NATURE

Sipping the coffee

With the setting sun

Is a privilege bestowed

Not to everyone.

Sipping the coffee

Is no big deal

But merging with nature

Requires inner peace.

One can sit hours on a terrace

And watch the setting sun

But if one can’t feel its beauty

There is no fun.

The red hot ball of fire

Turns into crimson and orange

And then in a fraction

blends in the fading horizon.

It was just here

Seconds ago

But it vanished to oblivion

Without bidding adieu.

It’s presence and absence

Both lend a hue;

One creates happiness

And the other hopes anew.

Nature is lovely,

We just need to appreciate.

Whether it’s the setting sun

Or the mighty peaks,

The cascading rivers

Or the sandy dunes.

Those are on a platter for us

To feel, to embrace and to enjoy

But busy we are in our day to day routine

That these things of beauty

Appear to many as mundane.

Life’s journey pushes us forward each day

Aiming to reach the destination some day.

Better to stop, pause and enjoy the journey

Even if the destination gets a bit delayed.

So my dear family and friends

Next time you sip your coffee

Be clear-

Enjoy the sun, the sky and the clouds

Embrace the little joys that surround,

Life would be more peaceful that way,

If we become one with nature

And appreciate it everyday.

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The Bed Roll And The Train Journey

Well, for those who might have read bread for bed, it’s not the bread roll to satiate your hunger pangs!

I am here talking about the bedding roll, my family oft carried as a piece of luggage when travelling long distance by trains. It was a great utility item, made of thick rucksack material,without which any long train journey would be incomplete.

Of course our children have not been lucky enough to experience the pleasure of stuffing bedsheets in the bedding and then unravel it with great pride enroute. Infact, it’s hard for them to believe that such a thing existed and one had to carry one’s own set of sheets and pillows…those not so cushiony seats of yore days.

A recent train journey to Mumbai made me reminiscent of the summer holidays in eighties where my cousins and me would go to our maternal grandparents house and would look forward to those interesting train journeys.

I so clearly remember that days prior to our day of journey, my mom would take out that dusty bedding from the loft above and place it on terrace for its rezendevous with sunshine. This would ensure the exit of all clover mites, dust mites and creepy crawlies out of their safe haven.

Then it was wiped clean with a wet cloth so that it was ready to take all utilities in its embrace. Bed sheets and pillows were packed in it very meticulously. The corner space would be stuffed with shoes and socks and all that could not fit in the suitcases.

The winter journeys were incomplete without it.One could easily put in blankets, quilts, pullovers and jackets without much space adjustment. It was like a ‘Man Friday’ to us.

The best part was its rolling and final tying. It was no mean task and it involved at least two muscular people in the family to hold it tight and keep it rolling till both ends met. The bedding consisted of a thick hard belt which had to be pulled as tight as possible for best packing result.

Viola! The bedding roll was ready.

The fact that one could stand on it and jumping on it was allowed, was a good pastime as well.

At the railway station, it was not a cake walk for the porter to carry it to the destined coach. The balancing of the bedding on the head gear and suitcases in hand, the coolie (as we called him)would with deft, climb the stairs and descend them too and safely place it on the platform till the train would arrive. Our train journeys were never in air conditioned coaches. As young children, the only concern on entering the train for my brother and me was to grab the window seat. The pulling up of window shutters and locking it for safety was an exercise in itself. As the sun set and evening dawned, it was time to lay the bed. There were no attendants like we have today, to offer white sheets and blankets.

The customary ritual of unlocking the belt and opening the Pandora’s box( why I call it so.. because it would be like a warning bell for us to lie tucked in our beds and a full stop to our pranks for the day,) was a sight to cherish. Again the pulling of belts and then it was spread on the floor of the coach. From there came out our slippers to enjoy the rest of the sojourn. Then those wonderful pillows to give us support and clean bedsheets to adorn our seats for a good sleep. Flannel sheets were then given to each of us to cover ourselves, incase the wind and the breeze from outside discomforted us.

Those were the days of going to nani’s house by train with bedding rolls!

So much fun it was to pack and unpack those beddings.

#Bistarbandh….that’s how I remember it being addressed as!

But alas!have no pictures of it.

The Name Game

“That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.” Romeo and Juliet

So what’s in a name after all?

But for me, a name is an identity in itself. It symbolises and personifies a person.

