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!



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.



Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Caribbean Tales - 4 Days in St. Kitts & Nevis

Our introduction to the Caribbean Islands was through St. Kitts. While researching which islands to visit, St. Kitts was highly recommended by some bloggers. I am glad we went here first because it did not overwhelm us in any way. It was a decent place to chill and watch life go by at a slow pace; more than that, there was not much to explore. Having said that, we loved lazying around, taking in the vibe of our first Caribbean island and soaking in the culture.


Our hotel was on a lake with a view of the Golf Course, very serene.


We landed in Basseterre after a 25-hour journey from Bahrain. The airport was a breeze and we were just glad that our luggage managed to get through the two flight changes! We were greeted by several taxi drivers who operated huge 12-14 seater vans for cruise passengers who were the main source of tourism for this island. I was extremely distressed climbing into these vans due to my muscular weakness and so, the very next day, we hunted the rare sedans and saved the numbers of those taxi drivers. If you need special service like that, check with your hotel and they would definitely help.

We had chosen Frigate Bay for our 4 days in the island. This area had several restaurants for evening dinners, was close to the main beach that had many bars and looked like a nice place to stay. Our hotel Royal St. Kitts was amazing - it was newly furnished, had calm views of a lake, had a supermarket right outside and was always bustling with activity due to a student hostel in the premises. St. Kitts is fairly deserted, so a little activity in the surrounding was highly welcome!

Chai-biscuit mornings in a hotel apartment is always fun!

The super market came in handy on several occasions - exchanging money, buying water, buying nutty bars for an occasional hunger craving and discussing the island with the manager/owner. Interestingly, this man had followed his son from Hyderabad, India . The son was studying medicine here and he came here with his wife to look after him and probably enjoy the Caribbean life! Not a bad idea at all.

As expected we slept like a log on the first night. The next morning we went to a highly rated restaurant close to our hotel - Ritual Coffee House. We were surprised to find waiters who had flew from India to live and work here. It is always a pleasure to talk in your own language in a place so far away from your home - we instantly connected and these men became friends for those few hours. We waved to them whenever we passed the coffee house, which was atleast twice a day!

Ordering breakfast at Ritual Coffee shop was a ritual!

After a heavy brunch we slept again only to leave for the port area in the evening. We walked through Independence square and The Circus to Port Zante. This place had a lot of cruise passengers ready to leave the port for the day. Colourful buildings, cafes, souvenir shops, jewellery shops, entertainers - the port had it all. We met a number of Indians here as well who had come from Mumbai and settled here. A lot of them were from my Sindhi community - oh, I love that!






The best thing about St. Kitts was this volcano view (in the picture above). Eveywhere you went you could see this. After our brief introduction to the main city we went back to Frigate bay to have dinner at the most famous Shiggidy Shack. Maybe it was too early in the evening, or there were too many mosquitoes - we didn't find this place very exciting. After dinner we walked back to our hotel and called it a night.




For day 3 we booked a tour with a lady driver that we had met during one of our journeys to and fro from the hotel. She took us all around the island in one day so that we could see most of it. Roads in the Caribbean tend to be very narrow and navigating them wasn't our cup of tea - so this was the most appropriate way to see the country. The best place was probably the Brimstone Hill Fortress from where you could see great views of the city. Attractions like Romney Manor, Black Rocks, Timothy Hill were all ok.

Black Rocks

Breathtaking views of the Volcano

We came to the Fortress in the evening to avoid the cruise passengers - great decision! The road to this spot was extremely narrow and I don't know how new drivers in the country do it!


Love the greenery in Romney Manor

I tried to take nicer pictures from here - Timothy hill - but all my poses went awry!
View of Frigate Bay from Timothy Hill


After a long day through pretty roads, we ended up again in Frigate Bay for dinner. Chinchillas was a delight since there were lots of people, students mostly, chilling in the area. The food and music were great too. Apparently the lane was a party till 4 am which we missed - sleep in the Caribbean comes first!



On day 4, we went to the most famous beach in St. Kitts - Cockleshell beach. We did not like Frigate beach at all, so this was a little better. Being an island, we were not impressed by the beaches we saw here. Maybe tourists like Volcano hikes and Sugar plantation tours in this country - which we did not take!

Loved the overcast, beach weather!


In the evening we went to the port area to walk the by-lanes of Basseterre. This island has a population of about 50,000 - it seemed everyone was outside because every place was so full. There were no international brands (except Dominoes pizza). To us, it looked like a city from India of the 90's. Time had stood still - in a good way. There were tailoring shops, smaller restaurants, petite utility shops, hawkers, et al. It was a different experience.



