I am originally from India and currently live in London with my husband. I have acquired a taste for travelling and exploring from my husband, I love to read and often wonder and muse about inconsequential things and banalities of life.
I have an amazing set of friends who patiently listen to my incessant musings and wondering about life. I thought I should start a blog and send my wonderings and musings, in to ether. All the photographs used on the blog are my experimental photography using I phone and I Pad.
Hope you enjoy reading the blog.
Have you ever tasted a food and it just immediately whisks you away to a long forgotten memory. I am going to share an anecdote from today to explain this.
Today was my first outing of 2023, which was not to a hospital or for a doctors appointment. Yeah !! Yeah !!I am whining!! I have tried to embrace the chaotic side of life,without necessarily putting a positive spin on it. Fracturing my toe just before Christmas was not perfect, and in fact is annoying. I was listening to a Philosophy podcast yesterday, which reminded me nothing is good or bad, it just is. So yes I am whining, but it is not necessarily bad, and it is not good either. So where am I going with this ? Not entirely sure. I was definitely looking forward to going out of the house.
The outing was for grocery shopping, nothing exciting. The groceries were specific Indian Groceries, so required the visit to an Indian store.And along with the shopping we decided we could have a pit stop over at Saravana Bhavan for lunch. Saravana Bhavan is an Indian food chain which specialises in South Indian food. I have visited it many times in India while growing up. It s sort of an ritual for us at London, whenever we go for Indian grocery shopping,we stop over at Indian restaurant for a bite.
A wonderful friend meanwhile called to catch up. Having been unable to move around for a while and most interactions being over phone, the idea of meeting her in person sounded an exciting proposition. I invited her to join me for some exciting grocery shopping, so we could have a tête-à-tête while shopping. Walking around the aisles of the shop , while searching Tur Daal, tamarind or Pudina, and sharing some interesting insights over our daily life, made the mundane less boring. So off we drove for some grocery shopping.
On the journey to grocery store I remembered this Icecream parlour which I have been meaning to go to for a while. I would hear the advertisement of the place on the radio ever so often , 📻 while listening to the Bollywood songs. The unique flavour being mentioned often would pique my interest.
After tucking in the meal, and having chatted about our compelling work lives, and exchanging our views on the shows we were watching on Netflix. We walked in to this icecream parlour, determined to The place looked like your regular icecream parlour with variety of ice creams and colourful cubicles to sit and enjoy the treat. Yet for us the place sounded extremely exhilarating, with flavours of the ice creams are unique and inspired by Indian desserts or fruits which we were used to eating while growing up in India. There was Chikkoo,Sitaphal, Tender Coconut , Guava flavoured ice cream. Then there was Raj Bhog, Pan and Shahi Gulkand ones.
There is something about of Ice cream which awakens the childlike enthusiasm in me and makes the world a colourful and a place full of wonders. We chatted animatedly about which flavour we should try , we seemed to be squealing in joy just looking at the names of flavours.
The lovely persons at the counter looking at our indecisiveness offered a taster on a small little spoon 🥄 with Guava ice cream served with a sprinkle of salt and chilli powder, just like how a Guava is eaten back in India.
The spoonful of icecream transported me to streets of South Mumbai, years ago , to a sunny afternoon of a workday, outside my workplace, where I would buy Guava from the hawker on the street at lunchtime, and the hawker would Cut the fruit in to four .
I would nod my head absentmindedly thinking of some mundane task waiting for me at the desk
He would sprinkle some masala between the cut fruit , rub the cut fruit gently to spread it evenly.
I would bite in to the fruit ,the spicy chilly with the fleshy sweet fruit creating this delicious blend, bursting with flavours in my mouth. It would just make me stop to enjoy it’s deliciousness. I would be standing amidst the the hustle and bustle of Mumbai, with the traffic flying by, office goers rushing in and out of the buildings, the flavours making me forget the rush, and bringing about a moment of calm in the busy streets, like there was a rhythm in this mad rush around.
I would head back up to my desk slowly savouring the moment, biting and chewing the delicious fruit . I would place the rest of the fruit on my desk and get ready for the next part of my work day.
And my colleague would peak at my desk from her cubicle , watching my happy face biting in to the fruit.
