India

Early Morning Boat Ride

One of the must do’s while you’re relaxing in the backwaters is waking up before dawn to take a boat ride across the backwaters before the sun reaches its apex.

For someone like me, who absolutely loves sleeping in, this was quite the task. I woke up groaning and despite all my feeble attempts at backing out, muffled by the duvet I was hiding under so snugly, I found myself dragging my feet towards the dock with puffy, sleep laden eyes.

The ride begins gently but slowly floating past the infamous floating cottages. As one floats by them, one also gets to witness the idol of Mother Mary and the Cross built on a rock. It is a unique experience to see the hues on the idol come to life as the rays of the sun bask upon it, inch by inch. In much the same manner, the water too turns a different shade, seemingly dark maroon or purple, a trick of nature on the irises.

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Once past the floating cottages, the boat heads deeper into the groves where one gets to witness, thanks to the sharp eye of the guide and skipper, birds of different hues and species. Hidden behind heavy sets of leaves and often camouflaged, naive eyes would never notice the birds if it weren’t for the experienced skippers whose very livelihood depends on showing tourists around and impressing them with their keen eye for discovering, what otherwise would be very hard to detect, birds and animals.

One also gets to see houses hidden within the groves, with people waking up and doing their morning chores or getting ready to head out to earn their daily wages. Boats tied here and there indicated fishermen around as well.

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Somewhere between the purr of the motor from the boat and the echoes of birds chirping, an eerie comfort somehow settled upon us as the boat sailed around. Slipping in and out of little streams, created by cutting down hundreds of coconut tress, passing through nooks and crannies, arches made out of trees bent with age, we got to witness flora at its prime, wild in its beauty. From time to time, the skipper chipped in, informing the passengers of fruits that seemed deceivingly normal but were incredibly poisonous and flowers that seemed to be withering but were actually in full bloom and were used to medicate cuts and wounds.

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The entire boat ride was about an hour and a half long. The ride ended just as the sun was about to rise to its zenith. We stepped out and onto the dock feeling energised and awakened, the impression of such tranquil beauty leaving quite a deep impression on the mind and soul.

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Experiencing the Backwaters

It has been quite some time since I have woken up, feeling refreshed and well rested, rather than cranky and groggy. The sun was beaming and there was a slight breeze, whistling as it brushed through the trees and bushes surrounding us.

As I had an appointment with the Spa in a couple of hours, my parents sun bathed beside the pool while I decided on a nice, sunny swim.

I hate gymming. Gymming and running, to be precise. It makes it difficult for me, therefore, to maintain a healthy regime. As a teenager, I was an exuberant participant in multiple sports. Basketball, badminton, swimming, horse-riding, I loved them all. Needless to say, I was toned and extremely fit. University and work ruined all of it. Swimming during this vacation, was not just an enjoyable excuse but also a welcome exercise. I did not realise just how much I had missed swimming until I dipped my toes and broke the surface of the cold water.

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Fun fact regarding my swimming costume while I am at it. Only after the vacation did I realise that I could sport the bikini top two-ways. I could either choose to don it as a halter or remove the straps and sport a cute and well fitted strapless top! Also, the neon print isn’t just for show. It glows in the dark, as I had noticed, the day before, when I had my evening swim.

Soon after, I headed for my spa appointment.(There will be a blog post about it in the coming week, so stay tuned!)

Post my spa treatment, my muscles so relaxed, I could barely move, I somehow dragged myself out of Jiva (the spa centre). Smelling heavily of scented oils, I decided on wearing something light and loose since I wasn’t allowed to bathe for the next hour or so.

Quick tip: Take a shower or bath after the hour is up. The scent becomes quite strong, the more it stays on and makes you feel quite queasy by the end, if you have it on longer than 60 minutes.

I suffered and learnt this bitter truth since we we had a 40 minute journey ahead of us, followed by checking into our resort at Poovar and then being reallocated. All in all, I ended up washing up about two hours later than instructed!

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Having arrived, we hopped onto a little boat, ferrying us across the backwaters to the resort. For all those who are unaware, the backwaters are a part of the river, untouched by the current. Hence, the waters are extremely still.

On our way to ‘Poovar Island Resort’, we saw multiple floating restaurants on one side and an expanse of sand on the other. The sand was a makeshift beach of sorts, barricading the sea. The sea in this part was in a constant state of high tide and the beach was quite unsafe, with various places marked dangerous since it was surrounded by quick sand.

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Beyond the conch lay vast acres of greenery. Flowers in full bloom, coconut trees looming everywhere and small paths weaving in and out, with hammocks in full use, welcomed us as we walked inside the resort.

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From the entrance, one could see tiny cottages popping up here and there with a swimming pool built right in the centre of the entire resort. Once check-in had been done, we were escorted to our floating cottage. Unfortunately, our first and last impression of the floating cottage wasn’t the best. It was dingy and somehow, just didn’t seem appeasing.

