The oohs and aahs of Oxford

As a traveller , I do like to visit diverse places of interest, some offering natural beauty, some history, some an experience and some purely matters of the heart. Oxford is one such place, close to my heart. The colonial past ingrained in me, dreams and awareness of the presence of such great institutions like Oxford and Cambridge. Never managed to make it as a student but what the heck I did reach it as a tourist!

I felt like Alexander the Great, I came , I saw and I captured it all in my heart! Each building has a history behind it and all the buildings in this town together forms the University as is known worldwide. The Radcliffe Camera, Bodleian Library, The Headington College, The Bridge of Sighs, the Divinity School are such historical monuments, which forms the charm of Oxford. These buildings are still in use today and classes are very much held here at present. Such is the charm of Oxford that much of Hogwarts School shown in Harry Potter movies are in fact some of the great halls and rooms of Oxford.

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There are many tours conducted here, some specifically dealing with The University life and some gives you a brief peek of the existence of the town Oxford along with its historic university. I just had a day to spend there, so after walking and admiring many such buildings, I decided to take a walking tour of the town. The tour saw me walking through the high street past souvenir shops and cafes, into the botanical garden, past the famous Christ Church College, along the Thames, finally ending in front of the Divinity School. All the while I got an overview of the town, its history, local jokes and funny incidents. For example since much of the town has been taken over and owned by the university, there has always been a tussle between the townspeople and the students who attend the university. This famous and till date stand off is known as Town vs Gown. The ‘Gown’ was coined from the graduate gown each student is required to wear at their graduation ceremony, receiving their formal degree. There are many incidents big and small surrounding the Town vs Gown conflict.

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The university itself has a very colourful history. Earlier on, only students from rich, famous backgrounds (implies royalty mostly) were allowed admission. Till now there is a 50 – 50 ratio between students admitted from private schools as compared to students from state funded schools.Girls were not allowed at all till as late as 1974, which is quite late considering the university had a notable presence for centuries before. The first college within the university to allow girls was the  Headington College, the others followed suit gradually. Great names, scientists, politicians and philosophers are associated with Oxford. How can one not be inspired?!

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That day I spent in Oxford, was a sunny, beautiful day. There was an air of festivity everywhere, made one feel that university life here was one big party! There were cyclists everywhere, student groups hanging around colleges.There were lots of tourists too, all mesmerised by the place.

The Thames flow through this town, after a lot of walking I decided to take an Oxford boat trip on the Thames. The boat went past boating docks, belonging to the different colleges each with its crest on the building . Beautiful gardens, lush grass and picturesque bridges is what greeted my eyes. There were people canoeing, boating and swimming, there were some simply lazing by the waters while others were enjoying a picnic. University life was tough certainly but Oxford had its own leisure spots.

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This place also had a book shop called Blackwell, this is one of the first bookshops in the world. So tiny it was in the beginning that there was just room for one person to stand inside it. Today it is a legacy in its own right, under the street it has one of the largest rooms holding the a biggest collection of books, possibly in the world.

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Every building in this university town has a history, colourful and long. Just like the path to reach here. As I boarded the bus to head out of the city, one long last look and one long sigh! Aah Oxford! You inspire me.Someday maybe someday.

 

 

Books through the ages….

Reading is a habit I grew up with. Ever since i can recall books were my constant companion. However, you do have to understand I did get an environment rid off constant day time television and the world wide web. I was allowed a space to discover myself and make good use of my time, basically entertain yourself. So there i started reading, Enid Blyton was the first author who captured my world. I made friends with all the creatures of The Magic Faraway Tree, Mr. Pink Whistle, The Famous Five to begin with. Much like Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh, I would run away with them, climbing trees, on their adventures and in their magical world. I made other friends too, like Noddy and really wanted a best friend like Big Ears. I still remember this particular birthday when I received a Noddy book from most of my friends.

