I just came back from a photo shoot that I did as a favour to someone.
Obviously I did not hide my Greys, nor my age. Once it was done, the people there asked me, hesitantly, if I was ok with the look being called, Makeup for Mature Skin.
I was stumped.
Mature. Me? No!
Mature. My skin? Oh sure!
Because those are 2 different things.
I am certainly not as old in my heart as my face is. I see new wrinkles every year and I honestly don’t care. For the longest time, as a child, I was obsessed with laugh lines. I wanted them! Bad!
To me, it meant that one had a great sense of humour and one was generally happy. I don’t think I had developed a sense of humour at that age and I sure as Hell wasn’t happy. So laugh lines for me were elusive.
I have them now and I love them! It says I have a great sense of humor and I am truly happy ☺️
But maturity? That’s a whole another story for another day.
I was a shy kid growing up, with hardly any friends. Socially awkward, a wallflower . Things got better as I got older but I don’t have great memories from school. I made friends, sure, but not the kind that one yearns for.
I met my “best” friend in college and I thought this is what friendship really means. We were there for each other through everything! I had never felt so comfortable with any human before.
But post college, our lives took different directions, she did her post grad, made new friends, while I started working. I tried to hold on to our friendship in the same way, which was kind of stupid of me. Every birthday or Friendship Day, I would make crazy extra efforts to make her day while getting a lukewarm response every year.
And this went on for 20 years! Our lives were really different at this point and I willed myself to make new friends, which was so hard for me!
I found my Juhi about 7 years ago. This was a grown up friendship. We had similar challenges and likings, we are quite similar and yet so different. But there is compassion and understanding and willingness to continue the friendship through those challenges.
So I guess friendship, like all relationships, needs to evolve with time and age. I haven’t spoken to my college friend in more than a year, she moved cities, didn’t really tell me, etc. I am happy if she is happy but the same friendship is not there.
Growing up in a Kashmiri family wasn’t very easy. We were Kashmiris who had migrated to Delhi well before the Partition so we didn’t know the language and literally had zero connection to the Motherland.
But sort of like NRIs who love KJo movies, we liked to keep our traditions alive by meeting all Kashmiri Pandits twice a year, in a thing called The Jalsa.
It was a very exciting affair. People dressed in their finery, gold atehroos with pashminas, beautiful sarees, beautiful women and amazing food. Lots of gossip and bitching and tons of fake smiling.
The last time I attended one of these things, I was a teenager with a growth spurt and a healthy smattering of acne. I entered the venue in my best clothes, excited for what that year would bring and was assaulted by ooohhss and Tut tuts from a group of women. They looked at me like you would, a hurt puppy. Needless to say they were totally beautiful, bloody flawless and there I was, thin as a Reed, crooked teeth and just Acne. Suffice to say my confidence was shattered and I vowed to never attend one again. Thankfully my parents also had had enough and we stopped attending. That one little incident had a huge impact on me. I refer to it often. It was a good example of What Not to do. Also it instilled in me the thought that I wasn’t physically pretty. I lived with that thought for at least 2 more decades. Even today, when someone compliments me on my physical appearance, I go back to my 13 year old self instantly, and more often than not, I don’t know how to accept the compliment. Moral of the story, Be Kind. To everyone. You don’t know what your words/actions can do. Build people up, don’t strip them down.
When we got her home she had barely completed 3 months. She was the calmest, happiest most no fuss baby we ever met.
In fact, she was so calm that when people visited us to see her, she would not make any sound, being in the same room, nobody would notice her!
As time went on, she started crashing her milestones. Although to be fair, our benchmark was Zara.
Zoya stood up at 5.5 months, walked in her 9th month and has been running ever since.
She loves to climb things and is completely fearless.
She is also the most perceptive child, is very aware and is so loving. Totally dotes on her Didi and vice versa. And I literally melt when she says Mama!
Not even for a second do we think that she is not ours, biologically. But I know that we have a battle ahead of us when she will join school and will go through some form of teasing etc.
I don’t even want to think about it right now as it just makes my blood boil.
The Great Indian Prejudice.
We just need to make sure we make her strong enough to deal with all the crap life will throw at her.
When my older daughter was born, something shifted in me. Up until that time, I wasn’t sure if I was made for Motherhood, but holding that tiny human for the first time made me realise a few things about myself. The first week she was home, my husband was reading the newspaper and he saw one of those articles where they show an abandoned baby’s face, asking for help to locate their parents. And that baby looked so much like Zara, it broke our hearts. I think that was the day I knew I was going to adopt a child someday.
But we never discussed it.
