NaPoWriMo – Day 21

Sunrise, Sunset…it’s a given! Since I did a Sunset yesterday, I thought I would do a Sunrise today – but I don’t have any great pictures of a Sunrise (I did say I was an Owl!), I’ve settled for one of these pretty orange blossoms in the morning light. The picture brings back happy memories of our annual family vacations to a hill station, Mahabaleshwar, a few hundred kilometers from Mumbai. We gather there every year in our Indian winter (such as it is ;)), and celebrate what I like to call ‘the Art of Living’ 😉 which for us means chilling out, pigging out, playing Pictionary late into the night, lots of alcohol, tons of laughter and gossip!! 

We always stay at Hotel Dina, a family owned place that serves the most delicious non-veg food ever!! We’re regulars, so the staff and owners know us and are always gracious and helpful 🙂 I know all of us look forward to that hiatus in our busy lives when we reconnect with each other and Nature 🙂 This picture was taken early in the morning (6.30ish methinks!), while Hubby and Junior were still sleeping and I was out with the camera to see what I could see 🙂 It was cold and I was shivering (I hate warm clothes unless the cold is in danger of quite literally killing me ;)) But I remember, it was a magical morning…they always seems to be on vacation don’t they?!


Happy Sunday People 😀

Last Post of the Decade!

Am back on the penultimate day of the year for my last post of this decade! December has been insane, what with Ishaan on holiday from school, our family vacation and a marathon family wedding, which finally wrapped up last night! I haven’t written much at all and am beginning to suffer ‘Blog-withdrawal’, coz I haven’t been able to read my fellow bloggers either 😦 And yet, despite the exhaustion, it’s been great fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it 🙂 New Year’s Day is also our wedding anniversary so will be back, hopefully refreshed and relaxed, and with loads to write, in the new decade 🙂

Isn’t it amazing? In the blink of an eye, a whole decade’s flashed by! It’s been a life-altering one for me and my family in so many ways and yet one doesn’t stop to think about these things, does one, unless it’s ‘that’ time of the year again or one needs to write a blog post after a seriously long break 😉 Thanks a million, to all my readers who still dropped by to read while I was away being busy 🙂 My statistics tell me that I wasn’t completely forgotten, which feels really good 😀

So as I was saying a life-altering decade and a hectic last couple of weeks…weeks first then. Mid-month, we had a holiday in Mahabaleshwar, a hill-station, that’s an 8-hour drive away from Goa. We met up with family and had the time of our lives, which for us (as I am sure for many of you), means great food, great shopping and superlative food 🙂 It was my first time visiting this very popular destination and I was suitably impressed. Although we hit heavy traffic on the way at Panchagani, which scared me, Mahabaleshwar itself, I found still relatively unspoilt. Not that there weren’t any tourists (it’s too close to Bombay to escape their onslaught entirely), but I thought it was so much better than Goa, which by the way has officially become ‘Hell’ for us locals as multitudes of tourists take-over looking for their own particular New Year ‘Paradise’!! Uuuuuuuugh!! Great for all the vendors who have suffered a lot in the last few years when the tourist stream died down to a trickle, but not so great for us, given the traffic jams and general chaos in a state with terrible infra-structure.

Ishaan's first solo horse-ride!

But, as usual, I digress (old habits!)…Mahabaleshwar and Hotel Dina were fabulous…we relaxed, shopped, and pigged out until our poor stomachs cried out for a holiday of their own 😛 The kids rode horses, jumped on the trampoline until I thought they were going to wear out the poor thing, and visited the local amusement park. The older kids tried their hand at Go-karting and Ishaan tried out the bumper cars with Hubby but cried to leave after the first few bumps 😉 And did I mention an extraordinary Magic show, the highlights of which included finding a ring within a whole tomato and having our hands mysteriously coated in different fragrances!! Sweet 🙂

We’ve decided this should be an annual family holiday and I love this start of a new tradition 🙂 Personally, I think it’s the food 😉 No, seriously! I have never eaten mutton (it’s what we call goat’s meat here in India), cooked in so many delectable ways…samosas, patties, ‘dhansak’ (a Parsi curry made with lentils and mutton), biryani, mince…Heaven 🙂

Strawberries on the vine!