I can’t imagine being called and addressed as anyone but Monisha …..when people change even an o to a, I don’t appreciate it even though I may not show. I am sure people would agree with me that a name isn’t just a proper noun used to address people; it’s the essence of an individual. So goes with places too. But today, names change with a drop of a hat.Though history is replete with examples of names of cities being changed –

Istanbul

Ottawa

Leningrad and so on.

But in the recent past,I have seen names of cities and roads changing at the whims and fancies of people, rather politicians. What is achieved by a name change,I fail to fathom. Of course when Victoria Terminus changed to Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus,it made sense. It was about the Indian pride! But every now and then ,when one is so accustomed calling place A as A, then it gets rechristened as B, it’s difficult for the common man.

Recently, #Faizabad renamed as #Ayodhya

But what about Ayodhya?

Demographically Ayodhya now becomes a big area. So no more twin cities…they become one..PURE LOVE!

Faizabad for me has some sweet memories. Twenty three years ago, when I got married, that was the place I went as a new bride.

It welcomed me with so much love and warmth that I can’t give the credit to Ayodhya..

Faizabad has given me such nice inlaws, that I can’t thank Lord Ram of Ayodhya for it.

Faizabad gave me a home I can count on or fall to when needed.

Don’t know why, but my self created impression of the city was not too great. I always imagined it to be more of a village with dusty roads where modernisation had not made an entry. This perception inturn became my aid and when I actually landed there by a State Transport Bus in 1995 from Lucknow, I could not believe that I was in Faizabad. My brother in law and me were together and when he woke me up from slumber(which wraps me the minute I sit in a train car or a bus),I was aghast to see a proper bus station like the one I had grown up seeing in Meerut. It was really hard for me to believe that the city I thought to be rural was not actually so.

The early morning view of the city was far above my expectations. Roads, markets, cars and a thriving civilization was not what I had expected and in my heart of hearts, I was happy to see all this.

Ours was a love marriage and the place my husband belonged to, didn’t matter as I would be living in metros and coastal areas after marriage. So how would ‘living in Faizabad’ be never mattered. It’s been more good and comfortable than I imagined, is an all together different story!

The small city has its own charm. Everything is at a stone’s throw distance.The cost of living is absolutely affordable. Dining out options are far and few between, so one is never in a dilemma!

The city has deep historical significance. It’s close proximity with Ayodhya lends it a religious connotation. During my very first visit to Faizabad, I visited all the holy temples in Ayodhya to seek the blessings of the Divine like a good bahu🙂. Going to Ayodhya was like going to another city as a tourist. Plans were made a day prior and everyone in the family looked forward to that Ayodhya trip. That pleasure would be history now!

I remember visiting Hanuman Garhi(temple of Lord Hanuman) and Janaki Mahal.

Had grown up watching Ramayana on TV, so it was riveting and spell bounding to go to Ayodhya and visit the various temples.One has to climb a lot of steps to reach Hanuman Garhi and at the same time save oneself from the prying monkeys ..the vaanar Sena of Lord Hanuman.

It is said that in Jaanki Mahal, Maa Janaki(Sita) is reverred in the Mahal and Lord Ram is treated as the Dhule Sarkar.

At the end of the day, a day trip to Ayodhya made one feel blessed.

Faizabad per say also boasts of some scenic spots. The Guptar ghat looks beautiful at all times of the day. I have enjoyed boat rides to the other side of the river Saryu savouring the sun rise,along with mouth watering snacks like hot pakoris and spicy chutneys. The evening spectacle is far from extraordinary. The illuminated ghat looks nothing less than a beautiful bride. Then Ram Ki Paidi mesmerises the tourists and just like Har ki Paidi in Haridwar which is a bathing ghat, this also is a flight of steps that leads the Ram devotees towards the bathing ghats to take a dip in Saryu river.

The #Company Garden has hosted me many times with all it’s warmth. Many a family picnics with packed food and entertaining games have been held on those lawns.

No visit to Faizabad has ever been complete without a visit to #Military Temple,located in the cantt area. It was always a pleasure to go there as it provided peace and serenity after the humdrum of the chaotic city life.

Despite it being a holy city full of temples and associated with Ram jnam bhoomi, there pervades the aroma of tasty fish cutlets and some lip smacking fish curries. I don’t remember devouring fish curry anywhere like here.

