As good as it gets – actually slightly better

The reason I have not updated the blog in over a month, is because I am a supremely lazy individual who has absolutely no sense of priorities or persistence to ensure keeping up with one, single, thing consistently, without breaking the rhythm.

That, and that I was on one of the most wonderful vacations the second half of the last month, which obviously meant that I spent the first half planning it, which in my world means shopping so that I and Zo had enough clothes to last us the two weeks and  the various climates that weather.com seemed to suggest we would encounter.

It went well. Of course it went well. It went wonderfully well, and it was so wonderful that it is a week since I returned, and my heart still refuses to get back to routine. And my body refuses to get back to proportions that would fit my formal clothes. But when you are on such a post vacation high, that the hangover hasn’t hit yet, such small things don’t matter. Actually, nothing matters.

So this time, we spent 9 days at Deutschland, and 4 days amidst the Swiss Alps. In Germany, we stayed in 3 cities – Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich – and covered a new town in the vicinity almost every day. I think we had such a good time in Brughe when we went to Brussels, that we made every day a day trip to somewhere else, especially when in Frankfurt, which doesn’t have as much to see. So there was Cologne on day 1, Heidelberg on day 2 (where I broke my iPhone, yes I did, yes I am upset, yes I want to cry, yes it is unfair, no I haven’t gotten it fixed yet, in fact I dropped it again in Munich and shattered it further). And then from Berlin there was Pottsdam, though Berlin itself is so pretty one can spend more time there and I think 3 days was too less. Plus it helps if you have watched Bridge of Spies because then you associate with the Bridge of spies and Checkpoint Charlie much better.

Then from Munich, there was the trip to Neuschwanstein Castle – which was pretty much the selling point to Zo for the whole trip, other than the pigeons and ducks that caught her fancy everywhere. Otherwise Munich was such a party place, even more than Amsterdam, that it made absolute sense to consume abysmal amounts of brews and meat wherever we went. We sealed the trip with a visit to the famous Hofbrauhaus on an otherwise downer of a day due to the incessant rains.

Over the trip, there was a lot that was learnt. I love that about holidays, especially ones like this, which have us visiting so many new places with so many stories and so much history. I think I can pretty much write a short paper on Hitler and the Nazis now, of course until it recedes to back of my memory. We walked non-stop, ok with some stops because little Zo needed to ‘rest her legs’. This was a long trip, and there was no stroller, and we were pretty worried that she might not be as enthused as she was in Disneyland for obvious reasons, but I have said it before, and I will say it again – she’s a trooper. And what an amazing one. Because it is one thing to go along with things as they happen, and another to be part of it and enjoy it; and enjoy the way she did.

The last 4 days were spent at Engelberg, which is at the foothills of Mt. Titlis. A small scenic town, right out of storybooks, where the shops close by 6, and the views from the windows are of the Alps, and where half the population is from India. Yep. So turns out, that Switzerland still remains the number 1 spot for Indians to holiday in Europe, and it wasn’t just DDLJ that triggered the madness. And it was interesting to see directions written in hindi, and samosas and chai being sold alongside Raclette (which has to be one of the most sinfully delicious thing I have ever had) and Fondue.

We then visited Montreux for a day before coming back home to routine. Two weeks seem like a lot but when it gets over it seems like nothing at all. There are spoils from the visit ofcourse but they don’t last as much, even if it is difficult to enjoy as much when you decide on a much needed detox after two whole weeks of pure indulgence. Also, the drudgery of the routine hasn’t struck, because like I said, the high hasn’t worn off and given way to the hangover, not just as yet. Which helps me take one day at a time.

And which also helps me write down this hurried post, before I forget the good times, or rather, before they turn into bouts of nostalgia that will make me cry.

Leaving on a jet plane (for work)

Quite contrary to my usual interest in travel and my heartfelt announcements about how I would do anything to go see new places, one of the things I dislike the most is travelling for work. While it works in my favor (or so you would think) that I have always travelled on business outside of the country only, it is actually quite a bit of a pain. One, because I am a clingy old woman, who somehow refuses to let go of the routine life that she otherwise complains about. Also, traveling for work means being away from The Dude, and Zo, and nothing sucks as much as that. Again, with a disclaimer that I usually crave for ‘me time’, turns out that at the end of all that ‘me time’, I need to see those two faces before I fall asleep because Oh My God how old and clingy am I?

