Motivation in the time of Corona!

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Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

First of all, whoever is reading it, I hope you are your loved ones are safe and healthy.

I have been wanting to write this blog in a long time but somehow didn’t know where to start with. This blog has given me more than I asked for. It was my first step towards writing and here I am today, author of my own book, “Table for One”.

A book, really! I remember saying it as a joke mostly, that one day I am going to write my own book. But as Paulo Coelho says, “When you wish something, the whole universe helps you achieve it.” And my case was no different.

But as we know, whenever life gives you anything, it takes away a few things too. Soon after my book got published I started feeling anxious and restless. I still cant contemplate from where it all started. It took me a year and a half to write this book and I gave it all not only in terms of writing but as well as getting the word out. I had very high hopes from the book which somehow now appear unrealistic too.

When the book didn’t do as well as I desired, I felt a sense of failure. As the time passed, writing which was always very natural to me became like a burden. I wasn’t able to write even a single sentence and thought about giving up.

My last blog was almost a year and nine months ago and is more like a material that I picked from a self-help book. But you know what, sometimes all it takes just a tiny moment of courage to pick yourself up and putting your shit together.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this moment appeared when I found myself isolated in four walls due to COVID-19. Life appeared to be painful and I decided to feel it all, just to check my limits. I deleted all the apps that allowed me to communicate with people just to kill time. No binge watching. Nothing. Now what?

I somehow managed to get a few answers.

I realized that I have two limiting aspects to my personality, one, I don’t know how to deal with failure and two, I lack perseverance. I had always been an achiever, I just want to win, but within my comfort zone. I noticed that I have the tendency of running away when things become tough.

So, instead of just going ahead with writing no matter what, I took the low sales numbers on my ego and started giving myself reasons of not making a career in writing. I forgot why I started writing. It was because I loved it and I enjoyed it. Simple!

The second insight that I got was the power of a wholistic life. When I was writing my book, I went mad, quiet literally. I locked myself in a room, kept my mobile switched off and cut off everyone who had anything to offer besides a value add to writing. The schedule became crazy coupled with unhealthy diet and almost no exercise. Due to anxiety issues too, I found it hard to work out. Whenever I got on the treadmill, my legs used to start shaking.

With this newly found time at my disposal,  I gave myself the target of working out, no matter what. I now work out almost more than an hour everyday. And God, it feels so so good. Exercising has therapeutic effect on life and I just felt it now. Not only this, I am learning to solve rubik cube, using hula hoop and a few more fun things that I always thought I should know but never had the time.

But what makes me truly happy and contended is that I am able to write this blog, with whole of my heart like I used to do it earlier.  And it is because I have other things to look forward to, to feel excited about.

Another learning that I had during this time is to really understand that when things change inside you, things change around you. When I had to promote my book, I ended up interacting with hundreds of people everyday. Being an introvert, it came across as burden but now when I look back, I feel it was the best time of my life as I got the opportunity to speak with so many people. I was going through the endless messages from people about how much they enjoyed reading my book.

So, these learnings and motivation haven’t made my life perfect but rather has filled me up with hope, that it is not the result that matters, but the journey itself.

And what about the anxiety? Well, I feel much better now, atleast in the current moment.

If you wish to read my book, get yourself a kindle copy of “Table for One” by Neha Bindal, its a fun quick read and make sure to leave your feedback.

Recently, I have also started supporting/mentoring people who wants to make a career in writing, so if you have any question(s) regarding the same, feel free to leave a comment here or via the contact section.

I am going to sign off now! Hope this whole Corona situation gets over soon and we get back to our regular life. Take care.

Lots of Love,

N

 

 

 

Ten ways of living a radiant life!

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Photo by Stefan Stefancik on Pexels.com

The search of living a more radiant life took me to this book called, “Monk who sold his ferrari” and to Rohin Sharma. I found some hand written notes on 10 ways of living a more radiant life and thought of sharing the same:

1. Ritual of solitude – Keep out mandatory period of peace (15-50 minutes) and experience the healing power of silence. Reserve a peaceful and dedicate spot and sit there everyday, trying to connect with the nature and surrounding.

2. Physical Exercise – Around total of 5 hours a week

3. Eating healthy – fresh fruits and vegetables

4. Ritual of abundance knowledge – read everyday

5. Ritual of self reflection – Write everything that you loved doing during the day on a piece of paper and also analyze what all you have avoided doing

6. Ritual of early awakening – rise with the sun. Also, ten minutes before sleeping, drink a cup of herbal tea, listen to soft classical music and prepare yourself to drift off into rich, renewing slumber. Don’t watch TV, don’t argue with anyone, don’t run through the day’s bad events in your mind

7. Ritual of music – Spend some time with your favorite music and feel magical

8. Ritual of spoken words – Practice this mantra 2-3 times a day like I am strong, I am free, I am a great writer (whatever you want to be), I am inspired, I am disciplined, I am energized

9. Ritual of congruent character – Daily incremental action to build your character

10. Ritual of simple living – Focus only on priorities, those activities that are truly meaningful. Your life will be uncluttered, rewarding and exceptionally peaceful.

Cheers..

 

The Darker Shade of Beauty!

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Photo by Sabel Blanco on Pexels.com

“Which cleanup do you want?” The new branch manager at the beauty salon asked.

“I will go with rejuvenation one.” I replied.

“But I would recommend Instafair.” She replied back.

I smiled and insisted on the rejuvenation one and she sent a beauty specialist inside the facial room to do my cleanup.

