Monday, 5 October 2015

Life's Good!

A simple prayer I learnt when I was just 3:

"Thank you God for the food we eat

Thank you God for the world so sweet
Thank you God for the birds that sing
Thank you God for everything"

A simple yet such a powerful prayer. For there is no prayer, stronger than gratitude. 

And so is this infographic, which can put life into such perspective:

So, as I feel extremely blessed and grateful for what I have and have had over the last quarter of a century almost, I'd like to take a moment to thank some of the people who have contributed, directly or indirectly, to help me expand my horizons, get out of my comfort zone and shoot for the moon. This comprehensive list - "Wisdom from the fellow traveller", as I like to call it, includes stuff I've heard or read - from family, friends, teachers, colleagues, strangers, authors, actors, leaders etc; which picked me up when I was down, showed me light in the dark tunnel, pushed me to keep the fight in me alive and stand today, as I am today.

  • "You are Beautiful" - Mom
She'd call me "ugly goosling" (just so I'd drink enough water and nourish my skin!) yet she'd call me "beautiful" more often! Such a short simple sentence yet with the potential to boost a child's self-image and confidence. In my late teens infact, while I was battling weight-gain and acne thanks to a hormonal rage, these kind words helped me fight better, right until I won "Best Model" at college :P
  • "Courage isn't the absence of fear, it's the realization that something is more important than the fear" - School corridor
This quote came in handy when I returned to India and was thrown into the ocean of competition! So, when I walked in to give one exam after the other, I calmed my nerves with this one-liner and lo and behold! Before I knew it, I had interview calls to all the 3 schools in Bangalore I had applied to :)
  • "Fear not to make mistakes; be bold. Only keep learning from them!" - Dad
The board exams breed such pressure on a student, almost like a do-or-die situation, and amidst anxieties, when your parent tells you it's all OK, it lifts all that heaviness off your mind and truth be told, I performed way better thus! For when you focus on the effort rather than the result, you can outdo yourself. So I surprised myself by topping in my board exams in 10th and 12th, and also securing the highest marks in the state, subsequently being awarded the "Vidya Bhushan". I was not born a prodigy, dad just made me believe I could be one!
  • "Believe in miracles" - DisneyWorld
This one has been my driving force, gushing with hope. There is something so child-like in believing in fairytales, and happily ever-afters. And I ask, why not?
  • "You deserve better - have some self respect!" - Little Brother
He's younger than I am, but he can be expected to come out with some really mature things to say at the right time. Be it acquaintances or friends, even near and dear, no one can ill-treat you or disrespect you, without your permission and the little brother would indirectly protect me, by asking me to stay away from such pricks! Important advice to make one street-smart!
  • "You've got a friend in me"  - ToyStory
This is for all those people (they know who they are) who I could and can still call at 4am, and crib about stuff or just laugh together :D This is to that sacred bond of friendship that has your back, no matter what and lets you be your crazy self. To all those gazillion talks and silent conversations too- cheers!
  • "Your vulnerability is your strength" - School friend
I think Life is about the choices we make, and the values we choose to stick by - our individuality is defined by these. Life might expose our vulnerabilities but we can choose to make them a weakness or derive strength from them. 
  • "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears, I cannot hear what you say" - Ralph Waldo Emerson 
During my teenage years, during times of identity crises (child vs adult), I found 7 Habits... extremely useful; this particular quote within it's pages kept reminding me to focus on character-building rather than personality-polishing.
  • "You don't have to care about what others say about you...!" - College friend
Dogs bark, tongues wag, but the caravan goes on - you don't have to give a rat's ass to anything that people say. They could be brewing in envy and/or anger etc. you just gotta focus on what you ought to do, and let them be. You might feel sorry for them even, but don't bother. Haha!
  • "Hakuna Matata" - The Lion King
When the going gets tough, the tough get going! I can always fall back onto this one and strut like Timon/Pumbaa/Simba! 

