Category Archives: Travel

A Life Full of Care

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"I'll shake your hand as soon as I'm done downloading this hand sanitizer app."

This Friday we ditched routine and ventured out for a morning at the beach.

Sid enjoyed the yo-yo with the husband while Little Princess rolled around in the sand, the calm and clear waters revealing starfishes basking in the morning sun, building sand castles while filling her pocket with treasure (shells, rock and lots of sand) as her tiny fingers toiled hard on digging into the wet sand getting more sand on herself (and me) than the castle itself.

At the fringes of the shore stood a young mother and her little daughter watching us while hiding their faces, gleaming under layers of sunscreen (surely an SPF 1700), under the shade of a big umbrella cautiously avoiding the sun, the cool waters and the sand.

The mother, an obvious germophobe, squirmed at the sight of Little Princess – who was still reeling from days of making her way around my in-laws’ garden (back in the India) chasing butterflies on her bare feet, her tiny fingers squashing the life out of centipedes (until they all convened and went into an emergency hibernation to prevent their extinction from the area) and catching dragon flies that joyfully flitted about – now heading to get her sandy hands on a star fish that had washed ashore.

Her antics, that I labeled cute, had not impressed the mother, for in apparent shock she quickly cleaned her daughter’s hands with a thick dab of sanitizer (as if to sanitize the mere memory of what had just convened before them) before quickly threading their way out of the shores balancing her umbrella that was designed to block every ray of the pleasant morning sun.

I wondered if she indulged in an occasional shot of sanitizer to clean off the friendly bacteria that resided in her gut.

But the mother obviously cared, like I did with my first born for the first few months of his life competing with the slim, attractive and ever-smiling concerned mother in the disinfectant advertisement in soaking every object that came into his contact with the white pungent liquid, only to see him fall sick at the drop of a hat.

Cleanliness is close to craziness in a world where being extra sanitized and absolutely germ-free with anti-bacterial soaps, alcohol-based sanitizers and perfumed hand washes has become a fad with the industries that thrive in this new high feverishly raising their researching standards for more ‘attractive’ solutions to kill germs and bacteria, that actually benefit and strengthen our immune systems.

This has, in turn, benefited the rising pharmaceutical industry and doctors (with degrees longer than their name) treat strange allergies that have made an appearance among our children.

It is time we give our children a childhood that they deserve , a few friendly germs and all, while you relive the joys of being a child once again!

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I am Home!

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As the mercury soared and the rising temperatures competed with the humidity, we decided to take our vacation party from the confines of our home to my parent’s home, where mess does not usually include shredded newspaper or toys that squeak, and the kids and I could effortlessly topple, upset and upturn the routine of its occupants who woke up, slept and ate at the same time every single day.

We have managed to bring the Sun with us for the rain Gods are on vacation after a brief spell.

My parents who found Little Princess’s creative zeal and post-midnight antics cute over Skype are now  seen to oscillate between being caught under her spell and reeling under the pressures of her new-found ideas, games and undiminishing energy.

The week has been spent enjoying the warmth of family, relishing the tastiest pani puris from the smiling street vendor whose disposable polyethene gloves are crinkled and worn with use, walking under the broad canopies of the gulmohar and banyan trees in Cubbon Park that is bereft of the Page 3 ‘hip’ population who prefer to crowd the zillion malls that litter the city, ride pillion on my brother’s bike up the misty roads of Nandi Hills, and staring endlessly from the hired Uber cab at the dozen bikes and cars that stand shoulder to shoulder at traffic snarls, some busy ‘Working from Traffic’, and move at a menacingly snail’s pace while I thank the Gods for small mercies like that of ‘Working from Potholes’ that is yet to catch up in this city.

When I wake up to the smell of mother’s filter coffee and can write this post uninterrupted – I know I am home!

Hello Friends, hope you are all well. Been MIA for more than a week, but will catch up will all your posts very soon. Wishing you all a happy Sunday.

