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October 27, 2013

Tu na jaane aaspaas hai khuda...

I was traveling back home the other day, when a familiar sight passed by my line of vision. There were a bunch of people gathered near a small shrine around the corner. Most were lighting votive candles, offering fragrant agarbathies, fresh flowers and fruit to the deity, while some others were bowing their heads and silently praying. Passing cars slowed down as they approached the spot and the occupants would either descend from the commute or offer their respect by folding palms. It was just then that my cell phone beeped indicating I had received one new e-mail. When I distractedly checked my inbox, I saw that the mail was about the Pure Pray contest run by Cycle Pure Agarbathies. Smiling at the bizarre coincidence, I decided there and then that I would participate and submit my entry before the mentioned deadline.

Back home, the incident had got me started thinking along the same lines. They say that prayers offered at this particular shrine (the one I had mentioned earlier) are surely answered, and it is for this very reason that this roadside temple is always inhabited by tourists and locals, alike. I remember, during my student days in Medical College, I would always halt there and say a special prayer to either postpone the exam or make me fare well in them. 99% of the times, either one of the two would happen thereby reinforcing my faith in the popular belief associated with the temple and the positive power of prayer.

I remember how my mom had first explained to me the meaning of prayer. I was six then, a hyperactive brat and to top it, one who was highly inquisitive..
"How do I pray?" I had asked, wondering if there were any specific instructions to be followed for God to answer my prayers. I had seen my mother have a fresh bath early in the morning, drape her self in a crisp cotton saree, tie a towel around her freshly washed hair, and enter the puja roon, chanting the names of what seemed to my young ears, a million different Gods. Afraid that God would not grant me the dream doll-house I'd so badly wanted as a birthday gift if I did not pray right,  I sullenly complained to my mother that I did not know any chant or 'shloka' to appease the Gods with.
"There is no correct or wrong way to pray, dear. These are all but different names of the same God. Don't you worry----speak to him like you would speak to a friend. A friend who will protect you and guide you through every phase of life. Just remember him and he will be there," she patiently explained.
I liked that, a new friend for life. One that everyone prayed to, one whom all evil was afraid of, one that obstacles and hurdles fled from...I could speak to him like I spoke to my best friend from school. What fun!! So off I went, with a smile on my lips and a spring in my step, convinced that I now possessed the sacrosanct secret that would simply the complicated versions of all the mighty shloka and chants in the world...and it actually did...

I now started pestering God with all the nitty gritty details of my life. What happened at school, who snatched my compass box, which teacher treated me well and who didn't, what I wanted for my upcoming birthday, everything was discussed and debated upon with great gusto.
As I grew up, topics of conversation varied. My demands turned more complex. My complaints got more adamant. My tantrums more unpredictable. But HE listened. HE always listened.
Each time I had something to tell him, I would simply close my eyes and call out to him. A strange sense of calmness has never ceased to fill me when I do that.  Even today, all I have to do is close my eyes and believe he is right in front of me. That is the beauty of prayer. It forms an instant connection with the almighty by helping you peep into the deepest corner of your soul, because that is where God truly resides.

Over the years, I came to realise that God has another name...conscience. I learnt that I can stay in touch with that small muffled voice inside me, only if I try and listen to it. Praying taught me to recognise that voice, to lend a patient ear to it and comply. This made me far more patient and understanding, in that way prayer in itself is a meditative practice which works wonders for self improvement. As a matter of fact, prayer is far stronger than meditation, because in prayer, we seek comfort in an entity far stronger than our selves; that higher source of power becomes the support system that we lean on.
Prayer is a thought, a belief, a feeling that is born from the faith that grows within us, faith in a supreme force that will protect us, guard us and save us against all calamities.
I now pray because it helps me connect with this force. It reinforces my belief that there is someone who will always take care of me and my loved ones. It strengthens my faith in love and forgiveness. It provides me a venting board to admit all my weaknesses and hence improve upon them. It convinces me that words are not always needed to express what I feel, that my prayers are understood even through the silence.
Praying is simple. It does not require a particular time. During my school days, I would think that prayer had fixed timings; It was almost a ritual---the early morning assembly at school where we would start the day with a morning prayer, and  the 'night time prayer' before going to bed. But with age and maturity, I have come to understand that prayer does not have to be a compulsory ritual. I pray whenever I think of HIM. I say a quick prayer when I'm afraid...when I'm in any sort of threat or danger...when I want a little impromptu wish to be granted....and sometimes just to say 'Thankyou'.
When there is something weighing down my conscience I pray for forgiveness.Its the sure shot way of finding the much needed peace of mind that we strive so much to attain. When something good comes my way, I say a quick 'Thankyou' just to show how grateful I am. I must admit that I forget sometimes. Human as we are, we often forget to say 'Sorry' and 'Thankyou' but rest assured, he understands. That is the connection prayer creates--a cosmic relation with a much higher force that
helps us attain inner peace and tranquility, forgives us, heals us and gives us reasons to be grateful for.
In fact, that is the main reason why I pray. I pray because I know HE is listening...
We might not see HIM, but HE is always around...

Last but not the least, I pray for the well being of my fellow Indians, my country, my family, my loved ones and my own self. It is this well being that my future and the future of millions of interconnected lives depend upon.
I pray for each and every person who has helped me in any way, no matter how small. It is because of them that I have managed to take tiny steps towards achieving whatever I have today.
I pray for them whom I might have unknowingly wronged and those who have unknowingly wronged me. It is they who have helped me grow up in ways that they (or at times, even me) are not even aware of.
I pray for you. It is you who reminds me how much I could love...once.

Beckoning like rays of the morning sun,
as each dark night turns to a new day,
is the gratitude and hope we hold so dear,
                                               that makes us bow before HIM and pray...

In a country like ours where there reside people of diverse religions, castes, sub castes, there is no dearth of festivals to celebrate. No matter how diverse our culture and traditions may be, the basic essence of all religious festivals is the same---heart felt prayer. We are thus united by the same Almighty, the same Ganpati Bappa, the same Allah.
Ask any Indian and he will be willing to celebrate every festival as his own. Whether it is Diwali, Christmas or Eid, all occasions are thoroughly enjoyed and reverently regarded. These festivals form an integral part of our lives and give us reason to stay together.
But in today's busy world, we often find ourselves weighed down by the stress and strain of lives to indulge wholeheartedly in these festivities. We often find the responsible members of the family running to and fro, to buy all the essentials of the pooja---the flowers, the agarbathies and other paraphernalia. Something or the other gets left out at the last moment, as a result of which there is undue chaos, dampening the festive atmosphere.
For all those who are thinking of Diwali and already heaving a huge sigh on reading the above, fear not. There is good news for all us stress magnets. Cycle Pure Agarbathies presents Sampoorna Lakshmi Pooja Pack---a simple and tension-free pooja, brought together, complete and made-easy. This is a pack that includes everything you would need to perform the Lakshmi Pooja. This pack contains all basic materials required for the pooja as mentioned in the Skanda Purana. The booklet (scripted in 6 languages) and audio CD have the procedure, necessary shlokas and Shree Vinayak Ashtottarashata Naamaavali for performing the pooja. This pack comes with instruction booklet & CD, so that you can recite the shloka along with the CD.
This Lakshmi Pooja Pack would also serve as a very good gift for someone who is recently married or someone living away from home or abroad. Your friends and near ones would bless you for this convenient and perfectly organized idea.
As for me, I plan to make this Diwali a stress free one, one that is perfectly coordinated, easily arranged, filled with oodles of fun, lots of prayers, tons of blessings and loads of love.

Wish You All A Very Happy, Healthy And Prosperous Diwali! :)

May all our prayers be answered,
and may we never run out of reasons to say 'Thankyou'...

October 07, 2013

Dr Pri and Ms Hide (a repost)

Recently, there were some jabs directed towards me, subtly hinting at the 'enigma' status I have been designated by some highly esteemed writers around here.
There was this one comment which particularly stayed with me for a long time, more since it was coming from someone I had not really expected from.
"Where is it that you wear a mask, on the blog or outside it?"

