Thursday, July 06, 2017

Why I love my friends of 10 years ago, feel a hesitant affection for the new ones, but there’s largely a non-emotion for most of those I hang out with today


For me, love has always had a direct correlation with vulnerability. People who feel comfortable enough to expose their vulnerability to me and those whom I can trust with mine have probably been the most special. Of course, it works the other way around too. If I lose trust in someone for some reason, the first thing that will lead to a receding feeling of love is my unwillingness (or inability, really) to be open and vulnerable with them.

Ten or more years ago, Swami me and friends were basically a big group of hormones and emotions on steroids. Even if we wanted and tried, vulnerability was hard to disguise. Personally, I would take that over polished conversations about politics any day. The only thing I’d perhaps change is the number of people whose drama (obviously associated with it) I’d embrace. The threshold for that has gone down. And my unverified sense is that this continuously declining threshold (which later converts into one for own babies) also has a big role to play in people ‘growing up’. And of course, it happens across entire networks of friends.

I must admit though that being a grown up is boring. The process of getting here has sucked out a lot of emotion and energy. Or as some people might want to put it, it has made them more ‘put together’ and ‘in control’. Right, like you can ever control life!

Coming back to people. The thing about those old emotionally charged times is that in most cases they see you and relationships through many years that follow. I may have not seen some people I consider my closest friends in over three years, but when I do, not for a moment will I think that I can’t discuss the colour of my poop or the shape of my heart with them. We built our floats together when we had all that unaccounted-for time. Most of those floats are in good shape.

Before you start questioning all this through the marital lens, yes, that does change things a little. But it doesn’t have to call for a "you are a different person now that you’re married" monologue. Of course, we are all different from what we used to be! Many come in a pack of two and that changes the dimension (ha!) of conversations at times. Some more significantly than others. But the core doesn’t change.

This is not how new friendships operate.

There are some people who are of the open and outgoing variety, willing to have a conversation about what’s on their minds. In my experience, they have been the easiest to forge a connection with. Mind you, they aren’t necessarily the centre-of-the-class attention grabbers. They often are, but the qualifier really is that they haven’t fully subscribed to the notion of being perfect when in public. And that’s enough to work with. 

But a conversation about the weather, the parks, food or the movies, politics or M&As, one lovely vacation versus another, or even cats and maids doesn’t do it for me. It is utterly sad but it is true. I am guilty of indulging in this. And you know how peer pressure shows up at 30? If they don’t seem to fall or fail, how can they know that I do!

Monday, December 19, 2016

10 Years of Fuchsia

Fuchsia completes ten years this month. It has been a special companion over the years. It has given me memorable moments and unique friendships and been the best mirror I could have to reflect and right-size my perspective on various things. 

A decade is a long time if, like me, you enjoy reflecting on the past. I am so embarrassed by the things that I wrote about in 2007 that I almost want to make it all private. And yet, knowing that I was awfully invested in most of what I wrote I’d rather let it all sit as one long, unedited story because that is what it really is. So, as I judge 20-year-olds today for their immaturity, misplaced priorities and unexplainable sense of self, Fuchsia does the painful job of humbling me because that’s how I could define the 20-year-old me as well. My sense of self may still be questionable but then that will remain true even when I turn 50. 

I reached out to almost everyone who I know reads or used to read this space, to get a view of what they made of it. Most of these folks are very dear friends anyway but their words have all been extremely kind – in part pleasantly surprising and mostly heart-warming. There was an obvious trend in terms of things that are popular: the year-end reviews top that list, followed by the travelogues, people posts and the fact that most people struggle with the name’s spelling. 

I promised these people (you) that I will publish their inputs on the blog but I am feeling torn about it because so many of those words have been given a lot of thought and feeling and I have connected with them in a very personal way. When I first made the request, the intent was to simply find a meaningful way of celebrating this milestone for the blog. But I guess I didn’t think through the fact that the blog and I are interchangeable given the nature of the content here. Long story short – I am feeling shy about it all. But to keep my word and for posterity, I am copying below all the responses, along with a few words on my relationship with respective authors. 


AB - the deep thinking, thoughtful and quiet person who has been around since 2008.

