CHENNAI TALKS!

I was a kid when I visited Chennai. I spoke Hindi at home and English at school. The concept of learning more languages wasn’t popular till then. And even if it were, I would have never learned Tamil.

My father had tight business connections with Tamilians and visited Chennai twice a month. I was a Daddy’s Girl through and through, but the thought of learning Tamil out of sheer curiosity never appealed to me.

I have stayed in Chennai for three months, not in one go, but three month-long trips in three consecutive years. The adventures were as colourful and varied as an artist’s colour palette. The first time we stayed in a spatial guest house by the beach. Next to the house lived a rich neighbour in an exquisite bungalow. His name was Mr Kartik Narayanan. I don’t remember if he had a wife or kids, but he knew my father and invited us over for dinner at his place.

I accompanied my parents with utter fascination because the first luxury car I had ever seen was parked in his driveway. It was a Contessa. While my father talked to him in perfect English and we were served dinner, I never spoke a single word. I was so desperate to take a spin in the car that my stomach ached, and I could eat nothing.

Mr Kartik Narayan was in his mid-50s and was a very busy man, but when we were leaving his house after dinner, he told my father to wait, and he asked me in Tamil, “You love this car, don’t you?” I didn’t understand a word he said, but I caught the feeling.

I smiled, and my father laughed because he knew I didn’t know Tamil. He told my father to take the car out for a spin, handing him the keys. My father felt embarrassed to see me drooling over the beautiful car but accepted the gesture.

When we returned, he smiled and asked me in Tamil again, “How’s the stomach ache now?” Without understanding anything, I knew what he was asking and hid behind my father, blushing red.

The memory of the joy I felt while I took a spin in the car has faded, but I won’t ever forget the man—the benevolent, kind businessman. He understood a kid’s desire without having any conversation.

It was time for another trip to Chennai. This time we stayed in another guest house owned by the company. The house had a lawn, a kitchen garden, a back garden and a housekeeper called Appan. Appan was a poor local with no knowledge of English.

In the one month I stayed there, Appan gave me many memories that would last with me for a lifetime. He didn’t know how to make calls and used to hold my hand, make me sit on the sofa next to the landline and hand me a phone number, and he would gesture for me to make a call to his village. I used to make his calls and watch him talk in his colloquial language. The expressions on his ebony skinned face told everything he spoke.

My mother taught him how to make chapatis. He would roll out the dough, take the circular steel lid, and cut out the Chapati like a stencil. That was absolute fun to watch.

He used to call me ‘Amma’. I haven’t seen a more pure and innocent man in my life, or maybe I was never that pure and innocent ever again. But Appan used to make me omelettes and Maggie noodles and play with me. I loved him for that.

It was weird that I never felt that we didn’t talk, that we didn’t know a single common word except ‘Cobra’. Yes, as per him, at night, a cobra came into the guest house from the kitchen garden and slid into the place under the kitchen’s backdoor. He even claimed to have seen the snake’s prints on the wet soil.

I don’t know how he made me understand this, but I never once slept on my extra bed on the floor after that and insisted on sleeping on the bed, or the cobra would swallow me alive.


It was my third trip to Chennai, and we were staying in yet another exotic guest house. I remember it was overrun by lizards. But I had a refuge there. My father had a colleague, Mr G.S. Bala, who had a daughter just one year older than me, Deepa.

My father used to leave my mother and me at his house, and both men would drive away to the office while we, my mother, Deepa and her mother, were left together.

My mother and her mother had no language to communicate, but they used to talk through Deepa. Mom would say something to Deepa in English, and Deepa would tell the same to her mother in Tamil. Then her mother would reply to something in Tamil, and she would translate it for my mother in English.

But her mother was the kindest and most loving person I had ever met. She taught my mother how to make Dosas. My mother taught her to knit. She used to take us sightseeing at beaches, markets and places.

Deepa used to have a massive swing in the middle of her drawing-room, and I wanted to play on it. Her mother removed every piece of furniture from the room and gave it to us to play with for one whole month.

I used to sit with Deepa on the swing and tell her to take it higher and higher till our feet touched the ceiling fan. I don’t know how Deepa understood me back then, my English was bad, and I was too small. But Deepa’s laughter and Auntys’ fond smile are frozen in my memory forever.

