Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Singapore Love Affair

A few weeks ago, Singapore and I celebrated our first anniversary. It wasn’t a fancy affair. In fact, I wasn’t even here to celebrate it. I danced the night away in Phuket, only raising a silent toast to our blossoming relationship from afar.

Like lovers who make inspirations for romance novels, we’ve had a classic partnership that feels like forever and yet so new.

Around four hundred days ago when I sat in an empty apartment with three suitcases and a dozen brown boxes, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I tried to predict how my life would turn out in the coming year and I drew a blank. 

I was starting from scratch, yet another time. I wondered if I was too old to make the change, find new friends and throw myself in to work that I was not acquainted with.

Leaving familiarity is one of the hardest things to do. We end up staying in relationships, places and jobs because we are accustomed to them. We take the same route to work, pick up our coffee from the café where the barista prepares our order in advance, we know the buttons to press with our colleagues, round up at the regular bar for a drink and have repeated conversations with our friends about jobs that suck and dreams that remain unfulfilled.

I was breaking my current rut but something inside me hoped that I wasn’t getting myself into another one.

When the plane took off from Dubai and I glanced at the fading lights for one last time, I wished on them. 

A year and some later, I think about that day in the apartment. I try to remember the uneasiness, but it’s gone. 
I try to picture myself, but I can’t. I see another person sitting around the brown boxes – anxious and confused.
I’m glad I don’t know that person.

Love should feel like home. It should be easy and yet make your heart beat just a little bit faster. It should make you smile even when it’s gloomy because you know that sunshine is right around the corner.

When I landed in Singapore and we exchanged glances for the first time, I didn’t expect to fall in love. It happened slowly, and it was in the long-drawn process that I tried to find little reasons to smile every day.

Waking up in an apartment that overlooks the river.

A short walk to work.

Learning to cycle again

New friends who feel like forever.


A job that doesn’t feel like one.

Embracing dim sum for breakfast.

Hundred and fifty dollars return tickets to Bali.

Happy hour.

Bartenders that know that you need gin & tonic at 5pm on a Friday evening.

The joy of having Sunday off.

Whatsapp calling.

Traveling for work.

Packing away heels and fancy clothes - embracing shorts and slippers.

Cooking at home.


Becoming content with nothingness.

A gym with a hair dryer that’s better than the one I have at home.

The unfamiliar is frightening but we seldom realise that it’s in the unknown that magic happens.

On the 15th of June 2017, seated in that plane, I wished for playfulness, I wished to discover a part of me that got a bit side lined over the years.

By searching tiny reasons to smile every day and through this exciting, surprising, playful ride over the past year, Singapore has taught me to be grateful. To give, receive and embrace love, once again, unconditionally.

I can't wait to see what you have planned for me next. 
Here’s to us, Singers.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 - The Year Of Living Unconditionally

I’m sitting in a café with a glass of prosecco, the view of the Singapore River and my New Year notebook on one of those beautiful, rainy days that force you to reminisce. The notebook has documented my year-end thoughts and resolutions for over ten years. I read what I have written year after year and finally accept that an exercise regimen might not be my cup of tea. Travel to far off lands and random things like working towards fulfilling my dreams are more achievable. It’s just a matter of when they manifest in my life.


Four years ago, on the last day of 2013, I promised myself that 2014 would be the year when I would leave Dubai for a new city. I spoke to my colleagues, found some contacts and secured an interview in Singapore at the start of January. As luck would have it, on the 1st day of 2014, I met a boy. It was love at first sight. Through my trip to Singapore and Bali later that month, we chatted continuously. I told him how much I loved this city and could see myself living here and he told me how he couldn’t wait to have me back so we could start dating. “If I can’t make it work with you, I can’t make it work with anyone,” he said to me a few weeks later.

The interview went well and they even made an offer. But, I was smitten. Everything he did was perfect. The way he called out my name, how he would cook for me on weekends, his plans to travel the world, his frown, his smile – everything. I decided to let go of the job because who needs a job when (you think) you’ve found your soulmate, right?
Many blissful months and an amazing holiday in Spain later, he suddenly got a job transfer, broke up with me and left Dubai in a week.

He moved to Singapore.
While my heart was trying to process this, what pissed the rational part of my brain was that he moved to Singapore.
That was supposed to be my move. He couldn’t steal that from me.

