Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How to Suck at Travelling


We all know how to ace at travelling. Just by increasing our country/city count, we can be champions at the game everyone just loves to play. But hey, there are things you do that can take that away from you. Let me tell you a few ways in which you can totally suck at travelling so that no one ever envies you!

* Airline food is usually unappetising. You could carry a thepla with raw mango achaar. The aroma will fill the sky and your fellow travellers will thank you for the delightful journey.

* Talk loudly on the phone after the steward has told you to switch off all electronic devices for your own safety. You could even stand up and take out your paan masala from the overhead compartment at this very crucial and impressionable time.

* Carry a selfie stick with you all the time. And then, post pictures of you and your family on social networking sites. Don’t forget to mention where you are, because with your face covering the entire screen, it is hard to figure out the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the background.

* Selfies also make for a memorable album. You would love to see hundreds of close-ups of yourself ten years from now. For comfort, I would advice you to rename the pictures with the place of visit - just to remind you how you looked like when you visited, say, Dal lake.

* Eat all your meals at McDonalds. 

* Get an internet connection and surf the net while watching the sun go down.

* Crib about lack of activities when you come back from a vacation. After all, you don’t always get what you expected.

* Shop lots – you need clothes, bags, shoes to fill your home; not memories to fill your life.

* Ogle at bikini clad babes on the beach. You have a reputation to live up to!

* Have a check-list – from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

* After you come back, for years and years, repeat stories at every given opportunity. Start with – ‘You know when we went to…’. However, talking on your blog about your trip is totally cool and doesn't have the same affect. *wink*

And that my friend will make you the worst traveller ever. It will act like that evil eye charm. The world will silently hate you but you’d be you – a yucky traveller for life!


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Confidence that comes with Good Health


I live a protected life because of the myopathy. If it is not my parents, it is my husband and then my friends. They all try to keep me strong and able by giving out a helping hand at all times. So when I go out there to do something independently, I feel very strange and liberating at the same time.

These independent moments come only while I am travelling to my hometown. The Boy usually doesn’t accompany me there because I need my me-time with my fam. Last year, I was travelling from Lucknow to Bahrain via Delhi. My Lucknow-Delhi plane got delayed and we were all panic stricken. If I were to catch my flight from Delhi, I needed to leave Lucknow at the earliest.

So I checked for flights online. The only suitable deal was to fly to the domestic terminal in Delhi and then take the cab to International terminal.

My family was horrified at the aspect of me going from the domestic terminal to the international terminal alone! It takes just about 10 minutes by a taxi, but they were not convinced. I had to use terms like ‘I am an adult, please let me go!’.

This year I had to change my plane again – walk with the luggage from the arrival section of the domestic terminal to the departure area of New Delhi domestic terminal. Now these are like 5 minute apart on foot – you just have to get out of the airport, cross a non-traffic road and you are there.

I informed my parents about this only at the last minute. I had actually called the customer care of the Delhi airport and asked all my questions. And since there was no cab involved, they were fairly ok. Also, I am guessing, this was my second time and they were a tad calm.

Both these times I felt so incredibly fulfilled. It might sound very petty that a 33-year old feels this way – but if you have lead the kind of life I have, you would know.

My cab driver here in Bahrain has become like a friend – so it is not an issue. I go out with him all the time and he also seems sensitive to my needs. I wonder if we had a metro system here how would that be for me…

What I am trying to say is that it is these small things in life that we don’t feel grateful for. You should thank God for your strong limbs every time you can. You should thank him for the confidence that this strength gives you. The fact that you can walk out on the road alone is a blessing in itself.

Not only this, what if we couldn’t see well. How would we cross the road? Our ears give us ability to react to traffic if there is a sudden need. We don’t value what we already have and feel helpless when we wear our bodies out. Slouching, smoking, over-eating, lazying – all these things exhaust our system and we become victim of various diseases.

You would know only if and when you lose your confidence. I pray you never do. But for that, you’ll have to work, and work hard at it. Be grateful, pray for courage and stay strong - there is no bigger blessing than a healthy body – take care of it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Guidelines for Surviving Ramadan in Bahrain

The holy month of Ramadan is fast approaching. Being a non-fasting expat in an Islamic country can leave you confused and scared. I have lived here in Bahrain for seven years now and here are some tips and guidelines that can come in handy:

1. Restaurants are closed in the afternoon. Even home delivery is not available. You need to cook or keep leftovers from last night's take-away. Some of the 5-star properties might provide lunch options. Check The Ritz-Carlton if need be. Also, supermarkets like Lulu, Mega Mart, Al Osra, etc. have pre-cooked meals that you can pick up in the afternoon.

2. Malls and most markets remain shut from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. This is the time people prepare their meals and break their fast. If you are out shopping, you will have to fill in this gap. Carrefour in City Centre mall is the only place I know of that is open.

3. Speaking of shopping, you can't eat/drink water while you are at it. In the past, we've sneaked in trial rooms and rest rooms to grab a bite hidden in our purse! The rule is - as long as you are not in the public view it is okay (actually the rule is no eating/drinking in public. But!).