Today I don’t know where are they, Appan, Mr Kartik Narayan, Deepa or Aunty, but their memories are still fresh in my heart, bringing tears to my eyes.

They all taught me a fundamental lesson.

When hearts communicate, language is not needed.”

I loved them beyond their colour, caste, religion, and social stature, and they loved me back many times more.

THREE SISTERS LED THE WAY

It’s a story of the reunion of a man with his daughters. A man had three daughters from whom he got separated. He was leading a miserable life, until one day when the three girls reached his house and asked for shelter, as they were tired of playing. As it was dark outside the man decided to let the three little girls halt in his house.

The darkness was so terrible and threatening. The darkness was an invitation for the robbers to intrude into the boundaries of the house. They slowly started digging the foundation of the house. Their purpose was to crash the house and loot. As the walls trembled in that dark night, so was the man. This is not new to him. All his life he was under constant attack of burglars in the veil of night. He lurked in the darkest corner of the house to save himself. The three sisters were sleeping in the corner where he hid. He tucked himself into a shell, hoping that the violent blows to his house and self recede somehow.

As the man was consumed by his struggle, one of the three sisters woke up due to the commotion inside and out of the house. She saw the man struggling, she rose to help him. She peeped from the window, she could see some light in the distance. Also, she saw how exercise to weaken the security that man had was being carried out. She had a plan in her mind “If I could take this man to that point I will be able to save him”. She tried to pick him up, but the weight of the man was crushing her. She gave a call to her elder sister and immediately she grabbed the other hand of the man. He slowly picked himself up with the help of the sisters and made an advancement towards the door to get out of the darkness surrounding him.

But the saga of fear was still not over for the man. His feet were stumbling over the hurdles placed across his path in a bid to stop him from reaching the light. As the sisters held the man and they were occupied, they called their eldest and strongest sister. She came, fought, and conquered the plunderers, paving a way for the man to make a safe exit from the darkness. The fight wasn’t easy. The attackers kept coming back to attack the man from different sides, the other sisters were slowly crumbling under the fatigue of carrying the man. But the one who was fighting was nowhere close to extinguishing or exiting. She was gaining impetus as she was blowing away her counterparts and a part of her energy she was transmitting to her sisters too. It was a long night before they finally made it.

With the help of the three sisters, that man reached his destination. When he reached the enlightened spot he recognized his estranged daughters and embraced them. He vowed to never ever part from them as they released him from the haunted place he was dwelling in. And they happily lived ever after in the land where the sun never sets in.

End Credits (cast of the story):

Sisters: Youngest Sister – Will; Second Sister – Action; Eldest (strongest) Sister – Knowledge

Man: The Human Soul

Weight: Self-doubt

Thieves: Vices like greed, lust, anger, hate, etc.

Hurdles: negativity and pessimism in the form of harsh comments, blame game.

Light/ Enlightened spot: The happy space where the mind is in total control of its actions and not affected by the actions of the villains surrounding.

Moral of the story: It takes the three sisters of Will, Action, and Knowledge to accompany a man (figuratively) to cross the hurdles of vicious backlashes and the fear of failure.

WHEN TRAVELING ALONE IS THE ONLY OPTION

Do not be fooled by the title of this post, I love every bit of solo traveling. In comparison to others, I do it a lot more, but I still very much love every minute spent by myself, traveling

I can’t really remember when I first traveled alone – but what I do remember is where I did travel to, it was Mumbai. Though it’s nothing more than an overnight journey from Goa to Mumbai by train, it was very soon after the first travel experience that I realized traveling alone gave me quite a thrill – that of being independent, having your own freedom, and most of all visiting a new place ALWAYS gave me the kicks. <and for the things that people tell you about Mumbai, that place can definitely give you some great times>
I initially traveled to get away from the mundane life in Goa…later as I got older, I traveled because I enjoyed my freedom and of course now, I wish to travel to simply soak in the sights, sounds, and feelings of a new state, city or town/village – it does not have to be an exotic location, even a small village would do, for sometimes the journey getting to the location is as wonderful as the actual destination itself.