  • "When I ask someone out, it's for life" - Best friend/Husband
What a beautiful commitment of love for life. When he first shared this philosophy with me, I was reeling in a dreamy state, wondering when my 'knight in shining armour' would make an appearance - little had I known that my Prince Charming was right in front of me! I eventually got married to him and I'm living my fantasy, right now with him :)
  • "And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." - Paulo Coelho, in The Alchemist
The sort of thing one needs to believe in for dreams to come true. For nothing else explains how I am at my happy state today (touch wood)-part of a supremely loving family; working as a doctor - a childhood dream come true; married to the love of my life - gotta believe my grandparents are wishing me well and winking from the twinkling stars above.
  • "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish" - Steve Jobs
Apple products continue to reign while one of his speeches still continues to motivate, long after he's no more. Through college life and the work-life that followed henceafter - this serves as a constant reminder to keep learning, unlearning, relearning. 
  • "Always keep the poor/needy people in mind, and do something for them" - Grandmother
My grandmum was an epitome of unconditional giving and I hope I can emulate her ideals and do my bit for the society...
This year, we linked #SocialShaadi with Milaap and raised funds for causes we believed in - education and vocational training; I'm volunteering for the Society of the Physically Disabled; giving away my personal savings for healthcare causes like eye surgeries for children (in the name of Eka Shukla, who's turning 3 this month-end - a noble gesture conceptualised by her parents), and as part of the Joy of Giving week and my annual birthday ritual - contributing money this year round to (i) the United Nations fund for (Syrian) refugees (ii) a rural Indian village upliftment (iii) an old age shelter home in West Bengal (iv) an orphanage in Pune, run by Maher.
  • "Not all of us can do great things, only small things with great love" - Mother Teresa
She remains a worldwide idol; an inspiration for community service. Emphasising on doing how much ever little we can, even if its picking up plastic covers from a park or helping an old person cross the road, little acts of kindness, go a long way...
  • "I have a dream that my four little children, will one day live in a nation, where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character." - Martin Luther King Jr
One of those elocution contests in high school found me learning these lines by heart, and they have stayed right within. They ignite the light of compassion, for all, irrespective of external traits and inspire to see the divinity in one and all.
  • "Be the change you want to see in the world" - Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
As a crusader for non-violence and truth, Bapuji's ideals continue to urge me to be a better person, everyday. 
  • "Be kind - everyone you meet is fighting a battle" - Ian Maclaren
Be it my professional or personal dealings with people, I focus on kindness. For we may never know what the other person is going through... 
  • "If you're willing to take the chance, the view from the other spectacular" - Meredith Grey, in Grey's Anatomy
Have some tequila shots, dance the night away and next day, turn up for work, go the extra mile, and be life-savingly awesome :D
  • "Stay Hollow and Empty! Be Happy - This is a blessing and an order" - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
My tryst with spirituality commenced with attending the Art of Living Courses as I hit adulthood. The basic and advanced courses later, I find myself celebrating silence, being blissful in action and just letting go in complete surrender, at all times. There's unshakeable poise and peace and there isn't some place else I'd rather be.
  • "Don't take life seriously. Nobody gets out of it alive anyway!" - Sydney J. Harris
I think my favourite quote of them all! Haha! Take a chill pill, feel the morning sun, listen to music on your iPod, raise the volume, kick your legs out and some deep breaths later, plan your next holiday! Or if your my husband, you're probably planning my next surprise birthday gift :P

A week, filled with the joy of giving.
A week recapitulating my favourite quotes.
A week of giving thanks!


Thursday, 1 October 2015


This blog post is dedicated to the simply beautiful long weekend spent at Galle, Sri Lanka with our dear friends! Brimming with memories for a lifetime, the trip was indeed rejuvenating and a welcome break, after the crunch period in ED. I'm not going to go chronologically, though the OCD-kinda-person I am, that would have been just perfect; but instead I'm choosing to pick ten (ten=number of Ravana's heads :P) highlights from the trip, with some recommendations as well, for those of you who would like to visit Galle in the near future, inspired by the lovely photographs on the shared Facebook album: Ayubowan from Galle, SriLanka!

