A virgin morning. She had woken up early. Her favourite time of the year was around. The god of elephants sat staring at her, a slight smile in his eye. She loved looking into his eyes. Even though a human being had painted them onto a lifeless sculpture, they were still alive to her. Like telling her to be positive and be calm. She wasn’t a very ardent follower, yet she found a weird solace when she looked into the beautiful painted ones.
The sun shone on her freshly scrubbed face and dripping hair. She sighed with pleasure. It had been close to 4 years since she woke up this early and she realized how much she missed the comforting chill of the fresh morning air.
Her husband and she set off for the Dagduseth Temple. It was on the other end of town, but she was looking forward to the drive. The empty roads looked inviting. She felt like they were the only two people in the world save for the occasional dog scavenging through the waste bins searching for food.

She lay back against the seat, allowing the cool air to sooth her already joyous soul. She loved being out and about amongst people, but she also valued her “me” moments. Her husband drove them in companionable silence as Amitabh Bachchan sang a bajhan in his sonorous voice.

It felt like the air suddenly became cooler, like memories came flooding back. She didn’t even need to open her eyes to know she was within the bounds of the main city. She could feel the difference in her veins. She lived in Pune, she was fortunate she got married within the city. Yet, she felt a sudden homesickness every time she came towards the mandai and surrounding areas.

The clock tower at Wakdewadi reminded her of her innumerable trips to Shopper’s stop. A stupid memory to have for people on the outside, but for someone who dearly missed her side of the town, it was anything but. She smiled.

As they reached the Mandai area, she was reminded of the times her father would carry on his shoulders in the throngs surrounding the Pandol where people pushed and shoved to show Ganpatiji how much they loved him. She would catch a glimpse of him, sitting on his decorated throne and she’d still look into his eyes even with the annoying watchman screaming “chala chala” and kept hurrying my father to move so other devotees could have their share of the God in his glory.

Her husband and she walked hand in hand at a hurried pace, among the surge of people all headed the same way for once. Hawkers screamed at them, maushis with kumkum and haldi in hand blessed them as they passed in hopes of getting a dime or two in return. If only blessings really came that cheap, she mused as she shooed and lectured yet another healthy woman making this blessing game her business. To some it was like slapping god that apparently hides within this women, but they only annoyed her.

A young boy stood silent with a bucket full of beautiful white lotus in full bloom. She cajoled her husband into buying her a couple. She hopped along a delighted child, not caring how ridiculous she looked. They reached the marquee at last. The crowd was massive as usual. She missed the strong shoulders that made sure her feet didn’t touch the ground,that she was kept out of the reach of all hands that groped and spared not even little girls. Some annoying boys and men make it their business to push against women who are nowhere close to the path they are walking. I shot a glare at one such moron as my husband put a reassuring hand on my shoulder.

They stood in the long “darshan” queue, patiently awaiting their turn. Finally it came. She looked into his eyes, they smiled at her. In that moment, she forgot all the anger, she didn,t even glare at the watchman screaming at her to “Hurry up”
She just looked, smiled and knew he would always be with her. As would her memories.


Being Married.

The easiest way to piss me off once I turned 23 was to bring up the marriage topic while I was within earshot. Annoying aunties who had their 30 year old daughters still sitting at home, living it up in their spinsterhood were targeting my parents in weddings with comments like, “ Kitni badi ho gayi, iski shaadi kub kar rahe ho? Laddoo kub khila rahe ho?”

“Go to a damn mithai ki dukaan, moti bhains!” I’d scream in my mind. There were screaming matches with my parents for every bio data I was forced to look at of ELIGIBLE BACHELORS.

One fine day, all of this changed. I went for yet another family function and got bored out of my eye sockets and begged my mother to go home. Surprisingly they relented immediately. That in itself should have warned me, but I was too happy to look for deeper nuances.

“Where are we going?” I asked my dad as he took the road that led away from home.

“You’ll see”, he replied non-committal.

Be seen was more like it! We walked into Citrus, the Hotel and were greeted by this strange family I had never set eyes on before. But clearly my parents had! I turned red with anger as I realized what this was when I looked at the smart guy smiling shyly at me from one of the lobby seats.

I of course was decked up in my family function finery and I wanted to die of mortification when I realized that these people would think I wanted to be looked at and approved and questioned to marry their son.