#Mahavir ki tikki is another delicacy which is to die for. Till I got married,I always thought that Meerut ki chaat is the ‘creme de la crème’…..but on tasting this mahavir ki tikki, I changed my opinion. These potato cutlets deep fried in oil and served with dollops of ginger and coriander chutney, are a run for one’s money. There have been times when we have reached late by a couple of minutes and those were gone. We soon learnt a lesson to place our orders in advance. That made us enjoy the dish to our heart’s content.

The winter season has #malai makhan to offer to its citizens. It’s pure cream attained by churning milk early morning before sunrise and one has to taste it to believe it. The zero figure fad goes for a toss in front of that delicacy offered in pattals.(indigenous Indian crockery)

Even the festivals have a Midas Touch to them. Diwali, of course is home coming of Lord Ram, so no better place than Faizabad to immerse in its fervour. Temples all over the place turn bride like with lights and decorations. Aroma of delicacies waft through every household and the teen patti card game is played among all age groups. Living rooms turn to casinos and much is lost and won in the land of Ram. Holi, the festival of colours is also played with great zest here. One can soak in the different colours of love, affection, mischief and pranks and savour God’s own drink bhaang in its purest form here.

I still remember that many a times when I had to tell people about my husband’s place, Faizabad was not complete in itself; Ram janam bhoomi or Ayodhya were to be added as a suffix for people to understand the place. Some advantage of a name change! Now the place needs no suffix. 🙂

Ayodhya has garnered a world class reputation today! But for me, I have so many wonderful memories of Faizabad as a city that it will take some time for me to associate those with Ayodhya. But then, as always it takes time to accept change.Doesn’t it?

Till I go to Faizabad on my next holiday ..oops! Ayodhya… Hope the new train time tables show us the proper name! Who knows may be Ayodhya Airport is in the pipeline for people like us and I am sure just as I had reached Faizabad in a State Transport Bus years back, I land at the Ayodhya Airport very soooon🙂

New Name! New city!

New expectations!

Nothing wrong in that I guess.

Abortion

I am sure all of you would be wondering what the hell is this all about?

Well,to keep your curiosity at bay,and allay your fears

I am here to talk about aborting negativities…. of all kinds!

Let’s abort hate greed and jealousy

Let’s abort conceit and arrogance

Let’s work together towards abortion of excess baggage of expectations we carry through our life

And finally encourage aborting the idea of aborting a girl child….

That Girl Child is a blessing in this blessing deprived world….she is an epitome of beauty and grace….Let her live,grow and blossom.

The Wah Taj Experience

Its always been a desire to stay at Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, colaba Mumbai.

A room overlooking the Arabian Sea and The historic Gateway Of India! What else could I ask for?

The luggage had a welcome tag too. It reminded me of my first flight journey years years back when for days I did not take out that Air India tag ( a feel good factor that I travelled by air). That same feeling overpowered me and I wanted that Taj Palace arrival tag on my suitcase to remain! Just for the world to know I was there….How immature and child like I sounded but then that’s my way to treasure the simple and small pleasures of life.

It brought back so many memories when as a young child I visited Bombay(it was called so by that name in eighties) and was mesmerized more by the Taj than the Gateway and often thought of enjoying the Gateway from the Taj balcony …

And it stood true today.

I truly believe in soaking the daily pleasures that life has to offer each day and my day kick started with a session of yoga by the poolside. Yoga seemed refreshing despite the stiffness in body muscles, not only because it was at the exotic pool side but because #The Wah Taj factor blended with it.

A cup of fresh warm lime water with basil and jaggery after the yoga session added to its refinement. I stood wondering at how our dear Tulsi leaf changed its name to Basil( not the Swiss city though)…but then names change at a drop of a hat these days …. remember how Faizabad has been recently rechristened as Ayodhya!

Basil sounded more Taj like I guess.

The architecture of the hotel is a blend of Persian and Portuguese style. The reception area is beautified by paintings of legendary M F Hussain. The lamp shades with intricate patterns of our national bird peacock adorn the tables all around. Every corner is a feast for the eyes.

Wasabi, Golden Dragon, Masala craft and Sea Lounge are the different restaurants at Taj. I visited all of them,frankly speaking not to dine there but with an expectation to see some Bollywood bigwigs and feel more happy with my stay..typical Indian mentality, isn’t it?