The one hour of my face message which should have been an experience to relax and clean my skin turned into a mission to make it look fairer. I was offered to buy the endless range of products that promised to make my skin a few shades lighter.

The funniest advice was skin peel off. I was told that few layers of my skin would be ripped off and I would look visibly fairer within three months.

I thanked her for the kind suggestions and politely declined to buy any of the products that she offered.

While on my way back home, I looked closely inside the rare view mirror of my car and appreciated how beautiful I looked. My dusky complexion gave an edge to my overall personality. It made my eyes shine brighter and made my smile looked prettier that what it actually was.

“You are different and exotic kind of beautiful”, I recalled someone telling me a few years back.

I put the car into first gear and pushed the accelerator. I got out of the parking, wore my sunglasses and turned on the radio. The song that played almost on every radio station was “Kaala chashma” from an upcoming Bollywood movie. It said black shades look gorgeous on fair face. I checked myself out and found out that it looked equally good on my dark face too. I ignored the song and moved forward.

It was my cousin’s wedding two days after and I had to pick up my altered dress from the designer. I tried my black-beige dress on and came out to have a closer look in the full mirror. One milky white girl trying a yellow and red dress made a face and insisted on trying a similar piece that I was wearing.

She was visibly upset by the fact that an exactly similar dress wasn’t available; rather a reverse combination was available wherein the blouse was beige and skirt was black. She didn’t like that combination as she thought that the beige color on the front will bring down her fair complexion while the black color will enhance it.

She advised me to try the reverse combination as she thought it will suit me better. I declined, made the balance payment and moved ahead.

On the way back home, I thought about my childhood. When I was a kid, I wondered why my complexion didn’t match the other girls I played with. Some people told me that it was because I came from hell, I belonged to the devil community in my earlier birth. The thought amused me now.

I was grown up in a joint family full of beautiful and fair people, my mother and me being the darkest ones. My mother was always conscious of her skin tone and no one ever left a chance to make her feel worse about it. I grew up in the shelter of her insecurities. She felt guilty at times that I took her dark complexion.

Almost all our relatives and family friends suggested tricks to make my skin lighter. Apply “Curd and gram flour”, or “Milk and bread”, or “Turmeric and milk cream” and the list went on. When nothing worked, one of them suggested offering egg plants to Lord Shiva’s idol every Monday to get a clear and fair complexion which too was a failed attempt to make my skin fair.

I applied endless tubes of Fair and Lovely, and other skin products to bring down my skin tone. In turn, they made my skin look pale, uneven and prone to acne.

I felt ugly and pushed myself to work harder and harder, but nothing could fill for my low self esteem.

Even when I got into a relationship and challenged the way I was being treated, I was told that I wasn’t beautiful and the relationship is a favor to me. That was rather the breaking point of everything.

It took me a while to realize that I was sub-consciously rejecting myself and other people’s reaction was only a by-product of my own attitude towards the way I looked.

While I was on this journey, a lot of friends offered their comforting reassurance, sometimes in form of a smile, sometimes in form of compliments and sometimes in the form of the beautifully crafted lines below.

You are beautiful.
Your beauty, just like your capacity for life, happiness and success, is immeasurable. Day after day, countless people across the globe get on a scale in search of validation of beauty and social acceptance.
Get off the scale!
I have yet to see a scale that can tell you how enchanting your eyes are. I have yet to see a scale that can show you how wonderful your hair looks when the sun shines its glorious rays on it. I have yet to see a scale that can thank you for your compassion, sense of humor, and contagious smile. Get off the scale because I have yet to see the one that can admire you for your perseverance when challenged in life.
It’s true; the scale can give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That’s it. It cannot measure beauty, talent, purpose, life force, possibility, strength, or love. Don’t give the scale more power than it has earned. Take note of the number, then get off the scale and live your life.
You are beautiful

I pushed myself out of the memory land and reached home with a smile on my face after reading the screenshot of the lines above, yet again.

I don’t care anymore if I pass the shade card test before picking up my favorite color’s dress. I represent the darker side of beauty and totally love being there.

So, all the beautiful people out there keep calm and get off the scale!

Snippet

Peep inside my book (Part 3 – Smile):

“Thanks for walking me back,” I replied, and gave him a broad smile.

“Wow, that’s twice in one day,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“That’s twice in one night I have seen a big smile. When I saw you in Geneva, I thought you never smile.”

“Of course I smile.”

“No, no. Don’t get me wrong. You look equally appealing without a smile too. But with a smile on your face, you look like a changed person. Your eyes twinkle when you smile.”

“Of course I smile,” I repeated my words, and smiled again for a third time.

Snippet!

Peep inside my book (Part II), Is S the hero of my story? Take a guess 🙂

The next day I went to Eiffel Tower arena again and stood near the bridge. I was at the same spot where S and I stood a day before.

I thought about crossing the bridge but dropped the idea. I noticed the street painters selling their handmade paintings.

In one of the paintings of a few people sitting in a big living room and talking; although everyone looked normal and alive but they all have something missing; the woman serving tea had a missing earring, one of the men had a missing shoe and another didn’t have a hand.

Below the painting it was written:

No matter who we are, what we do, or where we live, deep inside we all feel incomplete. It’s like we have lost something and need to get it back. Just what that something is, most of us never find out. And of those who do, even few manage to go out and look for it.

I was still looking at the painting, but I saw two hands removing it from its place, rolling it and giving it to the woman standing next to me.

“I want that, I saw it first,” I wanted to say, but she had already kept the painting in her big handbag and was taking the two Euros change in exchange of twenty that she had given to the painter for the painting.

