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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Life Lessons by Lake Windermere

We were almost on our way to Annecy, in France when on a whim we decided to make our celebratory trip more cozy, less travel-intensive, and closer to nature. The last bit is an exaggeration actually, but I will say that the idea of staying by the side of a lake, that is flanked by vast green fields, some fells, forests and small hills was very appealing.

We quickly researched online, rejoiced at those positive reviews and well, before we knew it, we had booked ourselves a relaxing long august weekend in the Lake District of UK!

And now that I’ve sat down to write about it, I realise there isn’t a lot to tell you. Except that, the lake was so serene in the mornings I could see my reflection gazing back at me as pleasantly surprised as I was at first while forming it! Except that, the hotel was so immaculately preserved (since its 17th century origins!) that I was afraid of touching of its richly decorated furniture lest I spoil it, you know. Except that, when it rained all through Saturday night, I sat and listened to the rain drops falling (on my head; remember the song?) on those leaves in the grand verandah there, lit by lamps and candles alone and I lost track of time. Except that, their breakfast spread was so mouth-watering and sumptuous that I could eat it for all three meals happily! Except that, their reading room is what I’d one day like my study to look like, period. Except that, I woke up to sheep in my backyard, calmly nibbling over the lawns until someone softly whistled them out from there. Terrible that I was so lost in the moment I forgot to capture the scene into my phone. Oh, and except that, if you want to spend a leisure (semi)luxurious holiday with your loved one, Lakeside by Lake Windermere in the Lake District is the place to be! I know, too many lakes but trust me once you reach there, you won’t get enough of them.

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Of reflections!

Leave any holiday planning to me and I will pack the days & nights with so many touristy activities that I may need a holiday to get over my holiday hangover (read more like fatigue!). What can I do! The twitterverse is to blame, you see; with so many beautiful photos and articles all over, I do not want to miss out having gone so close. But, those 3 days by Lake Windermere proved very different. And, it reminded me of something I had read a few months ago: The need for an empty space, a pause, is something we have all felt in our bones; it’s the rest in a piece of music that gives it resonance and shape ~ Pico Iyer (of course, who else!).

So as we wined and dined under the chandelier; as we walked on the morning dew and laughed; as we sat in the sunshine and felt the wind in our hair, I realised it’s good to not rush through the moment in the hope to capture it all, instead to enclose the present moment, to make it stay, to fill it fuller and fuller, until it shone, whole and bright, only to softly let it go and move on to the next moment. In other words, I realised it’s good to slow down every once in a while! To pause; to reflect; to just breathe and be. It is not just healthy for your heart and head, it helps in ways only time can show you and soul can understand. 

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Sit back, sip some tea and slow down!
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Enjoy some sun, some shade; some fun and moments fayed!

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Have you been to the Lake District? How was your experience, I’d love to hear your versions as much! And if you haven’t paid it a visit, I insist that you do – I know you will love it! There is enough information online about tourism of this area so I won’t bore you with any details. I will say one thing though, keeping 3-4days to soak in the place will be a wise choice.

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Four Things I’m Still Old School About

Ask Google!” is possibly the most common piece of advice we get these days. It speaks volumes of how far technology has come to make our lives depend on a few click of a buttons. Sure, some things are easy to do now; some we didn’t imagine until a few decades back are now possible. The smartphones, iPads and tablets are like our personal secretaries, reminding us of birthdays, anniversaries, helping book appointments, saving articles, making reading on-the-go doable, play music whenever we want. And all that is great! Really, no sarcasm.

And no, this is not an essay here in support of  these advancements or even to question whether they are making us dumber and less social in the real world. For, I haven’t got an answer to such a complicated question! I wish I knew better though.

The reason I started to write this piece is because of a quiet thought that made its home in my mind the other evening. As I was walking back home from work, I started to make a mental list of things I still do the old-fashioned way. I mean, without using any form of smart-technology, whatsoever. Not many came through, but these are definitely the ones I am very particular about!

1. Post-Its & Notepads For Messages/Reminders/Lists

The habit of leaving notes behind goes back to my parents. They used to write cute ones for me, when leaving for a business tour in the wee hours or stepping out to the near-by pharmacy during my afternoon nap and so on! And it has now evolved to keeping them posted on the kitchen shelf, back of the main door sometimes, even on the pillow on special occasions! Some hang on the PC at work too, reminding me of deadlines or things-to-do. Grocery list is always made on a notepad that stays on the coffee-table. I cannot do without a small dose of writing dow my lists for the day!