A lot happened, we changed states, I changed careers and we sort of settled into a single child couple. But when Zara was 4, we moved back to Gurgaon and I thought now we won’t move again. Since we felt grounded now, we sort of stumbled upon the topic of adoption. And to my surprise, The Husband had similar thoughts. So we applied to CARA and waited. For 2 years. On some days it felt like the day would never come, on other days I had massive baby fever! And then, on my 40th bday, while holidaying, we got the call. “Come and take her!”
Last week of Sept 2018. We didn’t tell anyone in our family that we got the call. It was out of state so we bought tickets, arranged for Zara to stay with the grandparents and basically took off. And as luck would have it, due to bad weather, we were in the air for 8 hours but couldn’t land because the airport there was tiny and the weather totally unstable. We came back, told immediate family and took off again after 3 days. I had major anxiety, and I fainted on the night before 🙈 Once we reached, we were given an appointment for the next day at 9 am to meet her. All we had up until this point was her picture, taken when she was a week old. She was 3 months now. There are a lot of formalities to be done when you go to get the baby. The biggest and the most important is medical history, however little or extensive they might have, you need your own paediatrician to have a look at it. And then take the baby to a Dr at the location. A lot can go wrong. Medical history might be missing, might be incorrect, might be incomplete, etc. And until you get the go ahead from these quarters, you shouldn’t get attached to the child. But…
Oct 2018 We reached the agency, it was atop a hill, in a beautiful mountainside. I remember thinking, we will take the baby from this Heaven into the Hellhole known as Gurgaon! We arrived and met the caretakers, they were very warm and welcoming but my heart was in my mouth. The moment had arrived. I literally couldn’t breathe, my mouth was dry, my hands were shaking… And then they told us, she wasn’t home. She had gone to the market with her Nanny. I remember the air leaving my body, totally deflated. We did our paperwork, her stuff was being packed. I couldn’t focus on anything. And then I heard her voice. The Nanny was coming up the hill with her on her back. The curtain parted and there she was. A big red chubby face with the biggest grin I ever saw, in a green jumper. And just like that my heart split in 2. One for each of my Zs. I sobbed like a baby when she was put in my arms. Finally she was mine and she was perfect.
Switzerland! It’s not a country, it’s a feeling. A feeling of romance which was kindled in the hearts of every Indian through Bollywood movies. It’s an epitome for natural,simple and scenic beauty and trust me when I say that it’s not overrated at all. In fact pictures don’t do justice to it. And I didn’t realise when this destination came from my travel list to my bucket list.
So when we were discussing 6 months back what should be our next destination, both of us chuckled “”Switzerland “”!! It’s on my bucket list!!
And the planning started. This was going to be our 4th girls trip together and first destination which was new to both of us. To make it more special, we got a similar tattoo depicting travel love on our hands.
After a long 8 hour flight, few in-flight movies and not so great flight food, we reached Zurich. Somehow the 1st breath of fresh air of another country fills me with a lot of excitement and happiness to see that place.
Guess what was our first shopping from Zurich? A bottle of Martini Asti from duty free !! Our hotel was just 10 mins away from the airport and so there was a shuttle running every hour to and fro, free of cost. We took a shuttle and reached our hotel. By the time we came out for a stroll it had started drizzling but it couldn’t dampen our spirit of taking a first view of Zurich (also we were damn hungry so we had no choice ). We walked around , shopped a little and went to this great cafe which had such amazing breads and tarts and pastries and ohh I’m salivating.
What a hearty lunch we had there. While coming back we picked up some berries and the quality of fruits will open your eyes wide. Even a non fruit lover will grab them.
Pro tip of the day –
1. You don’t need to carry umbrella. Most hotels have umbrellas which u can take by depositing some security deposit and can get it back once you are done. Travel light.
2. Try local cafes, they have amazing and different stuff worth trying veg and nonveg both.
Excitement was at it’s peak as we were going to see Mt Titlis. The way to Engelberg was very scenic with green meadows and small houses in between them and suddenly we started seeing the fog , mountains and then snow cap mountains.
From Engelberg to Mt Titlis we had to change 2 cable cars and 1 big rotating cable car. Although, it was so full that all I could see was humans rotating and not the scenic beauty. But the whole way changes from green meadows to lake to snow clad mountains.
Not sure if it was our good luck or bad luck that as soon as we reached Mt Titlis, it started snowing. Temperature dipped from 0° to -6°. We were so excited that we made videos, got a picture clicked with Shahrukh and Kajol’s standies and video-called our loved ones from there to show them what we were experiencing. And suddenly I realised my hands going numb, everything became white around me so I couldn’t really see where the mountain ending and the bridge and ski cart i starting. I immediately wore my gloves and turned back. We couldn’t see anything but the snow fall experience was out of this world.
