when it comes to need, we are there for each other no matter what.

It is that simple. It is pure, unadulterated version of friendship.

As for this breakfast, it was epic like all others and continued till the evening at my place where we came back so that I can 'rest'! Afterall, it was the last day we can hang out before A would join work.

I told you, we don't leave any opportunity to ENJOY MORE and have a great SELFIE EXPERIENCE. If we had a phone with dual, front, 120 degree angle camera, like the one in Mobiistar, our pictures would have been even better. The birthday party would have been captured with the background and the breakfast selfie would have the decor and well, the breakfast!

Let's reserve that for next breakfast - more backgrounds, more portraits, more laughter and definitely more food!

Monday, May 21, 2018

BFF's Reunite - A perfect Selfie moment!

She's got what it takes - read the newspaper article headline on my talented friend Ruchika's feature in the Lucknow Times. She was a super-star in her school and our college thereafter. We tagged along in her picture and gathered some limelight as well! In an age when there were no selfies, this picture became our go-to group picture whenever we needed to share memories.

Lucknow Times, Year 2003. From Left to Right:
Latika, Ruchika, Me, Prachi, Yosha

For those few years - me, Ruchika, Yosha, and Prachi - the four of us were inseparable. We went to the college together, took the same coaching classes, ate at the same restaurants, bunked the same classes, had the same dreams, wore the same clothes, went to the same places for dates, had the same code words for being secretive, the works.

We were living in our tiny city and our own sweet world. We found happiness in small things and had a wonderful 3 years of graduation. While people in metros were spending time drinking and clubbing, we were living the good, old, traditional lifestyle in our city of Nawabs.

Do we regret it? Not even one bit.

You see, after graduation every one moved away and had their share of partying. Prachi dealt with the struggles of living in Mumbai and then Hyderabad. Yosha adjusted to a very difficult life in the hostel of Allahabad. And Ruchika, our super-star, went to Pune to pursue her dreams. My conservative family wouldn't send me anywhere and so I did my MBA in my city.

We made new friends but constantly missed each other. We shared stories over emails which were shared at least once a week. From struggles to break-ups to marriage proposals, those emails became a constant source of support for the longest time.

Whenever we met during summer, winter or Diwali breaks, it was like before. The warmth was exactly the same and we poured our hearts out to each other sharing stories and anecdotes from our new life.

It became increasingly difficult for us to meet after we finished our studies. Each one of us was caught up in work and so it became difficult for us to be at the same place at the same time.

The emails continued. Boyfriends turned into husbands. Whatsapp took over. Journalists became Senior Correspondents. Managers became Country heads. Babies came into the world. And life changed dramatically.

With so many responsibilities who had the time to meet in the same city from four different corners of the world? When it was more than 4 years since our last meeting, I vowed to bring us all together in 2017.

We planned a year in advance and booked our tickets. Ruchika made sure she was free from her busy schedule in Noida, Prachi scheduled her meetings in Delhi, Yosha readied her guest rooms for us, and I happily traveled from Bahrain to India.

I was slightly hesitant - I had never stayed with Yosha in her house which she shared with her husband. My trip was for four nights and I was a little concerned if it will all go well.

That anxiety turned into a lot of joy within 2 hours of meeting. Yosha was her own chirpy self and we chatted till wee hours in the morning. It was like we had never parted.

When the other two joined in the next morning, it was graduation all over again. We giggled and laughed and had a riot. Any outsider would have seen us like four maniacs from another era.

Selfie 2017 - Just like fresh graduates!!
From Left to Right: Yosha, Prachi, Me and Ruchika

From late night gossip to secret tales
From knowing your parents to knowing your children
From understanding without speaking to endless chatter
From classmates to besties to soul sisters
From childhood to eternity.

This Selfie captures those wonderful four days that we spent with each other after life changing events that happened in our lives. It is my favourite 'cause it has captured infinite love that I was scared I might have lost. It was like time has stood still and we still connected at the same level like we did 15 years back. We have made and will make many new friends but this bond will stay the same forever.