We didn't walk into the tiny lanes because they say you need to be careful in these countries. I don't know how much of it is true because we met only beautiful souls - like the nurse turned van driver who kind of lifted me to help me inside her huge van, like the waiters from Punjab who had left their families and travelled across the continents to find their livelihood here, like our receptionists who seem to be working 24-hour shift everyday..

I absolutely loved Caribbean for their people. Antigua is where we were about to go next... stay tuned to inhale the beauty of that picturesque island!

Some handy tips for St. Kitts and Nevis:

- Although U.S dollars are widely accepted, try and get some EC dollars while in the island - things are cheaper that way.
- Ask for a sedan if you don't need a huge van for a taxi, they are extremely rare, but you could find one.
- No better place to stay than Frigate bay. Our hotel was the best!
- If you are looking for beaches, St. Kitts is not your destination.
- See if you can take a guided, walking tour of the main city. We missed that and could have learnt and seen more that way.
- We found St. Kitts to be a one-day cruise ship port. Hmm!
- While in the Caribbean, keep an eye on your airlines. They change schedules on a whim like they did for us but we were smart to check on them all the time!


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Caribbean Tales: How to select islands for an Indian Passport holder

The cricket fanatic in my husband wanted to visit the West Indies. We didn't visit any stadiums though but that is for another post! Frankly, we had no clue since we didn't have any friends who have visited the islands. Living in the Middle East, we usually go to Europe or Asian countries owing to shorter flight duration. And so, Google was my only friend when searching for the islands to see.

This page stating Visa Requirements for Indian Passport Holders is highly accurate. To reconfirm you must go to the immigration site of various countries and check. You can also find their twitter handle and message them; chances are high of getting a reply. I even emailed a few embassies and got a response, although I found better info online!

If you are flying via USA, you will need an American tourist visa. We didn't check before going if U.S. needs transit visa; it does! Thankfully we had one, and it is probably because of this we didn't pay much heed to transit requirements.

From whatever I read online, we can safely conclude that you can visit most Caribbean nations while on a cruise without a visa. A clear exception to this is Cuba (the ONLY reason we couldn't visit this amazinggg island). You can take a 4-day, 7-day, 14-day, etc cruise leaving from Miami, Puerto Rico, Galveston, or any other port, visit these islands as a day tripper, and no one will ask you for a visa. It saves you a lot of hassle, plus you can see more in less time.

Frankly, a cruise works really well. Inter-Caribbean airlines are known for baggage loss, several delays and cancellations, and what not. I had read horrid tales and frankly I was super scared. Thankfully, nothing went wrong in our case and we were saved. But we did lose several hundred dollars due to cancellations for we didn't want to visit Hurricane (Maria and Irma) hit islands. The airlines give you vouchers for canceling and we have no plans of visiting the Caribbean in the next one year... so.

If you are like us who want to stay in an island for several days to soak in the culture, you could make an itinerary like ours. Since we were new to the region, I just researched for direct flights from one island to the other and made my itinerary. The following route is easily possible with direct flights and no visa hassle:

Miami --San Juan -- St. Kitts & Nevis -- Antigua & Barbuda -- Dominica -- St. Marteen -- Kingston -- Miami

(You get Visa on Arrival at Antigua if you have a US visa and you don't need a visa in St. Marteen if you have the same.)

However we had to change itinerary due to Hurricane Maria. It is sad what happened to St. Marteen and Dominica due to the disastrous winds and rainfall. We canceled and rescheduled our flights and lost a lot of money which is nothing compared to the life and infrastructure lost due to the same. My heart goes out to all their beautiful people...

Our revised itinerary looked like this:

Bahrain -- St. Kitts & Nevis -- Antigua & Barbuda -- Kingston & Ocho Rios -- Miami -- Bahrain

Now finding direct flights can be tricky. Don't be alarmed if you go to a travel site and see no flight on your day of departure. Just go to google and type, say, Antigua to Kingston flight and you will find the day of direct flight from your departing country.

I would strongly advice you not to take connecting flights in the Caribbean as the web states many horror stories! Check Liat and Seaborne reviews if you want.

Apart from Visa and direct flights, we went to Google Images for advice! It all looks so beautiful! Jamaica was on the top of our list. Cuba needed visa from India which was not possible for us. Antigua has 365 beaches. St. Kitts had easy access from Miami, and a high recommendation from bloggers around the world.

Our itinerary was sorted..

Coming up next - Exploring St. Kitts.