Half A Chocolate

“Happyyy Birrthhdayyy to youuuu” sang the class in excited tones. The birthday girl stood in front of her class in her beautiful glistening white fairy dress, all of 10 years old, grinning from ear to ear. This year, her parents had told her she could give out 2 chocolates if she wanted to! How happy her friends would be! She would be the only one giving out 2 chocolates to the entire class! All the students sat down in complete silence. Any mischief now would mean being sent out of class and no one wanted to miss out on the birthday chocolates.. if rumors spread by the birthday girl’s best friend were to be believed, today they were getting 2 each!! The little fairy went around the class, row by row, placing 2 chocolates on each student’s desk. Under the teacher’s watchful gaze no one dared touch the chocolates without permission. When the girl finished and sat down, the teacher nodded with a smile, but they had to throw the wrappers in the dustbin she reminded them. The class erupted into noisy chaos as all the suppressed excitement came rushing out. Pop went the first chocolate into their mouths, sucking vigorously to finish it off real fast and move onto the second!

While the class delved into the task at hand at supernatural speeds, Lily decided she had to be slow. She had to take her time. There were two chocolates today so that meant greater responsibility of doing things with care. She quietly peeled the cover off the first one and studied it. It was a hard candy, she would have to bite with care, else it would splinter. Keeping one finger to mark the middle of the candy, she brought it between her teeth and bit hard. It didn’t happen the first time, so she gave a harder attempt this time around. The candy cracked, one half went hurtling into her mouth, the other half still in her hand. She quickly gathered up the splinters in her mouth with her tongue and sucked on the candy. But her hands were busy. As fast as her little hands could manage, and with great dexterity, she placed the half in the wrapper and carefully covered it, making sure the 2 ends were frilled as beautifully as they had been in the original. The éclair was much easier to handle, soft that it was, and Lily made sure there was no slack in perfection this time as well. As the class formed a queue to throw the wrappers in the bin, Lily opened her pencil box, and carefully placed the half chocolates there, making sure they wouldn’t fall out if the box was shaken.

Lily’s mother opened the door that evening. “Food is ready”, she said, “You must be hungry, wash and come soon”. Before Lily could take a step ahead, a tiny hurricane came rushing out from the room towards her. “Diiiiidiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!”. Lily smiled. She had almost forgotten. She looked down at the round face of her baby sister raised expectantly, the eyebrows knit with worry and nodded in confirmation. Today was a ‘birthday’ day. The little one closed her eyes using one hand and extended her other one. Lily placed the half-éclair. It took her sister not more than a second to pop it into her mouth and chew-chomp-chew! ‘Thank you Didi’ she said as she turned away. Wait! Didi’s palm appeared magically with another half-chocolate in it!! ‘Mango!!!!!’ she gleefully screamed!! She hugged her sister’s legs, ‘You are the best Didi in the whole world!!’.

The Glass Palace – Amitav Ghosh

Some 200 pages into this 547-page-book, someone asked me what the book is about. I had no idea. And that’s my biggest complaint. But then, let’s begin with page 1 😊

Rajkumar lost his family as a little boy and now, all alone in the world, he fends for himself in Mandalay. Mandalay, the site of Burma’s Golden Palace, ruled by King Thebaw and Queen Supayalat is in awe of its monarchy. But the inevitable happens and soon the King and Queen are sent into exile and Burma, like India, becomes a British colony. Fate, however, leaves a delicate string hanging between Burma and India when Dolly, the first princess’s maid must leave an infatuated Rajkumar behind to do her duty in exile.

Rajkumar’s journey thereafter into the heartland of the timber trade is narrated in wonderful detail. We learn of the oo-sis and their elephants. We read of the British Assistants sitting miles away from home in their teak Tais. We are awed by the technique of transporting the logs by the Chaungs. We imagine in our mind’s eye Saya John in his ill-fitting English clothes mentoring Rajkumar on the tricks of the trade. We grow with Rajkumar and watch him become a confident young man ready to venture into the world by himself.

Meanwhile, the Burmese Royalty have been left to themselves in Ratnagiri, a sleepy little town in Maharashtra, India. King Thebaw is resigned to his fate, Queen Supayalat continues to despise the British and the princesses are growing with the servants as their play mates. Young and beautiful Dolly only has the collector’s wife, Uma Dey, as her confidante and friend in this journey of unending loneliness.

The Glass Palace at the outset seems to be a story on and about the characters mentioned. We have talked about the Invasion of Burma, the monarchy, the intertwined lives of Dolly, Rajkumar and Uma. What more could there be, right? But Amitav Ghosh has other plans in mind. Confined in those 547 pages are life stories spanning a period of 111 years!!! He takes us through a myriad journey of relationships…the main protagonists, their children, their children’s spouses & children..the story grows like an Indian joint family! And always, just always, there is a political undercurrent running through. Be it the worries of a revolt in Burma against the colonial masters, or the Indian Independence League in the US, one is always reminded of the political situations that push the characters into the decisions they make. At one point in the novel, I was almost convinced that the entire story was a build-up to the realization of a romance, beautiful and almost spiritual, that Ghosh was narrating. It made sense…giving the reader the complete background so one could understand the nuances of this relationship. And then just when one thinks This is a love story with the backdrop of colonialism, Amitav Ghosh springs a surprise and the reader is found falling headlong into the Second World War, the Indian National Army, and the throng of thousands of refugees from Burma! What could be a love story suddenly becomes a story of life in a war engulfed region.