Company always seemed like a good idea when it comes to traveling, or so I watched in movies or read in books, but then solo traveling is a whole different experience. I traveled solo not out of choice but more out of necessity. Either dates never matched or the company didn’t, and if I may say this about myself, I am an impulsive traveler, I need not make elaborate plans – at the end of the day – what does one need? Food and Shelter – India never runs out in either department, the rest can always be figured out on the go.

They say, FIRST’s in one’s life could be equally terrifying as well as exciting, it’s all about how you want it to be. Traveling must be looked upon as an opportunity, nothing beats a good holiday and a great journey to get there.

When it comes to traveling for the first time, as all newbie travelers would do (I am sure) put unnecessary (extra) clothes.. (one really doesn’t want to run out of clean clothes and of course, how could we allow people to see us wear the same shirt/pant every time we step out of our room/hotel) If only people in a place like Mumbai even cared, or that you would find the exact same person standing in the exact same place after a couple of hours. It did take me a couple of solo trips to understand that. And then there would be the whole situation of shoes/slippers etc. One pair of shoes would be on your feet during travel and of course, another would be in your bag (in case the current one gives way) – why buy a new pair when we already have an extra pair at home, right? (the Indian Middle-Class mentality) Not forgetting, a storybook to read for the journey, certainly, one is never going to be enough, so put 3 more in the bag – what if I run out of things to do on a train? – that’s before I realized I could make friends and indulge in conversation too during travel, sleep and eat amidst other things.

One of my first’s posts, blogging on WordPress was about an interesting train journey I had, read it HERE, give it some Love.

Thanks to the crazy Bollywood fan that I’ve always been, the number of stories that have the lead actress and actor falling in love during travels… I grew up with the idea of finding love on the Indian Rails. to eventually fall in love with the idea of traveling itself. I’m still not giving up – I know I’ll find ‘her’ on one such journey.

I’ve traveled with friends, colleagues, a loved one, and family – but its never the same. Every journey teaches you something, every journey makes you wiser – for example, I now travel way lighter and more relaxed, sometimes a bit too relaxed. I have lots to see in India, countries abroad do not make the top 5 on the list, though I’ve visited Sri Lanka thrice (that does count for outside India).

I would want to end with a piece of advice:

while traveling is an expensive affair I agree, and might not often get to do it as you wish to (domestic/national/international), hence, we go about capturing everything we see and come across on our phones, camera, and other devices – Sometimes, all that is really needed is to Slow Down, Enjoy the Moment and feel what it is to be like being in a different land, with different people around you and a culture that may be a whole different one from where you come from.

Cheers to journeys!

MY MAIDEN SOLO TRIP

First experiences are exciting, yet can be petrifying sometimes. There are certain things that we don’t do because we are scared or anxious, but we have to take that first step. It is the hardest, yet we have to just do it.

My maiden solo trip was a bus trip, while I was pursuing my graduation. That wasn’t too exciting to boast about or wasn’t adventurous. Rather, I was happy to travel alone, independently, without any elder along with me. However, I would like to share my first trip alone, with my infant. After the birth of my first child, I went into postpartum depression and had panic attacks, which no one understood, not even me. So, I thought a change of place was all that I needed. I decide to travel alone with my baby from Chandigarh to New Delhi, via train. 

My ticket was booked in an AC chair car and the train usually took 4 hours. I was anxious, but wanted to get away with my panic attacks. It was summer and the train was quite comfortable. The journey started well and my baby also slept after having his feed. However, after 2 hours, the AC of our cabin car stopped functioning and it became too hot and uncomfortable. My baby also woke up and started wailing. Before I could get up and talk to TTE, my co-passengers started complaining to TTE and asked him to at least change my seat as I had a little baby with me. Just after 10-15 mins, the TTE came and changed my seat to a different compartment. I was happy and grateful, simultaneously feeling proud that I could manage uncomfortable time alone, with my little one. 

After a few years, I again traveled with my son alone, this time it was an international flight and I was returning from Shanghai. I used to hate air travel, and now also, I just prefer to close my eyes while flying, as I feel uneasy. Thinking about managing the trip to the loo and pacifying him in a state of uneasiness gave me goosebumps, yet I managed all. 

I also survived another trip, years later!  Alone is still carefree, but with kids along, you feel you have a lot of responsibility. I flew alone with my kids, with my younger one clinging onto me in a baby carrier.

