That Christmas-y Feeling

As Christmas approaches, I am reminded of childhood days I spent in the wonderful city Calcutta. Every year, unfailingly.

It’s where I was introduced to the festival for the first time. We had moved to the big city a few months before I turned 10. Soon, Christmas was upon us and my parents made a number of plans for us to spend the holiday time frolicking around the city’s pockets that celebrated this festival with much fanfare.

I’m reminded of the beautifully decorated streets, lit with sparkly balls and colourful stars. They would adorn the buildings all around in areas like Park Street and Esplanade. We lived far from these areas, but that was the most fun part actually. The tram lines connected us to these places and we would jump on for a joy ride through the busy & bustling alleys of the city, observing the slow unravelling of the celebrations!

There were more than a fair share of street-sellers on this day, calling out at us to buy balloons, whistles, decoration items, small plastic toys and what not. I’d go for a couple of balloons for sure. But, we always headed out there for one reason, and one reason alone!

We would make our way through the crowd to a shop named Kathleen Confectioners – one of the best places in the city to get creamy (dreamy!), rich, most delicious cakes and pastries! And, Christmas would be our time for a treat at this wonderful (and heavily crowded!) place.

I read somewhere that Christmas is really a state of mind. It’s not only about the treats and presents we got, but also about creating a loving and warm atmosphere! And, my parents did exactly that! They helped us create wonderful memories of spending quality time together, amidst all the hustle-bustle of the city.

So, as the Christmas Day 2018 unfolded for us, we spent it connecting with loved ones, and (re)creating some of those memories! I hope yours was as joyful too!

Merry Christmas!

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!

 

 

PHOTO: #ThrowbackThursday To Conventional Holidays!

Summer of ’09 was special for two reasons: I got the best hairstyle that I have ever had in my life, and my family, on the whim of my younger brother, decided to take a vacation!

Kuala Lumpur is a popular holiday destination; throw in Singapore for a few days in between, it is unbeatable! And that’s exactly how we planned it. We got ourselves a packaged tour. Itinerary prepared, accommodation and food taken care of.  And we stuck to the schedule! Stopped at all the tourist spots, took in all the history, read all the information-tablets, soaked in the sun where possible, tasted some yumm food and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

As it sounds, our time in Kuala Lumpur was quite contrary to the popular norm of ‘exploring the unexplored’ & the self-organised unconventional vacation(s) of these days. And it was perfect that way! Sometimes, when you want to spend quality leisure time with loved ones, you don’t want to be invested in the grander picture of how well you experienced your destination. The simply joys lie in how much laughter did you pack together, how many more happy memories did you create, and just how much fun you had in each other’s company, doing the very conventional of things!

Our 10-day trip to Kuala Lumpur & Singapore was exactly about all that. And, today’s #throwbackthursday post is to some of the choicest moments of our wonderful time there!

All Smiles

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Have you been on conventional tour packages? Were they fun?

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What I Miss Most About Home

My husband and I spent all of December 2014 in India. On vacation! Travelling home is always special, for three reasons that I can think of: time with family & loved ones, delectable home food and the sunshine! Of course, the sound of the night watchman’s stick banging on the road every night in the same rhythm comes a close fourth!

I don’t know where the time flew! We spent a cumulative of 37 days among 7 cities, and meeting with a lot of family and friends. Planning such visits while trying to include as many as possible into our list is always a challenge. And this December visit was no less, but what’s fun if it’s not hard to do!

Now back in London, I often catch myself reminiscing the month that went by, so fast!

As I pack my lunch for work, I think of all the food doled out of grandma’s kitchen. You will not believe how many unique dishes I got to eat in the 15 days I stayed at grandma’s – 58! Doing the math, that’s 2 new dishes for every meal of the day! Grandpa had prepared a comprehensive menu, handwritten I must add, with all the days listed and everyone’s favourites, preferences and travel schedules incorporated into that one A4 sized sheet! It was adorable. Being the new block on the kid (oh! I don’t think I mentioned it before, I was the new kid around them as they are my husband’s grandparents and I was visiting them only the 3rd time since I got married!), I would sit with them in the evening, sipping on tea or tomato soup even and discuss to ‘fine-tune’ the menu in order to confirm next day’s plan for the kitchen. It was one of the most hilarious conversations, and exceedingly cute too!

There were, at one point, 18-19 people in the house, visiting! Including us, of course. And that inevitably meant post-dinner card-games! Given how cold it gets inside the homes at night during (Indian) winters, all of us would gather around the big divan in the lounge room, a big razai in the middle into which we tuck in our legs and sit covered in shawls. And, we played round after round of some gazillion types of card games! I didn’t even know there existed as many! Have you heard of games like 29, Bonus, Sh!thead, 3-2-5? And of course, there were ‘accusations’ of someone cheating, or tiffs on how the cards weren’t dealt correctly whenever someone lost – and that would lead to another ‘fair trial’ and suddenly it is past midnight and the house-play is only getting started!

Late nights, early mornings, heavy lunches and long dinners! Of course, I wouldn’t know where the time went. And it was not always about food. Soaking in the warm sun in the garden, a siesta by the window post lunch, an evening stroll in the by lanes just before tea – all such moments spent with love and in complete bliss!

If you are with me until here, then I haven’t bored you out. That said, the above is gist of just half my time in India. I keep the other half for another time, both the stories and the take-away from them.

Meanwhile, standing in my kitchen in London as I pack my lunch to work, these are the scenes that flash by, filling me up with not only gratitude, but also a resolve to keep my ties stronger to withstand any distance (any time zone)! There is also one other thing I realized, about what I missed the most about being at home – the Indian kitchens! The gas stoves, the utensils, the spice masala boxes and all the mess that comes with having so much happening all at once in one place!

Which is why, I am sharing some of the photographs of the lovely grandma’s lovely kitchen:

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