“ I am going to get some Peru. Where is the hawker standing ? “
Guava in Marathi is called Peru.
Such is the power of nostalgia!! A small bite of ice cream brought such immense joy and brought flooding back beautiful memories. What seemed so mundane to me then years back, is not so mundane after all. All the mundane of today perhaps has some not so mundane moments of tomorrow.
“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.” – Jonathan Safran Foer
I had travelled to India, for a bit of family fun ,catching up with some good old friends and a bit of sightseeing . Travelling in India for me is full of nostalgia and fun, yet extremely overwhelming and exhausting. It is never a leisure trip. Having been born and raised in India, my formative years were spent in India. I have many memories associated with India, some good and some not so good. I often think of life as a series of experiences and memories, like a large beautiful painting made with different splashes of colours and Brush strokes. Some strokes are crisscross, some not very clear, and then there are smudges of paints, some are vibrant and some a bit dark, but together they make a beautiful painting, without these colours and strokes, the canvass would be blank. So a trip to India is always a walk back in to the memory lane for me, with many fond memories and some not so fond ones and making some new memories on the way. It is a very emotional journey for me and I usually find myself in a perpetual state of frenzy with fraught emotions. I heavily rely on a set of friends for emotional support while I am in India. And on our way back home, I usually find myself saying to my husband , in a very crestfallen voice, ‘I need a holiday !!!!’ I love the country that I was born in and raised, but the country that I go to now, is alien to me. I have this place in my memory, which used to be my home, and then there is this place that I am visiting now, very different to my memory. I have changed as a person and the place that I am visiting now has changed. I am a person who has a birth country and home Country. I belong to both cultures, but in heart now I am a Londoner. Home to me means, London, I need my Victoria Sponge Cake or a Sticky Toffee pudding to perk up my spirits, Mind the Gap on a tube station is music to my ears, to be able to bolt to a museum as soon as I feel like is a fact I love, when I am away, I start missing the grey overcast sky of London . I love the fact that I am part of a city which is a multi cultural melting pot. When I feel like having a Masala Chai I could head in to any Curry house or head to East Ham for a Idli or head to Leicester Square for a steamed dumpling, or head to Turkish Street for a Turkish Tea and Biscuits.
“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I do like a Literary jaunt and often I try to infuse our travel plans with a bit of literary trail.
A decade and a half back when I moved to UK, I found out about the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. Being a Jane Austen Fan, I was immediately curious to see and experience the festival. When I visited the festival back in 2008 I had hand written on a little note pad my first impressions, with an intention to include it in a letter to a friend back in India, who is also a Jane Austen fan.
Interestingly when I read it now, I can see my child like enthusiasm of knowing more about my favourite writer. I find it strange to read my own words a decade and a half later and find my naivety and my wide-eyed observations very amusing.
“She lived in Bath for five years, after her father retired. She knew Bath from childhood since her grandparents were from Bath and though she was not wealthy, but she had wealthy relative. In fact, she disliked Bath and had written to her sister mentioning it being very unpleasant to stay in Bath. And even in her books the characters from Bath are described as silly overly pompous or slimy.
It was very interesting to know about Jane Austen as a person. She did not marry because she did not believe in marriage without affection. She in fact has supposed to have got a proposal at the age of 27 from a rich man, when it is considered very late in those times. She is supposed to have accepted and within twelve hours withdrawn it. She was told by many that it was wise to do so, and it will secure her a comfortable life. She was driven to poverty and had to live in slums, when she became unwell her brother helped her out and moved out to coun. In those days even in England, not being married was looked down upon. I can relate to this woman, she may not have been very brave and powerful, yet she had some conviction.
I bought a book at Jane Austen Centre, which is compilation of her letters to her sister Cassandra and her niece. It is said, in those days the girls were taught good letter writing skills, it was the way ladies made their mark on social world, exchanged views about fashion and gossiped. A good writing skill was must for all girls. Jane Austen’s letters are mere exchange of thoughts, views, and communication with her sister. Her sister was her confidante, her support and good friend. I read the first letter, she wrote it when she was 20, and she mentions flirting with a guy named Tom Lefroy(the person with whom she falls in love as per the movie Becoming Jane), and how she has spent her money on pink petticoats and laces for the ball, which man is eyeing which woman, etc. Her letter is very much like a letter I would write to you!!“
I still find it a bit quizzical as to why the Jane Austen festival is held in a place which the author disliked very much, yet it sits in my memory very closely associated with Jane Austen and I have very fond memories of my visit.