Time flew and I pushed into my teens, this brought along with other obvious changes, a change in my choice of books. I switched to detective stories and genres which did not involve much magic. So there I was reading Agatha Christie like nobody’s business, Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew.I, however did not let go of Enid Blyton as I wished for a school like St.Claire’s and Malory Towers. Then there was Shakespeare of course, courtesy my school reading syllabus. Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, Much Ado about Nothing and Romeo Juliet floated around in my life with vengeance.

Leaving school was like kissing goodbye to easy and fun reading, there now with my hormones all charged up I was gobbling up romance and fiction. Steps in Danielle Steel with her complicated relationships and the handsome boyfriend looms easy with my eyes closed. Followed by Jeffrey Archer and John Grisham as I explore the distorted world of adulthood, corporate games and crime. The classics however never left me as Mr.Darcy of Pride and Prejudice followed me in every man I sized up. Jane Eyre, Emma,Sense and Sensibility were windows to a different world through which I peeked in now and then, when my world became predictable. Cannot really count how many times I have read and re-read them.

Then onward the books changed subtly as i progressed from a student to a professional. Of course you do have to factor in , a  whole lot of non-fiction. Books on particular subjects, surviving the rat race and keeping your sanity intact, that landed squarely on my desk indicating the pressure and competitions life was throwing up.

Marriage  brought along with it other challenges, thus on my desk landed biographies and autobiographies. Inspirations to keep up with the frantic pace of my life.Also landed amazingly Roald Dahl, I wonder how I completely missed this funny guy. A time to find my funny bone and enjoy the ride I guess, thus concluded me!

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Then with a bang entered Harry Potter and Twilight, suddenly I was enamoured with vampires, witches and wizards. I  was unstoppable as if I was a book sucking vampire, exploring my dark side eh! The night I guess had become my friend as I stayed awake providing comfort to this tiny being, book in the other hand. Parenthood had happened, welcome to the world of no sleep.

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Life happens at every stage and whatever happens directly affects my choice of books.It is like reading tarot cards or reading tea leaves, it reflects my state of mind. Currently on my desk I have 4 books, Big Friendly Giant , Swallows of Kabul, Murakami and Little Runaways. I wonder what does that reflect.

Whatever happens I am eager to find out what lies ahead in this journey with books.

Cornwall, the tip of the land.

Cornwall is the stuff of English novels and cinema. The high cliffs, beaches and the blue sea. Rugged landscape intermingling with natural beauty. We decided to take a family holiday there. The weather was fantastic and that just added to the drama. Cornwall is right at the tip of United Kingdom. So wherever you go, there are blue waters and high cliffs.

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As with all holiday destinations, there are a few key spots, which is always a must visit. Land’s End, Minack Theatre, The Lost Gardens of Heligan are there to name a few. I will not however venture into each of them as already a lot of information is out there. What i endeavour to portray is Cornwall as i experienced it.

We rented a car for easy movement but what we did not expect are those narrow roads where the maximum speed limit is 60 miles per hour. Cut through farms, with tall shrubs on both sides, these roads are everywhere in this part of England, connecting to major roadways, so you cannot escape them. Wide enough to fit one car only, it is a fantastic ride when you are all alone, but then comes a car from the other side and what follows is a test of your driving skill. Having said that, i do have to say that you can actually find your heart singing as you make your way on these roads, uninterrupted.

There is always a beach nearby and we visited 4 altogether. Each shore has a sandy stretch flanked by rugged cliffs, blue waters touching the blue skies at a distance. The water is cold by our standards and so we did find a lot of people in wet suits, kayaking, canoeing or just swimming. Just sitting there on a sunny day, felt so relaxing. Blue waters, I would certainly like to believe calms your mind. On most beaches there would be the odd pub or restaurant serving hot food and drinks. Places are always limited here, so booking in advance is the norm.

We did manage to visit a restaurant called Sam’s On the Beach, quite recommended by fellow travellers. The place didn’t disappoint us, as i tried on fresh scallops and prawns. Yes! it is primarily known for the fresh fish it serves and their fresh pizza.

