Happy Birthday to Me

 

Today is my birthday….happy or not. Considering that , effectively,  one is just inching closer to the inevitable end, whether one should celebrate one’s birthday or not, has been the subject of much intellectual debate. Many of these debates I too have been a part of. In fact, in the good old days of youth, some inexplicable existential angst used to grip me around my birthday. Those were the days when I was quite sure that I had life all figured out and had consequently come to the conclusion that the only logical thoughts on one’s birthday had to be an existential urgency. I remember scribbling one such thought from Bridget Jones on the title page of that very book on my 27th birthday – “Fear of dying alone and being found 3 weeks later , half eaten by an Alsatian”. That Bridget herself is by no means anywhere near sane should be enough of a comment on my mental state at 27.Now that I’m quite certain of just the opposite , that no matter what, life cannot be figured out, I have taken a bathetic plunge from morose contemplation to chaotic revelry.

happy-birthday-to-me-wallpapers-9.jpgSo here I am,  on my 42nd birthday, with my self bought gifts and cake and flowers , ready to celebrate , happily having bid adieu to the angst that plagued me in my 20s. Is life more sorted out now ? Am I no longer scared of being found half eaten by an Alsatian because I’m married ? Not quite. On the contrary life is as chaotic as it gets and if I’m not worried about not being half eaten by an Alsatian it’s simply because I’d trust my pet not to eat me up ! The fear on the contrary is of being left half buried by my better- bitter half 😉

On a more serious note if there is one thing that I’ve realised about life it’s  simply that life is for the living. Pretty obvious one would think but very often such apparent truths are lost on us. Rather than moan on our birthdays about getting old,  let us acknowledge that growing old is a privilege denied to many and be grateful for whatever time we have, especially with our health and other such things that we take for granted ,  intact.  Moreover, why do we wait for others to celebrate our birthday or make special efforts for our special day? Buying gifts, flowers, cake for oneself is generally looked down upon, as signs of  being so lonely and alone that no one will get you these. For a long time I have myself fallen prey to such self defeating thoughts, waiting for others to make my day special. And now I wonder why? I am blessed with lovely friends and family but if I don’t want to celebrate my life myself, why do I expect others to? My birthday for me is today nothing short of an exclusive national holiday that I celebrate fully. It’s a week, if not more, of fun and revelry in the most basic ways…shopping, cooking, movies…anything that I enjoy..with sonny dear and whoever, if anyone, is around at that point of time. But celebrate I must and celebrate I will.

I have often spoken of lack of self love that we, especially, women exhibit. Everything in life is overrated, except love of the self and an affirmation of life as we know it. Can there be a better day to celebrate one’s life than one’s birthday? So here’s to many more such days…such birthdays and a life of loving and living. Let’s not take life too seriously..no one gets out alive. Let’s rock it while we can…Happy Birthday to Me!!

Flying Fuck…Udta Punjab(AAA)

udta punjab

Finally I saw the so very controversial Udta Punjab. First things first….I loved it. Why ? Probably for all the reasons that it became controversial much before it released . Drugs ? Well this was my first up and close brush with the menace as it is corroding the society. Or as up and close as it can get ,blessed as I am to have a life where I spend few hundred bucks to get a closer look at a problem that is ruining lives and generations. With my cosmopolitan sensibility and upbringing , drugs till now had merely meant rave parties and the sleazy under belly of the life of the rich and famous. That it is eating up our society from within at a very grass root level, this stark reality I faced for the first time. Or whatever sorry imitation of facing it was, sitting in an air conditioned hall, munching on popcorn and sipping cold coffee. We indeed are a spoilt, privileged lot and the sooner we realise it ,the better it is. Maybe that realisation can jolt us out of our happy lethargy  and incessant complaining .

The central theme of drugs brings me to the super “A”(AAA ? An acceptable rendition of XXX ?) certification that our blessed Censor Board would have liked to give it and that too after the ridiculous 190 or so proposed cuts. I for one would definitely want my son to see it and much before he turns 18. I don’t think a menace like drugs will wait for the potential target to touch the legal adult age and then strike. Lest my son too thinks of drugs as the done thing limited to rave parties of Goa, I would want him to see it in all its naked ugliness. ..”see” as much as he can from his privileged station in life. However, I would want him to see the movie not just to see the murky side of life but also the indomitable spirit which in fact makes life worth living..the never say die spirit, beautifully captured by the nameless character played by Alia Bhat. Rising against all odds ,like the phoenix, hers is indeed the admirable spirit that we as human beings are blessed with and need to wake upto.