Sleep took over soon in the warm comfort of the bed and the blanket. Morning welcomed us again with its beautiful sun rays knocking and peeping through our curtains to let it in. I was generous enough to let her in and invade my snugged warm bed. My generosity to the sun was the result of my selfishness cos I didn’t want to spend too much time in the bed. I was interested in experiencing The Taj Hospitality.

The breakfast at Souk, the rooftop restaurant was absolutely satiating with a pleasant staff to take care of minute details. The shamiana restaurant on the ground floor also served the same,but I preferred to be close to the sky and savour the view along with the food. The magnificent Bombay Stock Exchange on one side and The Gateway on the other worked as an appetizer and fueled my appetite. The tiny boats and sails next to the Gateway looked equally majestic.

The aroma wafting from all sides was so tempting that I was in a dilemma whether to start with tea/coffee or a fresh glass of juice. The lavish vegetarian spread of idlis, vadas, pooris seemed be jostling for space with the non vegetarian delicacies like chicken nuggets,sausages, turkey and grilled fish. For an avid idli dosa fan like me, I began with nice soft idlis and chutneys.

Fresh juices with blue Danish cheese and some nice croissants and waffles for breakfast was a precursor to a good start. Sometimes, at these times one enjoys observing people. I at least do so. All kinds of tourists and visitors throng the breakfast table. Some in their pyjamas and hotel footwear and others immaculately dressed in suits are a sight worth a look. The clothes tell us how the pyjama types are on a recreation and the suited ones mean pure business.

Even the tables have their own story to tell. One full of fruits and juices talk about their occupant’s health consciousness and another table enjoying the croissants and delicacies throw light on people’s gastronomical delight. Mine was the latter 🙂

The Taj shopping arcade is a life in itself. The magical Indian jewellery and dresses swipe you off your feet for some time and for me #Louis Vuitton and #Mont Blanc took a back seat and were for once overshadowed by the Indian embroidered stuff and precious jewel stones. Wah Taj became synonymous with Wah India!

Gifts have always been seen as a welcoming gesture.

#Athithi Devo Bhave has been India’s motto and The Taj Mahal Palace lives up to it . A beautiful box with a pack of Taj Tea on the table in my room took my heart away. Not that I am a tea person nor the gift too lavish but the hospitality this gesture conveyed won my heart. How lovely the foreigners would feel with this small token of tea ,made me feel really good. Its always so nice to carry good memories of another country.

How can a stay in any hotel or resort be complete without basking at the pool side! And if it’s The Taj,all the more reason to embrace the air and water of the hotel.

Swim or no swim ,dip is a must ..like the Holy Ganges

To top it all ,I carried my book #Three Thousand Stitches by Sudha Murty( ordinary people extraordinary lives…that’s what the book cover said and I seem to live by it at the present moment). Experiencing The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel’s hospitality was nothing less than extraordinary for me.The cascading water from the lion’s mouth and the gurgling sound of the pool with the afternoon rays added a Midas touch to it all and so my ordinary life became truly extra ordinary!

Next in line was The Heritage Tour held every evening for its residents. Its a nice way to know about The Taj Essence🙂 seeped in tradition and a perfect blend of modernity. This tour not only broadened my information about the history of Taj but I also came to know about how The palace took almost two years to come out of the loss and destruction that occured during the tragic blast in 2008.

I was also lucky enough to have a glimpse of the Rajput suite of the hotel. Nicely done up suite that personified taste and elegance was like an icing on the cake.

The Jiva spa at Taj is equally magnetising.The soothing music and the aroma of scented oils,seems to detox and destress the minute you step there.

The sunset ritual is another event that drowns one into the rich Indian culture with the music of flute and lighting of lamps. The elegantly clad staff in sarees light the traditional brass lamps and the music of the flutist adds elegance to it. I followed the choir enchanted with the soft music,just like the children who blindly followed the The Pied Piper Of Hamelin,years back.

Names of people who lost their lives on that fateful 26/11 are inscribed on the wall and The Tree of life stands near it. It is said that that metallic plant survived the bombing and has been named as The Tree of Life. The crew lights the lamp at that holy altar too and among the many names when I read Sandeep Unikrishnan, I knew he was the brave hero from the #Oscar Squadron of #NDA.

