It s strange times that we are living in. The ever expanding vocabulary due to COVID like flatten the curve, social distancing , the new normal and the fact that Corona virus has been declared a feminine gender in the French language, are a few of the exhausting facts of these quarantine days. At some levels we all are living and walking a part of history. Coming generations would be talking, writing, debating and discussing in detail about these times. 2020 will go down in history.
In the month of February , when we travelled to Tromso and back., I did not imagine that there was a storm brewing in the shape of a global pandemic. Little did I know it was coming our way, and that the entire human kind would be brought to a grinding halt by an invisible bug. When the lockdown began in United Kingdom, I did not feel like writing about my travel memoirs of Tromso. It felt so wrong to be thinking of travel at such a time, when there is so much of trauma, anxiety, loss and grief brought on by an invisible bug.
With the onset of lockdown, I felt lost and restless given the uncertainties’ the disease had brought along with it. I started cooking my way through lockdown, to calm my nerves and to stay positive. I started trying out the dishes and recipes I used to have as little girl, when I growing up in India. I am not a foodie nor am I passionate about cooking. Cooking is a chore, a matter of fact of life, I can say there is nothing much about it that tickles my fancy. One strong connection or bond that I have with my birthland is food. Whenever I yearn for that connection, I find food to be a very comforting and compelling support. I associate smell of Pav Bhaji ,Wada Paav and cutting chai with Mumbai, the smell of coffee being roasted and ground, Idli and chutney with Chennai, Aloo tikki chaat to the streets of New Delhi and the aroma of Rasam, Ksheera , chillies,pepper, cardamom and saffron with my mother’s kitchen . When I travel out , I always try and have one meal or one dish which is Indian, a day. It makes me feel close to India. What I like most about cooking is the senses and emotions that it evokes, while cooking. All the sautéing, frying, and mixing of spices together, awakens the memories of long forgotten days, days filled with warmth, food and wonderful family time. The long stretching summer evenings at my maternal grand parents house, where my aunt would tell us children stories under the moonlit sky and serve us food on the terrace, my mother making a special Sunday lunch of Onion Sambhar ,potato roast, tomato rasam, walking back from work, eating spicy Indo Chinese with a friend or eating piping hot Bhajias from Bhajiaya house, inside the Mahalaxmi temple compound on a monsoon afternoon, overlooking the sea while discussing intensely with a friend about some book which we read recently.
Cooking stirs a deluge of emotions in me , on somedays I find it therapeutic ,and on some a task. So at the onset of lockdown , I looked at cooking as an outlet, a means to expend my energy. A way to extend my gratitude and be thankful for my situation.
I have a roof over from my head, I have food to eat, a job to do which also allows me to work from home, I can spend time with my husband,in between work, have lunch, and breaks with him, eat healthy food, with all the technological advancements I am able to be in touch with my family and friends. It is not as bad, but I still was and am anxious. I was missing something. Cooking started become exhausting, an endless activity, I felt like I was part of the Ground Hog day movie set.
Now after two months of being in Lockdown, and upon looking back, I feel cooking is my way of trying to grasp at past nostalgia and hold on it. I was trying to bring a little bit of cheerful childhood and bygone days, a slice of familiarity to this unfamiliar ground that I was walking on, to feel a bit of normality in to these ‘ new normal’ days. Once the penny dropped, I felt less restless. And more importantly felt it is okay to feel restless and anxious. These are uncertain and changing times and change is always not easy.
I realise I am missing the freedom , the freedom to move , the freedom to be able to hug friends, meet them , walk the streets of London, visit museums, have a coffee with friend in a café, laugh out in a carefree manner and be able to sneeze or cough (covering my mouth obviously) and not give panic attacks to others nor have one myself that I might have started a pandemic. (Apologies for this one but could not help it). Is it Freedom I am missing? Not sure
A couple of years back we visited the KGB Museum, in Tallinn. At the end of the tour, the museum has a prompt, for you to think about and ponder and what the word means to you. The word was Freedom.
Freedom , with in reasons, living with out constraints. I would say Freedom is also a Freedom of choice, a choice to make, between two available choices. In current scenario, I see it as I have the freedom to choose, but I do not have the choices I am used to. The virus has taken away many of the choices and options available to us. In a metaphysical sense, perhaps the virus wants us to change our ways and make different choices.
I believe we humans are quiet adaptable and resilient, but we are not invincible. I hope we use the free will given to us correctly and make the right choices collectively for us, for the planet and the universe. Until we find the way to a better health for us and the planet, we keep calm and carry on !!!!!
In the month of March I had travelled to India after a gap of two years. In this post I am going to share some of the photographs and anecdotes from the trip and from my memories. I am not sure if these are very touristy, but they most certainly have a nostalgic value for me. India is a vast country, with diverse natural beauty, food, culture and architecture, with lots of history. I have often seen photos and write ups about India in magazines and travel videos, I have never been able to relate to them. I understand that, living in a place and experiencing it , is completely different to visiting a place as a tourist, the perspective is completely different. We see what we seek, perhaps I am seeking something different. This time like every time around when I am back in India, I went seeking the place that I grew up in, the one which is in my heart and mind, like the courtyard where I have played hide and seek with my cousins. the mango tree at my maternal grandparents house that I have climbed up and jumped down from, the garden that I have sat with my mother and aunts, while they sunned the pickles,stringing the jasmine and other flowers in to garlands, their hands deftly garlanding the flowers while gossiping away to glory, the temple courtyards where I would occasionally see peacocks and elephants. sleeping on the terrace gazing at the starry night and falling asleep and waking up to an orange sky with the Sun about to rise, looking at tiled orange roof tops from the terrace of my paternal grandmother s home, then to lie down flat on the hot surface of the terrace, peering down the small sun roof in to the kitchen watching my grandmother and mother stirring the pots , clanging the vessels, cutting vegetables, and garnishing,which often reminded me of symphony. Why? Because they would always move in perfect sync with each other, if my mother added tomatoes, my grandmother would add salt, one would add coriander, the other would add turmeric . Believe me I could never function that way, there would be all round chaos in the kitchen, followed by a serious meltdown. I firmly believe in too many cooks spoil the broth, but apparently it did not hold true for them. I love to walk back in the memory lane, trying to conjure up the past from my memories, with the present colliding with it and creating a mishmash of new memories.