Shockingly enough, Hindi movies mislead us. It was no drama, I wasn’t asked to stand, smile, twirl around, sing or answer a bunch of ridiculous questions about my height or weight.

We left on our own to talk it out and that we did and soon we talking like old friends. We didn’t even talk about marriage. Just like that the little gathering broke up. He and I smiled at eachother as we got into our respective cars. Minutes after we reached home, Dad got a call.

“They love you, Anjali”, he declared.

Just like that I had found a life partner. Just like that I got married two months later after whirlwind courtship in  which he left no stone unturned to make me love him.

I left my home of 24 years and stepped into his. His family welcomed me with open arms and he with an open heart. 2 years later, I am a mother, a wife, a daughter in law, a sister in law. I had always believed that I could not live without my room, without my parents, without my little book reading corner or my favourite window ledge. But the home I moved into gave me all this and so much more!

A prospect that scared the living daylights out of me helped me discover my capabilities on a whole new level.  I embarked on a journey, and made a home with a potential stranger, but I can say I have no regrets. I had started a new life.

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The day had been dragging on. I had had a huge fight with my boss and things had gotten so out of hand, I had taken the decision to quit. Interior designing is a tough business and when you work on a project like it your baby and you’re told you did nothing it feels like a tight slap in the face. To top it off, I had not been paid my salary for three months on the grounds that funds were running low in the firm’s account. Which I wanted to laugh at hysterically because the boss had just had the audacity to buy himself a new car and do a destination wedding at Kerala.

Anyway, life is not always the way we want it. But this time I could not take it in my stride. I reached home, angry at the world. Nearly knocked off an old lady while zooming home on my active.  I walked in and saw the back of my husband’s head. The rest of him was concealed behind his high back swivel chair and he was busy moving sideways as he always did when he was onto something really important. I threw my bags and rushed towards him, crushing his head in a tight embrace and washing his freshly shampooed hair with my salty tears.

“There there! What the Hell just happened? I got charged by a dinosaur!” He turned and smiled up at me, gingerly nursing his hair.

I smiled a watery smile. As if on cue, it started pouring donkeys outside. So even God wanted to match my mood today. That was a positive!

He got up and hugged me tight.

“Sit here, I’ll get us some green tea. You certainly need it,” he teased while pointedly looking at my flabby tummy. We both burst out laughing. He has a way to make me laugh through the worst nightmares.

I walked into Ruhi’s room and looked at her tiny sleeping figure. I sent a silent prayer of thanks to god for this little bundle of joy we had created. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had wasting my time on my boss while my baby needed her mother. I felt miserable. It seemed like I couldn’t do anything right.

“Come here princess”, called Sumeet from the living room. I dragged myself out, fresh tears pouring out of my eyes.

“Quit that job”, he said simply. It was not a tug of war or ego issues here. He genuinely cared and had told me on more than one occasion that my boss was the donkey’s backside.

“Hand me your laptop”, I replied simply.

A few minutes later I received a call from my boss apologizing profusely. He begged me not to resign. Told me to reconsider. I hung up and asked Sumeet to send them a legal notice for pending salary.

It was really this easy. We spent the rest of the evening snuggled up on the couch watching Dumb and Dumber. We ordered in pizza. Ruhi woke up and gave me her most beautiful sleepy smile.

I felt a rush of gratitude for life, for my husband and for my baby. Life is simple, it’s us that complicate it.

Sumeet held onto my hand as I fell asleep in his lap that night. I never had felt so together with anyone before. Not even with him. But that day changed it all.

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I sighed as the book I had been reading on my kindle drew towards its end. The “Secret Garden”. When I first set out to read it, I did not expect it to make such an impact on my mind, but I changed my opinion as the story progressed. It revolved around a man who had turned bitter because his wife was killed giving birth to his son. In fact he never hence looked at his son. Being a hunchback, it had been fed in his mind that his son too would be a cripple like him. He never once thought to look for his lost wife in his son. As a result, his son Colin too was extremely negative in his outlook towards life. A 10 year old boy spoke of death as though it were an old friend. Someone you could not escape. Which is the truth, except one doesn’t expect kids to think of such morbid topics.