And that’s exactly my complaint against the book.  The author has so much to tell, so many stories to share, that none is allowed enough time to grow roots in the depths of the reader’s mind, leaving behind a feeling almost of longing. Given a chance, Amitav Ghosh’s beautifully detailed narration could have left strong imprints on the readers. The last 70 pages of the book are particularly disappointing, almost as if hurriedly thrown in to close all the loose ends and give the readers some closure, even explain the reason behind the title! If only the author had left some things unsaid, allowing the reader to take over with the way the story ended, the book could have left a better after-taste.

In conlusion, I think I finally understand what the book is about. Adding to Wikipedia’s explanation that it is a Historic Novel, this is a novel about three countries and 3 people(plus family)and how their lives are irrevocably intertwined. It is a story of love, found and lost. It is a story of dreams, realised and shattered like a glass palace. Amitav Ghosh doesn’t fail to impress with his style and I am already looking forward to reading another of his books. But this book in particular, did not live up to my expectations.

Rusted Chains Calling Out

You Say When I Bleed.

Don’t touch us. Your presence – An incarnation of Lakshmi one day and Durga the next. The harbinger of ill fate today.

Don’t step into our kitchens. Your food – Brimming with heavenly deliciousness each day. Poison to our hearts today.

Don’t enter our temples. Your prayers – The anchor for our lives every day. The murk in our sacred waters today.

Don’t come to our last rites. Your love – Spreading the sunshine of happiness. A curse to eternal damnation today.

 

I Bled.

I bled and I touched. You called my presence your lucky charm.

I bled and I cooked. You applauded me and licked your fingers clean.

I bled and I prayed. You praised my piousness.

I bled and I loved. You reveled in my affection.

I bled and I hid it. You lived. You liked. You found nothing wrong.

 

Tell Me Then.

My womb – revered when carrying a baby, yet unclean when preparing for one. WHY?

My mind – a disciple of reasoning, still looking for answers from you who think I’m wrong. WHEN?

My world – uncontaminated and healthy, notwithstanding my breaking the rusted chains of blind customs. HOW?

 

I wait with an open heart and listen with an eager mind, dear world.

Explain to me your ways and I shall comply.

Convince my mind and I shall not defy.

But if you fail,

Accept I have proven you wrong all my life, and send a promise my way.

A promise – to let go of what we cannot answer.

A promise – to ask a Why before we follow.

A promise – to keep alive in us, the essence of our past but not the past itself!

When My Sister Gave Birth & I Became A Parent!!

I am the youngest in our family of four. With a gap of nearly 7 years between siblings, there’s often a lot of pampering involved and I was no different. I grew up practically with 2 mothers, my mother-mother & my sister-mother. And while I had a great childhood, by the time I grew up, I realized I had become used to being the child of the house. And that meant I had absolutely no idea how to be a grown up with other children!!! As the years passed by, I would often see girls my age croon to babies and play comfortably with them while I looked at them as if they were aliens. I preferred puppies to babies and didn’t think that would ever change. My natural instincts were nowhere close to maternal…something which I thought many girls of my age already had. Sometimes I thought maybe my hormones had forgotten to kick in…you know, maybe the switch that goes off in girls at some age and makes them want babies just refused to flip or something!!

Whatever the reason, I just couldn’t imagine ever loving a snot-dripping, potty-expelling, vomit-issuing creature ever in my life. And that may have been true too!!

But something changed… My sister got pregnant.

The pregnancy:

All of a sudden, my life was all about the pregnancy milestones.

The first ultrasound image when I just couldn’t focus my eyes well enough to see anything at all! The day when the heart beat could be heard..Endless googling for pregnancy tips… The test when the baby was declared free of anomalies and we cried in relief… The first video where the baby steadfastly refused to remove her(we were pretty sure it would be a girl!!) hands off her face till my sister ate some ice cream… Shopping bigger and bigger clothes for my sister as she outgrew everything every 15 days.. Shopping for teeny tiny clothes of size 0… Waiting patiently with my hand and eyes glued on her tummy urging the baby to kick…Oh, those were some busy 9 months! My phone bills consistently went up as we spent hours figuring out baby boy & girl names. Lists were made for things to be packed in a bag in case of sudden labour. My sister googled for delivery videos so that she would be mentally prepared and I listened to her describe the details, both of us crying in fear!

The photoshoot:

I photobombed the pre-delivery shoot as well, standing between the would-be-parents in most photos, as excited as them, and they indulged me with love as usual. Blown ups of me kissing the baby bump were ordered for and I returned with a big smile. Soon we were excitedly counting the days down and I increasingly worried for my sister as the D-day approached.

The delivery:

And then my sister went into labour. My brother-in-law and I stood next to her, holding one hand each, teary eyed, telling her everything would get fine while not believing our own words looking at her pain. All through the delivery I stood outside, each of my sister’s screams piercing my heart, tears flowing down my cheeks, fervently praying that she had the strength to get through this and come back to me safe and sound. While the world thinks a baby’s coming is a beautiful thing, I still have chills when I think back to that day, they were really difficult hours.

It was she who was giving birth, yet I was experiencing more pain than I ever had.

When the screaming stopped, I waited with bated breath till my brother-in-law appeared with a smile on his teary face and said it was a boy and that the mother was fine. We entered the room and I saw my sister smiling at us, and that was when I dared to breathe again.

