I have been dreaming of Jeannie, every day and every night, since the time I last blogged. I have been secretly wishing for some magical twist of fingers to finish the process of moving home at the brink of an eye. Whatever little time I get in a day to sip my cup of tea, I swing into my dreamworld, thinking how lovely it would be if all my wishes come true by just blinking my eye in a cute little way or whatever way my Jeannie would approve of.
How I wish all the old curtains would hang by themselves perfectly in new door measurements, how I wish all my kitchen appliances would work in tandem with new switches, how I wish my new maid knows exactly what and how to do like my older one, how I wish the 95 cartons would empty themselves into the perfect places meant for them only. And I wish and wish some more!
But for the record, I have done much more than wishing. I have actually moved my butts to get the work done. Shifting from one place to another is akin to being reborn. New faces, new surroundings, new challenges, new learnings, new people to deal with on an everyday basis. These include those who are very crucial for your comfortable living; your society’s manager, electrician, plumber, maid, milkman, etc. You start from scratch to form a symbiotic (one-sided from their perspective) relationship with these people. All the sense of familiarity evaporates. You long for the comfort of old relationships that had weathered the initial phases of forming a bond. I am not jumping at the thought of making new acquaintances and friends yet. It is helping that I have my old friends here and the place is not entirely new to me. The only sense of sanity I have in my life at the moment. I am dreaming of a day in a spa once the process is over.
Can’t share all the pictures as most of my friends are averse to posting pics online. But here is a precious soul I left behind.
It’s time to manoeuvre life’s turn again. To leave behind the known turf, a few known faces and more fewer close friends. It’s time to muster up the courage again to seek unchartered routes and unknown faces. It’s time to move to a different place after four years of calling this house our home. Our home whose journey began with teary eyes (unmet expectations) and is now culminating with tears in eyes (soul-satisfying). What changed in between is a beautiful story to be told.
House Story 1 (Gurugram)
It will be for the third time now that A and I will be moving home. Right after marriage in 2013, I shifted to Gurgaon (now called Gurugram) where A got posted while we were engaged. Since he was staying in Delhi before that, we had to look for a new place. A finalised a beautiful apartment that became our home for the next one year. It was a brand new flat with modern infrastructure and a not-so inhabited neighbourhood. The surroundings had lots of open spaces since the area was still developing. A beautiful terrace extending right through the entrance was a dream come true. A and I spent many beautiful evenings and late nights at the terrace, watching night lights, the never-ending skyline, and the planes that hovered over every then and now. Our landlords became my first friends in a new city.
A city and the house that gave me endless stories to share with you, which I will do so in due course of time. The stories of my first year of marriage, of beginning of my hospitality experiences, of watching shows at Kingdom of Dreams, of A’s friends (let’s call the duo S2) becoming our anchor of support, of us ending up spending more time at their house than ours, of meeting my PG flatmate and best friend from Chandigarh in Gurgaon (out of nowhere) at a stranger’s house, of meeting a colleague in my office who turned out to be my mother’s best friend’s daughter, etc. All scattered stories interwoven so magically.
House Story 2 (Ghaziabad)
After an year in Gurgaon, A was transferred to UP western area (Noida) and it was time to move again. This time too, it was A who finalised the flat all by himself without me. It was so because the circumstances were such that A had already joined in Noida while we continued staying in Gurgaon because of my job. He was commuting daily from Gurgaon to Noida and had only late evenings at his disposal to look for a place while I was in Gurgaon serving my notice period.
A finally zeroed in on the flat and we shifted to Indirapuram on May 24, 2014 to be exact. I remember it because it was my birthday the next day. I was taken aback when I saw the flat. It was a huge place with four balconies, nice light fittings and chandeliers. The kitchen was too spacious with so much storage that my stuff seemed less in comparison. But all this didn’t matter to me just because the flat was not a first-hand. I don’t know why but I realised later I have this slight resistance towards staying in second-hand flats. Plus, it was a little old construction. You know those houses with brown, hinged huge doors like in older times.