His life was miserable till the plain girl Mary arrived from India after losing her parents to Cholera. Colin’s father was her uncle and hence she was sent to England. Mary had never been loved and her face and mannerisms reflected this. This was the state till Mary started to love the outdoors. She had heard of the “Secret Garden” from the servants in the mansion. She was obsessed with finding it. It had been shut and the key buried soon after the mistress had died. Colin’s father could not bear to look at anything his wife had loved.

Thanks to her perseverance, Mary did discover the garden. She became friends with DIckon, who was the boy of the moor. A charming little fellow full of energy and bewitching songs which made animals and birds talk to him. Together the two revived the dead garden. Mary discovered Colin just like she found the secret garden. Quite by accident. With her friendship and nurturing nature she soon got Colin out of his cocoon. He was confined to the wheelchair because he had been made to believe that he was a cripple. Even the doctors had given up on him, hammering into his little innocent mind that he could not grow up or live a full life.

But love has a strange way of changing the sourest minds. The three children loved their little garden with its mammoth of roses and other exotic flowers. The fresh air, the blue skies filled Colin’s young mind with hope. He soon realized that his ailment was not real, it was merely a figment of his imagination. As soon as he let go of this belief that had been fed to him all through his ten years of life, he recovered. The cripple stood on his feet, he ran, he laughed with his friends. He discovered “Magic” as he called it. But in reality it was love that did his healing. It was hope that gave him new birth.

Meanwhile, his desolate father had received news that Colin wasn’t well and that he should return as soon as possible. For people who had been kept to keep him comfortable had always shown him pity and always made him believe he would die, never once loving him or telling him to keep faith. His father was too drawn in his misery to ever notice he could have given his only child a healthy childhood.

He returned from his travels and when his saw an upright young boy walking towards him, he couldn’t believe it was the son he has treated as dead. His eyes were like his mother’s, his hair the rich brown of hers. He had discovered his long lost love as he finally drew in his arms a part of her soul.

After I read this story, I looked at things differently. Sometimes it’s necessary to let people love us without thinking they have ulterior motives. It’s important to love yourself. There is magic all around us, in the unfurling of flowers, in the rising and setting of the sun, in the multitude of colours we see around us. The only thing we need to do is SEE and FEEL. This story really taught me to “LOOK UP”

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Ek sach, sau sukh

They say “ek sach sau jhooth k barabar hota hai”. Over the top of your head you might find this a very simple statement. But on closer exploration you realise that indeed, you get stuck in vicious web once you utter a lie. Even lying about something as simple why you’ve gotten home late from class can be a cause for major headaches in the covering up department later. More often than not you forget why you couldn’t make it for a date or attend your best friends wedding. Lying comes easy, truth takes real efforts. But in so many situations in life, you later realise that lying was completely pointless!
One such major occasion in my life was when I got piss drunk on my 18th birthday with my best friend. It was my first time drinking and in hindsight, I should have known that no one would believe me when I came home that the reason I was sweating profusely and felt like I’d pass out was due to pani puri and not due to a horrible combination of long island iced tea and beer and cold air through which my friend and I rode on my activa.
I threw up all over my bed and through the worry etched on my parents face I realised how stupid my lying was. So I just passed out and came clean the next morning. Dad banned me from late night outings till I got married (cause then my husband would be the one to take care of me) and mom called my friend and told her off nicely for feeding her the bhelpuri tale. Despite all the embarrassment I caused myself, I felt liberated. My parents knew exactly where I was, what I was up to and with who I was. It sort of opened up our relation and understanding on a different level and made me feel free enough to confess some of my deepest fears, problems and previous lies to my parents. I felt like a new human being altogether!
That day I breathed a sigh of relief and realised “kitna sukoon hai sachchai mein!”

Baby’s day out.