What could make this picture even better if it would have captured the kids and husbands hovering in the back ground. That would have only been possible with a wide angle Selfie camera like the one in Mobiistar phone that comes with a front, dual camera with 120 degree angle so that we can capture more. Ah, well, maybe next time. And this time I won't let 4 long years pass without meeting.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Caribbean Tales - 3 days in Antigua and Barbuda

We thought all Caribbean destinations looked the same - blue skies, white sand beaches, clear waters. Well, we couldn't have been more wrong. Apart from similar ports, each destination in our itinerary was different!

After a mellow St. Kitts, we landed in Antigua with Liat airlines. We were just grateful that our luggage had safely arrived, misinformation regarding time did not matter after the horrifying tales I had read online.

We chose to stay in Siboney Beach Club Hotel in Dickenson Bay since it suited our budget and looked like a perfect hotel to stay in. Apart from getting a crappy room, everything went perfect! Ha! We are positive people you see.

The beach was literally 10 steps from our room and it was indeed a white sand beach. Coconut Grove restaurant and Anna's on the Beach made the bay really pretty with their decor. The food at both places was yum, especially the seared Mahi Mahi in Coconut Grove.

It was a Sunday evening and I had read that if you are staying in town you must visit Shirley Heights for this night. The place was worth all the adulation it receives - great food, amazing DJ and Steel band, absolutely perfect casual setting, romantic under a moon-lit sky... my first amazing holiday moment had arrived.

The views of English Harbour from Shirley Heights. 

The moon-lit sky at Shirley Heights.

Now let me tell you about Antigua's biggest problem - this island is designed in such a way that there are absolutely no pavements for pedestrians. If you have to go from one place to the other, you have to call for a taxi. And these taxis ain't cheap! Our trip to Shirley heights and back cost us a bomb, but we were determined to go. We crossed a huge stretch of island before reaching our destination. Wood and Cinder block homes lined a few roads and as we passed St. Johns, the capital, we could see the Caribbean life up close. We would come here the next day - today it was about Shirley heights!

Our driver was an interesting man - with four marriages and eleven children, he had his hands full! He waited for us while we hung out, danced and ate to take us back at 10 p.m., when the venue closes.

The next day we took a dip in the very tempting ocean. A pre-wedding video shoot was going on that made the destination look more picturesque. Although I must tell you, Dickenson Bay only had cruise ship passengers who were mostly in their sixties or above. This place didn't look like it was for the younger generation. I wondered where the Shirley Heights crowd went!

After posing in the great outdoors myself, we ate at Anna's on the Beach. This restaurant had a
dreamy setting and a small, but delicious menu. Post a hearty meal, we left to see the port area in St. Johns.

Now this is one area that we liked more in St. Kitts. Basseterre was lively, while St. Johns was tiny and underwhelming. Maybe because Antigua had other things to do, cruise passengers did not stay in this area for long. The by-lanes in St. Kitts had much more to offer than Antigua.

We came back quite early in the evening and thought of going to a restaurant mid-way. But like I told you, getting from point A to point B was a big concern and so we decided to eat at Dickenson Bay.

Even there, walking 200 meters from our hotel was not easy. At night the area was poorly lit and had uneven ground. We wanted a change in dinner menu and so ended up at Putters Bar and Grill. Thank God for a time-share accommodation in the area - otherwise I can't imagine how deserted the entire place would have been at night!

Our third day was spent exploring the entire island. Antigua has a mixed economy - from filthy rich to extremely poor - you can see it all on the way. Most hotels are all-inclusive giving no chance for the restaurant business to boom. The dark history of sugar plantations and slavery is evident in various parts of the island. Tourism is island's prime source of income and a large amount of money flows in from American and European clientèle.

The famous Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium that we saw from a distance

We went to the second most famous beach - Jolly Beach and Harbour. Even with hundreds of visitors, this beach was picture perfect. We had an Indian meal at Castaways and enjoyed our time here. We like places with a bit of a crowd and a good scenery, this was ideal. I could clearly see shady activities going on in the area when a man came and congratulated my husband on having a very beautiful wife! Yes, he wanted to sell us something that we won't smoke - at least not in the Caribbean!

Nelson's Dockyard was again a postcard-worthy place. In another era, the yard served as a naval base to protect British West Indies from French incursions. Now it looked like a picturesque place to sit back and drink nice cocktails! We barely spent any time here and thought of going back to our favourite Dickenson Bay. Devils bridge and Betty's hope were on other side of the island, and we had run out of cash for taxi fare!