As it is, the cultural shock of moving from Gurgaon to the state of UP was hard enough to chew on. As we drove from Gurgaon to Noida belt on the day of our shifting, a complete cultural and social transition was evident. Here, all I could see was people and more people. Forget about open spaces and greenery, it was concrete all around. Societies in hordes and flats stacked up like cards. I felt lost. The day somehow passed in moving boxes and arranging the stuff. But by the time it became dark, I couldn’t hold more. Just as A wished me happy birthday as the clock stuck 12 am, tears rolled down my eyes and I said to A, “I did not like the place.” Poor he, he could not fathom what was there to be bothered about in such a spacious, airy and well-built place. He consoled me and offered to look for another space. The day got lost in birthday wishes and surprise party A and S2 had planned for the evening. With swollen eyes, I cut the birthday cake.
In the week that ensued, stuff was unpacked and energies diverted in making the place functional. Kitchen utensils and glass crockery up and shining again, paintings and pictures put upon walls, bedsheets spread, pillows covered in bright hued covers, chairs and tables placed to perfection, curtains hanged, a dash of magic here and some sprinkle of charm there, and voila, the house I hated became the home I loved. Everything shined, the lights at nights brought the home alive. The happiness in my heart brought a sense of relief to A. We both hugged each other and said, “Life, bring it on. We are ready.” What ensued next was a four-year-long journey, a roller coaster one, just like you all. At a place I humbly called my home. It was not perfect, but still was ours, until A got transferred again.
This city and home too gave me many stories yet to be shared with you. Of how I felt extremely safe in a city and state (UP) so notoriously called “unsafe”. Of how I learnt to stay alone, my solitude stories, my bond with malls and cafes, of meeting old friends from Chandigarh again, of making a friend for life in my society lift, of my professional freelance experiences, of my marriage gathering more years in its journey, of having the good fortune of excellent landlords once again and more importantly, of a six-month-old child (not mine, please don’t confuse again guys) growing up into a four-year-old boy, of hospitality efforts gone right and wrong, of hosting host of family members and friends, many celebratory birthdays, small gatherings, and much more.
Presently, A has joined his new territory. We are still looking for a place to call our home. This time, both of us together. Life has come full circle once again. Last time, we were alone. This time, we have all of you to share our story with. Let’s see what life brings on now. We pray for love and happiness, for us and each one of you. Do you have a home story too?
I don’t know if I have readers yet. There are likes and views, but comments are still a far-away fantasy. I need to work harder and smarter to make my writing resonate with you. But irony thy name is life. I am not writing to impress you. I am writing for myself, for my soul, to quench my thirst. This blog is my only pious and sacred space untouched by outer influences. This is me, pure and naked, sans any masks. This is me laying bare my heart and soul, into the unknown, to the strangers and acquaintances, alike. Why?
Because I feel stifled. By the noise around. By so many viewpoints, opinions and judgements that I don’t know what makes sense to me anymore. I am losing myself to the world. A world that has not made much sense to me ever. I feel lost, like I always do, for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I have felt lost at birthday parties. I have felt lost among friends, among foes, among strangers, among family. I have felt lost in crowd, in loud and authoritative tones, in achievements and failures. I have felt lost at my workplace, at relatives’ homes, at big and small gatherings. In short, I have felt lost at every damn place and situation.
Were there times when it seemed I have found myself? Yes, aplenty. Watching a sunset, the moon, the stars and the beautiful night sky. Walking in a garden among soft, gentle, delicate flowers. In my own company. In silence. Sitting on a terrace watching the vast expanse of life in front of me. Watching a flower bloom, birds chirping in a garden. Reading a good book where characters felt relatable and vulnerable, just like me. Watching a TV show where life was as challenging and rewarding as it is in reality. I have found myself in a warm lovable hug. In the company of hearts that understand me. But Irony thy name is life. In all the situations where I seemed to have found myself, the words always failed. They felt too small to be used. Then why did I choose words to liberate myself? Because that’s the only way I know. Irony thy name is life.
I have never been a great vocalist. I have failed mostly whenever I tried. I am not good with convincing people. I am not authoritative. I will voice my opinion and step back leaving you free to choose your way. I will speak, debate and argue but to a certain point. Afterwards, I will recoil. I will keep myself last in the pedestal. Amidst dissenting voices, I will always take the blame for not being right. I will question my feelings and will always give you the benefit of doubt. I will not try to unearth my inner voice voraciously if I feel the surroundings are hostile. When I am surrounded by too many people who think alike but contrastingly different than me, I will prefer to let them have their way. I will choose peace rather than the burden of explaining myself. I am still learning to stand tall among dissenting voices. Still hurting and learning.