4. The restaurants are full between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Even roads are crowded just before evening prayers. There are some ruthless drivers there as well and understandably so! So, if you are not fasting, stay away and let the needy reach home soon!

5. Thursday and Friday nights at the mall are crazy. It seems all Muslims hang out there to pass their time. In the scorching June/July heat, it is the only place of respite. Do your shopping in the afternoon.

6. If you need your hard drinks during this month, you will have to stock them up at home. That is the only place you can drink. Only exception to this are a few clubs like Country Club in Budaiya and The Royal Golf Club in Riffa. It would be best to check with them before going though.

7. It is actually a great month. Offices are a little relaxed and you can expect late starting and early closing times. Most offices don't allow lunching in the premises. You are lucky if you have a cafeteria (without the canteen working ofcourse) where you are allowed to eat and drink.

8. Iftar meals and Ghabgas are a lot of fun too. You should attend atleast one during this time. Most offices arrange one.

9. Some amazing prizes and lucky draws take place during this time. Take your chances!

10. It ends with Eid  Al-Fitr which means three public holidays. People take this opportunity to travel during this time. I have just seen one Eid while I have been in Bahrain.

Mostly, it is just about being sensitive and following certain rules. As expats, we look forward to this month because office starts at 9 instead of 7:30 in the morning, and the month ends with Eid holidays. So, well, it is a win-win for everyone!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Let's get Real

The world is full of overrated things. We hear about them and wish we were somehow a part of the whole drama. To make matters worse, a shopoholic posts pictures of her new Gucci bag, or a wanderer takes a selfie at Times Square and you go 'my life the sucks'.

Make no mistake my friend, these people are losers/winners just like you. The bag that you bought from a thela is just as pretty and a happy selfie anywhere in the world is just as good. Sounds petty, does it? No, it is really not. Most things in this world are over-hyped. Lets dig into a few of them:

Clubbing – It starts at 11 p.m. You need to wear formal, expensive clothes. You can’t hear each other. You have to dance with your two left feet. And more often than not, it ends with a massive hangover and a terrible next day. Seriously, clubbing is the most glorified thing there is.

The only fun part of it though is people watching. But then you never know what side you are on. 

Winning a lucky draw – Take it from someone who has won quite a few – winning feels awesome. But when the initial euphoria dies down, you look forward to your next win. The greed never ends. And the pressure, oh, the pressure - people just keep asking you what did you win next.

The next thing I want to win is 500,000 US dollars. And I truly believe it can happen. This, this is what winning does to you.

Game of Thrones – I really don’t care what happens to Jon Snow. I feel nothing for Arya Stark. I am utterly confused sometimes with all the characters. Frankly, I have a fairly decent intellect and I do read GOT wiki when I get stuck in the middle of an episode. If I need to do that, I don’t understand how the rest of the world has got it right.

The cinematography is next to none. But I don't feel for the characters. Till I can't feel, I can't like. Period.

Having Children – The cost, the effort, the physical and emotional ordeal - it is just too much to deal with. They are cute and cuddly and make you smile, but I wonder if it is all worth it or they just say because they are suppose to say it.

Starbucks – Man, I hate their coffee. Why is it so cool to be at Starbucks, I’ll never understand. Bittu chaiwala might just be as awesome and give you ten yum kaafee instead of one ‘crap’puccino!

Louis Vuitton – The more I see it, the more I hate the idea behind it. There are people who have a lot of money and don’t know how to spend it. They have huge mansions, their children and grand-children’s life is secure, they take expensive holidays and then what?- Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Then there are the urban-poor who buy these things just to show that they are well-off.

Hello! World hunger? Have excess money? - send it to Malawi.

Adventure Sports – You pay a bucketload of money, you ride an elevator, buckle yourself up with all the safety belts, get instructions and jump. Why would you risk your life like that? It is not guts; it is sheer stupidity!

You’ll get the same ‘view’ when you take a plane out of that town. You might as well feel how a bird feels in your next life when you unfortunately lose that safety belt on the way. Why bungee jump?

Times Square - You go there to feel overwhelmed. You line up to get your picture on the screen hoping every one is watching you. You fly out of New York City and it still doesn't sink in. When you come home you realise you could have gone to Channi Lal Chauraha and felt the same.
Ok, that one is a bit exaggerated but so is Times Square.

Then they say life is all about perspective. You might say Paris, FRIENDS and Sachin Tendulkar are over-rated and I would totally boo you. But again, this is my blog and here I am always right.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Usual Tid-Bit Post

* The Boy couldn’t sleep one night. I told him let me start talking, that will make him doze off. I asked him if he could suggest a topic. Without losing a second he replied, “Let’s talk about your weight loss.”

Doze-worthy indeed!

* Speaking of whom, he lost his Ray-Ban sunglasses last weekend. It so happened that we went to South African National day celebrations to the Golf club here in Bahrain. We had a few drinks. It was 6:30 p.m. and the Boy was happy high. On our way to the parking there was a grassy slope. This dude thought it would be fun to roll over and reach the parking slot. He sat. He turned. And he rolled.
 