The other thing that I hate more than travelling for work is traveling for work to the same God forsaken place over and over again. I am not even saying that it’s the place per se, it’s the fact that I have been there before that kills it for me. Yes, the place might be a decider to some extent. For example, I’m thinking, I’m only thinking not claiming, that may be going to London more than one time might not hurt as much, because London, well, I have a special affinity to that place. It was the first place outside of India I visited, and that too for work. It was a long month, but there were friends, and then there were colleagues who became friends and it didn’t hurt as much, though I was dying to get back for my wedding in 2 months time, and by the way, The Dude was visiting the US at the same time. So I managed somehow, and returned a pretty happy and much fatter person who wouldn’t fit into her wedding lehenga because of all the cheese that was consumed.

The place I visited most for work was Switzerland. Not the dreamy, snowy, DDLJ-eqsue Switzerland they show you in the movies, but an industrial town on the banks of Rhine which did not have the slightest glimpse of the Alps or snow or anything remotely Switzerland. In fact it had summers which hit 35 degrees (yes, Celsius) and tiny table fans that folks kept at their work desks because the air conditioning wasn’t as effective. This place, I went to over and over again. And since we travelled on actuals, there wasn’t much tourism that I ever indulged in because somehow, I always travelled alone. And when I do, there isn’t much I want to see except for my work floor and the hotel room. Also, the Swiss believe in shutting down all signs of life on the streets as soon as the weekend arrived and from India where you do not have a spot with no people to Basel where you would not spot people, it was always a depressing transition.

Fortunately, there was a nice trip to Spain, which The Dude joined for an extended vacation because who would miss out on Barcelona yes? And then there was New Jersey, where I had a weekend to spare and Manhattan a bus ride away. Also, there was some company for some part of it, and that made life more bearable.

And now there’s this trip. Dubai was never on my must visit places, but we’re here, and I usually don’t complain as much for short 4 day trips. I mean, I do complain, just not as much. So despite much more advanced technology which lets me see my guy and my girl as if they were right there in front of me (including the Dude talking to me distractedly while watching TV because some things don’t really change right), I still dislike being away. This time, I have company, so there’s some basic walking around, and hopefully a visit to the Burj Khalifa (today, fingers crossed). And there’s also a highly anticipated evening to be a spent with a very good friend just before I leave, which makes all of this much easier to accept and survive.

But then, being away is being away, and change is change. And I am not too fond of both, however short. So I have decided to be agreeable and tag this visit as acceptable. Not nice, just acceptable. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed hoping that fate doesn’t decide to take that as a positive sign, and think it can do it to me more often.

Day 9 – So call in the submarines, round the world we’ll go

I need to travel – not want, need. I need to see new places, or old places again. Places that can be reached in an hour by road, and places that will take two whole days to reach by air (including the layover). Places that are so cold that I curse myself for not having packed clothes warm enough, and places that are hot and sultry, making me break into unsightly sweat within 5 minutes of stepping out. Places where I can smell freshly brewing coffees, wafting through the open doors of the roadside cafes. And places where I can taste the salt in the air, telling me that the sea is close.

I really need to travel. Walk on roads that are bounded by sky scrapers on both sides, so tall that I cannot see the top without the sun hurting my eyes. And roads that are littered with pebbles, even goat turd, that you need to carefully step around. Towns that are painted brown and have flowers growing on their window sills. Cities that are all grey and glass that reflects the sun. The countryside that is green till the eyes can see. Forests where the dry branches scrape your arms, and all you can hear is the call of unknown birds.

I need to travel to the mountains, where there are more waterfalls than people. Where you have to step on the precariously placed rocks to catch the best views. I need to travel to bustling cities where I am the tourist amongst the others who are just living their regular lives. In the subways and trams and also the shared autos and rented bikes. Merge in the crowds, and  then be called out every time I decide to capture the moment on a camera. Walk around places I have seen on the television, read about in books, and soak it all in.

I need to travel to the sea, with sands so white, and waters so still you can see the sea bed. Or with sand so full of shells it is impossible to walk barefoot or with little crabs that go in and out of the tiny holes they make. With folks basking in the sun in their stylish swimwear, soaking in the sun, beer in hand, seafood in plates. Or with fisherman frying their fresh catch for you to enjoy, sitting next to them.