Irony thy name is life. I am writing to share myself with you, adding one more voice to the already prevalent sounds around you. Irony thy name is life. But I am daring to expose my true self. I want to share uninhibited. I don’t want to make it perfect. I want it to be honest. I don’t want to look for the right words to make you understand better. I just want to lay bare. In as simple words as I can. I detest complications. It’s my need but not what you may want.
So listen, if you please, listen! It’s getting rarer, the quality of listening. Irony thy name is life. I don’t want to listen to anyone anymore, but I am asking you to listen. But listen for yourself, and not to listen me. Listen to see if it resonates with you too. Do you feel the same? But why should you? You are not me. But I sometimes do. I feel stifled. Just sometimes, when my soul gets lost amidst the maddening chaos all around.
The irony was palpable. Sitting in an air-conditioned room, eyes glued to a large screen LED TV fitted with Firestick, and watching Malgudi Days being played on Amazon Prime. Even otherwise reticent A couldn’t help being amused at the presence of technology all around that took him back in time (almost three decades) to be part of 10-year-old Swami’s life and his struggles. Nostalgia engulfed the air in the room. Emotions overflowed. Scenes from childhood emerged right in front of A’s eyes. He turned around the head again to acknowledge the magnitude of the reality that was slowly sinking in. Digital era had brought him closer to memories of Doordarshan era when entertainment was way different. When life was way simpler. When we were kids and our entire entertainment world was wrapped around Doordarshan. When there were no repeat telecasts. Today, watching Malgudi Days on TV brought back a sea of long-forgotten memories of an era gone by. Technology begets nostalgia. The irony was palpable.
Last leg of Mumbai travel was one of the best experiences of my life filled with contrasting explorations. It started with roaming around Bandra and Juhu in an auto, watching a play at the Prithvi theatre and culminating it with an evening at the iconic Taj. Let us begin with the day when sis and I decided to see Mumbai in auto leaving parents at home. We started with Mount Mary Church in Bandra which was beautiful and serene. The silence was peculiar to the one experienced in almost all churches where you can hear even your breath’s pace.
From there, we decided to hire an auto and move around Bandra and Juhu for some real hands-on Mumbai feel. We were fortunate to come across a very interesting auto guy who said, “Madam, pay me Rs 250 and I will show you the houses of all your favourite stars. I visit their houses every day.” We hopped into the auto happily not knowing at that time that it would be one of the best explorations of our lives. We stopped at every filmstar’s house, posed, grinned, blushed (at the embarrassment of our acts) and just had pure fun. Here is the proof of my typical middle class Indian fan girl moments, visiting Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and my all time favourite Sachin Tendulkar’s houses.
Above pictures are only some of the samples of my posing spree. We passed through every Bollywood star’s house that you can imagine. “Madam, Jeetendra ka bungla sab se acha hai,” was the verdict of this very interesting auto man. We glanced dumbstruck and awestruck at residences of Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor, Raveena Tandon, Red Chillies Office, Jeetendra and many others. We stopped for a while at the Juhu beach too.
Finally we landed at the Prithvi Theatre in an auto and said our goodbyes and thanks to the driver. We had booked a show and still had some time to kill. So decided to go for a nosch at a beautiful cafe near the theatre. With full stomach and satisfied souls after a cup of coffee and sandwiches, we went to the Prithvi theatre for another satiating experience. The theatre premises was filled with passionate performances and an enthusiasm that was hard to skip. It was nostalgic to come across the actors from my childhood whom I had watched on TV, Doordarshan to be specific.
The last stop of the day was at Juhu beach enriched with dusk time, nature, sea and good life. Enjoyed street food at Chowpatty and happily returned home with a bag of lifetime memories and experiences.
The next day was a neatly planned one with parents. Visited the iconic Taj for an evening tea watching the Gateway of India standing tall as the dusk dawned and the whole world indeed seemed like a stage. The time stood still for me. It was my long long long cherished dream to spend an evening at the Taj sipping tea. And I don’t know why but the magic that tea brings into a moment can never be experienced with food. One of my longest held dream came true that evening at the Taj in the company of my parents and sister. For a moment, I just closed my eyes and internalised the whole thing to take with me.