The major attraction of Cornwall is definitely the cliffs, near Minack theatre we could see the cliffs plunging straight down. The theatre setting is quite dramatic really, an open air theatre, set right next to the seas, on the high cliffs. The seating is on stone steps cut out from the rock surface. As I peer from the sides, there are steep pathways leading right near to the waters, my heart skipped a beat as I did not feel sure footed at all. All around Cornwall there are such interesting walks.

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Green grass, tall trees and colourful flowers are everywhere at this time of the year. There are various gardens to explore and they are set in acres and acres of land, housing animals and interesting plants. The gardens are set beautifully, there is a woodland, open fields, some farmland along with orchards or flower beds. Various trails run through them and making your way is an adventure onto itself, there is something to discover at every corner. Trebah gardens, The Lost Gardens of Heligan are such wonderful places.

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Staying in a holiday park, gave us the added benefit of simply lazing around instead of having to go out and explore. The park had nice manicured gardens and a club house with recreational amenities. There was also a restaurant near the park.

The whole trip was an effort to unwind and relax and Cornwall didn’t disappoint us in that aspect.

Buzz my friend

Buzz lived in a beautiful home surrounded by green plants, sweet smelling flowers and kind souls. He loved to get up each day and looked forward to discovering the many surprises life had to offer him. Buzz lived with his mother and his brothers. It was a happy life, full of excitement and fun. Food was never a problem and they always had enough to eat each day. The most exciting part of Buzz’s everyday life was when the school lunch bell rang, it meant that Buzz would be surrounded by friends, playing with them and having a good time. He had three very good friends who played with him everyday, they played hide n seek and chase. It was happy times in Buzz’s life.

Then a day dawned it was not the best of the days, the sun had disappeared and the wind was strong, there was a chill in the air. Buzz did not like the weather one bit. The day went by slowly until it was time for lunch again. As the bell rang, Buzz went to meet his friends, they always played in the wooded area of the garden, it was cosy and secluded. As they all gathered a strong wind blew, shaking the bushes and tossing things about. It was messy and difficult however they decided to still play there, it was going fine for a while. Until suddenly a twig broke and the wind blew it , it landed hard on Buzz.

“Buzz!”, shouted his friends.

Buzz lay still, his small body being nudged by the wind , as if to say “Get up!”.

Buzz wouldn’t move and as his friends discovered soon, Buzz had died. His friends picked up his fragile body and kept it safe for a while, as much as a child could.

A few days later as the three friends sat forlornly in the woods, missing Buzz they were surprised to see Buzz’s mother there. Nobody exchanged a word but the friends felt happy to see her and extremely sorry for her. Buzz’s mom had come to pay them a visit as if to say “Thank you for looking after my son even when he was no more!”.

Now this would read like a traumatic story the only saviour being the fact that Buzz was a bee, who my daughter  and two of her classmates, had decided to befriend. Unusual choice one might think but children are that simple and that touched when things go wrong. This story was narrated by her rather sadly. It needed to be retold for us to admire the simple things in life.

Why doesn’t the pink snail go home?

Mithoo skipped and hopped on the wet pavement

she was on her way to school.

Wet weather, wet ground saw a lot of snails everywhere,

they were on the ground, on the hedge and on the walls.

Lovely colours their shells were,

some orange, some twirly whirly and some plain brown.

What caught Mithoo’s eyes was a snail with a pink shell,

her favourite colour after all.

The snail was at the edge of the pavement about to climb the wall!

Oh! asked Mithoo “Mamma where are the snails off too? Are they going to a snail school?”

When Mamma said maybe, Mithoo was keen to meet the pink snail’s family.

“Some other time dear, we are running late!”, said Mamma.

Again back from school on the same path,

Mithoo meets the pink snail at the same spot.

She stopped, she peeked, she looked intently.

The snail lay dead still.

“Why doesn’t the pink snail go home?”

“Let’s take the snail to our home, she isn’t going to hers anyway!”

Oh! no, thought Mamma.

“Well she needs to go home, her parents would be looking out for her!”, said Mamma.

