A birthday holiday

It was my birthday in August! And we (a bunch of close friends) went on a holiday to Goa for five days surrounding my birthday. We had a wonderful time there, particularly given the fact that mobile phone connectivity was poor and we hardly had any access to internet. It was such a refresher not to think about work or have any urges to check fb/mails/instagram.

Some fun facts about Goa and a few favourite snapshots from our lovely time there:

Of potted plants and lavender toe nails

It was such a nice change to experience little or no traffic in Goa. Unlike most other places in India, we did not find ourselves stuck even in a single traffic jam.

People in Goa are sweet, kind and friendly. I don’t remember anyone behaving rudely with us. May be because they’re so much used to tourists and outsiders being part of their everyday life?

Tunnel after tunnel in the train to Goa

The 3 arches in Goa

It was quite a mission to find proper Indian chai in Goa. After 4 days of hunting, we stumbled across a coffee shop which served Mumbai-famous ‘masala cutting chai’. Monsoon and chai…Mmmmmmmm 🙂

Masala cutting chai in Goa

Cakes and hot cuppas at Mocha, Goa

On my birthday, I decided to ride a motor bike! I wasn’t sure how long I would take to learn riding one. But after a short lesson which lasted less than a minute, I took control and voila! I drove like I always knew how to drive. It was so much fun! This is a definite addition to my happy corner (#9).

Driving a motorbike in Goa

While we waited for the rain to stop

It rained all day on my birthday. So while we waited indoors for the rain to take a break, I blew some bubbles in the air. Blow a bubble, watch it float in the air, chase it and then finally watch it burst. Repeat ‘n’ number of times. I promise it never gets boring.

At sunset time, we rushed to Fort Aguada to see the sunset (one of the things on my birthday wish-list). But alas, dark clouds => no sun => no sunset. But I got to do something fun (also one of the things on my birthday wish-list) while we stood on Fort Aguada at the sea. I wrote a short message on a piece of paper, folded it, put it in an empty bottle, sealed the bottle and swung it into the open sea. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 (I know this makes it two additions to my happy corner (#10) in this post but hey! This HAS to go into that diary).

The message in the bottle carried one of the biggest epiphanies of my life. My most favourite part of this little act: not knowing what will happen to the message and the bottle.

Waiting to swing the 'message in a bottle' into the Arabian sea

Watching the bottle vanish

There were three other things I had on my birthday wish-list but unfortunately, the rain did not make it happen. The three unfulfilled things were: climb a tree, etch my name on that tree and watch the sunset at the sea. Adding them to my future birthday wish-list 🙂

Coming back home after the holiday made me remind myself of how much I love travelling. Sigh.

 

 

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Taking stock – August 2014

As I’m guilty of vanishing and reappearing after a couple of weeks, I thought I should start August blogging with a ‘taking stock’ post. Read on, it’s fun!

I’m currently

Making : origami cranes
Cooking : penne pasta
Drinking : piping hot ginger tea, it’s a perfect cuppa for this rainy season. That also reminds me of my favourite Starbucks hot chocolate. One cup of that and I’ll be smiling instantly. Sadly, it has been ages since I had one 😦
Reading : ‘The power of your subconscious mind’ by Joseph Murphy and comic strips of Calvin & Hobbes
Wanting : a break from routine
Looking : for new ideas and inspiration for start-ups
Playing : Candy Crush (I know I should have deleted the app long ago) and Minion Rush on my mobile
Deciding : whether it is wise on my part to accept or act
Wishing : for the same thing I have been wishing for over an year now
Waiting : for the right time to throw an outdoor party on our terrace
Liking : the fact that it is August. Roughly 3 weeks to go for my birthday! 🙂
Wondering : what I should get glued to once my current daily telly programme finishes this month.
Needing : more than 24 hours in a day!
Pondering : over the dreams I’ve been seeing in my sleep lately. One of them involved a tiger wandering in our street!
Watching : my thoughts
Hoping : to go on a long weekend to Pondicherry
Smelling : the rain. Life’s gooooood 🙂 (I just love watching rains and they fill my Happy Corner #8). I remember writing about rains previously too, read this if interested.
Wearing : an uncomfortable pair of jeans, which looks grrrreat by the way 🙂
Following : or rather trying to follow my instincts
Noticing : that there is good in everybody
Feeling : confused
Admiring : people who know what they want to do with their life.
Getting : extremely bored of Facebook these days.
Bookmarking : this video which makes one think about social media, computers and mobiles. Decide for yourself if you agree.
Disliking : my frizzy hair, is there a version of rainy season where you are able to tame your hair?
Feeling : proud of myself for keeping up with my yoga routine; I’m notorious for starting this habit several times and failing to stick with it beyond a month or two. It has only been a month this time too so ask me in September again!
Loving : 2014 so far.