Last month I had a marvellous trip to Cornwall, with a few friends. We had been wanting to do a trip together and trying to get together for years, given that we are three and respective partners, with each one of us having a different work schedule, in different countries , with our share of responsibilities, it was becoming highly challenging to organise our holidays together. Alas, we got together this year and decided the destination as Cornwall.
I have been wanting to write about this trip, but was not having much luck and hence have been a bit quiet on the blogging world. I have not yet mastered the art of quietening my mind, it still ponders and wonders. In the past I have often found writing on the blog a very effective way of collecting my thoughts. Yet now every time I would sit down to write , about my trip to Cornwall, I would not be able to collect my thoughts concisely and my mind would start wandering off. I have been distracted lately; with work , and combined with a feeling of melancholy lingering , which I attributed to my friends having left back home, hence leading to my lack of coherency in thoughts.
I read recently on a Psychology website, an article emphasising on importance of friendship, referring to friendship as a gift we give ourselves and it went on to describe the meaning of friend as someone who adds the fullness of life. And says Authenticity, honesty and trust are qualities we expect to find in a friend. I wholeheartedly agree with both the statements. It also says “There is an understanding that the binding together of people in friendship helps each of us define and realise a meaningful life”. This trip to Cornwall and my friends helped me realise a meaningful life.
Cornwall, is such an underrated and relatively less talked about travel destination of England. The beautiful countryside ,with its spectacular coastline, sandy beaches and cliff tops, it’s a mystery how it has not been explored much by the travel industry. Since the advent of BBC s Poldark series, I have heard Cornwall’s tourism industry is doing wonders. Ross Poldarks s scything the grass scene has successfully set many hearts fluttering as well as been successful in putting the Cornish coastline amongst top travel destination. I have visited Cornwall a couple of years back, and was completely mesmerised by the Cornish countryside, with its magical and mystical tales, being the birthplace of King Arthur, caves where Merlin the great Wizard resided, where Daphne Du Maurier lived and where most of her novels are based. I absolutely love magic and fables and Cornwall s landscape has a mystical air about it. I so wanted my friends to experience the magic of Cornwall.
We stayed in town called Helston in a cottage , near Mullion Cove. It’s a picturesque little town, in Lizard Peninsula, not far from Penzance and St. Ives. It is also very near the Poldark mine , which is situated in Wendron Valley. While driving to Helston, we noticed a number of radar like structures on a large open field close to Helston, which I later found out is called Goonhilly earth Satellite station, which happens to be the largest earth satellite receiving station in the world, with 60 satellites. There are guided tour offered, but unfortunately I found all this information upon our return. I definitely would love to go back there again. I gathered from the website that you can send an e mail to outer space, which has the possibility of being received by another living form someday. We dropped our luggage at the cottage and headed out to the near by cove called Keynance Cove. When we started our walk to the cove, the sky was covered in dark blueish grey clouds, by the time we reached the pier, clouds were just about parting, letting in a stream of Sun come through. It was breathtakingly beautiful sight, with the sun beams stretching out from sky, trying to reach the crystal clear blue waters of the sea. The rugged cliffs around the sea in the backdrop made the view even more phenomenal. All of us stood there mesmerised, gazing in silence at the vast sea side ,with its beautiful landscape, hearing the waves crashing on the rocky shore, the wind rustling through our hair, noticing the bobbing heads of odd divers in the sea. I have always found the colossal beauty of nature and it’s compelling vastness, to have such an calming and healing effect on the mind. We came back to cottage, had our dinner, and watched the clear night sky filled with twinkling star and silvery Moon light bathing our faces. It was such a remarkable convergence of different energies; a wonderful synergy of food, love, warmth and the feeling of togetherness. Such are the wonders of simple and pure joys of this world.
“If only there were an invention that bottled up memory, like scent. It never faded, it never got stale. And then when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again”- from Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier.
Another beautiful location of Cornwall is the much loved and very well known St Ives. We took a train from St Erth to St Ives, it’s one of the nicest way to travel to St Ives, because of its scenic route and having not to worry about finding a parking spot. It’s very difficult to find a parking spot in St Ives, given its popularity and proximity to beach. The station at St Erth railway station is a pretty little stone building with lovely feeling of an cosy old station, with little wooden benches and hanging flower baskets and a shop selling old post cards, coffee and other memorabilia. The station is also part of Great scenic Railways. The train goes via Lelant and Carbis Bay, the route is very picturesque. St Ives Railway station is above Porthminster Beach, you can walk from there taking int the view which winds down to town centre, with pretty little shops, cafes and alleyways with quaint buildings. St Ives Bay and beaches are known for its surfing activities, and is filled surfers and surfing schools. Originally a fishing town, St Ives now is an extremely tourism oriented town. I love St Ives ,it’s art galleries and its beautiful artistic connection. The town has St Ives Art school, it’s known for its Modern Arts Movement, Barbara Hepworth Museum and now the Tate Modern. Barbara Hepworth, an artist and very important figure in abstract movement of art, lived in St Ives and had a studio in St Ives. There are many present and contemporary artist s studio too. I love the streets and beaches of St Ives, both have its own charm. One can find a ideal spot on a cafe on roadside of a beach or in the town centre and order a Cornish Pasty. Munching on buttery pasty, with the pasty crumbling in your mouth, take in the colourful sight of town, it is an delectable experience.