I have always enjoyed reading her books. I loved her story telling, the description of the English countryside in her books, the regency era picnics, and her writing style,which in beginning I struggled with. As a young girl in India reading her books, I had to get used to her language, her style of writing and narration. English language has evolved since her writing the books, words do not have the same meaning as they did in when she wrote the book. Her way of describing things ,choice of words, the old way of describing age, what does ‘coming out of a girl’ refer to, words like insipid and unattached fascinated and puzzled me at the same time. It gave me the love for English countrysides, an understanding of the era and it also improved my vocabulary immensely.
I admire her courage and strength, for staying true to her heart, in spite of the difficulties in her way. I find it an extraordinary feat that a woman who never travelled out of England has managed to capture the hearts of many around the world with her words. They have an audience even two centuries later. Her books have been translated in many languages and have been adapted to movies and series across the world. I find her tales are timeless and are relevant across cultures.
I personally prefer reading books to screen adaptions. I am always a bit sceptical whether they capture the essence of the book, and sometimes I find reading a book more engaging and it is more soul satisfying. But I do watch the screen adaptations too, and not averse to them.
I have a few favourites from Jane Austen s book adaptions on screen. I love the BBC Mini Series 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice and a movie in Tamil called Kandukondain Kandukondain, which is the adaption of Sense and Sensibilities. And how can I forget the modern rendition of Emma ; Clueless. And I also loved the reference to the book Pride and Prejudice, in the movie You’ve got mail
“Confession: I have read Pride and Prejudice two hundred times. I get lost in the language; words like: Thither. Mischance. Felicity”.
Kathleen and Joe s exchange on Pride and Prejudice throughout the movie is very interesting. I have read Pride and Prejudice many times; unlike Kathleen I have not kept count of it, and I personally prefer Sense and Sensibilities over Pride and Prejudice.
I have been recently wondering whether her books are popular with Millennials and Gen Z. Will her stories and tales live on? Can her characters and stories be relatable to 21st century?
As her avid fan I hope and wish her stories to be alive and read for many more years. I also happen to know Mark Twain, disliked Jane Austen’s work and he has vehemently criticised her work. Years ago, when I read about his views, I was a bit disappointed. I do like both the authors, and admire their command over storytelling, their wit and humour. I am also not too sure, if I were to give the book to my husband and say “ Read it , you will love it “, as Kathleen says to Joe in You’ve got mail. I doubt he would be as enthusiastic as I am about Austen s work.
Charlotte Bronte did not like Jane Austen’s writing as it did not have enough poetry or passion in it for her. I loved reading Bronte s Jane Eyre. And I am certain Bronte and Austen would agree that they both had very different styles of writing.
So it is a ‘universal truth ‘that not everyone likes her books and writing style. I understand we all have our own preferences in reading, and not all books have the same fan following and not all books are written for everyone.
In her stories, I found the extreme pressure on woman of finding a man narrated well and with a bit of humour . She depicts very well the plight of women in that era , and how marriage was her ticket to a comfortable life, the whole charade involved in finding a suitor with prospects was interesting and insightful for me. I originate from India, where arranged marriages are very common and I could see the parallels of it in her books. And I believe in the present days as well there is an immense pressure on woman to find someone by certain age, which can create anxieties and stress. She has taken all the immense pressure turned it to a story and narrates it with a bit of fun and humour.
Besides that, I found her stories transported me to regency world, the social gatherings and picnics and parties. She seems to have been a keen observer, with great social skills and has narrated the stories rather very well. Perhaps the writing gave her the solace she needed and it was her form of coping mechanism with the immense stress on her of finding a man. She gave her heroines what she did not find, a love match.
In her letters, I could see a brilliant vivacious girl, with a great penmanship, who had to play by the rules the society had laid down for her and every women. She expressed and rebelled in the way she thought best. I have often pondered what if Jane Austen lived in the current days. I think she would be an influencer, would have many followers on her social media posts, she would be creating funny videos on Tik Tok and writing funny, sharp and edgy blogs.