For the first time ever, I feel, I put my foot down. My parents had headed for lunch while I decided to wash off the oils from the spa treatment I had done before. Turns out, there was no water! Shocked, upset and taken aback, I stormed out and refused to enter the cottage until we were relocated to a better accommodation.

Thankfully, post lunch, we were housed in one of the newer accommodations which had a wonderful view of the entire resort with the sea visible in the far distance and a jacuzzi installed in the walk-in bathroom!

Come evening, we had a small tour of everything the resort had to offer. We soon realised, this part of the backwaters was best suited for a weekend getaway rather than a long vacation. So we decided to shorten our stay at Poovar and head back to Kovalam after two days rather than three.

Also, it seemed Poovar Island Resort hosted day trips and the like, since the resort seemed to be bustling with people throughout our time there. It was a surprising change from the quiet and calm of Kovalam where people were in their own space and silence was a calming blanket. It doesn’t imply that it was disturbing! The experience was simply different.

We were also informed of the Ayurvedic Village (a must do for everyone, I would say!), located in a small corner of the resort, tucked away from all the cacophony and bustle of tourists making the most of their vacation. Excited, we made ourselves a few appointments, deciding on giving our muscles as good a pamper session as our skin.

Stay tuned for more updates!
xx

 

First Impression of Kovalam

I am not one to lose my calm when I am around my parents. Why? Because they’re capable of doing it without my help. They lose their marbles at the drop of a hat which is why, even if I want to, I can’t. But, they know, that if I start to panic, there really is something to worry about.

Headed to Kovalam had me worried. We had a super early flight and somehow, we were extremely close to missing it. We made it inside the airport with minutes to spare and my bad choices had me swearing under my breath, incessantly. The one time I should have worn sneakers, so that I could do all the running around with ease, I decided on 6 inch heels.

Poor judgement aside, we boarded our flight without much of a delay.

A stop over later, we had landed in Trivandrum.  After a fifteen odd minute drive , we were pulling into the breathtakingly beautiful resort, Vivanta by Taj. Beautifully structured and designed around waterfalls and forestry, the resort oozed serenity and calm. Welcomed with shell garlands, we settled down to cool ourselves, sipping on some refreshing coconut water while our backs were taken to our room.

Having toured all that we could of the resort while the receptionist was confirming the details of our check-in, we decided to stop by the sea. It gave us time to have a quick trip down to the beach, something, all of us were quite eager to visit.

The sun was at its peak, there was salt in the air and the waves were crashing relentlessly on the rocks.

Yes, my vacation had indeed begun.

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We then headed back to the resort where our lovely concierge Roshin surprised us by upgrading us to the Premium Deluxe Suite. Let me just say, the room was spectacular. With a gorgeous sea view, a panoramic view of the resort, two balconies and a walk in bathroom, I was all but ready to kick my heels off and collapse into the relaxing environment that was beckoning me, enticing me never to return to reality.

Having not had lunch, I decided on treating myself to Roasted chicken breast with rosemary, potato mash, mushroom jus and sautéed vegetables.

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I got quite obsessed with mushroom jus by the end of it, my father being witness to it. He actually caught me with my finger dipped deep in the jus, unabashedly treating it like a jar of nutella.

 

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On our way to the sea in the evening, we got to see more of the resort, landscape and design of the resort and everything it had to offer as we bumped along on the cute buggy that was driving us there.

Processed with VSCO with f3 presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetRight next to the beach was a small lagoon. A boatman would, every forty minutes, seat three to four people in his boat and take them around the lagoon. Just as the sun was setting, we got into the wobbly boat, wearing extremely unflattering lifejackets. The boat ride was quaint. The stillness of the water breaking every time the oars splashed, was possibly the only sound one could hear, with the occasional screech or hoot of birds in the surrounding environment. None of us spoke. We simply absorbed the rustic beauty surrounding the village; the swoosh of the oars, hum of the boat floating slowly and our gentle breathing, creating a mild tune to keep us company.

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The water was so still, everything was a mirror reflection on its surface. On our way back, once the boat had turned around, we got to witness the sun setting. Shades of pink, purple and orange kissed the skies and watching it, had my heart fluttering at its beauty.

With our feet back on solid ground, we relaxed some more on the beach.  Eager to let loose the water soul I host, we headed back. The swimming pool in the resort was beautiful to say the least and I really wanted to dip my toes in and swim, something I hadn’t done in ages!

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The design of the swimming pool mimicked the infinity pools that have become so famous, with one side of the pool not walled, instead, ending in a steep drop. The view on the unwalled side of the pool was basically, a never ending view of the sea and the sky meeting, two distinct shades of blue, shaking hands.

Dad decided to give me company while I swum. Having not swum in ages, I decided to really push myself. By the end of it, my muscles were on fire, something I actually enjoyed. While I headed back for an extremely relaxing and LONG bubble bath, my parents headed for their spa appointments.

I think I dozed off in the bath. The warm water and the heady scent of lotus from the bubbles had me relaxed and I lost track of time. When I got out, I felt so sleepy. It was a good kind of exhaustion, not the kinds where you are weary and want to curl up and cry. Donning a bathrobe, I collapsed on the couch, all set with my book. Soon, my parents returned from their spa appointments, smelling of oils and looking, well…sticky.