Coming to the other objectionable part of the movie that earned it the AAA certificate – the “crass, vulgar language” of the movie where there is barely a dialogue without a cuss word , much to the anguish of the Censor Board. Would I want my 11 year old to hear and to that extent learn this kind of language ? No. And that is the only reason why I would not want him to watch the movie right now…soon enough but not yet. The social setting of the movie probably warrants such liberal use of the choicest of expletives though I do believe that the sophistication, refinement we see around us is but a veneer. Scratch the surface and it reveals pretty much the same vulgarity underneath,  albeit in a different form. The hypocrisy of the urban intelligentsia is such that it makes English swear words more than acceptable…cool , hep even. Their hindi renditions however are a different story. Pray what makes “I am so fucked up” more acceptable than “Chutiya kat raha hai”? When it suits us we will deride the use of English, holding high the banner of our national language and pride, happily forgetting that English is today a global language. But a cuss word in this colonial language is perfectly acceptable; In our mother tongue, however, not so much. I, for one,  am not particularly impressed, repulsed or intrigued with the use of expletives by anyone in either of the 2 languages, in fact , in any language. To me, resorting to the use of these words indicates an alarming bankruptcy of ideas and inability to articulate a wide variety of emotions and thoughts we human beings are blessed with. In any case we are nation obsessed with banalities where it’s ok to murder in the name of religion but not ok to release a movie that raises uncomfortable issues in a language that is widespread ; where “fuck you” is the “takia kalaam” of the educated urban youth but “chutiyapa” is vulgar. My take on all this uncalled for hullabaloo and controversy ? I loved the movie and anyone who has a problem with it can take a flying fuck ; my life has plenty of chutiyapas of its own to bother with non issues !

Love and Longing in Shimla

 

cymera_20160617_154801.jpg

Honestly, I can’t recall my first distinct memory of life in Shimla. A host of images crowd the mind vying with each other for attention as it were. Is it cuddling up with a hot water bottle on cold December nights? Or hiding below the wild bushes on the cool and short lived summer evenings? Or picking up an Enid Blyton from Minerva Book Shop and eagerly devouring it in the idyllic surroundings? Or perhaps reluctantly trudging behind my mother near Oak Over on our way back from the Mall Road on a foggy monsoon day? Or is it waking up in winters to find white beauty all around, much in the manner of Disney’s “Frozen”?  Perhaps it is of running to catch the HRTC bus to school, Tara Hall, while dreading missing it as no other means of transport were available. Maybe it is gobbling up a humongous amount of pastries and cream rolls from the vendors who regularly came by the house with their iron trunk full of pastries, rolls and breads, the mobile bakeries of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Or is it the real bakeries of those days, Trishool, Krishna on The Mall Road, that enticed the senses with their never fading smell of freshly baked bread? Or Baljees with its hot Gulab Jamuns? Park Café, with its lingering smell of coffee and pizzas came much later- of that I’m pretty sure.

All these and much more come to the mind. And as is the habit of the mind, past is always seen through rose tinted glasses, with a hint of nostalgia and melancholy. It’s been quite many years since I left Shimla as a permanent residence. Yet every time I come back, a myriad of emotions take over- nostalgia but also a strange disconnect as if the Shimla I grew up in was some place entirely different. That Shimla, like every other place has changed, is rather obvious- a fact sorely lamented by the inhabitants and visitors alike. The haphazard mushroom growth of buildings, the reckless deforestation, rapidly increasing population and traffic- all perils of modern day ideas of growth and development. Yet what troubled me was the strange emotional disconnect that I felt- as if, after having been born and brought up here, lived and breathed the Pine laden smell of the hills, I just didn’t belong here. The hills seemed to have disowned me. And me, them.

As if this existential angst wasn’t enough, I committed the mistake of going back to the place where our house, Victoria Place, was- Nigam Vihar. The entire neighbourhood was barely recognisable. Where there was nothing but wild bushes and tall trees, ugly buildings stood. Our little mountain terrains, the familiar houses with their lovely gardens, the dilapidated Victorian buildings were all gone. As for our house itself, it had been razed to the ground to make place for a parking lot. Not a hint remained of what stood there once. While moving out after over 20 years had felt like the end of an era, this was the definitive final nail in the coffin.

This was a few years ago and ever since my attitude can best be described as that of an ostrich. Completely ignoring my past, the ties that bind me to this place, just visiting like an outsider. This time, strangely, after so many years, the place seemed to reach out to me. Or was it that I was willing to open the floodgates of memories, allowing them to wash over me with their hint of both melancholy and joy? Each day spent here has been cathartic in a way that it has not been in the past-  Every trip to The Mall and every walk meaningful.  The hills still are the same- appalled no doubt at what we are doing to them, yet welcoming as a mother always is. It was me, in my attempt to deal with the lost past, who had shut myself to the intrinsic calm of this place, its welcoming embrace.

