Recently Recovered Musings

I recently returned from United States after touring the Puget Sound region, Las Vegas, and the San Juan Islands. In true Las Vegas fashion, not only did I lose money but also managed to get my phone stolen. Why is this relevant? Well, while I was in Seattle (the city that claims to be the coffee capital of the world, also famous for being the birthplace of Starbucks), I frequented many cafes and continuously discovered the wonder of micro-roasters and freshly brewed caffeine fixes, almost every day. Embracing this lone-traveler-late-morning-coffee-drinker persona on my café excursions, I’d sometimes feel the urge to ponder and write (rather type) and would often churn out some words, typing away on my phone while sipping a cuppa’.

And then, alas, Vegas, that consuming city of sin, took from me my beloved phone and with it, my many little musings.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there – yes, there is hope! Today, as I was browsing through various online forums for some work research I came across a thread that outlines very simply (and in retrospect, extremely obvious) steps on how to restore notes online. I tried it, and it turns out that my phone had automatically backed up a couple of my older notes to the cloud. So even though majority of my ponderings are now roaming freely in the Las Vegas ether, I was able to recover some of my mini reflections, which at this point I’m pretty thrilled about. Here’s a slightly edited version of something I wrote specifically for the blog, while thinking about Pondicherry on one of my aforementioned café jaunts.

“I’ve been gone from Pondicherry a while ago now, and sadly, haven’t put up an update on what was one of the most exciting phases of my life.

I think the reason for this is simply that Pondicherry allowed me to be so many different people, that I didn’t know which “me” to really write about. Let me explain. As things stood, on the one hand, I was the ultimate working hippie (if that’s a thing) – chilling on rooftop cafes with cane chairs, in palazzo pants and able to work from wherever my heart desired. On the weekends, I was a scuba diver, learning things about India’s marine ecosystem and feeling one with the ocean like never before. And my third avatar was that of the female solo traveler – a part time typical tourist, outsider in some ways but an Insider in others, exploring the cuisines, people and overall culture of the Pondicherry and it’s surrounding areas.

As I sit in this quaint Seattle café, surrounded by black and white portraits of mean and women, their eyes all somehow unintentionally converging on me and sipping on my perfectly made café au lait, I can’t help but introspect about the past few months of my life. My time in Pondicherry was transformative, to say the least. Something about the city ignited a creative spark in me – a spark that was raw and simple. I think this was one of the reasons that my writings in Pondicherry took the form of pen to paper, rather than keyboard to blog. The physical act of being able to write, draw, doodle, sketch, (whatever you call it) yields a different (and in my opinion, more fulfilling) sense of satisfaction, one that I wasn’t able to find through blogging.

And so, in my selfish interest – I scribed and scribbled little notes and anecdotes on scraps of paper, napkins and my handy travel journal, rather than on here. I’m still in the process of deciding what to do with my musings: whether they should remain randomly strewn about as they are, whether they are blog worthy, or whether they could potentially synergize into something more – a memoir to make up #ThePondiPages? What happens is yet to be decided, and maybe these morning coffee sessions, world away from Pondicherry, will give me clarity on which path to take. Right now, all I know is that there is much to reconcile in terms of my experiences in Pondicherry, and with time, I’m hoping my reflections come together into something more, something that is beautifully whole.”

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P.S. After almost 7 years, I’m back in Bombay for mango season, and have been cooking with these juicy comfort fruits. I put a delicious Mango Rum Tart recipe in the Recipes section (with pictures of course), so if you need some mango motivation, head over and take a look.

 

 

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Bombay Nostalgia // Sailing the Arabian Sea

The air was fresh that morning, tinged with a salty zest, different from the smoggy heaviness that is rather typical to Bombay air. It was a Sunday morning, 6:45am to be precise and probably the earliest I’ve left the house in a while. Generally, I’d be averse to this early of a start, but the call of the ocean was too much to resist. I was finally going sailing, into the waters of the Arabian Sea just a few minutes before I’d be able to witness a breathtaking Mumbai Sunrise.

I’d never been sailing in Bombay before, and so I didn’t have a lot of expectations. In fact, I honestly expected to be disappointed based on my experience swimming a race in the Arabian Sea waters (which seems almost a lifetime ago). Back when I was 15, I took part in a 5 km Sea Swim Race amongst many others. We were taken out to sea on a boat we boarded from the Gateway of India. 5 kilometers in, the boat stopped, and we had to dive into the water, swimming with the current back to Gateway of India arch, where families eagerly waited to pull us out of the water. The minimum goal was to finish under 1 hour – I did, barely scraping though, and I still have the certificate to prove it. My memories of this race aren’t very pleasant. Sure, it was an achievement at the time, and maybe still is. But the ambience (or lack of it) of the Arabian Sea left much to be desired. I remember diving in only to see a screen of brown, and having to immediately pop my head out of the water to orient myself. Dirt, mud and debris were everywhere, making me ever so grateful was the oil that had been slathered over my body by my mother to save my skin from the pollutants around. At one point, I remember my hand got stuck in something. The muddy Waters made it impossible to see, and I had to stop swimming and raise my hand up to get said object off of me. It was and old plastic bag, that had decided to take my hand captive till I managed to pry it off whilst being violently swayed by the waves and current. All in all, it’s fair to say that my image of the immediate sea surrounding Bombay wasn’t too pleasant. So when I went sailing, I really didn’t expect to be blown away.

