Cycle away…

Being born and raised in a bustling metropolis in India, learning to cycle was a far fetched idea.

With my house on the main street, and cars whizzing past all the time, cycling was never an option.

So that 2 wheel vehicle was an enigma to me all my life!

Yes! Until my little ones started cycling…………my aim was to make them do all that I couldn’t first (strange fetishness I say!).

Then the day came when they just mastered the art and would go off speeding on the cycle paths. With poor me huffing and puffing behind them!

No, it was time to learn the cycle.

The teacher my very reluctant spouse, who soon graduated to become a relentless coach!

Phew!

I learnt to cycle finally.

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It felt good, it was freedom of sorts, a dream was achieved.

Most happy were my children, as they were my strongest supporters and cheerleaders.

The day finally happened when we would all be out and about on our cycles, exploring trails or simply going to the nearest supermarket.

The final glory came on that day when a very ambitious lady organised a 10 km ride and I signed up for it.

The day dawned cloudy and blustery , each gust of powerful wind shaking my will power, I stood the ground I needed to do this.

Many other people had signed up for it too.

The time finally arrived when we were off on the cycle paths, a whole bunch of us, cycling as  a group.

It was tough as the path sloped up and down and tested my legs, the wind blew my helmet off as well…

But as I completed the ride, the sensation of having achieved something was phenomenal, however small it might seem!

As a quote on a social media site says…

“A path emerges when we walk on it”

So, my bicycle diary continues….

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Luchi

Coming from the eastern region of India, Kolkata to be specific ‘Luchi’ is something quite dear to me. To the uninitiated, ‘Luchi’ is a food item, made out of flour specifically, round and fluffy, deep fried in oil. In other parts of India it is referred to as a ‘Puri’, a cousin of ‘Luchi’, as ‘Puri’ is mostly made out of wheat. If you are wondering whether this is healthy? Well! Not by any rational explanation, considering that it is deep fried and made of flour.

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However, my post is not about discussing the health benefits or the lack of it, of ‘Luchi’. My post is about Luchi.

So, there I was frying some Luchis, trying to prepare a meal for my children, they love it too! The faint aroma and the sight of it brought back memories of another day. Another time when I was a little girl myself.

Some days I would hop onto the school bus only to be told by the bus driver that I was being dropped off at my grandmother’s place (maternal grandmother). I would be delighted to hear it. The reason being Luchi! Didima (my gran) would mostly prepare  them if she knew any one of her children or grand children were visiting her. The trip to her house was a gastronomic delight.

She is a woman of habits and discipline, so lunch would be served only after I had taken a shower and changed into fresh clothes. The whole process was a Luchi day- dreaming exercise!

After the essential things done, I would hop onto the table. Sometimes food would be laid out in advance. It was a spread. There would be around 7 to 8 items on the plate, all in small portions obviously, and there would be Luchi. White and round, just like a small tennis ball. She was a great cook, her style vastly different from my mother’s. I loved eating the food she cooked and she gave us the whole variety. There would be vegetables, dal, greens (yes I ate them too!),fish and sweets of course along with rice and Luchi. The aromas from the plate was heavenly and I did feel like a Queen being served a lavish meal.

This was not my meal plan at home at all, this was gran’s house’s many delights! Now at that time my grandfather was also alive and he was the sweetest man around, sweet in all possible literal sense. He had a sweet demeanour and loved sweets and indulged us (grandkids) to the hilt.

During the summer holidays in school, sometimes my cousin would come over to stay at my grandparents and I would join him. That meant playing all the time, we would play away hot, sweaty afternoons as the fan whirred slowly above us, completely oblivious to the heat. Then from a distance came the sound of the ice-cream cart, a man’s voice shouting ‘ICE CREEEEEEEEEAM’, that was our wake up call. We would rush to our grandfather, who was napping, wake him up and demand ice cream. The sweet man that he was, he never protested and gave us money to rush down the stairs and stop the cart, to buy ice-cream.

What followed was the next few minutes of glee as we licked off ice cream from a stick while our grandfather watched us amused. He would often sit down to play a game of cards, mostly solitaire. He would spend hours playing them by himself, completely unruffled by the chaos we were creating around him.

