Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Baby Shower for the Sweetest one!

I had heard that you can make best friends only in school/college. However, I would like to tell the world that if you have your heart in the right place, you can and you will find them at every stage of your life.

And so I met A when I got married and moved to Bahrain. Although our personalities are poles apart, we connect at so many other levels and love each other to the core. She understands me extremely well and I try my best to do the same. She's loving, caring and certainly the sweetest person you will ever meet. Special people like her need to be treated in an equally special way and so, we planned a baby shower at my place for her this weekend. Here is a poem from that (Oh, I tend to write poems for my close friends on their special occasions!) and a few pictures:

The bestest girl in the whole world is going to have twins,
Double the love, double the joy and multiply by two grins!

She met the daddy at a wedding some 12 years ago,
Love blossomed, rings were exchanged and now they are the sweetest couple we know.

The excess of 'Luv' in their home needed another angel,
God blessed, sent His favorite two, and added to their stable!

We think these babies will inherit the good looks and definitely be hard workers,
Very lovable, absolutely charming and definitely be high 'performers'!

Lots of love to the mommy and daddy to be - they deserve the very best
And thank them for the babies too, like them we also feel blessed!

Photo Booth!

Wishes in Poetry

Our favourite part of the decoration

It's a Baby Shower!

Wish her and her babies lots of love and good health!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Trip Report - Aiya Napa, Cyprus

There are a lot of people out there who have not heard of Cyprus. I don’t blame them – it is a tiny island, not marketed like Seychelles and comes lower in the ranking from its neighbours - Greece and Turkey. Since I have been to both (Greece and Turkey), I can safely tell you that the beaches in Cyprus are way better.

Obviously a few people will disagree with me since I have not seen ALL beaches in those two countries. But what I can tell you from what I have seen – you will get more value from what you see in Cyprus than what you will see elsewhere.

Crystal, CRYSTAL clear water

We decided to take a short trip to this island this Eid. I had read that July and August are the busiest months in the country and also the best time to visit the beaches. Since our visit to Greece, particularly Mykonos, was in the off-season and hence a total let-down, we thought it was better to go when there are crowds.

Frankly, I had no expectations. We have a couple of friends who have been there and told us it was ‘nice’. No pictures, no details, just nice! This was an indication that they did not really enjoy their holiday but did not want to discourage us either since everyone perceives a place in his or her own way. Anyway, we still went because we wanted to and took a direct flight which was just 3.5 hours and it was the fastest since I was lost in a book (To Kill a Mockingbird – awesome it is.).

Wine, poetry and a book on a plane to a new destination -
Life can be absolutely perfect sometimes!

Before I tell you about our visit, let me tell you a little about the country. Cyprus is around 9000 kilometre square in area. The west is known for Greek Mythology. The east is known for its lovely, sandy beaches. The capital of Cyprus is Nicosia which is located in the centre of the country and is also the last divided capital in the world.
By divided I mean that Northern Cyprus was occupied by Turkey in the 1970’s and still is out of bounds for Greek Cypriots. They need a passport to enter the region, just like any other person. It is sort of another country within the same country. While you drive around Cyprus, you can see the divisions. There are a lot of checkpoints throughout the region where there are proper immigration counters. Oh yes, it is complicated and I feel very bad for them. It is hard to take sides without knowing the entire history, but whatever it is,  it is horrible to be divided like this.

Anyway, the main area for tourists are Paphos in the west, Limassol and Troodos mountains in the centre, Larnaca, Aiya Napa and Protaras in the east. We chose Aiya Napa and Protaras for our 7-day trip since I read that these two towns had the best beaches. The weather was in 30’s during the day -  we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!

On day one we just hung around the harbour and the restaurant street in Aiya Napa. It was long and full of people. I was amazed to see how girls and boys just wore beachwear even on the roads! Yes, girls in bikinis and boys in just their swimming shorts. Although it is not rare, but I have not seen any beach destination where clothes were scarce even far away from the beach! It was a treat for the Boy nevertheless and I sulked on having a bigger body than most of the girls!

