Smallest Wins, Greatest Joys

The lesser number of words used to describe Zermatt, the better; because words will only fail to do justice. And, I don’t think it is just Zermatt, Switzerland as a country has been blessed with such great natural beauty – be it its hills and mountains, or lakes and valleys, or the pretty cows and sheep (with those bells around their neck!) – that for most part, one is left gaping at the sights all around! The excitement escapes words in your brain, and everything becomes photo-worthy.

Our trip was no different. Braced with our cameras and smartphones on full battery, we tried to immerse ourselves in Zermatt’s picturesqueness and Matterhorn’s grandeur.

Among all the moments of photo-clicking and couple-posing against the grand backgrounds, there were two that crowned as my personal highlights of this trip. One, was a 6.5km hike (600m descent) from Gornergrat (a viewpoint for Matterhorn) which I managed to complete as planned, without any hiccups. (My knee injury prevents me from taking on outdoorsy activities sometimes). The hike was my personal response to a previously unfinished one in Spain last year, and it felt unbelievably satisfying to reach the finishing line with this one. Second, was bringing out my post-it self alive and putting her (myself?) out there in the(/this) world. Hands freezing, teeth cluttering and yet emoting her on those post-its could not have felt more gratifying.

It is in these personal wins, however small, that the real joys of life lie. Those moments of boundless self love and gratefulness to our body & mind are often what prepare us to face the world on our own terms, as much as they allow us to stay in touch and respect the world that resides within us. A delicate balance, that is as fleeting as the realisation itself.

Having tried to pocket these thoughts, we spent the remaining time in Zermatt binge eating delicious pastas, drinking copious amounts of coffee and looking up at Matterhorn from wherever possible!

The gorgeous hiking trail:

The152Girl’s excitement in Zermatt:

What San Sebastián Taught Me About Life

It has been over a year now but the memories are as fresh as though I was there just yesterday! San Sebastián holds a very special place in my heart. Every time I talk about it I feel a tingling sensation on my back, for, that’s how I felt when we drove into the city for the first time that summer afternoon…

Race back to July 2015: The stars had aligned perfectly – five of my friends flew down from different corners of the world to spend a couple of weeks in Spain together. For those familiar with Indian cinema, yes, we went there with every intention of recreating ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara‘ moments for us! Driving through various cities across the country, we filled our bags with souvenirs, and our cameras with mushy to marvellous photographs. But, it wasn’t until we all arrived in San Sebastián that we truly felt our Spanish holiday come alive.

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Racing past the pretty Spanish countryside!

Every nook and corner of this gorgeous town is picturesque, to say the least. Be it sunrise (of which I saw very little!) or sunset, enveloped in those natural hues the town lit up so beautifully it left us speechless many a time. What made San Sebastián unique was the fact that it wasn’t just a beach town, or just a hill station, or just touristy, historic, full of narrow-alleyways-cobblestoned-streets kind of a town – it was ALL three rolled into one! I was overjoyed to see hills looming large on the beautiful beaches, that stretched out to the colourful city on the other side – it was truly captivating!

And of course, among the six of us, there were six million heart warming moments that we shared with one another. Great laughs, passionate debates, group hugs, overlapping chatter, random photographs, and then some more group hugs – you get the drift! These experiences and moments of togetherness – while soaking up the sun on sandy beaches, or while walking up to the funicular station, or cracking into giggles while looking for restaurants open around midnight – are hard to come by, especially in a world where Whatsapp groups and Facebook updates have become the norm to stay in touch with your world. And so, we pocketed as many of these brilliant moments as possible and held in our hearts a promise that we wouldn’t give in to the temptations of technological laziness, so easily.

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Clunky funicular, funky ride!

Ah, before I get more sentimental about this, I must tell you the real reason why this town became so special for me.

Having never been a beach lover, I avoided going onto the sandy land the first few times. Then, I began to loosen up a little looking at everyone else’s enthusiasm. And, after toasting a margarita glass full of milk, I decided to go into the sea – slowly, but surely. It was a moment of personal discovery while standing neck deep in the sea, that I could actually be friends with the blue waters! I swam a little, played a lot more with these five mad people splashing water all around like kids, and had the best time in those cold but very welcoming, shiny waters, alongside some of my oldest friends. It was unadulterated joy, I tell you!