Then she left with the painting. It was almost nine, but I didn’t feel like going back to the hotel.

“What next?” I asked myself sitting on River Seine’s bridge.

#paris #riverseine #book #storyteller #travel #wander #fallinlovewithparis

The Millennial Life

Unlock phone for the seventh time in last five minutes

Open facebook. No new notifications. Scroll and scroll some more. Ignore the not-so-funny meme and some funny ones, ignore the sexist posts, and pseudo intellectualism and copied statuses.

A colleague got engaged. Like the picture and move on. Scroll through recommended videos that plays on their own.

After absorbing all the irrelevant information, switch to instagram.

Wait for the newest photo to appear.

Someone got a new haircut. A celebrity rescued a pigeon. Ignore.

Send a heart to the picture of your college reunion that happened today but you missed. Stare at the happy selfies and notice how everyone looks so different now.

Read full story in the caption of a tiny tale that captured your attention and realise that you haven’t written anything new in last three months.

Close the application, lock the phone and pickup a notebook and a pen. But nothing new comes to the mind. Whatever you feel has been captured in other writeups.

Unlock the phone again. Open WhatsApp. Check the DP of someone you ignored a year back, who recently got married and has turned handsome.

Type, ‘Hi! how are u?’ in the chat box of someone you actually like but backspace everything. Delete. He doesnt seem interested because he always takes more than 30 seconds to reply to your texts and you dont wanna fall for someone who will never love you back.

Open dating application. Ignore seven unread messages and right swipe someone new. He is the 112th match but he didnt say hi. Now reply to three out of seven unread messages and lose interest in precisely ten minutes.

Crib about your weight.

Its 11’0 clock and you have a morning meeting at 8:30. Put the phone on airplane mode, switch off the light and cover yourself in a quilt.

Ignore the maze of thoughts and focus on sleep. Hear sleeping music, guided meditation but sleep feels like a distant dream.

Unlock the phone. Watch back to back episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and laugh inside your quilt.

Eyes feel heavy now and phone display bothers. Check time with one eye closed.

Its 3AM and you somewhat feel sleepy.

Get up half an hour late and rush for the morning meeting, ditching workout and breakfast.

Such is millennial life!

Love in the time of Facebook!

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“What is my problem?” I asked myself as I turned my back and started crying in silence. He was still glued to his phone. I missed the time when he was away. I missed the video calls and the exchange of texts every now and then. When we were separated by thousand miles, technology kept the two of us together. Now we lay next to each other at arm’s length and it drove us apart.

It was so easy then, loving each other when we were far. I didn’t know he was this addicted to his cell phone. I didn’t know about his interest in all the new applications. I didn’t know that he spent so much time researching about the articles he posted on social media. I just saw the thousands of likes and hundreds of comments whenever he posted something. “Such a smart guy,” I thought then, and felt privileged that I shared a life with him.

When he told me that living with him wasn’t that easy, I thought he was cracking a joke. I laughed. Now that I have understood he wasn’t joking, the only time I laughed was when he clicked a picture of two of us together and posted them with romantic captions.

“Such a sad life.”

The clock needles were about to meet at twelve announcing a new day had arrived. The clock did it every day but that day was special; at least in my head. It was our first wedding anniversary. I wiped my tears and washed my face to hide the obscure and unreasonable pain I felt almost all the time.

“Thank god, you aren’t slept yet,” he said. I tried to smile. Then he came closer, held my face in his hands and bought his lips forward. I closed my eyes but couldn’t feel his lips touching mine. Then I heard the giggling. I opened my eyes and saw him watching something on his phone.

“Look who is wishing us straight from Dubai,” he said and turned the front screen of his phone towards me.

“Happy Anniversary,” his friends said collectively.

“Thank you guys,” I replied, faking excitement.

He took a screenshot of the video and posted it on Facebook thereby flaunting his blessed life. Friends from thousand miles not only remembered his anniversary but actually took out time to wish him as well.

For the next one hour, he just checked the number of likes on the post and replied “thank you” to random comments from random people. My friends and family called to wish me but I didn’t take most of the calls. I was angry. I was annoyed. That wasn’t the life I wished for or dreamt of.

I remembered the time when we had just started dating. We didn’t meet through family or common friends. I swiped him right on a dating application and he did the same. We talked for a few days on the application and then exchanged numbers. He was in Dubai then. He wished me “good morning” as soon as he got up and “good night” before sleeping. I looked forward to his, “How was your day?” and “Have you had food?”

Being a writer, he was always great with words. He sent me texts while spending time with his friends; and in between the meetings at work.

“I wish I was your phone, so that you’d hold me and look at me all day.” He said once.

He did status updates on social media which revolved around our long distant conversations. I was thrilled. It all seemed like a fairy tale then.

Then one day, he told me that he was shifting back to India, in Delhi itself. He had found a job.  We finally met at a bar. I was so charmed by his easy smile and shiny eyes that we ended up getting up together in the same bed the next morning.

I was scared that he might ask me to leave anytime soon. But he didn’t. He asked me to stay. He made me breakfast. He kissed me on the cheek. “Last night was so beautiful,” he said and we shared many passionate nights together. We were in love. And now we are married.

But I didn’t feel the love anymore. The only time he texted me was to inquire about what I had made for dinner. He, on the other hand, claimed that he loved me more now, compared to when we weren’t married.

He expressed his love on social media in the form of beautiful poems which took the other’s girl’s breath away. “Your wife is the luckiest person on this planet,” they said.