  • The People
A week past the trip, I still can't seem to get over the amazingly heart-warming Sri Lankan folks. Ever-smiling, always helping, clear-hearted kind people - and it seems to be a common thread of the culture of the beautiful country. For what makes a country vibrant is not just it's scenery/architectural marvels/city scapes but more importantly, it's people. Even their language and accent is so endearing - an expression of their simple, kind souls. From the land of Ravana (antagonist in the Hindu epic, Ramayana), this would seem contradictory, however what's fascinating to note is Ravana was infact a benevolent ruler of Lanka. Anyways, back to the people and their charisma - all the airline crew greeted us with "Ayubowan"; our cab driver was patient and kind way past midnight, steering against the strong rain; our villa staff including the watchman uncle were unbelievably accomodating and thoughtful even to include baby cots and baby chairs at the dining area!; our daily cab driver was very patient and selfless, so was our tea estate guide; the people across the city were unassumingly generous!

  • The Food
Oh my good Lord! Such ravishingly amazing food! Such a delightful treat to the taste buds. The Sri Lankan cuisine is definitely a must-try - with liberal use of spices and fresh herbs, their curries are heavenly. We were indeed blessed to have a very talented cook, at our villa. He very ably presented us with unforgettable dishes - Sri Lanka chicken curry, butterfish fry with delectable seasoning, arrack flavoured banana fritters with vanilla ice cream and palm syrup, even the stir-fried French beans were so amazing everyone needed a second helping! Among the restaurants we hopped across Galle/Unawatuna - Lucky Fort at Parawa street with its overwhelming curry set meal and quiant setting defintely was a winner; even the chance spotting of the Sri Lankan buffet lunch at Garden restaurant was awesome with their oh-so-spicy offerings including some mouth-watering pickles!; the cobbled street near Galle Fort was lined by many restaurants, surprisingly not many were licensed to sell liquor but oh well, we did enjoy our suppers at Pedlar's Inn Cafe and the likes around. 

  • The Beaches
Such pristine clean beaches, like heaven had opened up right in front of us! Our villa opened up right in front of the Buona Vista beach and thus, mornings kickstarted at the beach. It was quite shallow till some distance so we could venture further in and enjoy the tide, while one of us played with the toddlers and built sand castles. Another part of the shore was sea-shell laden and was to behold indeed.

But the beach that stole our hearts completely was the almost-private beach at Unawatuna! With the sloping palm trees and fresh sea breeze, it was like time stood still while the waves lashed around, and we had a piece of paradise to ourselves. The photography session was endless thanks to just how serene the place was. And so were the Ringa-Ringa-Roses with the toddlers, who absolutely loved the beach as well! We were thus, soaked in sea-love and sun-kissed, trippy and happy - it's well-deservedly featured in my list of blissful memories and without saying, is my current desktop screen as well :D

  • The Fort
The formidable Galle Fort (with the lighthouse) is one the must-visit lists on practically every online site you check while researching about Galle. Standing firm on its rich historical and archaelogical heritage, it's infact a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We headed there in the evening, braving the gale, with colourful umbrellas in tow. The view was absolutely amazing and the weather complemented it well! There were many local vendors selling local handicrafts and sculptures; and even the all-time favourite-roasted peanuts. Simple pleasures! The fort gave Pran and me enough opportunity to pose for photographs (clicked by our friend, Shilpa) and well, the outcome? One of our most liked (socially) snaps of all time :D 
The caption by the husband was fitting as well: "My favourite catch from the ocean;)" Haha! 

  • The Cricket Stadium
Though small by international cricket ground standards, the rain-washed cricket ground, with the Galle Fort in the background, as the sun set, was to behold. Prantik was in a state of ecstasy almost! I'd seem like I was just playing with words, but according to statistics, Gayle holds the record for the highest runs scored at Galle - 333 (a triple Nelson - nothing unlucky about that eh!) Selfies and welfies later, we realised we crossed the stadium quite a few times on our daily visits to the happening area near Galle Fort :D