A walk near the harbour
Day two was a Sunday. I had read that the most famous beach in Aiya Napa was Nissi beach and they have foam parties on that day. So we had breakfast, took another nap, caught a bus and went to Nissi at around 2. Yes, we were lazy. But Cyprus is a lazy destination where you can start late and end late - just ideal for a holiday!

We went to the far west corner of Nissi because I had seen pictures from the party (yes, planning helps! Otherwise we would have been in a dead corner!). The bar was buzzing and there was not a single sun lounger. The Boy wanted to quit and just take a chair. But I was patient and pleaded him to wait. We found our beds in ten minutes.

Now Nissi beach is by far the best beach I have ever been to in my life. I have seen beaches in Goa (India), San Diego (U.S.A), Oludeniz (Turkey), Nice (France) and Mykonos (Greece). All these places had great beaches but always lacked something or the other. Nissi beach had everything – Clean water, shallow sea (you could walk over a 100 meter without having to swim), had the softest sand, an entertaining bar and very friendly but decent crowd. The sea had little or no waves which is exactly how I like it.

From a sun lounger at Nissi Beach

After swimming/walking(!) in the water for 2 hours, we went to the foam party. They had this huge shower from which they were pouring foam. Fifteen minutes of foam was followed by fifteen minutes of water. Everyone was decent enough to let others have a chance under the water. The foam wasn’t even slippery and it was great fun to be in it and watch others when you weren’t directly under it. Oh boy, it was one interesting party! So much so that we went there on Day 6 as well since there was another foam party then!

Foam Party at Nissi Beach Bar
When I say July and August are the busiest in Cyprus I mean it is the peak party season. Since schools and colleges are closed in Europe and U.S.A, a lot of people throng the area to enjoy the summer. Aiya Napa is clearly the capital for late teens and people in their early 20’s. Apart from a gorgeous beach, they have a street dedicated to club goers and bar hoppers. At first that street was intimidating – there was blaring music from each venue trying to out-do the sound from the other. There were hundreds of people on the street and then there were marketers trying to lure you into their establishment. Since we thought this street was clearly not for people like us (30’s is OLD for Aiya Napa!), we just wandered around and did some people watching.
Touristy picture!

The start of a very long stretch of bars, clubs and pubs.
It was another world. I don’t know if I am over-reacting, but I haven’t seen mad clubbing like I saw in Aiya Napa. Friends tell me Ibiza is similar, only for all ages. But if you happen to go to Aiya Napa in July/August, you would see a unique place in this universe. And I wouldn’t go if I had teenage kids – it’s a little scary out there to watch young men and women trying to be grown-ups…

On Day three we went to Makronissos beach - or atleast we thought we did. The thing about doing a trip on your own on public transport is that you can easily get lost. We got off at a bus stop and followed signs to this beach which was stated to be the best in Cyprus. The marketing guys got us and we headed to an isolated beach where they had a bar and a huge party area. Since we had walked over a kilometer in scorching summer heat, we thought of staying there and not finding the real thing. I wish we could because this area was nothing like what I had read online. It was not bad, but it wasn't the best in Cyprus!Well, adventures make us smarter, don't they?

Beautiful Water

When you don't know what else to do - click pictures!

After two days of sun, sand and beer, we thought it was a good idea to step outside of Aiya Napa and see other areas of Cyprus...

Coming up next - Our trip to Larnaca, Troodos, Nicosia and 3-days in Protaras! 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Eid Break

I did not know I liked traveling till I started doing so. As kids we traveled to Nainital and Mussourie and that was it. When I was an adult, I had a fortune of having a cousin getting married in Dubai, so we visited her place. When I was 23, my uncle decided to be brave and take all his nieces for a trip to the Far East. We had fun; I am sure he did NOT!