Victoria Place doesn’t exist. Tara Hall has changed, as has The Mall and everything else. Yet even though things change, nothing really does change and that is the beautiful poetry of life. Is it just a coincidence that only yesterday I picked up Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” from Minerva and the words that leapt at me seemed to be echoing my sentiments – “The kinship I felt suddenly for the old land……it surprised me….I thought I had forgotten about this land. But I hadn’t …..Maybe (it) hadn’t forgotten me either.”    In the words of the wise Master OOgway there are no coincidences in life. May be it is time to come home and more fully than ever before.

cymera_20160617_154327.jpg

 

City of Love

 

image

Did I ever mention how I fell in love with Paris, the City of Lights…The City of Love? Yeah it’s called all this but names are just nomenclature until they mean something to you personally. And strangely Paris meant all this and a lot more to me. The moment I stepped out of the hotel room I fell in love with the city. Sitting at a little cafe outside the hotel, sipping a hot cappuccino, all I could feel was …well not just love but joy, peace and, well, freedom! Why? I really don’t know.

That very evening, after a cruise on River Seine as we went to the Eiffel Tower, I told my BFF rather matter of factly – “I love you. I love being here with you. But someday I’d like to come here with my soul mate.” That she didn’t fling me down the Eiffel Tower is to her credit. Instead she just rolled her eyes and gave me one of her exasperated yet cocky looks- “The only soul/sole mate you have is me…like it or lump it!”

20150816_010134_LLS

Ever since that trip almost a year ago, I’ve been wondering once again about this entire construct of a “soul mate” that we all, especially the women, yearn for. Is there anything remotely like that? If yes, is it only for a lucky, chosen few? And if there isn’t anything like a soul mate, do we in fact waste our lives hankering after a mirage?

My wise teacher, who regularly surfaces to give me a fresh perspective on life, had said long ago – Love is over rated, fidelity more so. Freshly reeling under the magic of DDLJ, she had sounded like a Prophet of Doom and the voice of cynicism rather than of sanity. Strangely it was her words that rang in my ears on that cool night on Eiffel Tower as we looked at the beautiful city of Paris spread out like a map below. It was at this uber romantic place that Tom Cruise had proposed to his lady love Katie Holmes I believe. For the rich and the famous, proposals at the Eiffel Tower are pretty much a cliché! And so are divorces – How that fairy tale ended we all know.

And that once again brings me back to my “soul mate” question. Is there really another soul out there, our other half that you are meant to be with? And while it takes you a few lifetimes to find that particular one, you blunder along the way with others…is that how it is? Or is this yet another “construct” of the human mind? Another attempt to put the onus of one’s happiness on someone else? While the desire for companionship is perfectly understandable, what I fail to understand is why we end up handing the key to our lives, as it were, to someone else. Why do we become a de facto puppet in someone else’s hands? Before this is written off as some kind of a feminist rant, my question is addressed to all the men as well who pine away for their lady love’s approval. Why do we homosapiens, the most intelligent of all species, do this to ourselves?

After being shocked by “Love and fidelity are overrated” at the age of 20, today at 40 I’m finally convinced of it. In fact I’d say everything in life is overrated…everything except self-love. Self-love not of the narcissistic, egotistical selfish kind but a love and respect for one’s own life and self. The attention we shower on another, often bordering on the stifling, what if we were to show the same love, respect and concern for ourselves? Wouldn’t we make better lovers, companions, and in fact better human beings if we could show such kindness and consideration to ourselves? Instead of being so very critical of yourselves, your bodies, your roles in family and society, your achievements and failures, how about just loving yourself as you are? No doubt you aren’t perfect, but you are YOU…and that is something no one else can be. And well, if you can’t love yourself, no one else can.

So it is, that after almost a year of my love affair with Paris, the joie de vivre I experienced there, is beginning to make sense. After a life time of fighting with myself, rejecting myself, being over critical of myself and my failures, deprecating myself, I had finally started falling in love with myself, with my life. Am I perfect? Am I sorted in the head so to speak? Far from it. But I am me. And I am my soul mate- something no one else can be. Yes the promise to go back to a magical evening on Eiffel Tower with my soul mate stays, only that the soul mate is much nearer than I could ever think and the love affair has just begun!

self love

Consequences of Choices

image

A statement that I often hear, and am also fond of repeating quite frequently is – I don’t have a choice. After years of hearing and making this self defeating statement, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that this is the biggest lie we tell ourselves. Not that this realisation has stopped me from taking this easy way out.But what I am very sure of now is this- We always, always and ALWAYS have a choice. What we don’t like are the consequences of that choice. But choice we always have.

I think the reason we like to take this route is because it’s the easy way out – to feel like a victim in the hands of a variety of forces- destiny, fate, karma. Call it what you will, the only constant  is this feeling of powerlessness, of being a victim. Maybe it’s a bad job that you are “stuck” in; or perhaps it’s a bad relationship that you realise just isn’t working for you anymore; or perhaps a city that you don’t want to live in. All of us have, at some time or the other, found ourselves in a situation or place in life that we don’t want to be in. How we ended up there really is irrelevant- bad decisions, bad choices or well bad karma! The essential thing at that point of time is what we choose to do henceforth.