Frankly i do not like explaining myself to others. I have always felt that you need to explain something only when you think the other person is not smart enough to figure it out on his/her own.
Anyhoo, for the good of mankind and for the future of the planet which is dying a little everyday out of curiosity,  I will oblige!! *opens her self-research material*

Well, those of you who follow my blog regularly will know me as quite the stuck up fool who thrives mainly on nostalgia and sentiments.
Those who have personally met me outside the blog world, would claim I am too much of a fun loving enthusiast to ever take life that seriously. The confusion however arises when someone who knows me from outside the blog suddenly discovers my blog link and decides to give it a read.
It is for this very reason, that some of my closest friends and kin refrain from reading 'nostalgic moments'--that in their opinion, is their way of avoiding confusion as, in the words of a very wise friend, "ignorance is bliss"
Yes, these are the kind of shameless people who deprive me of my share of attention (by not following my blog) & prefer to stick to the picture they have built of me rather than cloud it with unnecessary interference from something which could very well be written off as a piece of 'fiction' or claimed to be so (I'm not complaining though--in a way, I like the way they think. *grin* )

"How can YOU write such emotional stuff?" is a question I have often been probed on by some of my real-life (for lack of a suitable word) friends.
Another one I encounter a lot, is the famous "Whoaa!! Are you the same Pri who writes 'Nostalgic Moments'" (this is usually after a few days of interaction with fellow bloggers--which does make me wonder at times, what kind of chronically depressed (read 'Meenakumari') personality my blog might be projecting)

So today, I have decided to unravel the mystery, and let you in on a little secret---the secret of doctor 'pri' and miss 'hide' *drumrolls in the background*

Ardent admirers of Linda Goodman have jumped with rapturous ecstasy muttering "Hail Linda" amidst muffled smirks, after getting to know I come from the 'Gemini woman' astro clan.
There was a point wherein I too had almost started believing everything she said, until one day I read of the infidel and manipulative tendency she claimed Gemini women to portray. So being a staunch loyalist and one with a intact value system at that, the book went flying straight into the dustbin and Linda was shown the middle finger.

Anyhoo, there are certain things which are rather true of a Gemini (only all the good things she has to say..ahem!) which was what stopped yours truly from making an effigy of Goodman and burning it down.
Oops sorry, lets not digress. So, where were we?
Oh yes, the story of "Dr Pri and Ms hyde Hide"
Now, please do not be confused by the title bestowed since this "Ms Hide" (nope!! it is not a typo..i mean HIDE when i write hide) is nothing like the much infamous "Mr Hyde" we all have read about.

In fact she is pretty much the contrary, and that is where her flaws start..Sigh!

'Miss hide' is someone who seeks solace in hiding from everything (Yea..I know, pretty self explanatory. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.).
She is pretty much what you would call an 'escapist'.
Give her a situation she can't handle and she would slip into her shell, open up her diary and do what she does best--scribble furiously.

'Dr Pri' on the other hand, is the strong headed woman who makes her grand and esteemed appearance usually while lecturing others. She is the agony aunt to all her friends, the one whose advice they seek, the one with the strong belief system and self respect large enough that it can be sometimes mistaken for ego.
She sometimes writes on 'nostalgic moments' too (like she agreed to do today)..but its usually 'Ms Hide' that requires the space as a venting board.
However it has been noticed that Dr Pri is the one who roams all over Facebook and Blogsville, posting in strong headed comments telling people to move on, not brood over the past....yada yada....yada...
Yes, I know what you guys must be thinking--why doesn't Dr Pri advice Ms Hide then, isn't it?
Well, of course she does..she lectures Ms Hide for long hours after which the timid Ms Hide seems all empowered and strong enough to slay a dragon--but in just a few hours, the miserable wretch that she is, suffers a relapse and gets back to her usual demure self again.
Humour?? Ahhh!! That is Dr Pri's sharpest weapon. She knows how to use the lethal combination of sarcasm and wit which helps her take the lead in many a debates/arguments.
But bring her face to face with a loved one, and she is rudely shoved aside by our Ms Hide who remains tongue tied and lost, silently weeping like a depressed cow long after the war is over, while Dr Pri gags at the sight.
Nevertheless, both of them have to work in coordination--that is how the rule goes. Ms Hide cannot make an entry while Dr Pri is talking, and the same holds true the other way around. There are some occasions where Dr Pri refuses to budge inspite of being pushed violently by Ms Hide. She stands firm and lashes out fire even with a loved one as opponent.
But alas!! More often than not, the drama queen that Ms Hide is, makes Dr Pri pay for it hours after the spite is over--she cries, she weeps, she cribs, she rants, she writes, she blogs like a crazy maniac, and much to Dr Pri's embarrassment, she finds herself left helpless and with a heavy head, all thanks to her idiotic alter's antics.
Ohh wait, Ms Hide isn't all that bad though. She is just more of a coward unlike the brave Dr Pri, her alter ego is. Ms Hide flees away from emotions which Dr Pri keeps trying to understand and reason with.
Ms Hide is terrified of love, while the dreamer that Dr Pri is, promises never to give up on her unrealistic (written by miss hide & cancelled by dr pri) ideals.
Ms Hide constantly fears expectations and their consequences, while Dr Pri is not afraid to face them.
Ms Hide is often found building walls around herself, which Dr Pri is busy toppling over.
Ms Hide is the one who is running away from addictions from fear of dependency, while Dr Pri strives to overcome them.
(In fact, it is Ms Hide who keeps deactivating Facebook/email accounts, and Dr Pri, who convinces her to return from the short spells of hibernation..sigh!)

At times, Ms Hide is found sulking all day, sulking over the past, sulking over decisions she cant change, sulking over the 'why's and 'if only's..sulking..sulking..sulking.
That is when Dr Pri decides to take things in her hands, goes up to Ms Hide, and gifts her one tight slap, succeeding in getting her right back to her senses.
Dr Pri is often found rolling her eyes at the entries Ms Hide posts. She hates it when people feign concern, and believes in sorting out her issues all by herself.
Ms Hide, on the other hand, loves to be pampered..
She, most often than not, misses to notice the thin line between fake pleasantries and genuine concern.
She often wears her heart on her sleeve, is easily upset with words just as easily as she falls in love with them, is sensitive to the moodswings of the ones she loves and had it not been for her alter ego (Dr Pri), would have had to be institutionalized for therapy by now.

Dr Pri has seen a lot in life. She is observant. She is perceptive. She is practical and she understands.
She is not searching for a shoulder to cry on, gets easily tired with people who sulk all the time, think that they should grow up, lives for the present. She has a firm grip on her reality and yet has always fought it, her own way.
She knows that there is good just as there is evil in every in the world and has made peace with that.
Ms Hide knows that too, but she thinks she would be able to change the evil, and when she realises she cannot, she goes away..shies off..hides herself, clinging onto a sense of failure until her alter decides to take things in her hands, and drags her out of the phase making her understand that she has to value herself first to be valued by others.

It doesn't help for too long though. Ms Hide sees what she wants to. She is emotional and sensitive. She thinks with her heart and is disappointed easily. She is a kid in denial who keeps hiding from any sort of conflict, who gives up almost always a little too soon, who worries about the future--a little too much, is terrified of emotions-yet surrenders to them and keeps running from reality in a futile attempt to hide from it.

The differences between them do not stop here though. Dr Pri and Ms Hide are pretty different on a more superficial level too.
Ms Hide loves to dress up in traditional attire, has a penchant for trinkets and jewellery. She usually seizes the chance to dress up for occasions, to wear makeup. She hates it if one strand of hair is out of place or if she gains an ounce of extra weight--not that she'd do much to change it, but of course she would SULK!!
She also loves receiving compliments--almost addicted to them. She'd get all conscious if no one compliments her. She would get conscious if people over compliment her too, but that is an altogether different story..lol!!
Dr Pri, on the other hand, lives in a pair of jeans and a tee most of the times. She prefers living like a gypsy and thinks that she sets the trend. She hates early morning showers, doesn't see the logic in cleaning up her wardrobe, will be found sporting a just-woken-up look with curls of hair falling all over her face and when caught, she would just pass it off as the latest style and even concoct a name & story to justify it. Compliments do not affect her just as much as criticism doesn't.She is much too deep to be affected with superficial charm & believes that true beauty is skin deep.
However she has mastered the art of disappearing and pushing the more socially acceptable Ms Hide forward, as and when the situation and company demands her.
Smart that she is, she claims that she would never want to be caught dead looking inappropriate except in her nightmares, but those who know her well would know that she wouldn't really mind going to her own wedding in a pair of denims and a not-so-ironed Kurti.
She is weird like that, but at complete ease with her weirdness.

