Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Strength lies within!

This post is a tribute to the most resilient, the strongest, the happiest, spunkiest being I have ever met!.. My dear Queen Layla!

Today marks a year since she suffered a paralytic stroke causing her to lose feeling and control over her body waist down. It happened rather suddenly, we think caused by the panic she felt on hearing fire crackers; she came running upstairs and sat down and wouldn't get up after that. It took us a while to figure out that it was not that she wouldn't but that she couldn't get up. Her vet confirmed our worst fears along with saying that there is no way to tell if she will ever walk again and that she was too old for any surgery to help the problem. We were offered suggestions to put her down as she would be in a lot of discomfort. All of this happened when I was away and my super woman of a sister Nidhi dealt with the news from the vet by herself. I didn't know what was going to hit me till I got home and she couldn't wag her tail at me. I was overwhelmed by grief and spent about an hour hugging her and weeping. But at the end of it I told myself that there was no point in grief, courage was what we needed.We had to be strong for Layla and as long as she wanted to fight, we would fight with her. We told ourselves that as long as Layla was upbeat we would not give up on her. My lovely sister Nidhi, Dad, Mum and me were her army, and did we fight or what.

We spent months taking turns watching her, not leaving her side for even a few minutes. It was a continuous cycle of feeding her,cleaning her up as she had lost bowel control, spending nights awake not wanting her to lie in her own filth, turning her from side to side often to ensure that her underside was not becoming sore. As we did all this our Layla fought, everyday she tried to move her legs, to stand up, to not pee at home. She patiently endured the spinal shock treatments we took her to every other day in the hope of reviving the nerves. We supplemented this with physio therapy on her legs that we learnt and administered ourselves to keep her muscles strong when her nerves were back in action.

Our first little breakthrough happened when I wandered out of the bathroom into the room that she was in and she perked her head up and wagged her tail at me. Just like before, a happy wag full of love! We knew then that we would do anything to keep this going.

We became her hind legs, we held her legs up like a wheel barrow and took her for her walks, and she walked, going in to small nooks and crannies behind trees not the least bit concerned about the fact that her human hind legs would not fit in those spaces. We walked her like this for months, and kept up the physio therapy and she slowly started regaining the feeling in her legs. She would stand for the shortest time on rough surfaces, cautiously walk a drunken unstable walk for two steps before crashing.

Slowly but steadily we could see her fighting spirit take over, she was not about to give up, she wanted not only to live but to walk and pee and meet her doggy buddies and sniff their behinds without us being her hind legs. A year in we are happy to report that she is almost back to normal now. She has some trouble actually getting up to a standing position but she walks by herself and can even climb a few stairs on her own.  

Layla has taught me like no one else the power of the mind. If you want to do something you will find a way! Her quiet, patient strength and resilience has made me stronger and made my love for her deeper than ever before.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lure of the Himalayas Part II

While I was writing the blog on my trip to the UK I realized I had not finished the one about my previous trip and also that 2014 has been an incredible year for the wanderluster in me!!

Part II of the Himalayan Adventure involved some of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen, the birthday of a very special friend and realizing that women travelling alone is still not the norm in our country! Our drive from Dharamshala to Dalhousie was a fantastic journey through the hills, streams suddenly surfacing into waterfalls, rivers flowing by under bridges, wind, rain and a special Himalayan rainbow.

1) Dalhousie finally provided us the weather we imagined when we planned our trip! I had to pull out the jacket and tuck into the thick quilt in the night!

2) Hotel Megha view; its nestled between the mighty Deodars and that's all you can see from your balcony as well. There are all manner of animals living among these trees and it is their calls that will put you to sleep and wake you up in the morning. We were treated so much like family here that the waiter would walk in without so much as a knock and be worried about us going out after dark!

3) The celebration of a birthday in a balcony with our illicitly procured Old Monk, giggles and memories from over a decade. It was a special way to celebrate our friendship and just sitting in that balcony we knew our trip was made.

4) The hike to the Chamunda Devi temple with the Himalayas keeping us company throughout was spectacular to say the least. Its beauty further accentuated by the lovely weather in the form of a cool breeze and a light drizzle.