Whether it was at the gym or at the pool or at the restaurant, interaction with every employee made me realise that a rich quotient of happiness prevailed amongst all of them. Rightly said that #A Happy Team builds a Happy Product.

Mumbai is rightly called The city that never sleeps and The Taj lived up to this. Any time you enter the lobby, it’s full of life! Whether it was past midnight or late afternoon, the lobby always had visitors and tourists enjoying it’s warmth.

The two day stay at The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was truly memorable. The staff leaves no stone unturned to make sure your comfort is not comprised. When it was time to say good bye, they gave us a 1 Anna coin with 1903 inscribed on it. That was the year of its inception and a nice souvenir for the tourists to carry with them.

I for sure enjoyed every moment. Would love to soak in it’s hospitality again…may be at one of the palace rooms next time🙂

Today I too can say with conviction WAH TAJ!

Though I still have miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep.

To Those I taught… With Love

Many a times I entered the class

And instead of a smile,

Gave out a piece of my mind.

To those times,

I regret,

But then it was your good

That was in my mind.

Some were with me for a while,

And others for a long time

But that didn’t matter,

Because all I wanted was

My students to shine.

Lovely memories I carry with me today

As I look back on those bygone times

Whether it was APS or NCS

The reason was the same every time-
‘To make a positive difference in a child’s life’

English was a subject

Never taken seriously

Cos physics, chemistry, maths were gruelling at all times.

So it was a difficult job

To make the students listen

And give their time to a play or a rhyme.

Though I tried each and every time.

Red inks, remarks and zeroes

Were nothing but a drill to make you heroes,

Your future was in our hands

And we strived to make it brighter by our reprimands.

I learnt a lot from many of you,

Some names may not come to my mind though

But memories abound with anecdotes

That taught me lessons of a lifetime.

You taught me patience,

You taught me how to be kind,

You made me learn that it was important to be fair and just,

And I also learnt to accept follies in mankind.

So this goes out for each and every child

Who came into my life

“Stay blessed, stay happy”

And always be a reason of pride

For your parents and teachers’

tribe.

Remember-

The relationship of a teacher and a taught is sublime,

Never taint it

With actions or deeds undefined.

Bring glory to your Alma mater

By striving to be a good human at all times.

Strive for excellence,

Aim for perfection,

And never ever give up

At the altar of failure.

The world is bright and beautiful

So take it in your stride,

That’s my wish today

For each and every child.

The child within each of us

There is a child in each of us lying dormant like a volcano,ready to erupt at an opportune time. And when it erupts, it will spread a lava of happiness and unconditional enjoyment.

Sadly, in this rat race of mad competition and the need to have for oneself a brighter and better tomorrow, man has adorned the robe of maturity far too early and in that veil lies hidden childhood innocence.

In the above picture,are a group of children playing and enjoying life to its brim. It was mid afternoon and neither the temperature nor the time of the day dwarfed their energy. The white stand seen in the picture above and the tree trunks gave them an opportunity to unleash their creativity. They were engrossed with their ball game and I saw them feverishly rummaging through a heap of trash to find it,when the ball suddenly seemed lost. There were no qualms of who would do the rummaging amongst them. That’s real childhood. In fact their sweat smirched faces personified unalloyed pleasure.

At another time, I came across these two little boys soaked in the little pleasures of #DIY

They had got hold of old skates and were using them for sliding down the road. Believe me, they were the chauffeurs of their own destiny and it was nothing less than an Aston Martin Ride for them. Not only was speed and control in their hands ,but it appeared as if they had mastered the art of merry making even when they had nothing substantial to boast of.

On the contrary, are the children of the so called ‘well off families’,always a prey to boredom and monotony despite a gamut of gadgets and facilities all around them.

That made me ponder on the carefree childhood spirit that has evaporated from not only the children but adults as well. Probably the slavery to digitalisation is the main culprit. Isn’t it time to come out of this shell and embrace nature once again?

On the occasion of Children’s Day, let’s all attempt to erupt the volcano of childhood lying dormant within us and not denude our life of simple pleasures and child like bliss.I am very sure that life then would be like a walk on the treadmill, which will not only make us happy and healthy but young forever.

After all Tom Stoppard rightly said, “If you carry your childhood, you never get older.”