The first few days:

He was tiny. Like, really tiny. And for the first day, I refused to touch him. What if I dropped him? What if I couldn’t balance his neck properly? What if I hurt him by mistake? By night finally my sister told me I couldn’t avoid it forever. She had always been the one to instill confidence in me and this was no different. Finally, I took him into my arms, lifted him to my face and smelled him. And then I fell in love with him. I knew there could never be a smell as beautiful as his. There was no turning back then. He couldn’t latch properly for breastfeeding and I struggled with my sister to help him. Most of the times it is the mother who is with the daughter in such times. But in our case, it was me who stayed back with the new parents in the hospital to help with the baby. The elders laughed at this arrangement, but understood the emotions attached. The first night, there were 3 of us struggling to change his diaper, 3 adults fighting with each other on the right way to do it. The little brat kept us on our toes. The 3 days we were in the hospital we had to take turns sleeping and none of us managed to sleep more than 2 hours at a stretch. Little did we know that would be the norm thereafter!!

That first year:

By God’s grace, that was the year when my parents, me and my sister’s family all ended up in the same city. It was the most beautiful year of my life. My life changed that year. We lived from milestone to milestone. No jaundice, check. First vaccination, check. Eyes,ears tests, check. We cried on his first bath. We laughed as he enjoyed our massages. Sleep and rest were things to be dreamt of. I don’t think I have watched TV since that year, he didn’t let us and I just lost the habit thereafter. Somehow I was good at putting him to sleep. I would sit with him for hours on the rocking chair, crooning till my throat ached, not stopping till he fell asleep, scared to move an inch lest he woke up again. Handling snot, potty and vomit became my ‘baayn hath ka khel’! I would wake up in the middle of the night when he cried and when the parents were already too tired, and spend an hour again trying to soothe him. I do look like his mother at times and we used that trick to fool him so my sister could take rest. The first time he turned over on his own, the first time he lifted his head, the first time he smiled, the first time he started on foods other than milk, the first time he sat up, the first time he crawled, the first time he said “Dada” and “mamamama” and “phurrr”….my life that year revolved around his first steps in this new world.

And…somehow..surprisingly, he loved me back too.

He would stop crying when I took him, he would laugh the loudest when I played with him, he would come rushing to me whenever he was in the mood for masti…..and my heart would melt and I would fall in love with him even more each day, if that was even possible.

The Bidaai:

When he was 9 months old, I got married and had to move to a different city.

Telling him goodbye was the hardest thing I had ever had to do.

It was unimaginable not being woken up at night to his cries, not having his tiny hands pulling my hair, not listening to his gurgly bubbly laughter as I did monkey acts. I left my heart behind when I left, with the silent prayer that my baby doesn’t forget me, doesn’t forget the 9 months I spent with him pressed to my chest.

And now:

The bond we forged during those first 9 months has stayed on with my darling.

My angelic sister and wonderful brother-in-law make sure their son remembers how much his aunt loves him. From being a secondary-mother to being his friend who he asks to talk to over phone to demand for gifts, we have come a long way. Every time I skype with him even today, there is a desperate longing tugging at my heart to hold him close and smell his familiar smell. And though it isn’t always possible, I am happy to see him smile no matter how far away he may be. He is a big boy now, all of 3 years old, using big English words, acting grown up, asking us to leave him alone at times and I can’t help but think back of the day I was too scared to even pick him up in my arms!! 😊

And thus…

I still love puppies 😝 But today I know I do have a loving mommy in me who can handle human babies as well! And what’s amazing was the realization that it didn’t even have to be my child for me to love him wholeheartedly….

the switch had finally flipped! 😊

The Magical World of Enid Blyton!

A little girl, all of 9 years old, had locked herself up in her room. Her parents had been warned not to disturb her. Afterall, she had a few important meets lined up. First she had to visit Janet and her brother Peter and their 5 friends in their shed again. Their mother had promised there would be hot scones, ginger biscuits, sardine & potted meat sandwiches and huge jars of jam & cream for the high tea. Scamper was already present, tail thumping away, eyes drawn every now and then to the laden table! Then, she would have to visit George, Anne, Julian & Dick as they set out on their cycles up the hill to the little shop that sold lemonade, grape-fruit juice, ginger-beer, and delicious ice creams. Timmy would chase their cycles, as always, distracted every now and then by the rabbits scurrying down their holes at his sight!

A trip last week to the Isle of Wight & Dorset here in the United Kingdom, presented before me a moment of intense nostalgia. In a quaint little English restaurant, we tried the Cream Tea. Alongside the steaming tea were 2 scones, warm and fresh from the oven. A slice in the middle and dollops of clotted cream and jam later, this little piece of heaven melted in my mouth and transported me back to the little room, with my friends Peter, Janet & George from Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven & The Famous Five. The little girl in me had come home 😊

Cream Tea @ Isle Of Wight, UK

Enid Blyton wasn’t just a British author. She was a magician. A children’s writer, she enthralled many, many young adolescents like me. The world through her eyes was an exciting place! She brought home to me my teenaged friends and amateur detectives who enjoyed adventure. Their little escapades…complete with their secret codes and hide-outs and mini picnics fascinated me beyond measure! Her plots felt nail-bitingly interesting to my young mind…who could the culprit be?! I would open her book and read her detailed descriptions and lose myself completely in her world. There, in the confines of my room, I ran alongside her characters and their dogs as they chased thieves and solved cases for the police, I sat beside them as they enjoyed delicious meals prepared by their mothers, I laughed with them as they chatted over ice creams and I cried with them when their dogs got kidnapped. In short, Enid Blyton showed me that there’s a huge vast world outside, and I could see all of it if I wanted, right from my room, as long as I had a book by my side. While I had started reading much before her books, I think it was she who truly instilled this passion for words in me. It was through her that I realized the power a book had in shaping my mind. Afterall, imagine a little girl having seen and felt in her mind’s eye the things that she would only be experiencing for real 18 years later!