I stayed on in Dubai, cried for a few months - first for losing him and then for being silly enough to let go of the job. Eventually, I dated some nice and some weird people, I learned to drive, bought a car, climbed a mountain, rode a horse, started speaking Spanish, danced the tango and took a sabbatical to study art among other silly pursuits and resolutions in the years that followed.

I started to thank him a little each day for hurting me. The only way I could recover was to learn that I couldn’t take my one, precious life for granted.

Every day, my belief that the pieces of the puzzle would come together became stronger.

I was in Greece when I finally forgave him. It was early December, a few days before we were supposed to leave the island to go back to normal life. I was sitting on the rocks next to the beach with my New Year notebook, ready to document what life had meant to me in the past year. It was the feeling of coming out of a storm to a place and people who made me feel complete.

I wanted to write about the new experiences, the creative process, the family I found, the capacity to love I discovered, the absence of the need for validation from everyone and the purity of the island but each time I started, I burst out crying. I had no words to describe it. I was full gratitude and content but the words wouldn’t come and the tears wouldn’t stop.

I was happy.

Overjoyed to the brim, there was no room or reason for pain, hurt and grudge in my heart.
He was just someone who came and left. But what I felt at that moment and everything that led to it, was forever and truly mine.

I wrote what I was feeling – ‘Unconditional’

No resolutions or promises. 2017 would simply be unconditonal.


I stare at the scribble on my notebook for a long-time tracing back the past 54 weeks to that time on the rocks in Paros.

I’m not sure if it was letting go, my conscious effort to embrace everything that came my way, fighting for what I wanted or the butterfly effect but somewhere, a star was waiting to shine on me. Life came full circle and there I was a few months into the year, fitting my life in ten boxes and taking back what was always mine – moving to Singapore.

This year is special not only because I moved to a city that I always wanted to live in but it is also a reminder for so much more -

To relentlessly chase dreams no matter how hard or far-fetched they may seem.

To take risks.

To believe that there is a better version of you just waiting to be peeled off.

To not give up when you feel like the stupidest person in the room or that all your choices were a mistake - To learn and come back stronger and with faith in who you are.

To ever so often, say, “NO, it’s not good enough,” – when it isn’t.

To embrace new friendships and find missing parts of yourself in people you’ve just met.

To have gratitude because everything comes together when it has to.

Most importantly, a reminder that it is inevitable that at some point again, doubt and fear could engulf me and I might feel everything is amiss.
I might end up stuck in a job, relationship or place where I am not appreciated.
I might become unsure of what I want to do with my life and who I want to be.
But amidst all this commotion, competition and things that might happen, I will let go.
There is a place I call home – where the beach is rocky, the sea has myriad shades of blue, people love without judgment or conditions, where none of this exists and I carry that unconditional love with me, all the time.

Here’s to living even more unconditionally in 2018.
To sharing, spreading, and embracing absoluteness.
To new cities, friends, experiences, and stars that are just waiting to shine.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Rebirth in Italy

The Villa

I stand in the corner of the dining room with a champagne glass in hand listening intently to the toast Jane is making. My eyes, trying to hide the tears that are developing look deeply into the bubbles that surround the rim of the class. My heart, open and full speak to the smile that forms on my lips.

For the first time in years, I am present in a moment created by someone else that reflects everything I feel.

In the past few weeks, I have been asked several times to explain how my sabbatical is coming along. People expect long and detailed answers and all I can give them is a simple – ‘it’s going great’ reply. I haven’t found a descriptive word to describe this experience.

All I can say is this.

From drawing straight lines to understanding the depth and reason behind Bellini’s Madonna and Child to letting myself free in theater and seeing shapes between objects – In the past one month, I have learned how to learn. It is bewildering what being a child again can do to you, when the fear of not knowing is taken over by the wonder of discovery.

I have sat in the same squares of Tuscan towns where I sat a few years ago with a gelato in hand and realized that places don’t change, people and circumstances do. And perhaps that is why we move on.

I have broken out of my comfort zone and surrounded myself with youth to relish the truth that age is in the mind. I have felt blessed when young women have told me that my life is a #goal for them for that is the one thing I usually take for granted.

Feeling like a tiny speck in the grandness of the universe and adorned by the power of art, I have shed tears of gratitude in a man-made wonder.

I took this sabbatical to discard the entrenched feeling of stagnation that has been reigning over me for a few years. Trapped in the corporate world, I have been a slave to my monthly salary that never leaves me content. My growth, often restricted by my own inhibitions to try new things, has stunted year after year of my so called adult life.