Dinner was as succulent as lunch. I treated myself to Garlic butter prawns for an entrée and Pesto pasta for my main course. For dessert, I chose Tiramisu with shaved coffee flavoured chocolate.

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Well fed, relaxed to the point that our limbs were almost jelly-like, we hit the bed. For the first time, in what seems like forever, I fell asleep immediately. Actually, I didn’t even realise I had fallen asleep. Middle of the night, when I awoke, parched and in search of a water bottle, did I realise that I had fallen asleep and had been tucked into my bed by my Dad. Slightly embarrassing but adorable too, I’d say.

My first day in Kerala was perfect in every way!

 

Poetry Recitals and Art Exhibitions

During our reunion, Aakriti had informed me of an art exhibition. It was no ordinary exhibition. It was combining two very different creative styles. Poetry would be recited about art that would be displayed. Aakriti was one of the few chosen to recite and I couldn’t be prouder. The concept was intriguing and it had been way too long since I had allowed myself to indulge in two of my favourite interests – art and poetry. So, excited and eager, I arrived at Dhanraj Mahal where the exhibition was taking place.

The team behind TARQ were presenting Parag Tandel’s third solo exhibition titled, ‘Chronicle’.  Focusing on ecology and migration, Tadel creates sculptures cast in resin that represent memories from childhood.

The poets invited for the exhibition were all members of The Poetry Club which is why, besides a recital of poetry influenced by the art, there were poets reciting some of their creative work unrelated to the exhibition as well. The poets had been allowed to go through the sculptures well in advance and were given the liberty to choose which display they wanted to base their poetry on.

Before reciting, each poet not only introduced themselves but also spoke of how and why they got into poetry in the first place.

Aakriti wrote her poem based on Trap I

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Image taken from the official webpage.

I can picture it all too clearly
When someone asks me where I came from
It looks like a cocoon
That houses and nurtures the butterfly
But when you come from a sheltered existence
Even the fibres wrapped tight
Around your once feeble wings
Feel like a trap.
These walls were my rose tinted glasses
Stained with blood and doubt, I was told,
Perhaps to have me believe that the outside world
Can never be as safe or untouched
As the claustrophobia that surrounds me.
If only underexposure 
was the true measure of being free
Of trouble and pain
Because my wings hurt
They're overgrown and yet
Trained to feel the strain
Of this sinewy home
I want to fly out of. 
There's light above and light below
And I long to be illuminated
By anything other than a refraction of that light.
But I know that when that pod opens
And the reins curl away from my skin
And my wings find room to stretch out
I'll have nothing more than a day
To take in more than the hues of red
Before I create my own cocoon
To house another cloistered soul like me. 
Maybe the circle of life
Is a perpetuated series of growing pains.

Devendra wrote his poem based on Extinct Form III

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Image taken from the official webpage

Ambition

How strange is living,
stranger yet to die
Not knowing the who
Never pondering the why
Cursed be each moment
Spent only to deny
The prophet of my soul
My truth it decries
In whispers and persuasive
Signs, in the desperation
Of denial and screams
I never let escape
Hear them yet choose
Comfort in mediocrity
Call it fair compromise
Alas a blatant excuse.
For I fear that
Which is at stake
It is my conscience
For it shall take
My soul; if ever
Pure ambition shall fall
And become empty premise
What shall I become?
But an empty shell
Resounding sameness and banality
It is not weakness
But emptiness, I dread
Choose to know mine
Yet consciously deny, I
Keep ambition at bay
The perfect fail-safe
For a dismal day
To gloat in the knowledge
Never intend to comply
(I) Choose complacence over pride
Familiarity; over the sublime
Instruction of my will
Instead of the paragon
I choose, a lie.
How strange to choose
To live not a day
Forever myself I deny
For I always knew the who
Knew always the why.

Here are some more of the art pieces that were on display.

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Extinct Form I – Image taken from official webpage

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Memory – image taken from official webpage

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Extinct Form V – image taken from official webpage

While Kejal did not write based on the pieces displayed, she recited a few poems that she had written previously for gatherings at The Poetry Club.

 Trade

 He smiled an unfaltering welcome smile 
He knew five words in english 
"Please come in madam, good day." 
Yellow teeth were frequented by red spots 
The smile a crescent moon on his face 
The position never changed
Full moons were not for the uneducated. 
On good days, he smiled. 
On bad days, his smile was broader. 
On frustrating days, it stuck to his face 
Like a brightly painted tattoo. 
His trade depended on it. 
She wore her smile upside down. 
Frowning, they called it. 
It meant you were sad. 
It was the price you had to pay
To buy pity. 
On good days, her tears came easily. 
Snot dripped about her unclean nose 
A prop in her daily dress up act. 
On bad days
she had to suppress her happiness. 
"Look sad", they said. 
"No, look sadder." 
On frustrating days
she had to be slapped, kicked, threatened. 
"We want your tears", they said. 
"We want to buy pity." 
So she frowned. 
Her trade depended on it.