It rained and poured all night long and the ground was the wettest ever.

The next day when Mithoo went she met the snail at the same spot, now dead and gone forever.

Oh!, wept Mithoo “Now it will never meet her mom again!”

It was such a tiny thing it might have met its fate under a trampling feet!

But for Mithoo it was the prettiest creature to die in a heart beat.

Death so grim and so fast doesn’t even spare the prettiest of us,

it works in a flash and takes all without a fuss.

 

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Friendship of another day!

I look out of the window, see the blue sky and the shimmering waters of the lake. I feel happy another day to look forward to, school, fun and friends. What’s more it was my birthday! I expected gifts, loads of them and lots of cuddles and kisses. Also I wanted a party. My friends didn’t disappoint me, I did get a lot of attention and great gifts. Unable to hold a party, they planned their little treat in a spare classroom during lunch break, shared their lunch boxes and presented me with their gifts. They were inexpensive stuff, but they made me happy, very happy and surprisingly so. Those little gifts, hastily wrapped meant the world to me. My dad came to pick me up from school, I generally travelled by the school bus, he offered to buy all my friends ice lollies, orange flavour, from  the ice cream van just outside our school gates. They loved it and so did I!

It’s been years since that day and many birthdays have passed by, but this one holds a truly special place in my heart. Those were difficult times in my childhood, but I was unable to articulate  that and make my friends understand. With time we drifted apart, set on our life’s various journeys. We met at times, like waves, but the kinship was lost. Till date they are unaware of how much I cherished them and this memory that they created for me.

On the course of life I had my own children.Now, they are in school, making friends, trying to understand the complexities of the social world. They are in their formative stages, little acts of indifference from their friends hurt them. Emotional and sensitive they are, especially to their friends. I see a reflection of my childhood. School life is incomplete without friends.

However, nowadays there is the ever-present social media, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, to name a few. One might propose it’s so easy to reconnect back. Is it truly! I doubt it, yes I am in touch with these friends, do we really connect I don’t think so. We simply stay ‘friends’ on Facebook, out of maybe some old bonds or mere curiosity to find out how life happened to them. This can never be friendship, this is just some emotional mirage. I wonder then what kind of friends will my children have!? Nothing on Earth can replace the human contact, the joy of physically being with people whom you cherish as friends. Nothing can replace the little acts of kindness, love and remembrance that your friends show towards you. To play together, celebrate together, eat ice-cream together and simply share secrets, that’s what friendship means to me, even now.

 

The street

Isha had a wish, to have a house.Yes you read correct, ‘house’ not an apartment, which we usually designate as a house these days. Isha wanted a big house, a family house, a forever house, a house where she had specifically designated areas to do specific things. Dining room, lounge, study room, guest room etc. Isha had big dreams by any standards, she came from a very average family, had an average education and looked average. This was a big wish and unless someone broke the bank for her, this wish would remain just that ‘a wish’.

Fast forward 15 years later and Isha was living in a big house with a garden and the rooms. God was kind and life happened to make Isha’s wish come true, even though this was a momentary thing, a passing-by phenomenon, the house was rented accommodation. Period!

For the moment Isha was happy. She lived on a street dotted with beautiful houses and interesting characters.

An old couple lived across the street, they were well into their nineties, yet fit and able to make their early morning trip to the cafe for their breakfast roll and coffee. Their spirit and togetherness was enviable.

The cottage on the main street, an elderly lady lived there with her seven dogs. Isha did not feel comfortable around dogs, yet the way this lady took her seven pets to the park , each day, was devotion exemplified. A habit hardly ever broken.

Then there was this couple with two children, the eight year old daughter a superstar, with modelling assignments and theatre shows already under her belt. Isha admired the mother’s grit and determination to be able to motivate her child and also be with her each step.

A middle aged couple lived just above them. The lady went out to work and the man mostly worked from home. Isha had been in the neighbourhood for a fairly long time and she noticed that they never entertained or had guests. The only person to ever visit them was the lady’s mother.This couple loved their seclusion and did not seek out company. A novelty to Isha, so complete were they that they did not need a third person to define them.