The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton

As I grew up, I realized how many facets of my personality have been shaped around what I read as a child. My love for the written word was just a tiny reflection of how Enid Blyton had touched my life. When she had said “Dear, silky old Scamper, his ears flopping up and down as he rushed into the hall, his tail wagging nineteen to the dozen. He flung himself on the children, barking loudly in joy”, it was me that Scamper had been running to and I knew I would love dogs all my life. She had made my mouth water with “The high tea that awaited them was truly magnificent. Lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, mustard and cress, carrot grated up..lashings of hard boiled eggs. There was an enormous tureen of new potatoes , all gleaming with melted butter, scattered with parsley…Look at that cream cheese too. And fruit cake. And are those drop-scones?..And there’s cherry tart made with our own cherries and our own cream in it”! She spoke of jam tarts and ginger cake with black treacle and I fell in love with food. She would have been a fantabulous food blogger in today’s world. Her characters went boating to islands or cycling atop hills or swam in the beaches…and I grew up loving to travel.

The Famous Five by Enid Blyton

I have always believed that a fantastic fiction writer is one who, with their words, can stimulate your mind enough for you to create your own movie in your head. That’s usually why most movies on classics fall short of their original books, something is always lacking, because the movie that had played in your head had been wayyy more detailed & descriptive than the one playing out on the screen. Enid Blyton is one such writer. While there have been many more books from my childhood, if there is one book I pick even today when I’m craving for comfort, it is definitely hers. My personal favourites are The Secret Seven and the Famous Five series. I also enjoyed her The Five Find-Outers and Dog and The Naughtiest Girl series. Much later, I realized she was the one to have written Noddy as well. So my association with Enid Blyton goes back even further than I had realized!!

The Five Find Outers & Dog by Enid Blyton

My Father gifted me my first book when I was in class 1. In a gesture as simple as that, he had made sure that he had given me a companion for life. If you have youngsters at home, do pick one of her books for them, you could be giving them a gift for life! If not, it’s never too late to read her yourself….she just might bring back the child in you!! 😊

Isle Of Wight, United kingdom

The Isle of Wight is a gorgeous island in the English Channel, about 4 miles off the coast of Hampshire. Brimming with natural beauty, this island is a unique mix of quaint English towns, a magnificent coastline , some astounding views of the countryside with a surprising dash of modernization. If you’re planning a visit, here are a few pointers you could use:

Shanklin Beach, Isle Of Wight, UK

How can I reach there?

  • The island itself can be reached by Ferries that run from Southampton (Red Funnel Ferry or Red Jet) and Portsmouth (WightLink). Since I travelled from Southampton, I can only speak of the Red Funnel ferries.
  • The red funnel one is primarily meant for people who are carrying their vehicles with them. And although foot passengers are allowed, if you don’t have a vehicle with you, you must go for the Red Jet instead as it is much faster.
  • The prices for the ferries can be found on their websites. We had travelled for approximately £40 for the two of us. Charges are higher when you carry a vehicle on board.
  • How you reach Southampton or Portsmouth is another thing you need to think of. We had taken the train from Slough to Southampton and that cost us about £80 (for 2, with return).
Near Yarmouth, Isle Of Wight, UK

What Should Be the Length of my Visit?

  • Surprisingly, the inputs we received while planning this trip was that a day’s time was sufficient & more to visit this Island. Having been there, however, I would suggest atleast 2 complete days to explore this beautiful island well. There are LOTS of things to see here, suitable for different age groups and interests.
  • The best way to go about planning your trip would be to study beforehand which places you would like to explore and allot time accordingly.
Freshwater Bay, Isle Of Wight, UK

What should I see there?

  • The island has basically 4 main areas.
  • The North is the Cowes(East & West). Towards the East/South East, there are Sandown, Shanklin & Ventnor. The West has Yarmouth, Freshwater Bay, Needles Bay, Alum Bay & Totland Bay. And the center has Newport and the surrounding areas.
  • East Cowes has the famed Osbourne House which is Queen Victoria’s seaside home. It is supposedly beautiful(we couldn’t visit it) and has lot of artefacts from India as well.
  • West Cowes has some great places to eat and is a must visit if you want to see a quaint English town.
  • The West has come spectacular views from the bays and the Needles Battery point, and the drive to the top is truly breathtaking. Alum Bay is known for its intricate glass products.
  • The Shanklin and Sandown area has some beautiful beaches .
  • The Shanklin Chine is located very close to the Shanklin Beach and is basically a mountain ridge with a small river running through creating waterfalls amidst the scenic greenery. Known for its ancient woodlands the chine was supposedly an inspiration for famed writers John Keats, Charles Dickens & Jane Austen. Although enjoyable, its true beauty in my opinion can only be seen in the rains. A thing to look out for in the summers is the Chine Lumiere, when hundreds of lights will illuminate the paths, streams & waterfalls after dark.
Shanklin Chine, Isle of Wight, UK
  • The BlackGang Chine in the south has an interesting history as being a regular smuggler’s haunt.
  • The little town of Godshill has a cute little model village and an Old Smithy’s garden that gives a sneak peak into the days of the yore.
  • The Carisbrooke Castle located near Newport was home to Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Beatrice.
  • The Brading Roman Villa is one of the finest Roman sites in the UK.
  • There are vineyards with free tours of their grounds.
  • And the one thing we really enjoyed was the Garlic Farm with an array of all things garlic and its delicious black garlic ice cream was a unique experience.
  • There are also lots of things children & wild life enthusiasts can enjoy. There’s a Monkey Haven, a Donkey Sanctuary, an Owl & Falconry Center.
  • For those with interests in shopping, there’s the Isle of Wight Pearl and the Oasis.
  • Do note that all these places are quite a distance apart and hence the more the things you want to cover, the more the time you must have on hand.
  • There are also lots of Festivals that take place in the summer, there’s the Jazz Festival from 31 May-4 June 2017 or the Isle of Wight Festival from 8-11 of June. You can try finding out on them ahead of your trip and plan accordingly.
  • One additional tip. If you are taking the ferry from Portsmouth, you can keep some time apart from shopping at the Gunwharf Quay. This shopping complex has loads of designer brands at discounted prices, and sometimes with additional discounts on it as well. If you find a good deal, that could be great start to your vacation 😉
View Atop Needles Point, Isle of Wight, UK