Another location we had a marvellous time was St Michael’s Mount, Marizon. It is a small tidal island on Mounts Bay. It’s part of National trust and has castle, abbey and beautiful terraced gardens. Historically St Michael’s Mount was affiliated to Saint Micheal of Normandy region of France and a Benedictine monastery. It’s a perfect place for a family outing , exploring the island as a group or just for enjoying a day out in fresh air. Since it’s an island and it would be advisable to check out the weather conditions and tide times. The day we went , it was a misty morning with very little visibility. It was all the more amusing to explain to friends who were from a very tropical and sunny climate, that we were going to walk to the island, because the tide is low now and when we head back we will have to take a ferry. And the fog made it extremely difficult for me, to show them the full pathway to walk , let alone the actual island. The I could see quizzical and confused faces, tugging at their jackets for a bit of warmth,they plodded on with an utmost faith on me, with the sea breeze hitting their face.I could hear them ask me , now and then, what is it that IS there ? And Why are we going there ? By the time we reached the island and bought tickets , had a cup of hot tea and some croissant, the mist started to clear, my friends could get their bearings and look around with their own eyes the path they had walked from the coast, the view of the town from the island and the flower laden path going up to the castle and abbey above. Now were a refreshed, happy and content bunch ; walking up the stone path, taking in the sea air, laughing our hearts out and with my friends little lad looking for the giant s stone heart, which as per legend you can still hear it beating. The legend says there was a 18 foot giant called Cormoran, who lived here on the island and terrorised the villagers until a boy named Jack from the village stayed him and cut up him in to pieces and scattered the pieces around the island . The boy was thenceforth called the Jack the Giant slayer. The story amused my friends little lad, he was full of questions about Is Jack the giant slayer same as Jack and the bean stalk giant slayer? How someone who was dead long ago can have his heart beating still? And can all the pieces join together now and become the giant and start terrorising again ? And above all can we cut up someone like that ? And I had to come up with answers rapidly as the questions were coming rapidly. The most difficult one was how do you tell a little boy , it’s ok to cut up someone, if I say yes, I am saying it’s ok to be violent and if I say no, I am saying it’s ok to put up with bullies and not stand up . Hmmm…. not a one where I can respond rapidly. My answer was long and winding, perhaps the giant is sum of all the fears of the villagers, and it just became so looming and large and Jack killed the fear before it could consume everyone. Well my answer did not satisfy the little boy, he just looked at me with his curios eyes and laughed , “ You are very funny , or perhaps it’s all just a story”. Ah the simple and unbiased world of children, where they see the things as they are!!!!! We did find the heart and tried all our best to hear if it was beating.
My personal favourite in Cornwall is the Minack Theatre. It’s an open air theatre, on a cliff top, with views of the vast open sea , and waves on the rocks . crashing. The location of the theatre is spectacular. We went there for a story telling. It was a very hot day with sun beating down, and we all sat under the open sky in scorching heat, listening to a story about a light house keeper who wants to be a writer. It was fun screaming with kids ‘ Behind You’ or making noises like sea gull or flapping about your arms as if they were wings. Although my friends little boy was more than amused looking at us lot. One must let the child in us always be alive, and I am a firm believer of the quote.
Minack theatre is not far from Land s End, the southern most tip of Britain. Land s End is a landmark location, because of astounding views of Atlantic Ocean, for bird watchers and for being Last point of land between Britain and North America. We walked around Lands End, taking photos of the famous sign post, did a bit of shopping and had Cornish Pasties as lunch. One of the walls of the shopping complex talks about the origin of Cornish pasties , it’s links to miners and how it now has evolved as national food of Cornwall.
While driving back to London, we stopped over at Jamaica Inn in Bodmin Moor. Jamaica Inn in the past had been known for its notoriety for smuggling activities and it is said that one of the days author Daphne Du Maurier was lost in the moors while riding and could not head home back because of the fog. She stayed overnight at Jamaica Inn and her stay inspired her to write the novel Jamaica Inn. The building now a grade II listing is still an Inn with rooms available, it also claims if you want you can stay in the room where Daphne Du Maurier stayed. It is no longer connected or associated with nefarious activities. There a bar called Smugglers Bar in the Inn and has a quote at the entrance “Through these portals passed smugglers, wreckers, villains and murderers, but rest easy….t’was many years ago”.This was my second visit to the inn and I remember five years ago the Bodmin Moor looked more desolate than now , the only building that was visible in miles was Jamaica Inn, giving credibility to the work of fiction called Jamaica Inn. There are many buildings around now, and it does not feel spooky. It is a perfect spot to get a great view of the vast surrounding moors. Food served is very delicious and has plenty of vegetarian options too. There is plenty of seating both inside and outside, a very rustic yet comfy decor. Being a fan of Daphne Du Maurier, and having endlessly discussed the book Rebecca in the past many years ago, we enjoyed our visit and the lunch at Jamaica Inn, chatting and reminiscing about our crazy book hunts in book stores of Mumbai.
The trip to Cornwall was so rejuvenating and therapeutic. It brought back such wonderful memories of past, of innumerable moments of affection, warmth and camaraderie, the ability to connect , to be part of tribe and along with it also brought back the surge of grief, the grief I felt when I moved to London. The unacknowledged grief of having been separated from my tribe, having lost my inherent support system, the ones who were always there, during every rites of passages ,when I got my first bonus at work, I bought my first flat, my first promotion, when I had a terrible day at work, one who would be very comfortable sitting with me in silence without asking any question, or very happily disappear when I need some space. Grief is said to be unspent love, I have heard. Nevertheless it is still love. It is often a mistake to associate love only to joy, happy times spent together. Love is present in everything, in joys, in tears, in grief and in loss too. We very easily acknowledge happy times, and block the grief and loss. And this trip helped me realise and experience friendship in its entirety, in its fullest form, making life a more fuller experience and a marvellous journey.
