Monday, December 31, 2018

Bidding goodbye to 2018! *Gratitude Circle*


2018 has been a mixed bag of sorts. But I guess, every year is like that – a little sweet, a little sour. Looking back, I realise that true happiness is not about having everything your way but being thankful for whatever you have, no matter how much! It is always the little things that count – small, yet bringing us unbridled joy!

I’m thankful for all that caused my cup of happiness to overflow – some despite bringing sadness and grief.

Here’s -

To New Beginnings!

It took more than a nudge and a push from two of my staunchest cheer leaders – my sister, Aarti, and my son, Shusrith - to put me on to the track to new beginnings. I’m grateful to have these two indispensable gems in my life. They seem to believe in my capabilities more than I do, they know how to shake me out of my slumber and do and say (scream at me, if need be!) whatever it takes to propel me to act. If it were not for them, I’d probably still be deliberating my every move without acting on any! Thanks to their encouragement, I’m gainfully employed doing something that gives me immense satisfaction. A job that doesn’t feel like a job but rather like an extension of myself – something that I was born to do!


To family and love!

Dad celebrated his 70th birthday this year. I’m grateful to my entire clan for showing up for the celebrations! More than three generations of the family, from different parts of the country, gathering under one roof to show their love to us, was more than overwhelming. In this day and age of digital communication, it was heart-warming to have the family take time out from their hectic schedules and to be present physically to share in our happiness.

Bheema Rathi Shanti homa!

To Friends!

I’m grateful for friends who are my backbone. Friends, who didn’t keep count of whose turn it was to call. Friends, who kept listening to me even if I managed to chew their ears off with the same beaten track over and over again. Friends, who ensured I stayed sane even in the midst of insanity. Friends, who I've turned to at any time of the day or night. Aparna, Smitha, Ajay, Deepthi, Deepak, Sanchita – thanks for being there! You rock and I love you all!   



To sickness and health!

Two extended family members got diagnosed with the dreaded ‘C’, but I’m grateful that they stayed strong and fought back. I’m grateful that they came out victorious. The will they showed to stay positive in the face of adversity, the grit they exhibited while dealing with the pain of the disease and the treatment, became a source of inspiration for all of us. They did not let themselves or others feel sorry for them. It was truly a lesson we all needed to learn.

Hubby turned diabetic, I had turned obese, but, I’m grateful for the support and strength we found in each other to get fit. We walked together, pushed each other to eat healthy, (sometimes, literally!) but by the end of the year, I’m glad we made a happy turnaround and how! I lost oodles of weight, hubby has his sugar in control and now we do happily splurge on an occasional treat!


To grief and loss.

I’ve lost far too many dear ones this year. Yet I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to know these wonderful people. I’m grateful they were a part of me growing up and had a role in making me what I’m today. Two of my dearest - Giri Dodappa, and Doctor Upadhyaya - you will be missed but thank you for being a part of my life.   


I’m grateful for the people I have in my life today. I’m grateful for those who keep me in their prayers every day. I’m grateful for their unconditional love and hope they know I love them as much. I’m also grateful for the ones that have slipped away. They must have come into my life for a reason, they taught me what they had to and left when the lesson was learnt. I’m grateful for opportunities and things that fell into place like a huge jigsaw puzzle! 

To conclude, here's a quote from Zig Ziglar, that I find to be quite true!

  

How has 2018 treated you? What are the things you are grateful for? Do share in the comments below.

Wish you and your families a Very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2019!  


Friday, December 7, 2018

Book Review: The Fisher Queen's Dynasty by Kavita Kane.


The Plot:
This mythological tale by Kavita Kane is set at the beginning of the Mahabharata and traces the life, the history, the ambitions, and the travails of the woman who is the grand matriarch of this epic story. It is an extraordinary story of Satyavati and how the lineage that originates from King Bharata ends up being carried forward by her alone.  

The story:
Mahabharata is not an alien subject for the lover of mythology but the story of the Fisher Queen Satyavati sure is to many. I had read about her in a passing reference in most books but never a complete book devoted to her. The story of Satyavati and her meteoric rise from the daughter of a chieftain to the queen of the most powerful dynasty and later the realisation of how all her ambitions and struggles have been in vain form the crux of the story. Whether you love her for being a strong woman and a person who fights to get the best out of her life or you hate her for being the beginning of the end, you sure cannot ignore Satyavati. Her story needs to be told and to be read, for it holds a mirror to the modern day dynamics of purpose, prestige, and power.