If you are an Austen admirer and fan of Regency period, I believe the Jane Austen Festival in Bath is worth a visit. It is an immersive and fun experience.
I did enjoy the festival a lot ,it is also the best way to see the city Bath. Unlike Austen, I love the city of Bath; with its Roman Baths, the Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey, cobbled streets, pretty cafes to site by and do a bit of people watching.
I had been wanting to visit the festival again for a while.
Last year we were passing by Bath, during the Jane Austen festival. We decided to stop over and experience the festival again. The festival is usually held during September, and there are various Jane Austen themed events that are organised. There is festival Fayre, whereby there are stalls full of Regency articles, hats, and silhouette artists. There is a country dance Ball, Regency themed Tea parties.
We attended the hilarious 20-minute version of Pride and Prejudice, which also has a funny recreation of Mr Darcy with ‘wet shirt scene. I enjoyed the show and had a hearty laugh.
The Pump Room, which is mentioned in the book Persuasion, has been the social heart of the city for a long time. It now has a Regency style Ball during the festival time.
The grand event which was my favourite from both the visits is the famous costumed Regency Promenade. The promenade is a procession of people dressed in regency costumes, walking in Jane Austen’s footsteps taking in many of Bath’s famous landmarks. The parade takes an hour to finish and ends at Parade Gardens. The costumes are so colourful, and it has joyous vibe to it.
There are many places in England associated with Jane Austen some of which I have visited, perhaps I will write about them another day. But the one which remain close to my heart is the Bath Jane Austen Festival and the costume promenade.
Reading and joys of reading have been an important part of my life.
Yet I have not been reading as much over the last two years as I used to earlier, although I do buy books. So I have these books neatly stacked on the shelf, and the beautiful spines looking longingly, waiting to be picked up and read.
So with the onset of the new year, I tried to shrug off the reader’s block, or the general lethargy setting in and set myself a target to read more this year. I am not a setting goal kind of a person, yet this one seemed to be very much needed, a well intended impetus, and it sort of gave me a spark of joy.
So I started with The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. It has been sitting on my to-read pile for far too long. I had watched The Boy called Christmas last Christmas Eve and absolutely fell in love with the strorytelling and the characters. It was full of hope and joy. It is based on a book of the same name written by Matt Haig. I required very little persuasion to pick that book out of my ever building to-read pile. The book is set in a library, and is about a girl caught in between space of death and life. The book depicts very well the complexity of dealing with depression, grief and mental health challenges. It was a bit triggering for me having lost someone close due to suicide. But the book is about finding that spark of life with kindness and is hopeful. I am glad I read the book. It has an-easy to read lucid style of writing in spite of dealing with a complex topic. I read the book quite quickly.
The next book I read is called The Authenicity Project by Clare Pooley. It was a fun and a light read. The book is set in London, begins in a coffee shop, and has an interesting set of characters and plot line. I enjoyed reading the book and I finished reading it in two days. I felt a great sense of achievement, and I had not read a book so quickly since I was in university. It gave me a tremendous boost and books and reading give me a great sense of belonging and purpose. It made me feel I am back home.
The next book I picked up was Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. It is one of the finest books I have read in a long time. It had been sitting on my to-read pile for two years and my friends have been praising about it for a long time. I was a bit sceptical to read given the fact that it has been talked and hyped about too much. Sometimes I have read hyped books and have been disappointed, as I have too much expectation from the book. It is set in the 90s, before the internet and social media, when I believe the world functioned differently. The writing is mesmerising and haunting. The story and words stayed with me long after I finished reading the book.
After this I picked up Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood. I wanted to read something light and a funny Romcom. I did hear a lot about this book on social media. It is light and breezy, but its not my style, I did not enjoy it much.
After that book, I have not read much. I have again relapsed in to a lull. It starts bothering me when I am not sticking to my goals, more so if they pertain to reading. When I was younger, I had no targets, no goals to finish a certain number of pages each day etc., yet I managed to read effortlessly . It made me rethink my reading habit. I do understand that as I have aged, my eyesight is not as before, and I do have other commitments which take sometimes precedence, my brain is comprehending and engaging at a different level. I also realised that I was more worried and anxious about not meeting my target number of books than actually reading. Reading should be a joy and the sole purpose of reading is to read, getting engaged in the words, stories and characters, rather than just focusing on a number. And in the target of numbers game, I had somewhere lost the charm and art of reading. The sheer joy of holding a book, stopping on the page that you have just read, relishing the words and staying with it for a while is equally important.