So this is how Mumbai, the city of dreams, fulfilled my dreams of a perfect holiday and life-altering travel experiences inundated with family and friends. As I wind up sharing my experiences with you, all I am left with is a deep sense of gratitude and peace that hovers around when some of our dreams come true.
Khandala and Lonavala were a disappointment chiefly because I visited there in the peak of summers. And when I say disappointment it means for me. The place may excite other travellers abound but since I can speak only for myself, it failed to excite me. They are monsoon destinations I believe. The fun might lie in seeing the mist and experiencing subtle winters in Mumbai, which we north Indians experience aplenty already. Still we managed to enjoy the best we could.
Had booked a resort for the weekend which was a nice place to unwind. It had a fair amount of greenery and the only greenery I saw during my whole trip. We reached there on Saturday and decided to stay in the resort for the evening, which was quite musical by the way. The speakers were set in full volume in the lawns and the guests (including me) danced to groovy music sipping the drinks of their choice and enjoying snacks. Spent some beautiful moments strolling around watching the dusk settling in, chatting and whiling away time. During our two-day stay, we ordered room service, relished ‘chai and charhca’ and visited local stalls for packed foods that had some interesting edibles to offer.
But that was it. The touristy exploration was a let-down. As first-time visitors, we were given a list of nine tourist places. It began with Laxmi-Narayan temple. Parents were happy to start with an auspicious place as always and I was like “temple here too”? Anyways, so began our journey that would prove to be a nightmare pain. The temple was beautiful but closed when we reached. We roamed around the premises and clicked pictures. The stairs, as seen in the picture below, lead to the main temple.
Next on the list was Sunil’s wax museum. We were hesitant to go and dad outrightly refused to be a part of it. I insisted saying what’s the harm in having a bad experience together though later it proved to be the only fun we had that day. The wax statues were admirable. We had our tiny winy kiddish bit of entertainment getting pictures clicked.
Next destination was the Lion’s Point. Open breezy space and beautiful peaks. Again because of the weather, the place felt short of the scenic charms I had seen in Kausali, Shimla, Nainital, etc. Though comparisons are not healthy but I am doing so just to give an idea to others planning to visit the place.
Lion’s Point will be long remembered because it was here that I forgot my bag. My bag containing cash, cards and many id proofs. I realised I have lost it on reaching Bhushi Dam, our next destination. My throat dried and the heart started pounding. I immediately rushed back which took us good 25 minutes. The drive back was fraught with anxiety. Much to my relief and sister’s grin, I found it at exactly the same table where I had left. Normalcy returned and again affirmed my belief to take nothing for granted in life.
Bhushi Dam was okay but the experience made me laugh at myself. To reach there we had to hike 20 minutes of not-so-deep stretches and stairs. We decided to leave mom dad at the base and let the sisters do the marching in scorching sun, fighting and laughing all the way up and down. The view was something like this.
After such a long day, we wanted to tick mark all the designated spots just for the formality. We had found nothing great as yet and were hungry too. It was hard to find good places for snacks or lunch. Our next stop was the Monkey Point. While entering there we had second thoughts on covering the full area. It made no sense to traverse the ill-maintained park just to see some monkeys. There was litter all around. We hurriedly had a look and ran back.
Last stop was the Sunset Point. With heat, crowd, unhygienic surroundings and growing hunger pangs, we decided to skip the Sunset Point and head back to the resort. We had left right after breakfast and managed to get only Limca and mangoes (called Carrie) in between. Reached the resort around 7 pm, had some tea-sandwiches and finally felt at home. On Monday, we headed back to Mumbai. Midway, met my cousin and her family after 10 years.
It is in moments like these when you realise how life just passes by. The clock keeps ticking whether we are aware or not. My cousin and I are an year apart. We grew up together, had sleepovers at each other’s place when we were young, learnt cooking skills from our mothers around the same time and got scolded for being careless teenagers. In later years, we used to commute daily back and forth from Ambala-Chandigarh to our workplaces via train. We had a huge friend circle of girls who boarded the same train every day. Very much like the Mumbai local. Today, we met after a decade. A lot had happened in between.
So, that’s how my Khandala trip ended on a bitter sweet experience. In my next travel post, I will culminate the series winding up my travails. You have one more boring post in the offing but with the most interesting part, driving around Juhu and Bandra in an auto and an evening at the iconic Taj. The best experience so far. All in next travel post.