I have often experienced the overpowering need of solitude and seeking silence.I love Audrey Hepburn s quote” I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel. “. I have realised from a very young age of my need to detach and be with myself to be of paramount importance to me. I have often thought of that to be a quirk in me. Coming from a very large family of cousins, aunts and uncles, from both maternal and paternal side, my parents have always been surrounded by people, incessant chattering and cacophony of noise and no doubt they enjoyed the social attentions and gatherings. And then they had me, anti-thesis of them. I have left my parents quizzical sometimes with my quiet retreating behaviour in to solitude.
Solitude has often been misconstrued and confused with loneliness. When you look up the meaning of Solitude on dictionary it is explained as a state or a situation of being alone. Solitude is indeed state of being alone often voluntary and is positive and loneliness on the contrary is a feeling of being left alone, refers to isolation and is negative. I have been on a quest since long to understand and explain the difference between loneliness and solitude. You can be alone and not necessarily lonely, and similarly you can be surrounded by people, yet feel isolated and lonely. It is perhaps easy for me to perceive the difference between the two concepts because of my inherent temperament or nature. I seek solitude and silence from time to time , I am a firm believer in Rumi s saying ” In Silence there is eloquence. A little while alone in your room will prove more valuable than anything else that could ever be given you.”
We humans are social beings , we are driven by our need to be part of a group, we require affirmations, a sense of belonging . I have often wondered do people surround themselves with other people because of this social need or the fear of being alone. I also wonder sometimes if we have defined the circles and groups so rigidly that we try to fit ourselves in to these predefined moulds and spend years to fit ourselves in to the mould, trying to be someone who we are not, failing to listen to our true selves. I have a come a long way from thinking of my need of solitude to be my behavioural quirk to realising the importance of solitude.
I have found solitude sometimes in the most crowded of places, sometimes in the garden or sometimes in a book. While living in Mumbai, I often visited a mall called Inorbit Mall, at times with friends and sometimes on my own. I have found the most profound moments of solitude there, people bustling in and out of the shops, mindless wanderers, shoppers with agenda , rising and falling voices drifting around me, smell of food wafting mixed with the cool breeze from aircons. I would either be sitting in a coffee shop sipping a cup of coffee or browsing a book in a bookshop or simply sitting by and watching and hearing life rushing by. There was a sense of detachment paradoxically also feeling a sense of belonging to the human race. I once mentioned my experience of solo visits at the mall to my then colleague and to my surprise she mentioned she visits the same mall for the very same reasons. We all from time to time, have the need to hear ourselves. In Solitude is when we hear ourselves clearly and loudly, solitude is when we pay attention to ourselves and our thoughts. Solitude is being with yourself, listening to yourself and finding your true self. When you find yourself, you are truly not alone.
I have personally known a man who had been feeling lonely for a long time in his life, in spite of having a large loving family. He was the most handsome man I have ever met in my life, he could light up a room with his sheer presence, would be centre of any social gathering making people laugh with his jokes and funny anecdotes, he could speak eloquently on literature, books,cricket and Shakespeare, one who could whistle a Dean Martin or Kishor Kumar song effortlessly. Unfortunately he could not light up his own life with his laughter, nor could he sing himself to happiness, kept his loneliness masked beneath his beautiful face and ended up dying tragically alone. He was weighed down by gender specific societal norms, men should take on all the responsibilities,men should be strong, men should not cry, men are defined by their earning power in the world, men should not grieve and the list goes on. He became so tuned to listening to societal responsibilities and call of duty, he never stopped to listen to his hearts voice.
I realised it is not a quirk in me, but we all have a need from time to time, the need to hear ourselves. In Solitude is when we hear ourselves clearly and loudly, solitude is when we pay attention to ourselves and our thoughts. Solitude is being with yourself, listening to yourself and finding your own happiness.
My many conversations, musings and discussions with my friends on varied topics have helped shed light and understand myself better. I have a great amount of love and gratitude for my many dear bossom friends, who spend hours listening to me , sometimes engaging with me in some deep existential quests. I would not have reached here ,without their endless and tireless listening abilities. And in solitude, my mind recollects some of those conversations and I have some self realisation moments. It was a few years back I was having a discussion with a friend on what consitutes true love. And for whatever reasons every relationship in our discussion ended up stemming from desire or motive, or then some were tainted with betrayal or hatred or resentment so it lost its essence as pure love. I said that concludes there is no true love, but why do I feel that is wrong. And then he replied, I think it is because, there is true love, your true love is you. I was not convinced with his reply as it sounded very narcissistic and then we had our own errands to run and get back to our work, reality and had to end our conversation . I understand today much clearly I was so lost in my clinical analysis of facts that I did not hear my true self. I remembered the conversation one day while sipping coffee in my kitchen on a winter morning, gazing out of the kitchen door, on to the garden. We need to love ourselves unconditionally with all its flaws, a detached and pure love has no place for judgements. We see the flaws in ourselves and seek that flawless love outside of us and end up again looking at flaws instead of love. Your true love is you, you love yourself with all your inherent flaws, and look beyond the flaws at your true self.