Antigua's roads are fairly easy to drive but we prefer to play it safe. We do have a hefty amount to pay for commute, but that's our contribution to their economy!

We walked back and forth on our beach, took in as many romantic moments as we could, loved the sound of the sea and totally relished each moment. We were perfecting the art of a perfect holiday - Eat, Drink, Beach and Chill. The three days were filled with moderate activity and were good fun. A beach destination is meant to relax anyway, and relax we did. And if I had to do it again, I will stay at the same place and do the same things. Only this time, I wouldn't take the hotel's lowest category room!

It was our 9th wedding anniversary on the day we travelled from Antigua to Jamaica, an island I was most looking forward to visit...

Previous Post: St. Kitts & Nevis

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Oh! Darling.. #SayYesToTheWorld

Me: Mum, he doesn't buy me any presents.
Mum: He is showing you the world, what else can you ask for?
Me: Hmm! Indian mother-in-law.

Did she read Alice in Wonderland though?

To be frank, I did not love the world. I was afraid of unknown places, people from different races, losing my belongings, getting robbed, feeling extremely anxious before taking flights,  - yes, paranoid to be exact. I lived in one city for 26 years of my life, travelled only to the hill station next door and went to nani's house once every couple of years. Living out of a suitcase? - never did, never thought I ever would.

And then I married him. When I said 'I do', I didn't realise I was saying yes to a life full of adventures. He did not promise me the world, yet he took me everywhere. Without even realising I fell in love again, only this time it was with the world and the man who was my partner in all my journeys.

Our first trip outside Asia was into Switzerland. Apart from breath-taking Alps, I witnessed a life changing phenomenon. A couple in their seventies lived in the room next to ours. One look at them and I thought how cool is their retired life. They have come here to sit back, relax and soak in the nature.

The next day we met them on a hiking trail in their crisp white pants walking briskly past us. The lady climbed the hills like a swift animal and had the brightest radiance on her skin. Sit back and relax? - the Gen X oldies were fitter than their younger counterparts!

After I came back, I made sure I exercised every single day. I had found my deepest travel inspiration – I wanted to be strong and fit even when I was seventy so that I could be like them. 

Every year when we took that annual holiday, I saw more of them. I saw them walk past me because they were sturdier. In Greece, I saw a bunch of women in their seventies riding the toy train and laughing uncontrollably – I sent the 2050 plan to my gal pals. I saw them relishing the beauty of nature much more than me because they were wiser. Frankly, each one of them influenced me. I came back after every holiday stronger in my resolute to stay fit and travel the world as I grew older.

But that is not all that the last 25 countries have taught me.

I was on a train once, crossing a city in central Europe. We were late to board and there were hardly any seats available. I walked from cabin to cabin only to find one vacant seat next to a girl who was probably twenty years old. I asked her if I could sit - she refused rather rudely.

I felt racially discriminated. If that was not enough, she gave the seat to another white girl just fifteen minutes later in the ride! On deeper thought I remembered how we differentiate between fair and dark-skinned people in our own country. We have always been critical of racism towards us even though we are inherently racist ourselves.

Honestly, I was one of them. I liked anyone with a fair skin (except that girl on the train!) and was vary of those who were not of my favourite colour. I was shallow and I knew it. I blamed it on my upbringing, but I realised that after a certain age, it was up to me to change my views. I felt ashamed that even though I was well-read, wise for my age, and more sensitive than most of the people around me, I treated people differently – at least in my head.

All that changed after my trip to the Caribbean islands. On my visit to Jamaica I felt that African-American community was the sweetest in the world. I have never felt so welcomed in any country like how I did in the land of Bob Marley. They were kind, sweet and so helpful. I loved their enthusiasm in life and how they talked. I tried to imitate them, walk like them, basically be cool like them! If you want to learn how to live your life – those are the people you should look up to.

Honest confession – I even had a tiny crush on a guide for like an hour! I was surprised at myself for feeling that way. I was even relieved that now I was where I wanted to be. I wish that girl on the train travelled the world so she could see the beauty in its people. I love the world for making me the person I have become. I owe it big time!

I also owe my confidence to this sweet world. One day I was Googl'ing my way into the world when I got a ping. It was from a person I barely spoke to but was connected on social media. To my surprise she asked me details about a destination I had been to a few months back.