I came across this awesome idea of taking stock from this blog: http://meetmeatmikes.com/2014/01/taking-stock-004/ and thought it would be fun to do one myself.

 

Why blog after all?

This is one of the most obvious, no-brainer kind of a blog post in the blogging world. But, yesterday, when a close friend asked me why I blog, I stopped for a second before replying and then I said “It’s a long story”. And I felt a sense of compulsion to turn that long story into a blog post.

So, why do I blog? Before I answer that, I think it is important to know why I read/follow blogs.

Why I read blogs:

  • They inspire me. Blogs inspire in several ways – to take up a DIY project, to take a decision that will improve my life, to be bold and feel confident. e.g. I follow the A Beautiful Mess blog, their projects and their business are an inspiration. Some of their DIY posts are simple to do at home, particularly for someone with no prior experience. They are a lot of fun too!
  • I feel a sense of connectedness by reading some of the posts. For example, someone writing about a problem they have been facing and how they dealt with it makes me realise that I’m not the only one facing a similar problem and that a lot of other people are in the same boat too. Sometimes, a blogger might rant about something that frustrates them – which I might connect to instantly. I absolutely like the posts which have a funny twist to their rant, this alleviates the frustration and gives me a chance to lighten up and laugh about it.
  • I like the fact that I learn something new everyday from reading blogs. For example, I find that ZenHabits blog always has something to teach – how to form/get rid of a habit, being productive, learning to let go, practice mindfulness and in general, how to calm your nerves.
  • Some bloggers have a really beautiful way of describing simple everyday experiences like travelling up a fully-packed lift or watching a new season arrive or spending time on a long weekend.
  • Some blog posts make me laugh my head off – they make my day!
  • I love reading books and I find that reading blogs is a shorter version of that interest. When my life becomes too busy to pick up a book, I find that blogs quench my reading interest instead.

These are just a handful of the reasons why I love reading blogs. And these are also some of the reasons why I like to blog. To write about something that others can connect to, that will make someone smile or laugh, that will inspire someone to try one of my ideas or apply one of my theories/techniques and so on.

More importantly, I write because there is so much chatter going on in my head and I find blogging a fun and creative way of putting that mind-chatter into words, sentences and stories. Also importantly, I write because the thought of creating something from nothing – from a blank page to a full blog post is very exciting and also happens to be my way of de-stressing. Conversely, this is the reason why I blog despite my hectic life style, despite my crazy job and despite my other hobbies/interests.

 

Happy Corner #7: (Don’t know what Happy Corner is? Read this)

The other day, I found myself in the middle of a mess with regard to my bank card. Almost 99.99% of the calls that I have with the customer care guys of various services/products that I use, end up in me wanting to find out where this “customer care” office is and find the person who I have been speaking to for the last one hour, to check if it was a real person with a real brain! Imagine jaw clenching, hand on forehead, red face, hot face, clenched fists, you get the idea. That’s how my calls with customer care turn into. Be it any customer care – travel agent, hotel booking, bank, mobile operator, online shopping.

So, I was very reluctant to sort this issue out by calling the customer care but I had no choice. Guess what happened next. This guy sorted ALL the issues (I had 4 serious issues) with the card in less than half hour! I was shocked! It was a revelation! I was overwhelmed, so I asked the guy what his name was and told him what a star he has been. I asked him if there was anyway I could put my gratitude in writing and he gave me an email address (one for good feedback) to write to. And so I did. The end of the call left a smile on my face, not just because the daunting problem with my card got solved but mainly because, the feeling of getting off the phone with customer care and not having my blood pressure hitting the maximum was a brand new experience and I owe to that guy for giving me this hitherto unknown experience and my happy corner for this post.

