Sunday, December 28, 2014

The last few days - Birthday no. 32

Birthdays have always been very special to me. On mine, I want to feel special; on someone else's, I like to make them feel happy! This birthday of mine was no exception. Although it has been some 40 days, I think I need to report here so that I never forget how awesome I felt on that particular day!

So it started some 2-3 days before the big day. I had told the Boy that this year you have to 'surprise' me with a phone. Although I wanted the M8, I had to make do with an S5 because the Boy has M8 and we cannot have two similar phones at home. I didn't ask for an iPhone 6. It's such a fad and I really want to stay away from anything that serves a herd mentality. I mean really... people buy an iPhone and show it off like it's some kind of a status symbol. Why, oh, why!? Anyway, so I told him I wanted a black S5 as a 'surprise' gift! Ofcourse there was a surprise element here. I didn't know when I will receive it!! Like an obedient husband, he bought me one a few days prior to my birthday and I told everyone how I got a 'surprise' gift!!

Basically the last few months had been tormenting. Every husband around me was surprising his wife. Now I am a normal human being with little bit of extra jealousy factor in me. And then there is this added pressure of answering the question - so what did he give you this year? So, you know, I had to plan my surprise! When I told my mom that he usually doesn't buy me any gifts, her reply was - he has given you such a beautiful life, what else do you want?

Hmm!! Why do mothers always favour the son-in-law?

Coming back to the birthday... a few friends bought me a cake at 12 in the night. My school friends did that awesome con-call that we do at 12 in the night. Did I mention that before? My three absolutely gorgeous friends and the fabulous me have tried to make this a tradition. I remember when we were in school -  we use to call each other at 12 to wish. So, to keep the kid in us alive, we do a con-call from different parts of the world on each other's birthdays. Believe me, those 5 minutes are the most precious. We laugh like crazy and just talk nonsense. We do need to hang up because husbands are usually waiting trying to understand what the fuss is about! And believe me, this con-call thing is very hard to organize on other days. We are all so busy. So this birthday thing is most dear to me.

The next day I took phone calls as usual and just chatted a lot. A friend of mine invited me to lunch at her place and treated me with the yummiest pav-bhaji I've had in a long time. Another friend took a half day at work and picked me up to go to a third friend's place. As soon as I entered, I saw a decorated home with a surprise cake.

Did I tell you my greatest blessing are my friends?

The Boy took me out for dinner in the evening. We went to this fabulous water-front restaurant and talked away to glory. He knows how excited I am on my birthday and so, he really made me feel like a princess. He said yes to all my orders. I also told him that I want to celebrate my birthday twice a year and he readily agreed! Oh, what a day!

And yes, one of my friends even wrote me a poem!

Did I tell you that the greatest gifts cannot be bought? These small gestures stay in your heart and keep you happy forever. And that's why I believe what my mom says - a beautiful life is indeed the most precious gift that you can give anyone.

Here's to many more birthdays like this one. May you have the same happiness :)

A sneak peak into my fabulous 32!!

P.S. I am not sorry if this reads like a 16-year old's birthday post. Be prepared to read similar ones in the years to come!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Just Being Me

As I lay in my bed thinking what I have done
Told the truth to my love, second to none.
Transparency in everything – that’s how I wanted my marriage to begin.
Then why am I made to believe that I’ve committed a sin?

You loved me with all your heart,
Promised - ‘til death do us part.
I vowed to be faithful, respectful and a loving wife.
You are now, and forever will be, my life.

Then why a fragment from my past shook you like this?
What made you so skeptical that you won’t even kiss?

I've told you about Him before - He and I were young and ruthless,
Crazy in love, absolutely relentless.
I thought love was unity of body and soul.
I thought I was smart, absolutely in control.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t make a mistake,
My love was true, nothing was fake.
We were responsible adults, yet it didn’t work out.
It meant everything to me, yet now, I’m living without.

And then you came, like a prince on a horse,
To begin a lifetime of romance, like a fairy-tale ofcourse.

You decided to wait till we tied the knot.
In our roller-coaster ride, I almost forgot.
I wanted to be truthful, keep every promise,
Shouldn’t THAT be a marriage’s basis?

I believe in God, have love for Him in my heart
Baseless religious beliefs mean nothing to me from the start.
Sex, to me, was a part of love,
A natural consequence created by the Lord above.

I don’t wish to erase it all with a magic wand
But I’m all yours now, I wish you’d understand.

Our beliefs differ, but our values remain the same,
I won’t make excuses ‘coz they all seem lame.
You’ve asked for time, that I’ll give,
I won’t apologise, ‘coz there’s nothing to forgive.

Yes, I had pre-marital sex and it was a big deal.
I was in love; loved how he made me feel.
It wasn’t as if I slept with every other guy,
If that’s what you conclude, then I guess it’s a goodbye.

I’m a loyal, passionate and caring person, that’s how I’m always going to be.
Sex before marriage doesn’t determine my morals, and I won’t EVER let it define me.