I would like to rediscover my lost joy of reading, and be more engaging with the story and characters. I would like to reread some books which I have already read and get reacquainted with the characters and stories, while rereading I would also like to revisit some of my reading memories and bask in nostalgia.
I recently was reminded of a old book series (The Hardy Boys) I used to read as a teenager, while watching a TV series called Only Murders in the Building. It has brought back some old memories of my childhood days. I have ordered online a couple of Hardy Boys books and am looking forward to read then again. I have also discovered that some of the Famous Five books have been published as graphic novels, in order to introduce them to younger audience. I might give it a try.
I am also currently reading a young adult novel called The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. I am not rushing myself through the book,not counting the number of words and pages I am reading everyday.
I set the target because I was not happy with my reading habit in the recent past. Now that I found my way back in to joys of reading, I no longer care about my target or goal. All I wished for is being lost in pages and find my way back.
“A Book is a dream you hold in your hands” Neil Gaiman.
I am beginning this blog with a quote from Maya Angelou. It is one of my favorite quotes. I find it very inspiring and it resonates with me a lot.
I am enroute. I am still enroute. I don’t know when I know enough. I know, I know a lot and I am grateful for that. I know I know enough to try to live what I know. That’s a lot. But I still don’t have it all.
I have been very quiet on the blog for a while. I believe to some extent it is attributable to pandemic blues that I had been feeling. I found 2021 to be more difficult to handle than 2020. I have been out and about in London, had a few staycations but yet the pandemic and the news about variants looming about ever so often and working from home has been keeping me preoccupied. And whatever little energy I have left, I have been directing towards posting stories and scrolling on Instagram.
I am trying to shake away the slumber and get back in to blogging regularly again this year.
So, I thought I would begin this years blog with a reflection on my Childfree Life. Now when I began the journey of childfree life with my husband, I had no clue that there was a term called ‘Childfree by choice’. I happened to find the term when I researched a few years back , to write a blog about it.
I wanted to voice myself and once for all and put an end to this conversation. I thought it will be cathartic . In my naivety, I thought that was the end of the conversation. Once I would publish the blog, we would carry on with our lives. What I had not realized I had opened a Pandora s box and for some unknown reason I had declared myself to be this alien on a public platform, perhaps even to an extent an evil person. I would be that wicked aunt who loves her pets, lives alone in a big old house, being unkind and resentful.
Since then I am still having conversations ,chats and trying to break the stigma and myths associated with Childfree life. This post is part of one such conversations.
Let me start by introducing myself with some facts
I am Usha, I am originally from Southern India and currently live in London with my husband, who says I am a creature of habit.
I get easily distracted with simple things in life and often spend my time musing about such inconsequential things and banalities of life.
I am a bookaholic, love books, bookstores, and libraries, curiously enough I have not shared much about books and reading on my blog.
I am a history buff, but I am not a historian
I am a mental health champion and take action to raise awareness of mental health and challenge the stigma associated with it.
I am an introvert and value my solitude and peace , but I am not lonely.
I have a family which is complete, which consists of me and my husband. We are childfree but we don’t have pets.
I cannot say I have an extraordinary life, but I am certain I have a happy life.
I am peaceful and content with my life.
I identify myself as a Childfree woman, yet that is not my only identity. I am a wife, daughter, sister, and a friend. I have a 9-5 job. I am a soul searcher, blogger, traveler, and an avid reader. I dream someday I would write a book. So that also makes me a dreamer and aspirer.
I believe I am much more than a Childfree woman. I am all of the above and much more than that.
When I started the journey of Childfree life, at some levels I had accepted that I am going to have to be answerable to or explain for the rest of my life as having made a very different life choice than what the society had taught me. Yet I do not accept that it is correct to have to explain my childfree life choice. It is a perfect example of dichotomy of life.