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Golden sand, blue waters, green hills…

It taught me a simple fact of life: it is never too late to let go of your fears. As I lay afloat on my back for those few minutes, delicately supported by my friends, the blue sky stretched over me, sun rays glistened across my eyes, I felt a deep sense of calm come over me and in that moment, I fell in love with San Sebastián!

“If you push fear out, love will find its way in!” ~ wise words, not mine. My husband mumbled it one evening, and although I read more books on philosophy than he does, I give him credit for this one. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to join us on this leg of the trip. So, it is only befitting that I left behind a piece of my heart there, so we can take a trip together some time to leave a piece from his too!

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Put your feet up and relax!

What’s New This Summer?

Summers are a promise of activity, cheer and adventure. It is that beautiful time of the year when everything around us is in full bloom – be it the gardens, or the massive sales in the mall. As the bright sunshine sprawls all around, refrigerators are stocked with bottles of juices, ciders and white wines. All the parks look greener than ever before, and are dotted with people soaking up the sun, walking their dogs, or just playing with kids – the colourful sights we don’t get tired of! Picnics with friends and prolonged outdoorsy evenings crawl back into our routine; all those stylish dresses, skirts and tops make a much awaited come back and suddenly, days seem so full of possibility! I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said people seem happier in summer – they actually are!

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August sun shining on Lake Windermere!

That’s how the last three English summers have been for me. And, in all honesty, all of this wonderfulness lasts about two weeks every year. Maybe three, if you can put up with the downpour during the third week, without a scowl.

In my tropical mind, it is not summer if I am wearing a coat to work, or walking to Waitrose with my umbrella receiving some pitter-patter! Unless I spend at least two months sweating it out, drinking copious amounts of Rooh Afza and gulping down scores of mango pieces after every meal, it does not qualify as a well-lived summer. As a kid, the summer season was synonymous with vacation time with family, and that meant long train journeys to Granny’s towns. Splitting our time between the paternal and maternal sides of my family, these vacations were all about reconnecting with parts of me scattered in many places, within the lives of so many. The emphasis also used to be on learning something new each year. From learning to sow, to making own paper envelopes, to writing letters, to learning to recite morning prayers in Sanskrit, to mastering the game of Brainvita and Solitaire! A new skill, something exciting, and spending time with people to create fond memories of, perhaps to look back upon on a day like this.

I am sitting in my balcony having the last bite of what was a delicious Coffee & Walnut flavoured cake that I bought from Waitrose. I almost want to keep this post aside and look for its exact recipe online – it was that yum! A light breeze ruffles my hair, and I get back to thinking about summers in India. While I don’t particularly miss the scorching heat that envelopes my country during these months, I have definitely missed doing something new, as the season swung by year after year.

So, this summer I decided to bring into our home six little and lovely living beings. (That’s how my brother framed their arrival!). Having never been an animal lover, I inclined myself towards flora and picked some hardy flowering plants, an ornamental citrus fruit tree and to give my English home a touch of traditional India, a pot of basil leaves too! I wish I had a huge courtyard to place it in the middle of, but I make do with our 7th floor balcony for now.

It feels good! To stand in the sun with them, smiling and happy. Just how India Knight put it, ‘when the sun is out, it’s the smallest adventures that can bring the greatest pleasure.’

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Osteospermums pose for a happy picture!

 

 

A Friday Afternoon

2:00pm on a Friday : I stifle a yawn as I stare at my to-do list on the table, clearly indicating my interest in those items. I try to shield my eyes from that bright yellow post-it pad and look at the distant sight outside the window. The cloud cover and tiny droplets on the panes tempt me further to pull out the book I’m carrying in my bag, and dare into a mid-day slumber on my rather comfortable recliner!

I see two colleagues pass by, murmuring at the printed sheets in their hands, and about ‘GeniusIT’ not producing the right numbers. I recognise one of them and we exchange customary smiles. I chuckle inside my head at the ironic name we’ve chosen for a system that is unable to produce what we want! Perhaps calling it ‘GuessIt’ is better suited, at least if not the numbers, it will stand true to its name. I smirk at my own joke, before regaining composure, and decide to get back to my excel sheets.

