October 17, 2018

#TheBlindList: For the love of Paris

 "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." 
- Ernest Hemingway

I recall standing at the window in my hotel room, a huge glass facade separating me and the city I loved the most. The city I was visiting for the first time, but which had ironically visited me in my dreams ever so often. 

The wonderful sight of the Champs-Elysées, stared back at me, in all its glory.
Gai Paris!!!

It was just minutes since we had reached (after a two and a half journey via Eurostar from our last stop at London), but the cheerful nature of the beautiful city had already started warming the cockles of my heart. 
There is this whole different vibe to Paris, something you will find in no other country in the world.
Those who have visited it will testify for the overwhelming feeling one experiences while watching the city especially in the night time. It can make a romantic out of anybody.

Reluctantly, I tore my eyes away from the mesmerizing lights outside my window and jotted down a quick list of all the things I had wanted to see, a travel itinerary (very similar to #TheBlindList ---a concept now introduced by Lufthansa and Indiblogger.)

My mind was trembling with excitement, trying to visualize all I had seen in Hollywood movies and travel magazines (the only source of information on Paris I had had until now). 

"Patience," I told myself. "It's real. It's happening."

I couldn't wait to know the city of (my) dreams up close and personal. It felt so much like a blind date.Here was a part of the world I had long since admired from afar but never met for real.

A little backdrop for this memory: Until a few days before, I had absolutely no idea about this surprise trip that my family had planned for me. So you can imagine my surprise when my folks, at the end of our stay in London, enthusiastically announced that our holiday wasn't over. It took me a moment to realize that London was just the first half of the two part journey they had planned. 
The surprise on my face that had turned to elation quickly escalated to ecstasy when they revealed to me our next destination. 
"Paris," they grinned, and I jumped to hug them. It was almost the same kind of excitement that a child feels when she is told she is being taken to Disney land.

So cut to a few hours later, I was recollecting this beautiful turn of events in my hotel room in Paris.

Next morning, I woke up even before my phone snooze alarm was set for. We had planned to make an early start, so that we could make the most of our three-day staycation. 

It was my idea to visit the Champs first. It had already tempted me with a sneak peek, and also was the central point to all the other attractions we wanted to visit. 
Champs-Elysées is a beautiful promenade, known for its architectural symmetry and style, surrounded by rows of Elm trees and flower beds in a symmetrical fashion, this street has been rightly described as 'heaven on Earth'. It further leads to Arc De Triomphe. At its western end, there is a bevy of cinema halls, designer stores, and cafes. After a little shopping (that included lots of window shopping), we proceeded to our next destination, promising to come back here again before leaving.

Arc de Triomphe
A close-up of the Arc

Next on the list was the Louvre.
Visiting the Louvre was an experience in itself. It was fascinating to experience the works of Renaissance artists and sculptures. Although I got a far view of the Mona Lisa, the thrill of being in the throng of so many besotted lovers of art takes the experience to a whole different level. While standing there admiring the famous works of famous men, a powerful realization hit me. The only reward of true art is its immortality. I was struck by the magnanimity of the sculptures and paintings. The age old adage, 'A picture speaks a thousand words' was definitely created with these paintings in mind. Art was indeed ageless. 
Unfortunately, due to the teeming crowd, I could not capture pics of good quality (sharing the best ones here). But nevertheless, they are imprinted on the mind.  

The Louvre

Add caption

The Mona Lisa

Aphodite also known as 'Venus de Milo'

By the time we left the Louvre, it was already afternoon. My stomach was rumbling with hunger. So we made a quick break away. Lunch consisted of a delectable meal at a small little French restaurant. While my folks feasted on Normandy pancakes, I ordered Chestnut crepes and instantly fell in love with the taste of Chestnuts. 

Later in the evening, we visited the 'Shakespeare & Company' bookshop, a quaint book store that was once the haunt of luminaries like Voltaire, Rousseau and Verlaine. 
As I touched the walls adorned with author-signed title pages, I could actually feel their palpable presence, an experience I wouldn't have wanted to miss for anything. As I inhaled the air infused with the smell of books, I wished I could save it all in a bottle and take it back home. In that one moment, I felt as if the whole world had shrunk to fit itself in that one room. After all, isn't that what books are supposed to do?
I literally had to drag myself away from that place, consoling myself with the fact that I could revisit it every  any time I wanted; all i had to do was pick up Hemingway's book titled, 'A moveable feast'.

On the way back to our hotel, on the suggestion of a local I met at the book shop, I bought myself some freshly roasted chestnuts, a quick evening snack that I enjoyed very much. So far, my taste buds were happy. So were my eyes. There was so much in Paris, to be devoured by both. 