How do I travel within the Island :

  • The Southern Vectis buses running on the island are really good. For a mere £15, you could travel ALL over the island for 2 days. What’s more, this ticket allows you to hop onto the open top Breezer buses (Downs Breezer, Shanklin Breeser, Island Coaster & Needles Breezer), giving you brilliant views of the sea and the countryside on your way to the various attractions.
  • The down side of relying on buses is of course that you have to match up to their timings. So, although these buses run till very late in the night, there may be times when you waste time waiting for them.
  • Another disadvantage is that since these buses run on the main roads, there may be times when you have to walk a bit from the bus stop to reach a point or they may be no bus routes to a location at all. We faced this problem since we wanted to visit the Vineyard and the Garlic Farm. We also ended up skipping the Carisbrooke castle since we could see there was a long walk from the stop and we were short on time.
  • A third problem with the buses would be that the buses basically run from Newport, which is the central place on the island. Since we were staying in Cowes, we took a bus from there to Newport and then changed buses depending on where we had to go.
  • If you are planning ahead and are good at driving, I would definitely suggest hiring a car on the island. One point of caution I would like to mention here are the cycling options most pamphlets on the island recommend. What I realized once I reached there was that this is England’s Largest Island!! So while I had gone expecting a tiny place, the sheer vastness of the island shocked me. Going from Cowes to Shanklin or Freshwater is no cake’s walk. Also, vast stretches of the island are deserted with nothing but the countryside giving you company. So unless you are accustomed to cycling long durations, this is not the place to give it a try.
The Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight, UK

Where can I stay?

  • There are lots of hotels and B&Bs all across the island. Since we took the Red Funnel Ferry which dropped us off at East Cowes, we booked a B&B at Ashley & Simone’s lovely home. It was super convenient, being just 1 minute away from the bus stand. They were lovely & gracious hosts and the breakfast we had there was nothing short of restaurant class. They helped us with the drops, suggested places to cover, recommended restaurants and we exhanged stories of India & Goa. If you decide to stay over in Cowes, theirs would be the best place you could find. You can contact them at http://abnb.me/EVmg/cGulZ6ZfNC.
  • However, if what you have in mind is a stay on the beach then I would advise you to look for a place near Shanklin.
Shanklin, Isle Of Wight, UK

Where should I head for some great food? 

  • West Cowes has some good restaurants for seafood, Murrays (or Murries, I can’t remember) being one of them. The Coast is another such famous place. I would definitely recommend a meal at The Garlic Farm. Do call and ask for their lunch timings and don’t forget to try the Black Garlic Ice Cream. There are lots of Garlic products to shop there as well. The Fisherman’s Cottage is a good place at the Shanklin Beach, and the walk to the Chine begins very close to it. There are loads of other recommended places on the island that many pamphlets can inform you about.
Fried Squid with a dash of Rock Salt & Peppers, Prawn & Crab Salad @ Fisherman Cottage, Isle of Wight, UK
  • However the one thing I would ask you to not miss at any cost would the Cream Tea. We had it at the Vernon Cottage and the scones were superbly delicious. Before you start to eat the scones though, don’t forget to slice it in the middle and load on dollops of the Cornish clotted cream and jam, that’s what the tea is all about!!
Cream Tea @ Vernon Cottage, Isle of Wight, UK

Anything else I should know?

  • Yes, this one stems from my disappointment. Now when we planned the trip there, what I was looking forward to was a weekend on the beach. We covered Shanklin on the evening of the first day and thought there were lots of beaches on the West Coast to linger on the next day as well for a good time. Unfortunately, on the West, all you get to see are bays (spectacular, nevertheless). Upon asking for a sandy beach, we were directed to the Colwell Bay and again while beautiful, it was a very narrow stretch of sand near the water. For someone who’s used to vast stretches of sandy beach in India, this was a big disappointment.
  • So if you want beaches, Shanklin & Sandown area is all you can get. But if you are looking for some time well spent in the midst of nature, the island is a view to behold!
Black Garlic Ice Cream @ The Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight, UK

#I have loads of pamphlets and booklets with regards to the places to see and the bus timings on the Island. If you need any info, do drop me a note and I would be glad to share the PDFs with you.

Mineority By Saby, Kalyani Nagar, Pune

I had been thinking of visiting this place for quite some time now. The name intrigued me and its pictures put up on some food blogs were fascinating enough to finally push me its way. Unfortunately for me the reality couldn’t catch up with the expectations and I was a tad bit disappointed. Read on for more!