Today, I yearn to travel alone and also go on a solo trip (which I haven’t yet experienced). And, I am eagerly looking forward to make my maiden!

STEPPING INTO THE NEW YEAR TOGETHER

“We heal, not in isolation, but in togetherness”

This quote is so true, especially in the current times, when going out still contains a little risk. We managed for 2 years, sitting inside our homes and managing to stay together virtually. We all hope and pray that the new year marks the end of the scary coronavirus and the world is freed from the COVID pandemic.

We planned a get-together on the very first day of the new year. I met my sister Prabhjot after 2 years, though didn’t feel like meeting her after ages, as we are in constant touch with each other through WhatsApp. However, it was different for our kids, who rarely video call each other. My elder son doesn’t like to talk to his friends virtually. He says that he misses them and wants to meet them, physically, face to face. The kids have really suffered a lot during this pandemic. It feels bad that they missed out a lot due to isolation. 

Yesterday, our sons were super excited since morning and were so happy to meet each other after a long gap. They played, laughed out loudly, danced, and had fun together. Now, they are looking forward to more such frequent get-togethers, and so are we.

Spending time together with family & friends, sharing joy & happiness, having endless talks, and eating delicacies are indeed delightful. With a beautiful start to this new year, I wish the rest of the days are well spent, for everyone. I pray that we get to meet our loved ones often and share the good times, for togetherness is a wonderful place to be in.

Stay happy! Stay together!

SHAVING OFF MY DARK-UGLY-LOOKING HAIR

All that I have done in my life were mostly need-based rather than for fun and pleasure. And on the 29th of the last month, I sat down to trim my hair and I went on to shave them till I was almost bald. As I looked at my dark and ugly-looking hair falling on the newspaper, a thought came to my mind. 

How often do we tend to tread the path of sickness, suffering, and sinfulness in a particular time period of our life? The preconceived, the preoccupied, the presumed thoughts, ideas, and prejudices we tend to gather as we walk. These thoughts or ideas either turn us into persons having a closed mindset or judgmental. Neither it helps us on a personal note nor solves the purpose of our creation, that is being an instrument for God towards the fellow human.

So what should we do? How should we help ourselves to be more useful for the sole purpose of our creation? My answer to this question is – GO THROUGH A PROCESS OF UNLEARNING.

Unlearning every thought that tells me I am better than others, unlearning the prejudice I have that people should revolve around me, unlearning the very idea of I should stay self-sufficient without bothering about what is happening in my neighborhood. The days have changed after the onset of the Pandemic. And it is high time that we get rid of this mindset of revolving around our own set rules for life.

When I look at my completely shaven head today, I see a blank slate of my life and feel happy that I am ready to learn afresh without having any preoccupied ideas or prejudices about people and their life. As new hair starts growing on my head, I will learn things that are new and something very different than what I have never experienced before in life. And I know, I need to unlearn from all that I have previously before being active on what I want to do afresh this year onward.

How about you? Are you ready to shave off and unlearn along with me? Then don’t have second thoughts to it, just do it.

Stay Blessed!!!

IN SEARCH OF MYSELF

On the 365th day of the year looking back I wonder what major achievement did I have this year.. can’t think of anything spectacular…  I survived that’s my achievement. I could manage to somehow stumble through this maze of the physical, mental,  financial, emotional onslaught of Covid.

But looking back I noticed one thing. I have somehow lost my essence in this whole struggle. It is as if I have put myself on hold somewhere, in the wait for things to normalize once again.

I have come to realize this is not how it works. We can’t stop living our life fully in wait for circumstances to improve. Things have changed and will keep changing. Times will be good and bad. But we need to keep on living not just surviving.  Keep on making memories. This time once gone is not going to come back ..

In 2022 I hope to find myself again. I need to drop this cloak of being a ‘bechari‘ (poor me) a victim of circumstances. I am going to find myself again. Take me out of this endless round of chores at home and work and gain some new experiences.

I am leaving behind the feeling of helplessness and melancholy in 2021. Looking forward to writing more, learning new skills, experiencing life more not just in front of the screen.

I know it’s too ambitious but kuch to ho hi jayega (Something should happen). At least the intentions are there, the search begins.