What I liked:
The author has an innate sense of language that is delightful to read and satisfying to devour! Her choice of words are immaculate and her characters are strong with a mind of their own. The research is exhaustive and it is amazing to see how far back the author has travelled to make this account truly belong to the woman she wishes to chronicle. Many parts of the story were new to me and I had not heard of some of the characters. At the same time, the familiar bits of the story were delivered in a fresh package making this novel a page-turner.
What I also liked about the story is that the author makes no attempt to judge any character and leaves that decision to the reader. To not lead a reader to the conclusion you have in mind can be very tricky and it is commendable that the author manages to stay away from shaping your thoughts for you.   

What I would have liked:
It can be quite a balance to not let research look like it, but the strain of the research did start to show in certain parts. I found myself unwittingly skipping few passages which seemed to stretch too long. Other than that, the narration was flawless.

Final words:
This is a beautiful story, with an great portrayal of a not-so-well-known mythological character. I have read all of Kavita’s previous books and have become a huge fan of her writing. Strong female characters and adept retelling of familiar tales are her forte.
I’d strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story, not just of mythology. Go for it!

The Blurb:

‘I learnt to love like a man—to love without feelings. And I shall never forget this lesson.’

Matsyagandha, Daseyi, Yojanagandha — the queen of Hastinapur, Satyavati. Abandoned as a baby, preyed on by a rishi, she hardens herself, determined that the next time she is with a man, she will be the one to win. And win she does: the throne of Hastinapur for herself, and the promise that her sons will be heirs to the kingdom. But at what cost?

In a palace where she is disdained and scorned, Satyavati must set aside her own loss and pain if she is to play the game of politics. She learns to be ruthless, unscrupulous — traits that estrange her from everyone around. Everyone, except the man she cheated of his birthright.

A piercing, insightful look at the grand matriarch of the Kuru family, the woman who set off the sequence of events that ended in the bloody battle of Kurukshetra, The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty will re-align your reading of the Mahabharata.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The end of an era...


Today marks the end of an era…if I may call it so. 

Our ‘family doctor’, Dr. Upadhyaya, passed on to the other world leaving a void that will remain unfulfilled for eternity.

In this day and age, the concept and idea of a family doctor might sound ridiculous and even sneer-worthy, not so in those days. Today, we have specialists and super specialist. Someday we might have super ‘super’ specialists who would specialise in your left nostril alone or the cornea of your right eye! But no sire, not in those days! The family doctor would be a specialist for every part of your anatomy, every age, and gender. And we did pretty well together, without ever having the need to visit a specialist!

Every family would have a family doctor – a doctor, friend, philosopher, basically, a know-it-all person whom they’d trudge to in sickness and in health. Yes, in health too! Someone who would know you and your entire family inside out. To whom we would happily pay a visit should we be sick. A person who would be by your bedside regardless of the time of the day or night. A person who would attend your family functions like a family member.

Dr.Upadhyaya was our family doctor. He has treated me since I was a three-month-old baby. We never called him doctor, he was always doctor uncle to us. He would always know what ailed us. He would know if our problems were due to stress, hereditary, real or imagined. He would offer us much more than medicines. Sometimes, it would be a friendly advice, sometimes a joke shared over a cup of tea, and sometimes a sterner warning to follow what he prescribed. The one thing that he had was – time! Time for us…time that he would spend with his patients. Time spent talking to them.  Time, that was rewarding in more ways than one.

I remember the night my mother suffered an acute attack of abdominal pain. It was 11pm when my dad frantically rang up doctor uncle after debating whether he should disturb doctor at that time of the night. Doctor uncle had just reached home after wrapping up a busy evening. But unmindful of the distance and time, he drove straight to our home and attended to my mother. What simple times we lived in!

When my granny passed away, he chose to counsel my mom instead of administering her antacids for her acidity. She was cured without a single dose of medicine! He knew that her misery was due to stress.

He knew our birthdays and we knew his! He never forgot to wish me even after I had shifted to Bangalore. And I never forgot to wish him or pay him a visit whenever I’d go home. His association with my parents has been over 4 decades long! He was not just a family doctor to us but to all our family friends too! Can such associations be even imagined today?

With his demise,  the era of family doctors has come to an end. As much as I tried, I haven’t found anyone like him.

You will be sorely missed. Rest in peace doctor uncle. Om Shanti.



Monday, October 30, 2017

Uniquely Singapore!!

Travelling to Singapore cannot be anything short of exciting!! While all our previous travels have been with travel agents, the limited time they give us to visit pre-selected attractions without the leisure and relaxation we expect on a holiday, was a big let down. So, we decided to do Singapore by ourselves this time! The journey, they say, is far more exciting than the destination, especially if you have been involved in planning every step of the journey. By that measure, our journey began six months ago.

The Planning:

Duration of stay:

Most people told us 3 days would be enough, but since we had planned to explore the city on our own, we decided to give it 5 entire days!