That morning though, I was in complete awe. The sun slowly rose spreading hues of orange and yellow across a clear sky. The sea was shimmering, as the gentle waves danced in reflected colours of the sun. The nights tide seemed to have washed away the debris that marks the Arabian Sea, leaving it rather clean, it’s usual murky waters disguised by the powerful rays if the sun that penetrated through. As we ventured into the sea, and further away from the city, the rhythmic sound of the wind hitting the sail filled the air around us. Flap, flap, – it played like a comforting lullaby. The silhouettes of other sailboats, and much larger container ships erratically lined the horizon, and the occasional seagull was seen desperately seeking into the waters. As I absorbed my surroundings in a space of tranquility and peace, I looked back to see the majestic structures of the Gateway of India and the Old Taj Mahal Hotel lining the shore, tinged with golden sunshine. I’ve always been a water baby – but really, I could have stayed out on that sailboat (an appropriate goodbye before I left for Pondicherry), gazing into the distant waters for just about forever.

 

 

Of Diyas and Rangoli –  #The Mussoorie Diaries

Diwali 2015 was full of firsts. After seven Diwalis away from home, this year, I was able to spend the festival of lights with my family and close friends. And obviously, I went all out. Mom and I created a stunning (if I do say so myself) Rangoli, a modern-art-gradient-esque Ganesh complete with some jhataak gold and silver glitter. I threw a party for all my old school friends,  a mini-reunion of sorts,  that turned into a night of watermelon mimosas, wine, gossip and lots of laughter.IMG_20151106_183152

By the time the Wednesday of Diwali finally rolled around, I’d already watched a firecracker show, eaten probably half my weight in desserts and mithai (there goes my diet) and dressed up in varieties of Indian attire. The day I was anxiously waiting for though, was New Year’s Day, the Thursday I would fly out for a four-day vacation in the beautiful town of Mussoorie.

Mussoorie is two flights and a three-hour driving trip away from Bombay. It’s definitely far up North, but the journey is more than worth the destination. Nestled in the Garhwal mountains, part of the Himalayan range in Uttarakhand, Mussoorie is a picturesque little town, that was initially a retreat for the Britishers during colonial times. The winding roads are lined with stalls that are almost hanging off the mountain faces, all promising a wonderful view and a bowl of hot Maggi.

There are many people that criticize the overwhelming amount of urbanization that has taken place in some of India’s most rural and scenic areas. While some may say Mussoorie is a victim of the same, the impression I left with was slightly different. Mussoorie has indeed been modernized, but arguably to a point of necessity. My three days showed me that Mussoorie is one of those places that perfectly balances the onset of urbanization with its abundance in untouched natural beauty. In short, one of the masks of Mussoorie could be described as “classy traditionalist”, what with it’s modern day conveniences melded seamlessly into its rustic core.1447496205606

I was fortunate enough to go for a 3-hour trek on Day 2 of my trip. We climbed up a narrow forest path, our guide frequently stopping to point out the healing properties of various leaves and berries. As we climbed higher and higher, the green waters of Kempty lake faded away into the distance, and the smell of fresh earth and clean air thoroughly enveloped us. I’ve only gone trekking in the North once as a child and back then, my sole goal was to “win the race”, and reach the destination faster than the rest of the group. So really, this was my first trek in the North India where I enjoyed the journey and was able to fully take in the beauty my surroundings. After an hour and a half, we reached an area of flat land, a platform that was surrounded by pine trees in every imaginable direction. A lone cow stood on our right, oblivious to the loud family that had so intentionally stumbled into this abode. My pictures don’t do the views justice, as it was more than just sight that made this made this place wondrous. An experience for the senses, it was the smell of purity, the feel of a breeze, light but powerfully cold, and the sounds of silence punctuated by the soft gossip of villagers from huts on the mountainside that resonated up to where we stood – it was all this combined that made the little opening in the trees perfectly mesmeric. Very modestly called, “The Pine Forest Trek”, I would recommended this expedition that is really so much more to anyone that makes it up to Mussoorie.

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It’s safe to say the magic of Mussoorie left quite an impression, further stoking the fire of wanderlust that seems to perpetually course through me. I’ve added a couple of pictures here, but more can be seen in entirety on the new “Memories of Travel” section on this blog. Considering my return to India has led to multiple weekend (and longer) “adventures” if you will, I thought it only fitting to start a section to display the beauty of the places I visit. On that note, I’m thrilled to announce that come January 10th, I will be spending around two months in the coastal city of Pondicherry! I’ll be scuba diving every weekend, completing my PADI Divemaster certification, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m going to try and document my time in this quaint city – my Pondicherry Ponderings – somewhere on this blog, so keep reading!