So while Ms Hide with all her self concocted and unaccepted flaws manages to scarcely like herself, Dr Pri brags about being 'Perfection Personified' and considers her own self as her most favorite person. 
So now you see how it all makes sense?

Ahem!! What about me, you ask? I'm pretty comfortable being them both. In fact I think my life wouldn't feel normal had one to go missing. Some might attribute it to my gemini star sign, while some might say im just confused about what i really want in life.
Well, what can i say but----
Voices in my head...
Alters in my soul...
Some days are blue,
some days rock n roll!!


;D~~~~;D~~~~;D~~~~;D~~~~;D~~~~;D~~~~;D~~~~;D~~~~

Err..some might think I'm pretty schizophrenic to write this, and miss the whole point of the post.

What-e-ver!!
So long as your confusion is sorted, people..so long as your confusion is sorted ;-))

As a parting note, all i can suggest is to try searching for your 'psychological alters' too, and accept them both.
They help strike a balance in life and keep you feeling human. *smiles*

So here's to peace and self improvement,
Cheers!!

October 06, 2013

Cryptic thought #38

Should the friend of the enemy be considered an enemy too?
Some times, taking sides is important. It helps to know where one stands in an otherwise convenient equation where loyalties are not questioned.

Today made me wonder---are independent relations really even possible??
What does your experience say?

October 05, 2013

Knock knock

For all those who haven't yet noticed the small window popping up in the right hand side column of the blog, and for all those who have forgotten or think I am joking, Nostalgic Moments really has a facebook page. I swear its true :-|

Here, check it out for yourself!!!

Convinced?

Ahem...now that you have joined me on facebook as well, yours truly can continue to haunt you with updates, cryptic messages and lots more. *evil laugh*

But like I always say, life is one hell of a journey...lets make it a fun trip by travelling together :)

Cheers and love!

October 02, 2013

Need of the hour

How many times have we allowed someone to manipulate us into a choice we do not agree with?
We may have not realised it then, but in hindsight, don't we all regret taking some decisions half heartedly only because we had been emotionally coaxed into doing so, by someone we care about?

When was the last time you allowed someone to influence you with negative thoughts of envy, hatred, contempt or perhaps even a small suspicion that eventually led to a mammoth misunderstanding?

And now finally, the big question and perhaps the most important one---who is responsible for the consequences that follow?
They, who don't know any better, or we, who allow them to influence us without thinking?

So today, let's promise ourselves-
to stay in the company of those who will cultivate and encourage hope in our hearts and equanimity in our surroundings...
to dream yet keep our feet strongly planted...
to not give up too soon in matters that require perseverance, nor hold on too tight when we ought to let go...
and last but not the least, to allow ourselves the freedom to make our own choices...

Its just one life---Let's live it the way we deserve to live...with our heads held high, confident of the knowledge and conviction that we know what is best for us.

I pledge...do you?

September 15, 2013

Different shades of grey

Aditya had blue eyes, the innocence of his tender age reflecting in them as he spoke.
It was arts class, the period he loved most, especially because of Miss Ashweta, his arts teacher and also his favorite.
He looked around. His best friend Vivek was painting a scenery. He decided to paint one too. He now rehearsed what he had practiced saying aloud at home.
"The sun is yellow,
The sky is blue,
The trees green,
The mountains brown..."
 He picked up a crayon. Staring hard at it, he wondered why there were so many crayons of the same color...different shades, he thought. He passed a glance at Vijay who was sitting with his box of just seven colors. Everyone knew Vijay could not afford a complete crayon set. However, Aditya always liked his box better and always felt his own box contained too many crayons. Vijay's box was simple and a lot more lucid to paint with, as compared to his mega crayon box of 75 assorted crayons, that everyone in his class envied.

On the teachers table at the far end of the room, there was a vase with a dozen roses. It was the teacher's birthday. How happy she would be if he painted the exact same bunch of flowers on his drawing book. Aditya imagined the blush on her face. Roses, it was.  Easy to paint.
Fifteen minutes later, when everyone handed in their drawing books, Mrs Verma was taken aback. No matter how much she knew, Aditya's paintings would always get her flustered.
There, on Aditya's drawing page was a vase of perfectly sketched roses, the only flaw being they were all painted black. Below in neat calligraphic font, was written 'Happy Birthday Ashweta Miss' within a small black heart.

Aditya saw the world in black and white. Sometimes he would see the world in shades...of gray. Born with total color blindness, he could not differentiate one hue from another. His first painting in Arts class had blue trees, a yellow sky and red mountains. All the students had laughed their heads off. Mrs Ashweta Varma was the only one who had realised that this was not an over imaginative mind at work but an evil destiny at play. She had spoken with Aditya's parents and had her doubt confirmed. Brushing a tear off her cheek, she had preserved that first painting in her locker---the first carefree attempt of the world through Aditya's eyes. She knew that with time, society would make him feel ashamed for a vision he was not even responsible for. But that was how the world was, it had no insight into a persons humiliation.

Today, as Mrs Varma saw the roses Aditya had painted, she felt a twinge of sadness. She looked at Aditya, into his deep blue eyes, at his innocent anticipating face and smiled.
"Thankyou Aditya, this is the best birthday gift anyone could ever have given me," she said wistfully, as she hugged the little boy in a tight embrace.
Then carefully dodging the paper from the strained attempts of all the other students to see it, she folded the piece of paper and placed it in her hand bag, to add to her repository of cherished memories.

"The sun is yellow,
the sky is blue,
the trees green,
the mountains brown,
roses red, " Aditya mumbled as he went back to his desk.

The seventy five different hues in his color box would change shades every now and then.
However, what would always remain was a little bit of longing in those deep blue eyes...a longing to see the world in more than just those different shades of grey.




This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.


This post has been picked by BlogAdda as a WOW post for the weekend.

September 09, 2013

To Paris With Love

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast"
.-Ernest Hemingway 
I, for one, had always considered Paris to be a very pompous and highly over rated holiday destination. It had always been a long distance affair I had with the place, a kind of puppy love inspired by travelogues and movies like 'Casablanca' and 'The Phantom of the Opera' or fashion news from magazines like 'Cosmopolitan' and 'Vogue'....until a few years back when I had the opportunity to visit this wonderful city and bask in its glorious beauty. That was when I knew that everything I had heard and read about Paris was absolutely true, to its minutest detail. That was when the long distance puppy love I had felt for the place blossomed into a full fledged relationship as I fell head over heels in love with this spectacular city.
Just like old lovers, I can say for sure that Paris and I can never have enough of each other. So when I read about the 'Creating happy travellers' contest at IndiBlogger wherein we are supposed to write about that place in the world where we would want to take our loved ones, I found myself filled with the same mix of happiness and excitement a girl experiences when its time to introduce her family to the one she loves.

 Making a rough itinerary always helps. So what if the plan is still in 'arm chair travel' mode, organised thoughts never killed anyone.
Known to be the ultimate city of romance, Paris is equally famous for its alluring architecture, sumptuous food, and equally indulgent night life. A holiday to this dream destination would combine culture, history and style and I am quite sure my family would enjoy this enchanting paradise as much as I.

Tentative duration of the vacation: approx 5-6 days although no holiday can be too long when you are in this magical city.

Best time for a Paris holiday: The weather is stable and usually at its best in September to November. However, December is a lovely time to go visiting too, when the city is all lit up with Christmas lights and the festive spirit is in the air.