The first thing you love about the place is the ambience. It has a fresh café like look….bursts of colours here and there, big comfy sofas strewn about, lots of lights…it’s a vibrant look that preps you up for something unique and different coming your way.

Mineority by Saby, Pune

The second exciting thing is the menu. You read it and realize that you could taste authentic dishes from all over the North East under this one roof. There are dishes from Odisha, Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Arunachal. And although there are international dishes, I decided to stick to the national ones. We started off with the Kalimpong Chilli Cheese Rolls. These were really good, albeit oily. They were really fine crisp rolls stuffed with looaaddss of cheese with a serving of mayo on the side.

Kalimpong Chilli Cheese Rolls @ Mineority,Pune

Then we went for the Black Vegetable Skewer. This was again a good dish, although again, on the oilier side. It had grilled paneer, cauliflower & pumpkin in a black sesame paste served with coriander chutney. What disappointed me was the fact that the sesame didn’t make its presence felt in the dish…at all. Although tasty, it was almost like any regular tandoori vegetable platter. The serving of flat bread on the side too puzzled me as I just couldn’t see it going well with the grilled vegetables.

Black Vegetable Skewer @ Mineority,Pune
Black Vegetable Skewer @ Mineority,Pune

The main course is where the real disappointment set in. We ordered for the Arunachali Thukpa. It had momos floating in a clear broth with mushrooms and carrots around. The thukpas I have had in Sikkim have been surreal, with the clear water oozing with the freshness from the vegetables. To my dismay, in this one, I could see droplets of oil floating on top…so the extra oiliness seemed to continue everywhere I looked. Also, the broth itself tasted of haldi. The momos were good and the dish overall wasn’t bad, but definitely not the exceptional surprise I was expecting.

Arunachali Thukpa @ Mineority,Pune

We also ordered the Odiya Chatu Bhaja & Kasundi Vegetable Jhal. Being an Odiya myself, these were the dishes I was really looking forward to. I hadn’t had an Odiya/Bengali meal for days and I was craving the mustardy taste we typically incorporate into our dishes. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the dishes authentic at all. The Chatu Bhaja was way too tomatoey and thick and full of masala….the kind of gravy I have never eaten in Odisha. The menu had said it would be served with Ajwain Puri. Instead we were served an undercooked ajwain paratha.

Odiya Chatu Bhaja @Mineority,Pune

The Vegetable Jhal was alright in that I could taste the mustard here and there but again, nowhere close to what any authentic Bengali dish tastes like.

Kasundi Vegetable Jhal @ Mineority,Pune

In the end, I decided I wanted to give the place one last chance and ordered the Jurassic Cheesecake which is basically the Chena Podo , ‘the oldest cheesecake in the world’ as the menu says. As an Odiya I am extremely fierce about my Chena Podo being tampered with. But that’s exactly what this place did . The exquisite burnt cheese taste of this mouth watering sweet was definitely missing. In its place all I got was weirdly a taste of dry gulab jamun. Again, while not bad, definitely not authentic.

Jurassic Cheesecake @ Mineority, Pune

All in all, the place was a disappointment. Maybe if they had publicized it as a modern fusion of authentic dishes, I might have gone in with different hopes. But with the tantalizing talks of original dishes from the North East, this place unfortunately failed to deliver for me.

Finally, My Ratings for the place would be :

Ambience : 3.5/5 ; Service      : 4/5 ; Food          : 2/5 ; Pocket Friendly : 2.5/5 (About 2500 for 2) ; Presentation : 3.5/5

Badrinath Ki Dulhania – A movie of the times, in the guise of a masala flick!

When my husband said he wanted to watch this movie, I actually looked down upon him…how can you want to watch such no-brainer movies, I said. The trailers had made it look like this movie would help Varun Dhawan carry forward his father’s legacy of commercial rom-coms of the 90s with no sense whatsoever and I went to watch this film as a skeptic! But I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Badrinath ki Dulhania is a movie that cleverly sends across socially relevant messages while attempting to retain its commercial viability. The story line is pretty basic. Badri, the son of a rich man in Jhansi, is attracted to Vaidehi, the younger daughter of a middle-class household in Kota. Thanks to his family heritage Badri considers himself a valuable catch for any girl. He decides that the best way to take things forward would be to ask the parents to discuss the rishta. Unfortunately for him, Vaidehi turns out to be a rebel who wants to make her place in this world and find herself a job , marriage being the last thing on her mind. Things go awry and the relationship doesn’t work out leaving Badri’s father fuming, wanting to “teach Vaidehi  a lesson for all girls to remember”. A hurt and angry Badri sets out for revenge, but as is pretty evident from the name, he gets his dulhaniya in the end.

Here are some moments where this movie, with a seemingly common story, scores:

  1. Right from the very start, the patriarchal customs & thoughts prevelant in our society are discussed. So ‘beta hua toh keemti laddoo and beti hui toh peda’ is the norm. Badri’s mummy is a mute spectator, whose name at one point is mentioned by Badri as ‘Mummy Bansal’, a woman without an identity. Girls’ parents are always under ‘pressure’ and ‘dowry toh banta h’. And Badri’s father in law is proud of his elder daughter in law who is ‘very qualified’ yet never talks of ‘faltu’ things like doing a job. The facts are just placed before the audience…no preachy stuff…with the hope that they understand the sarcasm behind these dialogues.
  2. Throughout the movie, Vaidehi’s family is depicted as extremely loving and yet when it comes to marriage they have very traditional views – a contradiction that most girls in our country face. So the daughter could study all she wanted, but once she had reached ‘marriageable age’ and her father ‘was to retire in 2 years’, there was no alternative but to get her married off as ‘after 30 finding options is difficult’. The girl’s dreams are conveniently sidelined as her sister explains that she must ‘learn to be happy with whatever she has in front of her as the future was anyway uncertain’. Vaidehi however has an undying spirit to reach out for the stars, even if that means she must travel the distance alone.
  3. There’s finally a scene of male molestation in a commercial Hindi flick, and that itself is commendable. Yes, the scene could have been more sensitive, but atleast this is an acknowledgement of the possibility of men being vulnerable and molested, and that too in front of a wide audience. The icing on the cake is that Vaidehi saves him….Get the point already, people!
  4. The ladies are the hero(in)es! Badri has no job to boast off, riding on his father’s fame while Vaidehi earns well, saving up to get her father out of his debts. Urmila (Badri’s Bhabhi) who was a topper in college, is the brains behind her husband’s business expansions. So basically the girls rock 😊

<<Slight spoiler alert for point 5, skip if you want!!>>

  1. Lastly, I think very importantly the movie helps the men understand ‘why feminism’. We have often seen that although the Hero himself understands the girl’s aspirations, it’s his family who must be convinced to give up on their archaic traditions. In this movie, however, what’s beautiful is the hero’s journey from thinking ‘what could a girl do with her life but marry’ and stalking her all over even if that meant jeopardizing her career to believing in ‘you needn’t be the son of the house, you are a pretty awesome daughter’ and ‘I wish my Bhabhi hadn’t got married, she could have achieved so much’! I loved the fact that Badri, a guy with inbuilt patriarchal thoughts owing to his upbringing, sheds them as he observes Vaidehi work hard at her dreams and actually gets inspired by her.

All in all, this is a good movie, albeit with its flaws(an over dramatic ending included), that tries to subtly pass messages that are very relevant to today’s society. Now the rest is upto the audience. You can choose to enjoy the movie for what it looks on the exterior…a regular masala flick with some great songs and an age-old love story…or you can choose to look at the finer nuances and try understanding the message they are trying to send you.

My Rating : 3.5

Candies In Her Palm – A Short Story #NostalgiaSeries

“They walked in the sweltering heat, the two sisters and Namita, the elder one’s best friend. Backs bent with the weight of the khaki coloured bags..the rectangular ones with two shiny clips that had to go ‘tak’ and ‘tak’ again, so you knew they were properly closed. Feet clumsily covered in battered chappals, dragging on the dusty road. Hair that had been carefully oiled and plaited by their mothers in the morning, complete with the red ribbon on both sides, now stuck to their scalps as sweat trickled down their faces. Little Rano walked ahead with a steadfast determination, her sister’s hand in hers. Pulling her, goading her to walk faster, they were almost there. Sunaina sighed and carried on, she could never refuse her baby sister. They finally reached and Rano looked at her big sister expectantly. Sunaina dug out her treasure from her bag, 20p that she had managed to save that week. She placed a 10p coin into the wrinkly hand of the shopkeeper and received a grunt in approval. Carefully she lowered the big glass jar and held it tight against her chest. With her free hand she twisted the cap open and counted out 10 candies, some red, some green, some orange and some purple. 1,2,3…9,10, placing each one gently into Rano’s cupped palms. Rano’s round face broke into a smile and her eyes gleamed with joy. Sunaina laughed as her sister struggled to wipe the drool off her mouth, her hands full of candies. With Rano satisfied, she went on to buy sweetmeats for Namita and her four other siblings waiting back home. That was the norm, all 6 brothers and sisters would sit down in a circle and Sunaina split the candies among them all. Happiness was to be shared, their mother had told her eldest daughter and Sunaina intended to take that very seriously. Rano skipped ahead, eager to reach home and gobble up her share. Come fast Sunaina, walk fast Sunaina…”

“Sunaina?…Sunaina?” She broke out of her reverie. The doctor was talking to her. “You can see her now”. Sunaina nodded at the others and they headed for the room. The same round face, she thought with a smile. But the eyes glistened with tears of pain now and the smile was forced. She looked at Rano lying on the bed, with its white covers, tubes coming out of the bedsheets, recovering after the 4th surgery that year. The disease was catching up and Sunaina knew in her heart that no candy could make her sister’s eyes gleam now. They all sat down in that hospital room. Sunaina and her 4 siblings, around Rano. All 6 of them. All they knew was to share…candies, tears, stories, fears…all they could do, was share.

//This story is dedicated to my Late Aunt Smt. Suchitra Ray…you are forever in our hearts Ranu Mausi 🙂

What we women are doing wrong even as we fight for Feminism!

This post has been published on womensweb.in. You can find the piece at the following link :  http://www.womensweb.in/2017/02/fight-for-feminism-what-we-are-doing-wrong/

I was in a theatre a few months back when a documentary caught my eye, and has been disturbing me ever since. It was supposedly an attempt to make one understand the plight of women.So, It depicted how women toil in the kitchen and serve the husband who is already waiting at the dinner table, yet secretly, they dream of sitting at the table while the husband toils in the kitchen and serves her the food. And I thought, wouldn’t it have passed a more correct message if it showed that the man entered the kitchen too, worked alongside his wife and they both shared a happy meal together?

It struck me then, THIS is what’s wrong with the popular concept of feminism. THIS is what people think the women of today want….to give up all work, sit down as royals, and give men a taste of what it feels like to be a woman. The ad must have been seen by a hundred others apart from me and it feels sad to know that all of them went back with a twisted concept of feminism ingrained in their minds. I’m sure the intention of the ad had been to further the cause of women empowerment. But sadly, this isn’t the kind of empowerment women should or would want.