This poem is written for a contest on IndiBlogger where bloggers have to give their opinion on pre-marital sex. The entries will be judged by Poonam Uppal who has recently written a book called A Passionate Gospel of True Love : A Mystical True Love Story. You can order your copy here

The last few days - Snippets from Mumbai

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning. As I sit by the window sipping my tea and enjoying the golden rays of the winter sun, I'm thinking of the days gone by. It has been such an eventful month and I just have to let you all know about it.

To tell you the truth, I was extremely skeptical about December. Traveling alone is a huge challenge for me - physically. It might not seem so hard on the outside, but it makes me very anxious. I also know that there is nothing that I can’t do; still, it seems like an uphill task whenever I have to do anything alone.

Anyway, I set on a journey to Mumbai at the end of November. One of my favorite cousins, N,  was about to get married and I wanted to be a part of her big day. Although the wedding was a week away, I went a few days earlier because I didn’t want to be just a guest. I could have easily gone with the Boy who came for the three important days, but no, I took the ‘challenge’ and just went ahead. I’m so proud of that.

As soon as we landed N’s younger sister Meera, who remains my bestest cousin, picked me up from the airport and we straightaway went to have gol gappas! Oh, what joy! The rest of the evening was spent catching up with family members and the usual pre-shaadi merriment.

The next few days went by in a jiffy. N is still pursuing her MD and so, there were quite a few last minute chores. We went for shopping, lunching and random loafing around.

Dance practices have become the most important part of weddings and this one was no exeption. N and Meera are the most fabulous dancers I know. It was a delight to see them dance on Madhuri numbers. But my favourite were a gang of NRI aunts who had come from different parts of the world to attend N’s wedding. Most of them were childhood friends of N’s mother. Looking at them made me feel hopeful. I now know what I would be doing some 20 years from now when my closest friend’s children get married. Till a few years back only relatives were a part of the big fat Indian wedding. As the times are changing, friends have become as important as blood relatives, probably more significant. I’m so glad that I have my share of unconditional love as well..

So we were put up in this luxurious hotel for the main 3 days. The Boy joined in from Bahrain to attend his first wedding in the Punjabi khandaan. He’s an introvert, and for him this wedding was a big pain! His college friends and booze helped him get through these tough times!!


In between all the wedding hoopla came our 6th wedding anniversary. We took a break from relatives and had yummy grub at Taj Land Ends. Since we had a lunch invite as well, we went for 15 minutes to show our faces. There was a surprise cake awaiting us which made me feel so special. Needless to say, I love sooooo many people from my extended family.

Like all vidais, this one was deeply emotional as well. My aunt, uncle and Meera cried their hearts out seeing one of them leave their abode. Theirs is one of the most closely knit families I know and so, it broke my heart as well. But this is how it works - women get married and leave their parent’s home. No matter how long it has been since they left their home to study/work, getting married and knowing that now they will have to accept and be accepted in a new home, is always an emotionally draining experience. The more I think about it, the more weird this custom sounds to me…

The Boy left after the wedding festivities were over. However, my journey was not over yet. I had to go to Lucknow to attend yet another wedding. This one was as glamourous and as Big as an Indian wedding can get. Although I can keep writing, I’d leave that post for tomorrow! I think I’ll have to post every day now to talk about my last few days. It has been THAT long since I’ve been here.

You guys were definitely missed :)

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 :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A post that goes nowhere

Packing for a vacation is a tricky business. Some, like the Boy, pack 1/2 an hour before leaving for the airport. Some, like my SIL, start packing 3 days before the vacation. And some, like a friend's MIL has a separate set of clothes for vacations which she packs weeks in advance!

Most people are like me - we start packing about 8-18 hours before our journey, depending on the flight schedule. So, like I have a flight tomorrow afternoon, I'll try to pack most of the stuff by tonight so that I can wake up late, bathe and just leave.

I usually go for one big vacation in a year. It is like an annual event for which I even buy new clothes. We never shop during our trips because, one, the Boy hates to enter shops, and two, because we never have the budget for it!! So before leaving, I'm told to buy whatever I want so that we can spend all the money on food and booze.

This year, however, I haven't done much shopping. I have no idea what I want to pack. The temperature is going to be around 20 degrees and so, a lot of skin show won't be possible! You see, our last trip was with my in-laws. I had to be fully clothed with them. So now, I'm dreaming of shortest shorts and skimpiest dresses. Ha! What is a vacation if you don't do stuff that you usually don't do, hmm?

Now here I am, 24 hours before I have to leave for an awesome trip, having no clue what to stuff in. However, I know everything the Boy will wear. He has the privilege of not knowing what is in the suitcase till we reach our destination. He says that I am too bossy and so he leaves the packing bit to me. I think he's too lazy! Also, I can't wait till the nth hour for him to pack and he will pack clothes from another era and then he will not fold them properly and....

Ok, I'm bossy, but it's for his own good.

I don't know what I want to achieve with this post. I've been trying to write since 2 days but have come up with absolutely nothing. I don't want to talk about NaMo or Rajdeep or Bigg Boss. I have a love/hate relationship going on with Karwachauth because, although I love the festival, the feminist in me hates the idea behind it. But I don't want to write about it either.