We all have our special places or cities. A special attachment to a place, a place which cheers you up, where you are alive, where you are yourself and you shed all your worries and concerns. Hampstead in London is one such place for me, which raises my spirits
Hampstead has captured a special place in my heart, with its woodland and walking paths, heritage homes, museums, cafes and streets bustling with people. Hampstead is very charming, often referred to as the Hampstead Village. Along with the cafes, high street shops , the heath with its vast green meadows spread out like a velvety carpet, with little ponds and tall trees are a pleasing sight. I have a very vivid memory of me and a friend , walking in to Hampstead heath, one summer weekend, to talk about daily drudgery and monotony of our life. We settled on a bench facing the pond, we could see and hear kids squealing in joy and playing Frisbee on the other side of the pond, the water of the pond was glistening in the sun, and then a swan gracefully landed on the pond, there was a combined noise of swishing wings, water and the swift landing ,creating beautiful ripples in the shimmering water. We both sat there gazing silently, transfixed by the beautiful sight in front of us. Nature has a very subtle yet powerful way of reminding us the simple truths about life and bringing about the profound silence of the mind. I had read a quote by Rabindranath Tagore many years ago ,“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.” It was a bright day and the beautiful sight in front made me truly understand the verse and feel what the quote meant. I have many times walked in to Hampstead on a gloomy overcast day, my mind buzzing with my list of to-dos and my brain already on an overdrive, a little walk in the Flask Walk, with its antique Bookstore, little cafes and fragrance of flowers from the florist on Flask walk, are enough to brighten my day and make me cast aside the worries. Hampstead has many activities to offer, one could go on a walk to explore Hampstead village, there are many interesting museums and heritage properties to visit Keats House, Kenwood House,Freud Museum, ISOKON building, Burgh House, Fenton House, and 2 Willow Road and it is also good spot for a bit of people watching, find a cosy corner in a café by the window , with a coffee.
Hampstead has been often called as residence of the intelligentsia. When I first heard the word I had to look up in a dictionary to find out what it meant, it refers to intellectuals or a group of highly educated people, who are critiques and guides and considered to have the power to influence culture and may be politics. It includes writers, architects, painters, teachers ,composers , artists, intellectuals etc. Many famous artists have lived for a short while in Hampstead and there are a many who have made it their home. To name a few Rabindranath Tagore, is believed to have lived in Hampstead for a short while, Agatha Christie is said to have lived for a few years in ISOKON building, Roland Penrose, famous Artist, Historian and known for surrealist movement in England, modernist Architect Erno Goldfinger whose home is now a museum.
Another reason I have an affinity to Hampstead is because of the two houses in National Trusts care, where I volunteer from time to time. It is through these two houses that my love for Hampstead began. 2 Willow Road, home of Erno Gold finger, is one of the earliest Modernist properties in London. It is because of this house, I have learnt about the surrealist Movement of art, modernist art and architecture. Erno ,an Austro-Hungarian by birth , studied in Paris, married an English woman,who moved to London, built this house for himself and his young family. He had to face a lot of opposition, from the local residents and council, who were not very keen on having a modernist property in the area. But he persevered, made a bit of modifications on his original plans and got his plan approved from the council. The house is here today, standing the test of time, as a testimonial of perseverance and standing up for what you believe in. It is said that one of the petitioners against this modernist property, was the famous Ian Fleming, and it is rumoured hence he named the villain in one of his books as Goldfinger. However, there is no concrete evidence as to why he used the name. Ian Fleming is known to use names that he has come across in his life in his books. The house has a certain quality about it, it grows on you and you fall in love with it over the time. It is a very functional house, unlike its contemporaries it is not ornate, with ample natural lighting, plenty of storage, and everything in the house is much thought through. And the house beyond doubt is way ahead of its time, given the fact that house was completed in 1939. Often visitors say it is hard to believe that it belongs to that era. I love volunteering at the house , I meet people from different walks of life, some of them have immense knowledge about arts, and I end up learning something from them, some share their anecdotes from another property and sometimes standing by the large windows with the view on to the Heath, I just watch the dynamic painting in front of me, meadows with daffodils and other new spring blossoms, and as the season progress the scene through the window keeps changing, yet never fails to enthral me.
The other house I volunteer at Hampstead is a 17th century house called Fenton House. It is very different to 2 Willow Road, it houses three different collections from three different collectors. The house was left to National Trust by the last owner of the house, Lady Bining, with its large porcelain collection. The house has been furnished by the trust taking in to account the era, and some based on photographs published in the Countrylife magazine. When the trust opened the house to public, it housed the porcelain collection and a collection of musical instruments, by another collector named Benton Fletcher. He had nothing to do with the house, it is just that his collection of musical instruments is housed in Fenton House. Later on there was a collection of paintings bequeathed to the house by another collector by name of Peter Bakworth. Now the house has three collections, porcelain, musical instruments and paintings. Its a pleasure to volunteer when someone comes to play the instruments, or there is a musical tour in the house, the music brings the house alive and I find it very uplifting. The house has amazing views of London skyline from the balconies of the house on a clear day. The house also a beautiful garden, a kitchen Garden and Apple orchard. I am waiting with anticipation for the apple blossoms to come next month. Every autumn, the trust organises an event called Apple Weekend. It is a fun filled event for the entire family, you can taste the apples from the orchard, there is storytelling for kids, badge making, you can buy apple products, food stalls and the garden is dotted with deck chairs for you to relax and unwind.
It is through this opportunity of volunteering, I have met some wonderful people, I started learning and know a great deal about modernist and surrealist movements, I got introduced to visit and explore Hampstead, which I have come to love now and I have had some memorable experiences. Just last week, while volunteering, I had an amazing cup of coffee at Willow Road while watching the daffodils swaying in the breeze from the windows of the living room, which an visitor mentioned makes the house more dynamic, because the house is being experienced in its truest sense. I couldn’t agree more.
There is something magical about Christmas. Call me a romantic or dreamer , I love Christmas, every little drama associated with it. I like the Christmas movies, streets festooned with decorations and light, high streets and shops decked with twinkly Christmas lights, mad rush in the shops, Christmas fair and Markets. I wait with anticipation for the Regents street and Oxford Street lights to be switched on . When I walk back home in the evenings in to our street looking up at all the homes decked and lit up , windows with warm glow of lights, lovely Christmas Wreaths, I feel a sense of elation.
