Lifestyle

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!

 

Chrissi Island

On our last day in Ierapetra, we decided to head out to an island quite close to it, called Chrissi Island. Costing about 10€ for a round trip, we booked our tickets, choosing from one of many boats headed there. Since we had some time on our hands before we were to set sail, we hung around the beach and also visited a Greek orthodox church.

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The architecture was one of many things that made this church stand out from the countless others that I had visited. Having been intrigued, studied and practised Christianity for a bit, experiencing the orthodox traditions of the Greeks was fascinating and so enlightening!

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the interiors but from memory, I can recall the interiors being very dark and the idols placed on shelves almost doll-like. They were draped in traditional clothing and fabrics and greek scriptures were hung from pillars and tapestries. The air inside was daunting yet extremely pious. I wish I had the chance and time to experience one of their sermons but oh well! beggars can’t be choosers.

It was soon time to head out to the island. The journey there was heavenly. With wind in our hair, flicks of salty sea sprinkling over us, the hour and half journey was completed in no time.

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Chrissi Island from afar.

Chrissi Island had two beaches for the visitors. There was one that was more visually appealing while the other was more rocky with massive wooden logs strewn all over. It being a windy day had caused the sea to turn quite rough one one side of the beach. Turns out, it was the more picturesque beach that was facing rough waters, so it was out of bounds. We therefore, trudged over to the other side where we hogged sun beds as soon as we caught sight of them.

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Fun fact about the island: Chrissi Island is strewn with Cannabis plants. The whole island had a subtle scent of cannabis and we saw massive bushes of them sprouting here and there.

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On more than one occasion, multiple names crossed my mind of people who would have lost their marbles had they known of the free abundance of cannabis on this island, their hippie souls having found paradise.As much as I would have enjoying gifting these friends of mine their idea of nirvana, the law abiding citizen in me made sure my hands stayed far away from these plants.

Mary and I took a quick dip in the sea and had the scariest time on our way back. The sea bed was known to be filled with sea urchins and we kept yelping and jumping in our skins, thinking every other moss covered rock was a sea urchin. The fear was fuelled further by the news that Mary’s sister had spent the night before in the ER, having the spines from a sea urchin taken out of the sole of her foot. I did not wish to spend my last day in Greece roaming the sterilised walls of a hospital! Thankfully, we reached land without facing multiple stabs.

For the next three hours I think, Tony, Mary and I simply slept. The wind and crashing waves were a gentle lullaby and we nearly missed our boat back home!

Having arrived back, Mary treated us to Gyros, a traditional Greek dish. With meat stuffed inside a massive flatbread along with mustard, tomatoes, onions and tzatziki sauce, the dish is too big to fit into your mouth. Add to that, french fries are stuffed inside the flatbread as well and trust me when I say this, you’d have to open your mouth as wide as a hippopotamus to fit one bite in.

Extremely ravenous, I hogged on it but couldn’t finish the entire dish. Wordlessly, Tony slid my plate over to him and cleaned it up as smoothly as he had his own. I think from the time we met, Tony and I have had an unsaid deal where I finish off the fatty, cheesy junk on his plate and he cleans up the greens on mine.

We ended our perfect Greek vacation by eating Souvlaki (another Greek dish) for dinner with honey raki, of course.

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My vacation/visit to Greece was brilliant and filled with love and laughter. Having good friends around me made the trip all the more sweeter and I will never, not cherish the memories I made there. Plus, the water baby inside me was extremely satiated and somehow, I left Greece with a relatively decent tan. Indians, more often than not, don’t tan well, especially dark complexioned ones. I’m glad I did not resemble an aubergine by the end of it.

I have to thank Mary for being such an amazing host and guide. Without her and her family’s hospitality, the vacation wouldn’t have been half as beautiful as it was. Her kind gesture didn’t stop at being a host though. She gifted the boys with books about the Greek islands and the girls with jewellery; symbolic and carrying special meaning for each girl individually. Mine was a turquoise filled star as you can see in the picture below, meant to ward off evil, store the good and bring in radiance. I absolutely love it and am so grateful for it. Thank you Vasi, for the trip of a lifetime!

Here’s to Greece and visiting you again, sometime, someday.

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Mary and me.

 

Coriva and Almyra

With only three of us left, we decided to slow down and just let time pass us by. In between all the touristing and driving and sight seeing, I think all three of us (Tony, Mary and me) were quite socially burnt out. I think, we were a tad bit exhausted. Surprisingly, doing touristy stuff can get quite draining as well!

So we decided to take a bus to Coriva Hotel Beach, having bid adieu to the two people who had valid driving licences. The fantastic thing about beaches in Greece is that they are all public property. This means that even if a hotel or resort is built on the beach, the beach is not the property of the hotel. Others, those not checked in to the hotel, can simply walk in and head to the beach and relax.

And that’s exactly what we did.