Getting there:

You can get the best airlines deals if you book really early. Be that early worm and block your dates as early as you can! Singapore Airlines is one of the best airlines to fly with but there are local airlines like Indigo, that will fly you for a much cheaper fare. Also, flights from Chennai to Singapore are economical than from anywhere else, and domestic flights are dirt cheap if you book several months in advance. So if you are on a budget, get a domestic flight to Chennai and fly out of Chennai.

Accommodation:

We were a group of 3 families, all of us vegetarians, so we zeroed in on Little India and areas around it for our accommodation, just so food shouldn't be an issue. While we were trying to get info on various hotels in that area, a friend who is a local, suggested that we try serviced apartments as an option. Though we were initially sceptical, we fell in love with the apartment when we saw the pictures.

That apartment in the background was where we stayed. With three bedrooms for the three families, a small kitchenette, and an amazing terrace pool overlooking the city, it was way private and cosier than any hotel room could have afforded.


Visa :

Applying for Visa is quite an easy process. Once you have your flight tickets and accommodation confirmation, all you have to do is submit the application locally, a month in advance. That's all about it!

Money exchange:

Of all the exchangers we inquired with Cox and Kings offered the best rates, but we found a local guy whom we convinced (read : bullied!) to give us better rates than C&K.


The Destination:


The guy who said that the journey is more exciting than the destination perhaps wasn't talking about Singapore, because, could this wonderful place be any less exciting? Because the destination was as exciting as the journey!! We visited during Deepawali week and my! what a scene greeted our eyes! The entire Little India area was decked up for the festival of lights! In fact, we got to enjoy an amazing South India festival thali on the morning of the festival, much to our delight!






Getting around:

The city is well connected by MRT and getting around is quite a breeze! And then there were the 11 seater taxis that seemed tailor-made for us! We alternated between these two means of transport according to the ease of travel.

The amazing part of travelling by MRT was that other than English and Chinese, Tamil was the third language of announcements!



Our first stop was Gardens By the Bay. 

The Super Tree Groves is a big attraction. By night, they look even prettier! They are like these huge canopies, towering above you. They are quite a sight at night time when they come alive with a sound and light display!




The Cloud Forest is another amazing attraction enclosed in an airconditioned dome. It takes you all the way up in an escalator and you can walk your way down enjoying the view of the bay and the park below. If you do not want to get on the Singapore Flyer, this would be your best way to look around the place. 





The Flower Dome and the Kids' garden is another great place for all your photo ops! Have a leisurely stroll enjoying flora in all its glory! 


 The Marina Bay Sands Skypark is just across the Gardens and is a climb of 57 levels above the city! Once you get to the top floor, you can enjoy an unending view of the city and sample some amazing food. Best viewed at night, this place also has an Infinity pool if you fancy swimming on top of the world! Across the Bay is the Clarke Quay riverside which is beautifully lit at night time. You can stroll around the place and grab a bite while soaking in the view.






The symbol of Singapore, the Merlion is also by the bay and makes for some memorable pictures standing on the deck. You can also take a ferry ride on the river which we skipped as we were dead tired to do anything else!





We had planned Sentosa Islands on Day 2. Do not miss the cable car ride to the island. You can take the Sentosa express too but I'd recommend the cable way.

I would also recommend that you keep a separate day for Universal studios though both are in the same place. Because combining the two does not let you enjoy everything that is there to see and do.

My top five things to do in Sentosa are the Luge ride, S.E.A aquarium, the Trick Eye Museum, Sentosa Merlion and the Wings of Time.

And yes, don't forget to munch on the Garette popcorn. It is Yum! I don't have a picture because we ate it all at supersonic speed before anyone could think of clicking it!




The Luge Ride is a two-part ride where you go down a hill in a Luge and come back in a Skyride. Didn't seem too exciting at first but trust me, one ride will not be enough! Don't be surprised if kids ask for a second and third round!







The S.E.A Aquarium is one of its kinds with over 800 different species of marine life and more than a lac sea animals! The jellyfishes were my favourite!








The Trick Eye Museum is one of the most amazing places we visited! You could not tell adults apart from kids! Before you go in don't forget to download the Trick Eye Art Cam app on your mobiles. You'll miss most of the fun if you don't. You don't need mobile data to use the app, so freak out clicking the most amazing pictures of your trip! 
The illusions are a lot of fun and we had a field day clicking pictures like never before! Only when our legs refused to carry us anymore, we reluctant carried ourselves outside!


The Wings of Fire is another lovely show by the beach. Using lazer and colourful strobe lights, it tells you an absorbing story of a bird finding it's way back home. It is assisted by two kids who learn the deeper meaning of friendship as they undertake this journey. It is mesmerising, colourful and one of a kind.  Make sure you don't miss this one!