The cafeteria there has some hot and scrumptious food.
Once we came down it was still cold and drizzling a little. While coming back from Engelberg, we went for a small tour at Lucerne city. The city has a beautiful lake with lots of giant size ducks( a Labrador dog size duck was something i saw for the first time) to small size ducks. There’s a Chapel Bridge which is world’s oldest truss bridge. It dates from 14th century and is famous for its unusual painting that hang under its roof. It is a covered wooden footbridge spanning the River Reuss diagonally in the city of Lucerne in central Switzerland and both city and bridge has an old world charm to it. We saw the lion statue as well and called it a day with lots of good memories and pictures.
Pro tip of the day –
1. Titlis-If you don’t have snow boots, don’t worry you can rent them for 10 chf from near the ticket counter.
2. Lucerne-Most tourists are directed to a four stories shop from where chocolates and other souvenirs can be bought but steer clear of that. The same amount of chocolates and same brand can be bought from the local grocery store Migros ( you can practically live in that and noone will notice, the store is so big and has everything you need) at half of the price. The souvenirs in Individual shops on bridge are much cheaper too.
Next, we headed to see Rhine falls at schaffhausen. The falls are at the border of Germany and are the most powerful falls of Europe. For Sherlock fans this place holds a special place because of the last scene of the book.
The falls are so powerful that one can feel the mist at the other end. The sound of the gushing water is unnerving and yet you will feel a sense of calm there sitting on a single bench upside very near to the water.
After having a heart and eye full of Rhine falls we headed to Bern city, the capital of Switzerland and the only capital and a Swiss city to be accorded World Heritage Status, which means nothing can be changed, constructed or deconstructed there. Ever fell in love with a city as soon as you enter? That was the feeling I got when I saw this city. The Gothic fountain block where kids were running and playing, beautiful old parliament building and clock tower, empty streets with trams running to and fro, river flowing from between the city which can be seen from top and many lovely open cafes.
Einstein house is there which is now converted into a cafe.
After Bern city, on our way to our next hotel in Les Diablerets we had a tour of Cailler chocolate factory and a small halt near lake Geneva in a stunning town of Montreux.
We reached our hotel at around 8 pm. It was actually a hostel run by a couple. Right in front there was a river flowing which was leading to a snow mountain and across the river was a green patch where cows were eating grass. The sound of the river along with the tinkling sound of the cow bells was so mesmerising and soothing that I spent 2 hrs sitting there just gazing it all. I’m not much of a meditation person because my kind wanders all the time but that eve I somehow felt so much at peace that at some level I could connect with myself and achieved not thinking or worrying about anything else.
Pro tip of the day –
1. If you want to go for a boat ride in Rhine falls then don’t reach there before 11 am as the boat rides starts at 11 am only.
2. One can easily stay in B&B and hostels all around Europe. They are much cheaper than the hotels and the locations are great.
After a well rested night , we started for Interlaken today. It’s a small and beautiful town with a population of just 15000. Interlaken has a lot stories of shooting of the Bollywood movie DDLJ. There’s even a statue of the director Yash Chopra who is also called the tourism ambassador of Switzerland.
We hired a small train which gave us the whole city tour on 45 mins and showed us the main places around.
From Interlaken we started for our next destination Jungfraujoch peak. To reach Jungfraujoch, one has to take a train from Grindalwalt station ( yes, you feel connected to this place, yes, Rowling took her character’s name from this place). From Grindalwalt to Jungfraujoch, the train way is very scenic and beautiful and the train stops in between for 2 mins so one can go down and click pictures.
Jungfraujoch station is the highest altitude station of Europe at 11333 ft height.
Although I didn’t have any breathing problem at Mt Titlis ,but at Jungfraujoch I felt a little out of breath while going towards the snow, probably because it has a long walkway and a lot of places to go at a higher altitude. There’s a cafe and a snow games area.
Jungfraujoch peak and Aletsch glacier is worth seeing. Ice palace can be missed easily as it’s nothing too great. After getting our Jungfraujoch passports ( it’s just a souvenir for fun) stamped from a small stamp machine we headed back to our beautiful hotel at Les Diablarets.
Pro tip of the day –
1. If you like Paragliding, Interlaken is the place to fulfill your interest, also taking the small train ride for the city tour is a good idea if you want to know the city quickly.
2. At Jungfrau, ice palace can be easily missed as there’s nothing great to see and its very slippery so not suitable for elderly people. Ice tunnel is also nothing great. Instead that time can be spent in snow games and cafe.