Each of the houses had a story to tell, and a lesson of life waiting to be deciphered. Most of all Isha got along best with her neighbour. She was an old lady who lived on her own and had multiple health issues, multiple sclerosis, arthritis to name a few. She had people who came in and helped her get along with her everyday affairs. Yet she always had a patient ear and a word of advice for her, whenever she came knocking on her door. Denise was a source of comfort for Isha. It was a symbiotic relationship of sorts and they both enjoyed each other’s company. While Isha took away a part of her loneliness, for Isha she was a person with whom she could share her thoughts easily.

Denise signified mental strength and independence to Isha. She was sick and old yet she lived alone and managed all her affairs single-handedly. She even entertained on good days and took time to keep in touch with her family strewn across, all over the country. Denise was a retired primary school teacher and even now she kept abreast of world affairs and local news by reading extensively and watching news. From the confines of her home Denise did not let her body take over her mind, she was alert and full of information. Isha admired her mental agility and willingness to not give up.

Days sped by and after a couple of years, a letter was dropped at Isha’s door. It was time to move, vacate the property and go somewhere else. Isha was emotionally torn. Even though she knew all along that she was not to stay there forever, yet the finality of it now bore down on her. She had come to love the house and the street. Most of all she was sad at leaving Denise behind. Life was speeding by her and Isha knew it was only a matter of time for Denise. Denise with her soft voice, comforting gestures were very few and far between in this world and Isha was lucky to have met one.

The day finally arrived and Isha packed her bags and stood outside Denise’s house one last time to bid farewell. Denise opened the door and her kind eyes and soft voice held a lot of emotion. One last time, one last moment as a sob caught in Isha’s throat, she gave her a hug and waved goodbye!

As the taxi sped away, Isha silently waved each of the houses on the street adieu. She had come to be like one of them and even though she never spoke with any of them it felt like family. Unbeknown to them Isha carried with her a whole host of positive thoughts and new ways of looking at living and living well.

 

All images sourced from Google.

 

 

The Light

Roosha lived in a nice house. She had nice parents and a loving grandma. She went to a good school, was talented and had friends. Roosha was lucky! Everyone except Roosha thought so. 

Her nice house housed unhappiness, her school was her escape. Her friends wanted more from her and so did she, but she had no one to share her thoughts with. Her grandma was her well of love but she was old and Roosha always worried about her health. Roosha’s parents were nice people but they lived wrapped up in their personal space and sometimes even with them around Roosha felt lonely. She couldn’t entirely blame them. They had lost their only son to cancer, Roosha’s elder brother. Avi was 8 and Roosha was 5, when Avi died. It was 5 years now. 

These 5 years, the house only saw grief. A tragedy, which left her parents financially crippled and emotionally washed. Mr. Dasgupta only worked and Mrs.Dasgupta only tended to go with routine, mundane chores. Empty eyes, grim faces, Roosha never remembered them to smile.

The school holidays were on and it was Diwali round the corner. Roosha felt trapped whenever the holidays were on, no one much visited them and they did not return invites. Apart from the daily trip to the local market and sometimes the temple, Roosha did not go out much. She read books, listened to songs and sat and heard stories from her grandma. There was never enough money to make a trip to a restaurant or have a holiday. Diwali was just another day in the Dasgupta household. Mrs. Dasgupta made some kheer (sweetened milk) and gave Roosha a new dress, which was the only exception. Nobody else wore anything new. But this year something else had happened. Roosha’s school friend Pari shifted to a house which was 2 houses from her and she urged her mother to invite Roosha over to celebrate Diwali with her. Mrs. Dasgupta had agreed when the phone call inviting Roosha had come, mostly she was glad to have her off her hands for some time. She knew how hard all this might seem to Roosha, but she could not seem to do anything. Her life seemed like one long wait. It won’t be much longer though, she hoped.

