Sunday, October 19, 2014

An Ode to my adorable Niece

I’ve seen many kids grow up around me. But my most favourite of them all is my 8-year old niece, N.
Now this may sound like self-praise, but this darling is so much like me. She’s sensitive, she’s secretive, she’s bubbly, and she’s a gem to have around. Being the first born in the next generation, she’s also the most loved and pampered of all. What is more, our names are just different by one letter!

I was unmarried when she was born and so, I share a very special connection with her. From cleaning her poop to taking her to school to reading her bed-time stories, I’ve done it all. These were the fun things that I was responsible for. It was my mum, her grand-mother, who took care of her healthy needs. After all, the aunt (ouch!) needs to be the fun part!

I saw my mother take care of her from the very beginning. She made sure N was massaged properly as a kid. Every family has a history of diseases. We were very careful she had none of our bad genes. My mother use to do light acupressure on her tiny feet. Not only her, my grandmother also massaged her legs!

When she grew a little older, they started giving her a regular dose of chyawanprash. Kids carry maximum germs from school and so, it was important to build her immunity. Her snack timings were fixed – a banana in the morning, honey almonds in the afternoon, chawanprash in the evening, and a candy whenever my dad opened his cupboard! She was such a doll that if my mother forgot one of these, she would ask for it herself, including the candy, ofcourse.

This angel is now all of 8. She goes to regular singing and piano classes because of her sweet voice and her mother’s love for music. During summer vacations, she goes for tennis and dancing lessons. She makes rangoli on Diwali, draws us cards on every occasion (she once made me a card for gifting her an iPad!!), skips, jumps, sings, dances, reads us stories… the list is endless.

All this wouldn’t have been possible if she was constantly falling sick. If she has a bad throat, her singing suffers. If she’s feeling weak, her love for tennis goes bust. I am so glad my family was pro-active when it came to taking care of the health of a little one. Her roots are solid and so, I don’t think anything can ever harm her now.

But you know what keeps her most active? -  her smile. This 8-year old has an ability to crack a joke at any given time. Laughter, they say, is the best medicine. And it is that which has kept her the way she is – pretty, sweet and the most adorable girl in the world!

And really, it is her that has given our home a new meaning. Our home is a happier place because of her running around and spreading the joy. Love you, my best!

Me with my favorite girl :)
This ode was written for Dabur's contest on Indiblogger wherein bloggers have to draw from personal experience and tell how a healthy child makes for a happy home.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ghar Waali Diwali!

Diwali – the very word brings so many awesome memories to my mind. I don’t think there is any festival, any occasion, any birthday, any wedding that I cherish so much than all Diwalis’ combined together.

As a kid, I use to stay in this lane surrounded by Marwaris who were over-the-top enthusiastic about every festival! We use to go to their terrace, which was highest in the lane, and burst crackers. Preparations use to start a month in advance with those tiny gun waala patakhas. On the actual day, we use to go to our elder aunt’s house to celebrate the day. Those were the pre-teenage days…

When we shifted to our new place, my brother had grown up into an adult. He had a gang of friends (all handsome guys to my teenage mind!!) who use to come to our place for cracker display at night, KP ki Diwali, as they use to call it. He was like a father figure to them when it came to bursting crackers and setting a scene for festivals. His enthusiasm in life still makes me so proud…

Apart from polluting the environment (as we have come to learn only now), we use to do a whole lot of good stuff also. Mom use to start cleaning the house a month in advance. Dad use to order sweets to be distributed to karigars and clients. I use to buy rangoli color and make a new design every year. And the maids, they use to wait for the day to get their bonus and new sarees from mom!!

Since my father owns a saree shop, we use to do Lakshmi pooja both in the house and at the shop. It used to be like an event wherein I always bought new clothes. It was like a ritual to buy either a suit or a lehnega on Diwali which could be used in the forthcoming weddings. So we use to dress up in bright shaadi waala clothes and go to the shop which was in the centre of a huge market. Oh, the stares we use to attract. After the pooja, dad always gave us envelopes filled with lots of money which was carefully saved and used to call boyfriends after a certain age!

We also use to go to my elder aunt’s shop for the pooja. Their shop was right in the centre of the main road, called Hazratganj in Lucknow. After the pooja, they use to burst crackers on the main road (those were the days of very less traffic). Not only this, the other saree shops in the market use to compete. So a rocket launched from us would be matched by a rocket launched by them. As a kid, it was the most awesome thing for us!