I need to travel so I can sit in a little roadside cafe and taste pretty cupcakes with my coffee. And stand in the rain waiting for the guy to hand me the roasted corn. Pick seafood off the counter and wait for it to be served, grilled, fried or roasted. And sit next to the lady who cooks fresh bhakri on the fire and hands it to me with the zunka. Have hot sambar wada  at the small place on the highway, at 7 in the morning. And have fried calamari with chilled beers in a shack on the beach. Gorge on the makkhan parathas at the famous Makkhan Singh ka Dhaba.

I need to travel to be able to do all this more. But most of all, I need to travel because it makes me happy. I need to see as much of the world as I can or I will never know of the wonders it has to offer. There’s so much, that no way can I see it all, and frankly that’s not what I aspire for either. But then, there’s no harm in trying either.

It’s a wonderful life, kinda

I recently tweeted that I spend 3/4th of my life doing stuff that ensures that I am able to do the remaining 1/4th , by which I meant my weekends and vacations. I stood by that statement, quite strongly; till I read this.

 “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” @SethGodinBlog

 Usually, inspirational, motivational quotes put me off completely, so I’m judging those making the quotes, those circulating them, and those who follow them. Especially the people who apparently realize that these generic statements resonate with their life and then try to conclude that whatever fucked up shit is happening with them is meant to be and happens to everyone, and will sort itself out someday, and I’m like SHUT UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, IT’S NOT GOING AWAY.

 Anyway, vent out apart, my point is, I think stuff like that is flaff. However, this quote did what those motivational quotes seem to do to the rest of the world, it resonated with me. And in the same “Oh, he is talking about me” sort of way, only it did not make me feel better about my situation. Instead it said, “Not cool. Nuh-huh. You think you have your life and priorities laid out? Really? Take this.” And I felt very very sorry about myself.

 Which brings me back to the fact that I do need to set up my life in general. Considering the audience of the blog I do not think that I need to worry about responses like “What do you want to set up! Everything is so exactly how it should be for you!” I think that at every point in life, I tend to let the most prominent thing takeover beyond how much it should be taking over. And then I lazily amble back into this zone, which is not comfortable, not really nice, but has this big cloud encasing it, labelled “This is my excuse for not doing what I enjoy”. This time, that thing is work.

 Work and its issues seem to have taken over my life in such an aggressive manner that I flounder to spot life beyond it. My other love, Twitter, which used to annoy the Dude quite a bit, with my constant scrolling down the timeline, suddenly became a relief for him. As in, ‘Oh you’re checking Twitter, I was worried it was the Blackberry again’. Even little Zo is ok with Mumma checking the white phone, but not the black phone. The blinking red LED has become what it is meant to be, a danger sign.

That being said, I have to admit that I like what I do now. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of pride, and actually makes me realize that I am good at this stuff. However monotonous, however routine, this is stuff that I can manage, pretty well. The downside is I make the stress my cocoon, and refuse to get outside of it and, like it says above, live.

 I have stopped working out. So much that I danced around with Zo some days ago for like 10 minutes and all my bones ache at the moment. So much for the 20 minutes of running I did 2 years ago (without stopping, it was a big deal). I have stopped listening to music, which is so strange. Because before phones were allowed on the floor my worry was how I would keep up with my music. And now, I don’t even bother to know what the latest music releases are. I don’t even check out my favorite MTunes HD, though there I assume part of the issue is the love of my television-life MasterChef Australia. And then ofcourse, the blog. I just cannot seem to write. At all. Anything sensible, even remotely. Which also explains why I have been missing all this while.

 Then, we went on a vacation last week. A 9 day road trip from Pune to Delhi and back, via Chittorgarh, Jaipur, Udaipur and Baroda, a total of 3600 kilometers. Yes, with Zo. *Pause for applause* It was lovely, like vacations are, by default. There was a lot of time spent on the road (ofcourse), and the times I was not sleeping, or entertaining Zo, there were these phases of solitude, however brief, where I actually stared out of the window with nothing to distract me.