Listening to the poetry stirred something inside me. I had stopped writing poetry myself and had disconnected myself from the art of listening, reciting and writing poetry. Witnessing this exhibition brought back that dormant part of me to some extent.

It was fascinating to see people from different spheres of life, come together for a few hours, all sharing a mutual love for poetry and a certain cynicism towards life. Also, existential crisis. It was selfishly, very comforting.

It was a wonderful experience and I am so glad Aakriti invited me. I hope I can witness and participate in these more frequently, as time passes by.

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Much awaited reunion

I think I would have killed myself if I had been to Mumbai and not visited one of my dearest friends from University.

Aakriti and I clicked with each other on the first college trip we took together and since then, corridor chats, sarcasm and restaurants were never quite the same. From then on, I have never not called her my Iron Butterfly. Why? Well because the woman is sheer brilliance not just because her wit has me in splits but also because of the way she cherishes her friends and their quirks. Her talents leave me speechless as does her gentle yet firm understanding of my personality. Her strength is inspiring as is her determination and confidence. She knows how to pick me up and well…at times let me sink just because she knows I need to drown before I learn to save myself. She kept me distracted when I got my second tattoo, held my hand each time Simba (my dog) fell terribly sick and made sure, I didn’t lose my love for poetry.

We had a tradition while we were in University. Every other weekend, after we would be done with classes, we would head to the back lawns, sit on one of the rusty benches and have conversations that seemed endless. Mind you, all of them were heavily doused in sarcasm. It’s a thing we do, okay? We would also head out to try different restaurants. Aakriti being the food connoisseur, would choose the restaurant and we would have a gala time, enjoying sumptuous food and of course, alcohol.

Needless to say, reuniting with her, had us following all these to the letter. Meeting her, I realised, just how much I had missed her. From the moment we sat down, having hugged each other for quite some time, the craziness kicked in. Food and alcohol came and went, hours passed by and we didn’t realise, not once. From careers to friends to reminiscing about old times and discussing the future apprehensively, books to music to new tattoos, we chatted about it all.

As Aakriti put it, “So what, yes we were in a long distance friendship, but I never had to doubt or second guess the nature of our friendship. I always knew you were there, somewhere, but there, just as I knew I was there. We didn’t have to text or talk all the time, but we always knew what was going on and we knew that when that day would come, when we’d meet again, we’d pick up right where we left off. So I’ve never been concerned.”

Where and what did we munch on during this much longed for reunion?

Well, we met at Jamjar, a place extremely close to where we both were living. We met up for lunch and I gorged on food like a monster, after way too long a time. I think it had a little to do with four-five (?) double Jack Daniels I had downed, but I am not too sure.

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The interior of Jamjar

For starters, we decided on Melted Queso and Crispy Bacon Fries along with a plate of Butter, Chilli Garlic Prawns. Once we had polished them off, we asked for our mains. I decided to try something different instead of always zooming in on the Pastas. While Aakriti went for Fresh basil pesto spaghetti with mushrooms and bell peppers, I chose the Mushroom and spinach stuffed Chicken. I was close to licking my plate clean, the food was so delicious. Once we were done with the mains, we decided to pamper ourselves with dessert, although it was more to do with balancing out the alcohol we were consuming so very rapidly. Aakriti convinced me into trying the Spiced poached Pear and Brownie Sundae. It was divine. Let’s just keep it at that.

Also, as a side note, each time my drink arrived, for some weird reason, I would confuse the stirrer for a straw. Each time and each time, Aakriti found this hilarious and had to keep aside her freshly brewed beer, since she was too busy laughing…at me.

With bellies full and minds a little woozy, we decided to meet up again, over the weekend, when Aakriti would be reciting poetry at an art exhibition. I think I volunteered to attend even before she invited me. What can I say, I love the woman’s poetry.

If you wish to check out her poetry and delicious recipes, (another feather in her cap) check out her blog here !

Inked Sightseeing

With a hangover that had us groaning as we got out of bed, Rushil and I geared up for the day. Both of us were thrumming with energy though, despite the alcohol from the night before doing its hardest to slow us.

One of my intentions, having arrived in Mumbai, was to get inked. There was a need rather than a want and there was also a craving for change. Desperation had been eating at me for days to shed the old, leave behind the memories and sensations, forget the hopes and start afresh. Back when I was in University, this usually involved me getting pierced or colouring my hair, etc. Either way, it usually had to do with me, well, doing something to myself. In my head, this was always my way of establishing a new lifestyle.

As mentioned before, I have suffered from dysthymia for quite some time now. Having relapsed recently and slipped back into depression after keeping it at bay for almost a year, had me fighting for ‘something new’. I stumbled across the perfect image and after that, I was itching for it to be on my skin, permanently.