 Must-visit's in Paris:
  •  Le  Louvre---It is the world's largest museum located on the right bank of the Seine. It exhibits  works of renowned artists and sculptures which includes the Renaissance collection particularly known for Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and several others. The museum takes you through a tour into the history of France.
  • Eiffel Tower---Sipping on a glass of wine amidst your loved ones, at the roof top restaurant of the Eiffel tower, 300 m high would be indeed divine. I can already imagine myself humming 'On top of the world'  by The Carpenters.
  • Place du Trocadero---It is located across the Seine from the iconic Eiffel Tower, and is the best spot for shutterbugs to capture spectacular views.
  • Notre Dame Cathedral---It is the masterpiece of gothic architecture. A long spiral stairway leads to the Cathedrals most scary gargoyles, the thirteen tonne 'Emmanuel' bell and a breath taking view of Paris.
  • Haunted catacombs of Paris---I am really curious about this. Having read about the scary history, I would not dare to visit these alone. Having one's family to hold on tightly to always helps, in such frightening situations, and...err..I can always let my sister lead the way. *evil grin*
  • Palace of Versailles
  • Disneyland (perfect for a day trip, if time permits)
  • Sacre Coeur
  • The Place De La Concorde---a beautiful representation of the culture of Paris.
  • The Champs-Elysee---most renowned and beautiful promenade in the world which further leads to Arc de Triomphe. At its western end, there are cinemas, movie halls and cafes. It is this promenade that is used for all major celebrations in Paris---ceremonial parades, sports victories and national soirees.
  • River Seine--by cruise or a simple stroll, to enjoy a spectacular view of the entire city.
  • Moulin Rouge--for a lovely evening of music and dance.
  • Place Du Tertre---A village square located at the heart of Montmartre. Here you will find painters, experts as well as aspiring students of art, surrounded by easels, canvases and paints and the other paraphernalia, willing to sketch portraits of you in a medium of your preference. My family has always been a great lover of art, and I am sure they would love to experience the magic of these talented artists who are able to etch nearly perfect images within minutes. I have even decided to try and coax them into sketching a family picture. Though I know that this might prove a little tedious, I would gladly shell out the cited price for the talent and effort  put in to preserve that happy moment from the eyes of the proficient portrait painter, and watch as he/she sketches away the delicate details that are sometimes far less obvious with the lens, and yet go easily unnoticed by us.
Must-eat's/must-drink's
  • Chestnut crepes drenched in chocolate sauce
  • Freshly roasted chestnuts
  • Normandy pancakes
  • Crepe Suzette
  • Macaroons, gateaux, black truffles, baguette
  •  Perigord foie gras
  • French wines/Champaignes--- Bordeaux, Burgundy.
  • Wine and cheese (esp Camembert, chèvre and Roquefort.)
Paris has a lot to offer and planning an itinerary would also mean keeping a mental check on making the experience a relaxed and enjoyable one. Everyone in my family loves to read---be it a holiday or a working day, there has not been a single time when a book has not been able to bring a twinkle to our eye. Shakespeare and Company bookshop promises to do just that. Featured in Ernest Hemingway's memoir, 'A Moveable Feast', this age old book store had been once the haunt of luminaries like Voltaire, Rousseau and Verlaine, and has its walls adorned with author-signed title pages. I am sure we would not want to give this experience a miss.
They say Paris in the night is a dazzling beauty. The Eiffel Tower stands tall in all its glittering glory while the rest of the city swells with pride at its glamour and panache. Paris's Montmartre neighborhood has its intricate backstreets adorned with local brasseries and cafes adorning the place. The only glitch is that the so called snooty Parisians live up to our prejudiced impression, however knowing their language or carrying a pocket dictionary can help a great deal in tackling with their stiff upper lip.
There is no better shopping experience than while in Paris. From clothes to shoes to perfumes and colognes to handbags and shoes, this city is a mile ahead of all, in the fashion department. I am not that much of a shopaholic but I can be pretty picky, and with my entire family fussing around me, I am sure I'm going to love every bit of the experience. Also, I would take them shopping in the Marais, which is Paris's famous shopping precinct.

So much to experience...so much to cherish...and so much to take home...

Having said that, I think it is worth mentioning that no 'one' trip' can be the happiest one ever. Each vacation spent together is special in its own way. The best part of any holiday are the memories we create. Just the thought of spending quality time with my loved ones makes me happy. No wonder www.yatra.com believes in creating happy travellers. Seems like they know that when you are with the people you love, every minute is important..you want to leave all the planning details and nitty gritties of travel with someone you can trust, while you revel in the satisfaction of a comfortable holiday.
For this very reason we have http://www.yatra.com, providing us with the best and most economical deals in flight bookings, hotel bookings and holiday packages.
For everything else, in the words of the famous Rick Blaine,  "We'll always have Paris..."

Cheers to happy times...
Cheers to the travel bug!




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 This post has been written for Creatiing Happy Travellers Contest in association with yatra.com and Indiblogger.
 If you are an Indivine user and you like what you read, you can vote for me here.

September 08, 2013

The long kept secret

Atharva Vyas entered the dirty bylanes of the city he once called home.
"Namaste, does Zakira Siddiqui still live here?" he inquired.

"She passed away a year ago, Saheb. That's her son."


A boy of merely ten, sat there polishing shoes, tattered clothes barely covering his emaciated body.
Atharva winced as he recalled his cowardice betrayal, almost a decade ago. He had left silently without an explanation after that night, knowing that he was not yet responsible enough for a commitment like marriage. Soon he had left for the US and built himself a life there.
It had been only after a decade of no communication with the ghosts of his past, that he had felt a pang of guilt for his spineless act, and returned to India. Of course, he had expected she must be married. He had even known there would be a child in the picture. He just thought he owed her an apology,  that was all. He did not expect anything more from her than to forgive him----but she, she had decided to beat him at his own game. A silent departure in exchange for a silent departure. She had left....left this world without his apology...without allowing him a chance to explain.

"Salaam Saab, boot polish?" 

 It was the boy now who broke this reverie of thoughts. There was something familiar about him, Atharva thought. Maybe it was his smile...or was it his cheek bones that rendered him an air of intimacy, even though they were meeting for the first time...or was it the soft crinkly eyes? Zakira, he thought to himself...was there need of any other reason for him to feel so at-home with this child?
But along with the compassion came a rush of anger for the man who allowed this boy to sit on the footpath, staring at the feet of a hundred passer-by's, imploring them to shine their shoes. Who in dreadful hell was the drunk who forced these innocent hands into gleaming these stranger's shoes soiled with muck and mud, to earn a few rupees, while he himself whiled his time, perhaps in the nearby local bar? Atharva wondered how such a man must have treated his delicate Zakira while she was his wife. As he did this, another pang of helplessness and guilt washed over him.
He now tried to console himself with the fact that she must have been happy. After all, the boy's age told him that she had soon married after he left for the United States. In a way, it was a good thing she hadn't waited. Life and maturity had coaxed him to move on...and her hanging on to his coming back, would have only added to his guilt.

The boy was now tugging at his leg, asking him to place his booted foot on the wooden box.
" Beta," Atharva patted him wistfully, "what is your name?" 

Smiling brightly, the boy answered, "Aadil...Aadil Atharva Siddiqui..."

A shell shocked  stared open mouthed at the boy. She had waited...
He was tempted to ask more. But didn't he have enough responsibilities to handle?
His heart cursed him for being so selfish. Then he remembered his wife and children, back in the US. He looked at the boy again. How oblivious he was, his spirit bright and happy. The way he declared his name suggested that Zakira had told their son about Atharva in a way, that would make any father swell with pride.
Disclosing this long kept secret would steal him of the sacrosanct impression he held for his father. Also, what would his family say about this, he shuddered. Sushma would not think twice about filing a divorce and the children would be heartbroken.
"That would be ten rupees, Saab" the cheerful smile again.

Atharva contemplated for a moment before professing a fifty rupee note. Heavy hearted, he turned to leave when the boy called out.

"Saabji, here is your change."

"Keep it, beta"

"No Saab. My mother has taught me never to take more than what is due." the boy returned the remaining money to Atharva and continued his shoe-shine ritual with the next customer.
 Atharva felt a heavy load on his chest. That was Zakira's teachings---the boy had taken after his mother.
"God bless you, son..." he said to the smiling boy and went away, with the heart wrenching sadness  that he could never become the man his son was.