 And I spent some of this time contemplating how I could get some order about. I know I can’t change myself when it comes to work, it’s an ingrained thing. I am a chronic worrier. So the next best thing is to keep myself so busy, so busy, that I forget that should be fretting about the number of unread items in my inbox. Atleast when I am not at work. That way, I will be doing stuff I should be doing instead of feeling sorry for myself. And that way, I wouldn’t have to go on a vacation every time to make sense of things.

 It is easier said than done, I know. But I think giving it a shot is necessary. And better now than later, when I would still be doing the same thing, perhaps after another road-trip which again gives me time to think. And whenever I find myself deviating from this optimistic plan of making the most of everything, I will close my eyes and refer back to my happy place – with the long winding roads, the sound of the wheels on the tar, the sunset at a distance, music in the background, and the breeze in my hair.

Like a shot straight out of Instagram. #nofilters

London Paris New York

First things first, after all the Hullabaloo I created about this Blog turning 10 years old before it  did, when it actually did, I did not even bother to wish it. Here I mean. Ofcourse I wished it multiple times in my head while we were worming our way through extremely incomprehensible amounts of traffic on the Mumbai-Pune expressway near Khandala around midnight (I mean who would’ve thunk?). But anyway, better late than never is our motto so here we are! To the blog which has survived almost a third of my life!

April was an amazing month otherwise. Other than crazy heat (which technically Pune is not supposed to have because hello, mountains and ghats and what not), it was a very anticipated month because it brought along our much anticipated vacation. To – wait for it – Europe! Yes! So we did three days each in 3 cities which we carefully picked based on location, interests, and costs. Brussels. Paris. Amsterdam.

Travel of any kind makes me ecstatic and like already mentioned is the only thing I would be ok indulging in. Not so much luxury, here I firmly believe quantity over quality, because if you say I can see 10 countries in the same budget economically, as I would do 3 luxuriously, guess what I would choose? Yes, yes, always greedy for more!

If you think I would atleast sort of a travelogue here, no, no, not happening. But I will definitely tell you which my favorite of the three places. I had a serious surprise winner in – Brussels! Loved loved loved the place. We even did a day trip to Brughes, an hour away and Oh my God was it the prettiest place ever! You know, like story book Europe with it’s small lanes, and pretty houses with flowers on the window sills, and beautiful old Churches, and streams, and flowers and ducks swimming around. The last bit made Zo one happy cookie.

Paris was lovely too, in the much hyped way I expected, and of of course I sat and stared at the Eiffel for a good two hours, no not because it was mesmerizing, but because it is Europe and it takes until bloody 9 30 PM for it to get dark and for them to light up the tower and I wouldn’t miss the sparkly lights for anything. Actually unlit, it was quite a let down (more like a massive TV tower rusting with time), but it came to life when the lights went on and this time, I was one happy cookie.

Amsterdam should be synonymous with party, because everyone seemed to having one. We were no exception and it was just awesome walk around the city center (which we did every single day) or lie around at the Museum square and soak up the sun. I actually returned much more tanned than I did from Goa and that is something. We also ensured and kept up our scandalous parents resolve and visited every must-see, and did every must-do in Amsterdam, however scandalous, yes, with Zo in tow.

Food, if not a review deserves a mention, because vacations are the one time we tend to forget all my healthy resolves (and rightly so) and gorge on anything that pleases the eye, and the taste buds. So there were multiple serves of Belgian Waffles, beer, French wine, cheese, and bits of Dutch cuisine which kind of believes in deep frying everything, especially street food. There was also the buttered breakfasts, the chocolate croissants and pastries, the cream and nutella intake, which is going to need a month long diet and extensive workout to lose.

There was a lot of walking around. I had been very skeptical of doing a trip like this, with all arrangements done by ourselves, and no known people around, and ofcourse, in the company of a two and a half year old. But it was a breeze. And I have to say Zo was a rock star throughout. She was sufficiently excited by the water, boats, and ducks (yes, deserves a two time mention) to get annoyed. When she did, she would curl up and go to sleep while we would continue taking in the sights, the smells and the sounds.