 5) There's something about the people in the hills and how their cars always play Bollywood music from the 90s; such a delight to the desi girl in me and it takes me back to a simpler time, a time free of Baby dolls and full of happily ever after love!

6) The trip to the Chamba valley and the massive Chamera dam built on river Ravi. As clich├ęd as it sounds, a boat ride in the river with hills on both sides and crazy kids screaming and splashing water is a quintessential part of travelling in India in the summer vacation!

7) Travelling by a rickety bus from Dalhousie to Pathankhot, one of the sleepiest train stations I have ever been in, serving one of the yummiest Rajma chawals I have ever eaten.

8) Chandni Chowk, silver shopping and Parathe wali gali formed the perfect ending to the perfect trip.

As we boarded our flight back to Hyderabad, we felt refreshed, rested and peaceful. Our Himalyan sojourn had been exactly what we wanted, imagined, dreamed of; a much needed respite from the heat, the meetings and the god forsaken excel sheets!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Exploring the United Kindgom!

Three months of planning and researching and booking, three weeks of the United Kingdom with the lover and three days of the Scottish highlands by myself! That summarises, rather inadequately though my glorious British summer holiday! In reality it was a heady combination of unspoiled nature, quaint villages, vibrant culture, bustling cities, vivacious people and a mind boggling variety of beer!

The spectacular coastline at Robin Hoods Bay!

These were the 11 places that we covered  in 3 weeks, in the pursuit of the delights that he United Kingdom has to offer;

Bus ride in the Highlands
  1. Glencoe
  2. Edinburgh 
  3. Lake District
  4. Robin Hoods Bay
  5. York
  6. Manchester
  7. Oxford
  8. Bath
  9. Bristol
  10. Salisbury
  11. London

It was a roller coaster of a trip and  I have shared here my favourite experiences, the ones that made me want to go change my crazy schedule, reminisce about on my flight back, and made me want to go back long after I was home.

1) Fringe 2014,Edinburgh- The Fringe festival is the largest and definitely the most exciting arts festival in the world, which takes place in Edinburgh for three weeks every August. Over 3000 shows performed by over 20,000 artists from 47 countries, Fringe 2014 was a celebration of the arts; theatre, movies, music, street artists, comedy, dance, there's something for everyone. Believe me when I say, every show we watched, we loved. A must do if you are there in August, actually quite the reason to go there in August!!

The charming English country side
2) Drive from Edinburgh to the Lake District- Without a doubt the best drive I have been on in my life! Spectacular green meadows studded with little white sheep, gorgeous blue skies a crisp cool breeze; words couldn't do justice to their un-touched beauty. Its like living in a painting, like every tree, every hill, every brown cow has been placed there to perfectly complement each other.

Enroute Whitby
3) Walking along the coast from Robin Hoods bay to Whitby- It is a five and a half mile hike along the coast but on top of a hill, which makes for a unique view of the waves crashing against the hills while walking on the hills themselves. It takes a couple of hours and gets a little tough on your legs at times but is such a wonderful way of experiencing the English country side. Robin Hoods Bay is also the best place to try some of the famous fish and chips, exquisite fresh fish!

York from the city walls
4) Themed walks in York- We did an incredibly funny and endearing Ghost walk through the center city of York and I recommend it strongly! Its a nice and easy way of making 'sight seeing' more personal and informative and helps you learn the little details about the history and evloution of a place. The Ghost walk starts at 730 pm everyday outside the York Minster and apparently it happens everyday, irrespective of the weather. There were over 20 of us on a cold rainy day and we were told that there were 50 walkers in a snow storm.

Manchester Pride!