I didn’t feel lucky. It was like I had him, but not in the way I wanted to. Together but apart. There was a distance between us. Nothing to talk about, nothing to discuss; except household chores or where we should go for dinner on a Friday eve.

Once I confronted him to be too much involved in social media. We got into a fight and he asked, “Have you married me if I wasn’t this popular? If I was just one of the thousands guys who no one wanted to be with or interested in talking to?”

“Answer me.” He said.

I got myself thinking. He was right.

I wouldn’t have loved him the way I did if he was ordinary. A part of me liked sharing the lime light he always had. His popularity made me feel popular too and helped fill the void we all feel as life moves on in a normal course.

When there are no real problems to deal with but nothing big is really happening. The instant gratification gave me a high then.

“Are you up?” He asked and put his arm around my waist. “What’s wrong?” He asked when he noticed my sad face.

“Nothing, just missing mom,” I lied.

“Happy Anniversary love,” he said and touched his cheeks with mine. He raised his right hand and asked me to smile. He was trying to click a selfie. I wanted to push him away but tried to keep my calm.

“What do you want as the anniversary present?” He asked and put the phone on charging.

I thought for a while. “Tell me,” he insisted.

Gathering all my courage I said, “I want you to stay away from your phone for one full day.”

“What?”

“Yes, phone detox, in fact technology detox. Stay away from internet for a day. Yes, that’s what I want,” I said.

“That’s crazy, tell me the real thing.”

“I want only this,” I said. By that time, I decided that if he’d say “no”, I would end my marriage with him. He was taking long to answer which made me nervous.

“Why do you want such a silly thing?” He asked again.

“Just like that.”

“Alright,” he said and switched off his phone. We noted the time. 2 am. He was off his phone until 2 am the next day.

For the next one hour, he shuffled in bed and kept staring at his switched off phone. He was restless and it was apparent on his face. I tried to cuddle but he didn’t hug me back.

“It’s fine, use your phone,” I said and turned my back again.

“No no, it’s fine. It’s just weird. I always felt that I keep too busy. Now suddenly I am feeling I have too much time. Just getting used to it,” he replied.

That night, we talked a lot, about everything. He noticed that I had dark circles now and plucked the single grey hair from my head.

The next day, we cooked breakfast together and he told me about the writer’s block he was facing from past few days. I told him about my new aggressive boss who was making my life hell at work.

It all felt like a dream, having so much of him and his undivided attention. He wasn’t texting someone else while I told him something. He wasn’t smiling to his phone screen. We were smiling to each other.

I felt silly, about doubting that we had lost the bond, passion and love between us. He bought me flowers in the afternoon, handpicked; not online ordered. The ones that I liked customized according to my choice.

It was the best day of my life in past one year. We went out for a romantic dinner and he ordered a wine which he thought I might like. Our eyes met and we held hands for a long time. Then he came closer and kissed me slowly. “Happy Anniversary,” he said. “Happy Anniversary,” I replied.

We went on a long drive and came back home late. He pushed me on the bed and kissed me again; deeper and longer this time. He removed his shirt and started grinding me. I surrendered to the moment.

Suddenly, I stopped feeling his touch. I opened my eyes. He wasn’t around. I wore my top and got out from the room. And what I saw next caused a thunderstorm in my mind. He was looking into his phone screen; checking messages and social media account.

“It’s past 2 am,” he said, feeling my presence around me and without breaking the eye contact with his phone.

It was over for me. The End. Within next ten minutes, I packed my bag and called for a cab. I didn’t know where I’d go but I just couldn’t stay.

“What happened to you?” He asked surprised when I came out from our bedroom with a bag in my hand. I didn’t reply and started walking towards the main gate.

“Do you want to click a picture of me with this bag?” I asked. “With a caption that says, Facebook fucked my life but never mind.” I kept talking.

“I am going,” I said as I turned to unlock the gate.

“Shweta,” he shouted my name and rushed in my direction. He held me from the elbow and looked at me with questioning eyes.

“Happy Anniversary to you and your beloved cell phone,” I said and let go of his hand.

“Shweta, Shweta,” he shouted again but I didn’t look back. I got inside the taxi, lit a cigarette and scrolled up the window.

“Airport,” I instructed the driver. The car started moving but I couldn’t stop hearing his voice calling my name.

“Shweta, Shweta.”

I was confused. The voices didn’t stop.

“Shweta, Shweta.” I heard again.

I opened my eyes with a sudden shock. I was feeling cold.

“I have been trying to wake you up from past twenty minutes,” he said.

I just looked at him and said nothing.

“God! It was a dream.”

“Are you okay? You look washed out,” he said and embraced me in a hug. I hugged him back and tightened the grip. My heart was beating loudly.

“Your phone is buzzing,” I said.

“Let it be. I don’t care. This is our moment together,” he replied and pushed the phone away from his sight and reach.

“Happy Anniversary,” he said.

“Happy Anniversary,” I replied and wished we were born in Stone Age.

When I got Leh’d!

My decision to travel to Leh-Ladakh for nine days with a bunch of random strangers had many beginnings. There was the first, half-minded decision to do it, followed by the second, more serious decision to actually do it, and then the third long beginning, composed of paying for the trip, shopping and packing, and mentally preparing myself to do it.

There were a few things which bothered me; like what will happen to my dark oversensitive skin when the direct UV rays of sun would fall on it, then there was worry about acclimatization, the horror stories of how average people like me find it difficult to adjust in such high altitude with limited oxygen supply.