A close second in the rock star category was the baby stroller we decided to take along, though we were unsure till the last day if it would be allowed for it’s size on the flights. But guess what! Not only was it allowed, but the Swiss Air chaps were extra nice and made it a special delivery, by which we mean we got to push it till we entered the aircraft and got it as soon as we stepped out. In the cities, the extent of support you get if you have a baby (and a stroller) was amazing. In the Dude’s words, we pretty much recovered the entire price we paid for the stroller 3 years ago, just in this trip.

All in all, it was every bit as amazing as I had hoped it would be, if not more. Except for a few glitches – like me forgetting my very light jacket and there being weather requiring a jacket for a couple of days, and a horrid old man asking us to move even if it meant Zo would have to stand in the rain (which she did anyway, useless kid) – I think it was perfect. The best thing the trip gave us was this confidence that we can plan, and do trips by ourselves, from scratch, along with Zo, at our own pace, and have a wonderful time.

So yes, that’s where I have been. No, not in London and New York as the title suggests, but then no one made a movie called Brussels Paris Amsterdam no? The rest of the time I am on Twitter where I am spewing the same incoherent stuff that I do here, only in smaller doses. So if you are game for that (rather, if you can handle that), see me there too (Shameless plug I know, but I need followers dammit, handle on the blog page on the right!)? I will try and settle back into what we call routine, however tough it might seem.

And for whenever it gets too tough, there is always the next vacation to plan!

One for the heck of it, almost

Yeah yeah. I know what you are thinking. Look at this one, back to her infrequent posting, now that she doesn’t have a Blogathon egging her to go on. You are not? Well, it is certainly what I am thinking.

Not that it matters. But a few things in life deserve to be noted down however blah you feel, or however annoying work’s been, or however much you would rather read others yapping because they are so much more fun.

So thing one is a biggie. I am not sure I ever mentioned on my blog, I sure did on Twitter, but my new place of work, which I joined roughly 8 months ago? Well, that had a no cell-phone on the floor policy.

*Pause*

Take it in. Let it sink in. Breathe, breathe, BREATHE Damn it! Better? Yes. So yes. It is possible. It is true. And yes I, as a part of this organization, have been diligently locking away my beloved phone(s) (yeah, ironically, for a place which doesn’t allow you a phone, they give you one anyway so that you can be reached anytime, only you don’t get to keep this phone with you as well. Well, like I said, “ironic” is right) in a tiny locker right outside the floor where my precious cabin is.  Every day.

The first 2 weeks, I would step out every 2 hours, check for missed calls, messages and respond. Send late LOLs (I don’t do LOLs, I do Haha actually) to jokes shared on Whassap groups, check Facebook to see if anyone acknowledged how absolutely gorgeous I look in my current profile pic (ok, I do that for Zo’s pics, she gets all the likes. Hmph.), and then morosely lock it back and return to my den.

People said I would get used to it. And I did, Kind of. As in, after the first 2 weeks, I would go check my phone just once a day, at most twice. But the last couple of months, I am proud to admit that I never checked my phone even once. Through the day. It was like it didn’t exist. But I did miss it because, well, I think it is because I miss and want everything I am not ‘allowed’ pretty much. Just like Zo.

But last week, after 8 years, the policy was changed. Suddenly. Suddenly for me ofcourse, but Oh My God bottom line is I now get to use my phone at my desk like all normal people in the world! And I know it seems petty to those who have always had it, but trust me Dude, you have NO clue how it feels after an 8 month break. AWESOME. I could have cried when I was told of it. No wait, I think I did cry.

So that was one. Two was, there is this book. See, I am one of those awesome people who won’t buy new books until I finish all that I have bought, or atleast decide there is no way I am finishing them because I honestly cant. So there was this one book I bought when I was expecting Zo. I know right, 3 frigging years ago. It was a lovely book. Very well written, very interesting. But I never finished it. I stopped. Not once, not twice, 3 times. I would just stop it. The book, and reading in general. I wouldn’t buy a new book, because there was this perfectly good book I had and I was just not reading it. So it was kind of a jinxed book.

And last week, I finished it. So Phew. Big thing right? Right. I also went ahead and ordered myself some more books. I do have one unread book, but I tried starting it, not very keen to go on. Weirdly, I devoured the first two parts of that trilogy 3 years ago, and loved them. But I can’t get myself to read the third. I think I have forgotten everything in the first two, and that is enough reason to not want to read the third.

