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Sometimes I have epiphanies which I wish I didn’t have (though they’re actually helpful)

(Note : This post is brought to you by screenshots, Ctrl+PrtScr, MS Paint and my awesome annotating skills. And an online meme generator)

It’s weird how we tend to not notice things which have been right under our noses, until our brain just suddenly catches it and goes all, hey don’t you feel like an idiot now? Haha.

So my brain decided to be extra active recently. It was only a few days back, when I was going through my mail, that I saw a email alerting me about a post by a blogger I follow. And something caught my eye… ‘Respond to this post by replying above this line’

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(Side note : I smudged out the blog name because I didn’t exactly know whether I should keep it on or not. I’m pretty sure though that if you search for that title, you’ll find it quicker than I can say I’m-bad-at-making-up-my-mind)

Believe you me, I REALLY did not know of this. I have been unconsciously reading this line since 4 years on WordPress (that’s right…4 years. WordPress even sent me a graphic to thank me for taggin’ along. You’re welcome WP).

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Digressing from post – Part 1

Back to the post…so I first subscribed to WordPress blogs 4 years back, and I’ve been getting post updates since then, but it was only 2 days back that I suddenly realized that Holy Guacamole! I can comment via email! Such a novel idea! Such amazing! Much wowe!

Now this was a happy moment. I quickly sent in a comment via email, and then went onto the blog itself, to check whether I was doing it right, because surely it couldn’t be that simple?! Click ‘Reply’, type comment and click ‘Send’?! Or could it?

Voila! There was my comment on her blog, and I didn’t even have to log in to WP and all! Oh boy!

To explain my (apparently) unfounded happiness, I would like to tell you all that the only reason I’m bad at commenting on other blogs, is because I’m lazy. There…I said it. I just can’t bring myself to login to WP, then open the blog, and then the post, and then put in a comment.

But if I can comment from Gmail itself…well, you’re all in for a lot of comments from me now!

This epiphany (or ‘sudden alertness’ could be a better description) was definitely helpful. But it made me feel like such a fool. Gah! How could I have not noticed this in four years?! Y u be lost and inattentive, brain?!

So now, if you suddenly see me around on your comments a lot, don’t fear. I’m not stalking you. I’m just revelling in the fact that I now know how to comment by mail. And I’m loving it \m/

In other news, I also figured out why I wasn’t getting updates from a lot of blogs that I follow. Now I don’t know whether, similar to the commenting fiasco, I just happened to overlook these settings, or WP somehow bungled stuff up. Because I stopped getting updates from some blogs after a while of getting them.

So anyway, there are settings you need to add for each blog you follow via that sneaky little ‘+Follow’ button on the top of a blog you’re visiting. Clicking that, just begins showing posts from that blog onto your Reader on WP, but doesn’t automatically subscribe you to email updates.

(Digressing from post – Part 2 : I would LOVE if everyone would add a ‘Subscribe’ button on their blogs! Makes following them so much easier!)

You have to change the settings you see…

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Now if you, like me, prefer reading your blogs on your email and not on the WP reader, then YOU NEED TO CHANGE ALL YOUR SETTINGS TO THE SECOND (GOOD) SETTING RIGHT NOW.

It has made my life so much better.

And if someone posts a lot, you can easily ask for mail updates only once a day, or once a week. Or never (but then, why follow them anyway?).

With my new-found knowledge, I promptly began following a few new bloggers, and changed settings to begin getting post updates from some of my favourite bloggers (who had sadly gotten placed in the BAD SETTING somehow).

I also unfollowed some blogs which didn’t have any posts in, say, 3-4 years, and some which had been deleted by their users.

Unfollowing blogs is quite a nostalgic experience. A few of the blogs I had to remove, had been part of the first few blogs I’d followed and enjoyed reading. And their authors had been the first ones to comment on my baby blog. But they’re somehow not around anymore. Oh well. Hopefully they’re happy and busy doing something else!