They did great desserts too…although I am not a dessert person…their strawberry soufflé was to die for, not surprising perhaps given that Mahabaleshwar is known for it’s strawberries!! We visited a farm, where a kind gentleman explained the intricacies of berry cultivation and told us that the plants they use are imported from California and cost them about Rs.10/each by the time they are ready to fruit! I thought that was pretty economical, but each plant apparently has a life-span of just 8 months. It wasn’t quite strawberry season yet when we were there and so they were selling the berries for about Rs.160/kilo (during the season, in Jan-Feb, they’re half that price!). We brought home a lot of strawberries 🙂

Back from Mahabaleshwar, we were all nursing colds (the temperature was 8-12°C), and trying everything from home remedies to antibiotics, in a race against time to recover for my cousin’s wedding. I made it thanks in main to an excellent, pungent concoction my Granny makes containing basil, ginger, and pepper corns among other things, sweetened with a bit of honey!! Taken twice a day, it’s a surefire recipe for frightening away the most stubborn colds 🙂 There followed the last-minute scramble of deciding which sarees to wear, a process usually dependant on whether the blouses that go with them fit 😛 That sorted, on to the jewelry! Without a doubt…jewelry is the true star of the Goan wedding!! The bride and her guests are all laden with every piece of jewelry they possess in a frenzied display of wealth and more often bad taste 😛 For people such as moi, who dislike heavy jewelry in general and gold in particular, it is as you can imagine, painful 😉 I have never understood why it’s necessary to display every article of jewelry you own to the world at once!! Never will! But Goan women certainly seem to take pride in displays that would shame a peacock 😛 Their sarees however are a very different story…mediocre at best! Alright, I think I’ve said enough to incur the wrath of several Goan women I know… and so quickly moving on 😉

The wedding is actually a series of ceremonies, some religious, some not, spread over 3 days. Day 1 saw the family gather at our family home for the ‘Devkarya’ (the official start of the wedding celebrations). Surrounded by her family, the bride worshipped the family deities, was anointed in oil and turmeric, and donned the auspicious green glass bangles that are one of the hallmarks of a newly married woman, while the women of the household sang songs, bantered and gossiped 🙂 The atmosphere was festive, noisy and seemingly chaotic, but everything that needed to get done, did! There is apparently a method to all the madness 🙂 I went armed with my camera and busied myself taking pictures. Ishaan played cricket in the garden outside with the rest of the kids and a pleasant day was had by all, catching up with visiting out-of-town relatives.

Day 2 was the actual wedding ceremony. The venue, is a marriage hall in the famous Mangeshi temple, and we got there at 10 am. The first ceremony is a repeat of the oil-anointing ritual, known as ‘Tel’ (oil), the difference being that the groom’s side is now present to anoint the bride and vice versa. The bride and groom receive gifts (More jewelry ;-)) and the guests get ice cream and a gift too (Nah! No jewelry this time! A steel utensil is the general norm.). Then as the bride went off to change her sari (she changed twice during the entire ceremony), the guests hung out, waiting for the auspicious time (in this case 12.36 pm), when amidst religious chanting and an exchange of garlands the marriage was finally solemnized! After that, a vegetarian lunch buffet, more rituals and finally the leave-taking, often tearful (although not in this case :)), with the bride leaving for her new home with her new partner and family! And so ended Day 2 at around 6 in the evening…yeah! Long Day!!