Luchi, yes! that was the trigger. It took me away from my present and gave me a peek into my childhood. A childhood in my maternal grandparents house, my grandfather died long back but my grandmother is still alive. A very frail woman living in a retirement home. To see her or even think of her like this fills me with sadness, such is old age! She is now a shadow of the woman she used to be, strong, assertive and very capable. Her cooking skills long gone, her house where we visited her often, long sold. Sigh!

So, as I fry my Luchis, I wish I could serve my children such a wonderful spread as I was treated to. Alas! Present day lifestyle prohibits such a thought. While the Luchi fries and puffs up, sending an aroma with another wave of nostalgia, in barges my child…………..

Dad in a rush…

Life is a journey of moments, good and bad stringed together through a single thread, like a necklace. Each necklace carefully crafted to be different and unique by the master jeweller!

The beads which represent the good parts maybe small or big, it is up to us how we define them, or give importance to them.

So is my life! Mostly filled with routine chores and mundane jobs. However, I might clarify I like routine, normal, mundane life it is safe and secure. That does not mean I don’t have my share of happy beads. This following incident is a small, happy bead which brought humour to my otherwise normal day.

So there is a  dad in my world, a dad devoted to the family, a very hardworking dad. Dad tries his best to please everyone, especially his children.

So dad gets ready to go out for work at the same time his kids are getting ready to go to school. Setting an example you see! (A very non-smiling statement by me)

On this particular Thursday dad goes swimming before heading to work, his timings are carefully planned.

But what could dad do if the alarm failed to go off?

So dad got late, very late, embarrassingly late (his swimming coach will glare!).

But still dad went about his business, greeting the children in the morning, helping them with their breakfast and waving them off to school.

Then dad rushed, he usually packed his swimming bag along with his formal wear, shoes and office bag into his car. The routine is to head straight to work from the pool. So there, dad gathered his stuff.

He took all the things. Opened the door of the car and shoved all his stuff inside. The car’s engine was switched on and off went dad.

His first stop the swimming pool.

He got out of the car, opened the car and prepared to take his things as he had to change inside. So, out came the swimming bag, formal wear and .. but where are the shoes? Dad looked and searched frantically. Panic was setting in, the shoes were new and cost a pretty penny. No shoes means a detour back home and time lost!

Exasperated dad looks up and lo! behold! What did he see?

His shoes on the top of the car. All the while it was there, as dad drove from home to the pool.

Dad doubled up with laughter! What a ride?!

By the way, the story does not end here. Dad is late remember! He rushes to the pool, certain to get told off by the coach. What does he find? His coach was absent for that day, not well he was informed by the substitute.

Gratefully dad jumped into the pool.

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There, that is my small happy bead. Hope you enjoyed it.

 

 

 

The Unexpected

She looked at the mirror, gave a final touch.

Then she was ready for her day.

Her beauty did not lie in her makeup, it was her smile

A slow, wide smile which lit up her whole face.

She looked forward to her day.

She had just given birth to a baby

Today she would be able to take that bundle of delight home.

She was ready, ready in her best possible attire.

Friends and family had poured in steadily for the last few days,

congratulating her and wishing her.

Her room in the hospital was filled with flower bouquets.

Finally it was time, time to go home and fill it with joy!

Her husband was there, his face reflecting happiness and pride.

Family life was about to begin, their own little joyful nest.

She went…..

She returned….

Back to the hospital, this time without the smile.

This time all alone without the baby.

This time with her husband who had confusion written all over his face.

She had lost consciousness, she was barely there!

Doctor’s verdict, she has suffered a stroke.

Long nights, tense moments, fervent prayers.

All happened, all experienced.

Then the day arrived, she was decked out again in her best possible attire.

She was surrounded by family and friends.

She did not have her baby with her.

She did not wear her smile.

She was just there physically, her soul long gone.

Miracles did not happen, though books say they are a reality.

A shock coursed through her entire family.

Darkness, darkness everywhere.

Is God still there? A baby cried in answer!

She lives on through her little one!

His needs are foremost and honest.

The rest as they say, time is the best healer.

 

 

 

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.