Oh by the way, I won a prize on Blogadda and was absolutely thrilled. This month, I also gifted a laptop to my maid's daughter in Lucknow. This was from my petite earnings from the prizes I win through this blog. She called me up and said so many awesome things that my eyes welled up. It made me feel better than how I feel when I win a prize :)

Anyway, I think I should end this jigsaw post and bid adieu to you guys. We will be in Greece for the next 10 days and soon after, we will head home for Diwali. I hope I can update this space and tell you all about the handsome men and women I see on the Greek Islands.

Till then, be good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What Women Wear

It’s no hidden fact that women love to dress up. Our entire lives revolve around that one word – shopping. We may or may not be very fashionable, but we love to buy new clothes and flaunt them.

Whom do we dress for is a question that can have multiple answers. If one said she dressed for herself, you should probably look for the pajama she wears at home. If she has worn it for more than 6 months, then probably she doesn’t dress-up for herself. You know, because then her pajamas should be shiny as well.

If she says she dresses up for her partner, she would have an extensive lingerie collection as well. Now, of course, these generalizations are just, well, generalizations and are subject to standard deviations. The most common answer that you’ll hear is that we dress up to look good. Look good to whom? – One may ask. Well, to look good to other women.

How else can you explain the dressing up for Kitty parties? Women buy one new dress after the other bearing in mind that kitty party she has to go to the next month. They think of the coffee mornings, the girl’s night out and the Mommy meets before deciding on what to buy. We don’t want to impress other women, we just want to make them jealous. And somehow, we feel, wearing better clothes is one of the subtle ways to do that.

Women in Saudi Arabia wear abayas in public. But when they are at a party (which usually segregates men and women), they take off their abayas and show-off what they are wearing underneath it. I have heard that they are the most fashionable people in the whole world. If they dolled up for themselves or other men, they would probably never take off their abayas or probably wear basic, simple clothes. But because we dress up to look good, they go an extra mile to buy the most chic clothes available.

I still don’t know any woman who dresses to impress other men. I mean, do men even look at clothes? I assume they have wild imagination and if they want, they can even look underneath an abaya. Of course, most civilized men won’t do that.

This brings me to the whole cleavage controversy between Times of India and Deepika Padukone. If Deepika or any other woman wants to show-off her cleavage in REEL or REAL life, how does it matter? By pointing arrows on her assets, whom are you trying to titilize? Sure, you got a scandalous story on your site, but doesn’t that bother you that an educated lot like you has become like another road-side gunda?

What women wear has been under scrutiny for ages. Most people say women should dress up modestly to keep themselves safe.  Tell me, if men had such little self-control, would there be any nude beaches? Or rather, would there be any beaches at all? How would have cave men got any work done when they have had so many free-shows around them!?

If a woman wants to flirt with you, trust me, you would know. She doesn’t have to tighten her skirt or deepen her blouse to attract attention. We dress-up because we just LOVE to dress-up. You’re probably jealous because you just have that blue shirt and black pant. Pray you become a woman in your next life, because it is only then you will understand why we wear what we wear.

It is unfortunate that this article in TOI is by a woman herself. I really have no words to describe how ridiculous it all sounds. If the newspaper had apologized, it could have become like a ray of hope in our country. A response like this one is unbelievably regressive and makes me hate the newspaper and the journalism behind it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Movie Review - Daawat-e-ishq

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Daawat-e-ishq or the feast of love(!!) is set in the food havens of Lucknow and Hyderabad. Even though the title was repelling, I went in to watch only because I wanted to revisit my hometown and drool over the yummy Aditya Roy Kapur! Since I was able to do both, the movie worked for me.

The movie starts in Hyderabad where Gulrez (Parineeti) is looking for prospective grooms for herself. She is a well-educated, confident girl who refuses to settle for any Tom, Dick or Harry. Her father (Anupam Kher), a clerk in the High Court, has collected over 15 lacs to pay for her dowry. Since the amount is pretty less, Gulrez attracts only less-educated, mediocre guys. This frustrates her and so she plans a rather devious scheme to make her future brighter.

This plan lands her in Lucknow where she meets the charming Tariq who, obviously, runs a Kabab shop. I would like to add here that Lucknow serves the BEST Kababs and Biryani there ever is. I mean, you can make biryani at home, you can order it in restaurants, but the one you get in the streets and the dhabas in Lucknow is so different and sumptuous. My mouth was watering during the introduction scenes, and rightly so!!
They even serve this paratha with Kababs which you will not get in any other part of the world. That combination of succulent, melt-in-you-mouth delicacy is to-die-for.

So, yes, Tariq is not as educated as Gulrez, but his charming personality and humility makes her (and me!) fall in love with him. What follows next is for you to see because I don't believe in revealing plots here.

I thought the movie was fast-paced enough to keep us entertained. The trio acted very well all throughout. The music is awful. I mean, I didn't like a single song!! I think Hindi movies should start having just 2-3 songs for promotional activities and not incorporate these songs in the movie. They really make no sense.