Day 3 was relatively relaxed. There’s a reception in the evening with a live band and a non-vegetarian buffet! Sometimes I think the only reason for the reception is to feed the guests fish, coz unless that happens, Goans consider themselves lacking in hospitality!! It’s also a chance for the couple and the families to finally relax and mingle with their guests, with the nightmare of organizing a wedding firmly and successfully behind them. My aunt and uncle seem much more relaxed, their faces reflecting the happiness that comes from knowing they’ve done good by their daughter. My cousin is radiant as all brides are and looks perfectly content 🙂 Oh Happy Day!! My only crib is the time it took us to get to the venue (more than an hour), and the awful traffic jam on the way. But the best thing about this wedding as far as I’m concerned is that my Dad made it through all three days and venues, even if on occasion grudgingly, without mishap! He even enjoyed himself although far be it for him to admit it to any one of us!

And that brings me up to today, the first day that I haven’t had to wear a sari and sit around being polite and wearing the party smile 😛 Tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve and we will spend it as we always do…at home with family. Venturing outside into the mayhem of tourists and traffic is a huge no-no. On New Year’s day we’re having a dinner for close family and my Karaoke cousin will once again provide the entertainment 🙂 Then hopefully a restful Sunday and back to the grind. Ishaan starts school on Monday and you may think this unseemly and unkind, but I can hardly wait! It means I get my life back, well, at least my mornings 🙂

And so to the decade…will keep this short coz it’s late and I’m sleepy and this post is already a mile long 😛 Lets see…we moved countries, quit jobs, had Ishaan, and lost my brother…that’s the short version and for now I’m happy to leave it at that. I’ve had much happiness this decade and great sorrow. I’ve learnt a few things along the way and have many more lessons to learn. As I’ve said before, I’m not into making resolutions any more. This year in general and these last couple days in particular, I’ve been thinking a lot about Independence, by which I mean the freedom to just ‘Be’, whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever…you know what I mean. It’s not a new thought nor original, but it’s particularly relevant to me at this time in my life, when I so often feel penned in by responsibilities and burdened by expectations. I’ve always been a misfit as far as the traditionally accepted Goan way of life goes. Nothing about me conforms. I’m opinionated, frankly vocal, disdainful of customs that I perceive as being based in fear and superstition, dislike fish, jewelry and saris (My poor Mother!!), like my liquor and don’t hide the fact, don’t think Goa is Paradise on Earth, and find the company of most members of my community boring!!! (Nobody’s going to read me after this!!) Moving back to Goa and trying to make a life here is without doubt the hardest thing I have ever done so far, made harder by the fact that my family is conservative and orthodox in many of their beliefs. In their eyes I’m probably the worst sort of ‘libertine’, although none of them will ever say so to my face!

If I must wish for something therefore, I wish for an Independence of Spirit. A way in which to be true to myself without being obnoxious to others (I’m told it can be done!), and patience…truckloads of it…not only with Ishaan and the rest of my family, but for myself. I need to be patient with myself and though I’m better at it now than I was years ago, I’ve a long ways to go. I wish there was a ‘patience-fairy’ I could appeal to. I mean really, what good does the tooth-fairy really do people?!

And to you my readers and friends and inspiration…I would like to say THANK YOU…for being who you are and doing what you do 🙂 My Life is fuller and happier because of it!!

Have a good celebration People. Stay Safe. Do NOT Drink & Drive. Laugh a lot. Dance as much as you can. Smile often and HAVE FUN 🙂

A Healthy, Happy 2011 to All!!

Countdowns, Christmas & Closure…

I’ve found it difficult to write this month especially these last two weeks, when I’ve managed just two posts. It’s not that I don’t have ideas, but I’ve just not pushed myself to sit and write them down, develop them into stories, sometimes out of lethargy but mostly coz I’ve been busy. I don’t enjoy this (hopefully) temporary separation from words, but the more I fight it, the more elusive they become. So, for a change I’ve decided to be mature and do the sensible thing…enjoy the break, take every day as it comes and hope for the best! What do you think? Sounds like a plan? This post took me a while to write…too many distractions, too much happening, too many excuses! But I needed to get it written before we left for our short holiday and am quite happy I finally got it done 🙂 Feel better for it! So here goes…

It’s that time of year again – Countdown time!

