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Valparai Tales! Part 2.

Contd from…

As I sweat in the Bangalore heat, while doing absolutely nothing apart from just breathing, which you would all acknowledge is a very crucial, and from what I know the most important factor for our existence, I think back of the vacation I recently took. And promised a second post on.

In my mind, as I say the word, Valparai, I close my eyes to be welcomed to memories of our four wheeler rushing through the short winding roads through hills, while green stems and young branches fell out of line by the side of the road, swaying to greet us. We are rushing past them, honking at each hairpin bend, serpent turns, waking us out of the slumber of hill travel every now and then, fascinated by the depths which greeted us to our right and the heights which beckoned us to our left.

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Oh the twists and turns! More than a Jodi Picoult book.

I see a kaleidoscope of butterflies pass us, yellow this one. My reflexes are too slow to brandish the phone camera for a shot of them. I simply close my eyes to capture the moment. Sometimes, I wish I had a pensieve to keep these memories untouched. But in its absence, National Geographic will have to do. The Sun, which at the base of the hills was unforgiving, seemed to be playing hide and seek with us as we travelled upwards closer. The clouds ran helter skelter, giving us a peak a boo of the scorch every now and then. It was almost lunch hour when we reached the outskirts of Valparai and unbelievable as it may sound, or read, there was rain, just like Google weather had predicted! Bless technology and the genius minds that worked behind it.

Valparai is so untouched by commercialization, that it was difficult to find a place to stay. We ended up finding a place that seemed like it had been vacated after its occupants had packed bags and moved to the city for better earnings. They offered us a single room for ten people when actually advertising as a home stay! I wondered how the others would react for I was already prepared for a little adventure. Standing at the crossroads of the little town, I sighed audibly with relief when I looked up at the three storeyed building, catching the occupants of the top floor room, my friends, look out at the tea estates as far as the horizon permit, with enthusiasm and unwavering excitement.

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If there was audio, you could have heard us singing too!

The evening that we spent there has to be my most memorable in quite a while. Walking through tea estates, and (this time) long winding roads, with no vehicles to honk at us, no bikes to rush past us, no traffic at all, paradise was not even on my wishlist then. We sang as the sun set, clicked photographs of trees that formed patterns different to each of our eyes, posed by the side of the road wanting  to post pictures online but never doing so, because we knew words would fail to describe the serenity we felt then. And we also didn’t want to lose those minutes buried in the phone. That says a lot about the place, doesn’t it? We saw people though. Some smiled at us knowingly, others gave us a pass, ignoring us as a brief little intrusion in their small town. A shopkeeper asked us our religion, offering a temple, mosque or a church to visit around accordingly. He chatted with us for over five minutes, but did not once try to sell his wares to us. So much for calling it a small town.

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Bouquet of flowers, a friend calls it. Anyone knows what these are called?

Graciously Yours!

Nostalgia.

evszefhAs I stood by the the window of the balcony, my nose was pressed to it, my breath frosting the glass around my lips, I saw the winds outside swirling, droplets of water being bullied into submission, lights from the night lamps streaming through the air, making the paths of water borne air above the road, visible.

I yearned to step outside of my house and go play basketball in the rains, with the people below, kids I presumed. Their shrieks of delight floated uptil a dozen or so floors above. Instead I did something better.

I slid open the windows of the balcony, that kept the water borne winds out and was welcomed to winds so cold, no air conditioner could compete, the freshness of ice and spring combined! The hair at the nape of my neck stood in attention, out of excitement.

Back home, whenever it rained, torrentially as it was looking to today, my sister and I would sit at the window sill, legs hanging out into the dark, lightning flashing us time and again, shrieking in delight at every wave of wind that whipped through us.

As the water hit me, wave after wave, I shivered in excitement, and cold, but nonetheless not agreeing to go back inside! After all, the heat of so many days needed more time with the rains to sod off!

Staring up at the skies, blinking at every lightning flash, I felt the water seeping to the roots of my hair, the sides of my neck. I stood with my arms by my side, shaking but not willing to go into the house again. I looked down at my feet after a while. I was soaking wet from the top to bottom! Giggling, rubbing my arms, I slid the balcony windows shut, greeted with warmth in the hall. I’d missed the rains. I missed my sister more now.

Graciously Yours!

Blowing Off The Candle.