Daawat-e-ishq deals with a very serious subject in a light-hearted manner. There are lots of how-can-this-happen moments in the movie which makes it a typical Bollywood affair. But in the end it leaves you with a smile and that is what really matters.

It also leaves you very hungry, especially for the authentic Indian food, which you will end up eating after the movie no matter what you planned for before entering the mall. So, Bon appetit!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Walk through Vienna and Salzburg - Part 2

Read Part 1 here.
It's only fair to write the trip report of one place before heading to another. We will be going on a vacation to Greece in two weeks and so I should write this one now, right? I say it again on this blog, be jealous! Or not. We might be miserable in our old age for saving so little!!

So, anyway, after walking the lanes of Vienna (and a lot of walk at that since my FIL loves to walk and make everyone else walk with him!!!), admiring its architecture, falling in love with its sculptures, cruising in the canal and enjoying in the parks, we took a train to Salzburg. At this point I should tell you that some Europeans can be very mean. The trains usually have two two-seater rows. I was blatantly refused a seat twice in a packed train by teenage German girls. Now I am a decent looking girl - why would they refuse me a seat next to them!? Your guess is as good as mine. The adults were far more nice, by the way, and this was a two-off incident.

Anyhoo, I tried to focus on the scenery that almost never ended in our 4-hour journey. Austria is actually a mini, cheap Switzerland. The only difference is that in Switzerland the grass is always trimmed because, I think, the residents are fined if they don't maintain it. Austria has fewer rules so probably they don't trim their grass as much. But their huts and hills are equally beautiful. No matter where you go, you will find picture perfect scenery. Seriously, take any turn, no bad spot ever.

I had read that Salzburg is divided into two parts by a river - Old town and New town. We had booked a hotel apartment in the New town, which, upon arrival seemed equally beautiful. Unfortunately the pictures I have from there are all mine, gorging on food and beer.

Oh, beer. The Germans make the best beer in the world. There was this particular Indian restaurant below our hotel that served the yummiest local beer. The second time we went there, the waiter came to us with the menu. The Boy gestured and said hume bus... Before he could complete, the waiter said, haan bus beer chahiye! We felt like such bevadas (drunkards!).

The first day we walked around town and saw the famous old town. It was indeed very pretty. The main lane had such character that I was swept off my feet.

The famous Old Town street of Salzburg
We walked around a lot and just admired the town. There are very few pictures of places without us in the background and so, it's tough to put them up. Nevertheless...

The next day we took a bus to Berchesgaden, Germany which is very close to Salzburg. Our main aim was to cruise a beautiful lake called Konigsee.

St. Bartholoma on Konigsee

One of the most beautiful pictures I've ever taken without
 knowing anything about photography ;)

The lake from the church - this seemed
 like Panong Tso in Ladakh - just as pristine and quite.

Yes, this was nature at its best. But what lay ahead was even more amazing. We hired a car next day to go to a gorge. But as luck would have it, the gorge was closed for the day for some renovation. Thank God we had a car because otherwise switching buses is quite a task in remote villages. We then headed to a waterfall which was not as big but the mist was divine. I've fallen in love with mists from the waterfalls since Niagara - it was one of the most divine experiences of my life.

A picture from the road - told you, scenic, very scenic.

A castle along the road. Unfortunately we were bound by our GPS!!

Gollinger Waterfalls, Austria. Can you spot the couple? I wish I could jump
and reach that spot. It was soo damn romantic!
By the way, we packed yummy vegetable pulao and yoghurt for all of us in tiffins! So everywhere we went it was like a mini picnic. Although I missed trying a variety of foods, this was very important for my in-laws who, although didn't want to eat ghar ka khana, survived on home cooked meals. We packed another pulao the next day and headed to the most beautiful place I've ever seen.

It is called Salzkammergut - the lake district in Austria. The whole stretch is pinned with beautiful lakes and small picturesque villages.That is another reason we hired a car - because we wanted to cover the whole area and stop wherever we wanted. The first stop was Wolfgangsee.


After being mesmerized for the umpteenth time, we headed to the famous village of Hallstat. I can’t describe much in words how I felt there. It was a very touristy village but well, I could see why. Every house was picture perfect. Every spot was picture perfect. It was so, so pretty! I don't know if I could live in a tiny village like that (we walked the whole of it in an hour, I guess) but I could have certainly spent a few more days just admiring each and every corner. Let pictures do the talking for this:



Where was I!? Hallstat has that kind of power on you.

Our last day in Salzburg was a rainy day. It rained non-stop for 24 hours. We took a local bus pass and just saw the whole city. Since we took so many excursions, we missed quite a bit in Salzburg itself. But then, we might return. Salzburg was the first city in a hilly region that had a peppy vibe to it. Normally hill stations are boring in the evenings - Switzerland is. But Salzburg was awesome. All our evening were spent in classy restaurants where we went on dates without the in-laws! It was like college all over again. Only this time we were not sneaking out :)

Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg

Rain, rain, carry on!
Mirabel Gardens, Salzburg

A river runs through it - Salzburg

We loved the fair weather and we loved the rain. We loved just about everything in this cute little town. If you want to see one picturesque area in Europe and you don't want to spend a bomb going to Switzerland/Scandinavia, go to Salzburg. You won't regret it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Movie Review - Finding Fanny

My Rating:

I was very eager to watch Finding Fanny from the day I saw its trailer. It seemed like a refreshing tale and I thought this movie would be hatke.