I think I have spent a better part of my life feeling this way – living my life with a feeling that I don’t have a choice. When my son was very young, I felt I had no choice but to quit my job and be a full time mother- a decision that is for no one else to make or judge but mine alone. However, it is this “no choice” rant that, in retrospect, I feel is the most debilitating. Now, with the wisdom and clarity that are the gifts of hindsight, I can say that yes I had a choice. It was the consequences of that choice that I did not like. I could have left my son with a maid; or perhaps my mother or my mother in law; or explored day care centres. That is not to say that the alternatives were easy to come by or to put in place. But they were there- I chose not to exercise them as I didn’t like the consequences- delegating, and to that extent compromising I felt, my child’s upbringing.

So very often I hear people talk about a bad job or an abusive relationship but they choose to continue suffering anyways. Reason? I don’t have a choice. But what they don’t want are the consequences of that choice.  Perhaps it means losing the children if one walks out of a bad marriage; perhaps ones house and financial security, independence or at times your very life, as you have known it till now. The choice is difficult no doubt. But the choice is there. If you choose to continue in a bad relationship or job, do so but as a conscious decision rather than as a victim.Every choice has a consequence but the important thing to realise is that there is a “choice”.

fb_img_1464664240355.jpg

I read a post by Elizabeth Gilbert sometime ago where she touches on something similar and points out very succinctly that the problem often is that there is no Plan B in place. The fear of the unknown, unfamiliar is indeed unnerving. And it’s alright to be scared. In fact, as she says , it’s alright to not even have a Plan B. It’s alright to know  “Not This” even when you don’t know what else. I don’t know what else, but definitely “Not This”. From there follows the rest. Unknowingly  we make our comfort zones and fall into repetitive behaviour patterns that are difficult to break out of. The comfort may be just the familiarity of a situation, even if a bad one, and the absence of a vacuum rather than any comfort per se. A bad marriage or bad job may be just filling up gaping hole that would otherwise suck you into its vortex. To face that, is to my mind ,infinitely better than living a life of denial, of a victim. Choose to continue or walk out. But either way, do so consciously.

Life is way too precious to be wasted as a compromise and more importantly, to be lived as a by stander, an onlooker of your own life. Every moment, every day needs to be cherished, to be lived consciously as a choice. Life indeed is for the living and definitely not for the walking dead who pass off as the living. To quote a cliche, what is the end of the caterpillar is in fact the beginning of a butterfly and unless you put an end to self defeating patterns, nothing new will emerge. Rather than go down without a fight, let’s “Go to the Mattresses”!

image

 

Moulin Rouge Snooze

 

Moulin Rouge 1

In one of my recent posts on Melbourne I mentioned an escapade involving me singing on the streets of Paris. This, until now, was a rather well-kept secret between me and my BFF, but now that the cat is out of the proverbial bag, let’s just empty out the entire bag.

The incident happened  the night we went to see the 11 pm show at  Moulin Rouge. In our eagerness to get there on time, we were on our way by 9 pm. The seats are on first come first serve basis and we definitely wanted the best view. We were already in rather “high spirits” by the time we hopped onto the metro. As we tried to make sense of the map in our hand and the stations we were crossing, we suddenly realised that all was well except that we were headed in the opposite direction. In my defence all I can say is that this is something that is often witnessed on New Delhi Metro and need not be necessarily blamed on our high spirits. To those of you familiar with the travails of apni capital’s metro, finding someone wanting to go to New Delhi Railway Station ending up in Gurgaon instead, isn’t an unfamiliar sight. Luckily for us, we realised it well in time and quickly changed the metro to reach the destination by 10pm.

There was already a queue outside and the wait in the chilly night air ordinarily would have been quite a drag. But since our student days we have mastered an uncanny ability of keeping ourselves suitably entertained even in the most unlikely of situations. While the bouncers ensured order was maintained, we passed the next hour giggling away for no apparent reason- everything and anything was entertainment for us. Unknown to it, the world famous can-can had stiff competition outside its very own gates, a competition that was only to get stiffer as the night progressed.

Finally the doors opened and we were ushered in. In our over enthusiasm we had reached a bit too early so our seats were way too up ahead close to the stage. Consequently we ended up craning our necks or twisting it in various unsightly angles for a better part of the show.  We had pre ordered a bottle of champagne while booking our tickets and as soon as the show started, champagne was served.

20150817_021650 If I had to put it succinctly, the show was bedazzling- extravagant, opulent, lavish – grand but not quite as erotic as we had supposed it would be. Or perhaps topless women just don’t work for us! Or maybe with all that we are exposed to in our normal day to day lives in this age of no barriers, the cabaret isn’t as hot as it must have been in the years gone by. But it is definitely a must watch on your trip to Paris, even if to say that it wasn’t all that it is made out to be.  Had it not been for the paucity of time, we would have definitely visited Lido as well.