 While in the taxi, he cried silently.
 "One rupee for every year that I missed. That is all this wretched father could give his son," he weeped.

He never visited India again...

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

 This post has been picked by BlogAdda as a WOW post for the weekend 6th to 8th September 2013

September 01, 2013

When 'Smartphone' gets smarter...

"Yes you, I am talking to you. You can stop staring and focus on what I am about to say, please."

It takes time for Rohit to realise that he is still foolishly staring at his cell phone on the table, with his mouth agape in surprise, wondering if someone is playing a mean trick at him. His sister is learning ventriloquism these days. But it is late in the night, and he knows she is too lazy to stay awake just for a practical joke.
As if reading his mind, the phone on the table bounces up straight, and the voice is heard again.
"This is no joke, Sir..We have to talk and its important." The voice has acquired a serious baritone, and Rohit rubs his eyes once more, only to be convinced he isn't dreaming. It is indeed his phone doing the talking.

"B..but how can...you...?"

"That's not important" squeaks the device, "Lets not waste time in useless banter and come straight to the point."

"..and the point being?" He has got a grip on himself by now, and his teenage brain has come to terms with the fact that his phone is perhaps designed with some mysterious vocal quality.
He is making a mental note of the list of problems the phone is causing these days. If anyone has a right to sound angry, it is him. But letting the opponent lay out his cards first has always been his winning strategy. That way, he always got to have the last word.
His thought is disturbed by a whimper. For a moment, Rohit could swear he heard someone blow their nose---the aftermath of a typical girly wail.

"I've had enough. Its not working between us anymore." the phone splutters.

"Whaaaaat??!!!" Rohit exclaims, his voice a mixture of shock and confusion, "What's not working betw..."

"WE...We can't be together any more," the phone chokes up with emotion.

"Oh, for God's sake, you are just a stupid smartphone. How can you decide?"  Rohit is almost laughing now.

Acquiring an indignant brashness in response to Rohit's impudence, the voice continues talking.
"Firstly, I cannot be a 'stupid smart' phone. That, my friend, is an oxymoron. So since I'm an authorised smart phone (and I've got my manufacturing company vouching for it), its not me who is stupid." 
 The comment stings Rohit like a slap on his cheek. He stands there speechless while the phone continues lecturing, "...and secondly, I am surprised you still challenge my capabilities when I have already caused so much mayhem in your life?"

An evil chuckle is followed by the enumeration of incidents over the past few months...
"Remember when you and Shilpa had that major big fight," the mechanical voice continues, though it has now acquired a steely grim quality, "the one in which she blamed you for not answering her grand total of twenty one calls? How you'd thought it was the network at fault, that the calls had never reached you. and that text that Subodh sent informing you of the Chemistry viva..How you blamed him after scoring a duck..Err...you still think I can decide nothing?" it sniggered, mentally hoping its fib wouldn't be caught.

"How did you manage to do all that?" Rohit's naive mind does not challenge the threat. After all, a  talking phone can do anything. He believes.

"Ahh, I have my contacts. A battery of mates who work for me, you know. How else do you explain the waxing and waning of charged up energy that peaks and ebbs in no particular order, even though you religiously fix me up on that stupid date with Mr Charger. every night? You don't really believe its just the few careful downloads that consume so much, do you?"

"What do you want from me?"  A flummoxed Rohit is now totally convinced aware that the situation is deadlier than it seems. It is all a conspiracy headed by his stupid smart phone.

"A break..." it points out blatently, "I need a break. I need some time to myself. Some me-time. I am tired of being man handled by you all the time. Be it a movie hall, a restaurant, amidst family, friends, relatives, you constantly have your hands on me. How would you like to be watched over 24x7...you every move examined...your every action scrutinised? Dude, I feel claustrophobic....smothered...locked up under your gaze...pressured under your touch.I need space."
 it rattles off.
"Drama queen," Rohit muttered under his breath, "So you created all this nuisance for space? You should consider yourself lucky you get so much attention."

"At what cost, buddy? You are missing out on important memories in the process..Mmemories that are being created with you around and yet without you in them. Why? Because you were too busy staring at some stupid app on your cell screen or you were too caught up group texting someone miles away or because you are too engrossed watching some video that is doing the rounds these days or too caught up clicking bizarre pictures of your animated face to send to your latest crush. Do you realise how many times your parents and friends have wished you never had me in your life? Dude, this is not good for my image," the phone is on the verge of throwing yet another fit.

"Ok ok. I know you are trying to drive home a point and I get it," Rohit frowns.

"Wow!!! Praise the lord..." taunts the phone.

"You might be smart, but I am not stupid." he chuckles at his own joke.

The phone cringes at Rohit's sense of humor. It is midnight. The clock strikes twelve interrupting the silence in the apparently sleeping household.
"Happy Birthday, Dude! It is time for me to get back into my mechanical mode. I will now meet you for your next birthday. Until then, think about what I've told you."
"But why on my next birthday? Why can't I speak to you more often?" argues Rohit, a little wistfully.
" Because that will defeat the whole purpose of the lecture, you dunce. Now go enjoy your birthday. You have missed three calls already." There is a kind of sardonicism in its voice.


Just then Rohit's parents and sister enter his room with a huge cake. His mom lights up sixteen small candles on it, a reminder of the wonderous age he is about to enter. Rohit's sister begins to sing the birthday song and his dad joins in the chorus. Rohit puffs his cheeks and is all set to extinguish the candles on the cake, when the phone rings.
Rohit is distracted. He looks at the phone, then at his family. A look of disappointment crosses the faces that were glowing with excitement just a minute ago.
Rohit remembers what the smart phone had told him. This moment with his loved ones---the memory of his 16th birthday, was more important than the phone call.
He smiles at his parents and blows out the candles on the cake. The call goes ignored. He would call back later.
Rohit spends the entire day with his family and friends, smothered with hugs, love, blessings....and loads of memories. All thanks to the conversation with his cell, he has learned how to live every moment and cherish every memory.

The smart phone lies neglected,  yet happy...
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. 



This post makes it to the WOW list at BlogAdda for the weekend August 30th to September 1st . *takes a bow*

August 31, 2013

The lamb and the wolf




Once upon an equal time, 
there lived a lamb in its prime. 
Young and naive and frail was she, 
like a delicate harmony. 
 
And in the forest not so far, 
lived a wolf as black as tar. 
Conniving, cold and smart was he, 
lived his life both loose and free. 
 
Once while wandering here and there, 
the innocent lamb entered his lair. 
The wolf surprised at the lamb so brave, 
was impressed when she reached his cave. 
 
Staring into his demonic eye, 
the little lamb didn't flinch nor cry. 
Unlike all creatures she wasn't scared, 
to befriend the wolf she had dared. 
 
The forest animals were perplexed, 
at the friendship so complex. 
They shuddered and gossiped without a sound, 
while the wolf and lamb would strut around. 
 
They groaned and moaned it wouldn't last, 
but the kinship proved them wrong and fast. 
Until one day, the grapevine spoke, 
"We cannot allow this blasphemous stroke. 
Something needs to be done to part, 
and drive these two friends apart. 
Its against nature don't you see, 
a lamb and wolf are no company." 
 
Packs of wolves schemed and plotted, 
to save their brethren from being spotted. 
The lamb in question so demure and mild, 
couldn't be mate to a creature of the wild. 
Never has it happened as of date, 
that a meal like her had escaped their plate. 
 
Together got the squirrels, butterflies and birds, 
the sambars, elks and gazelles in herds, 
went up to the lamb in an assembly neat, 
to snatch the ground from beneath her feet... 
 'Oh stupid creature, dont you know?
It's all a plan---evil and slow... 
That's just an act the wolf is playing, 
while in his dream, its you he's slaying." 
 
The lamb let out an angry bleat, 
her friendship no one could defeat. 
She refused to budge, her trust undeterred, 
while the exhausted others felt patience frittered. 
 
The wolf too wouldn't hear a word, 
his scheming friends went all unheard. 
And as the wolf and lamb stood strong, 
the forest felt a gloom so wrong. 
 