Like a well trained corporate employee, I asked my supervisor if the dates of my travel would suit our work calendar and he said, “Go ahead” in an instant. I felt unprepared for the trip but decided to do it anyway.

1

And the Journey Began

A day before I was ready to fly, I medicated myself and started preparing my body to acclimatize quickly.

I boarded the 9:35 am flight from Terminal 1D of Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. “Boarding complete”, I listened the announcement and the flight took off.

It takes hardly an hour to fly to leh from Delhi. The aura of magical Leh started flashing through the window of the flight. The view of snow covered mountains from 35000 ft above the ground was a privilege.

The sky was clear and blue like the one I had seen in books and not in real life. A couple of seconds before the landing, I was surrounded with mountains. The variety of their brown color was so overwhelming that they even surpassed the beauty of the snow covered mountains I saw from flight window.

Landing and Drive to Home Stay

As I landed, the brown mountains grew taller, and bigger, and opened the view of a grayish valley with a lining of greenery around it.

Leh Airport, now known as Kushok Bakula Rimpoche is a simple airport with a common terminal for both arrival and departure. After collecting my luggage, I proceeded to the exit gate with my trolley bag and found a warm and smiling Ladakhi gentleman holding a placard with “The Bing Bang Trip” name written on it.

I boarded the tempo traveler and the fifteen minutes drive from the airport to the home stay seemed quick and easy. I wasn’t feeling any altitude sickness as yet which gave me an instant boost of confidence.

I dragged my travel bag to my room situated on the second floor of the house. I started panting on the first floor itself, a little more than usual. I felt tired as if I was carrying a thousand bricks on my shoulder.

After meeting the trip organizer Chandrabhan, I went straight to my room where my roommate Shweta was lying on bed like a log. “Hey,” she said in half sleepy tone. “Hello,” I replied back in excitement. “I am sorry but I am too sleepy, I had a long flight,” she said, and went to sleep.

I felt tired too, and tried to rest, but couldn’t do so. I came out of my room and the open terrace area gave a clear view of mountains and a water stream flowing within walking distance to our home stay. The view felt like as if the valley was embracing me.

2

Meeting the fellow Trippers

After some time, one after the other, the follow travelers came out of their room; met and greet each other. The group of ten strangers formed small clusters and started talking to each other.

After that there was a formal group activity where everyone introduced themselves which served as an ice breaker for us. Each tripper was unique in its truest sense.

There was this girl from Punjab, Saru, who loved making customized gifts for her friends, the fitness freak girl “Yash Babbar” who talked about her dream of opening a restaurant and how she managed to survive with a name which sounded like a “guy’s”. My roommate Shweta, was an “NRI”, living in Dubai and who flew down especially to do this trip.

Then there was Sumit, an IIT and IIM passed out high pod, who could play thirty five musical instruments. Then there was Kamlesh, who talked about his journey from being raised in Mumbai and then moving to California and then coming back home. Another tripper Sagar, was a twenty three year old photographer and aspiring film maker whose first short film was already features in different parts of the world.

Chetan Soni, another co-founder of the big bang trip was a publisher and believed in being “jack of all trades.” The collaboration partner of the trip, Sonia, ran a NGO called “Goodwill Tribe” talked about her motto of spreading happiness in the world.

After the introduction got over, we all went near the water stream. The noise of the flowing water felt like silence to my ears merging perfectly into that beautiful evening.

The trip had just begun.

Hall of Fame

With a bag full of excitement, we boarded the tempo traveler and formally started our trip by visiting Hall of fame complex the next day.

The quotes on the walls rightfully described the purposeful life our soldiers live; one of the quotes which gave me goose bumps: “How can a man die better, than facing fearful odds… for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods”.

A full wall inside the museum displaying complex photographs of young and fearless soldiers during Kargil, and other wars moved me beyond feeling just proud of them. My heart was filled with gratitude for the soldiers which I expressed in a letter that I wrote for them.

Leh being a war prone area due to its closeness to Srinagar had many army camps and circuits. It was really exciting to see the military vans and trucks, and the soldiers dressed in army printed uniforms, with pride in their eyes and machine guns in their hands.

5

Mountains, Music, and Friendship

“In the mountains, stillness surges up to explore its own weight in the lake, movement stands still to contemplate its own depth.” The most incredible part of this whole Leh Ladakh trip for me was making mountains my home. Being in the presence of mountains, without much trace of my real life back home was overwhelming. I spent hours in our traveler just looking out without talking to anyone.  

I wandered and wondered when I looked at them – How does these mountains look in winter, all covered in snow? How could these mountains be so certain of themselves? Do these mountains ever feel lonely? Who keeps them company? Do landslides is a way in which these mountains express their anger?

I felt connected with mountains on the first day of our trip itself, the sort of connection I didn’t feel with anything or anyone in a really long time. I felt sheltered in their presence, like they were protecting me. Protecting me from what? I couldn’t say clearly. I wanted to be like those mountains; beautiful, calm, certain, still, full of contentment, and yet so strong headed.

Cherry on the cake was music and noise of chit chatting in the background, which helped me stay connected to the real world.

The music of the trip was mostly played by Saru whose playlist comprised of songs ranging from lame ones like,  “tamma tamma loge” to Rahman’s “patakha guddi” and the popular English numbers like, “Despacito.”

In between the music and the travelling, whenever someone played any Punjabi song, Saru (funjabi girl) turned to Kamlesh (California guy) to tease him if he has understood the meaning. In turn, Kamlesh never missed a chance to ask her if she knew what “Despacito” means whenever she moved her neck to the beats of that song.

