Tuesday 16 October 2018

#TheBlindList- A Blind date with the world

I have a map of the world in my bedroom. Right above the bedpost, pasted on the lavender wall, and framed in fairly lights. There are pins on it, obviously, for all the beautiful places on all the diverse continents that I have set my foot on. But, if you see the pins, you will notice something. They are random, they do not follow the course of mighty mountains or raging rivers. They do not meander from one capital city to another; they are just, well, random.

Would you take a guess, why?

No clue, huh?

Okay, no problem. I will give you a hint. Have you ever played darts blindfolded?

The world map is my dartboard and the pins are my darts. Every time I feel like gifting myself a vacation, I tie a blindfold around my eyes and throw the pin onto the map. Then, I pack my bags and go wherever the pin lands.

It doesn’t matter if it is an obscure, nearly deserted but highly picturesque island in the middle of the ocean, or a congregation of noisy, vibrant, colorful, throbbing crowds basking in their joie de vivre on famous Parisian streets. The world literally becomes my oyster and the journey, without exception, a rich blend of thrill, adventure, interesting encounters, insightful conversations and loads of learning.

People have a ‘bucket list’ but I have a ‘blind list.’ My list writes itself, like destiny. I have no control over it. In that sense, exploring the world is a unique combination of blind dating and meditation for me. Just like blind dates with people, a blind date with the world is an opportunity to discover and fall in love. Again and again and again. You never know what’s in store for you and it can either be the best thing to happen to you or it can make you run for your life. 

Either way, you just need to go with the flow, not plan things, and only focus on immersing yourself in the experience. This way, you come out better, stronger and closer to your own self, mindful of your own likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses in the process.

For example, I have been a street vendor, selling local delicacies on the highway, in a South American village. I have been an English teacher in the south of France. I have tended tables and drinks in quiet Danish pubs and I have rowed boats to ferry people from one bank to another in Vietnam.

This is why I do what I do, because travelling this way opens me up to a million possibilities. I can be any and every thing I wish to be and I can push my boundaries to align with those of the countries that I visit. I can be fluid like the brooks that flow through deep gorges. I can be expansive, accommodative. I can absorb and I can assimilate, and ultimately, as my world-exploration turns to self-exploration, I can grow.

Just as every human being is made of complex nuances and irreplaceable quirks and characteristics that make them who they are, the world is made up of billions of shades too. And I am not happy with just one corner of it, just one hue of it, just one aspect of its mind-boggling enormity and variety.

I want every trickling stream,
I want every star that beams.
I want ocean waves against cliffs,
I want seagull wings.
I want every spring flower,
I want every autumn shower.
I want the world, now
because once, I fell in love with it.

So, no matter how contrary it sounds, plan an unplanned trip today. Let your destiny charter the course of your travels. Pick up a book lying next to you. Or a newspaper. Close your eyes. Turn to a random page. See what number it is. Check the list of countries in the world. Pick the country whose serial number in the list matches your page number. Book a flight. Get your visa. Pack your bags. And just go. 

Or if you don’t like this idea, well, you could always play darts. Blindfolded 😉

Wednesday 4 April 2018

#SayYesToTheWorld: Travel changes lives

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
-          Mary Anne Radmacher
I was always the person who diligently scoured travel magazines and newspapers, stared at the fancy and the intriguing pictures nestled into their pages from all corners of the world, cut them out, made dozens of scrapbooks out of them and dreamed. Dreamed of being in those pictures, someday. Back then, as a child, I did not know that the fall of 2017 would herald a spring for me, in which my dream would bloom and come to life!
I got incredibly lucky to receive an all expense paid scholarship to Munich, Germany for 10 weeks starting August 13, 2017. Of course, my rusty, out of practice German had a lot to do with it, but so did my sheer good fortune and I am forever grateful for being in the right place at the right time. Because between 2017 and 2018, I’ve changed. And how!