Anyways we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves, sipping on the champagne and admiring the fitness level of the performers, both men and women, when suddenly I realised that I had missed an entire scene of the ongoing show! To my utter horror I realised that I had in fact fallen asleep! I turned around to inform my friend of this ultimate blasphemy, only to find her fast asleep! Can there be a bigger insult to the much revered Moulin Rouge? At least I woke up, and in an effort to keep myself awake, concentrated on finishing the champagne, which in retrospect wasn’t a very wise move. My friend on the other hand happily slept right through the entire show, waking up only to snarl at me when I dared to disturbed her slumber.

Finally the show got over at around 2am by which time I was totally sloshed, while after her restful nap, my friend was all bright eyed and bushy tailed. It was in such an inebriated condition that I tried to outdo the performers of the can-can on the streets of Paris. Thankfully I limited my performance to the singing and did not even try to break into a sexy cabaret. All hail adarsh bhartiya naari!

Of the events after the show, I have rather hazy memories. I do have faint jumbled up memories of singing “Main tou beghar hoon,apne ghar le chalo.…”; of refusing to get into a cab that my friend had hailed and insisting on walking back instead; of later trying to get into a parked limo much to the amusement of the driver. Considering the shady area of Paris that houses Moulin Rouge, the infamous Montmartre – city’s red light area where peep shows and sex shops abound- safety in the dead of the night was rightly a concern but only my friend’s, not mine. A drunk person is a rather jovial and carefree one!

How we got back to the hotel I really can’t say. All I do remember is being quite as jovial the next day as well! Moral(s) of the story – French wines show you how to live it up without wasting any time in wretched hangovers. And secondly, downing an entire bottle of alcohol, even of the mild variety, as a means of staying awake and entertained, isn’t a good idea. While I remembered the first on our trip to Melbourne, I duly forgot the second. Consequently another bottle was single headedly sacrificed at the altar of my entertainment at a dinner we were invited to, though sans the singing I seem to resort to after drinking. Ouch…That’s yet another cat out of yet another bag! Let’s leave the Melbourne cats in their bags for now, lest they open up a Pandora’s Box instead!

Moulin Rouge 3

 

Of Root Canals and Marriages

teeth

A few days ago was my 12th wedding anniversary. Incidentally, it was also the day I had to go for a root canal. Whether this was an “ishara” of the “Dil Tou Pagal Hai” variety I can’t say but it gave me tremendous perspective on marriage and on life in general. For the 1st time in 12 years, the pain of the root canal overshadowed every other thought. Life really is all about perspective!

As I sat on the dentist’s chair, the past 12 years flashed before my eyes as did all the times I had gobbled up ice creams and played truant when it came to brushing at night. Or the times when I had brushed but feasted on Lindt’s chocolates after that. The dentist did promise that it was only the prick of the initial injection that I would feel and well, he wasn’t too much off the mark. What he did not mention was the dull, numb pain that would continue to throb in my jaw for the next few days. Just like in a marriage you are lured in by all the hullabaloo and the finery and feasting, not to mention the promises of eternal love and all that jazz. What everyone conveniently forgets to tell you is that, like it or not, your life is no longer yours alone anymore. There is always an additional baggage, even if it is a Louis Vuitton suitcase but there it is!

To give the devil his due, my “Pati-dev” has in fact been rather nice to me of late making me wonder what is wrong. As a friend pointed out in Melbourne while I was trying to convince him to eat a plate of fish and chips that did not smell like fish – “If a fish does not smell like fish, there is something fishy indeed”. Point noted. What my non smelly fish is up to I can’t say and truth be told, after over a decade you pretty much don’t care either. As in there are no surprises whatsoever. And if there are any surprises, they are so only because you choose them to be so. To use the fish analogy, if the plate of fish suddenly begins to smell, it’s simply ‘cos you ignored the smell so far or had become oblivious to it – the smell was always there. Or on a brighter note, it was chicken on your plate all along instead of fish!

Coming back to the root canal, seeing my jitters, hubby dear was nice enough to accompany me, much to the amusement of the dentist. Other than that, as always, no other special treatment awaited me – nothing fishy in that! It would have been rather fishy if I had in fact got the customary bouquet on time. Why step out in the scorching heat, waste time, energy and petrol just to give a bouquet on time? So goes my hubby’s decade old logic and by now I can’t really argue with that. Hail indolence!

So it was that the day passed with me whining in discomfort of the root canal rather than the marriage which by now it seems has numbed my senses in any case. Evening meant the customary dinner which didn’t seem to make sense given the condition of my tooth. However, the boys insisted and we went anyways as sonny dear wasn’t going to let go of a good Italian meal over something as silly as a root canal. While these guys chomped away on chicken and thin crust pizzas, I was slowly swallowing risotto. God bless the Italians for their very own yummilicious khichdi.