 

Dear June 2014

Dear June,

You have:

  • taught me how well I could work if I did not take the stress of deadlines. Deadlines are in the future, the only wise thing I can do right now is to give my best and not worry about the final outcome.
  • changed constantly. Although daunting to start with, it has been fun to see that I did well in adapting to the changes.
  • pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to enjoy the discomfort.
  • reminded me constantly that “whenever you feel like quitting, think about why you started”. Whoever said/wrote this quote, thank you.
  • made me feel grateful for what I have today. I can’t help comparing today with what I was doing and where I was this time last year and every time I do that, I feel ever so thankful for the relentless nature of time to keep moving.
  • given me the opportunity and ability to evaluate a potential business idea. It doesn’t matter that it did not materialise, I’m just glad that I tried and almost took it up. The mere exciting thought of ‘this could probably be my very first business’ was well worth the try. I now know more than ever that I want to have a business of my own one day. This is my happy corner for this post. (Happy Corner #6; What is Happy Corner? Read this)
  • given me happy times with family. I love them more everyday.
  • introduced me to ‘Star Wars’. Yes, I haven’t seen star wars until very recently. But now that I started watching the series, I can’t wait to see parts 4, 5 and 6. So far, my favourite characters are Obi-Wan Kenobi, Master Yoda and Padme.
  • also shown me movies like Godzilla (2014, of course) and Edge of Tomorrow. My rating? Godzilla: a waste of 123 minutes of my life, there is no need to spend 123 minutes to figure that out. Just don’t see it. Edge of Tomorrow: Clever. Actually, I think I want to say that it is me who is clever because I understood the movie in my first attempt. That said, the movie was indeed engaging, had a bit of humour and well, it was in 3D 🙂 So yes, go see it.
  • made me feel nostalgic about Edinburgh. We were this close to travelling to Edinburgh in July but it did not go according to plan. Edinburgh, I miss you so much but there’s a time for everything and I know I will come see you again one day.
  • got me addicted to 11 pm rides to have ice cream. Yay to summer 🙂
  • talked me into getting back to doing yoga regularly. Well thank you for my sore legs!
  • motivated me to finish my first painting on a tee. Not my best work but I like it. I did not wear it yet so I don’t know with certainty whether it is street friendly.
  • almost made me give up on Candy Crush. But alas the addiction is back. I’m not proud of it.
  • made me realise that I’m one of the biggest procrastinators/lazy bugs and should have written a post many days earlier.
  • almost come to an end and that is going to mark half year 2014. Half year! Is it just me or is the earth revolving 10 times faster these days?

 

 

10 lessons learnt

These are some lessons I learnt recently and thought it would be fun to share them here:

  1. It is extremely difficult to practise and cultivate a new habit, even if it is a ‘2 minutes per day’ kind of a habit. However, it is not impossible.
  2. Always think happy thoughts. You are what you think.
  3. It is a necessity to take rest when down with cold/general illness. Popping some pills and watching telly all day does not always help. Playing Candy Crush doesn’t help either. Getting stuck in one of the levels of Candy Crush for hours is enough of a sign to close the app and sleep. Clearing that level is tomorrow’s motto 😉
  4. It is never too late to start something new and exciting. Similarly, you are never too old to have fun.
  5. Not many people realise that you know they are looking at you with their supposedly “sneaky” corner-of-the-eye trick. And it is very difficult to make them realise you do!
  6. Idle man’s brain is not always a devil’s workshop. It is sometimes necessary to be idle, not do anything and not think anything.
  7. Knowing how much salt to put in your dish without tasting it is a specialised skill. Mums are usually experts in this skill. When they say that’s enough, stop.
  8. Everyone around you has problems. May not be the same as your’s but equally challenging. Keeping this in mind helps with relationships with people around you.
  9. Online shopping is addictive. It is important to strictly close the browser after completing your purchase and not look at the ‘people who bought this also bought these’ suggestions. It is also important to realise that it is not necessary to avail e-v-e-r-y discount coupon that is emailed to you because this is just a gateway to more shopping and more discount coupons! Good time to get a thought bubble over your head which says “Now that’s just silly”.
  10. There is order in almost all chaos. There is just a varying degree of order from one chaos to the other. Also, there is chaos everywhere and its absolutely ok for it to be there.