When we were getting married, the Boy's job was a tad uncertain. He was so worried about everything that we didn't even plan a honeymoon. A wise person told me that no matter what, you must go on a honeymoon. And so, I persuaded the Boy to atleast buy the tickets. Eventually we did manage to go with just our tickets in our hands and still Goa was perfect.

We were in India back then. Within 2 months of our wedding, we moved to Bahrain. This was a whole new experience for me. I was awe-struck with every aspect of a foreign country. Even though I had visited a few before, living in one was a totally new thing. For the first one year while we were discovering each other we ended up discovering the place as well!

Not only that, we went to Qatar and Kuwait in the process. The Boy worked in a consulting firm and his job required him to travel. He made sure he was given an extra ticket for my visit as well! I learnt how to live in hotel apartments and cook on one electric stove.

Our second holiday was to Ladakh. We initially thought of going to Kashmir but they had security concerns that time. And so, just on a whim, we went to Leh. It was a beautiful place but both me and the Boy had health problems there. When they say it is not for everyone, they are not lying.

Another trip to Dubai with free accommodation at the dear cousin’s place was made that year. Since this time I was with the Boy, the trip was more awesome. Very soon he changed his job and our travel map widened. He had more leaves and we had a little extra money to cover foreign locations.

Our first real trip abroad was France and Switzerland. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed that vacation. I think Europe is really God’s favorite child and He has showered all his blessings on that land. I loved Paris and Nice so much that I wish to spend half our old age there!!

We’ve been to Turkey, U.S.A., Austria, Greece, and Bangladesh after that. Every vacation has been like a dream that I wish never ended. The moment I enter a town I fear that time will fly very soon and I will have to go back home. But it is that fear that makes me love every moment of my journey and motivates me to do everything in my power to embark on the next one. Silly how we constantly need motivation to take life that way.

I’ve been reading tales of people who quit their jobs for the love of traveling. I am not sure how anyone can do that because it can really put your entire future in danger. I, too, believe in living life to the fullest but that doesn’t mean we should shun all responsibilities and go on a world tour!

Anyway, the grapes are sour this side. If I did have the money and security, I would spend all my life in different corners of the world! But since we are normal people with normal amount of security and money, we are just taking a small vacation. I’ll see you on the other side of this week when I come back from Cyprus. Wish me happiness!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Stamped with Love - Khushi ke Pal

Think of authoritative parents and the one figure that comes to your mind is Amreesh Puri from the movie Dilwale Dulhaniya le Jayenge. That man could send shiver down anyone’s spine, let alone his beloved daughter Simran! Anupam Kher, on the other hand, was completely opposite. He was the type of buddy parent to Shahrukh Khan that made you wish you were born in another home, in another era. How amazing their relationship was; it was like the duo had a constant companion without the need of venturing out. 

But this post is not about celebrating the success of the movie; it is about buddy parenting which was very well depicted in it. I was lucky to be born in a family where my mother was like a friend. She never spanked me for anything or gave me any commands. She set examples which I was always happy to follow. To cut the long story short, she knew how to extract ghee with a tedhi ungli!

In the process she became a cool mommy as well. She wore pants to impress me, curled her hair on my insistence, solved sudoku with me and made it her addiction, stayed up-to-date with technology by playing video games, and so much more. So this is dedicated to her – a few postcards that could go to her doorstep and make her day!

That's me and my mother 'reading'!!

Now mommy dearest was addicted to reading whatever was delivered at her door-step. So much so, that when I got Hardy Boys and The Famous Five from the school library, she finished them before I could when I was away! We actually discussed the plots and had so much fun trying to play detective before the suspense was revealed. 

That's where the cake goes - on the left cheek!

You know how birthdays were celebrated at home in 'those' days - chole bhature, chaat, and cake from the local bakery? My brother and my mother teamed against me and colored me white with the cake's cream! But I took revenge, and guess who howled like a baby on her birthday? - you guessed it. 