Plane Lucky

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'This is you captain speaking...I have just been fired...so...good luck!'

Do you remember an ancient way of travelling – making a journey without a ‘Travelling Update’ on your social media account. (Don’t look at me! Just borrowing somebody else’s brainwave from FB)

While we are on the ‘ancient’ talk, did you hear about the 80-year-old Chinese woman who delayed a flight for nearly six hours after she threw coins into the plane’s engine for good luck?

Lady luck, after all, stood by her after the Shanghai police refused to take action and unforgiving passengers spent their waiting time clicking selfies with her and uploading them on social media.

Wonder if a superstitious Indian has tried a hand at good luck the Indian way – tying a string of hot chilies and lemon, after they heard about a pilot’s artificial arm that came loose during landing or of the pilot who realized that he was not qualified to land the plane in fog just minutes before landing and decided to turn back.

Could the leaking bag that contained curry powder that set off smoke and fire alarms in an Air India flight, that caused 12-hour delay, be the result of a more grounded and refined lucky charm by a superstitious Indian?

Luckily, no one found out. Not yet.

As for the lucky people who are enjoying their summer break travelling around the world, here is a reminder to make your ‘Travelling Updates’ and upload pictures for there are those on the bright side making the most of uninterrupted rare moments to take a peek at them all, just as I made the most of the last 40 minutes of ‘Spider-Man: Home Coming’ browsing social media with my little ‘Spidey’ fan taking a snooze beside me after more than an hour of jumping, walking and exploring a nearly empty theater.

Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday!

Flying ‘Desi’ on a German Airline #MoreIndianThanYouThink

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Namaste!

Are you on your first trip abroad?

Does the need to eat spicy Indian lunch during your flight worry you more than mid-flight turbulence?

Are you losing sleep over the worry that the German air hostess’s flight safety instruction in her accented English might leave you fumbling around in case of a flight emergency?

Just in case you have chosen to fly Lufthansa, then all you need to do is pack your bags and get your much-deserved sleep, for Lufthansa Airways is #MoreIndianThanYouThink and their new TV commercial will vouch for that.

India is one of the oldest nations of the world. Geographically, this nation spans from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, however, this great nation has never limited its definition to sameness; for this is a country that can boast of diverse cultures, faith, languages, color and about 333 million Gods.

As an expatriate myself, living and respecting diverse cultures, languages and religious faith up until the time that I have relocated has helped me adapt to living and respecting the beliefs and culture in a new country with absolute ease.

This could shed some light as to why you would (not surprisingly) find an Indian selling hot tea at subzero temperatures in Antarctica!

During our last trip abroad, the husband and I (in all our exuberance) decided to treat our taste buds to the cuisines of Europe. However, our exuberance faded out the very next day as our hungry Indian taste buds craved just about one cup of rice and the humble dal (a dish made from steamed lentils) for lunch.

Luckily, we managed to find an Indian restaurant that did treat our starved taste buds to satisfaction but left us digging deeper into our pockets. To the Indian owner’s delight, the fulfillment of eating a simple Indian meal outdid the weight of the bill, for we turned out to be his regular customer in the days that followed.

Since Indians (by rule) almost always prefer Indian food irrespective of the part of the world they are in, it is not surprising that New York street food has the humble ‘dosa’ dressed up in varieties as their popular delicacy.

With India’s growing influence on the world, Lufthansa, a leading carrier of Indians across the world, has stood true to its word of being #MoreIndianThanYouThink, right from air hostesses welcoming you with a ‘Namaste’ to flight safety instructions repeated in Hindi to smiling air hostesses serving hot Indian meals while you treat yourself to your favorite Bollywood hero dancing to the tunes of a popular Hindi number on the in-flight entertainment system.

So if you wish to travel across the seas the Indian way on a German airline, fly Lufthansa!