5)  Manchester Pride: We planned our trip so that we could watch the Manchester pride parade and I am so glad we did it. A fantastic way of experiencing the people and a huge celebration of love and the freedom of expression. It was an ongoing party and I was happy to dance along. :)

6) Youth Hostel experience- Both the youth hostel in Glencoe and the one in Oxford were excellent. I love how you can walk in there and find yourself among fellow travellers from different countries, the common rooms are excellent places to strike up conversations, they are easy on the pocket and quite often located close to the center of the town. Do it atleast once on your trip, especially comforting if you are travelling alone.
Dornie- Scotland

8) Hiking in the Highlands- Pack a picnic, put on those walking shoes, grab a book to read and walk all day in the hills. Walk as long as your legs will allow, sit on a rock, bite into your nectarine, read for a while before you are ready to be off again!  I chanced upon a lovely pair of deer one day and it was so great to see them like that, at peace, calm, prancing among the trees; I smiled to myself all day after that.

7) Street theater in London- We loved Trafalgar square and Covent garden. Take half a day out of visiting the museums and palaces and bridges to watch these talented artists. It is a nice way to relax, unwind and relish the passion with which these artists perform. It was my favourite part of being in London and I would love to go back there to experience it a little more, without a flight to catch.

The two icons of London!
Shiny happy holidayers!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lure of the Himalayas- Part 1

Part 1 - Dharamshala > Mcleod Ganj

Two weary souls, eyes strained by the glare of the laptop, brains exhausted by spreadsheets and meeting reminders set out at the crack of dawn chasing the Himalayas and a week away from the madness of the corporate life, a week to recoup, recharge and rediscover the wanderlust that lay buried in their hearts.
When we landed among the snow capped Himalayas and the
air hostess announced that the outside temperature was 40 degrees, we almost booked our return back into the air conditioned comfort of our air plane. But, when we stepped out of the airport and into our cab driven by Shankar we realised that things would only go uphill from here. As we made the ascent through the Deodar shaded winding roads to our tiny guest house in Mcleod Ganj we felt the heat dropping along with our stress levels and the cool breeze blowing away any residual thoughts we may have had about those spreadsheets. One cat nap later we were refreshed and ready to explore Mcleod ganj! This little town is full of steep climbs and can prove quite the reality check on your fitness levels. The upside of this though is that by the time you reach the market square your appetite is raging, and fortunately enough you find yourself right in front of Mcllo Restaurant. Good music, excellent ambiance and delicious food made for the perfect first night in Mcleod Ganj.

The next morning I set off to explore the town as its residents awoke and my travel companion snoozed, tea shops and cafes pulled up their shutters, vendors started displaying their wares and sleepy kids were being ferried to school by their mums. I love experiencing a place as it awakens; being a silent spectator as it comes to life! And this slowly became my unwinding routine on this trip.

In terms of the sight seeing in Dharamshala and Mcleod Ganj, we did the whole route comprising of the Gallu Matha Temple (the starting point of the trek to Triund), Bhagsunag waterfall, the war memorial, the tea gardens, Dal lake, the Norbunglika Institute etc. but the only things worth the time and effort I felt were the Dalai Lama temple, the mountain view from Naddi, and the HPCA stadium of course! Spend your time instead chilling in cafes, talking, laughing and drinking in the views along with your Mocha. Mcleod ganj market is also a great place to buy silver. Have patience and look through the line of stores because some of them stock beautiful unique pieces; silver and otherwise. I also ate on this trip the best carrot cake I have EVER eaten; at Moonpeak Coffee shop and gallery near the HDFC ATM. Absolute heaven. And go early because they do run out of them!

The things about these three days that will stay with me are

1)  The people; warm and friendly and genuinely not interested in your money!! 

2) The jaw dropping views of the snow capped Dauladhar range from Naddi. Make sure you have the time to sit there and stare at them and forget the hours passing by.

3) The amazing dexterity and patience with which the cab drivers execute the crazy inclines in their Altos. In 3 days I didn't hear one horn or one abuse. We were particularly impressed with our driver Shankar, such an amazing person, it was like a group of friends driving around, singing old bollywood songs. I was actually sad to say bye when we left.

4) The quaint little town that Mcleod Ganj is with its narrow winding roads, smiling Tibetan folks and the vibrant prayer flags fluttering in the cool Himalayan breeze.

4) That spectacular Carrot Cake! Must find a way to duplicate it. :)


This here is our itinerary for a week. It may not be entirely geographically correct, but the distances are accurate! :P

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My soul city!