I wish I could go back to those times when someone was there to do cleaning for you, when someone was there to handle finances for you, when someone was there to take care of all the food, etc and you can just burst crackers and make merry…

Although Diwali has changed tremendously after marriage, the euphoria remains the same. Every year, we make sure we go to my in-laws place. I wish we could go to my house as well. But then, my parents have my brother, the Boy’s parents have us. In the last 6 years, we have skipped only twice because of work commitments.  This year, we will be heading home just a day before the big day and frankly, I cannot wait. The whole point of Diwali is being with family, enjoying the rituals, inhaling the fragrance of incense sticks, distributing/hogging on sweets and you just cannot get the same feeling playing teen patti with friends.

We are lucky that we have an easy going office that gives us so many leaves. We are lucky that we can afford the money it takes to go home. It's a blessing indeed to celebrate festivals with family. If you're still in two minds about going, I'd tell you to stop thinking and book your tickets. And from now on, celebrate all your Diwalis' at home. There is no better gift you can give yourself ...

I was reminded of my Ghar waali Diwali for this contest onIndiblogger. Do watch the following video which made me so emotional. I wannna go to my place tooooo!!!!! Damn shaadi!!!! Ok, ok, I will go home for two days post Diwali, so I should not complain :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Trip Report - Athens, Greece

In 2005, I went to South East Asia with my extended family. We were at Changi airport in Singapore when I saw this tall, gorgeous couple using the free Internet kiosk. When they left, I took their screen only to find the girl's mail-box open in front of me. It said that she was eloping with this boy. For me, this was like a fairytale with the most beautiful prince and princess starring in it. They were from Greece.

That was only a year after I had finished graduation in English Literature. Our course was full of stories from the Greek islands. Poseidon, Zeus, Athina... I knew them all. This land fascinated me a whole lot. Although that was also a time when I never wished for anything because of the fear of losing it all, I subconsciously dreamt of Greece being one of the places I could see.

Fast forward 9 years, we planned a trip to the islands only because we had a direct flight from our country of residence! Frankly, these trips were never a part of my agenda till we actually started doing them. And now, we've become greedy. So much so, that we even forsake fine-dining on weekends so that we can save for a good trip! Are we addicted or what?

Anyway, this was another unique trip because we had another couple with us along-with their 1-year old baby in tow. We had no clue what lay ahead of us, but because they asked us to accompany them, we just decided to go. The Boy told me that they will take care of their baby, and he will take care of his!

Athens was our first city. This city is the birthplace of western civilization surviving since more than 3000 years. The most fascinating thing is that they have managed to retain the homes of people who existed even then. The Acropolis stands tall in the middle of the city reminding everyone of the past. The likes of Zara, Mango, Chopard, Burberry co-exist in the by-lanes depicting the present times. But with all this, every day, there are protests in the centre of the city reminding us that the country has little future. The policemen, however, are the sexiest I have seen anywhere in the world!

Preserved beautifully.

A lot of the Acropolis was under reconstruction, so this is all we could see.

View of Athens from the top

Only if I knew all the history behind it!

The real beauty of Athens lie in it's ruins. If you're not a fan of history, the city will not do anything for you. It has a gorgeous port area where hundreds of ships park for visitors to take a glimpse of this historical delight. We went to lively squares, ate in bustling restaurants, avoided huge shopping areas and drank at the port. I had to push the Boy to see the Acropolis who didn't feel anything even at the top. I, on the other hand, felt like I was in one of my Literature books, living in those times. The climb wasn't easy since I had to convince the guard that I was indeed unable to climb and wanted to use the elevator which was only for people on a wheelchair. Thankfully, he obliged otherwise I would have been deprived of seeing one of the most awe-inspiring things in the world. That would also have been one of my first defeats which would hurt a lot...

The most lively place in all of Athens - Monastaraki square.
The Acropolis is in the background.

Athens port area

Another thing that stuck was a gang of 6 elderly ladies on a very slow Happy Train that took us inside the lanes. These women were in their 70's and seemed like very good friends. For more than an hour they did nothing but laugh. They were not interested in the sights but just living their life. I wish I could understand their language because I was extremely inspired by them. Their group is that one thing that will stay with me and motivate me for the rest of my life.

to be continued.

P.S. Like every trip, we didn't click many pictures because of the Boy's allergy to the camera. So, well, let me show you one of my favorite from Athens. Also, let me clear it before you say anything, I AM SHOWING OFF!!!

Bollywood go take a hike!!!!!

P.P.S As soon I landed back in my country, I saw these results. I think this year is special in many ways :)