1.      To  #LoveTheWorld
Different people love the world for different reasons. Take a look at Lufthansa’s #SayYesToTheWorld Campaign : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNeGyEayWUs

Travelling made me love the world, too.

‘There are cities I haven’t been to yet, strangers I haven’t met.
There are rivers I haven’t cruised yet, suitcases I haven’t packed.
And flights I yearn to board, and lakes to dip my feet in,
Because the world’s arms are wide open, and I know there’s space enough for me to fit.’

Today, I know that I was not born for just one corner of the world, that I am not small enough to be contained in there. I’ve been to 7 countries, probably scores of cities and towns, but the more I discover, the more there is still to discover. There are still oceans to sail, and beaches to sleep on, cities to trace the pulse of, and people out there who know me better than I know myself and who I am yet to fall in love with. The world’s a candy store, and I’m an unsupervised kid with a full wallet- I’d like to have it all.

2.      Being  braver, stronger, fiercer
I’ve walked the avenues of Paris alone. I’ve dipped my toes into the calm Seine alone. I’ve watched alone, couples strolling hand in hand, feeding each other Nutella crepes, friends meeting up for morning coffee and croissant in quaint little cafes. I’ve visited the Louvre alone, had Mona Lisa smile at me alone. I’ve wept in the Notre Dame alone. I’ve toured the City of Love alone! And a year ago, I’d have been devastated about it. But today, I’m just overwhelmed, super proud and deliriously happy when I recall how I did all of this, by spending time with the most important person in my life- me and not letting self pity get in the way. It would have been nice to have somebody to kiss atop the Eifel Tower, but the view of Paris up those 300 metres was, I assure you, way nicer!

3.      Cherishing people we love
Travel gave me an opportunity to escape my daily life, my daily interactions with people who were a part of my day, every day. It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. While you may find the 24x7 presence of your loved ones around annoying sometimes, believe me, travel changes all of that. Having to depend on shoddy internet connections while in long distance buses and high speed TGVs to get a text delivered to them, trying to beat time zones and not wake them up while you want to speak to them like your life depended on it, battling grainy pictures on video calls and broken staccato on voice calls…it makes you wonder why you ever craved ‘personal space’ so bad when they were right there, next to you. To touch and kiss and hug! Travel made me appreciate their love for me and mine for them, and for this, I’m immensely thankful.

4.      Distinguishing  between the essential and the superficial
To be  #worldtraveller, a globetrotter, a nomad, a gypsy is not all fun and games. It is hard work. It is sometimes coming home from work, almost dead, yet having to fulfill chores before you depart for your next adventure early next morning. It is reserving flights and bus coaches and making sure you got window seats, and all of it within budget. It is figuring how much luggage to carry, and how much of it to leave behind. It is leaving bulky jackets at airport departures for others to find and keep, because why would you pay 100 Euros for excess baggage when you could buy a new jacket for 10? It is careful planning and decision- making. And if you’re accompanied by a travel buddy, it is making sure they’ve slept off their hangover from partying all night before and that they approve of the choice of accommodation in the foreign, foreign land you will call home for the next couple of days! If that is not opening yourself up to responsibility, I don’t know what is. 

5.      My heart has expanded, along with my skill set
I’ve made friends with people way older and way younger than me. I’ve befriended department heads and street artists, the Germans and the Italians, doctors and students. My heart has expanded to make room for all these people whom I can never forget. They’re pieces of my heart now, scattered across the globe. And strangely enough, that only makes me stronger.

6.      More moments, less pictures
Remember that dream about being part of those fancy pictures of me in world famous destinations? Well, it came true! But it coming true made me realise that there are so many experiences, so many conversations, so many memories I will never have photos of, because photos would never do them justice! It was good that I realised this in time. I stayed in the moment, feeling ferocious winds blow through my hair in Paris; chatting with an Irish banker on the banks of Seine, while he prepared his fishing rod and waited for fish to take the bait; biting into juicy, sumptuous falafel at obscure train stations in Prague; listen to a revolutionary telling the truth about Zurich’s glitter and glamour, on a bridge over the Limmat river; getting pelted by hailstones on a cruise in the middle of Zurich Lake; almost missing our connection back home from the Rhine Falls; exploring Berlin on foot, soaked from the rain. Life really passes us by in moments when we are paying attention to something else, trying to capture it in narrow frames. Travel taught me to live more, click less.    