 

My Happy Corner #5 (for background to ‘My Happy Corner: click here):

My happy corner today is that moment where you do the right thing (although not necessarily an easy thing) and then get to see the direct wonderful result of that action. Sometimes, doing the right thing might raise questions of why you need to what you need to do. You just need to believe that it is the right to do and do it. Sooner or later you will look back and smile. But sometimes, you don’t need to wait too long to have that ‘look back and smile’ moment. It happens almost immediately after doing the right thing. I love those moments.

 

A bad day for a vegetarian

Yes, I’m a vegetarian. I have been one all my life. Although I started off as vegetarian because that’s how my parents brought me up, when I grew up I chose to continue being a vegetarian. I have never tasted even a bit of non-vegetarian – no fish, no meat or poultry (except for two small mishaps when I ate outside), although I have to admit I eat egg. When I went to Scotland for University and a job, the first year there was a struggle to find decent vegetarian food which was also tasty. Slowly, I developed a taste for bland European food. Actually, calling it bland is wrong because I find it extremely tasty now. My weekday lunch was soup and salad for nearly 4-5 years which I thoroughly enjoyed. I tried all kinds of cuisines while I lived in Scotland and travelled across Europe. I’m a foodie, a vegetarian foodie and my love for European food is ever-green.

Anyway, that’s enough background about my vegetarianism. Moving on to the bad day I had last week. My friend and I decided to go to this cafe (also a restaurant) after work. I ordered a veggie pasta and an ice tea (thanks to the 40 C summer) . My friend ordered manchurian and green apple soda. We got our drinks and the pasta first and this is what happened next:

Me: This does not look vegetarian. Is this vegetarian?

Waiter: Yes ma’am. It is vegetarian. You ordered veggie pasta and that’s what I got for you.

So I ate a little bit of the penne alone eyeing the rest of what is in my plate doubtfully.

Me (to my friend, who has also been a vegetarian all her life): I’m still not sure. I don’t know what these brown pieces are. And I cannot see even a single vegetable in this pasta!

The waiter then served machurian to my friend.

Me: Again, are you really sure this is vegetarian?

Waiter: Yes, I am sure.

Me: I don’t know what these brown pieces are. They don’t look vegetarian.

Waiter: That is meal-maker/tofu cubes.

Me: I hope so. I’m a very strict vegetarian. I would be very upset if this turns out to be non-vegetarian.

Waiter: Please don’t worry. This is definitely vegetarian.

So I believed him this time. However, for some sub-conscious strange reason I went for the penne alone, still careful not to eat the rest of the stuff. After 5 mins…

Waiter: Ma’am I went to the kitchen and checked. Your pasta is not vegetarian. It is chicken. I’m very sorry.

Me (after going furiously red): How can you be so careless? I asked you twice in the last 10 mins and you were very sure. You did not even think that you should go and check in the kitchen before lying to me. I told you I would be upset if it turns out to be non-vegetarian and you asked me not to worry.

Waiter: I’m very sorry

Me: Sorry is not going to change anything. How did you even make this mistake?

Waiter: Your order got mixed with someone else’s. I have your vegetarian pasta now. I will clear the table and bring your vegetarian pasta.

The restaurant manager then came to the table. And he apologised again and again. He offered the veggie pasta as complimentary and went away. I tried to eat it but I couldn’t. I was upset for the next 5-10 mins and then forgot about it because my friend and I have the ability to forget the world when we start talking to each other. So, that’s what we did – talked non-stop for the next half hour. We finished our drinks and the manchurian.

When the time came to pay the bill, I calmly said to the manager: “I was pretty upset about the fact that the waiter gave me false assurance without being sure. I could have still forgiven you if you mixed up the orders and told me the truth immediately or even if he had gone and checked in the kitchen after the first time I asked. Instead he chose to be lazy (only two tables full, the rest of it was empty) and careless. I would like to try and make him learn to not repeat this ever again (to anyone he serves). So, I’m going to be really harsh on you and say that I’m not going to pay the bill for anything.”