As time flew by with great elan, 
Ms Busy Bee came up with a plan... 
She whispered to the lamb anew, 
"I think the wolf is in love with you..." 
 
Shell shocked the lamb in silence stared, 
while the wise old bee further bared... 
"We knew it was futile from the very start, 
wicked creature, you are breaking his heart..." 
 
The lamb denied with tear filled eyes, 
but she found her heart believing these lies... 
"Some rules, my dear can never bend, 
no one can ever on just love depend..." 
 
The bee then whispered the same news flash, 
to the wolf whose heart it crashed. 
The lamb, his friend she had always been, 
could her love have gone so unseen? 
 
Both lamb and wolf drowned in despair, 
each wondering whether it wasn't fair, 
to cause such heart break to the other,
they stopped talking any further... 
 
Started avoiding each other they, 
neither would any reason say, 
while the forest animals danced with glee, 
and clinked their glasses with the bumblebee. 
 
Now when the lamb and wolf crossed paths, 
to the jungle market or river bath, 
each merely offered a cursory glance, 
a guilty betrayal that stood no chance... 
 
Thus the wolf and the lamb met a sorry plight, 
but to everyone's delight, 
life would follow the same old trends, 
A wolf and a lamb would never be friends!!! 
 
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Writer's note: This was a satirical take on society and how it is perfectly capable of manipulating the most unadulterated relationships so that we never manage to emerge out of the rigid cast of stereotypes it has created. I hope you enjoyed reading it!

August 25, 2013

The 'Kasturi' diaries

"The faintest waft is sometimes enough to induce feelings of hunger or anticipation, or to transport you back through time and space to a long-forgotten moment in your childhood. It can overwhelm you in an instant or simply tease you, creeping into your consciousness slowly and evaporating almost the moment it is detected. "
~Stephen Lacey, Scent in Your Garden

It is a lazy Sunday afternoon and one that seems truly custom made to my liking.
Those who know me would vouch for me being totally not-a-sunday-person. In fact, I am somebody who will instantly loathe anyone who is in seemingly high spirits on a Sunday evening, mainly because I consider it sacrilege to rejoice in the wake of an impending Monday.
But today is different. I am in a particularly good mood and I guess the world around me should attribute the privilege of my esteemed non-grouchiness to the raindrops pitter pattering outside my window while I huddle up in a warm blanket with my favorite book, and talk to you---the book because it provides me with a deep sense of comfort, and talking to you because...err..because I am nice like that.

 Anyhoo, when I first read about Ambi Pur's contest on Indiblogger,  I was intrigued. Here was a chance to attribute nostalgia to fragrances or smells instead of the usual visual stimulus that we normally associate with our sacrosanct memories---a concept which made me ponder on the lesser appreciated olfactory sense we are blessed with.
Perhaps it is this very thought that makes me pick up the age old copy of 'Wuthering Heights' that I am reading, and inhale the scent of sweet nostalgia from the bookmarked pages that have been yellowed by repeated handling through the years. The musty and rich scent of an old book, don't you just love it? I remember the first time I was reading this book. How I had managed to devour the passionate love of the scheming Heathcliff and the enigmatic Catherine Earnshaw from start to end, so engrossed in its intricate nuances. It made me shudder, their complicated romance, their undying love, the plotted vengeance, the innocent victims---by the time I had finished with the book, I was red faced and teary eyed. The school girl fantasy of having a passionate lover like Heathcliff slowly vanished---as I came of age, interpretations altered with repeated readings of the novel.
However, even today, no other book has managed to fill me with equal wonder, intrigue and empathy for its protagonists...Perhaps these pages got scented with the same array of emotions that the book evoked in me. Thinking of which, perhaps a little bit of us stays as a fragrance in every book we read. Maybe that is why, I love the soft, powdery, drowsy smell of old libraries so much--they are memories  from an era gone by, our communication with people we have probably never know or seen, but with whom we share in common, hundreds of printed pages........and the fragrance in between them.
I take a break from reading and make myself a coffee, my third mug for the day. As I inhale the aroma of the cocoa beans, my mind races back to those exam nights in Medical school.
Amidst a sea of piled up textbooks with highlighted notes, half read journals, heaps of old question papers and hopes of establishing  some sort of telepathic communication with the examiner, I would be sitting numb at the pillow end of my bed, with intermittent bouts of terribly seductive sleep and excruciatingly hopeless panic clouding my consciousness. That was when Coffee would serve as my only savior and friend. Be it the perfectly brewed cup of fresh coffee by mom or the coffee flavored milky liquid brought by an empathic hostel mate, from the hostel mess, gulping it down would somehow kick start me back into action. The aroma of the fresh hot coffee would render a morning quality to those struggling night hours and an optimistic freshness to my tired droopy eyes, and even before I knew it I was asking for another cup.

Another aroma that wafts around my house is one of baked products. Today is no different. My sensitive nose detects the faintest of aromas and one cannot simply ignore the wonderful muffins my sis is baking. I remember the first time she baked a cake we all applauded and complimented her. Pictures were uploaded on fb, friends were invited over to sample...more compliments...more soaring with pride...sigh!
"If you weren't a dentist, you could definitely be a baker..." my dad sniggered. Who knew then, that she would take the compliment so seriously? Now our house is filled with the aroma of baked products on a daily basis----chocolate chip cookies, custard muffins, banoffee pie, apple tarts, banana bread, she has almost taken it up as 700bakes-a-year challenge (if there is anything like that).
Nobody complains, although we are a little careful with the compliments nowadays.

Speaking of compliments, don't you think petrichor is nature's best compliment? Nature is at its glorious best when its raining. Today is just one such a day. The scent of the rain soaked earth is emanating a wonderful freshness that is entering my bedroom through the open window. I allow a few drops to fall on my face and hair and inhale the scent of the flowers that are now in full bloom, as if rejoicing in the beauty of the rain. Mixed fragrances of roses and jasmine in my front garden fill my senses and I cannot decipher which is more refreshing. Its true, the rain makes all things beautiful.Sometimes I wish I could be a child once again and get drenched in the rain, sail paper boats in puddles of water and not give a damn about the world around me.Then  Jagjit Singh's "Woh kaagaz ki kashti..." comes to mind and I smile to myself....If only...

 The mind is inspired by the weather outside and I cant help but pen them down in my diary.
One whiff out of curiosity,
another might for pleasure be...
What follows becomes irrepressible,
and stays etched as a fond memory...
---Priyanka 25/8/13

Coming back to the topic, the plethora of my favorite fragrances  also include the following, each one of which is able to rekindle a journey of special memories. And what better way to travel than with a friend? So follow close...
  • Fried Mushrooms--
    This is yet another reason why I love monsoons.When I was little, they used to call me the 'Mushroom Monster' for obvious reasons. I fondly remember fighting with my sis for an equal share of this delectable delicacy.
    Even today, the scrumptious whiff of deep fried mushrooms transforms us both into gluttonous  kids, a much deserving mention in the plethora of favorite aromas..
  • Eucalyptus oil---its sharp sweet scent reminds me of my grandmother. It was her favourite medicine for a cold. Every time I had a runny nose, she would dab a few drops of this special oil on my clothes, pillow covers, handkerchief and even add a little in my bath water., When I would complain of smelling like an eucalyptus tree, she would laugh merrily pinching my reddened nose with fingers dabbed with the same fragrance. I remember she had this huge bottle of her favorite oil which I thought would never finish. Today, every time I'm down with a cold or fever, the first thing I reach for is the small bottle of Nilgiri oil, or perhaps the familiar scent of my grandmother's love that it carries along.
  • Corn on the cob--- The aroma of hot piping corn on the cob, especially when its raining carries me back in time when Sunday evenings were spent on the beach, building sand castles, calling out to the waves and munching on snacks by the beach side that included pani puri, bhel, sev puri and not to forget my favorite corn on the cob.
    When I see today's parents fussing over their kids, it makes me wonder what iron immunity we had back then or perhaps the hygiene level of roadside food stalls was far better during those good old days. With much more health awareness and declining standards of cleanliness at the stalls, I find myself only stopping for an occasional heated item, the safest being the ever so friendly 'corn on the cob', the tempting aroma of which triggers off nostalgia of those carefree childhood days.
  • the fragrance of Goa---
    Living in this heaven on earth, I am much acquainted with the salty freshness of its sandy beaches that beckon tourists from all over the world.  Fringed with swaying palm and coconut trees, are the cool and comfortable shacks emanating an array of scintillating aromas
    from every Goan kitchen---from pomfret racheado, crab xec xec, prawn balshao and the quintessential fish curry+rice+kismur combination to the goan sweet delicacies like Bebinca and dodol-a cuisine befitting the 'susegaad' (read relaxed) personality we Goans are blessed with..
  • Cinnamon---brown and dry and sweet and warm, I manage to sneak in this spice in whichever recipe possible.
  • Citrus Potpourri---
    Known to stimulate digestive enzymes and consequently appetite, this tangy fragrance was gift wrapped in a cellophane bag topped with a large lemon colored bow, and presented to me by a very special friend, with a gift note that read  "Though the scent of this potpourri may fade in a few months, the fragrance of our friendship will stay forever..."  The citrusy smell of this gift reminded me of the sweet and tangy moments in our priceless friendship, and it has almost become a habit now to have potpourri around the house.