It still felt weird though. Like, letting go of some part of the past in a very tangible way.

Change will always be resisted I guess.

All things said and done, I think I should’ve sat down with the WP Manual/Handbook 4 years back. Or maybe I should just go and comment on some new posts now.

This maple tree had me captivated

Back to the Mountains

It was my parents’ 25th Anniversary (yep, silver jubilee and all) some time back. And we decided to spend it away from home. Once again, my parents spent ages ruminating over the options, and never deciding. So once again, I had to finally put my foot down and decide on a destination by myself.

Because we couldn’t get too many days off from work, the place had to be nearby, and had to provide some much-needed respite from the Delhi heat. So after much thought, I zeroed down upon the Queen of the Hills – Mussourie.

It was a good decision!

It was smoggy, so we didn’t get a perfect view of the mountain range around. However, the one day we decided to amble along the Mall road, it was sunny enough to give us all sunburn (we returned with red noses and foreheads).

All in all though, it was lovely. We stayed at the lovely Kasmanda Palace, which has beautiful English gardens, a restaurant deck which overlooks the valley, and old-world vintage decor inside the main building, which is fascinating to look at.

The trip was centred around admiring nature, relaxing in peaceful surroundings, and me trying out my new DSLR.

Kasmanda Palace (view from the restaurant deck)

Kasmanda Palace (view from the restaurant deck)

Slightly smoggy views in the morning unfortunately

Slightly smoggy views in the morning unfortunately (as in, it broke my heart, because I had been looking forward to some spectacular views)

The palace gardens are beautiful. Such a lot of flowers!

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Still searching for the name of these flowers. But just look at those colours!

Calla lilies

Calla lilies

SO MANY FLOWERS

Swaying Himalayan Aster (according to my extensive research)

And what’s an English garden without a birdbath…

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There’s a Magnolia tree in the garden too. And it was flowering. Win!

And for those of you who haven’t seen magnolia flowers before (just like I hadn’t before this trip), here’s how they look off the tree…

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Surprisingly, more than the flowers, I was enchanted by a huge Maple tree. I even got a leaf home, as a souvenir and memorabilia of our time here.

This maple tree had me captivated

This maple tree had me captivated

We took a half day trip outside Mussourie. We first went to Landour, which is famous for being the place where Ruskin Bond lives. I was very excited about going there. I imagined bumping into him somewhere, and discussing how much I liked his books.

Imagine my disappointment when the driver suddenly drove past a red building, with ‘Doma’s Inn’ written on it (surrounded by distinctly Tibetan paintings) and pointed out what looked like a side door, and said, “That’s where Ruskin Bond lives”.

And that was it. Before I could protest and ask the driver to stop, we had flown down the narrow road, leaving Bond’s house behind. The disappointment of not even being able to see Bond’s house properly, let alone him, was so much that I didn’t take any pictures in Landour at all. Oh well. I guess I’ll have to plan a stay at Doma’s Inn soon.

After Landour, we moved on to Dhanaulti. This wasn’t the first time we were going that way. My parents and I remember Dhanaulti as the place-we-were-on-our-way-to-but-our-car-broke-down (this happened at least 10 years back). So, though we knew about Dhanaulti and should have already visited it, had it not been for a very bad road 10 years back, this was the first time we actually went there.

The roads are a lot better now, I was told many times by my parents, who have a better recollection of what had happened the last time we were on that road than I did.

The place to visit in Dhanaulti, is the Eco Park. It’s supposed to be a peaceful place, but now has a variety of ‘adventure sports’ (kids hanging from harnesses and zipping down a line) and swings (in the shape of animals). I understand that children must be kept occupied in such a place where there is nothing to do, but it affects the serenity of the place. A lot.

It was only when we walked quite a distance into the forest, did we actually experience the stillness of the forest; the only sound was the incessant buzzing of cicadas (which are found in abundance here), and the occasional trilling whistle of some bird.

