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!

 

 

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”

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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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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