Well, indeed it was hatke. The movie starts in a small, sleepy town in Goa called Pocolim. The people who live there lead a slow but eventful life. The main inhabitants of this town include the gorgeous Angie (Deepika Padukone), who was widowed within 5 minutes of her wedding. She lives with Rosie (Dimple Kapadia), her mum-in-law, whose 'dead' husband story seems rather mysterious. Her best friend is an old, ex-postmaster, Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah), who does little apart from singing in the Church's choir. And then there is an outsider, 'talented' artist Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapur), who comes in search of his muse and finds it in Rosie's round figure.

These 4 along-with Savio (Arjun Kapoor) who was Angie and her husband's best friend go on a road trip to find Fanny, Ferdie's love of 46 years. What happens along their journey and at their destination is for you to see and relish.

This movie, for me, was like reading a short story from a great author. It had simple settings, subtle humour, heartwarming characters, easy narration and something to look forward to always. There is nothing that will wow you and nothing that will make you yawn. My husband didn't once look at his phone's screen which itself says a lot about the movie!!

Thankfully the director, Homi Adajania of Cocktail and Being Cyrus fame, doesn't try too hard to add over-the-top humour. The characters play their age and act like normal people do. It is one of the few movies in which none of the actors disappoint with Naseeruddin Shah stealing the show. Well, ofcourse.

The movie is like an easy-going evening on a beach in Goa. Now who wouldn't like that?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Drama in Bargaining

Bargaining is in our genes. We might live in a bungalow worth a crore, but till we don’t bring down the rate of onion from Rs. 100 to Rs.90 a kg, it doesn’t get pureed well in the blender. Not only that, the free dhaniya/mircha is like a constitutional right for which even we can go on a dharna.

When I was growing up, there were no brands as such. We shopped from local shops in Lucknow which were owned by my Sindhi uncles. So we always got a discount of at least 20%. Plus, tea/coffee/Pepsi, gossip and a dinner invite. But when the likes of Shoppers Stop came up, we had to wait for Sale to lure us into the store since arbitrary discount or bargaining was not an option. And damn organised retail, they didn’t even give us free polythene bags leave alone a glass of water.

Delhi, on the other hand, had pirates from the Arabian. Sarojini/Janpath was selling ‘branded’ stuff for less. Shopping was a thrill in these areas because it always felt like a victory after getting an item for less than 50% of its original price. If the Bhaiya said 500, I said 200 and easily got an item for Rs. 250.

This haggling is actually an art. You would see a female falling in love with an item but then pretending that it’s just OK. Her companion, if a man, would stand directly behind her chanting from 100 to 1 in order to spare himself a headache from the cacophony. When will men understand that women do this to save money for old age dentures? Anyway, if Bhaiya would agree to give a 1000 rupee item for Rs. 500, the transaction would be complete. If Bhaiya is rigid, the female would walk away with an air of indifference while praying in her heart for Bhaiya to call her back!

Seriously, when we do that fake walk-away, we feel so awful. It’s like parting from the love of our life not knowing if our paths would cross again. It is a different matter that we might not like the item ‘that much’ when we bring it home. But that moment, that moment feels really sad.

Then comes the theory of buying in bulk. If one item is for Rs. 300, a conscientious negotiator will demand 3 for the same price. It’s such a funny trait but it always works. Both the parties have a hearty laugh in their insides while their face remains totally grim. The transaction usually ends with 2 for the same price and all parties are happy.

In such situations, any lady can give the likes of Smriti Irani/Deepika Padukone a serious run for their money. I am sure if you sit with a road-side vendor, he will be able to narrate hundreds of humorous bargain stories with killer acting by the women in question. I am also sure that he will be able to tell you how he sold an item that was worth a 100 for 500 by quoting a 1000 and still seen immense satisfaction on a customer’s face.

That is why we never feel content even after getting a 50% discount. That feeling of ‘we could have gotten it for less’ always remains. But all’s well that ends well. Our momentary triumphant smile and Bhaiya’s happiness of fooling yet another lady, is a win-win situation for all.

Really, shopping in malls is so boring when there is so much drama in street shopping!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Do you read your old blog posts?

It’s 7:30 p.m. on a Sunday night – a weekday in our Arabic country. We just had this awesome chicken curry that I made. The Boy is watching the T20 match between India and England. I’m sitting on the dining table with my laptop open in front of me. The green tea is piping hot. Since there is nothing better to read on the Internet(!!), I went to my old blog posts and have been smiling ever since.