The last minute packing, from keeping her separate feeding spoons to the grater to her bottles, the preparations are never ending. Although we were just heading on the pristine beaches of Dapoli for two days, the volume of the luggage said otherwise. Call me obsessive, but when it comes to my daughter I like to be perfect. My heart burns if she cries and like every other parent, her discomfort is my discomfort. So I always double my efforts to keep things smooth and interesting for her.
When you travel with kids in tow, its natural that you cannot expect to completely relax. They are naughty by default and curiosity is their first nature. Things are even more complicated when the kid in question is a 9 month old baby. Ruhi has just learnt to crawl and even a tiny speck of dirt or an ant are immensely interesting topics of exploration for her.
So you can only imagine how harassed I might have been on a beach where there a gazillion tiny specks, had I not carefully planned my trip to accommodate my child. Vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing, not a trauma worse than being cooped at home 24×7. That happens when you pay attention to small details.
As a baby, of course she wasn’t allowed on all the fun rides our family took, but to compensate for that, I carried along bed sheet for her, filled a basket with her favourite toys and also a beach ball. My husband and I have a deep understanding. We take care that while one enjoys the other looks after Ruhi and vice versa. So understanding between the spouses is of utmost importance when you have kids with you on vacation. So while I went for a jet boat ride, my hubby played “ghar ghar” with Ruhi.
For times when I don’t want to run the risk of her crawling close to something harmful, I have my baby carrier along. All kids love being close to their parents and Ruhi certainly loves hanging off me like a little kangaroo.
Keep their favourite things handy. While adults enjoy adventures and a new place, the same is not true for kids. They like adventures, but at the end of it they want to come back to something they are familiar with. It could be a teddy bear, a walking robot, a car or even a sipper. It doesn’t matter! Just make space for it in your suitcase.
While travelling with our daughter, we always ensure that we book the most comfortable rooms. While we would like nothing better than to lie on open sand staring up at the brilliant night sky, kids need a comfortable, clean and hygienic place to sleep in. First priority, always.
Don’t be selfish. Yes, we adults work hard and want to party harder. But lets not forget our kids in the deal. Have fun with them, include them in your fun times. Give time for their kiddy games. Take them to museums or joyrides or a zoo even when you’re on a vacation. I always have activities lined up for my nephews when we go for family vacations so that they aren’t bored.
Be lenient. Ordinarily, we keep kids a thousand miles away from confectioneries and chocolates, but while on vacation, give them a break too. Let them enjoy their chips, pizzas and burgers. Same rule applies for cartoon network. Let them watch that disgusting cockroach show if they love it so much!
Last, but not the least, ask them whether they are enjoying. The smile you get in return is just priceless! Because, indeed there are some things, money can’t buy.

This is my entry for the #teddytravelogues

Darr k aage jeet hai!

The space ship type structure on a thin stick like cylinder always scared the living daylights out of me. I’d look up and think what would happen if it fell on me? How does anyone climb those hideously curved staircases and get on top of these sinister looking water tanks. They towered over the tiny buildings around our home.
Looking down from a tall building would leave me dizzy and panting with fear. Cold sweat dotting my skin.
Once while walking down a hill, I happened to look into a giant crater and almost lost my footing because of a sudden attack of dizziness induced nausea.
I had a severe fear of heights, also known as Acrophobia.
My friends would laugh at me, but only I ever understood how I felt when I looked at that towering water tank. It stood alone, ready to crush me if I came within grabbing distance of it.
Then one day I decided I’d do something to get over it. I called my friend Vishal and we decided to scale the Sinhagad fort.
Many times during the climb I lost my courage, but he pushed me to go for it and held my hand. We reached atop and I screamed in joy. We celebrated with nimboo pani enjoying the vista of the entire city stretching before us like ants. It was sheet exuberance that comes with overcoming your fear. I stood on the edge and looked down till the dizziness passed over. It was done, it was over, my fear had died a painless death.
In school we had sex education classes. Not only did they make sex seem like an ordeal, they also made childbirth seem like death. A 12 year old girl was traumatised by the thought of ever becoming a mother. Her insides would contract when she imagined the pain described by these experts giving lectures on reproduction and family planning.
When I was told by the gynaecologist, 14 years later that I’m pregnant, I fainted to the utter shock of my mother and the doctor.
Can you imagine what had been drilled into my head?
The D-day arrived. My husband stood by my side, holding my hand. I did not have to experience labour pains, I had to undergo a Caesarean section due a complication. My skin was goose pimpled.The shivering wouldn’t stop. Something as beautiful as childbirth felt like torture. Then I heard her cry, it was the beautiful music I’d ever heard in my life. I lay there, cut open and bleeding and yet there were tears of joy. Nothing could beat the euphoria of creating another life. Today I look at her growing, the affection and trust with which she looks at me. There is no fear, there’s only the joy of being a mother.
The biggest fear was marriage and frankly, even after I’m married, I’m still looking for a way to get over the fear of that. Hehe. SOS.