In the process, we both shed our inhibitions. Embarrassing moments in front of family and friends took our tolerance a tad higher than the rest. She wasn't the timid girl my dad married at 22. As for me, I was learning to say I-don't-give-a-damn from a very early age!

When someone asks for the opinion of a 10 year-old on clothes, what do you think happens? She feels very important, learns to make important decisions and develops oodles of patience!  I was mom's shopping buddy who stood outside trial rooms and gave perfect advice. Well, almost. The trend continues till today and we love how patient we both are towards each other. No 'other' friend or even our respective spouses have reached that level of satisfaction! 

My mother came from a humble background. She studied till class 10, took care of her siblings and then, got married at 22. She got busy handling a household at a very early age. There was absolutely no time for her to enjoy the little things in life. Having a daughter meant having a companion to do all silly things which she missed out on. 

That friendship made my childhood so wonderful and, I guess, gave new meaning to her life.

I pulled your cheek, you swirled me around
I styled your hair; you teased me with a shrieking sound.
One brilliant chef, one in the making,
More than that, buddies who loved laughing.
A confidante, a  Best Friend Forever,
She’s no one else but my adorable Mother!

 I'm glad I shared my 'Khushi ke pal' because of this contest by Kellogg's Chocos and IndiBlogger!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Punjabi Takkar Dating Diary - Entry #8754

Like I’ve mentioned a few times before, I lived a comfortable life in my parent’s home for the first 26 years of my life. I did my schooling, graduation and then MBA from the city of Nawabs and lived like a princess! I was fortunate enough to be born in a well-to-do family and always had the luxury of a driver or my own car to move around. Life was easy and thankfully, still is.

Even then, my parents always taught me how to value money. I was given a meager pocket money and had to bear all my expenses through it. I was given Rs. 5000 a month to spend on my outings, do any shopping if needed, recharge my cell phone and refuel the car. My college was really far so most of the money was spent on petrol.

There was a time when the Boy had gone for a student exchange program to France for three months. The call rates were really high and had to be borne by me since he had already spent a lot of money in traveling abroad. I remember keeping the windows of my car open just so the vehicle will give a higher mileage and I will be able to buy extra recharge for my cell phone!

I was so afraid of being caught by my family that I was dating this guy that I used to get this recharge from several places. I was afraid that the recharge wala uncle will call my parents and let them know! Oh boy, I was scared of my family knowing!

We always dated at the most discreet of places. There was this restaurant at a remote location where none of my family members, friends or relatives could ever come. The location also suited the Boy because his college bus had a stop near-by and he could easily come there. The chicken biryani was modestly priced at Rs. 70 and made for the most sumptuous meal. We were students and living a cheap life!

I started writing this post because I wanted to tell about one particular incident which involved money. Since my father is a businessman, he hardly ever uses any debit/credit card, whereas the Boy and his family don’t use any cash. One time the Boy had to withdraw some money. The ATM was located right outside his college gate and so we stopped there for a bit. My eyes shone when I saw money coming out of a machine – it was such a new and exciting experience for me! The Boy started laughing and still reminds me of the incident. What’s more, I still have the receipt from my first time ever at the ATM!

I am still a princess though who uses the husband’s credit card and asks him to withdraw money whenever I have the need. I am still careful with money whenever we need to save. I still splurge on priorities and compromise on luxuries if I have to. I am grateful to God that He has given us enough, but I am more grateful that He has taught me to value my privileges.

Substitute and Balance #HoneyDietIsHere

Going on a healthy diet every now and then is like second nature to me. Not that I love eating greens and sprouts and non-greasy food, but I understand the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and its long term benefits.

Our generation has grown up on all kinds of unhealthy food items. We started with noodles in childhood, had lots of ice-creams and literally lived in the school canteen during break time. Even though the pocket money was limited, we made the best out of it by buying only items that were for 1 re. While growing up, we were fascinated by new malls that sprouted in our cities and the Burger and Pizza joints that came with it. So up until we were in college, life was all hunky dory and we ate whatever came in front of us - I mean the junk!