A few minutes later, I look at the light drizzle outside the window again. Small droplets begin to slide against the panes. I smile to myself thinking, London won’t remain the same if it doesn’t drizzle as lightly as is naturally possible, at least once a day! And, it can prove to be some fun when you don’t have to rush somewhere. I lightly stretch and stare at the changing shapes of the clouds. Locking my computer screen, I rummage for my tiny umbrella in the bag and make my way to the door in quick steps. Crossing the turnstile downstairs, I smile at the familiar face of our security guard. ‘Have a good weekend!’, he politely wishes as I spring open my umbrella and turn left outside the big glass doors. The small raindrops begin to pitter-patter on my umbrella, and my mind begins to play names like from a reel, of cafes and coffee shops that I may stop by a little later. I ask myself to slow down, and to not think so far ahead already. I breathe in deeply and blink a few times trying to be present in this moment. Among the raindrops, on the wet cemented ground, in the wet shoes and with the cool breeze that is enveloping me.

I cross the square and take to the sidewalk. I begin to enjoy the drizzle, that’s become a tad heavier than before. I see a number of black cabs zoom past. I follow the curve of the road, into the narrow alleys between tall office buildings. There are colourful umbrellas everywhere. I step into the archway that lines a large number of small and lovely take-out joints – salad bars, Thai, Indian, and Mexican take-aways, soups and sandwich joints, you name it. Most of them seem to be wrapping up, and closing for the day already. I take the tiny corridor that opens the archway onto the road perpendicular, joining the main street. Traffic here is heavy, but orderly still for a Friday afternoon. I cross the street at the signal and take to the sidewalk at the other end.

Walking on the main streets in central London can sometimes feel like a quick time-travelling exercise. Each corner turns into a different landscape, a different era. The Victorian church-spires and cathedral domes stand tall among the new glass skyscrapers and high-rises. London’s architecture and skyline are perhaps a testimony to how we can adapt to changing times while retaining some of our old self intact, within. Deep in thought, I stand at a corner and capture the views into my phone-camera. I decide to take sepia prints of it later, when I get home.

The drizzle has finally taken a pause. I walk some more, and wonder if the sun will show up. The forecast says clear weather for the rest of the evening. Wanting some tea now, I google the nearest cafe and make my way there. It’s abuzz with people but not crowded, thankfully. I order a chai-latte and pick a corner seat. I finally pull out the book I carried in my bag all week in the hope of catching a read, lay it on the table; mix some sugar into my tea and settle in for a cozy time. The light music they are playing in the cafe adds to the mood and I begin to tap my fingers on the table.

Tip-tap, tip-tap-tap, tip-tip-tap, tip-tap-tip-tip-tap-tap… when I suddenly hear ‘Ramya, can you help me with something?’. I recognise the voice but I find it tough to place it here. And, I hear my name being called out again. I look to my right and it’s my intern, looking at me possibly as quizzically as I am looking at her right now. I sit up quickly and look around, look down at my hands on the table and it dawns upon me. Taking my face into my hands, I burst into a laughter and look up to say ‘Hi!’ to my intern again. She smiles but from the way she is looking at me, she probably thinks I am part-crazy. Or, fully maybe!

After I help her with the query, I glance at my watch. 2:25pm, on the same Friday afternoon. How easily the mind wanders, I think to myself. How our mind weaves reality with wishful thinking and paints the picture we want to be a part of, within minutes! And, that’s the brilliance of the power of imagination.

I drop a text to my husband soon afterwards, ‘Meet me at the stairs outside your office building. We are going for a walk in the city this evening!’.

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Lisbon: A Bit Of My Own

Lonely Planet gives one of the best introductions to the city of Lisbon. I read the first few lines and was sold. I also stopped reading after those first few lines, because I wanted the rest to unfold, slowly, all on its own during our visit.

Pick any major city in the west to visit in December and you are bound to land amidst a grand celebratory atmosphere. It surely adds more colour to the vacation. Lisbon was simply wonderful too. The Christmas and New Year cheer was all around. The city centre was lit up beautifully in the evenings, the streets were decorated and so lively! There were artists – singers, story-tellers, painters – lining up the small alleyways who one could stand, watch and enjoy for hours. Continue reading “Lisbon: A Bit Of My Own”