What else really? Oh yes, we did another trip to Goa (yes, again!) last weekend and it was fun except I was approving travel requests for someone from my team sitting on the beach and we all know that’s not cool. Also, I was returning to my room between drinks and fun conversations to respond to mails from work which “just couldn’t wait” on Friday night and that was not cool either. That apart, it was as fun as Goa can be and we all know that’s a LOT. Goa, is the only place where I get to holiday without doing anything at all because we just don’t have anything left to go see. And I love it. Plus there’s beaches. And Seafood. And beers. All of it anytime you want it. Basically, a whole lot of awesomeness. I know you get the gist so I will stop.

That’s enough you say? Yeah, I think so too. Now I can go back to doing all things useless, and not feel like I am cheating on my blog.

Yep, that’ll be good.

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

Wake up call. Brr, it’s cold. Skype. I miss you. I miss you too. The hike was amazing. I walked a lot. Show off. Little Zo? Doesn’t want to see mommy. Heartbreak. Moving on.

Bus stop. On time? Nah. Before time. Brr, it’s really cold. Fall colors. Leaves ala Mohabbatein. Cars. More cars. Fast Cars. Cold winds. The fragrance of bacon. Stomach rumbles. No buses? Too early. Ooh, bus. Wave. Get in. Settle down. No conductor? Tickets? Driver! ‘No Twenties’. Ok. Where are the tens? Done.  Bollywood. Plugged in. Stare out of the window.

The suburbs. The trees. The lawns. Shuddh Desi Romance. More lawns. More roads. Coffee shops. Bagels. Donuts. Yum. Stomach rumbles. How long? Oh, Lincoln Tunnel! Look, Skyline! End of Tunnel. Bus Terminal. The city!

42nd Street. Gawking. Walking. Some more gawking. Subway? Walk? Ok Subway. South Ferry. Oh look, Statue of Liberty! So far away.  So tiny. Click my pic please? Oh thanks. Could you click mine now? Sure! Now? Oh yeah, walk north.

Trinkets, and souvenirs. The Bull? Wall street? Already? Ah well. Ooh, lane. Why’s there a crowd? Ooh look, mini bull! Let me see. What? ACTUAL Bull? This? Ah well. Click my pic please? Walk on.

Wall Street. Gawk. Done. Ground Zero, let’s go. Long queue. Turn around. Brooklyn bridge! Walk on. Where is it? Where is it? Oh, I am on it. Damn it, no view. Well, whatever. Call The Dude. What? I will reach Queens? Oh no. Walk back.

Walking on. Lost. Dude, I am on some Canal street, now where do I head? Take a right? 6th Avenue? And then go straight? Ok. Excuse me , which way to the 42nd? Take the Subway. By walk? You want to WALK? Well, straight. Ok.

Starbucks. Free wifi. Coffee? Salted Caramel Mocha? Yum. Here. Uh oh. Frappuccino. Ice cold. In the cold. Bah.  China Town. Washroom! Mc Donalds. Ah! 7th street. Walk on I guess. 42nd can’t be far? Buildings. Tall buildings. People walking. So many buildings. So many people walking. This is easy. 5 hours. Nonstop. Walking on.

Empire State Building, 34th street, 5th avenue. Where is it? Why can’t I see it? Where is it? Hmm. Hmm. What is this I am standing in front of? Oh! THIS is it? Why isn’t it standing out? Why? Oh well. Hey, Chrysler building. Suits. I love Suits.

Crowds. Big stores. BIG stores. Macy’s, wow. Victoria’s Secrets, ooh. Toys R US, lovely! Aw, I miss Zo. Ooh Smurfs! Picture? Sure! Now tip us. Er. All of us. Er. NOW. Run away! Hersheys. Chocolate samples! M&Ms. More samples!

Broadway. Kinky boots. Chicago. Wicked. 4 PM. Should I sit now? Yeah. Click my pic please? Done. Return favor. Sit on the stairs. Stare at the lights. The wonderful lights. The very bright lights. And the crowds. Such big crowds.

Time passes. The skies darken. The lights look brighter. The crowd gets bigger. The eyes get wider. The air gets chillier. The sounds get louder. All alone. But not alone. At all.  Saturday Night. Times Square. New York City.

Check.