Having arrived, we headed straight to the beach. The beach itself was serene and a shade of blue darker than what I had seen previously, in other locations. The sand wasn’t really sand. It was actually black pebbles which made it a bit difficult for anyone headed out for a swim. The stones were blistering hot and walking on them to get a quick dip meant frying the soles of your feet. That unfortunately, was not fun.

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Mary didn’t wish to swim so Tony and I headed out. I think mid way, we both got really competitive and started swimming really fast towards the buoy visible at the horizon. Mind you, this competition began without any words being spoken. I have no recollection as to who won though. I do remember returning and slumping on my sun bed, exhausted and breathing very heavily.

This was perhaps the only beach where I saw women topless. Almost all of them had their bikini tops off, lying face up, soaking in all the sun. It was while I was lying face down, dozing off, that Tony decided I should join the ranks of all the rest of the women out there. Without me realising, he undid the strings of my top. How I sat up and got Mary to retie the knot without flashing anyone is beyond me but hey, I did succeed.

So score 1 for me, 0 for Tony.

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We then headed back home to dress up for a fancy dinner. Mary took us to Almyra, a five star restaurant in Ierapetra. Situated at one extreme end of the island, the view this restaurant provides, is spectacular.

Built atop rocks, one gets a breathtaking view of the sea at night along with a panoramic view of the entire island, glowing like fireflies.

Having dined on some exquisite pasta and sea food, we were just paying the bill when catastrophe struck. All the bills Tony pulled out of his wallet, were blown away by a gust of wind. Running and jumping, Tony chased after his money while Mary and I looked on in horror. We were worried the bills would blow out to sea. Thankfully, they didn’t. Tony caught them two floors below our seating and had to fish one out of the swimming pool. Nevertheless, he retrieved all his money.

Our walk back home had us capturing Ierapetra in a state of stillness. It wasn’t something I had witnessed before and it was an experience all in itself. The otherwise bustling, exuberant crowds had disappeared with barely any people on the street. Our voices seemed usually loud as we debated politics on our way back, the click-clack of our heels and the swaying of the trees all round us, possibly the only sounds giving us company.

 

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Wearing six inch heels allowed me to reach Mary’s height cause on any other day, I think I reach her shoulder.

Mochlos

Bidding Sarah farewell was an adventure of its own. She had to take a bus from Agios Nikolaos to the airport, so we decided to make a trip of it.

We left early morning so as to have more time on our hands to explore Agios Nikolaos. Despite it being 8 or so, the sun was bearing down on us, making us sweat like crazy.

Unlike Ierapetra, Agios Nikolaos attracts more tourists and is more stereotypically Greek in its layout. The landscape is similar to Santorini with more white exteriors and architecture. The terrain isn’t flat and has a lot of uphill/downhill driving unlike Ierapetra which is flat and stretched out.

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Since none of us had grabbed breakfast, we stopped by one of the finer Greek cafes which were reputed to serve the best frozen yoghurt and coffee. As is well known of me, I conveniently forgot to document the name of this cafe. Oops. BUT, the frozen yoghurt, oh my god! I am very selective about my yoghurt, half of them taste medicinal to me. I was therefore, weary, despite Mary urging me otherwise. I gave in and ordered a frozen yoghurt with muesli, mangoes and cranberries.

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My extremely divine yoghurt.

I fell in love with it. Is it possible to fall in love with food, because I did. I guzzled down the yoghurt within three, maybe four spoonfuls and was already contemplating, ordering another one. Unfortunately, my extremely massive cup of coffee decided for me. Now when I think of it, my order must have seemed so weird, piping hot coffee with a size of Fro Yo. Hah!

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Once we had catered to the needs of our tummies, we decided to head out to the bus stop to drop Sarah off. Unfortunately, Mary was unfamiliar with the directions. Greeks are so incredibly sweet! Even if they were unaware of the route, they still tried to help. This didn’t bode well for us, since we were more often than not, sent off into the wrong direction. The time spent following the wrong paths had us all tensed since we were all worried Sarah might not make it. In our panic, we also almost died at one point. Dipa had taken over the steering wheel since Sarah was too stressed to drive. We were going uphill and had to stop, to get directions obviously, when the car started rolling backwards. I think all of us swallowed our screams and thankfully, Dipa got back on track and we didn’t encounter anymore almost-accidents. Thankfully, just in the nick of time, we reached the station and we made sure Sarah boarded her bus.

Once we bid adieu to her, post relaxing and freshening up, we headed to Mochlos.

Mochlos is a small village that serves food right by the sea. The view is absolutely breathtaking but getting there isn’t easy. The roads are winding and topsy-turvy. One has to be extremely skilled to drive down the roads to get to it but the views on the way are spectacular. On our way there, we stopped at Panorama, a tourist spot from where you can take pictures and get a wonderful view of the horizon.

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Come evening time, we had safely arrived at Mochlos. We seated ourselves at Kapilio where we all decided to dine, pescetarian style.

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Spaghetti with octopus braised in red wine.

While Dipa and Tony decided to order the fish platter which had an assortment of fish, Mary and I decided to have Spaghetti with fish on the side. I loved my dish and still dream of tasting it again, sometime soon. Having never tried octopus before, it was a first for me and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I think I prefer it more than squid now, which is saying something.