The next morning, after a delectable breakfast of some wonderful French toast, and pancakes, 
we headed to see the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Representative of gothic architecture, this is a magnificent masterpiece that is a sight to sore eyes. There is a long spiral stairway that leads to the Cathedrals most scary gargoyles, the thirteen tonne 'Emmanuel' bell and a breath taking view of Paris. The three rose windows of the Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the greatest masterpieces of Christendom known to mankind, and a sight to behold. Somewhere in between, I stopped clicking pictures because clicking too many photographs meant a distraction from the spell binding effect of the Basilica...an overwhelming and enlightening experience. 
Notre-Dame Cathedral
Stained glass windows  

If you have been to Paris and not seen the Eiffel Tower, then you haven't been to Paris. We had specially reserved an evening for the visit. 
I had always imagined standing in front of the Eiffel and getting clicked in a thousand different poses. (Yeah, I was young and impressionable back then.) .But when I actually reached the Eiffel, I was so mesmerized by its beauty, that I forgot all about the poses I had practiced. I just stood there, awestruck, devouring the beauty of the illuminated tower. It's majestic framework, its magnificent architecture. There it stood towering over me in all its 300 m tall monumental glory, gleaming and glittering with pride. 

Overview of the city from the tower terrace

Such is the magnific glory of this city of love, this city of dreams, this city of fashion. We had only one more day here, and there was so much to do, so much more to see. So we did the next best thing. We wined and dined...the French way. On cheeses of every kind, especially Camembert, Chèvre and Roquefort. I ate so much cheese on that trip, my family jokes that I had gained 5 pounds of cheese weight.
Also the crepes and pancakes were not very polite and proudly flaunted themselves in the extra inches around my waist. 

I was baffled. How on earth do the French keep themselves so well maintained when there is so much good food around? All around me were floating (they seemed so light) bewitchingly attractive Parisians, with their perfect patrician noses, delicately carved (although stiff upper) lips, and slender bodies  Was the 'wining and dining' only limited to the tourists I wondered. Did the fine wine and champagne; the Bordeaux, and the Burgundy, the gateaux, the black truffles, beckon only us guests? 
However, it was a bit challenging to find vegetarian options, but we did find our way around it. We also visited a local farmers market and armed ourselves with lots of fruits to snack on during our day trips. 

Healthy options

Eventually, I gave up wondering and blamed it on my metabolism. The brasseries and cafes around the Montmartre neighborhood were too good to resist. Every macaron tasted different from the next. 

Paris Macarons from 'Pierre Herme'

While we were at Montmartre, we stopped at Place Du Tertre---abound with painters, artists and art aspirants were showcasing their talent. Surrounded by easels, canvasses, paints, and other paraphernalia, they sketched portraits of eager tourists in the medium of their choice. 
Mom and the sibling was busy buying some souvenirs from the trip. Dad had found some friendly Parisian who was could speak a few words of English. And I...I was standing there soaking in the joy of that random moment with my favorite people in my favorite city in the world. 
Bustling with creativity, beauty, passion; a melange of myriad emotions coming from all directions, Paris was making me fall in love with life...with the world. 


With my heart bursting with an incomprehensible kind of happiness, I checked my list again. There were so many things still left to be seen. But I was happy. Satisfied that I was soaking in all the joy each moment here brought me. 

We gave the Catacombs of Paris a miss, because...err...I freaked out a little. It takes a lot of courage to walk in dark tunnels lined up with heaps of bones and skulls of six million dead Parisians. "Next time, maybe?" I told my amused folks. 
The sibling was a tad disappointed but all was forgotten and forgiven when my Dad brandished tickets for the night show of Paris's most famous attraction...a lovely evening of music and dance.

The last day was spent visiting the Palace of Versailles and the Place De La Concorde. We also visited the Paris Opera House, Opera Garnier, where 'The Phantom of the Opera' (movie) was filmed. On our way back Mom and we (my sibling and I) had a little last minute shopping to be done, and so we stopped at Le Marais, one of Paris's famous shopping precincts, while Dad rolled his eyes and passed some of his favorite one liners about how the three women in his life were still not done exploiting his emotions and emptying his wallet. We ignored him and continued shopping.

Opera Garnier

A lovely French Cafe

We had an early flight next morning. Our brief stay in Paris had ended, but we had created loads of wonderful memories of new sights, new tastes, new experiences. 
There is something about this place. The air itself is infused with so much of beauty. Everywhere you go, you will witness beauty and art in some form or another...in the monuments, places, architecture, people. Paris makes sure you take with you memories to reminisce about and stories to regale. 