By the time we got back, the deadly combination of wine and pain killers had pretty much done me in. I was safely tucked in by hubby and the mongrel kept at bay. I did not get my bouquet until the next day as all the florists had shut shop by 9pm. And for once there was no fight over it. As I said at the beginning- life is all about perspective. A bouquet is rather irrelevant when your jaw is pounding away in pain. Besides, that hubby dear made the effort of accompanying me to the dentist meant more than getting the bouquet on time. Not that the latter would hurt but well…can’t win them all!

The next time you want to whine about something that is wrong with your marriage or life in general, get a perspective- get a root canal ! I’m sure life will suddenly start looking way better as it was sans the pain and gratitude for things that we seem to take for granted will creep in – like not having to make that solitary trip to the dentist. And if you are lucky, you may even get the bouquet on time!

Weekend fun in Melbourne

So the advantage of a long international stay and that too with friends is that you just don’t get to see the city and country from inside out but to experience it as well. As I had mentioned in my earlier post, this is something I regret not being able to experience in Paris. That is not to say that we didn’t enjoy Paris. We certainly did and in some ways more than Melbourne. After all a girly trip with your BFF is the only time that you get to sing “Main tou beghar hoon…..” on the roads of an alien city in the dead of the night. That it didn’t go down too well with my friend, and I was unceremoniously bundled into a cab and whisked away, is another matter. My point simply is that an extended stay with a family gives you greater chance to experience the country than a short trip.
Dromana        Luckily for us, the time of our visit was the holiday season though Christmas in summer time isn’t something that really makes sense to you. But the holiday season meant lot of holidays and extended weekends for our friends and that much more opportunity for all of us to hang around together.The day trips we undertook over the weekends were to Dromana Beach, Yarra Valley and Steavenson Falls and the Great Ocean Road up to Lorne. All of them were quite a drive but strangely I realised that these guys don’t mind it. On the contrary they quite enjoy such long drives and this is pretty much the done thing over the weekends.  We could see many groups off on similar or in fact on more adventurous trips with their trailers or kayaking canoes. The modus operandi in all our trips was the same – pack food, drinks, beer and what you will and hit the road by 12-12.30. By the time we reached our destination it was around 2.30-3. Sonny boy was almost always starving by then and the 1st thing to do was to feed him and the other children in the group. After that it was fun and frolic- be it running off into the sea or sand time fun.

Yarra

 

My son is a total water baby and as much as he loves water, I’m as scared of it. So while he, with all the other boys loved Dromana Beach, for me it was Chandon Winery in Yarra valley that was enthralling. The vast expanse of pristine green was simply refreshing for the eyes. Perfectly manicured landscape in the windy weather is as good as it gets. The drive through the Yarra Valley to Steavenson Fall is simply beautiful. We undertook a small trek at the Fall and had a small adventure of our own when my son slipped and fell on one of the slippery rocks but despite that it was a memorable day. Grt Ocean Rd

The trip to Great Ocean Road was another mesmerising one. Considering the windy and unpredictable Australian weather, by then I was wiser and carried light woollens for the windy day. One of the most scenic coastal roads, we could however go only till Lorne as the road ahead was closed due to bush fires. We missed seeing the iconic 12 Apostles but thoroughly enjoyed the drive till Lorne and Lorne itself.

Lorne

 

Nearer home was a barbeque one weekend at a park whose name I’ve completely forgotten. With the lingering smell of barbeque in the background, it was a game of cricket that kept the kids busy while admiring the clean, green park and its inmates, the ducks, is what kept me busy with intermittent chit chats. 20151228_121947

And still nearer home stores like Aldis, Coles, Hunters & Gatherers and the liquor store giant Dan Murphy’s were the regular haunt. Do I miss the yummy Baileys Irish Cream with coffee! It was indeed a joy to be cooking risotto while sipping on it. And lest anyone thinks that I suddenly became fond of cooking- nah! The ease of availability of ingredients for cooking Italian was a big temptation to utilise my culinary skills.

So flew by the month long sojourn- amidst coffees, drinks and conversations. As they say in my favourite Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara– “Poorane dost milte rahein, naye dost bante rahein….zindagi yoon hee chalti rahe” (May we keep meeting old friends, keep making new ones and live our life in this fashion)

20151227_144503

 

Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer

image

If there is one thing that I hated about Australia, it was the weather. One day it’s a scorching 42°C and the next day you are shivering at a maximum of 19°C. Moreover the weather played havoc with my normally easy to manage hair. Yeah my hair is dry and prone to frizz but ordinarily it’s quite manageable. However it went totally ballistic in Melbourne. Whether it was the heat or the humidity that played havoc I can’t say but I needed a good hair serum and heat protectant as I was flat ironing my hair almost daily.