While we dined, we had the most beautiful view. Honestly, I don’t think any meal since, has trumped my experience there.

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As it was getting quite late, we decided to head back, which was another adventure of its own. The roads were pitch black with no reflectors placed anywhere, nor were there any lamp posts. It was a little scary, especially when turning on the mountainside, since there was no way of knowing if there was a car headed from the opposite direction until too late, but we reached home, safe and sound, nonetheless. We crashed soon after, the sights of Mochlos making for the perfect dream.

 

Dining at The Hub

After having spent two birthdays away from my parents, I was lucky to be able to celebrate it with them, this time around. As much as I’d like to say it was divine coincidence, I can’t quite. The biggest celebration for us Bengalis, falls at the same time as does my birthday. Unlike me, my parents see that as something wonderful. As a kid, I didn’t quite agree with them. Solely because it meant there would be a holiday on my birthday. Now, I don’t really care. Birthday’s don’t mean much to me.

The fewer people that wish me, the happier I am.

Despite pleading for a bunch of books rather than making a big deal, I was given a Polaroid camera and a lavish dinner. I’m not complaining though! Food is my deathly sin, one I will gladly face Satan for.

Having arrived at The Hub, my parents decided on experiencing the buffet. I chose to go A la Carte. For the appetiser, I decided on the Atlantic Smoked Salmon with a Maple Mustard Emulsion, Sour Cream and fresh greens. 

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Can we just take a minute to appreciate how beautiful this dish looks? It tasted even better! I think I went into a trance of sorts while eating this because I had cleaned up the plate before I even realised. The salmon was cooked perfectly and the mustard emulsion was the perfect kick, balancing the sweetness of the salmon and the tanginess of the sour cream.

Next up, for my main course, I decided on the Pan seared Sole with steamed lentils, pan fried mushrooms in sherry cream with crispy pancetta. 

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The first thought that struck me when I first laid eyes on this dish was, ‘That is one pink dish!’ I hate the colour pink but that didn’t stop me from diving into my food. The colour of the food didn’t dampen the tastes one bit though. The sole was placed on top of the lentils and mushrooms. My knife sliced through the meat like butter and the sherry cream, oh my! It was so silky and light. It went brilliantly with the rest of the dish and made sure my palette was clean with every bite I took. Being a fan of mushrooms, I just wish there were more in the dish. Somewhere between the pancetta and lentils, the taste of the mushrooms often got lost.

Oh and to go with these divine dishes, I decided on a glass from the 2012 bottle of Pater Sangiovese Toscana. It blended in very well with the dishes I chose to try and it did a wonderful job of satiating the wine lover in me.

For my dessert, I chose the Crème Caramel with Cherry Compote. Unfortunately, I was half way through the dish before I realised I had forgotten to take a picture of it. I can assure you of this though, it looked as beautiful as the rest of my courses did.

Once we had finished our dinner, we headed out where we stumbled across this art installation.

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The Goddess of the Wild by Bobo

The inspiration and idea behind this installation was:

Every year Calcutta dresses up for the annual autumn extravaganza celebrating the spirit of victory; the victory of Good over Evil, Hope over Despair, Love over Loss. These overwhelming emotions are represented in the form of the mother Goddess Durga slaying the demon king Mahishasura, most importantly diminishing his ego in the process.

The tales of this battle resonate in the ears of the children who grow up in the otherwise sleepy neighbourhoods of Calcutta. These stories have become very relevant today, given the many battles we are fighting at both the individual and societal levels. Whereas every epoch has its own problems and their corresponding solutions, our contemporary moment has witnessed the intensification of issues on a planetary scale. Are we exhausting our capacity to live sustainably and in harmony with each other and our surroundings? How are we placed to accept difference - different people, different beings, varying cultural norms, multiple religious temperaments? The mythological metaphors represented in this installation invite us to re-evaluate ourselves on these lines.

There are demons and thus there is Hope. One cannot dismiss the growing awareness in recent years towards the shared goal of empowering India's women. A lot of positivity and productive thought has been spent on the cause. Owing to the presence of social media and the platforms for freer expression, as well as due to altering family structures, many urban and rural women in the country today are moving past oppressive patriarchal norms that have historically disadvantaged women in both the domestic and professional spheres. This installation is a tribute to such a blossoming and powerful new sense of womanhood. The representation of the feminine soul as a Bengal tigress also references the wild cat that has been fighting its own battle of survival in our forests. Relatedly, the recent tiger census shows a considerable growth in India's tiger population. We hail the efforts of conservationists, women's rights groups, and everyday people who have contributed to such betterment. The Goddess, here shown as a tigress, is a powerful woman, a mother, and a warrior. More power to her adds more power to us.

I enjoyed my birthday a lot. It was a quite evening spent with my loving family and that is all my heart needed. Add to that, there were no reminders of the fact that I had turned a year older and still was as clueless about life as I was before.

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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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