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2. A Travel Journal Is An Absolute Necessity

No matter how many pictures you click, you need words to seal the memories in forever. won’t you agree? I always carry a small diary with me, it allows me to jot down thoughts, poems, emotions and memories that cross my mind. Notes in my iPhone never evoke the same, for me. Colloquial usages, names of local ingredients in food, fancy street names, of that fruit seller who gave you his bit of the history of the place – it helps to remember all of that, so much more clearly in the quiet of my home and makes for a better blog post too, you know!

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3. Books Should Be Made Of Paper, Only

I have never been a fan of downloading and storing bytes of e-books! While in college, I absolutely avoided studying from PDFs on my laptop. It’s no wonder how much time I spent in the library there. And might I say, it shouldn’t be very surprising to find out the first piece of furniture we bought together for our home is a beautiful tall bookcase! Kindle maybe be as good as holding a hundred books in your hands, but it can never attach the excitement the smell of a fresh book does!

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4. Shopping Is For All The Senses

I am surely the one to first feel the fabric, try it on next and feel good in it while looking into the mirror before finally deciding to make the purchase. Online shopping for clothes is a definite no-no for me. And, it sort of extends to other things as well. Other than the occasional ordering of a bouquet, I hardly find myself spending money online. I have to see it, touch it, feel it all. And who does not love carrying lovely shopping bags home!

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What are the things you are still old school about? Do any of these figure? Tell me about them!

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My Five Little Things of 2014

It only seems like yesterday that we packed our bags and with them our lives to move to London, which by the way was exactly a year ago! Life changed after that 9-hour flight. Settling into a new city, our new home, new jobs, newer (better!) lifestyle, and the totally unpredictable weather was not only challenging but also most remarkable, in every sense of the word.

And as we settled in, I began to appreciate life’s little things a little more, and with them have chanced upon some of life’s important truths too. Perhaps it was the distance from home and loved ones that made me think a lot more and these realizations slowly made their way into me /us.

Here are my top 5 things:

1. Sunshine

Living in the UK definitely makes you appreciate sunshine a lot more than you might have ever done in the past, especially if you have lived closer to the equator before. Longing for some golden rays into your bedroom as you wake up or in your living room as you sip your evening coffee, or even while you step out for a walk in Hyde Park – sunshine makes everything that bit sweeter.

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2. Homemade food

There is absolutely nothing better than a home-cooked meal. But it took me almost 4-5 months to realize this! I used to venture out everyday during lunch – from Habibi’s katsu curry, Whitecross farmers market’s stalls, Pilpel’s falafels to even the light-n-healthy soup-places like Pret and Eat. They sounded fancy, and tasted fancy too but all of them were lost on me in a few months. And eating out adversely affected my health too. Thankfully, Amma’s simple recipes came to my rescue and I began to carry packed lunch from home. Not only do I feel better after eating homemade meals but also have started to enjoy cooking in my kitchen, along with exploring the healthier options from time to time.

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3. Importance of exercise / discipline

I am still quite surprised how almost everyone here has at least one hour dedicated to exercising, every day! It does not come naturally to me at all. But, call it peer pressure or just a sense of inspiration from seeing people all around, I have managed to introduce exercise into my routine, albeit very slowly. I go to practice yoga at the sessions held near my home by www.ourparks.org.uk/ – If you live in London and love group exercise sessions, then you must sign up for these – the best part is they are free!

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4. Ties to our roots

Without sounding too melodramatic about it, I admit that it feels great to celebrate all our festivals no matter where we are. It reminds us of our traditions, our simple joys, our ways to get-together with family and friends and create more memories. Thankfully, London has all the avenues to help you celebrate any Indian festival that you want to. From Mehendis at parlours to Durga Puja pandals to firecrackers and colours of Holi, you name it!

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5. There is no greater support system than Family

I don’t think I need to elaborate much here. We thoroughly enjoyed the numerous skype and facetime sessions, the groups on whatsapp only added more colour to daily conversations and occasional long ones helped me steer away from any self-doubting traps. I cannot emphasize enough how satisfying it is to be close and in constant touch with one’s family and how happy it can make one feel!

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And I’d be lying I didn’t admit and add, that 2014 has only been about London! I constantly looked for newer experiences – whether it was in trying a new cuisine or discovering unusual cafes in the small alleys or the chic champagne bars of the city. More on all of that in a later post. Despite the grave requests from our friends and our own brave attempts, we could not manage to speak the accent (yet!) but we are so chuffed about the progress we’ve made to make our language sound a bit more colloquial! 😀

And with that thought, here’s hoping to an even better 2015!