So Roosha skipped over gladly to celebrate Diwali at Pari’s House, she carried a box of sweets as a gift and wore her new dress. Her hair tied in bunches she looked like a fairy. Pari’s house was bursting with guests, lights, music and food. It was brimming with laughter, with happiness, it was palpable to Roosha. Her heart immediately lightened and she joined her friend in the celebration. After the prayers and the Bhajans, the children were treated to yummy food, while the grown-ups played dumb charades. Then it was time for some fireworks as Pari’s dad guided the children and everyone took part happily and safely.

Finally it was all over and Roosha had to return home, one by one the guests left but no one came for Roosha. Had her dad forgotten about her? Her eyes welled up with tears as Pari’s mom consoled her and agreed to drop her back home after the last guest had left. Roosha was certain now that her parents did not want her and obviously did not love her. Unusually her dad had gone to office on Diwali day. Recently they were always very preoccupied and saw her less and less. She felt frightened, nervous and very sad. She felt like going away somewhere and with these thoughts she left Pari’s house unnoticed. The street was lit up as it was Diwali night and she could hear voices from every house. Roosha felt isolated in her grief. With a heavy heart she turned towards the swimming pool in the neighborhood. Roosha loved the water. She went and sat down and wept her heart out, feeling utterly unloved. Minutes ticked by and suddenly she heard footsteps behind her, she turned around to find her mom and dad standing there.

‘Mummy, daddy!’ cried Roosha. Her parents just hugged her tight, they kept on crying. After a while Roosha heard how worried they were, when Pari’s mom discovered she was not in the house. They told her that they had not forgotten her they were late because they were arranging a surprise for her. Tears streamed down Roosha’s eyes as she listened to her mom explain.

With these words, all three of them hurried home. Home looked different. Home was all lit up with diyas and full of light and as Roosha entered her grandma beckoned her with open arms and beside her sat a little boy, with an unruly mop of hair and the biggest, soulful eyes one has ever seen. Roosha turned to her parents with a questioning glance, who were now smiling slowly, as they revealed that Roosha now had a baby brother. He was called Dipak, he was 3 years old and they had waited all this while before being able to legally bring him in as their son. They knew how lonely Roosha felt and they felt it was time to give Roosha her brother back. Her dad also explained that he had not gone to office, leaving her alone on Diwali, but had gone to get her brother home.

The light had finally reached her house as she saw joy in her parents’ eyes, she saw love in their midst and most importantly she realized that all this while, her parents were acutely aware of Roosha and her unhappiness. It was Diwali after all, a perfect night for Dipak, to unite them as a family. Dipak, the source of light, had finally reached the Dasgupta household.

Swiss Treats

Switzerland and Bollywood is linked intrinsically and thus it becomes the preferred destination for millions of Bollywood fans. So,when my better half decided to treat us, as a family, with a holiday in Switzerland how could we resist!!

I spent weeks researching popular scenic trails and getting the scoop from the web. Spent many more weeks trying to understand the weather and packing suitably.

With everything under control (or so i thought), when we landed at Basel, Switzerland we got a glorious sun, blazing forth at 30 degree centigrade. Oh! My !who would have thought such a tropical weather to be a part of the great Swiss summer. Well folks, Switzerland might be well known as the ski capital of the world, due to extreme winters but on the other side Switzerland also experiences proper summer, with continuous days of sunshine and heat.

Basel , the city we decided to make our base is not that well known on the tourist trail but is a unique city. It is a city which sits on the border of 3 different countries, France, Switzerland and Germany. So as i exit the airport i do notice two more exits, leading to the other countries. Interesting huh!

Basel, is a well known spot for art lovers, there are museums spread across the city dedicated to various forms of art. I decided to go to the Tinguely Museum, very famous for its art displays. Mind it, nothing is free, I had to pay to see the museum.