Soon their arguments became frequent, sometimes funny and sometimes annoying. Yet whenever Kamlesh needed sun block to protect his sensitive skin, Saru offered to help in her classic taunting in the background style. I knew Kamlesh from before but soon I developed an instant liking towards Saru due to her bright smile, quick wit, funny one liners and “always ready to help” attitude.

I bonded with Yash for the first time when we all were sitting in the lawn of Pather Saheb Gurudwara, peeling pees as a part of “sewa” we offered after having tea and Boondi. We talked about our whereabouts, cooking habits, and love for travel. She came across as a sensible, well read girl, and I liked her too. By the end of the day, I had two new friends in the kitty.

My roommate Shweta (Dubai NRI) turned out to be a mixed bag of emotions. She talked less and abused more. She didn’t like loud people and asked them to shut up in the highest pitch of her voice. In fact, my first conversation with her ended up with she telling me to “shut up” because I tried to be courteous to her on the first day of our stay together.

As restless as she sounded first, sharing room with her was quiet easy. She was expressive and I liked that quality. After three days, we were up till late night sharing stories of past relationships and ex-crushes. But till the end of the trip, she stayed a mystery for me, who sometimes talked like a wise person full of sensibilities, and sometimes as a kid wanting to grow up quickly.

3

Star Gazing at Nubra Valley

On the third day of our trip, we left for Nubra valley after passing the Khardungla Pass. The journey was a little too exciting, especially for me. First our traveler broke down in the middle of the road and then as soon as we reached the pass, I started to feel uneasy.

The uneasiness didn’t reduce even after I sipped two cups of hot tea. I was feeling difficulty in breathing and an annoying headache started taking me over.

I headed towards the army health camp along with Kamlesh, Chandrabhan and Sonia. As soon as I took a few steps, I almost fell on the ground. I blanked out and had no energy left in my body to walk any further.

Kamlesh helped me got up and I reached the army camp staggering. Sensing my panic, the army officer consoled me casually that it’s nothing but lack of oxygen in my body. I was immediately made to inhale oxygen from a machine and within ten minutes, I started to feel better.

The army officer inquired about our whereabouts and complained about the demanding army job. He really wanted to go home for a few days but his job didn’t allow it. I saw Khardungla pass from a distance, covered with snow and colorful prayer flags. I wasn’t able to click the compulsory Khardungla pass picture which still makes me sad.

The stay in Nubra valley was unique, with only four hours of electricity and an hour’s hot water supply in a day.

After the moon set late, we came out to encounter the view we have been waiting for, and what Nubra valley is famous for – “star gazing”. I looked at the sky with an open mouth, trying to absorb the view of the space and the stars, the greatest mystery of human life. The stars looked like millions of tiny miracles spreading magic. The view held me, longer than I thought. I couldn’t take my eyes off the vastness of that scene.

“Shooting star,” someone shouted and I looked closely but missed seeing it. My eyes searched for another one and there it was, another shooting star, spreading shades of gold. I didn’t feel the need to join my hands, close my eyes and ask for a wish; just being in a part of that moment and learning how small my existence was in front of that universe, seemed like a wish coming true.

4

Pangong Lake

On the sixth day of our trip, we headed towards Pangong lake. It was a long six hour trip from Leh. I was sitting next to the driver’s seat and in between the trip, driver pointed to one of the Ladakhi squirrel like animal called, Marmot. Everyone rushed to click a picture of it, and everyone laughed like a maniac when Sagar complained about the Marmot turning its back towards his camera.

After passing through the spectacular mountain views, which became a part of our everyday journey, we stopped near a tea shop for a quick break. The two TBBT founders turned into Captain Rajesh and Captain Suresh and talked about their hidden strategy behind turning up late every morning and their goal of getting the Pangong lake back from China.

Pangong, was a big beautiful lake but a bit corrupted by commercialization. The movie 3-idiots completely stole its thunder with Kareena’s scooter, the bum shaped stool, and other props used in the movie lying by its side.

The lake water seemed cold at first but became bearable after some time. I walked in the water along with Saru, Yash, and Shweta, and relished the time trying to hold some yoga poses taught by the girls. After having lunch in Rancho’s café, we went inside the bus, and resumed music and chit chat.

During the course of a long brainless joke, we discovered that Panglong lake was actually green in color because Yash disposed some ten thousand green tea bags as a part of her secret job of advocating Tetley green tea. Whenever there was food, there was Yash asking for hot water and then dipping a green tea bag into it.

6

Leh Ladakh, the Monasteries & Us

Buddhism in Ladakh is ancient and influenced by Tibetian Buddhism, where Buddha is worshiped as a deity who has attained Nirvana. Various incarnations of Buddha, known as Bodhisattvas, are also worshiped in monasteries.

As a part of our itinerary, we visited many monasteries, Diskit in Hunder (Nubra valley) being the first one. Located on the hill of the mountain, it was a beautiful and colorful monastery who also had a giant Buddha Statue at the back side of it with direct rays of sun reflecting on Buddha’s face in the background of blue sky makes is an absolute treat to watch.

When I got inside the monastery, the thing which stood out for me was the silence of that place. Silence is rare these days. No chanting, no talking, no hassle, absolutely nothing. You can just go, sit for some time and close your eyes.

A few days later, we went to Shey Monastery and sitting outside an empty prayer hall on the second floor, I heard the trippers discussing learning from Bhagavat Gita, and Quran depicting the richness of our culture and the acceptance level and respect we had for each other, even as a small group.