On Day 3 we toured Universal Studios which is by far the best on the Island (have I used that phrase already? :-P) If you take the cable ride to Sentosa, you could try the Sentosa express to Universal Studios the next day. That way you get to enjoy both the rides.

My top five for Universal Studios would be:
1) The Transformers show (you just cannot miss this!!)
2) The Galactica twister ride (But avoid if you have a weak tummy and/or fear of heights, being hung upside down, speed etc etc)
3) The Jurassic Park water ride
4) Lights, Camera, Action @ Water World (Straight out of a Hollywood action movie!)
5) Shrek 4D.





You could avoid Madagascar unless you have really small kids who'd enjoy the show. The Mummy could get a bit scary for the weak hearted.

There's a lot of waiting time before every ride and the long queues and the unending wait could sometimes get torturous. But the wait is worth it, especially for the Transformers Show! If the queue wasn't so serpentine, we'd have gone in for a second time!










This is on the sets of Lights, Camera, Action at the Water World. With live action, gunfire, pirates, fires, and a lot more, you get the feel of being in the center of a Hollywood action flick being shot! The energy of the cast is mindblowing!

The boys are sure to enjoy this drama!

If you want to have the best of Universal Studios start early. You will need an entire day if you want to enjoy all the shows.


 We spent Day 4 at the Jurong Bird Park. Get in by 11am and you can enjoy the Bird show at the Pools Amphitheater. The kids loved the singing parrot, the trained to perfection macaws, hornbills and flamingoes as they went about their tricks!!

Don't forget to include the tram ride in your ticket. Walking through the entire park isn't such a great idea! You can hop on-hop off the tram and have a look at the birds. 




One of the Tram stops is the Lori feeding station. Buy a cup of bird feed and the colourful Loris will flock to you, sit on your head, shoulders, where ever, making for a delightful time with the kids and for the kid in you!







 We visited the Singapore zoo too. But I'd strike it off my list if I'd known it wasn't quite worth the visit. Book a tram ride ticket here too as walking can get your nerves. There's not much to see and our very own Mysore Zoo is way better!

The Night Safari on the same premises promises to be better, but it is quite a farce with the animals being put up on display under lights.

The Sea Lion show was the only saving grace at the Zoo. There are some more feeding shows but at specific times which don't really fit into the schedules of tourists.



Since we stayed in Little India, we hopped on and off into Mustafa's the mall every now and then, when we had the time. It is a great place to shop for souvenirs. You can also shop at China Town and Bugis and the MRT will take you wherever you wish to go!

A local friend recommended the Laska noodles, but I can't say I enjoyed it. I guess it had more to do with our tongues being accustomed to the Indian version of Chinese food which made the authentic Chinese taste tricky!! But there are tons of Indian restaurants in the Little India area if you are missing home food.



 And before we said our goodbyes to Singapore, we treated ourselves to a visual delight at Changi Airport. We took an MRT to T2 to witness the amazing Kinetic Rain - a synchronized movement of over a thousand tear shaped brass droplets forming different patterns. Our terminal T4 had the Enchanted Garden where we clicked our last few memories!

Did you enjoy reading this? If you have visited Singapore before, what was your favourite part? Tell me in the comments section below. 


Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Fault in our Stares.

Ah! The thrill of spotting a rainbow!

Like, it had chosen for her to see it, not the other way around.

She had drawn umpteen rainbows while in school. Finely arched lines on a blue sky, seven colours beautifying its outlines, slanting rain drops in the background, a smiling orange sun, its rays scattered all around, birds flying across the rainbow and a few puffy clouds to add to the theatrics...it was always the same. As she had grown up, the smudging had given way to cleaner lines, the blue sky got speckled with grey tones, sometimes, orange and pink too, the clouds became ill-defined and natural, puddles and umbrellas dotted the scene and a whole other paraphernalia came into existence on paper. But the seven coloured rainbow was always a staple on the rain scene.


As she looked at the rainbow today, she noticed for the first time how faint and indistinguishable the colours were from each other, how sepulchral the sky looked even in face of such a joyous moment sweeping across it, how life seemed brighter on one side and darker on the other side of the rainbow and how the rainbow was the brightest just after the rain. There was no orange sun smiling from behind the puffy clouds - just a subtle trace of its presence somewhere, no slanting rain drops and no birds flying across the rainbow. And if she looked closely enough, she could even spot a twin-rainbow.



The reality was so different from what she had been imagining all along! That a rainbow could give her such a deep and defining moment, was not something she'd have thought. The fault had really been in her stare! 


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