Deodar trees at the Dhanaulti Eco Park. Towering above us, I could tell why they were regarded as sacred by Indian sages. And below our feet, their needle-like leaves covered the forest floor

Deodar trees at the Dhanaulti Eco Park. Towering above us, I could tell why they were regarded as sacred by Indian sages. And below our feet, their needle-like leaves covered the forest floor

The fun part was when I had a long whistled conversation with a bird in the forest. When it whistled, I whistled back, and it replied back in turn. I was hoping it would show itself, because I could make out by the increasing volume of it’s whistle that it was coming closer, curious to find out whether I was some new bird who just did NOT know how to speak bird.

Sadly, it didn’t reveal itself. I only saw one bird which allowed me to photograph it…

This tiny little guy was the only one who posed long enough for me to get a photograph

This tiny little guy was the only one who posed long enough for me to get a photograph

Side note : I love ‘conversing’ with birds. And if you want to try, you just need to know how to whistle. When you hear a bird chirping, whistle back. In most cases, the bird will whistle back and keep replying every time you whistle. I did this with another bird in Mussourie too

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So, back to Dhanaulti Eco Park…

Gorgeous flowers were in abundance. And interesting insects to boot

Gorgeous flowers were in abundance. And interesting insects to boot

The Eco Park was lovely, and if we would have had more time, I would have loved to just sit on one of the many log seats in the forest, and enjoy the surroundings.

Yes, I’ve grown old.

Back from Dhanaulti, we enjoyed some time on the Mall road, went up to Gun Hill (so called because there used to be a canon on that hill, which was fired every hour of the day to tell the time. It was stopped because the canon ball once crashed through someone’s roof. I surmise the person wasn’t very happy about that) by cable car. Because of the smog, the view wasn’t as great as it should have been, but we did catch a bird’s eye view of our hotel!

See the red turrets? That's the Kasmanda Palace, the hotel where we were staying

See the bright red roof and turrets? That’s the Kasmanda Palace, the hotel where we were staying

A special mention to the night view of Mussourie. Spectacular!

Mussorie at night. Glittering and bright.

Mussourie at night was as gorgeous as ever. Glittering and bright.

There’s still so much to explore in Mussourie. And so many other seasons to see it in. Now I kind of get why people go there multiple times. And as Ruskin Bond puts it…

“It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape.”
― Ruskin Bond (Rain in the Mountains : Notes from the Himalayas)

(All photographs belong to me. Please ask before sharing them anywhere.)

Getting Used to This ‘Growing Up’ Thingamajig

Like, seriously.

For as long as I remember, the solemn, philosophical, soul-stirring conversations I had with my cousin sister (Hi Runa!) always ended with an emphatic declaration from both of us – “We’re never going to become like these adults! Never!”

Little did we know, that we wouldn’t be given a choice.

Little did we know that we would be pushed into the “experience” head-first and then expected to find our bearings(if we ever do).

There are so many instances when I’m faced with some situation at work (side note : how on earth are we old enough to work?!) when I realize the gravity of the situation – now when I take a decision, I’m a representative of an organization. It’s not like college, when whatever I did, affected me and only me. If I submitted a subpar paper, it affected my grades. But if I do subpar work at office, I’m affecting a lot of other people and maybe even the whole project.

It’s humbling to say the least.

My cousin and I (refer above) had the following conversation just a few days back –

Sis : “I realize I’ve grown up when I see those movies with angsty teenagers saying, “Mom, I’m 16. I know what to do” and I go “You know nothing of the world.”.”

Me : “I KNOW RIGHT?! As in, you’re 16; stop kidding yourself and go study.

(pause)

Both of us : “We literally understand the parent’s perspective now. How. Why. How.”

We understand that teenage is a angsty, rebellious phase. And that children need to calm down. Whaaa…??

We’re teenagers no more. And we’ve seen too much of the world to ever go back to being childlike and ignorant again. Ignorance truly was bliss. In some ways at least.