It was in such desperate times that I picked up Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer from Mecca Cosmetics. I think there was some offer going on that time and I picked it up along with the shampoo and conditioner of the same range. In any case I don’t remember the price as it was almost 6 months ago. The Mecca website puts it at AUD 44 so let’s just go with that.

It is called “A mist of many wonders” and I couldn’t agree more. These are the details on the Bumble and Bumble website about it –

  • “What: Infused with 6 feather light oils it helps soften, detangle, de-frizz, tame flyaways, ease styling and protect against breakage, heat-styling and UV damage.
  • Who: Dry, coarse or brittle hair.
  • When: On damp or dry hair before styling.
  • How: Spray on damp or dry hair, comb through and style”

                  It’s a versatile product that comes with a spray nozzle and the product is directly sprayed on hair damp or dry. You can section the hair and spray it or  if you are lazy like me,spray it all over and run a comb through the hair. However, a little goes a long way so please use it sparingly. I used it both on damp and dry hair and loved the results in both cases. It makes hair silky smooth and running a comb through it is a breeze. It is very light weight, hydrates hair well, tames flyaways, eliminates frizz and gives a nice shine. Add to that is the UV and heat protection factor. I have used it both pre styling and without any styling at all just in lieu of a hair serum with better result than a hair serum gives .It seems to give a slightly better result with the shampoo and conditioner of same family but works great with any other shampoo- conditioner as well.

Over all it’s a great product and highly recommended.

PROS-

  1. Versatile – can be used on damp or dry hair. So if you want to style your hair a day or two after you shampooed it, it can be used pre styling on dry hair.
  2. Controls frizz and flyaways without weighing hair down – is very lightweight.
  3. Hydrates well.
  4. Heat and UV protection.
  5. Nice fragrance that lingers on. But some may not like it

CONS-

  1. Expensive – At AUD 44 (i.e. INR 2200 approx.) it is quite expensive, quite in the league of Kerastase Elixir Ultime. However I found it better than the latter and if you are going to touch this league of hair care products, it’s worth the price and in fact better than may in this range. Besides a little goes a long way.
  2. Availability in India is a problem. Not sure if Sephora India keeps Bumble and Bumble products or if it is available on-line.

 

City love

Did I mention how much I loved exploring Melbourne city ? On the whole if I was to choose between Paris and Melbourne, it would be Paris hands down. There is something just so magical about that city. ..crazily romantic and well just simply magical. I could never imagine that what I had hitherto thought of just as a radio transmission tower could be so majestic and enthralling . And as for the lady herself, the over rated Mona Lisa as I had always called her ,she is just enchanting . However we were in Paris only for 4 days and saw the city as a tourist would. Melbourne on the other hand I got to explore at leisure and pretty much as a resident.

Thanks to our friends we somewhat got to experience the Aussie life style of fun filled weekends- barbecue picnics, beach side fun, wineries and of course the Great Ocean Road. But if I was to pick out one thing that I enjoyed the most, it would be my solitary walks and explorations of the city. Leaving behind the lazy boys, very often I would shoot out at 8 am and report for coffee punctually at 9 am. The starting point was Flinders Street Station that bore an incredibly festive look due to the holiday season.
image

20160106_092134.jpgMy friends back home who know Melbourne well became my virtual eyes as they guided me through the city’s by lanes and every nook and corner to discover small hidden treasures of coffee shops. Patricia on Little Bourke St & Little William St became my favourite. In my hippie, colourful tourist attire I pretty much stuck out from the early morning office crowd in their staid blacks waiting for coffee but soon I started recognising a few other wanderers like me.

My walks were often random and aimless and at times more structured. To begin with I stuck to known routes and followed the map carefully. But as my confidence soared I became more adventurous. Of course that often meant going around the same block a couple of times but it also took me unexpectedly to places like Hosier Lane where amazing graffiti greeted me.
image                                   The best thing about the Central Business District, or CBD, is the amazing variety it offers within a small radius from museums to theatre, from high street fashion to Queen Victoria Market, from Casinos to lush green parks…there is something for everyone. The boys generally joined me around noon after which it was time to eat and hang out with friends. Bourke St Mall with its lively atmosphere became our favourite place to while away time. And while I went ahead with loads of shopping, they generally chose to snack away at Brunetti Cafe with friends who often slipped away from work for an hour or so.

Mel2    So it was that we spent a lot of lazy days sauntering around Melbourne City. Federation Square was always lively be it at 9 am when my day started or at 5.30 pm when we headed back home. A lot was explored, a lot still remains but there really is no better way to see a city than on foot.