The high point I found in Basel is the River Rhine, the promenade was buzzing with people all ready in their swimming gear to jump into the cool waters. The interesting aspect was how people arrived with bright colored waterproof bags, filled them up with clothes and air and jumped into the cool waters in their swimming attire. The downstream current just made life easier and with minimum exertion you reach the promenade downstream. So , there i see someone with headphones plugged bobbing along with her bright red bag, Whoa! there goes a family chatting away as they float along. Amazing sight with bright bobs and bodies dotting the river. All you have to know is basic swimming.

Loved it and truly enjoyed the experience. Recommended for all water lovers.

My next destination was Zurich. I had to go there as it is known to be the heart of the country. Mainly famous for its high street displaying prominent stores,one of the world’s famous streets the Zurich Bahnhofstrasse. With all the famous Swiss watch giants on either side along with other prominent jewellery and clothing brands, this street is a shopper’s paradise. Clean roads with tram lines running through the middle, Zurich is for the brand conscious shopper.

However after shrugging of the temptations i decided to go for a cruise. I boarded a one and half hour cruise which would take me just half way to the smaller towns on the Zurich coastline, along Lake Zurich.

Magnificent coastline, as i tried to assimilate the cool blue waters, blue skies, beautiful mountains and quaint houses on it.

The boat stopped at many ports, however one port really caught my fancy. The port was called Ruschlikon. A beautiful harbor decorated with flowers everywhere seemed to beckon me and i along with my family decided to explore the place. What actually caught my fancy was a very chic lakeside. There were places to just barbeque, there were places to just swim, barricaded area. There were also relaxing decks complete with deck chairs and benches and there were shaded patios for cool shade.

I simply love water so what I did next was to take off and dive in the lake. The high temperatures and heat really made this plunge all the more worthwhile. The waters were also home to some ducks who gladly shared my biscuits and demanded more. Well, there I see my boat and so I hop back again to continue with the rest of the cruise. The cruise has a dining area and so I land up drinking some beverages.

After some 3 hours we land back in Zurich. We walk back to the train station to catch our train back to Basel.

The next day it was my turn to see the Alps. There are many great places like Jungfrau, Mount Titlis, Mount Pilatus. Each one allows you to reach the top. We chose Mount Titlis.

To reach the mountain we arrive in the town of Engelberg. A picturesque town with brooks gurgling , green mountains and pretty houses. From Engelberg we took 4 sets of cable car rides to reach the summit. At the summit we saw the glacier, covered in snow and at a temperature of 8 degrees centigrade. A steep walk up and we reach the top and seem to be touching the clouds. I was on the top of the world, yippee!

For tourists there are a lot of activities designed there, we took a chair car ride from one cliff to the other. The chair car dropped us at the glacier park, where we did snow tubing and sledging. Great fun zipping down the mountain at top speed. After a while the weather turned and we decided to head back to the summit. The chair car brought us back and then we crossed a suspension bridge , tied between two cliffs to reach the glacier cave, this was termed as the Cliff Walk.

The glacier cave was bare and was a long tunnel, it finally brought us back to the cable car station. Another 4 sets of cable car rides later we reach back Engelberg. Wait! what do i see, a shop selling samosas, vada pao, idli and masala chai. Couldn’t believe my eyes. After such a thrilling, wet adventure i sipped gladly on a cup of masala chai.

Switzerland seemed like a land of contrasts and a million possibilities to me. On one hand it had the alps and the glaciers at low temperatures and on the other side were the glistening, blue lakes at much higher temperatures.So travelling to this country in summer necessitates one to pack two sets of clothes, coats, hats and gloves for the mountains and beachwear for the lakes.

The next day we decided to visit the most scenic location in the country Interlaken. Interlaken has two zones, Interlaken West and Interlaken Ost (East). There are 2 railway stations serving these two zones.

Interlaken Ost has more natural beauty, the River Brienz and its many smaller ports and towns. Its picturesque like a postcard and beautifully surrounded by spring and summer flowers. The cruise on this river is highly recommended, I simply found the view breathtaking. The town of Bonigen in this zone is one of the oldest town and has nice walking trails, wood carved houses, beautiful coastline for dipping in the lake and some heated pools, definitely worth a visit.