"1. https://goo.gl/eypVFA - because people mock me for the first few adjectives till this day and I go back to the post when I feel low sometimes.
2. https://goo.gl/RkbXDJ - because this is true each time reality hits you in the face from a friendship/relationship gone wrong
3. goo.gl/3HsMb9 - because I missed it and this made me live it
4. https://goo.gl/LlN6O6 - because you need no reason not to like it"
***

SS - the college junior who is uncannily similar and yet so different from me. We have hardly ever exchanged a word outside the virtual world, but there have been one too many exchanges about broken hearts and we have had a strangely parallel life story.

"Ok, so this isn't one particular post, but I absolutely loved going through your annual roundup at the end of every year....and the fact that you seem to share my love for bullet points :D

Over the years, your blog has been a mirror of my life, a friend in need (and once an actual friend with flowers on a bad day!).

And at any point, it seems to have more direction than mine!! 

Tell me something new!!!"
***

SP - a blogger friend from when the idea of a blog was new and Blogger wasn't a Google product. We have come a long way since those very different times of online banter which also led to real friendships. 

"Happy Birthday to Fuchsiafunny! Can't believe it's ten years already! Over the course of these ten years, how things have changed! There was a time, we were writing blogs thrice a week, and playing "Me Firsts" over who would comment first. Then there were those tag posts. 

For some of us, the habit of writing blogs came down to once a week, then once a month, and then ... just blank. Glad you are still up to it. I promise I will visit more often."
***

RA - the friend whose name brings a smile to the face and whose words are music for the ears. I hope he seriously considers writing for the world, and I sincerely hope he gets all that he deserves in life.

"I cannot begin to tell you how happy it makes me that Fuchsia is 10. Even though I still can't spell it correctly (despite Priyam's best attempts), your blog means a lot more than I will ever be able to explain in words. The closest I can describe it is that one warm comfortable place we all have in our heads when we need a place to rest and just be. You and your blog have always been that to me and will always be. With the right words, at the right time with just the right amount of weight needed. No matter the time or the distance, every post has always felt like an on-going conversation we can pick up when we need to.

My happiest memories from your blog are two-fold - travel and friends. I still maintain that you are the best when it comes to planning travel. Dates, routes, plans, people, you have it all. And more than anything else, you have the drive to make it happen even with everyone else around you might flake (guilty always). Each of your travel posts is rich not just for the meticulous plans but for the human aspects of it. I can tell by the words the Excel sheet that must have been made, hear the conversations before decisions taken, and sense the palpable excitement the night before. The fact that it comes out so clearly and well researched is testimony to your will to make things happen. I can never match that and it is something that I will always admire you for. 

Posts about your friends are my other favourite. I know some, I don't know the others but there is a warmth in the way they are described which must make them pretty darn special. Your inner circle is made up of wonderful people and posts about them are a joy to read because you can tell exactly why they are so special to you. It is one thing to reach out and write about someone, it is something else to do with all your heart. You always manage the latter. I hope you never lose this quality of going beyond just the person and their circumstances but really look into who they are and what makes them special to you. I know each one of them are glad to call you a friend for it. 

I know that the words don't come as easily anymore (I have waited for them none the less), nor does the will to post with the rigour you used to earlier but it is all part of a process I feel is good for you. They will come when they must, just like everything else in life. I have long realised that to fight it and attempt things that are not ready for their time is futile and heartbreaking. 

Fuchsia is and will always be a celebration of your life. And the people and things that make it what it is, new and old. I am just glad to be part of the ride." 
***

KR - I found him in a corner of the Internet, writing about life at the college I was considering joining. Join I did but again, we hardly ever exchanged a word on campus. I'm glad though that there were other meaningful words over the years, even if limited in number.

"For me, the one thing that always stood out was your thoughts on family and family members. Rather than soppy love letters to people we love, they drew out family members as characters for me, adding details over time. The other thing was your travelogues- they were long and winding (sometimes) but they gave more than we went here and did that. And the photologues were always a treat!

Please start writing again."
***

CG - Brevity in words and vastness in emotion (often for the self, as reflected here). He has supported and encouraged me like I would have never expected anyone to. 

"You write well.

Keep writing.

I really like your travel blogs chronicling your trips. It would be ideal if you can post them sooner after your trips rather than a year.