Birthdays – most love it, some dread it! Some feel wiser, others feel older. Some ignore it, some party harder than other days. If nothing else, a birthday heralds the announcement of completing yet another year on this wonderful planet! If I was on Mars, I’d currently be just 13! Be a Mercurian and I’d be 156 days old but only 104 years old! Go figure that out! Or you could just ask me in the comments. Plutonians say my first birthday would be in 2240 Earth year. Yeah, yeah I know Pluto isn’t a planet but hello, it still does exist even if as a dwarf planet or whatever it is that scientists want to call it these days, okay?

So coming to the point, I just clocked a good number of years on the Earth and I don’t know if I am wiser or old, or both or none, but I sure did enjoy it! Less than some days but more than most days! It isn’t easy spending your special days away from the family but when you have the loveliest set of people in your life, distances vanish before you even know it! Oh and guess what! I can finally say I celebrated my birthday Harry Potter style! Replete with a wand, broomstick and even the Marauder’s Map. 

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Love poured in from all quarters, cents and pences but the most creative is right here! 

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That, ladies and gentlemen, is Justin Trudeau! And that is obviously not sent by Trudeau, but I wish that’d happen! Instead, a friend came up with this to compensate for my constant ranting about Trudeau! Well, the man deserves love for spreading goodness and hope. Also, Elon Musk. Much respect. 

Oh but it’s not done yet! The week may be coming to an end, but the love hasn’t. Wishes still keep pouring in and sometimes I wish I could just switch off my cell, because saying so many thank you’s can be a pain after a while. But to think of it, when else do we really get time to connect with so many of our family and friends in a day?

They say what goes around, comes around. ❤

Graciously (older and wiser) Yours!

Oh wait. That’s not the end!

P.S. :

Here’s a checklist for your birthday –

  • DO NOT go and surprise your friends the night before your birthday! You don’t want to ruin the surprise they might be planning for you. 
  • DO NOT rush to open the door either! It might be the cake delivery guy!
  • DO keep your power bank handy. Phones don’t get an iota of rest.
  • DO make sure you have your face wash at arm’s distance, lest some one puts cake on your face yet another time.
  • DO NOT keep food items that can be applied on the face lying around. They’re harmful for you.
  • DO NOT wear white to work, unless you can convince your colleagues to keep the cake away. Or unless your colleagues don’t order cakes.
  • DO remember to wish anyone who might share your birth date!
  • DO smile each time someone wishes you! You’re making their day. And mine too. Well, ‘cuz you just followed my checklist, right? 😉

A Smile Here. A Smile There.

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He looked visibly frustrated. And he had reasons to be so. He’d been on his feet for almost half the day and the ordeal was not over yet. He kept shuffling his feet across the floor, trying to visit each table more than once. He knew his boss was keeping a tab. He had to sell the offer they had just rolled out. He collected the offer pamphlets from the doorman’s podium.

He walked to the nearest table. The occupants were conversing. “It is bad manners to intrude,” his teacher had taught him in school. He didn’t want to intrude but his job demanded otherwise.  He went up to the table, excused himself and started explaining the offer to the customers in the middle of their meal and conversation. Halfway through, they took the pamphlet and resumed their conversation. Not a smile, not an acknowledgement, not even the plain old nod. He called it the ‘wallpaper theory’ – he was like the wallpaper, essential but not cast a look at, never smiled at and walked past. Well, at least they were better than those customers who turned around to shout at him, or be rude, or asked him to go away! Oh yes, there were such too. They’d look up and say, “Could you go away?” If only they knew how to even say please.

Every trip to the bathroom involved washing his face more than peeing. Waiting on tables wasn’t his dream job, this was no one’s dream job but if he wanted to get a monthly cash deposit in his bank, this would have to do. He had to remind himself every couple of hours that this job was more important than rude and impolite customers, than being treated like wallpaper, than having to carry people’s soiled plates, sleeping with a pain in the feet which seemed like it would never go away again, and a bruise to your self respect each damned day. But it would have to do. They say no job is small, yet the way they behave each day belittles him.


I met Bhanu, who works at a fast food outlet here in Bangalore. I don’t know what his story is, why he does what he does, how he motivates himself to wait on tables all day long, how he lets out all the frustration that is more than visible on his face, but I am sorry I couldn’t get a smile on his face! Probably one smile from me wasn’t enough to make up for his tough day!

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Let’s try harder next time and be more polite to the ones who have jobs that could not be further away from the term ‘job satisfaction’. Can we do that?

Graciously Yours!

Life Notes #12.