This is an Early bird entry for #Indiblogger’s Lufthansa’s #MoreIndianThanYouThink contest. For details please log on to www.indiblogger.in/drive/more-indian-than-you-think-apr-2017

Eye on the Sky

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Lately, the turbulent skies have become media’s very own playground.

First, there was the ban on electronic devices onto flight cabins in flights bound to US and UK from ten Middle Eastern airports that caused passengers ( who usually spent their journey treating themselves to the in-flight entertainment  while indulging their taste buds to mouthwatering hot food cooked by gourmet chefs about a day and a half before) to panic.

Luckily, social media came to the aid of this catastrophe with a few zillion tips on facing a journey through the skies with gadgets sitting in the cargo. One of them suggested writing poems about your husband (while he sat beside you chewing on rubbery chicken tikka, headphones in place).

Social media had a field day lambasting an Indian lawmaker following a flying ban (after he succumbed to a rare case of unapologetic power-drunk air rage) having repeatedly hit a steward with his footwear (25 times exactly). The unfortunate MP was forced to take to the roads and trains struggling to effectively discharge his duties and responsibilities. Finally, a delayed idea of regret expressed in a letter to the Civil Aviation Ministry called off the ban and the MP was relieved to use washrooms without having cameras zooming after him.

When a popular American airline turned into a flying hellscape after they demonstrated to the world that ‘drag and drop’ of customers was their idea of re-accommodation, the inhumane video seized media attention with users zealously overworking their creative abilities to outdo one another’s ‘drag’ cartoons.

A hefty lawsuit , an apologetic CEO and some happy ‘Gulf’ airlines paying back their pending dues – social media has finally run out of ‘drag’ jokes and is back to discussing an adorable cat interrupting Mr. Mayor’s interview and if a musically-inclined chicken is the next musical prodigy.

Yet, hungry news mongers have their eye on the sky for the storms in the turbulent skies are just about a flight away!

 

Spaced Out!

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ISRO’s record launch of 104 satellites, UAE’s ‘Mars 2117 project’ that aims to set up the first inhabitable human settlement on the red planet and Mars One launching its official worldwide search for astronauts who will qualify for a one-way ticket to Mars in the year 2023 are some of the greatest ‘out-of-this-world’ advancements in Space Science .

When I heard that Leonardo DiCaprio has signed up for a trip to Mars, I wondered aloud if I could sign up too. But I was quick to abort my mission plans when I caught the husband and Sid engaged in a discussion about the fast foods that they could indulge in my absence. The thought of my family indulging in flour-coated chicken while I floated around in an uncomfortable spacesuit with an Earthly superstar suddenly did not seem very glamorous.

However, this made me wonder if the future of parenting would involve bedtime stories to children about a bygone era of Earthlings and the normalcies of Earthly life – flowing fresh water, free oxygen and naturally grown fruits and vegetables.

Or, will the future see humans divided as Earthly Patriots and The Gen Z Martians?

Will there be curbs on Earthlings visiting Mars with exceptions to those possessing the ‘red card’?

Will there be campaigns on ‘Make on Earth’ or ‘Make on Mars’?

As I sit ruminating on the future of humans sharing two planets, I read that NASA had finally revealed that it was not dust on the telescopic lens of the Kepler Space Telescope but seven Earth-like planets (TRAPPIST -1) orbiting in the ‘habitable’ zone (or the Goldilocks Zone) of a Sun-like star – some or all of which harbor water and possibly life.

I then decided that the future of Earth is best left in the able hands of scientists and astronomers, while I should better focus on going about my Earthly duties!

Sun, Sand and a ‘Green’ Christmas

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Hope you all had a wonderful festive season with friends and family.I had the pleasure of spending this festive holiday season at The Al Aqah at Fujairah. Having had a wonderful time with the husband and kids amidst nature’s bounty, I thought it would wonderful to share with you all my ‘Green’ Christmas story.