7.      The necessity but ephemerality of goodbyes
I was a sucker for happy endings. Always. But now I recognise, that life is more grey than pink. More real than ideal. And that goodbyes are necessary. I wept like a baby when I had to leave my colleagues, my classmates, and the people who had come to be a family to me, behind. But they hugged me tight and I realised it was all going to be okay. Because this was not the end. The best thing was, they made me smile even through the tears. My supervisor at my workplace said I ould go on crying and use up their tissues…for they had quite a huge stock of tissues at their disposal. And. I am still in touch with my favourite people halfway across the world, so goodbyes need not be permanent, even though they are at times, necessary.
I like to believe I’ve become more open minded. I like to believe I am more expressive of my affection, my love, ever since I fell in love with the world. I like to believe I’ve changed. For the better. Would you want to, too? Would you SAY YES TO THE WORLD, today?

Sunday 25 March 2018

When the blue planet feels the blues: Cutting Paani

For generations, we have been calling our planet the ‘Blue Planet.’ It’s pretty logical when you think about how 97% of her surface is water. But, I guess, today our planet is facing some other kind of blue. And Samuel Taylor Coleridge worded it more beautifully than I ever could, in his Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

"Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink."

The fact is that out of this seemingly enormous quantity of water, only 1% is fresh water, fit for our consumption, fit for life. And it is running out faster than we can imagine.

Why wouldn’t it?

We produce offspring after offspring, create more and more people even as our resources continue to shrink. There are now 7 billion of us, to be supported and sustained by one lonely planet.

We build ourselves houss, hotels and hot shot complexes by diverting the course of rivers. We block them, impediment their flow with dams and reservoirs and turbines. Our rivers have revolted. While some swell up to destroy the very civilisation they once birthed, others have simply evaporated.
Rains are not enough to grow all our crops. To quench the deepening thirst of parched land. Our nations are getting drier. Hotter. More extreme.

Water conservation may have been an occupation of the fancy decades ago, but it is a reality today, a need, and an emergent one at that. This was the bad news.

 Now, time for something good. We are to blame for the mess we find ourselves in, but we are also the ones who can do something about it.

So what can we, as individuals and as families do to save the elixir that saves us?

1.      At cafes and restaurants:
#CuttingPaani #InitiativebyLivpure makes it unbelievably easy to spare water at cafes and restaurants. Watch this video to know how.
In addition, when you go out, you will find out that some restaurants charge for bottled water. So, what can you do, to save the environemnet as well as your hard earned money? Carry tap water in bottles from your house. In most urban cities, the tap water is potable, thanks to tireless efforts by purifying agencies. And where they are not, well, Livpure will come to your rescue. Super easy, right? Also, your home bottled water will be a good friend for you on the street, when you can’t find any other alternative sources. So, you will be set for the summer.

2.      At home:
#CuttingPaani works at home, too. Here’s a glimpse:
So, don’t fill up glasses to the brim, only to let water go waste when nobody wishes to drink it anymore. And, if even after cutting the water to half a glass, there is some left over, use it to water plants in your kitchen garden or collect all of it and use it to sweep or wash the floor etc. Using pipes to clean windows or water plants drains away precious gallons in minutes. And also raises your water bill. So, go the traditional mug and bucket way. If not always, maybe sometimes. The mug and bucket work well while bathing, too, instaed of waiting for bathtubs to fill up or squandering water away under showers. Switch taps off while you brush. Pay attention to tanks overflowing. Get repairs in time. After all, each drop conserved is an extra drop that your children won’t have to fight over.  Right?