I asked her about her preferences and helped her make a detailed itinerary for the same country. She was the first of many more who got in touch with me later...

You see, I am a housewife. People of the world look down upon the likes of me. Having no kids doesn't make the picture look any prettier. Travelling changed that for me. Since the husband's only contribution to our travels is his awesome wit and a half-loaded credit card, I know my places to the T. I choose our destinations, book our tickets, reserve hotels, make itineraries, pack our bags, be a pain in the back-side when we are on a vacation, etc.

That gives me an edge over other women who book through travel agents or leave everything to the man of the house. I don't know why I started it, but I post detailed albums on social networking sites. I do it as a hobby, but you won't believe the kind of confidence people around me have shown in my abilities as a pseudo travel agent.

A few chats with my free-loader clients a.k.a friends/cousins

After posting a few albums, I started getting messages from people I barely spoke to for help regarding their travel plans. I helped a cousin plan his entire Europe trip, I assisted a new mom in deciding a relaxed vacation with her three children, I managed to find a fun birthday celebrations venue for a group of friends... the list is endless. 

Imagine my happiness when someone told me that before planning a vacation they look at my albums for help. There are times when I have to turn down requests because I have not been to a particular location! I tell them I haven't been everywhere, but it is on my list!

Do I love the world now? YESSSSS!!! It has given me everything I never thought I wanted yet it was everything I ever needed. Life is all about happiness, oozing with confidence, being loving towards one another, staying healthy - travel has given me all that and so much more.

Travel has given me dreams. I stay healthy for those dreams. I save every penny I can to fulfill those dreams. I tell everyone around me - divide your earnings in three parts - one, for necessities; two, save as much as you can for old age; then use the rest to travel beyond your city. There is no better gift you can give yourself.

Needless to say, I can't believe I agree with my mom. He did give me the best gift. And the adventure continues..

Monday, April 2, 2018

Of Flying, Finding Beautiful people and Saying Yes to the World

Most people I know love to travel but hate long flights. Then there are those who refuse to travel just because the plane journey is tiring. It is arduous no doubt – sitting in one place for hours, waking up fellow passengers when you need to get past them to use the loo, difficulty in falling asleep, border controls, the works. I cribbed about all this too until one day when I realised that a difficult journey can turn into one of the most beautiful experiences of one’s life – let me tell you a little bit about it.

This is a story of one New Year’s Eve – a joyful gift from my travelling experiences.

I had travelled to Mumbai for my cousin’s wedding. Even though my schedule had been tight, I made sure I was there for her big day. I was selfish as well – I wanted to meet my entire family and also explore how the city had changed over the last few years since my last visit in 2009.

I had to go without the husband for this one because he had no leaves from his office. The wedding ceremony was to be held on 30th December leaving no choice but for me to come back to my guy on 31st to celebrate New Year’s eve. I had a gala time during the wedding festivities and all my cousins in Mumbai coaxed me to stay for the party on 31st, but I politely declined.

You see, kissing the husband at midnight is a tradition for us and I didn’t want to miss it for the world!

My flight was to leave at 18:30 hours; considering the time difference and short flight, I would have landed in Bahrain at 20:30, giving me enough time to get ready and hit a club. I had thought of the dress that I was going to wear, our friends were first going to come home so I had even discussed our food menu that we were going to order, we had tickets for the venue …the night was well-planned.

In Mumbai, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport was a breeze. I bought a neck pillow to get some sleep because I hadn’t got any in the last few days. At the boarding gate I saw a family that I had earlier seen on my way to Mumbai as well – same dates, I thought to myself.

There was a talk going on between a group of friends that I overheard. They were planning their New Year’s eve in Dubai if the plane diverted. I laughed to myself - with Dubai traffic, there was no way they would be able to reach any party venue after landing even if the plane diverted. And WHY would it divert?

And then I understood why. There were a number of people at the gate who were in distress. The morning flight from Mumbai to Bahrain had been canceled due to unexpected fog and a lot of the stranded passengers were being accommodated in this much bigger plane. Some had missed connections, few had left home some 20 hours before for the morning flight but were stuck here, a couple were fighting to get each other a seat, kids were uncomfortable, the stories of miseries were endless.  