Also I like your husband character…."
***

PC - The friend with a big heart and romantic dreams. Always there for everyone around her, including those who don't see her. 

"Congratulations once again on Fuchsia’s special birthday! 

Until 2008, fuchsia was just a colour. But then everything changed. 

I cannot remember the exact circumstances in which I was introduced to fuchsiafunny (I still wonder why you named it so) – but I recall it being a routine to check it several times a week for new content. You were called Aarbee and I was massively impressed. 

Fuchsia and you introduced me to blogging. To be able to chronicle moments and feelings in a way that was private and exclusive to people whom I shared it with. I still remember the day you came down to my hostel room and helped me created my own blog – which has been ignored this past year, but still dear to me. I cannot thank you enough! 

I’ve always loved reading your year-in-review posts – like this one – and have shamelessly adapted it into a style of mine. Also, I was often inspired by how you chronicled trips, never concentrating on the best photograph – but the best moment. 

However, my particular favourites have been the little profile posts you did on people. It felt like those were things you would never say – but could express with so much ease. Obviously the one that touched my heart was a little line you once wrote for me in this post – I don’t think I’ve been described better. Thank you.

Also, thank you – 
for introducing me to blogs 
for always reading mine, and taking it seriously
for never giving up on writing

Here’s to another awesome decade for Fuchsia! <3"
***

NS - Funnily, in this short list of people, she is the third with whom I only barely exchanged smiles in the hostel and maybe never spoke for real. We've had a quiet equation through our blogs but it has been very special, nonetheless. 

"...Knowing you has been a unique experience. True to the laws of the physical world—I saw you first and then heard you through Fuschsia! And this journey has been incredibly inspirational, beautiful and comforting.

Inspirational: Because it made me want to write and express. Made me realize how empowering and therapeutic a blog can be. I had a blog when I first read Fushsia but I made it me and mine only later.

Confession: Sometimes before I got down to writing my own post, I would often visit Fuschsia to warm up to the melody of words, moments and emotions.

Beautiful: Because the journey has been so! We have not met since I started reading Fuchsia but I feel I know you—not in terms of your favorite food, movie etc. But in the sense of being comfortable and confident buying a birthday present for you :)

Comforting: Because you make vulnerability cool! As a writer, I have always been conflicted and cautious of what I write but reading you helped me understand where I wanted to settle. That sweet spot of honesty, realization and acceptance. I truly admire the way you travel and report from the spaces of heart and mind!

Fuchsia has helped me in my journey as a person and as a writer! Thank you for creating and nurturing it! It has been a pleasure knowing you :)"
***

AK - Mad friend, with whom I first interacted at a random group discussion ten years ago too. Our next interaction was several months later in a completely different setting. It's sisterly love now. 

"Fuschia Funny is my window into one of my bestest friend’s heart. Every few weeks I find myself typing “F….u….s….c…h….” – you get it – into Google to find out what’s happening with “RB’s” life. 

I always tell you - that it doesn’t matter how close we are, you’re one person whose feelings I can never predict. I find it amusing that I get so unexpectedly surprised or moved by some of the things you say on the blog. Like half the things you say there – I never see them coming! As much as that might reflect badly on me from an outsider’s perspective, that’s precisely what makes your blog so precious to me. It’s my way of truly knowing you as well as I possibly can. 

The other thing that makes it precious is that it always makes me feel connected to your life. Save a camping trip to Rishikesh aeons ago, we never got around to planning a vacay together after that, now the continents keep us apart, and the last 5 times we met, felt like a 30 minute summary of the months gone by. So the blog is my friend here and I don’t feel like you live a thousand miles away from me, whenever I’m reading it.

My favourite blog posts were all the ones that had me mentioned in them. Ok, kidding, kidding.

My hands-down all-time favourite posts are your ‘year in reviews’! And just as I started writing this, I went to your blog once and realized that the one for 2016 is already up! Big, Fat, Yay! They’re honest and motivational and funny and such a great testimony to how self-aware you are. They force me to think about how my own year was and help me feel grateful about the good things and learn from the bad things that went down that year. Everyone in the world should I have year-in -review, like you do! It is the bestest post and I look forward to it every year  ☺

I wanna end this by raising a huge toast to ten years of your honest and heartwarming writing. And know that no matter how little or how much you write or no matter where you are in the world, you’ll always have a reader who feels almost child-like excitement, at the thought of a new post on Fuschia Funny."
***

I am grateful for the time each of you take to read and respond to my words. Your words now and always (either as comments or personal notes and phone calls) complete the feelings that I feel. As much as writing in itself is a healing process, your words have saved me on my worst days. And as much as the blog gives me a listener for an endless rant, your responses tell me I can continue to do what I like without being classified as mad.