I see the posts written in July 2007. I wrote 10 posts in a single month. It was beginner’s euphoria I guess. That time I use to drive my bright red Zen and go to this shop in Aliganj, Lucknow and rent out books and review them. I had difficulty in driving a car but that didn’t deter me from going from one place to another. I wish I had started blogging in 2006; then I would have written about the accident as well. And I'm wondering why I didn't write about my first prize - an iPod - which I won because of this post! Maybe I was not as flamboyant as I am now! Btw, I sold that iPod for Rs. 10,000 to my dad, ha!!

In October 2007, I met the Boy’s parents. The post is out there. I was very secretive back then and so there are no details in the post. In February 2008, I had a haircut and wrote a post on that. Someone commented he/she loved my blog and I actually felt awesome!

There are details of my friend’s wedding, and then another friend's wedding. There are a few posts about my wedding. There are silly posts about random days. There are random posts on random things. There is love, there is humour, there is pain, there are inspiring stories, there are poems… in this one website I’ve lived the last 7 years of my life. 

It’s a personal blog and will always remain one. I don’t care how some would see it as immature or boring; I love to document my life here and would continue to do so. You know why? – because on a dull day like this when I go to my old posts it makes me feel so good. Sure, I have memories to hold on to. But the specific details, the thought process that I had, what went on in my mind, the kind of person I was – it’s all here in this space.

Do you like to read your old posts as well? Do you read the stories that you wrote, or do you like the contest entries that you posted, or, like me, do you love the personal posts that say about your situation back then?  

If you want my advice I’ll tell you to write about today. Tomorrow when you’ll read about it, you’ll smile as much as I’m smiling today!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

'This Blog Post will Change Your Life'

“25 photographs that will put your picture taking skills to shame”

“This girl went to the ice-cream wallah. What happened next will change the way how you look at ice-cream.”

“This video will make you kill yourself.”

These are a few examples of what we've been seeing on the web these days. We are living in an age of superlatives. The good old good, pretty and well-written are replaced by jaw-dropping, drop-dead-gorgeous and the best-piece-I’ve-ever-read, respectively. I mean, if I write that I liked your article, I’m made to believe that I don’t really like it enough, or probably don’t like it at all.

Since when did everyone, EVERYONE in this world become like an 18-year-old teenager who needs to be reassured a million times? I think it all started with commenting on pictures. Our social needs require us to not only like a picture but write a comment on it as well. Actually it depends on our relationship with the person. It goes like this - acquaintance = like; friend = you look nice; sister, brother/Best friend = like + you look awesome.

But what do you do when someone above you has already written nice/awesome. You are as good as your thesaurus and so you dig new words. So yes, that probably started the epidemic of superlatives. It also brought along a string of new words – cuteness, superlike, bootylicious…

Since the Internet was replete with videos and pictures, someone out there decided to create attention-seeking headlines because ‘Breaking news’ was not good enough. I think they took lead from India TV and that other channel with Sansani, the one of ‘Aage ki khabar aapko Chauka degi. Baba bana Gunda’ fame.

These titles are actually effective. When I see a girl falling from a roller-coaster, I don’t click on it. But when I see “Accidiant terrifiant blah blah” written on it, I open it even though it forces me to like the video and display my curiosity and velaness to all my 400 friends.

The funniest thing happened with an aunt on Facebook. There was an iffy looking picture in circulation - a man and a woman were getting cosy in it. The caption was – comment mein 8 likhiye aur chamatkaar dekhiye. Now poor aunt, she typed 8. The picture was publicly shared and so the whole world got to know that she was interested in it! Although my day was made, she buried her head in shame for the whole week!

If the word ‘chamatkaar’ wasn’t on the picture, she wouldn’t have written anything.  Hence proved - superlatives lure us; normal is certainly not good enough.  Just like 90% gets us nowhere in boards, 95 and above is what we need to do well.

Even the vacation we go to has to be ‘the best vacation ever’. Even though I know you had written that the last time. I kind of understood the normalcy behind superlatives when I was at a party. A couple who was there with us at the boring bash went home and put a picture of it on Facebook. The tag-line read – the best days of our lives. Now I am all for positivity; but I’m not in favour of white lies!

In all this there is just one solace – that I have friends who would write ‘whistle-whistle’ and ‘you look divine’. Otherwise even a 100 likes and a few nice/good comments would have made me feel like a mere plain Jane.

That would have certainly made a stupefying dent in my super-awesome, fantabulous, stellar life.

P.S.  Surprisingly, a simple comment like ‘I love your blog’ still makes my day :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Month That Was

Soumya of Life of Leo writes these awesome Action Replay posts each month. This time I decided to get 'inspired' and write a similar post. Although I do like 1% of what the world manages to do in this time, I am in love with my life and have absolutely no qualms about doing too little.
Lazy bum.

Well, not really. I came back from a vacation on 1st August and was absolutely refreshed. I decided to dedicate this month to health and I am extremely happy with the results. They are not fabulous but they are a labor of love which needs to be cherished.