  • Mysore Sandal soap---
    this soap takes me for a joy ride into 'Nostalgia' town. I recall my class teacher Mrs Sawant, who would come to school early morning, dressed in a crisp saree, with her hair held up neatly in a bun. We, students of class fifth, could not ignore the fresh scent of sandal wood that lingered as she walked into the classroom. Her polite mannerisms, her style of dressing, her grace, her elan was so much an inspiration to us all, that every student in fifth grade picked up a trait or two to mimic from her, for that academic year. I had decided to pick up the fragrance.
  • Incense sticks----
    The sweet smell of incense spreads a feeling of holiness and purity all around.The first thing that comes to my mind with this fragrance, is Ganesh Chaturthi.This incense remains an important part of the daily puja ritual.  The aspect of the ritual is called  'dhupa'  and involves the offering of incense before the deity, as a token of respect.
  • Hot samosas and Garam Chai---Every time I smell the aroma of hot tea and piping samosas wafting from the kitchen,  my mind races back to those college days...and good old Sakharam.
    When it came to samosas and chai, nobody could beat him. Sakharam would open his stall, be it rain cold or storm and cater to his huge fan following of college goers. During the monsoons, we would attend lectures according to his timings---most of the times, we would be found loafing around his stall, with those mouthwatering triangular pockets of magic teasing our taste buds as we devoured them one after the other. They were mini sized samosas packed with flavor and taste, and still remain the hot topic for every reunion. When asked for the recipe, Sakharam would simply smile and say "love". Even after various home made attempts, no body has been able to crack it till this day. All we can come up with are cheap imitates that remind us of the one flavour that has still not left our taste buds or our hearts---love, he had said!
When we think of it, isn't it weird? There are so many fragrances to choose from..But somehow the ones that make the deepest impact on us  are the ones that are consciously or subconsciously linked to some memory distant or remote, that surfaces every time we encounter the trigger factor.

 
 “Smell is important. It reminds a person of all the things he's been through; it is a sheath of memories and security.” 

It is still raining but the day is almost nearing its end. Still, a feeling of complete satisfaction occupies my mind. It feels like I've time traveled to my favorite places and returned feeling accomplished and totally at peace. Perhaps that is how I should spend my Sunday's now, instead of moping over the upcoming Monday. Delving into the past is not always a bad thing. Nostalgia has its own magical quality...somewhat akin to the Kasturi Mrig. Like the musk deer, nostalgia also emanates the sweet smelling fragrances of our memories, that can give any commercial perfumery a run for its memory. Thus is the addictive nature of its scent. Just like the 'Kasturi' is known for its medicinal properties, our memories can be healing too, when viewed with the right perspective and the correct outlook.
Last but not the least,  we should always remember that the musk of captive deer is held to be inferior in quality to that of wild ones. So lets let our memories run wild and free and watch them return to us, making new memories in the process. Holding them captive within the confines of our mind, within the nooks and crannies of our heart, will only restrict them.

Let's travel through time and enjoy the sweet fragrance of what once was, and what will forever stay...our most cherished moments...
Let's wake up and smell the coffee magic...

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This post has been written for Ambi Pur's 'Smelly Air to Smiley Air' Contest in association with Indiblogger.
 If you are an Indivine user and you like what you read, you can vote for me here.

August 12, 2013

Cryptic Thoughts #37

The night had always been a loyal friend, the burning sun, simply an acquaintance. But sometimes, all it takes, is a ray of light at the break of dawn, to change the whole situation over.


 If you want to know how an impression changes, add a drop of ink to a bowl of water...

August 09, 2013

The start to something right...

Amongst all the lessons we learn in life, the ones which have the deepest impact are those we learned as children.
Childhood, the most memorable time of our lives, the age we all yearn to go back to, the stage that tantalizes us, tempts us, eludes us and evades us time and again, making us reminisce about those wonder years of innocent glory.
I often drift away in nostalgia to time travel back into that wonderful period of my life. Life was so simple back then…so untainted…so pure…so innocent. There were hardly any grays to perceive, no difficult choices to choose from, no complicated issues to handle.
There were little joys, small victories, unadulterated pleasures and selfless emotions. Of course, we'd had our own dilemmas even back then---temper tantrums over who got the biggest toffees, competitive jealousy over who would score more in math,  childish pride over who got the best birthday gift, et al, but nothing that lasted long enough to flaw relations. In hindsight, these ‘insignificant’ childhood experiences, albeit slipped away silently, taught us the most important lessons of our life and carved us into the people we have turned out to be today.
Speaking of which, one incident comes to mind, knocking persistently at the back door of the museum of my precious memories.  I must have been around twelve then. My parents, my sister and me, had been invited by the CEO of the company where my dad worked, to a lavish party to celebrate the launch of a new project. It was an important event…a rising opportunity at both personal and professional levels. I was to be on my best behavior, and mind my manners. The burden of a huge pre-party sermon from mom, that  included instructions to smile politely at the hosts, not meddle with any of the lavish upholstery, eat with impeccable manners, saying thank-you’s and after-you’s and not get into any kind of trouble, weighed me down. Being under the watchful eye of my older sibling, made me feel like some well trained circus animal, causing me to be utterly bored and itching for action. It was late. I was sleepy and everyone else was having a pretty good time.  The hostess, Mrs Kamath, was a glamorous lady with yellow teeth,  and wore a string of perfectly white pearls, causing me to giggle at the ironical contrast. She was exchanging pleasantries with everyone and was now animatedly engaged in a friendly conversation with my mother. Her husband was talking to my dad, a serious undertone in his voice, an aura of seniority that I recognised as strictly business. My sister was keenly listening to Mrs Kamath's banter while I was struggling to pry my eyes open in a desperate attempt to stay awake. So, I looked around.

 It was a huge house which my juvenile mind immediately intercepted as a mansion of mysteries waiting to be explored. Maybe it was the enthusiasm of unraveling some adventure in some corner of that palatial house, or perhaps it was just the sheer disinterest in listening to a bunch of grownup's, that I decided to go for a walk around the place. There were people all over the place, and amidst the noisy chatter, my voice was unheard. Not wasting any time to explain where I was going, I drifted away from the place where my parents were standing and merged with the crowd. It was a regal hall decorated with balloons and confetti. On one side, was a delectable banquet table laden with the choicest of dishes, while on the other, a huge marble stairway led to vast spacious rooms upstairs.A narrow passage from the hallway led into the kitchen. As I followed the wonderful aroma wafting from the area, I peeped in to see an old woman frying snacks in a vat of hot oil, intermittently wiping her forehead with the loose end of her crumpled sari.
She saw me peeping inside and smiled sweetly at me. She called me in and told me that she had a granddaughter my age. I did not say anything. Suddenly, she flinched, as if realising the discrepancy in our financial status. With lowered eyes, she then proceeded to ask me if there was anything I needed. I shook my head and hurried out of the kitchen, swish swishing my pretty pink dress from the furnace like environ.