THANK YOU.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Long Read

2016. The year of Brexit. The year of Trump. The year of proxy wars. The year of ugly politics the world over. Another year of irreparable damage to nature. The generations to come will have a lot to study about this year. Whatever form our species takes in the coming centuries will also have much to understand how we go extinct. 

In the past, friends from India and I have dwelled over how we form and represent a small, perhaps one per cent of India’s population. It is widely understood that India is a complex beast but we often lose ourselves in our little bubbles and get frustrated with the things that happen (or not) in the country. 

The events of this year have reinforced just how disconnected our bubble really is from reality. To vote for the UK to stay in Europe and be shocked at the results was a rude shock for many like me living in major cities in the country. But what it did do was readjust my compass to make an effort to understand how most people are thinking. 

Trump kept shocking and entertaining us through most of the year but after Brexit, I did not rule out the possibility of him winning the election. The shock when he won was at the people who could not believe it. The heartbreak and emotional turmoil that it caused was also interesting for me to observe. Obviously, it was more visible among American friends and colleagues but I have never before witnessed that kind of response to a political event. Obama’s 2008 victory came with such positivism that I didn’t make much of it then. Of course, in 2008, I was more consumed by being on that hill top, submitting assignments, crushing on nature, attempting to make a long distance relationship work, picking up on the world of the questionably wise, old monk that I probably did not even register much beyond the fact that the US had a new president. 

These memories of 2008 are making me shake my head and smile as I sit here on a disputed window seat of a Dreamliner on a long haul flight to my old home, Abu Dhabi. A young desi family in true desi style just sat on my seat and expected me to take their seat elsewhere in the cabin when I arrived. Of course, I did not choose seat number 79 to give up on my window. And so I refused and made a kid get up. I felt a little cheap but only a little. 

Being on an Etihad aircraft to Abu Dhabi also brings back memories. It is already two years since that as well. A lot of that time was bitter and negative but I often remember the good times spent in my breezy studio by the beach. And so I am glad to be hitting AD even if for an hour at the airport before I reach Delhi on a holiday! I have made several work trips home this year but most of them have been hectic and stressful. And this one is tad special as I will go to my parents’ home straight from the airport after more than a year. And with all that, I justify dancing in my seat to dhinchak Bollywood numbers. I have a feeling these headphones aren’t the greatest and so people around me can not only see my bobbing head but also clearly know what’s making me do it. But who cares!

2016. A new job. More travel. A new house. A lot of negotiations. New relationships. New culture. A learning curve in relationships. Weight gain. Same old pattern of health issues. Some clingy fragments of the past. A few anxieties about the future…..shall we dive deeper? 

Let’s go.

# The new year began with an active chase for a job which finally worked

# I continued to engage with the last employers but these latest interactions with the local office were also a darn shit show and I finally figured people are the same world over and got over the awe I was in with that company!

# I do owe my current job in part to some fine people from that last job and I am thankful for it

# I visited Sicily which was heavenly for the sun it gave my eyes and my body when I was beginning to die of London’s endless winter, for the brilliant food it offered in veggie form, and for the bloody brilliant time those three days were!

# I also visited Amsterdam and experienced its canals, space cakes, tulips, windmills and the different air even if the city was busier than I had imagined or would have liked

# C trained for and ran a half marathon in record time. I went and cheered at Wembley stadium. I experienced the easy feeling of pride and I also experienced the much harder feeling of inspiration and motivation

# Nine months later I finally acted on that inspiration (still in part) and signed up for a run myself – a 10k to begin with. I hope and pray I can prepare for it in a good way

# We didn’t make a trip we wanted to because it involved trekking for 16 kms through a gorge and C didn’t want to have me risk going for it unprepared. We have now booked that trip for May of 2017.