Feminism has ALWAYS been about equality, not about turning the tables on men and sitting back and enjoying watching them struggle and saying “See this is what we go through”.

This event set me thinking….Did all the women in the theatre inwardly cringe at the ad as I had done? Or had it been just me? With these thoughts in mind, I took to analysing how much the women of today actually understood feminism. As I discussed more with people around me,

I realised, that while women tend to remember the ‘women’s rights’ aspect of feminism, the core principle of ‘equality’ is often forgotten!

For example, on the one hand women shout out slogans for equality and feminism and on the other hand they don’t want to let go of all the ‘benefits’ or ‘considerations’ they receive as a woman in today’s society, leaving the men fuming and calling us hypocrites. I thus also realised, that most of the women in the audience that day in the theatre, would have thought that the ad was justified…that the wife deserved the right to sit back and enjoy the meal being served, while the husband who was now in her place drew no sympathy!!

Thus my conclusion: Change begins at home, and if we want the men to understand feminism better, we women must take the onus of living the philosophy of feminism in our everyday lives! Here is a small list, some pointers if you may, of the things I have observed women do, in fact unknowingly several times, that is not aligned with the concept of Feminism:

  1. Let me go ahead, I am a woman!

Many a time I have seen women break queues and move ahead using the excuse of being delicate creatures who can’t bear standing in the hot sun. I understand women sometimes have issues that entitle them for some slack. But why otherwise? Don’t use this age old concept of “ladies first” to weasel your way out of a situation while men struggle it out honestly.

  1. I shall let you have the honour of paying!

This is especially true of working women. If you want men to not treat you as “women” at the workplace, carry the same thought outside as well. Earning as much a man, but expecting him to pay each time you go out is completely unfair. With the demand for equal pay, comes the responsibility of equal expense.

  1. My husband has no right to demand I work!

I have been appalled several times that women take offence when their husbands ask them to work and help with the financial situation. Many well educated women, even in this day and age, consider the post-marriage period of their lives as an ‘option’ to stay at home if they so wish. In fact, what’s even more blasphemous is women themselves consider a man who ‘cannot earn enough to support her’ as ‘inadequate’. This is so sad. When in today’s world, we expect men to take care of the home & children as an equal partner, then what is wrong of a man to expect his wife to help him financially?

  1. No late shifts please, I’m a woman!

Well if you can’t share the burden at work, don’t expect to be treated equally. Yes, I agree that women are responsible for their own safety. But today’s jobs provide ample number of flexibilities that women can enjoy so that their work isn’t affected. So instead of saying a no, how about asking them for options. For example, can I do the night shift from home? Or… Can I be assigned a shift such that I can go back home early morning when there’s daylight? Or…can someone trustworthy from the team drop me back? Yes, we women are weaker in physical strength when compared to men, and we always need to be cautious. But don’t use it as an excuse all the time. The men in your team work equally hard, probably have wives and families they need to get back to or spend weekends with. Share their burden whenever possible.

  1. A man must know his manners!

Men at my work place don’t hold doors for me. My chair is not held while I make myself comfortable. Nor do I hear “after you”. One may argue..”these are manners”. Yes, but from which era? An era which deemed women were “ladies” to be “taken care of”, who were to be “guarded and protected” by the chivalrous men!! No, I don’t say that men who do it are wrong. If a man thinks he wants to do it for me, that’s sweet. But let’s not dismiss men who do not do it as “ungentlemanly” (Yes, I have seen this happening). As I mentioned above, if you scream for equality in all spheres then don’t demand “courtesies” as your birth right as a woman.

  1. A Man must be Manly!

This, in my opinion, is the worst of them all. Women, even today, even while demanding a change in the definition of ‘being a woman’, refuse to change their definition of ‘being a man’. If a lady’s husband works at home while she’s out working, the poor guy is mocked. If a man goes to a parlour, that defies our views of the right things a man should do. Men who cook lunch-dabbas in the morning for themselves and the wives are sniggered at….by women!! If a woman can ask for the right to live by her choice, why isn’t the same to be granted to a man?!

Ramchandra Guha had written an article a few days back of 11 courageous women who had sent Gandhi a letter way back in 1939. In the letter, these women explained to him as to why he was wrong in making the statement that “The modern girl dresses..to attract attention”. I read that article and realised how many men & women generation after generation have been fighting for our cause…fighting to get us the rights, privileges, honour we have always seen only men enjoy. And today, we are so close to achieving that. But what I fear is that in the process of making sure we get our rights, are we committing the same injustices that our gender has been facing all along?

Are we women too becoming insensitive to the opposite gender…a quality we have always associated with a Patriarchal society?

Are we women forgetting that the true meaning of Feminism lies in equality? Feminism isn’t about taking a patriarchal society and turning it inside out into a matriarchal one! It’s about creating a beautiful world of equality for all lives, whether of men or women!

We women have a huge task ahead of us….of convincing the society of the need for Feminism for its own betterment. But while we gear up to shove the boulder, let’s not ignore the pebbles. And as we fight and struggle with the society, let’s step back for a moment, stop ourselves and analyse if WE women are TRULY following the SPIRIT OF EQUALITY in our daily lives? To usher in a new era, let us first rid ourselves of the stereotypes in our own minds. Small changes at our end can change the outlook of people around us, can make them respect us for what we ask and not mock us for what we get!

The Sweet Life!