The marble banisters were beckoning, but I had been strictly instructed to stay out of trouble and sliding down them would be quite a spectacle. So I refrained from humoring the idea.
Still, what lay beyond the polished white stairway enthralled me. A quick look wouldn't hurt anyone, I thought, and made my way up the stairs. There were exotic paintings encased in rich gold frame work adorning the walls along the banisters, but I stopped myself from touching anything. Finally on top of the staircase, I looked at the gathering below. 
"What a view!!!,"  I marveled at the sight.
The door to the master bedroom was ajar. I peeped inside.It was the grandest room I had ever seen. There was a majestic mirror with a lacquered royal blue trim, on the wall opposite the antique mahogany double sized canopy bed. I placed my hand on the pillow at the head end and had I to have touched clouds in my life time, I was sure it would have felt like a similar experience. There were big french windows adorned with floral lace curtains. You could see the entire city from that height, I thought. I wanted to see what it looked like. I was tempted to draw the curtains and experience a birds eye view of the whole city.
"How wonderful it will be..to have the whole world at my feet," my twelve year brain was delirious with enthusiasm.
Forgetting all instructions on formal etiquette and social decorum, I jumped in glee.I was just about to reach for the drawstrings of the closed curtains when I heard footsteps approaching.
My attention drifted, I turned. As I turned to see who it was my grasp slipped from the drawstring and dashed against something.
There was a loud crash. I ran and hid behind the door. A beautiful crystal vase lay smashed to pieces. I stood trembling behind the half open door, hoping I wouldn't get caught. The footsteps became louder. I peeped through the gap between the hinges to see who it was. Whoever it was had definitely heard the crash.
It was then that she entered the room. She failed to see me. She was too engrossed in panicking over the broken vase. From her panic stricken face, I gathered it must have been an expensive antique which she had been warned against touching, before. I slowly sneaked out from my position.My devil mind was at work. I had found someone to place the blame on. I would simply say that I followed the noise, and found this old lady sweeping the broken pieces. That was the only way to save me from all the trouble it would get me at home, and all the embarrassment it would get me amidst all these strangers.
"Nobody knows her," I thought,  "She works here.They wont say anything to her."

With hands on my hips, I stood glowering over her and said, "You did it, didn't you? You broke the vase, I know." 
I was lying though my teeth, but only I knew it...and she...
She stared at me with surprise in her eyes. There was no one else in the room other than us. I stared back, my heart pacing.
"LIAR!!!" my insides screamed. I tried to ignore the voice that rose within me.
Just then the gorgeous Mrs Kamath entered into the room. What had been initiated as a 'touch up' visit to the powder room had transpired into this sudden discovery, and she was now clenching her pearl necklace tightly, staring furiously at the old woman besides me. She had not heard any of what I'd said but immediately assumed that the house help was the culprit behind the heinous destruction of priceless art.
"Memsaab, I was just cleaning the other room..I heard a noi..." the old woman mumbled nervously trying to explain it wasnt her fault. Unable to face the wrath in Mrs Kamath's eyes, she looked at me for help. I looked away.
Mrs Kamath continued, "Shut up you! Don't you dare say a word!! I should have known not to keep you at work. You irresponsible old hag. How many times have I warned you to be careful? Do you know how much this vase costs?" 
I was staring shell shocked at the woman with yellow teeth, as she continued to spill venom. My parents and a few other guests had now gathered in the room. But Mrs Kamath did not care. She continued to humiliate her maid, as if wealth had endowed her with the right to do so.
"How would you know?" she snorted, "You wretched people stay in the slums and cant bear to see others enjoying wealth."
Then one look at the guests and she said, "Who knows? You might be here to steal something.What else are you doing in the master bedroom when there is a party downstairs? Didn't I tell you to stay in the kitchen?"
The woman's eyes were now brimming with tears. She kept blinking the accusations away, hoping her Memsaab would stop. But Mrs Kamath was on a roll, and did not show any signs of stopping.
I looked around nervously. There were people I did not know. There were my parents. There was Mr and Mrs Kamath. But above all, there was this old woman was getting punished for something that was not even her fault, humiliated for something I'd done, accused of some mistake I'd committed.

I was faced with two choices now---I could be honest about the whole thing...accept my mistake, confess that it was me who had broken the vase, or I could let things lie the way they were, let the poor woman take the blame of what was rightfully part of my wrong doing.The former option would cause me much humiliation in front of strangers whom I did not even know, perhaps a good dressing down at home from my parents, embarrassment at the Kamath's, and possibly even the guilt of placing my dad's business relation with them at stake. However, the latter, albeit seemed the easy way out, somehow felt terribly wrong. In hindsight, had I chosen to stay mum that day, the episode that transpired would keep me awake every single night for the rest of my life. I would not be able to meet eyes with myself and even though nobody else would know about it, there would be a stranger in the mirror whom I would have to face every day and hang my head in shame.
The old woman's kind face in the kitchen flashed in front of me. Hadn't she thought of me as her own grandchild some time back? And here I was, being an insensitive monster, keeping a secret that could save her job and self respect. My respect for the woman only grew as I realised she was saying nothing against the harsh words that kept spilling from Mrs Kamath's loud mouth.
"Memsaab, I have not....d..done a...anything," she stammered, then bracing herself she continued, "But if you still think it is my mistake, I will leave your job."
I noticed her eyes stinging with tears. My respect for the woman had increased. She was still not saying anything against me---the actual culprit. I noticed her saree, frayed at the edges. She was poor. She needed the job. She was old, yet worked for a living. She did not want to compromise on her self respect. Mrs Kamath was still muttering. She was about to leave the room. It was now that I panicked.
"NO....Wait..She didn't do it," I cried. All eyes in the room flashed onto me. Mrs Kamath was glaring at me, a look of surprise in her eyes.
I ran towards my mother. Clutching her tightly I wailed, "It was not her mistake.She didn't break your costly china...." then trembling, I added amidst sobs, "I did..."
I then glanced shyly at the old woman and mumbled an apologetic 'Sorry' before hiding behind my mother again. The crowd dissipated. Mr and Mrs Kamath were embarassed at the spectacle and muttered a reluctant apology to the maid. The rest of the party continued with everyone pretending that the incident never happened. I stayed gloomy and prepared myself for the tirade that lay ahead at home. My only solace was that the woman for whom I had fought against myself, understood my feelings---a fact evident from the appreciative wave I received through the kitchen window, while I was getting into the backseat of our car, when it was time to go home.
My parents too were equally proud of my confession and much to my siblings disappointment, I even received a surprise gift for the bravery I'd shown that day.
"The path of honesty is always difficult. There will be many distractions that will tempt you away. Sometimes your mind will insist that it is not worth it. But always remember, listen to your heart. It will show you the way," my dad said.
It was true. My heart chose to stand by the woman's side. My heart chose to respect her humility, her perseverance, her loyalty. My heart preferred the path of honesty against the temptation of a well spun fabricated deceit. It taught me compassion for someone I did not even know, and yet formed a special bond with.
"I'm so glad you have learned your first lesson in integrity, on your own," my mother said and hugged me.
I didn't know what that word meant then. All I knew was that it made me feel happy...made me feel complete...made me feel like I belonged here, like I gave this world a small part of what I owed it. That moment made me feel like it was just the start...the start to something right.

Years later, I came to realise that these ethical dilemmas never really left me. I experienced similar choices time and again during my life in medical school. Even today, these choices still visit me from time to time, as a consultant doctor, as a private practitioner, as a friend, a daughter, a sister, but more importantly as a human being. But it is these values which have been ingrained in me from my childhood, that help me take the appropriate decisions. It is these that make me think and ponder. It is these that force me to reflect and introspect. They have become a part of me---character traits that constitute an inseparable part of my attitude towards life. Even today, they direct and guide. They taunt and haunt...and I constantly find myself trying to live up to the self expectations they have raised in me.

Even today, I still let my heart decide....because I know...
...I know my heart will always do the right thing...

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I am sharing my Do RIght Stories at BlogAdda.com in association with Tata Capital.