So what did I do? I started to walk 3 kms in a park. This is a big deal for me and takes a little less than an hour. The temperature was 40 degrees with humidity levels ranging from 30-60%!!! Wind did help us at times. At other times, it was the chatter. I need to chat non-stop to cover that area happily. So everyday the Boy took me to this sea-side park which is like a 20-minute drive from our place. Why? - because that is the only place where I wanted to walk! He would then walk with me at my pace encouraging me whenever I needed. It's a mere stroll for him and doing that in this heat for someone else really needs a lot of love in your heart. Did I tell you there is no one better than him in this world?

Also, I talk a lot for distraction. Otherwise 3 kms seem like a 100! From past to present to future, we discuss just about everything. As you know, I am a planner. So I would plan the next 20 years for us and he would just laugh and pull my leg. Plans don't always materialize, or so they say. August has also left us very confused with something which you would know soon. Or, maybe not.

Since this month was dedicated to health, I did pranayam followed by exercise every morning as well. It is so hard to sit on your yoga mat. But when you get up, I think there is no better feeling. I did stuff for more than an hour and felt blessed. Breathing exercises are like meditation. Every cell in your body is energized and you feel happy for the rest of the day. We do need positivity in our lives from various sources - this, trust me, is the easiest way to stay optimistic.

To supplement about 2.5 hours of slow and steady workout, I have started a high-protein-low-carb diet. There is so much nutrition our body needs that eating rice, flour, potatoes or bread is not important at all. So eggs, grilled chicken, fruits, spinach and lots of salad has replaced quite a few things in my kitchen. The result - I have lost 500 gms!!! That is very less - you would say. But in my world, it is success!

I took a weeks break to give rest to my body. Hopefully I am rejuvenated now and will start again. The Boy is not keeping well and so gym will be my companion for the next few days. Needless to say, I miss sweating in the park. More than that, I miss the long drive and the endless chatter about nothing and everything.

So August was awesome for me. I am hoping to be as motivated in September because after that 3 trips will keep us very busy. Don't you just love vacations? - I am just crazy about them 'cause they inspire me to stay fit and keep dreaming.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Giving Life to Imagination

When I was a little girl, I had a doll-house which was very similar to this one:

The Doll house

The house was perfect for little elves but my giant Miss World Barbie called it first. In a few weeks, I understood that the bed in the house was only suitable for her petite head. I then went on a rampage until I got a bed that fit her size. Like I would stand in front of the store (ironically called Cheap House in Lucknow!) and demand a bed for my doll. If my mother would disagree, I would tell her that I was willing to part with my Rakhi money for it. My sweet mother always obliged because apparently lying on the floor and throwing fits was worse! My Rakhi money was kept safe till I grew up, had a boyfriend and spent all my savings in recharging my calling card. Only if my mother knew better! Anyway, that bed looked exactly like this one:

So you see I had an eye for all things pretty for a nest from a very early age! If Steve Jobs had developed iPhone when he was younger, I could have shown you hundreds of selfies with my collection. But since our 36-film roll camera was reserved for special occasions like cutting the cake in the same position each year, horse back ride in Nainital and dressing up like village-women in Mussoorie, I don't have pictures of my toys that were bought by my mother at gunpoint. But these are almost the same.

Along with playing with these dolls, kitchen sets, stuffed animals, etc, I also grew up listening to myriad tales from my mother and granny. Because they hailed from Rajasthan, they had extensive knowledge about the Rajput queens as well as Lord Krishna, the Hare and the Tortoise and the 'new-age' Cinderella. Each night, my mother repeated these stories and I fell asleep feeling the same awe every time Cinderella found her prince charming. Really, mothers are the most patient creatures in the world.

These tales did have a lot of effect on me - I've learnt never to give up from the tortoise, I've learnt to be humble (ahem!) from Cinderella, I've learnt you can be good and naughty at the same time from the Krishna tales, and I've learnt about the strength of a woman from the folk tales of Rajasthan. (Also, the biggest lesson that I took from these ladies was how to glam-up and always look pretty but that's not something my granny was aiming at!)

Soon I outgrew those toys and tales, finished my studies and got married. But those memories, they will go with me to my grave. Isn't that true with each one of us; I mean the girls? I played Monopoly (a.k.a. Business), Battlefield, Chess, Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, several outdoor games... but it is these girly toys that remain my favorite. I could live in that doll house, I could be Jodha Bai, I could marry the Prince... actually in my head, I already did!

When I moved into my own house with my husband, it was like I was playing the Princess and he was the Prince Charming. Sure I did not have my own chariot nor did he have his own castle, but neither of us were complaining. The first thing that you need to make a house a castle is lots of love. And boy, we didn't have any dearth of it.

But then comes a tricky part - giving a personal style to the house. When I came into this place, it was already furnished. The look was quite minimalistic and western. Our culture is so colorful that giving a living space an ethnic look makes a lot of sense to me. I also believe in giving each room it's own identity - one can be chic, one can be eccentric, and one can be ethnic.