# I consumed a lot of sugar and have a worrisome extra five kilos on me

# I tested for diabetes, thought one of my biscuits was my last sugary treat, but the test was negative and I continue on 

# Pragya visited a couple of times and we managed to add an interesting layer to the friendship

# I witnessed completely juvenile Whatsapp politics and wished maturity for some people

# I travelled a bit too much for work, but then I also earned the bronze tier on British Airways because of it. An early check in and avoiding queues is a good enough benefit for now.

# We went to Gran Canaria for our first anniversary and I cannot begin to describe what the sun there did for my body and mind. Whatever it did for our relationship was incidental. Maybe I will someday log that travel, but for now, know that it is a gorgeous place, it stays warm throughout the year, Brits love it, and I totally know why!

# Got involved in a high profile work event with the biggest global CEOs. It was a tiring but interesting experience that involved lunching on a fancy boat on the Thames and dinners at the Globe and Cutty Sark

# Mom and dad moved homes in Delhi and with that I partially lost a home in my home city. The one I got married from was home for 19 years

# Some more friends had babies and I will soon stop telling my mother about these developments just as I had stopped telling her of people’s weddings a few years ago

# I celebrated a very colourful Holi at work

# And I had some awkward conversations about India’s independence with a few British colleagues

# There were a few weddings in the UK – an Indian-German one, an Indian-British one and a Indian-Polish one. I loved how personalised the experience was for guests. 

# I also attended a Hungarian wedding in Budapest and amusingly was one of the few ‘foreigners’ who were treated special by the hosts and their families. This also included a high energy series of dances with the groom’s 70-year-old father

# In Budapest, we rode on a tram route (over)rated on the list of top 10 scenic rides in the world. That said, Budapest is a gorgeous and lovely city!

# And then there were weddings I missed

# I was mandated to join a session of improv comedy. I was so worried that my lack of spontaneity will let me down that I had a couple of drinks before going in for it. But it turned out to be one of the fun-est things I have ever done!

# I also went for a murder mystery game and did quite poorly at it

# There was recognition at work – of my successes and weaknesses alike, with a lot of help to address the weaknesses

# I kept the tradition of going to the ER (twice) and experienced first-hand the mess that the UK’s healthcare is!

# There were several house parties – some fun, some random

# Diwali was in London

# I turned 30. I am still not comfortable saying this number out loud, but lately I have been thinking of the many experiences of the past 10-15 years that I feel it has been a memorable enough journey to this number and I should embrace it warmly

# Tried again with Avan’s help to complete my wedding video. Hopefully I will get it before the end of the year

# I had this dream for my 30th birthday. I never learned how to ride a bike because I was busy hopping countries. So I thought of going for a trek in snowy mountains for the birthday instead. I have anyway been longing to go back to the mountains for a while now. But snow in Europe in September is hard to reach. A trip in remote Switzerland would have been ideal, but I was frustrated and upset with how logistically hard and expensive it was turning out to be! And I clearly never did it.

# Instead, Chetak kindly helped plan Snowdonia as a funny ‘snow’ trek even though there would not have been any snow then. That trek didn’t happen either because the weather wasn’t on our side. And being in the countryside meant no phone network and therefore hardly any phone calls and wishes. If you haven’t figured yet, I am still bummed about all the things that did not work out even though it was a lovely trip in itself. 

# I did get a nice surprise party for the birthday which made up for all that wasn’t.

# We also went dancing and experienced mundeyan to bach ke rahi on the dance floor during the Notting Hill carnival

# A separate trip to the city of bells, Brugge was one of the biggest highlights of the year. The place was musical, scenic, quiet and very refreshing! These away-from-the-city breaks are hard to match.

# C gifted me a watch with my initials on it 

# Watched Vir Das live in London

# Watched Zakir Hussain live again 

# Visited a remote Swedish town for work and ticked off the bucket list item of seeing windmills in water 

# C got his UK driving license and we went for our first road trip with dear boys in a red Jeep :D

# I made an effort to connect with people from past life in the current city and balance my being in this foreign land beyond C and his friends

# An important relationship finally came up for air after nearly two years. It will never be the same again but I am glad the negativity is behind us.

# In my true retrospective, reflecting self, I kept sharing Facebook ‘memories’ with friends. It doesn’t help that I and many of them are spread out across the world. 