While going to the most scenic railway route ” The Golden Pass Line” we crossed the stunning village of Gstaad. As if the old style wooden houses in green meadows were not enough to make you longing to live here, the absolutely gorgeous scenes from train on the golden pass line mesmerise you with it’s beauty.
After getting down from the train we reached Lausanne for a brief time. Lausanne is a city situated on the shores of lake Geneva. It Is also the headquarters of international Olympic committee.
Moving on, we reached to the Headquarters of European United Nations. Right across the road , In front of the headquarters, there is a wooden broken chair made by an artist to draw attention toward the landmine victims. Initially it was just there for 3 months but now it’s been 20 years and it is a Landmark of Geneva.
While we were in deep thoughts of this artists simple yet powerful depiction, we reached a pretty happening place In Geneva where there were lots of good restaurants, the English Garden,the floral clock and Jet D Eau. The place had a beautiful lake. We met some old friends here , had scrumptious Italian lunch left for our next destination, a small and quaint village Tasch.
Pro tip of the day – 1.
If you want to buy Swiss watches, the shops in front and around the floral clock are the ones to buy as they have the original stuff.
2. Do a full route of Golden pass train and do stay in Lausanne. It’s a city not to be missed.
We headed for Zermatt. To go to Matterhorn ( the Toblerone peak), which is the higest sightseeing platform in Europe and has the highest ice palace, one has to go to Zermatt and then a train or a cable car can take you to the peak. Zermatt is a beautiful village in kind of a valley in mountains. Its a big flourished village with all kinds of shops and a river going through between. You can see the Matterhorn from Zermatt. There is a church and some of our fellow travellers even saw baptism ceremony going on there.
There are 2 ways from Zermatt to Matterhorn. One is electric auto which takes you to a cable car which, again, takes you on the peak of Matterhorn. And then there’s train which takes you to Gornergrat which is the highest view point and you can see Matterhorn peak right in front as if you can touch it and if you are a Toblerone fan, eat it! We chose Gornergrat as we didn’t want to do snow sports on the peak but wanted to see the peak as a whole. There is a canteen on Gornergrat which has yummiliscious food and you can enjoy it sitting outside in the sun in a cold weather. It’s lovely to see that in Europe even dogs are allowed in trains and they are very well behaved so people travel with their dogs. In fact, myself and my friend are such a dog lovers that a sweet couple was guiding us to Sunnegga lake and I was so distracted in patting and cuddling their big cute dog that I completely missed understanding the directions and we ended up looking for the route for an hour.
While going to Gornergrat the train stops at 4 small stations and you can get down and board in as many time on those stations with 1 pass. After you come back to Zermatt, you can also go to Sunnegga lake and spend leisurely time there.
We came back from Zermatt to Tasch by 4 pm and enjoyed some fresh salads and wine and called it a day.
Pro tip of the day –
1. Do get down on the stations while going to Gornergrat as you can play in snow and have fun at your leisure.
2. Do try and go to Sunnegga lake . It’s a lovely picnic spot.
This was the saddest day of our trip. Why? Because it was the last day and we JUST DIDN’T want to come back. Not yet! Also it was going to be an eventful day as we had to change 2 trains to reach Zermatt station with our luggage to catch our flight on time. And as the day unfolded,it turned out exactly as we thought….. Eventful!.
So we’d booked the tickets through an online app SBB mobile which offers great discounts and regular passes. We started in the morning at 9 with our 25 kgs of suitcases each which, considering 2 women shopaholic fashionistas travellers, is light weight luggage. We reached the Tasch station which was hardly 50 metres from our hotel. Turned our we had entered on the wrong platform. The train was 5 mins away and we came out and ran towards the correct platform. We were running on the nick of time and could not afford any delay but I, twice, accidentally pressed a Stop button in the train and it haulted on the next 2 stations. Unlike India, there is no penalty on stopping the train without any reason but I didn’t know it then and so when I saw the TC coming towards us,my breath stopped and when she passed us I went Phew! Then we reached the 2nd station and changed the train. We boarded and got relaxed that now we will reach airport and from there it will be a piece of cake but cake and us serial dieters? No chance! As soon as we sat,I saw the app to see how many stations away we are from the airport and it showed that due to some strike the line ,on which we were travelling, is close and we will have to change another train after 3 stations to reach airport. Thankfully the systems are well in place, the timings of trains are impeccably correct and the people in this case this train’s TC, are very helpful and they explain things thoroughly. We changed a third train! Remember 25 kgs suitcases? Well!
We reached airport,ate , shopped and checked in. The gentleman at the check in counter was surprised how our luggage was so precisely packed weight wise. Little did he know how many calculations and efforts went behind it.