Countdowns for everything have begun…days to X’mas, days to the New Year, days to my vacation – just 2 more 🙂 We all get carried away with numbers, in this year-end induced frenzy of making new beginnings …we count days, calories, gifts, regrets, successes, pounds lost and pounds gained, friendships we’ve managed to hold on to, those we’ve had to let go, how many times we cried, how often we laughed, how many vacations we took, how many books we read, how many we didn’t. and all the other stuff with which we quantify our lives in an attempt to make sense of it all and in all probability make more short-lived, often futile resolutions! You know it’s true! It’s almost like the numbers we come up with define who we are or should I say, who we were during the year gone by. Restricting really…especially when the sum is so much more than parts of the whole. I’m not sure that last line makes any kind of sense, but it sure looks good on paper – important! Blame it on the fact that I’m living very much in the Wizard world at the moment with Potter and the rest 😛 and so perhaps as Rowling likes to say, my brains are ‘addled’ 😛

The last couple of years I’ve tried to steer clear of both – numbers and resolutions. It’s not easy though, especially when thinking about trying to lose weight! (the emphasis here is on ‘thinking’ as opposed to ‘trying’ :P) I’ve been telling myself that I should join the gym only when I’m ready to make a permanent lifestyle change and when I care less about how much weight I lose and more about the importance of getting fitter and healthier. Let’s just say I haven’t joined a gym, lost much weight nor increased my level of fitness in a while. But I haven’t given up yet! Why should I, when I have 2011 around the corner and the opportunity to make yet another new beginning if I should so desire?

New beginnings brings me to closure. Obvious? Rather! In a year-end post I did last year, I stressed the discovery of a good ending. I know one cannot always hope for one of those neatly parceled endings where everything works out to our satisfaction, and that’s not what I mean. But I do hope that I am able, as the year draws to a close, to let go of stuff that needs letting go, move on from disappointments, celebrate successes and clear my mind of a year’s worth of detritus, so I feel renewed and refreshed. Prepared, in a word for the New Year, and whatever it may hold. I may not like numbers but I do like the feeling of getting Life under control (well what little is under our control anyway!), moving on and looking forward in anticipation. In this, I’m true to my inner Sagittarian. Change excites me. I love the thought of new challenges and hopefully new solutions. Sameness (in anything), initially just bores and then annoys me to the point of real rage sometimes! (Ask Mom!) So here’s hoping for a New Year of novelty and originality, of balance and of course much fun & happiness 🙂

And so on to the last ‘C’ – Christmas! I love Christmas for the most obvious reasons – cool weather, beautifully decorated trees, caroling, and a general sense of well-being and happiness all around 🙂 Ever since I was a kid in Japan, we’ve always put up a Christmas tree, actually make that two! One green and one white 🙂 I love the decorating process and when the lights on the tree are finally switched on, there’s just a little bit of magic in the air, don’t you think? I do 🙂 Love Santa Claus too! Oh come on – you know you do too! What’s not to like, he brings gifts doesn’t he 😉 This year was Ishaan’s first Christmas in school 🙂 He showed no interest at all while I put up our tree at home and I don’t know whether he showed any in school! Somehow, I doubt it. He had his school Christmas party today and came back with a snowman tattoo on his hand and a mini-basketball game as a gift 🙂 He wasn’t too interested in either! But he does sing Jingle Bells with me 🙂

On Sunday, we are off to Mahabaleshwar, a hill station, an 8 hour drive away. We’ll meet up with family and I’m looking forward to the change in scene! I need it 🙂 You will of course hear all about it when I’m back! And yet, this month, I’ve found it hard to write – there’s a sense of ennui that’s been hard to shake off, surprising given that this has been a remarkably busy month. Oh well…it’s nothing a change in scene can’t take care of! I hope 😛

I’ll leave you with a collage of our tree & a few of it’s ornaments 🙂

And now, I need to get back to Hogwarts and The Half-Blood prince 🙂

Have a Fabulous Weekend People!! Good luck with that last-minute Christmas shopping  😉