But these things were only good till the late twenties. Once you start growing ‘older’ you begin noticing the perils of unhealthy eating. The weight starts to increase disproportionately. You see doctors more often. And more often than not, you are diagnosed with one deficiency or the other.

It is then you understand the importance of a balanced healthy diet. You start to drink more water, have your nuts, snack on your fruits, include dairy in your diet and eat your vegetables. Trust me, after a while, it actually becomes like second nature to you. And unlike people who might think it is giving up in life, I think it is a sensible lifestyle and makes your life more fulfilling.

It is actually small changes which go a long way. I was never a tea addict. But give me some spicy breakfast and I need tea to gulp it down. Similarly I love cold coffee. There was a time when I needed to have a huge glass of coffee at 4 in the evening. I started having oats for breakfast and consumption of tea at my place went down to zero. And before I could crave for coffee in the evening, I started having a huge glass of milk and the craving vanished.

Basically when you are hungry you wish for your addictions. If you are pre-emptive, you can slowly watch your cravings go away.  I substituted oily greasy breakfast and tea with healthy oats with nuts and evening coffee with milk – I made healthier choices and saw my addictions fade away.

It is not that you can never have what you love. Going on a crash diet can lead to several nutritional deficiencies and can be extremely harmful in the long run. Giving up on carbs can only mean loss of muscle, and we all know how it takes ages to build them back. I do have coffee and tea a few times during the month, but I will not die if I didn’t have them. We go out to eat at Indian and Italian restaurants, but we love our grills more. I’ve learnt how to make nice chicken salads, and I use honey in my dressings!

Frankly, I think it is all about maintaining a balance and finding the right substitutes. Then you can have your cake and eat it too without feeling guilty or adding inches on your waistline!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Surf it All, Surf it Fast with UC Browser

My husband is an avid cricket fan. By avid I mean that he can recall certain matches like they were played yesterday, he follows the score even if he is on an important project at office and he schedules his parties only on days when a cricket match is not being played.

So, for him and people like him, a cricket match is before anything else. There are times he is in soup; he has to make a choice between a match and something else. It is then I have seen his most creative side – he comes up with such innovative ideas to combine the two so that he can watch the match and still not miss the things that make life worthwhile.

I remember how he found a way on the world cup semi-final. It wasn’t a usual day at work; he was supposed to go on some training. If it was work, he could have taken a leave, but this he could not skip since the bank had paid the trainers a few hundred dollars to teach them new stuff. His heart was stuck on the fact that India should enter the semis, yet his mind kept telling him that he won’t be able to witness the fun.

This man, he went ahead and bought the most expensive 3G connection there is so that he can stream the match live on his smart phone! He took a friend’s id and password for an online streaming channel and tuned in from the place of his training. Thankfully the ‘professor’ was not like the ones in our college; otherwise I don’t know how it all would have worked out!

This other time when I saw him go out of his way for a match was on huge family event. He had no interest in any small talk with some relatives he hardly meets but was given no option by his parents. And so, he went ahead and spoke with the organisers. He convinced them to arrange for a big screen in the party so that the men can watch the match. Needless to say, the party was a hit and we bonded more than we could have had it been a boring eat and go meet!

But there are times when it is not possible to watch the match. It is then live scores on the smart phone help. Sometimes multiple screens are open on the laptop. When the boss is lurking around the cricket screen is immediately shut down. And when the cat is away, the mouse really watch the play!

Sometimes I play the commentator; I send him live updates from home. It is fun to discuss on chat bowling, century, and catches when he is at work. It connects us over something which is not particularly common between a husband and wife.

And that is why cricket is amazing. It connects us all in very different ways. There is no way we should miss these matches and more so when we have things like UC Browser!