It is tiresome answering constant barrage of questions and managing unkind comments and treatment. Some of it can take a toll on the mental and physical health and sometimes it can also invalidate me as a person and all that I have achieved.
One of such comment which bothers me a lot is “I am so sorry for you/ I am sorry you don’t have kids”.
I am not sad, and I don’t feel a void. I have a perfectly simple life; my husband and I have made a choice for us, and we are content and happy about it. It is the unwarranted question and assumptions that make things difficult. They are at times unkind and often are border lining on being offensive.
I am not entirely sure whose quote it is but I believe it would be good if we can remind ourselves of it before we speak
“ Is it True? Is It necessary? Is it Kind?”
My personal favorite is the last one. Is it Kind? It is said Kindness does not cost much. So let s be kind and mindful of what is being said.
Recently I had an opportunity to voice my self on my Childfree journey on a podcast “ We are Not Kidding”
This podcast is hosted by Anna Marie Olson is devoted to sharing the stories of the childfree and breaking the stigma
Recently I had an opportunity to voice my self on my Childfree journey on a podcast “ We are Not Kidding”
At the beginning of 2021, WordPress very diligently reminded me that it was the 5th year anniversary of my blog. It made me wonder, what prompted me start this blog. I had no rhyme or reason to start this blog, I had no strategy and I had absolutely no planning or thought process behind organizing the blog.
Bloggers with a view !!!Check out my video contribution for Vero’s Bloggers with a View initiative. It a way of connecting with the outside world and other parts of the world. I have contributed a Snowy view from my window and the Goodness of having someone to watch it with.
I love this initiative and am so glad I could join in. It so reminds me of the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society, where they formed a community group to read some books during war times, for a connection to the outside world , a connection with other human beings. Connecting with outside world and others is so vital in these strange days and times that we are currently in.
Goodness of the blogging Community and thanks for Vero s Initiative.
Bloggers with a view
March 2021… We’ve made it! More or less one whole year of COVID!
As the world continues to grapple with coronavirus pandemic, some countries seem to have it under control (well done New Zealand, Australia, Singapore…). As far as France is concerned we’re still deep into restrictive measures and sinister perspectives!
But thanks to blogging and social media, I’ve managed to keep my window open to the world. The little videos we’ve put together with Bloggers With a View helped me greatly (keeping me busy with filming, editing, and interacting).
For the last vlog of this epic winter 2021, I wanted to focus on what’s good in our lives. I’ve asked our little community to show me what “goodness” meant these days.
I hope you’ll like the next 3 minutes. They are filled with snowy fun days, sunny coastal walks, plenty of outdoors happiness and also gratefulness for those who…
In these times of pandemonium and chaos, it is sometimes difficult to find a bit of calm, respite from the uncertainty. It is time to reminiscence, and indulge in enjoyable events of the past, bask in their glory. I am thinking of our wonderful time at Isle of Skye in September last year.
I was looking for a time away from my daily monotony, a time away from my work from home desk, a time out in to the nature, perhaps a sensory challenge. Nature and woods with its multitude of sights and sounds changing with the season, has a way of drawing me out of the slumber. We do go out in the nature , trails and walks, it is our way of getting fresh air, a bit of outdoors, but it is not for long. It was that mellow time of the year, before the onset of winter and darker evenings, when the leaves and trees are a range of colors, there is an all round glow of yellow and oranges, the leaves breaking away gently from the trees, carried away by autumn breeze and finally findings its way to the earth, the gentle swishing the boots make over the russets and pinks on the ground, now and then there is a thud of a conker landing on to the ground, and there is a hint of tranquility hanging about in the air. Its hard not to yearn for the outside. We have had our days out in nature earlier in the Summer by way of picnics in the woodlands. Perhaps the heart desired a bit of more.
I am finding it hard to believe we are already in to the second week of 2021. The year 2020 seems to have just gone by, and like many others I wanted to bid adieu to 2020 as quickly as possible. At the same time it feels like an eternity of being in social distancing and in this new world of new normal. Since March 2020 so much has happened in this world of ours and at the same time I feel that the year has just whizzed past. How can I feel exactly opposing thoughts at the same time. Well I am going to park the thought and muse and analyze about it another day. For today I want to reminiscence.