That night, I made notes in my diary about all the things Paris taught me---
1) Take risks. Explore. Sail away from the harbour.
2) Every moment is an enriching experience. A learning experience. Go with the flow.
3) You will find beauty everywhere if you look for it.
4) Be open minded about accepting other people, their culture and habits even if they are different from yours.
5) Last but not the leart, always #SayYesToTheWorld

While on the flight back home, the sagacious sibling suddenly remarked, as if she was sudden making a poignant revelation.
"We are going home," she sighed, mixed feelings in her voice. The disappointment of a holiday ending, evident on her face.

Putting one arm around her neck, I tugged at her gently, knowing exactly how she was feeling.
Then looking outside the airplane window, I thought of the famous lines from my favorite movie. Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman; Rick Blaine to Ilsa Lazlow.

"We'll always Paris..."  
I smiled, as the plane took off homeward.

This post was written for #TheBlindList - A blind date with the world, a contest by Lufthansa and Indiblogger. All pics used in this post are courtesy yours truly.
If you liked what you read, please vote for it here.

October 16, 2018

Fiction to reality #TheBlindList

As adults, our favorite travel destination are often those that we as children dreamed of visiting.

When I was a child, I'd often get asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answers would keep changing. Sometimes, a sailor, a pilot, a musician, a singer...depending on the mood and the reasons, my response to that question varied.
Eventually, I ended up being a doctor (since that was what stuck with me for a very long time. However, what went unnoticed back then was that it was the books I read that primarily influenced my decisions and instilled in me the fear of missing out. There was so much to be, and so little time. 
As I grew older, I developed another addiction of sorts that was synonymous with my addiction of books. I had developed 'armchair wanderlust'.
The term is pretty self explanatory. Armchair-wanderlust is just your typical wanderlust, but one you can satisfy, sitting at home in an armchair.  Bibliophiles would agree with me on this.

Being a book dragon (I have always hated being labelled a meek little bookworm) since an early age, and one who suffered from travel sickness during most of her childhood, my only resort to travel was through my books and stories. However, I had no reason to complain since my books allowed me to visit wonderful places that perhaps never even existed in the real world, but which I could travel to and stay at as long as I wanted, inside my head. As I read about the whereabouts of my favorite fictional characters, I found myself day taking a boat ride to the most amazing islands, trekking up snow clad mountains, and strolling down lanes, both real and imaginary.
All this was so much fun that when my motion sickness did eventually improve, I was a tad disappointed. This meant I had no excuse to sit back and enjoy my travails within the confines of my bed room. I was saddened by the thought that I'd be now roped into some real time traveling and be forced to cut down on my armchair wanderlust. But addicted as I was, I could never give up the company of my books and all the places they took me to. Instead, I compounded the effect by taking up writing. While I did manage the occasional mandatory family tour, I often tried my luck at inventing new excuses to miss long distance travel. Irate cousins often called me a 'cooped up chicken', which sounds even worse in Konkani, because it translates as 'ghar kombdi'.
I'd ignore them. I had planes to catch, places to go, in my secret kingdoom queendom of books.

Then growing up happened, and the castles I had built started collapsing brick by crick. Reading was no longer a day dreaming activity.
Life makes robots out of us. Mechanical, unimaginative, boring adults who often forget what it means to dream anymore. However, the dreams that we once saw stay with us forever. Somewhere down the line, the innocence of childhood takes a backseat and a sense of practicality sets in...until something out of the blues springs up and reminds you of those good old days once again.
For me, this someone happened to be Indiblogger and Lufthansa  coming up with this brilliant idea of a blind date with the world. No sooner had I read about it, my mind immediately jumped back to a wish list I had created years ago, during my childhood.
"If the world had to actually take me out on a date now, it would have to satisfy a reader's imagination and a writer's childhood fantasies," I grinned.  "Serves it right for taking so long to ask."

I was hoping my date would be an enriching experience

Thus started #TheBlindList...a first hand account of all that happened on my date with the world. 

Pic source: Google
We started close to home. RK Narayan's fictional town of Malgudi was the perfect first stop.
Somewhere within me, I was still fascinated by this childhood dream of a town. Sitting by the Sarayu river, where Swami, Mani and Rajan played, I let myself drift back to those lovely childhood memories I made with them. How I had loved being the fly on the wall, peeping at Raju, the holy man in 'Guide' as he fasted on the banks of the Sarayu, praying for it to rain. 
I relived every memory, this time for real. I walked down Kabir Street with its Lavely extension. I visited the Malgudi Medical Centre and instinctively submitted a job application there, hoping I'd hear from them. How wonderful it would be to work and live in Malgudi. Later, the world and I sat and had a wonderful lively discussion on the same, as we sipped on hot Chai and gorged on garma-garam snacks at 'Boardless', Malgudi's popular restaurant.  Until it was time to say goodbye and move towards our next date-destination. But not without visiting the Mempi forest. On our return trip, we hopped on a train from Malgudi railway station, a constant fixture of Narayan;'s stories and my childhood imagination. We traveled to reality just for a little while...to Agumbe in Karnataka in order to draw parallels between the fictional town of Malgudi and its onscreen version. (Agumbe in Shimoga district was where the TV series was shot.). 