Further up the lake is another picturesque location Giessbach See, a place which has a beautiful waterfall. We hopped out of the boat to visit this waterfall and what a unique way to reach the waterfall, a train up the hill running on a pulley system, a fantastic display of Swiss engineering. You could also climb up the hill and reach the waterfall if you have time and also if you want to save some extra money. The waterfalls were beautiful and looked straight out of a Bollywood set.

The cruise back to Interlaken Ost was nice, cool and very breezy. It was great to see the setting sun , the reflections of the sun’s rays on the water and the nice coastline.

So each zone in Interaken takes up a day, next day I decided it has to be Interaken West. Interlaken West is the place where you have the River Thun, another lake dotted with fairy tale castles and wood carved houses. Interlaken West is also the place to shop and eat. A good place to buy souvenirs from the innumerable shops selling them. There are also many places to eat , choices abound too. You could have authentic Swiss food, pizza, middle eastern food along with always reliable McDonald chain of fast food. There are many cafes and tearooms as well.

If I had only one day to visit Switzerland then I would straight away head to the Interlaken area to experience the natural beauty of the country. The Jungfrau mountain peak is accessible from here too. So I get to see the lakes and the mountains on the same day.

Lucerne is another small town we visited. It is famous for its  carved wooden, covered bridges, pretty as ever. This town also has a beautiful lake and filled with chocolate shops all selling the magical Swiss delight, chocolates. Lucerne is near Zurich.

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The country is spotless and clean. The people are nice and safety is high on the streets. But it is an expensive country and nothing is free, not even the toilets. Bottled water is expensive too but i did find many fountains spewing out clear, drinking water. So, yes that way i saved my money.

Travelling across the country was easy as I had bought a Swiss Travel Pass valid for a fixed number days. This pass allowed me unlimited travel on trains, boats and even buses for those days. Also it gave me discounts in some tourist attractions as well.

Public transportation is superb in this country, a good network of buses, trams and trains run like clockwork and is so well coordinated that I hardly lost any time in going from one place to another.

This is truly God’s own country and is a paradise on earth. Sigh!

(All images sourced from Google)

For the love of Math

Math is a tricky subject!

Agreed.

For me, i love Math. I love the whole set of challenges a group of numbers present before me and the personal satisfaction of cracking them and reaching the solution.

The way Math is now taught in schools is vastly different from the way i grew up learning the subject. The focus now is on making students feel comfortable with the subject and giving them the skill set. Studies have proved that there are 3 primary reasons for a child to dislike this subject.

1. The concepts are not carefully taught, rather the stress is on getting the answer.

2. There is no real life application explained to the student.

3. The parent’s attitude (primarily the mother) influences how the child approach the subject.

To elucidate my points let us start with an example. The class is of addition and and the teacher asks the students to add two numbers, the stress here is not on getting the correct answer, it is however on applying different strategies to get the answer. Of course , the answer has to be correct but the students are encouraged to attempt various ways to arrive at this answer. The 21st century classroom stresses on strategies rather than the result. When the student is called upon to explain which method has been adopted, the concepts get clearer as the teacher fine tunes and scaffolds the learning in the correct direction. Gone are the days when a simple tick beside the correct answer was enough, today the steps employed to arrive there is far more important.

As one’s child learns math in school as a parent it is highly important to bring to the child’s attention where we employ math in our real life. It could be a simple trip to the supermarket to deal with money, or just buying clothes / stitching them when we need some measurements to help us with our decision. As we involve the child it makes more sense why they should learn the subject at school, wholeheartedly.

Lastly and not the least important, mums have to show more positive attitude towards the subject. Even though statistics show mums tend to push math homework towards dads, it is best if as a mum you could just imbibe in your child some enthusiasm and positive response towards this subject. Don’t underestimate your mum power, glorify it and see your child shine.

This post is to help you with some tips to imbibe the love of math in your child and i hope i have achieved that to some extent.

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