  • The Villa
This should probably have been featured earlier, but my train of thought went on a completely different track altogether. I had chanced upon this villa online, and with its tastefully done interiors and umpteen number of good reviews, we had to jump in to book the Well House. With 3 differently sized bedrooms, with attached bathrooms; a lovely lounge area and a separate dinner area, overlooking the pool; complete with a green garden area - this private villa was welcoming indeed. The staff were very friendly and helpful. In reiteration, the food was marvellous and I remember discussions about not having enough Sri Lankan restaurants in Singapore - such a pity! The watchman uncle was kind and he'd top up our living area with mosquito coils (Yes, do carry mosquito repellant creams and patches! especially if you're traveling with kids!), even late at night while we were busy chilling over drinks and a competitive game of Taboo :D Special mention to the villa manager/whoever was responsible in arranging a baby cot and even 2 baby chairs at the dining table (blue and pink!). A tiny blotch on the whole villa experience would be the power cut one day, but the overall positive vibes more than made up for it. (Oh and yes, we headed to the spa instead of cribbing about the power cut :P)

  • The Virgin White Tea estate
Though not initially on our must-go-to list, on the recommendation of the villa staff, we paid this white tea estate a visit. The emperors were believed to have drunk tea brewed from leaves hand-picked only by virgins - hence the name! Nestled uphill, a not-too-large estate, it's almost like a mini rainforest which grows tea, cinnamon, rubber, pepper and coconut. The entry is fee, and the guests are treated at the owner's bungalow to some fine tea and pastries, followed by a guided your of the plantation in its natural glory (touched by rain, it shone even more). We were shown around the tea factory as well, with machines almost 150 years old and running; the last stop was the Hundungoda Tea Museum, where one could sip different varieties of tea - right from Earl Grey to Lemongrass, Tulsi Herbal to Yogi Tea! Refreshed and excited, we picked up several different packets for ourselves and then headed back downtown. 

  • The Turtle Hatchery
An environment conservation initiative where turtle eggs are incubated under the soil and when they hatch, the baby turtles swim around in little tanks, where they are fed and looked after. Unlike the natural course, where a vast majority do not survive in the rough ocean, this human interference helps to save endangered species of sea turtles, as they are only released into the ocean when they are big enough to fend for themselves and brave the challenge of the deep dark waters. Some days when the weather isn't stormy, visitors are even allowed to release turtles into their natural habitat. The hatchery even looks after turtles injured out in the nasty sea, some injured by human activities - such as motor boat propellors snapping brutally at one of their fins rendering them unable to swim across. After being rescued, vets nurse them to health at the hatchery and if found fit subsequently, are then released back into the sea. Such a beautiful venture to conserve precious fauna :) #SaveThe Babies

  • The Local Craftwork
The streets and tourist attractions were abuzz with vendors selling local crafts and sculptures. Right from wooden carvings and painted handicrafts, the colours ran across the spectrum and were a visual delight. Though the lion is their national animal, the elephant features in a lot of their work. Carved wooden ones, to gem-studden antiques, there were elephants in natural and colourful avatars everywhere. Souvenir t-shirts and other clothing featuring elephants were all over the place too. I did pick up a few for our home as well as a special one - Ganesha idol - for the prayer corner :)
Coinciding with the Ganesha festival in India, I was quite excited in finding these intricately done stone idols. (Tip: Local vendors sell them at a glaringly low price as compared to the branded souvenir shops!)
(Mental note: To visit the Pinnawala Elephant orphanage when I head to Sri Lanka next!)

  • The Airport
The first and last leg of the Sri Lankan expedition. The drive to and fro the Colombo airport, across well constructed expressways, along the countryside is definitely enjoyable. Sightings of bridges across rivers, large Buddha statues atop a hill, green paddy fields, backwaters and what not - some even reminding me of the Kerala countryside - beautiful indeed. The airport is not humongous yet it had a lot to offer. Right from multiple souvenir shops, spa products, and eateries including Burger King and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, where Prantik's loyalties lie :D 
We were undoubtedly blue that the holiday was nearing it's end but the airport, in it's own small ways, helped to end the trip on a happy note. 
And soon, we touched down at the all too familiar Changi airport, that witnessed the kids' "hugsie" yet again...

A week of exploring a new country.
A week of memorable times at the beach, fort and estates.
A week of delicious meals and fun conversations with friends.