I surprise myself nowadays when I’m able to hold a conversation and exchange (*shudder*) small talk. I’m still really bad at it, but I’ve reduced awkward silences from my side by at least 5%. Achievement? Oh yes, I think so too.

There are still times when I just DON’T want to continue conversations with people I don’t like, but I’ve had to kind of learn the art of (*gasp*) hipocrisy, because I realize that I CANNOT sit in the corner and daydream. Because apparently that’s weird and adults don’t get as much leeway for being weird as kids/teenagers do. So I’ve realized that people might say anything they want to behind someone’s back, but they’re almost fawning over the same person when they’re directly interacting with them. I’m sorry. I thought when you didn’t agree with someone, you didn’t need to fight, yes, but you didn’t even need to act like there was no disagreement at all. But seems like that’s what makes the world go round – annoyance disguised as fondness.

All said and done though, it’s always reassuring that there are millions who’re stuck in the same crazy state that we are in. Internet throws up certain gems…

And I realize how our perspectives changed…

So true it isn’t even funny

But now that we’re here…I guess we’ve got to make the most of it.

Happy Adulthood to my fellow kids-at-heart!

We’re stuck here now. No escape. No. Escape.

Have fun.

The Day I was Sure I’d Miss my Flight. But Then I Didn’t

I had a recent work trip to Chattisgarh (my first solo trip so far away). My flight was at 6:55 in the morning, so I decided to reach by 5:45 or so. Thanks to circumstances, I reached at 6 am.

At this point of time, I wasn’t too worried. I was told to get my boarding pass from a kiosk, where grumpy/slightly amused/skeptical people were having fun playing around with the touchscreen while it refused to cooperate.When my turn finally came, I tried changing my seat to a window seat, which did not happen, so I got a printout (after banging the fidgety screen thrice), took the flimsy, badly printed “boarding pass” and then went to check in my baggage.

Next, I somehow forgot all about getting a security check. Yeah, I actually forgot that you’re supposed to go through a security checking before a flight. No kidding.

So anyway, I nonchalantly passed through this mass of people, looking for a way to the waiting area inside. Once I reached the barricade, I finally saw the security check areas.

“Oh yeah, I have to go through security! How the hell did I forget?” I admonished myself.

I scanned the place for the queue, and walked further away, as I slowly realized that the mass of people I had walked past while looking for the waiting area, was actually the queue for security.

Bloody hell.

A snakelike line…curving 10 times minimum. I took a moment to register this fact and then stood behind the last person and calculated…I had 10 minutes to get a security check done and reach the boarding gate. Enough time, right?. So I shifted along.

When the first curve in the line was reached, I was five minutes down.

Cue mild panic attack.

By the time I reached the third curve, my ten minutes were up. My flight had started boarding and I was stuck in a serpentine line which I could not skip. Even in this situation, my insane compulsion to not break the rules (and jump the line) made me keep ambling along at a snails pace.

In my mind, I now begin constructing worst-case scenarios – I imagine having to plead with the authorities at the boarding gate, grovelling before them to let me board.

Then I imagine having to tell my parents to come back to pick me up.

Then I imagine telling my office. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

In the middle of these imagined scenarios, I see some people citing their boarding time and moving ahead in the line. Its already five minutes over my boarding time…I reach a decision.

I surrender my love of order and correctness, and begin sprinting through the lines, ducking under the separating barriers. I mean, who the hell cares what these people will think of me? And I’m anyway almost 99.9% sure that I’ll never see any of them ever again. So I plow on.

Full blown panic attack right now.

I finally reach the beginning of the line. I somehow gasp out to the lady there that I’m REALLY late and can I please cut in. She decides to just stare at me for a moment, so I repeat my request. This time she nods, with a look of disapproval (which would have made me shrivel up and wish to be swallowed by the earth at any other time) and I sprint out into the security area.