Pic source: Google
The next stop was 'Emerald city', another childhood favorite I insisted we visit. 
The 'Wizard Of Oz' was one of the earliest books I'd read. I remember being completely besotted by Emerald City and the adventures young Dorothy and her friends had in Munchkin Country.
Even though Dorothy might have figured it was all a dream, I never woke up from it.
Somewhere in some corner of my mind, I was still walking down the yellow brick road, searching for answers to questions that life often threw at me. Agreed this journey of self exploration, had made me more open minded to the world, but there was a still a part of me wanting to leave everything behind and slip away on an unplanned trip, an impromptu experience.
On my date, I did not allow life to come between the world and me. For once, I forget about the questions, and took everything the world had to offer at face value. How else could one enjoy Emerald City otherwise?

Next in tow was the magical Narnia. Although I was hardly a kid when this was released, I was so impressed with the series that it got me crossing my fingers and tapping on the inside of my wardrobe on a couple of occasions. Whaat?! A woman is allowed to believe in a little bit of magic at times, isn't she?
So we traveled to the mystical world of Narnia next, but only after booking an appointment with Aslan...
The world had a lot to discuss with him. I watched them converse and connect. The creator and his creation. I don't know why, but this connection made me feel happy from within. Maybe because I was convinced the world wasn't such bad company after all. Aslan believed in the world. And that made me believe too.

By the time we were done, it was rather late. I was curious about Gotham City, but I'd dare to venture there only if Batman accompanied me. Then there was the Shire, Hogwarts, Wonderland, 21 B Baker Street.....my thoughts were suddenly halted by a realization.
What was I doing reliving my childhood fantasies when I had a chance to know reality up close and personal?

"Next place, your choice," I smiled sheepishly at the world. "I will go anywhere you will take me."
I was shocked at my own words. When did I start trusting the world so much?

Out came a blindfold. As I nervously allowed myself to be led by the world, I felt as if I was floating in thin air.
"Where are we going?" I smiled, quite enjoying the journey already.
"The second star to the right, and straight on til morning," the world whispered.

'Neverland', I almost screamed, exultant at the surprise. What better end to a perfect date than this? How did the world know exactly what I wanted?

Pic source: Google

I had always been fascinated by Neverland. So often I had wished not to grow up that growing up decided to greet me a little quicker than it had met the others.
In life where most things are temporary, I would give anything to embrace that moment of perfection (fleeting though it may be) in a place I have always wanted to live...a land with no boundaries, where dreams are remembered and love is never forgotten.
I met my childhood friends, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell there, and introduced them to my world. In turn they introduced me to theirs. We danced all night. Peter with Tinker. The world with me.

All of a sudden, I had a sinking feeling...our date was coming to an end. I quickly proceeded to have a last Waltz with the world. One dance to remember for eternity. Lea Salonga's 'A whole new world' was playing softly in the backdrop.
As the world twirled me around, the sky above me changed into a giant 360 degrees slideshow of views I had never seen, places I had never visited. Beauty that was far beyond my dreams and imagination.

"Have you seen a reality as special as fiction?" the world asked me.

The screenshots were changing at rapid speed, but I managed to get snatches of a spell binding reality...some of the most magnificent sights in the world. I caught a glimpse of the Palawan Island in Phillipines, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Antelope Canyon in Arizona,
I saw spring with trees covered with cherry blossoms in Japan, the pristine white beauty of Santorini in Greece, the architecture of basilicas in Rome and Paris.
"Unbelievable sights
Indescribable feeling
Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling
Through an endless diamond sky,"
  the song played on...
By the time the music faded, there was the rich display of the breathtaking Aurora borealis lighting up the sky. In a matter of a few magical minutes, the world made me witness a slideshow of its bewitching beauty, and overwhelming me with its irresistible charm, as if trying to prove to me that reality could be more glorious than fiction, if only I gave it a fair chance.
#SayYesToTheWorld, a voice within me screamed.

And in that moment of complete happiness, I wished my date with the world would go on forever.