So, that’s what we did. We just stood up calmly and walked out. I decided not to shout at the waiter or create any drama in front of the other tables. I decided not to give a bad review on Zomato or any other foodie rating website. It was a new restaurant, which is also one of the reasons why I decided not to name the restaurant in this blog post as well. I just decided to teach the guy to work more sincerely and respect customers’ food preferences.

So that takes the count of the mishaps I had with non-vegetarian food to three. Oh well…

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My Happy Corner #4 (background to ‘My Happy Corner: click here)

I voted yesterday! This is the second time ever that I got a chance to cast my vote in the elections. We had to do a bit of running around in the scorching heat to figure out our polling station. Luckily, there were no long queues 🙂

Here’s the proof of my voting:

Democracy 'by the people'

Democracy ‘by the people’

Surely, taking photos is a sure shot way to not think of food while waiting for our order to be served

Surely, taking photos is a sure shot way to not think of food while waiting for our order to be served

 

Birthday parties

Two of my very closest friends celebrate birthday in April and I’m having a hard time planning a surprise party which all our friends (who will be part of the party) will sign up to. One birthday down, one more to go. Sadly, the first birthday party was close to a disaster but the dinner, our crazy photo session followed by driving all the way to have a speciality ice-cream saved the day.

After what seems like ages (nearly 10 years), our little bunch of close friends found their way back to our city. After college, we all went in various directions (continents, really) to follow our careers and after 10 years, luckily and consciously, we ended up living in our city again. It’s absolute fun just hanging out together. This year’s birthdays were meant to be special for the same reason – all of us are together! So, in an attempt to make them special, we almost failed. Luckily, despite several glitches, we ended up having a good time – I believe the birthday girl would agree too 😉

The next birthday is round the corner and I haven’t got any plan yet. I’m usually the “organised and fully-planned” kind of person but sometimes I prefer to let go of planning everything and just take things as they come. Whatever we end up doing, I hope it will make my friend’s day 🙂

So, while having a hectic time planning and unplanning all these birthday parties, I wondered what I would to do for my birthday this year. And, just like that, out of nowhere, I had an idea in my head. A bucket list! Not exactly a bucket-list but a similar concept. I will make a list of fun/new/never-done-before/old-times’-sake things that I would like to do and depending on the time, place etc., I will pick a few things from the list to implement for this year’s birthday. If it turns out to be fun and do-able, I will carry forward the remaining list for the next birthday and so on. How exciting is this! I feel like I should have done this ages ago!

What do you guys do for birthdays and other special days? Are you the quiet type who spend the day peacefully by yourself or may be with a small bunch of close family/friends? Or are you a complete party animal? Do you do anything new and fun like sky-diving? Do you do anything meaningful? I’m not a kid anymore and birthdays are not crazy can’t-sleep-tonight exciting anymore however, I have not reached a stage where birthdays mean nothing and I don’t quite want to reach there. This idea of mine is probably going to bring some ‘eagerly looking forward to’ back into my birthdays. This is an attempt to bring some more happiness, sunshine and meaningful moments into my life. I would like to think that we should live everyday in a similar way – be happy, spread the joy and live the moment.

Ok, now happy corner time…

My Happy Corner #3

I have recently (a few months back) qualified as an actuary. I was delighted, relieved and what not when I found out that I really cleared my last exam. Anyone who is studying/has studied/knows people who study for these exams that lead up to being qualified as an actuary would know the time and effort out of one’s life that goes into these exams. I have gone through phases of loving the subjects, getting tired of the exams, failing sometimes, loathing my career choice, picking up will-power and pace again, passing some exams and continuing the journey. To me, these exams have been a test of endurance – they are like running a marathon. The difficult bit is not passing them, it is not giving up when you fail. I have a wondrously supportive family who dealt with my exam ups and downs and allowed me to willfully choose to continue running the marathon. In a way, they ran the marathon too! So, anyway, coming back to the day I passed my last exam, I celebrated on the day with family. I celebrated once more with my closest friends when all the paperwork was done and I got a confirmation that I am indeed an actuary. And just a couple of days ago, I got my certificate in post, which on my behalf, shouts out that I’m an actuary (talk about being humble and all that!). To see it with my own eyes that what has happened is indeed true – that moment was my happy corner. 🙂