# Demonitisation happened

# Samsung gave new life to my phone with a complete overhaul over the summer

# Bought a new Canon

# I was gifted a tablet to read but I failed to read

# I started using a credit card. I know I said I started doing it when I moved to Abu Dhabi, but I now use it for 20p transactions as well. I still think it is stupid to buy on credit and then pay a bill at the end of the month when you can buy directly with a debit card. But things you do for points, offers and miles!

# This one comes low in this list just so I could reflect hard and remember the finer details of the year – we bought a flat of our own!

# We bought 200 kilos worth of furniture from Ikea and I discovered I enjoy DIY.

# C and I had a similar amount’s worth of arguments as well

# I told C that we will go easy with setting up the new home, enjoying the process instead of making a burden of it. Instead, I single-mindedly spent several evenings either buying stuff for home or just unpacking, setting up, hammering nails, et al. I could still go back and spend a dedicated week on it. We are, after all, still a few months away from completing the set-up.

# Close friends helped a great deal with the packing, moving and settling in

# Leaving my first house in the city was nothing short of an end of an era

# A fortnight still to go and I figure this has become a very long read

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Tada!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Homey?

I feel an unexplainable pain every time I think about how little I think or reflect these days, ie, write. That’s what my time with Fuchsia used to be about. I feel this pain every time I read something that has emotion. I no longer know what it takes to write a complete story – even if it is a rant about the most inconsequential, inane matter. I have lost count of the number of ‘posts’ that I have started with good intent and steam but never finished. I have constantly held various things responsible for it (in my head) – a consuming day job, a mix of desired and unwanted social action, the luring (to the feeling of writing) idea of being on a plane for extended periods of time but feeling so awfully tired when actually mid-air that I’d not even have the energy to type, attempts at saving truly free time for C, Skype calls with family and friends in other time zones, cooking because I have time, watching TV because I’ve earned a lazy couch hour (or two), and the list goes on. 

That alphabet blogging challenge, which was a great thought-starter, also failed. Gah. 

Coming to the latest – the festive season and my *feelings*. Starting with Karva Chauth, which I have observed for two years now. It is probably one of the biggest ironic paradox in my life but I do indulge in it. And it goes alright until I observe or get into a debate with someone from back home. There is so much vitriolic point-proving that it is almost hard to bear. I won’t go into the details here again but suffices to say that it kills the spirit that makes me participate in the process. It’s obviously not about C’s long life. 

And then there is Diwali. Five days to go. Delhi must be going mad. It is my first Diwali away. I always made it a point to be back for it but didn’t even make an attempt this year. Last year, the first one away from my parents’ home was a different, complex and unusual experience. It wasn’t what I grew up with. This year will obviously be different as well. In an empty house. I’ll come to the details of that later. There will be no rangoli. Possibly no kaju barfi or gulab jamuns either – not because we can’t find them in London but simply because it’s not practical and we don’t need to consciously add sugar to our dessert-heavy days. When did I ever become so awfully practical! 

I told someone yesterday that I have been in denial that Diwali is around the corner because it’s not with family. 

Time and life are getting spent and I am not documenting any of it. Most of the undocumented times have been good and I wish I was better at doing something about it. But I guess that’s what such times bring with them – that feeling of being free and happy; without a care in the world, including the painstaking documentation. 

More later, hopefully. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Paris Je Taime

The UK’s August bank holiday always falls between C’s and my birthdays, giving us reason to do something interesting every year. For the 2015 one, we planned Paris. It was the first trip C and I made together after our wedding. There were two primary reasons for doing that – C really liked the city (after his two previous trip there) and France was a relatively easier embassy when it came to granting the Schengen visa. This was before the attacks last November. 

I was not particularly fascinated by the fascinating Paris and agreed to go if C managed the visa process. I had obviously not recovered from the mammoth UK visa process from early in the year. 

And so he did everything – visas, Eurostar tickets, Airbnb, and the works. I took on two responsibilities – planning an evening to watch cabaret and a day out in the Champagne area. The first one wasn’t bad. Moulin Rouge was very clearly an expensive deal. And they know they are expensive, so they recommend another cabaret in the Moulin Rouge Group, called La Nouvelle Eve on the same website. It is more affordable and I conveniently booked a table for the both of us. 