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As I took the microphone in my hand this time, I knew this wasn’t a rehearsal any longer. The day had arrived, the clock had struck. I expected butterflies but there weren’t any. Not even caterpillars! I spoke into the mike. My voice faltered. I looked at my co-host for the event. He assured me to go on. Closing my eyes for a second, I went on talking into the mike, addressing a couple hundred people, and without giving myself anymore time to think, I went out on the stage. The emcees had been introduced. I was on the stage. The crowd roared! The lights blinded. But I was ready! I was alert, ready and excited! There was a calmness in the adrenaline rush too!

My mind was rushing by at the same speed as earlier but time had slowed down! I had more time time to think and speak now. “Speak slowly,” my father’s command rang in my ears. I could see a couple of faces in the crowd. I knew these people. I wanted to wave at them! I am sure they would have waved back!

Improvising where required, remembering not to make a face if I forgot a line, smiling every now and then, I focused on keeping the audience engaged!

Oh yes, us anchors, we did goof up. We made mistakes. We cut across each other’s lines. We even forgot lines! Our puns brought in roars of laughter. Sometimes they fell flat. But I could feel the pulse of the crowd! I could see them getting pumped up! I got the kids screaming! I even had to shut them up once! But not once did I not love the stage!

By the end of it all, when I came back to the green room and laid my tired back on the sofa, I knew I had pulled off what has been unthought of by me. I thought my part was done and dusted and I could just go back home and sleep after a week’s deprivation! But as I type this out, I am still sleep deprived not because of work and stress but because of the excitement the responses from people has infused in me!

A friend asked if I am writing this week’s post. I told him I couldn’t come up with one yet with all the left over energy from hosting yesterday night’s event still bubbling in me! Now I’ve poured it all out here! 🙂

Note to self : There are days when you surprise yourself. Once in a while they do come along, like the sunny days in London! Don’t undermine yourself on those days, as they come by rarely. Look around yourself, see all the appreciation that falls upon you, close your eyes and soak it all in, store it in the deep and safe corners of your memory to be unlocked on other days when you feel down and out, days when you need a pep talk, days when nothing seems to be going right! 

Graciously Yours!

P.S. : Sometimes, even the smallest of your criticisms can go a long way! Thanks, Dad! ❤

Six Word Story #11

And the six word story series is back!

Closure is overrated. Reopened wounds bleed.
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Graciously Yours!

P.S. : What should be the next six word story? Give me words! I’ll pick up themes!

The Rose.

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“Ouch,” she uttered, pulling back her finger from the rose stem. A thorn had pricked her and a drop of blood lay on her finger, perfectly placed like it always belonged there. She smiled.

“Got yourself another prick, did you now?” her husband asked, as he sat in the hall, immersed in the morning’s papers on his iPad.

“Why can’t he just buy those traditional newspapers?” she wondered. She wasn’t an e-paper girl.

“Why don’t you hire a gardener for your plants?” he asked, the umpteenth time. “You keep pricking yourself.”

She didn’t answer. The umpteenth time. He wouldn’t be able to come to terms with it.

The first time she’d pricked herself was when her first lover had brought her some from his own garden, ten years ago.They’d never gotten married. But her love for him had not died.

He loved her rose garden. He was coming for dinner tonight.

The first prick had made her squirm. Now it made her smile.

Graciously Yours!

THE ADOPTED CHILD.

I sat alone in my new room. I’d tried calling up my parents but they were unreachable. Keeping the phone aside, I lay my head on the wall backing the bed. Outside in the living room, I could hear the other girls, both my age, my new flatmates, talking and laughing. I wanted to go out too, but I didn’t know them. In fact, I didn’t know anyone in the office, or in the city. I had only one friend in the crowd of tens of thousands of people camping their lives in the city. The friend lived with her newly wedded husband and I couldn’t even think of intruding into their space at this point in time.

Someone knocked on the door. I hurried to get up and open the unlocked door. The girl at the door, Maera she was called, stood there with a smile. “Come for dinner,” Maera said. “You guys carry on,” I replied, my stomach rumbling with hunger but hesitation creeping up and taking over. I had lived in a joint family and barely ever ate alone. But I didn’t know them either. Wouldn’t it be as good as eating alone? But Maera still stood there, arms crossed, and declared, “You must be hungry with all the shifting today. Come on. I’m not letting you eat alone.”

I smiled a small smile, thanking her in my thoughts for forcing me to eat. I needed energy to carry on without my family here. That night I slept soundly on the sofa while talking to my parents, until Maera came along in the middle of the night, tip toeing so as to not wake me up and then woke me up. “Come we’ll take you to your room,” she said softly, pulling me up. On my bed, I slept better.