My wish could have been granted. We were in Neverland after all, where time stops and nobody ages. But to have another equally mesmerizing date with the world, it was necessary for this one to end.
A date through the realm of fiction had opened my eyes to the miracles of reality. This blind date with the world had proved to be a kind of trust exercise.
I was now ready for adventure...adventure outside books and imagination. I was ready to go wherever the world would take me.

Every end from now on would be a new beginning. 
Every journey would be an adventure. 
For I had said Yes to the world

This post has been written as an entry for a contest by Indiblogger and Lufthansa, titled '#TheBlindList -A blind date with the world.' If you liked what you read, do vote for me here.

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October 09, 2018

When I hear my name

"What’s in a name," said Shakespeare. "A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet."

As a child, I’d often pester my parents asking them the story behind my name. Most children I knew, including my sibling, had splendidly uncommon names...unique, exotic. Tapasya, Mughdha, Narayani...names that would make people stop and ask for their meaning. I’d squirm when my sibling, in all her glory, explained the Sanskrit interpretation of her name to a mesmerized audience.

My name, however, on most occasions, didn’t even get a second’s notice.
And why would it; every third female child in India shared my name. Plain, common, ordinary, that's what it was, or so I thought.

After a point, I started making up imaginary associations to my name. This, I thought, would get me the attention I deserved.
“I’m named after a princess...the finest the world had ever seen,” I’d try convincing my cousins.
I would then let my imagination run wild and paint a rosy picture of this so called princess; the namesake I’d conjured, who possessed all the traits my seven year old mind coveted...intelligence, beauty, royalty, talent, valour and so on.

I’d always pick cousins who were younger than me, that way they would believe my taradiddle. They’d stare at me, open mouthed, as I’d spin stories about the said princess and all her imaginary bravado.

Until one day, my mother noticed what I was doing and called me aside.
“Do you know what your name means?” she asked.

I nodded, hesitant to tell her the bull story I had concocted, knowing fully well she’d call my bluff.

“It means someone who is loved,” she smiled.

I frowned. What was so unique in that?

“But I don’t want to be someone who is loved,” I stamped my feet, all ready to throw a tantrum. “Why did you choose such an ordinary name for me?”

My mother laughed. Then she held me close and whispered to me a truth that got embedded deep within the core of my personality. A truth that has probably stayed there ever since.

“Love is never ordinary,” she said. “Don’t let yourself ever forget that.”

Today, as my mom fondly recalls this little incident from my childhood, I can’t help but ponder on the truth in my name.
In my life, I have loved and been loved. And for that I am ever so thankful.

On a somewhat related note, I watched a movie a while ago, titled 'Call me by your name'---a moving story on loving and letting go.
"Call me by your name, and I'll call you by mine," says Oliver to his love, Ellio.
And that made me think. Our name may be common to the world. But our identity is unique...reserved for only those we consider special.

Yes, there are days when the skeptic in me takes over. But on days like these, my name ‘Priyanka’ reminds me that if there is anything extraordinary in this ordinary life, it is the love we give and receive.

Ending here with a quote from the same movie; 
"We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything - what a waste!"

October 07, 2018


I was reading a bit on clairvoyance the other day, and it made me think on a tangent.
Honestly, I believe every one of us has a little bit of clairvoyance hidden within us.
A sixth sense of sorts, an extra sensory perception, an ability to foretell or see a little of our own future. But we are so stuck up in considering ourselves ordinary, that we pay no heed to this tiny voice struggling to be heard.

“I never saw it coming,” is a phrase commonly used by people from all generations. But so is “I told you so.”

Ever noticed how these two juxtaposed phrases always alternate? The former is more often than not, always used with reference to the self while the latter with regard to someone else. The order seldom changes.
So how is it that we hardly realize the consequences of our behavior when we can easily tell what impact somebody else’s action will bring about?

Well, the reason is pretty much the same as why we always manage to notice the pimple on someone else’s nose and not ours...until of course we stand in front of a mirror.
Some people find this mirror in a friend, a confidante.
Some may find it in meditation. Others in instrospection. While a few may never find it at all, never discovering their self-clairvoyant abilities, believing that they are and will forever remain flawless.

Have you found your mirror yet?

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October 03, 2018

#FlashFiction: Emotional atyachaar

She gazed in his eyes a little too long, her face inches away from his.
The tension in the air was thick. A million thoughts were creating havoc in his mind. There was anxiety writ on her face as well.

It took hardly a minute. But the solace it brought would last a while.

"Fundus normal. No evidence of macular or retinal changes," she smiled, scribbling down his latest report.

The diabetic heaved a sigh of relief. He wouldn't need to visit the Ophthalmology department for the next six months at least.