The stories from childhood were still playing in my mind like they've always had. The lessons were in my heart, but I still wished for those settings. Since fairies and elves were a 'tad' childish for our taste now, I thought bringing home these glamorous queens and stuff from their courtyard from MakeMyHome would help in bringing my own story together. This cushion cover, mirror and men with musical instruments could assist in bringing things to life that I had only imagined through those tales: 

Cushion Cover from MakeMyHome - Rs. 225
Apno Rajasthan Warli Painting on Large Mirror
From MakeMyHome - Rs. 1584

Karigaari Music Men Set
From MakeMyHome - Rs. 2380

And if someone asks me the story behind decorating my living room with these, the tale will go thus:

There lived a Queen who had found her Prince Charming
She called her land maaro Rajasthan
Everyday she spent hours dressing
To look pretty for her Nawab!

The courtyard would dazzle when she'd walk through it
The artists played tunes in her honour
One smile and the Raja's eyes would lit
And she would just blush from one corner!

Oh yes, bedtime tales from childhood can do that to you. You assume yourself to be a princess, and why not! And with these around me, my home will feel like a mahal. I can also change the sofa covers, bring in some ethnic table cloth, add class with some Rajasthani sculptures and give a whole new look to my simple looking living room.

This makeover was not only inspired by tales from my childhood but also an apartment we rented out recently in Vienna. It's theme was Emperor Sissi of the Habsberg Dynasty from Austria. The whole apartment was tastefully done with the portraits of the empress and things from her era. I was taken back several centuries and felt like a princess myself. And then I thought how our Rajputana princesses were no less. How elegant it would be to decorate the whole living room with a theme in mind. The room below looks like one from the stories I have heard and read. Wouldn't it be great to have a room that looked like this one:

Living room for inspiration

Yes, if I had to re-do my living room, I would go back to my love for picking the prettiest things for my house and then give life to those tales from my wonderful childhood memories.

I was taken back to my childhood when I came across this contest on Blogadda sponsored by MakeMyHome. Bloggers have to pick 3 items from the special link and tell why and how they will re-do their house with those items. I just loved the experience of digging memories and sharing them here. 

Images from here: The Dollhouse, Barbie BedLiving room for inspiration, Decorative items from MakeMyHome

This post is a part of Makemyhome activity at

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

When I saw the 'Star Pariwar Awards' of the West

I think it was 14 years ago that I started watching American television, or rather what defined it for me - FRIENDS. Before that I only saw what my aunt use to watch - The Bold and The Beautiful - from the corner of my eye because it was an 'adult' show!! I still remember Brooke and Taylor and Ridge and their complicated lives!

Ofcourse Small Wonder, Bewitched, I dream of Jeanie, Wonder Years, Doogie Howser M.D. were a part of my childhood. But it was FRIENDS that really got me into it. School, college and friends gave us little time to watch the other prime-time shows. Also, my mum was like a detective keeping an eye on my every move on the remote control. She did not like me watching angrezi channels at all!

So I finished FRIENDS in 2005 when the Boy burnt 20 CDs for me and my friends from his IIT campus. They had free Internet and a huge database of every kind. I don't know if torrent existed back then, and so his gift was like the best thing in the world. I still have all those CDs and I refuse to download a better version.

When I got married, I had a lot of free time because the Boy had a traveling job and I was stuck in hotels. It was then I started watching How I met your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Two and Half Men, Rules of Engagement, Desperate Housewives, Sex and the city, et al. After that there was no looking back. We watched one television series after the other and (un)fortunately never went back to the Zee TV, Star Plus or Colors of India.

To think of it, there is such a stark difference between them and us. Yesterday, while watching the Emmy awards, I was wondering how elegant their stars looked in those gowns. I felt emotional when Aaron Paul hugged Bryan Cranston because Breaking Bad is indeed the best television series ever. I felt awesome for Modern Family because it makes you laugh and cry at the same time. Jim Parsons and Mathew McConaughey deserve all the adulation they receive because their acting is mind-blowing. But when they have an award ceremony in India, I feel nothing for anyone.

I miss them so much!
What is it that they have that we don't have? I am sure our writers are as brilliant but the market demands only saas-bahu series. Isn't the market changing? I don't know of any friends who watch these sagas. And really, is it actually the depiction of our society?  I mean what if an American comes and watches Ye Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai. Right from the ghoonghat to how men and women are always at home discussing house politics, is downright abysmal. When you watch their television you are blown by their description, their acting, their story building, etc. When you watch our television, you can only tear your hair apart.

Missing them, anyone?
Now I am not someone who likes everything American. I think Bollywood is trying to improve slowly and I support it completely. I even like the fact that some Indian authors are atleast trying to write better stuff. Our culture is unique and it definitely has a lot of potential which can certainly be shown in a better way. These saas-bahu series are definitely not us and we should really stop watching them altogether.

With 24 and Comedy Nights, a little bit has changed. But that's just .01% betterment from the crap that we see on Indian television. I hope one day I can watch Star (not Pariwaar) Awards and think of the day I saw Emmy 2014 and then compare the two in a positive light. I think I am looking at 50 years from now! Or maybe more. But I still have some hope for our country. I also think the Johars and the Chopras of the country should invest in trying new things on television. They have too much money to last generations then why not give our country something to look forward to in the future. I am sure there is talent around here; stop patronizing only Chetan Bhagat and move ahead.