***

A few months had passed. I still spoke to my parents’ everyday. And I still passed out on the sofa at nights. But now Maera and I fought to sleep on the sofa! I cuddled up in her lap as Maera sat and read a book. I was busy on my phone while she ran her fingers through my hair every now and then. “You know you should adopt me,” I said. “What?” she asked, stunned, keeping her book aside. “You should adopt me!” I repeated. “Why should I adopt you?” she asked, laughing and reading again, not even paying attention to me any longer!

***

I was cranky and hungry. I had had a bad day at work. I fought with a friend. I was not even PMSing yet. Even my hormones couldn’t take the blame yet. Maera sat me down and asked me,”What happened?” “Nothing,” I replied, waiting for someone to stop me in my tirade of lashing out at the world! “Sit here,” Maera said, her face grave, sitting me down on the floor between her knees while she gave me a head massage.

Half an hour later, I had offloaded all my worldly troubles into her ears and she’d filled mine with what little of worldly trouble advice she  owned.

***

I found in her a friend, a reminder of the love of my family, a corner to my worldly troubles, a shoulder to rest on, an adopted parent! Maera found in me an adopted child. Yes, she may not admit to it, but she did.

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Dedicating this to my (almost admitted, but not yet owned) adopted child! To hours of introspective discussions, shared love for music, long unwinding walks, cuddles and head massages, getaways at 2 am and gazing starry nights! Stay happy! ❤

Graciously Yours!

Life Notes #11.

Once in a while the Life Notes series of posts should be revived. They are so easy to title! 😉
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I went on a tour to the Indian state of Gujarat with family recently. It was fun filled, exciting, adventurous, reminiscent of the two decades we have spent together. Sure we had our tough moments too but very well overshadowed by the good moments!

The driver we’d hired was peculiar though. He had a fascination with keeping the car clean! Within an hour of starting the drive, when food was mentioned he immediately requested us to not eat in the car. As the trip progressed, his fancies for taking care of the car started to become nightmarish for us. We couldn’t use the pouches at the back of the seats because they’d become shapeless then. We couldn’t put up our cramped feet on the seat. We had to check the soles of our footwear before getting into the car. We had to try and dust every grain of the beach sand from our clothing lest we carry it into the car – even if it meant waiting in the noon Sun for an extra half hour drying ourselves, our clothes and the stuck sand! There was a moment when a couple of us were sitting in the car waiting for the others to join and there at the side of the road, as our car stood, replete with dust (because well, Indian roads are dusty, especially when travelling between cities) our driver was dusting the car’s body with a cloth. Why on earth would someone do that in the middle of a 50 km drive? It would all just come back!

So needless to say, in our seven day trip I was dreading spending the 40 hours or so in the car travelling, with that guy at the wheel!

The last night of our trip was planned such that we’d be travelling overnight to our final destination. It was also our first night travel while he was at the wheel. Around 1:30 AM, we got stuck in a traffic mess on the highway. And we’d just crossed a scene of an accident ten minutes ago. In the pitch darkness of the roads, the night only lit by star shine and vehicle headlights, even overturned stones may seem like human skulls. If that wasn’t enough to spook me out, we found out that there was another mix up that had happened ahead and we would be stuck in the car for a while ~ too cold to step out, too stuffy to stay in. We switched off our car lights and music to save fuel. And good we did, because the jam finally cleared three hours later! About 25 kms from there, we again crossed an accident spot. By now, I had tremendous respect for the driver because not only did he have a steady hand but he was very careful while overtaking other vehicles or maintaining the speed limits! Though I had noticed this over the week, that thought never got a chance to come to the foreground, because of his affinity to keep the car clean.

His sole job was to ensure that we travelled safely and on time. And he did that brilliantly, not failing us even once. Yes, he wasn’t the most charming talker or accommodative enough when it came to his car but that is not what was earning him his bread and butter. His driving skills were, and they were top notch.

Note to self : It is so easy to judge people, make fun of their personality if it differs from ours, without thinking or asking why they do what they do, without bothering to know what makes them them. Where’s the fun in being empathetic and sensible all the while? But would you rather live easy or live right? 

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Stop those attacks of judgment on people. #BeBetterThanTrump #HadToMentionHim.

In the background is a 15th century well cut out of hard rock to preserve water. It has 162 steps of descent and is located in the Uperkot Fort in Junagadh, Gujarat, India.

Graciously Yours!