AS I enter the spacious lobby at Le Meridien’s Al Aqah beach resort in Fujairah for my much-awaited staycation, I cannot wait to be amidst nature’s bounty. To unwind and get attuned to the melodious music of the waves from the vast Indian Ocean as they wash the shoreline, drink into the breathtaking sight of the majestic Hajar Mountains and take a dip in the blue waters of the large free-form swimming pool.

However, the air of festivity with colorful Christmas decorations adorning the walls and ceiling distract me from my holiday musings. It takes me less than a fraction of a second to notice that the stars have been cut out from empty cans, the snowman created using empty toilet paper rolls, empty tissue paper boxes and tissue rolls have been wrapped in colorful wrapping paper that double as pretty gifts and over-sized chocolates swaying from the ceiling. As for the Christmas tree – every branch is lined with an assortment of used green-colored wine bottles cut to perfection.

Why would a five-star hotel use ‘used’ leftovers to create a Christmas theme?

My curiosity leads me to a meeting with the Duty Manager, Mr. Sreekanth Cherukot. Amidst handling the innumerable challenges of managing a hotel that is running on full occupancy owing to the holiday season coupled with the more-than-pleasant weather, he gladly takes time out to answer my queries over a cup of coffee. Upon raising the sustainability initiatives that piqued my interests, he is quick to place a call and introduce me to the mastermind behind this ‘green’ initiative – Mr. Hari Sudhakar.

Mr. Hari explains that he and his team of three ‘green creators’ have painstakingly cut to size a three month’s worth collection of wine bottles with a glass cutter specially bought for this purpose. They have been then suspended after having the sharp edges tactfully taped in black insulation, in order to ensure the safety of excited children, Mr. Hari explains. The bottom half of these bottles have been saved up to be doubled as flower vases and candle holders that will soon add to the décor of the restaurant and common areas at the hotel.

Mr. Hari explains that Christmas 2015 had a Christmas tree that was made using empty water bottles. This ‘out-of-the-box’ green initiative has not only helped reuse waste that would otherwise add to the rapidly increasing mountain of non-biodegradable waste at the landfill but has helped effectively reduce the costs spent on ‘dressing up’ the property for Christmas.

From the optimum use of reusable hand towels instead of disposable paper tissues in all washrooms as well as ensuring that the all air conditioners in rooms have been preset to an optimum temperature that will automatically switch off upon opening windows to using a reverse-osmosis desalination plant to tap the abundant natural resources available – this  resort is striving to pave its long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability with a goal of achieving zero footprint as it proudly stands as the ‘Emerald on Fujairah’s Beautiful Crown’.

 

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Christmas Tree with Wine Bottles Cut to Perfection

 

 

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Snowman made assembling empty tissue rolls illuminated with lights

 

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Stars cut from empty cans

 

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Another creation made using empty bottles

 

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Empty Tissue Rolls and Tissue boxes have become wrapped gifts

Picture Courtesy Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort 

 

 

 

 

Chaos and Co. Travels

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travelling-with-kids-colorSomeone said that vacationing with children are not essentially ‘vacations’ but just another day (all the fuss, tantrums, and routine included) spent at a different place or a different time zone. This fact was obvious as I spent an entire week going about my pre-vacation planning that includes my ‘to-do’ list, ‘to-buy’ list, ‘essentials-to-pack’ list and then spent the last 48 hours cramming suitcases with everything in and everything not in my umpteen lists. “Would it not be easier to drag our home instead,” pointed the husband tongue-in-cheek eyeing our bulging suitcases. “No thank you, I prefer to travel light,” I insisted.

The searing desert heat and the rising humidity were reason enough to escape into the cool and comforting monsoons of my home country, only that I usually prefer to see my airplane travels as one akin to an adventure with a mindset open to the challenges of being confined in a comfortable metal container that I share with a spirited toddler, a ‘bored’ tween and 300-odd strangers as it traverses through the stratosphere swallowing miles defying gravity and all odds. My racing mind does not stretch its imagination far enough to include hijackers or mentally ‘upset’ pilots or even carriers that simply disappear into thin air. My lovely children, in all their innocence, are enough to make every airplane trip one that will lie imprinted in the ‘(embarrassing/adventurous) moments-with-my-children’ memory part of my brain.