And of course there are short queues here too. I again stand in line. The gentlemen in front of me are dressed in formals, with laptops. So they begin the labourious process of taking off their blazers, emptying their pockets, laying their laptops down into trays on the X-ray machine belt. When I can’t take the panic anymore, and on realizing that the ladies checking line is actually almost empty, I suddenly move ahead to the X-ray machine and look for a place to plonk my bag down on the belt. I put my bag down somehow, helped by one of the men in formals (I think I looked quite hassled at this point).

Now I join the line for checking. The security lady comes out of the cubicle and calls me in. I rush in, get onto the platform and put my arms up even before the she can say anything. She however takes her own sweet time. Finally, she stamps my boarding pass and I run out.

But of COURSE my bag is stuck on the belt. And the security guy is underequipped. Poor guy is sending the piled up bags onto the belt, checking the contents on the X-ray screen, and then stamping the tags too. Talk about multitasking.

My bag comes out FINALLY, and a millisecond after the guy stamps the tag, I’ve snatched it up and broken into an awkward run (slippery floors and slip-on sandals aren’t ideal running gear).

I run in the direction that I see people moving.

I stop abruptly. There’s a prayer room here ,and lots of people lounging around. Though its true that I’m already praying HARD, but this doesn’t seem like the place I should be right now. I look back, and suddenly remember that the boarding gates are downstairs!

Awkward run again. Go down the escalator. Sprint to the gate…and I see just one more guy before me. I almost go through the wrong gate, find the right one, give my boarding pass for inspection, get hand baggage tag checked, and then hurry out to the bus. Before I get on, I check the flight name again on the LED ticker on the side of bus. Check. Jump on.

I avoid all gaze, because I’m late and I’m so ABSOLUTELY sure that everyone is judging me. And also because eye contact with strangers is not my thing.

As my panting subsides, my heart thumps little slower, I send up silent thanks in prayer.

So, in conclusion, I ended up being one of the first people on the plane. Yeah. And certain people who had been in the security check line right in front of me (before I forged ahead like Grawp [if you do not know who’s Grawp, you’ll make me very sad]) ALSO got on soon after.

Oh well. I got on.

I made a call to my parents with an amazingly level voice, not revealing the near heart attack I just had. I however forgot to exchange seats with the person who had the window seat because of my recent excited exertions. And the guy actually slept through the whole flight! Window seats are wasted if you don’t enjoy them right?

But I did get a complementary meal which was apparently booked on my ticket (I was on one of those pay-per-meal flights) which I didn’t know about.  So I had THAT going for me.

I’ll be reaching airports 3 hours before any flight from now on. Such excitement is not my thing.

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Serendipity in a Valley : Marchula, Jim Corbett National Park

Last year was a great year for trips and I had a chance to visit a number of beautiful places, a few for work and a few simply for holidaying (no prizes for guessing which of the ones I’m going to talk about right now).

On the long Diwali weekend, I planned a short getaway to a resort in Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. Notice the phrase ‘I planned’ here; it’s the result of my parents not reaching a decision about our destination, and what made me take over the reigns was when their discussions began taking ginormous proportions of “Why-don’t-you-take-a-few-more-days-off-and-we’ll-just-go-to-Honolulu (for example)”.

So anyway, I jumped in, heart and soul, and after much exploration (World Wide Web FTW!), I decided on Jim Corbett National Park. I found us a gorgeous resort. Victory!

It was a nice long drive, and as we began early morning, the roads were nice and empty.So empty in fact, that one stretch of road in between green fields was so foggy that we couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of us.

We didn’t book any safari beforehand (note : if you really do want to go for a safari, this is not a good option) and decided to leave it to chance.

So the place…I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

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Towering trees in the valley, surrounded by mountains all around. With a river running in front

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Because a clear, clean mountain river is the perfect place to while away some peaceful time

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Majestically tall trees, dwarfing us.