Having grown up in India, where Diwali is celebrated with more pomp and show, my exposure to Christmas was very limited and probably only limited to what you see on movies. When I moved to London, it was Autumn, and just about when the days are getting shorter and it gets dark very quickly. There were a plethora of conflicting emotions running around inside my brain.I was terribly homesick, missing my family and friends ,I was working full time in India, suddenly I had no where to go, although I had many things to do at home, I had no sense of purpose. I was trying to sort things out in a new City, and a new country, trying to make sense of and understand my surroundings and I was lost. It would get dark outside by 4.00 pm and very quiet, there were no birds chirping, no noise, one could almost hear the silence, which I found eery. India on the other hand is cacophonous , buzzing with noise and commotion.I used to live in Mumbai, a city which never sleeps. I could hear noises and chatters constantly , the neighbours television,the traffic, the odd conversations from neighbouring flats , you are surrounded by a constant babble. I was feeling miserable and terribly lonely, missing my work and my friends. I had no friends or family nearby for support. I would constantly wonder what have I brought upon myself and my husband who probably was facing the same challenges , would listen to me moan about being miserable. And then one day in late November we went to Oxford street, with no pretext, just exploring the new city we were in , and the Christmas Lights were on ! The theme that year was Enchanting Christmas. There were blue twinkling lights all over the street, I was so dazzled and captured by the sight, suddenly everything was bright and shiny. We wandered around and ended up in Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. The Christmas Market with little wooden stalls , selling all sort of gifts, ice skating rink with people happily gliding on ice , Christmas songs blaring on the speakers,smell of cinnamon and wine, smoke rising from foods stalls, I was drawn in to the festive cheer. That day on our way back home on the tube , I asked my husband, ” Do you think we should put some lights for Christmas at home. ? ” and he replied, “I suppose we could. “. And that is how our little Christmas tradition started.
We all have our favourite parts or moments of Christmas. My personal favourite moment of Christmas celebration is cooking Christmas dinner with my friend , and our respective spouses busy with PlayStation somewhere else in the home , dropping in to the kitchen from time to time to check on the status of food. And after the Christmas dinner, we would all gather in front of television with our dessert bowl in the hand, to watch a movie. I love the serenity of that moment, all the excitement ,talks and chatter drifts into a blissful sweet slumber.
I always associate Christmas with lights ,merriment and laughter. The numerous unknown people on that day, years ago, in the Christmas market, laughing with their friends and family , their cheery disposition cured me of my misery. Christmas gave me something to look forward to. Smiles and happy faces are infectious and you never know when cheerfulness can rub on you. So here is a wish this holiday season, have yourself a Merry little Christmas, spread the joy of laughter and happiness. This holiday season , you never know whose life you are lighting up..
What do you call a person who does not drive a car? For the last few days, my lack of ability to drive a car, has been a source of quiet contemplation for me. Never have I have given it so much thought. I have always brushed off the need to learn driving “I do not need to drive”. Most of my adult life has been spent in Mumbai and now in London, where I have always relied on local suburban trains and underground services. And those who have lived in those cities and do so now, would agree, driving around in a car in the city is not very feasible and is extremely expensive. And for driving anywhere else I have extensively relied on my husband, who is very fond of driving , obviously not in traffic and inside cities. Its his love for driving, which prompted us drive from Land s End, England to John o’ Groats, Scotland.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have to amuse and keep company to two little kids, who have to be taken to various summer activities. And I had the opportunity of explaining to my less than 10 year old nephew, the inopportune situation. And upon finding his lovely aunt’s inability, his beautiful innocent eyes, were full of bewilderment. ” Are you kidding me, you are an adult, and you can not drive !!!”. Hence began my ethereal quest on my inadequacy, not to learn driving, but to see how many more share the similar inadequacy.
I have never felt the need to drive a car nor not driving as lack of independence. On the contrary I find it liberating.I have always used alternate modes of transport – public transport extensively. Even while on holidays, I have tried using public transport wherever possible. A couple of years back , I decided I wanted to go on a day trip with a friend out of London. We zeroed in on going to Brighton, but the night before the trip due to weather conditions we changed the destination to Cambridge. We took the underground to Kings Cross , from where we bought a ticket to Cambridge and boarded the train to Cambridge. But I suppose I have lived in cities with very well connected public transport system and I have been able to find my way without driving a car. But a little boys innocent question prompted me to look for a name for the inadequacy. I did not find a name ,but I found there are many celebrities who do not drive and have never had a license. I sort of find a solidarity with them, the similarities I guess end there.
So I am left with my own devices to find amusing activities which does not involve driving. I must confess it’s difficult, given that I am in USA, driving around is essential , especially if you have to entertain children. We go to parks riding on a bike or walk around in the neighbourhood , go butterfly spotting and bird watching. We spotted many cardinals flying about in the backyard., spotted many swallowtail butterflies while walking to the park. We went to the park and sat on swing. I sat on a swing nearly after two decades. And I swung on the swing like never before.
This so reminded me of the Black Swan theory. I was so enamoured by the theory when I first read it. It is a theory from Nassim Taleb s books Fooled by Randomness and The Black swan. It refers to an incident of huge negative impact, which often offer some positive benefits. The book talks about being resilient during negative events that occur and be able to exploit positive ones. I would like to read the book again.
It s been nearly four months since I have been on a break from work. I picked up my tablet with an intention of writing about my Scottish isles trip. Yet my mind wandered off and I started pondering about the last four months and its effect on me. I started with a soul searching trip to India, did I find anything ? Did I find a pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow/trip? More importantly have I reached the end of Rainbow? What have the last four months been like for me ? I started to make a list.
1. I have eaten food like never before, relishing and tasting every morsel- smacking my lips after a cool buttermilk, eating a guava on the streets of Mumbai and rolling my eyes in pleasure, eat traditional south Indian meal on banana leaf with hands, taste the sweetness of a Baklava with a friend on the streets of London, drink Elderflower cordial en route to Oban, eat Dosa with friends in London.