I was recently in Bombay for a day and I visited the Kalaghoda Art festival, attended a talk on the emergence and evolution of public dining in the city and shared a table with a charming old couple over chai and bun maska! I did nothing spectacular but as I watched from my window the lights from the local trains speed away from me, I felt like I had spent a day with an old friend, and we had discovered that our bond was still the same!
My heart still beats in Bombay, and understandably so; it is the city that showed me my wings and a city of many firsts for me,
1) The first time I lived away from home; alone and independent!
2) My first prawn curry and chicken biryani were cooked and devoured here.
3) My first real job, first salary and colleagues that became family!
4) The first time I had a house to myself and later the first time I had flat mates; friends for a lifetime now!
5) Volunteering for the aid of stray dogs; bringing them home in the monsoons, cleaning maggots from their wounds, the first time I felt like my life was really useful!
6) The first (and only) time I quit my well paying Government job to find out what drives me and work towards it.
7) The first time I lived only for myself! All the plans were mine and so was all the laziness!
8) The first time I felt safe enough to climb into a cab after a night of drinking and head home.
9) The first time I didn't feel the need to dress a particular way or behave a certain way because I am a woman.
10) Being in a city where nobody knew me, it was the first time I let go of my inhibitions and was completely myself and in being so I discovered many new facets to who I am!
Bombay will always be special to me and I do hope that someday I will live here again and have many more life altering first time experiences!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sun on my face and sand at my feet; Gokarna!

2013 has been an incredible roller coaster of ups and downs, and I was craving some quiet time; to unwind, relax and basically recharge my batteries for the craziness that I already know 2014 is going to be!! And one of the best decisions I have made was to choose Gokarna as  my year end vacation spot! Honestly I have not been to many places in India still untouched by the ravages of tourism. I had the best time and came back feeling so refreshed!

I have compiled below a list of my favorite experiences in this lovely beach destination!
1) Swimming in the balmy clear waters of Kudle beach! Or just lying on the water with the sun on my face, and the sound of the waves, nothing better to calm down the noises in my head. With such few people and awesome clean waters it felt like my own personal infinity pool.
2)  The trek to Paradise beach from Om beach; over and around the hill, guided by our own little doggie GPS, he waited while we caught our breath and took our pictures of the breath taking view!
3) Paradise beach; easily the most serene, empty beach I have been in! Just us on the rocks, and the water lapping gently at our feet and a lone boat in the sea. It was exactly what I needed to calm my crazy brain and be in the present.
4) Nirvana cafe; good food, lovely people, a friendly welcoming vibe, an excellent view of the ocean and the best mint tea on Om beach!

5) Doggies galore and so adorable; sleeping in the shade of the sunbathers, digging trenches to find the cooler sand, splashing around in the waves with their human and canine buddies, was such a delight to just watch their care free happiness.

6) The pace of life; breakfasts that merged into lunches, lying around in the cafes guzzling beer, the people competing with the dogs in the lack of an agenda in their day, one of the wonderful things about vacationing in a place that doesn't have much to "do"!

7) Freedom; to loiter,no stares no hooting no calling me sexy, I finally felt comfortable enough in India to wear my bikini!!
Yoga on Om beach
8) Food; while the food is not that brilliant in Gokarna, there are some must tries. The falafel and beetroot juice in Nirvana cafe; divine! And the hash browns in any cafe! They are nothing like the real hash browns but yummy nonetheless. The coffee shake in Namaste cafe is also noteworthy. Its important to also mention here that alcohol other than beer is available on Kudle beach. Good reason to spend your afternoon there!

Falafel at Nirvana Cafe

9) Location, location, location: I love the combination of the hills and the sea. Makes for some splendid views and for some very interesting walks. The boat ride back from Paradise to Om beach also highlights this aspect of Gokarna!

Overall, Gokarna proved to be a hidden gem, close to nature, wonderful people and an environment conducive to detoxing your mind and body!! Im seriously considering making it an annual pilgrimage!
The walk to Paradise beach!

The mandatory selfie!