The last time we traveled, little Princess’s excitement on seeing a screen before her that played her favorite movies on a loop and even a remote that her Mommy let her fiddle with, lasted all of one hour. The color pencils kept her busy for the next ten minutes after the in-flight ‘kids meal’ was pushed with a disgusting ‘YUCK’ to the absolute surprise of the air hostess who was quick to walk away, her plastic smile in place. We still had a full two hours to kill. Taking a walk up and down the aisle seemed a good idea. So we walked down smiling at strangers who were quick to acknowledge a happy toddler. Then she stopped abruptly and pointed out, ‘I want chips,’ to my utter embarrassment. The toddler who happily munched on the object of my daughter’s fascination was quick to make up her mind, ‘NO,’ she screeched. A crying fit ensued that saw me dragging a vehemently angry toddler back to her seat and strapping her in place. ‘CHIPS,I WANT CHIPS,’ screamed Little Princess much to the amusement of the audience that she was quickly gathering. Little Princess had the tenacity of a terrier bull when her mind was made up. The toddler’s mother standing beside me, a packet of unopened chips in hand, had attained the status of an angel who flew down from the heavens to rescue a distraught mother and her words, “we just happen to have an extra packet,” were blissful music to my ears (my embarrassment taking a back seat).

That day, I mentally made a note of one more item that simply has to be included on the ‘absolute-essentials-to-pack’ list.

Sid, on the other hand, has always been an epitome of sweetness and obedience (well let’s just forget the fact that he can put a picky eater to shame with his eating antiques). As a toddler, he had his share of tantrums and angry fits, but in a more subtle manner, as in, not always gathering and entertaining an audience. During one of our travels when he was three years old, we happened to meet a sweet old couple who took a quick liking to Sid and soon we began chatting as we awaited the boarding announcement. Once inside the flight, they were seated a few seats before ours. As soon as the flight took off, Sid got engrossed watching ‘Cars’ on the in-flight entertainment system, headphones in place. Since I always prefer to use the washroom before the aisles got busy with lunch trolleys and the passengers queuing up to use the washroom, I instructed my  son that I would be back in a jiffy with the usual instructions of not talking to strangers and steering clear of trouble. Since the washroom was occupied, I waited my turn my eyes on Sid. The old couple who up till then had been engrossed in a regional movie, happened to look behind and on seeing the toddler on his own, the old uncle was quick to enquire, “Where is your mother?” a little too loudly owing to the headphones which were blaring in his ears. My son in quick response shouted in a tone equaling his, pointing in my direction, “My mother has to use the toilet and she is there waiting her turn.” The next second following my son’s announcement saw at least a dozen heads turn in my direction. I managed a weak smile as I bit my tongue to fight the impulse to scream out – I am only answering a call of nature people, not going in to have a rendezvous with the Kardashians.

As I embark on another journey armed with overflowing suitcases and my dear children, bidding goodbye to the husband (who will join us soon), I cannot wait to breathe the fresh scent of earth after a spell of fresh monsoons, welcoming warm hugs and smiles that radiate pure parental love, hot delicious food (not to mention my mother’s special filter coffee), lazing around doing nothing, shopping sprees with my sister-in-law with the children cocooned under the loving care of their grandparents, late-night movies, a home that still houses memories of the innocence and silliness of childhood and so much more. So all the fuss that accompanies our happy break with family, relatives and friends are definitely worth it!

Do you have a story or a memory about your time away from home, work and routines? Would love to hear your stories too!

(Please note that this post was written before I left on vacation but remained unposted in all my excitement to travel)