3.      At the office:
By now, you already know what to do! Consume water judiciously at meetings, during presentations and while lunching with your buddies at office. Reuse glasses too, while you’re at it so as to add a little less to the mountain of trash that is sitting on our planet. Okay?

4.      Everywhere:
Fight for water conervation and responsible usage of the most necessary sustenance that not only humans, but also other forms of life, need. Nobody can survive without water for more than 3 days. Our bodies are 70% water. Water literally, helps us stand on our feet, breathe, think, act, cry, smile, love, live!

So, what are you waiting for?  Let's make sure our blue planet remains in the pink of her health. Now! Sign this petition, be good to go:


Tuesday 11 July 2017

Book Review: ABCs of Horror by Anmol Rawat

When a fellow writer whose style of writing you respect, publishes a book in a genre you don’t fancy much, you let curiosity get the better of you.

This is what I did, when Anmol Rawat came up with his book, ABCs of Horror. I have never been a fan of horror…it quite gives me the creeps. But this book did not disappoint me at all. 

The Concept

If you look closely at the title, it is a giveaway to what the reader can expect from the book. The book is a terrifying collection of 26 horror thrillers, and the titles of the stories are alphabetic. So, the stories begin with Atheist (A) and go up till Zapped In (Z). The stories come from the author’s participation in an A to Z Writing Challenge in April, 2017 where he penned blog posts throughout the month, on all the letters of the English alphabet.
The author has explored almost all kinds of horror imaginable, from bloody tribal rituals and voodoo to vengeful spirits and toys coming alive to witchcraft and sorcery. The themes are as diverse as they are inter related. This serves as a huge plus point to bring in continued doses of drama and suspense in good measure and to keep the reader hooked till the very end.


There are a lot of factors that advocate picking up this book:

1.      As I said before, the diversity of the tales is enough to make the book an enjoyable read.

2.      The brevity of the stories is another factor that helps keep the reader interested, story after story. The language used is simple and can be easily understood by even the most casual readers.

3.      What enhances the scare factor is the unexpected twists in the stories. The setting of the stories points readers in one direction, and the ending brilliantly maneuvers them into a different place altogether. Some stories leave you asking yourself, “Damn! How could I have missed that!” The twists are simple, yet cleverly done.

The Result

I finished the book in two sittings, flat. It took me a while to adjust to the gore in some stories, but the pace of the narration, and the rapid unfolding of action kept me going, ceaselessly. That is something, coming from someone who doesn’t enjoy horror, ordinarily.

The spook factor may not be too pronounced when you’re reading this one in the light of the day. But, when you wake up at night for a glass of water after reading, and feel the haunting presence of the devil himself, remember- You had been warned.

The book has some gory scenes and profane language. However, in my personal opinion, it is not really offensive. So, the author has balanced the necessary evils (pun intended) quite well.
I’ll name some of my favourite stories here- Bloody Mary, because of the way it ends; Killer Doll, as it had me fooled, and Nightmare, because it cooked the traditional horror recipe to perfection. This, by no means, implies that the other stories aren’t good enough. You may find new favourites as you explore the realm of terror and darkness so well crafted in this book.

My verdict

I’d rate the book at 8 out of 10. I deduct two points because of

1.      Minor (and I mean very minor) grammatical/editing errors. But, you needn’t worry about them, unless you’re a Grammar Nazi like me. The flow of the book is pretty engrossing, so you may not even notice them at all. But, I couldn’t help it.

2.      The fact that there were just 26 stories in the book, when I wanted it to have at least that many more. J

So, I recommend horror fans to definitely pick this book up. And, I recommend it to those looking for something easy and engrossing to read on a journey, and also to those who want to experiment with this genre for the first time. The book deserves applause for its strong presentation and stronger content. And, the author deserves some for his hard work, his fabulous imagination and his on point narration.

And, you can check out the author’s profile, here: http://www.anmolrawat.com/

Sunday 9 July 2017