 

 

 

Mother’s Day

 

image

Yesterday I woke up to Mother’s Day. As much as I might try to romanticise it, the awareness of this all important day was not brought home to me by my dear sonny waking me up with a bottle of wine and some flowers but by the media – old and new.
Suddenly there were mothers all over the place…in the newspapers, shopping malls, eating joints not to mention the virtual world…. Facebook statuses, whatsapp pictures and messages, instagram. Seeing everyone singing praises of their mothers, thanking them etc. I was suddenly consumed by guilt. By and large we (my brother and myself that is) have always ignored our mother, a legacy duly carried on by my dear son. So while my son decided that the best way to celebrate mother’s day was by taking him to a movie and feeding him at his favourite fast food joint , I thought of at least wishing my mom, who would be totally clueless about this whole hullabaloo in any case.
Dutifully I called her at 8 in the morning. ..no response. Again I called at 9. Still no response. I dropped a couple of messages but still no reply. So it continued for the rest of the day. My brother was as clueless about her whereabouts even though they live under the same roof. The totally spaced out mental space that my brother lives in makes others pretty much redundant to his scheme of things. That is until one day when he’ll wake up and smother you with all love and affection only to disappear again. My dad had no idea either which I didn’t expect him to in any case. After over 40 years of marriage one is rather happy to have misplaced one’s spouse I guess . Despite my mother’s unfathomable claims of being busy all day how could she be so busy,  I just couldn’t get.
It was finally at 8 in the evening when we were on way to “celebrate” as per my son’s wishes that I finally got to talk to her. By then all mother’s day love and affection had taken a beating and all that I did was to yell at her for disappearing so. ” The best way to celebrate huh ? ” , I asked her, ” Fall off the grid with a bottle of wine?” Used to being harangued by us so , she gave no answers about her being M-I-A all day long but continued to laugh and giggle. And that really did make me wonder. ..did she actually think that the best way to celebrate was to take off away from the brats with some liquor ? Genius! ! Why didn’t I think of that ?
Whether she actually did do that or not, I really don’t know. But that she had a good day is what matters. Motherhood in any case something that we as mothers need to celebrate for ourselves . The children didn’t ask to be born. ..it was we who either consciously decided to, or well just became mothers. Either way motherhood is a life long commitment. As my favourite Elizabeth Gilbert puts it in “Eat Pray Love”, it’s like having a permanent tattoo on your face. So you might as well be very sure about it. And even if you weren’t so sure, once you are a mother, you are so for your entire life-like it or lump it.
Best way to celebrate ? To each his own but for me it is to thank these lovely imps we have for children rather than them thanking us- Children who allowed us to explore and discover hitherto unknown aspects of ourselves. So yes, my mom taking off (with or without liquor) on her own is as much of celebration as me watching “Captain America-Civil War” with my little one. The two mothers are in different phases of motherhood, each to be cherished and enjoyed, neither to be undervalued.

So here’s to all the fabulous mothers and all that they are, and the children who make them so. May each day and each moment be as much of a celebration as this special day!

Writing – whiting and Melbourne

                                      Writing, my teacher-cum-friend, had once told me is not simply about inspiration but a donkey’s work. If one was going to sit around all day, she enlightened me, waiting for Muse to descend or inspiration to strike while doing nothing more than twiddling one’s thumbs, the chances that anything more than just twiddling thumbs would get accomplished were rather bleak. In retrospect I can vouch for the veracity of these words – wiser words in fact were never spoken. There were lot of other wise words that were spoken but more of that later. For now, suffice it to say that my inactivity of past year or so pretty much proves her point. It’s not that I’ve been inordinately busy. Rather I’ve just been waiting for my hallowed Muse to do the donkey’s work rather than the donkey itself (herself in this case) doing the work. And when nothing got done, I blamed the missing-in-action Muse. Cutting long matters short, here I am, hopefully back in action and doing more than twiddling my thumbs.

As much as I hate labels and oversimplifications, I can dare call 2015 a year of travel. Actually it was more than travel. Calling it just that, is well, again an oversimplification. The year did begin with a visit to Goa and ended with welcoming 2016 in Melbourne with some amazing friends, with Paris thrown in between, but travel was just an outward manifestation of the great churning inside.

20160104_142212    The realisation that life is for the living and effectively what you make of it hit me hard. Unless you take the bull by the horns, so to speak, you can sit and whine all you want but nothing will get accomplished. Forget getting anything done, you don’t even live, in the true sense of the word. You may not have been dealt the best hand but here you are on Mother Earth, and while you are here, might as well make the most of it. We really do owe it to ourselves to be happy and make every effort in that direction.

Past year saw me flipped over in every sense of the word – geographically taking me all over from Goa to Paris and finally landing me in Melbourne and in the inner realm of the self, trying to find myself and my life. Yes we are all works in progress but the catchword is progress lest we forget that and become fossilised in our ways.

As my favourite Elizabeth Gilbert says – “Onwards”.

20151231_224359_LLS