I got it done on my ribs. Many may wonder why I got it done there. Any one who has any idea about tattoos, knows, that the rib cage is one of the MOST painful places to get inked. The masochist in me chose that spot for that very reason. To get away from the anguish, my twisted thinking had me believing very firmly, that even if it was for just half an hour, the pain from the tattoo on the rib cage would distract me from the pain I was dealing with every minute, emotionally and mentally.

On some level, it did and on some level, it failed.

Nonetheless, I now have my third tattoo spanning across four ribs. Have fun trying to figure out what it symbolises !

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My tattoo involving three different symbols.

While I was laying on my side, nails digging into the leather and face, dealing with the excruciating pain, Rushil too was having her back inked. She was sealing the deal on a previous tattoo and adding the final touches to it, to make it complete. The minute she got done with hers, she rushed to me, her hands voluntarily being impaled by my nails as she tried to distract me from the sensation of a needle pricking me way too many times, carving my bone while it was at it.

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Rushil’s tattoo

After both our tattoos were done, we headed out for lunch. Rushil took me to SodaBottleOpenerWala, a Parsi restaurant. The cuisine was delicious and I loved the cuisine!

I left it to Rushil to choose the food for us. I was too busy trying to breathe through the pain. Rushil did a brilliant job with the choice of food. She always looks like such a stunner, but something about the restaurant made her look like a vision and I couldn’t help but capture her.

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We had the Chicken Sanju Baba, which was the Sunday special. Alongside that, we had Rotlis and Mutton Berry Pulao. The portions were pretty big and I failed to finish my share. I had to push my plate away from me with a very heavy heart.

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The lunch was made a tad bit awkward when my tattoo started bleeding. People all round had such quizzical looks on their face. I guess it is warranted when you are lifting your top up in public every few minutes, dabbing away with a tissue that is turning darker from blood with every pat.

Post lunch, we headed to the centre of Mumbai, where I, in the words of Rushil, acted like a complete tourist, snapping pictures of everything I saw. We visited Taj Palace and The Gateway of India. The rains did not help neither did wearing flats.

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From there, Rushil dragged me to Colaba Causeway for shopping. In my head, my tattoo was a big and very expensive gift to myself, so indulging in some more did not feel right. We window shopped for a bit and then headed to Kala Ghoda, a cafe that exudes serenity and calm; a place where you can go by yourself, discover, and let your creativity flow.

We went for an Iced Latte, Cold Coffee with Ice Cream and Muti Grain Bread with Hummus. The entire time spent there was so incredibly relaxing. There was no urge to keep up a conversation. One could be in their own thoughts and yet still enjoy the company around them.

We then headed back home, extremely exhausted. I think both of us even dozed off in the cab ride home!

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Back home, I think I woke up our neighbours. We had to clean our tattoos and taking off the tape concealing our tattoos reignited the pain that had numbed through the day. My screams had me demanding or rather begging Rushil to let the tape be, making feeble attempts at convincing her that the tattoo could be cleaned later on…maybe never. We all know who won that argument!

Doesn’t matter though. The pain was so worth it.

xx

P.S : I pride myself on having an extremely high threshold for pain. The description of pain from getting my bones inked is truly not an exaggeration. If you’re planning on getting inked there, think twice and go drunk if you can!

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Hi Mumbai!

Recently, struggling to cope with reality, anxiousness to get away, loss of identity and a complete lack of will, had me cooped up in my bedroom for days on end.

That was until my gem of a best friend decided to step in. Before I dive into the details, I feel it necessary to give a brief sketch as to who this wonderful human being is and what she means to me.

I first met Rushil at Alliance Française, where we both lost any chance we had of learning French, when we began crushing over our super cute French teacher. Those classes sealed the deal and our friendship since then, has been one of the bright lights in my life. She is my anchor, my (at times undesired) dose of brutal honesty and my constant support and belief. There has been not one time, when she has been wrong or misguided by her gut instinct when it comes to me, my decisions/choices and the people I surround myself with. Her ambitious and brilliant mind, fascinating creativity and amazing talent with a camera, are few of the reasons why I am so incredibly proud of her.

Moving on from the love dose…

Rushil coaxed me into flying out to see her and experience Mumbai for a bit. Despite being a military brat and having the advantage of getting to travel the country, thanks to the many places my father was posted to, somehow Mumbai evaded me and I never quite got the chance to experience the city.

Having arrived and confused a domestic airport for an international one, Rushil and I reunited after three long years. The spark that first connected us, is still there and we’ve picked up where we left off, as though these three years never really happened.

So how was my first night in Mumbai?

Well, here’s how it went…

  • Drank some VERY expensive wine out of mason jars.
  • Gorged on pizza that was all kinds of meat heaven.
  • Clicked our first ever polaroid

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  • Poured our hearts out (yes there were tears, a lot of tears) in the middle of the night while we sat on the roof, listening to the waves of the sea.
  • Walked extremely unsteadily on the streets as it poured cats and dogs, hunting for more alcohol as one bottle apparently, was not enough.
  • Drunk dialled people, something that is ALWAYS a bad idea.
  • Drank some more expensive wine.
  • Ate some more heavenly pizza.