Looking at how chatty the whole area was, it seemed to me that there were no strangers around here – isn’t it is amazing how people come together in times like these?

We finally boarded thirty minutes later. I opened my phone and saw an episode of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. After my meal, I slept like a log.

When I woke up, we were only forty-five minutes away from Bahrain. I opened the sky map and smiled to myself. I love reuniting with the husband like this – feels like I am in a movie!

Suddenly I saw the plane take a U-turn. My worst fears had come true. We were being diverted to Abu Dhabi airport for the night since Bahrain airport had decided to shut down at 19.45 till further notice due to extreme fog and very poor visibility.

All the passengers were taken to the waiting lounge. The first thing I did was to call the husband and tell him that the New Year’s Eve was ruined. There was no way I could come. I borrowed a charger from someone and charged my phone for the rest of the ordeal. They gave us food coupons and advised us to rest.

I looked around – most people were with their spouses. There were a group of people sitting and chatting. I went up to them and discussed everything that was happening. In the end all I could say to them was that atleast they had each other to which one replied, ‘You also have us.’ That got me all teary eyed and I called the husband again to mourn!

There was a school teacher with her husband who wanted to send flight status to her children waiting for them in Bahrain. Their phone could not catch the free wi-fi. I noted the number of the children and messaged them from my phone on her behalf. She was so grateful and joyous that she repeatedly called me an angel. I felt like my mother was with me.

Amongst all these people there was one lady walking around frantically. Since she was also alone like me, I thought I’ll check with her if she wanted to take the airport hotel room and sleep in there. She readily agreed. On our way, we, along with five other people first checked into the airport lounge.
The television was on where they were showing New Year eve’s fireworks across the world. We were stuck in three time zones – India, U.A.E and Bahrain and had lost track of time. It was 12 a.m. and a fellow passenger got a message from her husband to atleast take a glass of wine and celebrate.

We all got a glass from the bar and became a close-knit family at that moment. We cheered to 2018 and thought of this unique experience as one that we would remember for life. None of us were finding faults with anyone or anything. This was nature’s doing and nothing could be done about it. At that moment we formed a Whatsapp group so that even if we lose each other at the airport, we can keep track of the latest information and tell each other about it.

There was no room available in the hotel and so we found a few sofas in the lounge. I usually travel with just my sling bag and so I had nothing to cover myself. My fellow single passenger who was always with me that night gave me her sweater from her trolley bag. After that, I slept comfortably for a few hours.

We woke up at 6 a.m. and chatted with so many in the lounge. There was not a soul who was fretting or finding faults. Everyone was very patient and was waiting for 8 a.m. to look for the announcements regarding the flight’s departure to Bahrain.

We took a nice shower, ate our breakfast and chatted some more. At 11 a.m. we boarded our plane. I was so tired from all this that I fell asleep. I woke up after one hour and the plane was still where it was when I had fallen asleep! I could now hear people losing their patience.

It was then I realised how hard it would have been for the airline staff. From answering our queries all night, to being extremely calm when people were losing their patience, they were the stars of the night. All of them had been away from their family as well on this occasion, and unlike the passengers, they were on duty. The air-hostess told me how she was surprised at the positive attitude of the travellers – she was prepared for some serious bashing! I felt proud of us.

We landed in Bahrain at 2 p.m. and said our goodbyes. A 4-hour journey took us 18 hours yet all of us were surprisingly calm. I was finally reunited with my husband for our new-year eve kiss!

Needless to say, I did not see a single picture from the bash he went to without me. And I believed every bit when he said he missed me! My concern was that I didn’t miss anything and relished each moment of this experience. 

I love the world for this. Exploration has made me see how beautiful people are – inside and out. The lady who called me an angel, the girl who told me I had their company for the new year’s eve celebration, the lady who gave me her expensive cashmere for the night, the three people who gave me their phone chargers, the woman who waited for me at the bottom of the plane’s stairs to help me climb because she knew I had a problem, the man who got us all chocolates in the morning, the air-hostess who handled it all with a smile… I will remember them all.

Like they say – journey is more important than the destination and the people you meet along the way make it all worthwhile. Small problems like lack of leg room for a few hours is nothing in front of the beautiful experience you can have in being a world traveller. Say yes to the world and you would also vouch for the same.