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Walk a little farther down, and more delicious sights await. This one from a bridge

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Gorgeous evenings

Though we didn’t go for the main safari, there is one forest we visited, called Sitavani. It isn’t frequented by too many furry inhabitants, so you can go inside with your own vehicles, once you get a permit. Inside, it’s quiet, calm, the air so pure that it’s enough to make you give up your worries and smile.

The forest is also home to numerous enormous termite mounds!

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Just one of the many termite mounds in Sitavani

If you make it through the small, winding forest path and reach the end, you’ll see the Sita temple (protected by the Archaeological Survey of India).

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Artsy photograph of the temple to Goddess Sita, after whom the forest is named

After coming back home from this trip, I suffered withdrawal symptoms for quite a while. Who wouldn’t? Mountains, sandy beaches, trekking and leisurely walks…I need a longer time back there. Where every corner takes you somewhere new, and nature surprises you in all ways possible.

Oh well. Till the next trip then!

I have been writing. And exploring Delhi

Though my blog was silent for a while (okay, more than a while), I was writing posts on other sites. And I thought I could share them with you all!

A post from my time as an intern at the organization where I’m working now is here.

I’ve also been blogging for a storytelling organization, Darwesh. So you’ll find a few posts by me at their blog here. (For the record, visiting old monuments and hearing fascinating stories about bygone eras? Count me in!).

As a result of getting associated with Darwesh, I’ve ended up exploring a lot more of Delhi in the last few months than I’ve been able to in all the years I’ve lived here (since I was born, to be precise). Some pictures below, because they’re beautiful and remind me of awesome places.

Roshanara Begum's tomb in Roshanara Bagh

Roshanara Begum’s tomb in Roshanara Bagh

An old haveli door in Chawri Bazar, Old Delhi

An old haveli door in Mehrauli

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Dome and spire of Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki’s dargah in Mehrauli, which is the end point of the Phoolwalon ki Sair festival

Safdarjung's Tomb

Safdarjung’s Tomb

A facade of Safdarjung's Tpmb

A facade of Safdarjung’s Tpmb

The parrots'shrieking is the only noise at this tomb

The parrots’shrieking is the only noise at this tomb

All pictures taken by me. So please ask for permission before using them. Kthnxbai.

Being a Bookworm : Why I love reading

The first book I read all by myself, was an abridged version of ‘The Jungle Book’ by Rudyard Kipling; it was a Disney edition, filled with pictures from the Disney animated film. I strangely also remember my apprehension when my mom (with the kind of wisdom moms just happen to have) refused to help me read anymore, and told me that I had to go ahead myself.

The fear of reading a word wrongly made me anxious, but I went through that book with few mistakes. I can still feel myself trying to hide my pride at having read my first book. That was just the first in endless others.

Reading became my happy place. I didn’t have siblings, so when toys began boring me, I turned to books for companionship, and they took me into their warm, assuring world. It was wonderful. My school library became my favourite place, and the librarians my allies – they began suggesting new books, new genres to me, and I went deeper into the literary ocean. While my friends found it hard to sit through the library period without talking, I ended up trying to find a corner where I could just begin reading a new book without disturbances.

I was a voracious reader all through school, and through most of college. It was during post graduation when I began faltering and couldn’t take time out to read as much as I used to. I’m trying very hard to regain the habit now (though I guess the beginning of a working life might not be the best time to achieve that).

When it comes to buying books, I tend to buy books only when I’m very sure that it’s a book I will love and cherish for all my life; I’d rather borrow a book, read it and make sure of my love for it before I buy it. Which is why my book collection has mostly only my favourites (a few are impulsive buys too).

My mom tells me if I buy any more books, I should contemplate sleeping outside the house so that the books may have some space inside the house. “There’s space for either you or the books in here!” (and she’s kind of right obviously). But when led into a bookstore, she’s just as much excited as I am, and adding to the pile as fast as my dad or me. We’re a family of bibliophiles y’know?

And maybe that’s where my love of books started – my family. And it has continued gloriously, making my life a more wonderful one.

(I expressed my love for books in another post long back…here.)