2. Laughing out heartily with friends, till tears started rolling out.
3. Sit Still by the kitchen door, watching the birds, bees and butterflies.
4. Joined a Sewing class and made a new acquaintance, who is also on a break from work.
5. Started reading War and Peace and still reading …
6. Preparing for a 90 mile walk later in the year in Yorkshire.
7. Experiencing the little nuances of life with same bewilderment and amazement that of a child.
8. Feeding ducks by the pond not far from home.
9. Started volunteering as a reading helper in a School, through Beanstalk.
10. I have lived the last four months with out fear, with out thinking about future or any negativity.
Can these be termed as achievements? I have not changed anybody s life nor have I done anything magnanimous.
Yet, I am grateful for having this opportunity of self retrospection, I am blessed with beautiful and wonderful friends and family who have stood by me in worst of my times and laughed and smiled for me in happier times, and are with me now reading this blog, shaking their heads and laughing.
I often now get remarks when I meet friends and family, who say ‘you look the same yet not so same at all, you look so different , but in a nice way’. I must agree I have changed, I am positive, I am alive and with a life full of infinite possibilities.
Buddha:” If your Compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”
PS: I am still working on my’ to do list on break’.
I have often humoured advices, comments, and curious glances from friends, family and mostly from social acquaintances on being a childfree couple. I have gritted some out, laughed at some, worked out methodical ways of weeding those comments out and forgetting them because believe it or not, some of the comments and advices are invasive and sometimes are border lining on being offensive. They often rear their heads now and then on social occasions. I have accepted these as being part of my life, of something which 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. I have never given these comments much importance earlier or analysed them.
Yet for the past one year or so these have started bothering me or irk me at some level. I suppose these incidents have been in my sub conscious mind and one such question at a social gathering, prompted me to start my research on the internet. I found many website, social forums, for people who do not have children with or without choice, and found out that there is term to call people like me, Childfree or Childless!! There are support groups for us, there are forums which are not so fond of us.
I am a proud PANK, – Professional Aunt, No Kids. Most of my dear and close friends are not child free, and I am a lovely aunt to a pretty niece and a boisterous nephew. I would like to point out my relationship with my friends and brother s family has not been effected either by their or my life choices. I have the most amazing time with their kids and I am fairly confident that they are very fond of their Quirky Aunty Usha, asides from the fact the my friends, brother and sis-in-law , often have a feeling ‘That Aunty Usha needs a little chat’. I have never felt being left out in anyways or feel out of place around them.
I was posed a question at a social gathering at a friends house , which has prompted this post. I was standing with a group of ladies, a bunch of little munchkins playing behind us. I was narrating my soul searching trip to India with all animosity, I was interrupted by a new social acquaintance, ‘Which one is yours?’, in my eagerness to finish my anecdote, I quickly turned around to check if there was anything mine, and realised she was referring to the kids, I replied ‘None’ and carried on chattering. It is later in the night when I was thinking about the incident, made me wonder, why is it when a women is of certain age, it is assumed, she must have a ‘Mini Me’ running around somewhere. I have also observed that I am subjected to more scrutiny on this subject than my husband. I have often been subjected to comments as a couple you are selfish, as a woman you are incomplete, is your husband ok with not having kids, you are the lucky one aye, you will regret it one day, I suppose you should go to this doctor he/she is very good, why don’t you try surrogacy ? You do not know true love till you have one of your own? I am so sorry you don’t have children….. I have never discussed these earlier for fear of being mistaken to be resentful, until recently. I mentioned the innocent question to my friend and the feelings associated with the question.She suggested I should write a post about it.
When I look at popular blogs and forums written by Childfree, it starts with a statement, we love children…., just like how I have mentioned about having fun with kids . Guilty. I suppose we feel we are answerable for our choices and we need to explain our love for children. I have done it too.
Many of the forums talk about sometimes loosing out friends, and end up with nothing in common , because you are the odd one out. I suppose I have not experienced it with friends. I have experienced awkwardness in social gathering with social acquaintances’, and in most of the cases I probably am the only childfree in the room, the topics are normally restricted to school runs, private schools, ballets, potty training etc, where I suppose I have very little to contribute, so I end up listening patiently, then circulating in the room, and then sitting with the little ones and playing with them, which ends up in more comments,’ Oh you are so great with children, you should have one. ‘ Right, playing and engaging kids for half an hour does now qualify me to be a parent. I may not be a parent, but I do know the challenges of parenting and I love and admire all my lovely friends, whom I have watched cope with the challenges of parenthood and learn the nuances of parenting. And they are doing a wonderful job of it. Alternatively, if I stay away from kids to avoid such comments, there are occasional head bobs, narrowing of eyes and hushed whispering.
I recently joined in a group on Whatsapp for classmate from University. I was thrilled to reconnect with my batch mates and exchange a few banter now and then, talking about ye old days. Yesterday, being Mothers Day messages poured in to the group. I am not Mothers day averse. I always like to celebrate mothers day with my Mother, or my Mother-in-law and wish my friends who are lovely mommies. One of the messages on the group was a tad in bad taste, and lacked compassion. I am pretty certain the person who forwarded the message did not realise it, does not think the same and has nothing personal against me. It probably was a forwarded message from someone else. It left me wondering, how there was a thin line between celebration and insolence, sometimes we cross the line in self importance, unknowingly.
” From a mom to Mom.. We traded sleep for dark circles, salon haircuts for pony tails, Long baths for quick showers, late nights for early mornings, designer bags for school bags and we wouldn’t change a thing!!!We don’t care about what we gave up and instead Love what we get in return!! That s what being a mom is all about!.