Besides all this, during our visit to one of the Tibetian temple, we ate freshly dropped apricots and discovered that “Life is an apricot.” Saru, while saying the phrase didn’t came from the background of giving any intellectual meaning to it but when I deep dived into it, I could draw some similarities. Apricot is a fruit of several species and life is an mix of many emotions, apricot is sometimes sweet and sour, and so is life; apricot has a seed inside of it which gives birth to other apricots, and similarly life is capable of bringing back another life into this world. Hence proved, “Life is an apricot.”

Last Day and the Letter Writing

Each night before calling off the day, there was a group activity planned by Sonia that involved talking and expressing ourselves. I wanted to skip the activity planned on the last day of our trip partly because I was tired and partly because I just wanted to start detaching myself with the group. I knew we all had to go home the next day, and it made me sad. But since the activity was related to writing, I decided to come out from my room, and check out what it was about.

Sonia handed me a print out which had names of three people and a descriptive paragraph against each name. She told me that their NGO had received letters from random strangers, who themselves, or someone they knew, is going through tough times in their life and we had to write letters to them in order to motivate them.

I found the idea absolutely awesome and this whole activity gave me a sudden rush of energy. Those weren’t complex problems but real problems that we all face in some point of our time. Problems like how to follow your passion without family’s support, dealing with low self-esteem, getting over the death of a parent, which path to take when you don’t know your destination.

After we wrote letter to those strangers who now shared a part of our life; we wrote letters to each other which Chandrabhan had assured that we’ll receive in six months’ time.

Each one of us on the last night of our trip, was suffering from the holiday withdrawal symptoms, not wanting to go home, not wanting to leave the group, not wanting to sleep, but we all came back to our rooms around 1 pm. After fifteen minutes, I heard a knock at the door.  Yash was standing outside our room.

Shweta, Yash and I talked for another hour while I packed my bag as slowly as possible. It was funny how the presence of the two girls who were merely strangers some days back ago felt so familiar and comforting to me.

The last day ended with a box full of memories. In the last nine days, we shared the same home, same car, same mountains, same stars, and same life.

Back to the grind

As I entered my home, I felt a sense of disorientation. Somewhat the sufficient supply of oxygen, full mobile phone networks, and hassle of city seemed alien. It took me many days to adjust back to my normal city life.

I missed the uncomfortable traveler ride with music and noise in the background, I missed the lack of oxygen, I missed the sound of laughter which echoed in my ears even when the trippers weren’t around, and above all I missed mountains the most. Those big, firm, and strong miracles of nature which took my heart away and never gave it back to me.

It was nature that connected me to myself, and to others; in Leh Ladakh and outside of it.

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For creating memories like these, log into: http://www.thebigbangtrip.com

That strange stranger story – III

Stranger story

Ladies and gentlemen, due to bad weather conditions, Captain has turned on the seat belt sign. Please return to your seats, and keep your seat belts fastened. Thank you.

I heard the in flight announcement, and opened my eyes to fasten my seat belt. I was struggling with the belt as my right hand was bandaged.

“May I help?” I heard a husky lyrical male voice.

The passenger sitting next to me slouched nearer, and helped me put the metal buckle inside the holder.

“Thank you,” I said.

“What happened to your hand?” He asked.

“It got burned while I was learning to cook.”

“Awww,” he uttered out of concern.

The plane was shaking constantly. I held the arm rest tightly, and the other guy did the same.

“I don’t want to die like this,” I said, out of nowhere.

“Me neither,” he replied. “How do you want to die?” He asked.

I thought for a while. “I want to die suddenly, an instant end. I don’t want to see it coming. I don’t want to surrender to it.” I replied.

Meanwhile, the plane shook some more. The lights dimmed. And panic started to run on all the faces.

“Sir please remain seated,” I heard a voice and turned around. A man was standing near his seat. “Please remain seated,” the air hostess repeated, and the guy sat down.

“Is it so hard to understand that you aren’t supposed to get up while there is turbulence in the flight?” I said to divert my mind from the current situation.

“Seriously man,” the guy repeated, in semi British accent.

We turned our heads together, and our eyes met for the first time.

“I am Vikram,” he said while we exchanged smile.

“I am Taara.” I introduced myself.

“You stay in London?” He asked.

“No, I am on a trip.”

“That’s so cool.” He said, and I smiled.

“Alone?”

“Yeah,” I replied with a hint of pride in my tone.

“Only London?”

“Starting with London, then Scotland-Wales-Ireland.”

“Nice! But why alone?”

“Why alone?” I thought. “Because I am not married. I don’t have a boyfriend. All my friends discussed the plan on three different WhatsApp groups but backed out eventually.”

“Just like that.” I said. “You stay in London?” I asked, to change the topic.

“Yes, I have been working in London for almost ten years now.”

“Your family stays in Delhi?” I asked.

“Yup. Gawd! I miss my family so much.”

“What the fuck?” We muttered together, as the plane passed through some serious turbulent area.

I took a hold of my racing heart, and looked at Vikram again.

“Some turbulence is normal during international flights.” He said, and paused. “But today, it’s just not ending.”

“Wherever I go, problem follows,” I said, and took the blame of bad weather for no reason.

“Come On! I don’t believe that. You seem to be a pretty nice girl. Almost harmless.”

“What if I am a contract killer? How do you know?” I said, and narrowed my eyes.

“I would know. I am good at judging.”

“Over-confidence?”