Ultimately, we passed out. Or at least I did. Rushil usually can’t sleep when she’s THAT drunk.

As can be expected, we woke up with raging hangovers, the effects of which are still being felt…

Roti Chai

Remember when I said, being away from home made me miss India and its cuisine a bit too much?

Ya well, despite having quite the heavy meal at Dishoom, my desi soul wasn’t quite satiated. I was craving more. The lingering taste of the cuisine made me want to have more of it and I just couldn’t find the excuse to go savour it.

So, when Esperanza’s birthday came round and she expressed her desire to go eat Indian food again, I all but fell out my chair with excitement. Instead of going to Dishoom, we decided on trying out a different Indian restaurant named Roti Chai. Roti Chai has two floors on which it serves food. Despite the fact that it serves the same cuisine, the first floor serves a more diverse range of street food and the like.The service is fast and it isn’t that heavy on the wallet. As my girls and I were going out for dinner and it was after all, our darling Espy’s birthday, we decided on treating her to the high end meal.

Upon entering, we were welcomed by a giant sign that not so subtly directed us towards the ground floor where we would be dining.

Bhojan Kaksh which translates into ‘Eating Area’

After being seated, we took a few minutes to settle down and take in the decor and setting of the restaurant. Lanterns hung low from the ceiling and steel racks were nailed to the wall on top which were placed suitcases to give the feel of a railway carriage. It was quite unlike the first floor which was decked with posters and mud dolls of Indian cultural performers. Having become warm and comfy in our seats, we were given the menu cards. We opted out of the set three course menu and decided on ordering a variety of stuff so that we could all taste and enjoy the dishes. Dipa and I, proud Indians that we are, helped Mary and Esperanza out as they went through the menu cards. After quite a lot of indecisiveness, we had finally decided on our starters. On our insistence, Mary and Esperanza decided to try out the Seasonal Pav Bhaji and Dhaba Tandoori Chicken. Being massive fans of prawns, Dipa and I decided on sharing a plate of Chilli Garlic Prawns.

From left to right : Seasonal Pav Bhaji which is spiced vegetable mash with buttered ‘pav’ bread, Chilli Garlic Prawns cooked with Goan chilli, roasted garlic, rock samphire served atop coconut rice and Dhaba Tandoori Chicken where the meat is rubbed with traditional tandoori masalas.

The minute the starters were laid in front of us, we dived in. I squealed in joy upon popping the first prawn into my mouth. It was so juicy and delicious. What made this dish even more yummy was the fact that it was served with coconut rice which is one of my favourite comfort foods. The rice is fried in yoghurt and coconut cream and makes for quite the hearty meal. With that first bite, I couldn’t help but miss my mum and home terribly. While I was lost in prawn land, Mary and Esperanza had started on the Seasonal Pav Bhaji. Despite the fact that it was a tad bit spicy, the buttery ‘pav’, which is a loaf of bread in the shape of a bun and the flavours of the ‘bhaji’ won them over. Although Esperanza’s eyes were close to watering, it didn’t stop her from spooning some more on her plate. We tried the Dhaba Tandoori Chicken at the end because it was a big chunk of chicken leg which had been pit roasted. For Indians like Dipa and me, the flavours were anything but spicy but Mary and Esperanza found the masala rubbed on the skin of the meat a little spicy. Nothing a big dash of lemon didn’t fix though !

We then requested for the menu cards once again, our appetites still quite ravenous. After much musings and explanations about what dish is what, we chose our main courses. While Mary decided on trying out the Parsi Chicken Dhansak, Dipa chose the Koliwada Fish Kari and Esperanza and I both zoomed in on the Butter Chicken. We ordered a side of Steamed Basmati Rice, Raita, one serving of Tandoori Roti and two servings of Garlic Naan. 

It wasn’t long before our noses caught the smell of our food wafting from the kitchen and before we knew it, the dishes were in front of us, waiting to be eaten.

The Koliwada Fish Kari is a traditional fisherman style dish with tilapia, coconut and South Indian spices.

The Parsi Chicken Dhansak is a Zoroastrian sweet and sour chicken dish with lentils, butternut and spices

The Butter Chicken is an old Delhi style chicken thigh tikka dish served with ‘makhani’ gravy and a touch of fenugreek.

The Garlic Naan went brilliantly with the Butter Chicken. The kick of the garlic along with the creamy gravy of the chicken made every morsel melt in my mouth. The chicken was cooked perfectly and there was enough for more than one person. Being a big fan of Butter Chicken, I don’t think there will ever be a time when I’ll have something bad to say about the dish. Esperanza enjoyed it too although being a little sensitive towards the flavours of India, she cleaned out the dish with her nose and eyes watering. The Raita helped soothe the taste buds since it had an added element of pomegranates in it which, surprisingly, went quite well with the cucumbers and yoghurt. On tasting Dipa’s Koliwada Fish Kadi, I was immediately reminded of a very common South Indian dish called Sambaar which is served alongside Idlis and Dosas. Not being a huge advocate of fish in general, the fish of this dish won me over. It was extremely soft and the curry in which it was cooked made it all the more tastier. Having never tasted Zoroastrian dishes before, Mary’s dish was a first for me as well and I have to say I enjoyed it quite a lot. It was a wonderful mix of sweet and sour where no one particular taste overpowered the other. Unlike the others, I preferred her dish with Tandoori Roti rather than Basmati Rice or Garlic Naan.