Those sunglasses that were on his tee must have felt off. I laughed and laughed and laughed the next day. We went back but could not find them. The gardener must be a cool dude now.

* I have the sweetest neighbour cum friend with whom I share an unusually close relationship. We hadn’t met for a month. She saw my display picture on whatsapp and messaged me that I looked like a teenager in it.

No wonder I miss her and she’s the sweetest!

*My niece turned 10 this year. She has the most amazing sense of humour. On my visit earlier last month, she had told me about a particular friend of hers whom she doesn’t like anymore. Her reason was practical: she meets her and wants to gossip about their other friends.

It became a joke between us. Every day I asked her about her other friends and had a hearty laugh. When I called her up on her birthday, she said, ‘Let’s talk about abc and xyz.’ We laughed our hearts out. I realised she is all grown up now and we can have fun conversations.

I miss her!

*I just love to get massages. This last weekend we stayed in a resort and got ourselves a half-an-hour back massage part of the deal. Now when I lie on that massage table I somehow feel extremely blessed. I feel grateful for this wonderful life and cherish every single moment.

The Boy told me that next time I can have his session as well. He said, ‘It somehow seems to mean much more to you than it does to me.’

Ha! He hasn’t realised till now how touchy and feely I am. He would have to give up a lot if he knew how I feel when I feel happy with something!


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A day in Shimla

We’ve been going to Chandigarh since 7 years now. Every year we made plans to visit the Queen of the hills but it was never to be. This year, however, we found a perfect opportunity and we grabbed onto it!

We booked our stay just a day in advance – which is rare considering the big planner that I am. I had no idea about the region and so I thought we will chill, walk the famous Mall Road and relax at some trendy restaurants. Well, we did exactly that during our short stay.

The trip from Panchkula (a town close to Chandigarh) took us 4 hours with breaks. The roads were quite neat and we didn’t feel any nausea or discomfort. It had been a few years since I had been to a hill station in India, so I was quite wary of the drive. Himachal roads did not disappoint.

We booked ourselves in Hotel Marina. It was at one end of the Mall road making it accessible by car which is not the case with all hotels in such a central location. It was also perfect for me for I could see tall pine trees from my balcony. On the other side, the hotel had easy access to the Mall road where, apparently, all the action was. The location was spot on and the hotel was brand new - we just loved our stay there.

I am a nature lover. I can sit between trees for hours and not feel bored. My favorite moments from the trip were actually sitting in my balcony and hearing the trees hustle. We did not hike anywhere because the trip was extremely short, so this was my only chance. I slept late, I woke up early, and I had all my cuppas in the cutest balcony of this hotel.

Clicks of an idle mind!

Sunset from the balcony.
We walked to the mall in the evening. There were quite a few uphill stretches which I managed well with breaks. We walked to what is called the Ridge (flat elevated area with a church and a market) and saw Shimla all lit up at night.

Shimla is indeed densely populated.

The weather was beautiful and we had Momos at Krishna Bakery and piping hot Gulab Jamuns at the famous Baljee. On our way back, we sat at a highly rated trendy open-air restaurant called Cafe Shimla Times. It lived upto its name for being a space with a great ambiance but lacked in gourmet food.

The next morning we checked-out from the hotel and walked across the Mall road to the Ridge again. Now it was sunny and I didn’t understand the point of this tough hike! I sulked and frowned but at last the sun pitied on us and hid itself in the clouds. We felt better and had those best-I've-ever-had Gulab Jamuns again!

The Ridge

I find all trees beautiful!

We had food at Giani dhaba on our way back and it was quite yummy. This was followed by famous and delicious malai kulfi at Ishar Sweets in Kalka. The whole trip was 'foodful' and a great escape from the unusual April heat. I am sure we will be visiting the hills again and discovering more than the Mall the next time!


Balancing Act on a Wednesday


I am lucky to be friends with women who have now become big corporate honchos and have earned a name for themselves. They are my besties from school and we keep in touch on a regular basis. Our chat this morning was as follows:

P: The first GOT episode was disappointing
R: *blah blah blah* reviewing the episode.
Y: I don’t follow GOT. *runs off to be the awesome wife, mother and daughter-in-law that she is.*
Me: I’ll watch it over the weekend. 
R: I want to sleep but have to file a story. *she’s a Senior Correspondent for Economic Times. And single.*
P: I want to chill too but have to file a plan. *she’s a Senior PR Manager for a big tech company and a new mum.*
Me: I can sleep.
Me: I can chill.
R: Do that on our behalf.
Me: I slept for 2 hours in the morning. Will nap if need be.
P: I am up since 5 a.m.
R: Me too!
P:  I can't chill and can absolutely not sleep!
Me: Aww.
Me: You’ll be successful with meaningful lives.
P: Yeah right. I can't wait to get fired.
Me: I’ll sleep and create that balance this world needs!
R: Lol
P: Hahaha

*And we sign off with our daily dose of inspiration!*