We had a 50 mins layover in vienna. We literally sprinted to catch our connecting flight. We reached to the counter to take boarding pass and lo and behold, a new misery waiting for us. Due to mergers of airlines our airline was over booked, bouble seats allotted and what we could make out from the way they were talking.. our name was not there!!! We waited for some 20 mins , and they finally gave us the seats. Phew!
So when we reached India, we were quite sure that in all the chaos at Vienna,definitely our suitcases were not boarded and voila!! This time we were right!! They were not boarded and still in Vienna. It took 3 days of following up for us to finally receive our suitcases but when we opened them, all the goodies, collectables and chocolates we’d bought on our trip made and all the memories made everything worth while.
Pro tip of the day –
1. Do use SBB app if you are going to use train as it gives good discounts.
2. However meticulously you plan your trip only days like this makes them memorable.
It’s been a year since our last vacation as a family, or even just the 2 of us, well…because 2 kids is a whole different ballgame. 19th was my birthday and The Husband was busy the whole day! We got to spend time only at 11 pm.
So we did some planning, scheduling, cajoling, coaxing and flat out begging to have family look after the kids while we did a staycation!
Out of all the options available, we chose Roseate because of Sacred Games 🙈
And we were not disappointed.
The property is absolutely beautiful.
The entry to the reception is breathtaking.
The staff is warm and welcoming. Since we had just taken the membership, they took us through the process, coupons, restaurants, etc to make sure we knew where to go and how to avail maximum benefits.
The food at Chini is quite nice. We thought Kiyan was just about ok but the experience was amazing.
The rain played spoilsport that day and we were limited to the room all afternoon but we didn’t mind because even the room was breathtaking.
We wanted to go to Iyaah for drinks but the waterlogging was too much and we could not get to it 🤷
So we went back to Kiyan. The staff really made sure that we celebrated my birthday in the best way possible.
The next morning we took a small walk within the property and the weather was great.
The whole place has such a calming vibe. I would recommend it at least once for the overall experience.
This is a beautiful to look at Temple in Paro, Bhutan on a cliff which is at a High Altitude, Steep Incline and Rough Terrain. It is perched on the side of a Himalayan mountain at 3,120 metres (10,240 ft), about 900 metres (3,000 ft) almost straight up.
The moment I read it in our iternary, the word ‘hiking’ started harrowing me as I’m not at all a person who would opt for hiking willingly, And I kept reading and digging information about it on internet ,but, beleive you me, I’ve come to realise that no amount of reading can match up your own experience, good or bad.
Usually Tiger’s Nest Temple is kept on the last day of the trip because one, to keep the interest and charm of it going throughout the trip, two , we get acclimatise with the thin air and high altitude and three, you are left with no strength in your knees and back for atleast 2 days once you are done with this trek.
For a regular hiker, this trek is a piece of cake but if you eat a lot of cake then you feel every ounce of your body cursing that cake when you are on this trek which yours truly experienced along with damaged knees.
A good 98% of the trek is the rough terrain and I somehow managed it huffing , puffing and cribbing but then comes the view point, and I could see the temple RIGHT THERE on the other cliff. Happiness galore, pictures clicked and shred and a feeling of achievement had just started to come and then I saw steep steps! Some 700 steps going down and 250 steps going up. Those were a very small part but a killer part nevertheless. But I did it! with my heart panting in my mouth,my legs shivering and my back broken I reached the temple. The temple is nothing extraordinary that you haven’t seen in the other monasteries. It’s simple with lots of stories,myths and legends. Infact I felt a little air of disappointment, for where I reached after such a difficult trek, there was no wow factor for myself.I kept thinking, why can’t they make a ropeway,why not a suspension bridge and so on but looks like hiking is the charm for people to come to this place. I witnessed many old couples in there 70s and 80s trekking ( oh! How I was admiring them) and visiting this temple and Bhutanese are regular visiters here.
Legend has it, that the first guru in Bhutan flew on a tigress’ back and reached up on the cliff and that’s where the temple was made. When we were heading back I was desperately and frantically hoping and looking for that tigress to appear for me, hell even a walking horse will do (horses were available but looking at their path where they walk on edge I trusted my jelly-turned-legs) but none of that happened and somehow with a crackling leg and an aching back I reached back down and completed this difficult trek swearing never to to go back on a rough terrain trek again and yet I’m so glad I could do it and the bad, good and happy memories of this day will stay with me in my mind and in my camera forever. They are also etched on my face and hands as severe tanning but that shall be gotten rid off!! ~ Juhi