Read on to know more about Champagne.

We arrived in Paris on the night of Friday, August 28th. The city was quite filthy. My I’m-in-Europe-for-the-first-time eyes were surprised. But Paris is known for it. Next step: finding young English-speaking kids employed by the transport authority to help tourists navigate the train system. It was a bit sad, but I was happy that at least they had some kind of a job. 

St. Pancras, London

Because C thinks I'm like those in the background

I had a disappointing goat cheese wrap at McDonald’s for dinner and we retired at our beautiful Airbnb for the night. 

The next day was dedicated to Reims to see the wonderful, romantic world of Champagne. We took a high speed TGV train which got us to Reims within two hours. The moment we reached there I realised I had made a huge blunder. Reims is a small town with various champagne brands having their original war-time cellars located in the area. For a real, green tour through vineyards (what I had in mind), you need to be able to drive a few miles into the countryside from Reims. C hated what I had done. I hated what I had done. We’d spent a significant amount of money on those trains. But we swallowed the stupid emotions and started walking. It was a hot day. I really didn’t want to walk. On the side I was still trying to check on my phone if there was a way to get to a vineyard somehow. But it wasn’t going to be. We landed at Taittinger’s champagne house and decided that we should, at the very least, take a tour of their cave cellars. That didn’t disappoint. We bought a couple of bottles for friends, tasted some of our own, and came out a couple of hours later wondering again what to do in that place. 

We managed first class tickets on our TGV

Various available bottle sizes


Clearly, this happens everywhere!


We whiled away some more time, took a late afternoon train back to Paris, went home to change and get set for our evening in Monmartre for the cabaret. 

Reims remains, and will remain, a sore point in our relationship for times to come.

The cabaret venue, La Nouvelle Eve initially looked a bit sketchy, especially the entrance to the halls, but I was comfortable soon after. C wasn’t. Unbelievably, he enjoyed the filler acts more than the actual show. I thought that the beginning was slow and bumpy, but it only got better with time and the closing was superb. It’s a shame photography wasn’t allowed, but I guess it’s good so people can actually enjoy being there.



One did have to visit and click this picture!

The next day of our trip was dedicated to typical, touristy Parisian things. Notre dame, the Louvre, the Seine, crepes, Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower. The day was scorching hot at nearly 35 degrees. I hated it that C was making me walk. I felt like shite and behaved like shite too. There was nothing romantic about the trip and we couldn’t believe we were upset with each other on this first, supposedly fancy trip. Of course, it didn’t help that I couldn’t find decent vegetarian food anywhere. Yes, I could have punched someone in the face and come back to London if I could!

But I clicked a few pictures and took breaks every 30 minutes like an old woman. 









And then arrived the evening. My head and my nerves calmed. I could finally begin to see the romanticised side of the city. We decided it was a good time to buy my birthday dress (ala the annual tradition of wearing something new on the birthday). C picked a dress I never would have, but I tried it and loved it. Unsurprisingly, the mood improved. 

Clicking photos of Arc de Triomphe was fun. I was happy. 


We then took a boat tour which was another one of the disappointments of the trip. It wasn’t an open top boat, the commentary was very dry, and there were way too many people around us. Now I was grumpy. 

And then we finally went to the Eiffel Tower. Yes, we had actually saved it till our second night in the city. Don’t ask why. I was over the moon at the sight of the glittering tower. I distinctly remember being excited like a child. The shimmering lights at every hour added a 100 times to my excitement. I think I almost danced. I definitely jumped. It was also a full moon night (or maybe a day short) and the moon sat symmetrically by the tower. I changed lenses on my camera. I had ice cream. I kissed C. I did everything one does when they see the Eiffel Tower for the first time. I didn’t care to go to the top. I just didn’t want to give up the view of the Tower! So I walked back and forth, left and right, just to make sure I didn’t miss the best views of it. We later lay by the river, with the Eiffel towering over us, until all the shops shut down and it was time to take a late train home.   



On our final day in the city, as we typically do, we took it easy. We strolled in any direction we liked. We focused on getting some good food. I did want to see the Statue of Liberty, so we went in its direction. The weather had either improved or I had begun to get used to it but I was definitely more comfortable. I got a drink or two. We got a dessert or three. I chanced upon the Wall of Love. I refused to do a steep walk and C made his peace with it. We were okay. 