“Just confidence, in moderate quantity, neither over, nor under,” he replied, flirtatiously.

Ting tong.

Ladies and gentlemen, the seat belt sign is now turned off. But for your safety, we recommend you to keep your seat belts fastened. You can now use the restrooms. Thank you.

“Look, I told you that we’ll be fine.”

“When did you say that? You were equally scared.” I replied.

He rolled his eyes. Then he removed his seat belt, got up from the seat, and went in the direction of loo.

I told you, we’ll be fine.” I mimicked him in my head.

I took out the in-flight magazine from the front storage and started turning pages full of advertisements.

“Boo,” I heard a voice, and dropped the magazine.

“Fuck you.”

“Are you insane?” I asked, while Vikram laughed at his stupid act.

“Sorry,” he said, after sensing the anger in my tone.

He bent down. His hands brushed against my foot as he tried to grab the magazine.

“Thanks,” I said, while taking the magazine from his hand.

He came closer, and touched his biceps to my shoulder. I didn’t move.

“So, a single girl on a self-exploration trip. Interesting.”

“When did I say I am single?”

“You don’t have to say,” he replied, and pointed at my finger.

Then I noticed his finger which had a ring. I moved my shoulder away from his touch.

“It’s because of some horoscope shit that I am wearing this ring. I am not married,” he said. “Or engaged,” he completed his sentence.

Flight attendants, prepare for landing please.

He wore his seat belt again, and we didn’t speak with each other until we landed.

“Can I drop you to your hotel?” He asked.

“Thank you,” I said. “I am touched by your offer, but I am sorry I can’t allow that,” I said while picking up my bag from the baggage belt.

“Why not?”

“Because that’s the point of my trip. I am out there on my own.” I replied with a smile.

We went silent for a while.

“Alright. Good night then.” He said, and focused on lighting his cigarette.

I felt sad to say “no” to him. Because as much as I wanted to be alone in that moment; I was soothed by his concern for me.

I walked on the clean London roads, and absorbed the silence of that dark night. Then I looked for a taxi and moved on.

My trip had just started.

That strange stranger story – II

Stranger story

After exchanging a few glances here and there, we finally met at the bar counter again.

“Hey,” I said, and made the first move. Alcohol definitely kicked my shyness away that night.

“Hello,” he replied in a lyrical tone, and ran his long fingers through his messy brown hair.

“What?” He asked through gestures as I kept looking at him. I was feeling like a creep but I just couldn’t control myself. He was a very handsome man.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Vikram,” he replied, stressing on “V”.

“Accent”, I thought, and went quiet.

“What are you doing here?” I heard, and felt a jerk on my neck. My drunken friend came to the counter and wrapped her hands around my neck.

“I am gonna miss you so much,” she said.

“I am in the middle of something,” I said, and signaled her to go away.

“One large vodka.” She shouted, took a shot, and went back to the dance floor.

The song changed to a loud rock and roll dance number, and I started moving my head with the beats.

“Are you from Bombay?” He leaned closer, and asked. His warm breath brushed against my ear, and I felt ticklish.

“What?” I yelled in his ear.

“Are you from Bombay?” He yelled back.

“Why are you yelling?” I yelled again. “I am from Delhi but have been working here for a while.” I replied.

He didn’t say anything further. I was dying to hear something. Anything. Just to feel his breathing on my ear one more time.

He didn’t show much interest in talking to me which really got me interested in talking to him.

“I am leaving,” he said.

“So early?” I gestured by tapping the dial of my watch.

“I have an early day tomorrow.”

“I am Taara. Always remember my name.” I said, for no reason.

“Alright,” he said, waived, and left. He didn’t look back, even once, and I wondered; “why?”

That was the first time I hit on a guy, and I wasn’t able to catch the slightest of his interest. I felt weird. I could suddenly connect to the pain that guys go through on regular basis.

Anyways, I hit the dance floor again. It was my last day in Mumbai. I had taken another job in Bangalore and my flight was early morning the next day, in a few hours. I had to report to my new office sharp at nine.

“Sorry I am late,” I said, while entering the induction room. It was ten minutes past nine, and I wasn’t that late, but being late wasn’t my thing so I apologized.

“Hello Taara,” someone said in my direction while I tried to unzip my bag to take out my laptop.

The hello sounded familiar and my heart skipped a beat. I looked up. It was Vikram. He was my supervisor at the new office. God, I felt embarrassed.

“Hi,” I greeted him awkwardly. Then I noticed the ring on his finger which I failed to notice while he was running his fingers through his hair.

The awkwardness between me and him continued for months. I kept the conversations with Vikram formal, and only work related.  I really hated myself for flirting with him in the bar.

Whenever our paths crossed, I looked down. I used to change my way whenever I saw him coming in my direction. I was always worried that he might misinterpret my stupid flirting for something else.

On the last day of my first project, the whole team went out to celebrate the launch of new software.

I stood at a corner after the dinner got over, and waited for the taxi. I saw Vikram walking in my direction.

I looked around to find another place to stand and wait for my taxi.

“You don’t have to run away,” Vikram said and stood next to me. I tried to fake a smile.

“Are you comfortable with your profile?” He asked.

“Yes, I really like it.”

“Feel free to reach out to me in case you need any help.”

“Sure sir,” I replied.

“Call me Vikram.And ease out. It’s all cool,” He said with a smile, and walked away.

“Call me Vikram,” I repeated, and copied his accent.

As days went by, the awkwardness passed too as Vikram and I became friends. It was a stupid dumb mistake, didn’t mean anything after that night.

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