I am not a mother, I used to work very long hours up until recently, I had dark circles. I left for work at 7 am and came back home by 10 pm on a regular basis. I did not have time to go to salon or have long baths, many a days I did not have time to eat lunch. I have often got discount cards to get a make over , from Salons near my workplace whenever I walked past them. I have often wondered I must be looking a mess since it happened to me on more than one occasion. I have designer bags, Guilty again . The bags are gifts from my brother and my husband, which I do not think have any bearing to my child bearing or non child bearing capacity. I loved my work and was passionate about it. It was my choice. So is motherhood, in the present days. I am not trying to belittle motherhood. I know and understand how as being a childfree woman I am more answerable to the society than a man , so is motherhood more pressurising on a woman than a man.
I have personally known people who have gone through tough times and have to accept being childless, is the mothers days sometimes not uncompassionate to those? Should there be a Childfree women/men s day like a mother s day or father s day ? Are we forgetting our humaneness in all this? Are we forgetting free will?
I have made certain choices in life, I am not ashamed of my choices neither am I sad nor selfish. I am happy with my choice, I would not want to explain or answer every now and then for my life choices. I am human too.
I am going through a new phase. The mornings now a days are very dear to me, unlike earlier, where I used to feel like battering the clock when the alarm would go off in the morning. I am not sure how long this phase will last, but it is here and I am going to bask in it. There is a serenity in the morning sitting by the kitchen door, listening to music playing on the radio, munching on hot, home-cooked breakfast, sipping hot coffee, watching the birds swoop in and perch on tree tops or on fences, beads of dew glistening on the grass and feeling the warmth of the coffee and of the morning sun . It awakens the senses with a gentle nudge, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the dew soaked green grass, the music, the aroma of warm breakfast wafting in the kitchen, the birds with their open wings swishing around, the sounds,smells and sights mingling together, kind of lulls the mind in to silence. The unwanted thoughts and chattering of the mind vanish like a vapour. The tranquillity of standing by and watching the little nuances of life is wonderful.I have a sense of contentment, and as if this is the moment I was waiting for, a moment of peace, a state of mind,being in present. I truly understood the meaning of the Italian phrase ” Dolce far Niente” made so famous by the book Eat, Pray and Love. Ah the sweetness of doing nothing !!!
It all started with a nagging feeling to take a break from work and prompted me take a soul searching trip to Southern India. Thanjavur- the rice basket of south, will always have a fond place in my heart, where I have had beautiful trip with my friends and had felt a sense of peace there. I always wanted to revisit the place and I grabbed the opportunity with both my hands when it arose and am glad to say, I went there again. Here is a little account my trip to Thanjavur.
I decided that in 2015 to do things that you never got around to do…
So I enrolled myself to “An introduction to History of European Art”
When I was young, I wanted to study History and be a Historian. Well, to be precise all I wanted was to was study History. I am not sure at that point of time whether I knew there was profession called Historian. I need to begin this story from a decade back. I am from India, where mostly everyone studies and becomes an engineer or doctor. And a few more study to become accountants. Once you choose a major,it sticks with you for your lifetime. So when it was my turn to chose a major field to study, I declared to my parents I want to study Ancient Indian History. My parents were not perturbed unlike many. Like every thing has its exception, my parents never chalked out my life, contrarily they taught me to make my own decisions and take responsibilities for all actions good or bad. They would be around to support when it all went pear shaped or cheer and clap for you if it went well.
So I went in to my School I told them I want to choose History as major. I had to have a long chat with my teachers as to what I will become if I studied History. Was I becoming a teacher? No I didn’t want to be a teacher. I want to study History.
Finally, after searching many high schools I found there were none which offered History. There was Science – you could be Engineer or Doctor, Commerce – be an accountant, and Fine Arts.- which was mainly Music and dance. Let’s just say I have two left feet and only stone deaf can be around if I sing or play any instrument. And maths is not my personal favourite. It was much before advent of Internet in India. My knowledge then was limited to asking people around me like teachers, neighbours, and my family.
So I came back home and told my mother” Well I can not study History since there is no school that offers it.” So we came up with Accountancy as a Major, since I had to study something, as everyone goes to high school and then goes to college and gets a Bachelors degree in India. So I ended up studying Accounts and working in Financial world my entire adult life and would continue to do so.
Dear Reader Please do not mistake me, I love my job, and I am not trying to be resentful. Nor am I saying I would have made a great Historian. I am merely stating facts. I could have braved to another city and studied History, but I didn’t. I just took what life through at me.
As someone who lives in London now and as a Londoners we are spoilt for choice when it comes to museums, historic architectures, exhibitions and places of historical interests. Many of them equipped with well read and Knowledgeable guides.
So one late evening last summer I went to National Gallery on a guided tour with my husband. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. The guide was very knowledgeable, who had been working for the Gallery for the past fifteen years. At the end of the tour, the guide got a standing ovation from all the visitors on his tour. I have been to several museums and historical buildings in various cities. But this was the tour which reminded me of an interest which I had long forgotten.
So when, 2015 began and I was thinking of starting something I never got around to taking up. So I enrolled my self in to a class for Introduction to History of European Arts.
I am merely again taking up something which life has thrown at me.
PS: I enrolled in the class to find my teacher was the Guide from National Gallery.
It was the harvest festival in India, this week. It is called by various names in different parts of India. Where I come from , it’s called Pongal. With the weather turning colder, it made me wonder how would it be to have a White Pongal, like a White Christmas !!!
“Ironical ” says a little voice in my head, since Pongal is a way of thanking Sun. But flipping the argument, there is nothing wrong in wishing for a White Pongal, and thinking of warmth of Sun in the cold. Heart goes fonder in absence as the wise have said in past.
My wish of having a White Pongal did not get fulfilled, but my husband’s wish of eating White Pongal did certainly get fulfilled .Venn Pongal,simply translated in English means White Pongal!!!.
My wish is fulfilled today,we are having the first Snow flurry of this winter.