We had finished off our mains faster than we had expected. Boy, we must have been hungry !

Doesn’t it look divine ?

Since it was Esperanza’s birthday, we couldn’t leave without some sugar tingling on our tongues now could we ? On Dipa’s recommendation, we decided on ordering the Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon Cream. It lived up to its fame I have to say. I was a little sad knowing my wish to try the Chai Brûlée had been over ruled but one spoon of this sin and my mind wasn’t thinking straight one bit. The chocolate mousse of the tart was silky smooth and the tart was baked just right. I never thought I would enjoy cinnamon cream so much but it was just out of this world. Gah, I have no words for it !!

Chocolate Tart served with Cinnamon Cream.

To preserve our lovely moments in this restaurant, we had a group picture taken and after one too many attempts, we got the perfect one.

From right to left : Esperanza, Dipa, Mary and me !

Personally, I don’t know which one I preferred more, Dishoom or Roti Chai. Even if I were held at gun point, I would be stammering and fumbling for words, both are THAT good.

My advice ?

Try both of them out. Maybe you can help me decide or find yourselves in the same quandary as me.

Have fun Mavericks !!

A Burst of Colours

If I had to give one reason as to why I am so fascinated by the Indian culture, it would be that no matter what festival is being celebrated, the lore is always kept alive and the celebration is anything but low key. It is always welcomed and enjoyed with a lot of hue and cry and the hangover lasts for weeks.

Holi, or the festival of colours is my favourite festival to celebrate as an Indian. Ever since I was a kid, I would look forward to the day when I would wear my oldest clothes and run out of the house resembling a rainbow throwing colours at my friends, being doused with water and ducking water balloons that came flying from nowhere. I wouldn’t mind in the least standing under the shower for hours trying to wash off the paint and then walking around and going to school with patches of colour slowly fading away from my skin making me look like the human version of blotting paper. So, upon arriving in London, celebrating Holi was wishful thinking. I was mildly happy scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed browsing the multitude of pictures uploaded by my friends of them playing Holi. It came as a very happy surprise to me when my friend informed me of an event being hosted where we could celebrate Holi in London. Needless to say, I was in.

Oh boy, was I excited.

Before I dive into the details of my celebrations London style, here’s a small understanding of this festival and how it came about.

Holi is, as I mentioned before, the festival of colours celebrating or welcoming spring. The word ‘Holi’ originates from ‘Holika‘ who was, as legend has it,the evil sister of the demonic King Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon whereby he would be indestructible but he became arrogant, believing himself to be God and expecting to be worshipped like one. Unlike Hiranyakashipu, his son Prahlada was different. He disagreed with his father’s acts and decided to remain a devout follower of Vishnu, the second God in the Hindu Triumvirate. This infuriated his father and he was subjected to cruelty, punishments and the like none of which affected him or his resolve. Holika, the evil sister decided to take things into her own hands and tricked Prahlada into sitting on a pyre with her. As they sat, Holika wore a cloak that made her immune to the fire. As the fire crackled and roared, the cloak flew off Holika and wrapped around Prahlada instead. Holika thus burned and Prahalda survived. Vishnu then arrived and killed Hiranyakashipu.
So, a Holika bonfire is lit to celebrate the symbolic victory go good over evil and how fire destroys and creates. The day following this bonfire is celebrated as Holi where people spend hours painting other people with colours and then getting inebriated after consuming one too many glasses of ‘Bhaang’ a natural alcoholic drink made out of the oil, leaves and flowers of the female cannabis plant.

Anyhoo, lets come back to my experience celebrating my favourite festival in London after this short history lesson.

Toothless, her friend Katie and I met up at King’s Cross tube station around mid afternoon. We then headed to Nido’s where the event was being held. As we walked through the doors, loud music and screams flooded my ears. I saw Europeans and Indians running around, slipping in and out of clouds of colours and the familiar fuzzy, warm excitement seeped into my bones. We rushed inside and changed into the t-shirts that the event holders were handing out to us along with a packet of colours. While I chose the green colour, Toothless went for pink and Katie decided on purple. We then walked out to the backyard where the party was being held and well, we went crazy. Smearing colours on each others faces and having the same done to us in return, we spent a good two hours painting ourselves all shades of silly. There were times when we could barely see each other because of the huge colour mists that were being created by flinging colours in the air. It was so much fun and the entire time, I had a massive smile plastered on my face.

This is us about five minutes after we had joined in and started, emphasis on the word ‘started’, playing Holi.

This is us, ten minutes later. We were ‘attacked’ by two boys who charged at us screaming ‘You guys are too clean. There’s no colour on you !!’ They then emptied at least five packets of colour on our faces and heads.