A rather awful font for train station names

For the love of breads!



We reached Gare du Nord and figured something was wrong. Trains were delayed. There was no sign of our train. But we had cleared immigration and there was no way of turning back. We sat. We waited. We learned it was because refugees had blocked the tracks in Calais. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. The number of people piling up at the station platforms was increasing with every train that wasn’t showing up for its return. We were almost certain we won’t be able to get back when suddenly there was an announcement. The last few trains of the night were being combined to go back to London and we had a chance there after over four hours of wait. We returned without further delay and Eurostar offered to compensate us by giving us a set of free tickets for a similar journey in the coming months. We were certainly not going back to Paris. Belgium, maybe. 

It took nearly a year before we did. Details to follow. 

Catching up

I have had no inspiration or mind space to write in several months now. My blog has been at the back of my mind, but that is all that it has been. If there is one thing that I feel rather bad about, it is the memories of various trips taken in the past year that I’m letting fade. 

The past few months have been extraordinarily busy with work and social obligations and that has finally taken its toll. I’ve been home, sick for over a week now. And so today I hope to write a bit and clear some pending words out. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

E is for Enormous*

City. Social circle. Cake sizes. Cultural differences. Physical distance. Cold (yes, I know it doesn’t fit). Trains. Job hunt. Grocery stores. Price tags. Extended family. History. Envy. Waist. 

*for the lack of a creative thought

C is for Chalk Board

We I am a confused romantic. Or let’s say I like being ‘classy’ with my romantic initiatives. Yes, the clumsy me. I would never go for a heart-shaped photo frame, card, souvenir, or anything else. But I am likely to use html hearts rather freely. I don’t know when that happened, because I remember being a prude about virtual hearts too, but what’s done is done. I even have a photo with a massive heart-shaped balloon from my pre-wedding party. So I don’t even know who I try to fool with this notion but I do try.

Coming to the point: soon after I moved to London we discussed having a board outside our home which isn’t the standard door name plate but something we could change as we liked. We didn’t do anything about it until we walked past the neighbourhood Waitrose’s garden section with a chalkboard.  We loved the idea! But it was a heart-shaped board and there was no way I was going to let it become a part of my identity. In the following weeks I sighed every time I passed by that Waitrose, just wishing somebody understood that there should be another option. And then there was one! Just before his birthday last year. 

We don’t have it outdoors, but we have been pretty wild with our ‘art’ ever since we go it. From love notes (yes, they fall in my ‘classy’ category) to countdowns to travel destinations – we use it to express just about everything. Take a look:




Bday countdown






Marathon wishes

Much improved skills
This has it all - the sun, swimming, sun decks, umbrella, drinks, palm trees

Thursday, April 28, 2016

D is for Dosa

I love dosas. I loved them when it meant a family outing to Sagar Ratna in Defence Colony for their red chutney, I loved them when I had a long period of extreme stomach situations and the only thing I could eat out was a…dosa(!), I loved them when I had two Arab Udupis equidistant from my house in Abu Dhabi and I could just order a quick one for dinner every week, and I love them just as much now with frequent visits to Sarvanaa Bhavan, which includes the historic first karva chauth’s only meal. 

I hate Sarvanaa’s sambar, but I’ve made a rare kind of peace with the fact and just rely on the coconut chutney every time. Honestly, I never liked Sarvanaa when I was in Delhi. There I graduated from Sagar Ratna to Coco Palm (SEVERAL trips with work friends to this lovely place in Gurgaon!) to Naivedyam in the end which was a class act in the business. In parallel, Mom had mastered the art of making dosas thanks to our old neighbours who made it every single day. And she’s taken my love for dosas so literally that I have been greeted with it on the first day of every visit home I have made in the last two years. I even got it on my final day in Delhi before moving to London. It’s a special kind of love. :) 

And before you ask the question, I can make reasonably good dosas if you supply me with the MTR/Gits mix. And my sambar is pretty kickass. So is my coconut chutney. Yip. Okthanksbye.

PS - I haven't forgotten the C. It's in progress; I just got really excited about the D!