This is when the craziness kicked in and it seemed to be raining colours.

This was the aftermath or when things slowed down for a minute or two. See the difference ?

My adorable Toothless.

Katie, after the onslaught.

It was so much fun seeing Europeans and Indians celebrating the festival together and genuinely having a good time. By the end of it, everyone looked like they had stumbled into quite a few paint cans. No one’s hair looked blonde or brunette any longer. They were instead streaked in hues of blue, red, purple, pink and green.

As I trudged back home, attracting way too many quizzical looks on the tube, I couldn’t help but smile goofily. I did shut up though when I realised I had colour smearing my pearly whites which made me look even more creepy. Upon arriving back home, a good two hours were spent washing away the colours and then trying to rinse out the colour from my favourite pair of jeans and cardigan.

As I saw the coloured water draining away, I reminisced about all the times I had celebrated Holi and how each and every occasion was amazing in its own way. Celebrating Holi London style was no less amazing and it was made even more special by Toothless, Katie and baby boy Divyansh who we bumped into while being attacked by colour squads.
There’s a chance I might be celebrating Holi again in the next few weeks with my hall mates so keep your eyes peeled for another possible Holi post.

Till then, may your lives be as colourful as this festival always is, my Mavericks.

First Footprints on British Soil !

It’s been a week since I left India and landed on a whole other continent.

It’s been a week of confusion, getting lost and discovery.

It’s been a week but already I am in love. In love with this city.

London has not failed me. It is exactly what I expected and hoped it would be.  Be it the people who are so polite in their mannerisms or the moody weather, the Big Ben and its cracked bell or  the red telephone booths, everything is magic to me. I feel as though I have stepped into one of my favourite novels and I wish so dearly that this never ends.
So here I am documenting my first few days here, my observations and experiences.
Despite the fact that I have yet to learn how to read a map, I have become quite the professional at commuting via tube and bus. The rumble of the train entering the platform, the ground shaking under me as it comes to a stop has become a comfort of sorts.
The women here have pushed me into eating healthy (I now enjoy yoghurt, something I used to detest earlier) and I also walk. A lot. People at all times of the day can be seen jogging and it is enough to see the women in their way too skinny jeans and figure hugging clothes to give me the well needed kick and push to start working out and become more understanding of my body and make some well deserved changes in my lifestyle. Having made some really good friends (one who has given me competition in regards to OCD, one who buys fruit loops and cereals and munches on them as though they were snacks and one who is a pro at all things tax and calculations), they have ensured that the lovely relationship I shared with my bed does no longer exist. With a new plan devised every day, I am out visiting and wondering across a different street, square and monument almost every day.
During my three day orientation, I have come across people from different nationalities some of whom have been warm and welcoming and the others not so much. I have found myself lost in my own campus, the infamous Strand which I have dubbed The Hogwarts Staircase since the building has way too many flights of stairs and they all LOOK ALIKE. No wonder I got lost and almost didn’t make it to my session.
I have been on a walking tour where I learnt just how much the monarchy loved sex and I have also been on a cruise during which the sun was so unbearably hot, I wondered if I was indeed in London, or back in Delhi. I have also found myself wandering famous squares, the likes of Trafalgar and Piccadilly. I have participated in and thoroughly hated the British disco night life and have also embarrassed myself by cackling loudly on hearing the British crack their very dry jokes.
I have commuted in a tube for over forty minutes oblivious to the fact that I was sporting very bright blue teeth and an even brighter blue tongue thanks to the candy I am consistently chewing on (which sort of negates my healthy eating) and discovered the very yummy Burger King which makes for quite a sumptuous dinner seeing as I missed mine quite a few times.
I have successfully opened a bank account although I skirt topics which include terms like ‘loans, credit, debit, interest’ and have failed abysmally to do my laundry which has put me in a VERY sticky situation. I AM RUNNING OUT OF CLOTHES TO WEAR.
I also, didn’t spare any time and successfully picked a fight with my parents.
Through all this, the one thing that has remained constant is the fact that each day, when I wake after somehow shutting off the alarm clock, I find myself smiling and eagerly looking forward to the day to come. I am not grumpy or cranky. I do not wish to go back to sleep neither do I wish I could cancel plans.
I find comfort in this land that is sunny one minute and chilly the next, this land where leaves crunch under my shoes as autumn and winter get ready to brush shoulders, people smile and wish good morning and good evening genuinely and also sincerely apologise and wish people a good day.

I have found a missing piece of me. I feel more complete.

Seven days down and I am already bewitched. I can’t wait to experience more.

Ending this with a few pictures, the first of many :)

My college, it's insignia.

My college, it’s insignia.

The view from my campus, the Thames and the London Eye.

The view from my campus, the Thames and the London Eye.

A corner of Waterloo Bridge.

A corner of Waterloo Bridge.

Deserted boats on the Thames.

Deserted boats on the Thames.

Street art at Trafalgar Square.

Street art at Trafalgar Square.