My thoughts are interrupted as Jane toasts to our individual renaissance in Italy and that is when it hits me. The one word I have been looking for to describe this journey.


Here’s looking forward to what Greece has to bring and looking at the world from a new set of eyes and wonder!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Why I Travel Solo

Twelve years ago when my train from Ahmedabad to Bombay was cancelled, I faced my biggest fear. I had to take a flight for the first time. I tried to avoid it, make excuses but my job beckoned and I had to enter the dreadful airport – all by myself.

Unlike other people who face a serious fear of flying, I wasn’t scared that the plane would crash. The truth is, I was afraid to make a fool of myself. I didn’t know how to buckle a seatbelt. Let alone open it.

In fact I was quite reconciled to the fact that traveling for me was  limited to road trips where I could see the world pass me by or long train journeys where I would be able to smell the rust of the Indian Rail carriage on my skin for days after.

This first flight by myself was putting me on an edge that I was not accustomed to while travelling. Once in my seat I tried my best not to be fidgety with the belt. I felt its grooves and curves. My nervous, sweaty hands kept slipping on the cold steel. After a few attempts of putting it the wrong way around (does the silly thing go under the flap? Am I supposed to turn it around?), I observed my fellow passenger and followed her lead. I managed to close the seat belt and heaved a sigh of achievement.

Then, something magical happened.
The plane took off and I saw lights. The city I was leaving behind glittered like someone had laid out fairy lights just for me. The moon shone bright and when I kept my hand on the window, I was sure I could touch a star.

The world looks very different from above. They say that when you are faced with a problem, you should take a macro view. Rise above and try to understand the issue. Perhaps traveling is a solution to every problem. You need to travel, to get away, and to look at the world differently to realize how small your issues really are.

When we landed and I couldn’t figure which side of the flap to open, the lady next to me helped. A gesture, I reciprocate every time I am flying next to a first timer. For I know, there is nothing as stressful as the possibility of making a fool of yourself while doing something people consider to be extremely simple.

The one-and-a-half-hour flight on that fateful night changed my life. As the sun rose over Bombay and a pink light emerged on my window drawing away my fears, I was blissfully unaware that a few years later, I would sit on a flight and move to another country. That one day, I would fearlessly fly around the world.

I recently came back from Greece - my twentieth country in four years and eleventh solo trip.
People often ask me; do I get scared to travel alone? Do I get lonely? Don’t I get bored? Why do I travel alone?

Here’s why I travel alone and believe that every woman should push herself to do the same.  

I travel solo because in places where everything is foreign and I am by myself, I am forced to change.
When you find yourself in a South American village where no one speaks English or has a clue where you come from, where the food isn’t what you are used to and people think it is normal to ask your name and salary in the same breath, you adapt and adopt the culture and become one with it.

I travel solo to discover and to re-discover. I visit and re-visit cities that speak to me. I like going back to see how my likes, dislikes and memories have evolved. I often go back to Barcelona, (one of my first solo trips) and visit the Picasso museum each time. My experience is different in each visit. The paintings remain the same but the way I look at them changes.

Bustling cities like NYC have so much to offer to the solo traveler.

I travel solo to learn to be alone. Sometimes when I am traveling, I spend days without conversing. Except the usual hello or food order, I barely speak. For me, those days are like meditation. I am in-charge of my own entertainment, safety and survival.
Indian women are rarely taught to be alone. We are told to confine ourselves to roles set by the society and always find an anchor to support us.
Traveling solo teaches you to be your own anchor.

No one to take your photos? Be inventive. I always take half face selfies. 

 I travel solo to understand that friendships are not measured in time but in moments spent asking directions, over glasses of wine, sharing a home cooked meal, on the bus to the airport or while walking the streets of Athens at two am in the morning discussing cheese.

Met a bunch of fearless solo woman travelers in Greece. Sometimes just a smile can strike a conversation!
I try and go for activities like cooking classes and Eat With dinners. Great way to make new friends.

I travel solo to learn the art of letting go. When you understand that moments matter more than time, you cherish the NOW with all your heart and say goodbye when it’s time.

Another alternative to the selfie is a picture of manicured feet wherever you go!

I travel solo to find the missing pieces of my soul. Has it ever happened to you that you walk into a room for the first time and it feels like you’ve been there before?
I don’t have a bucket list so I go wherever I feel like or is affordable. I believe that destiny takes me there because each country gives me a missing piece in the puzzle I call myself.
Each city gives meaning to my life.
I come back with little things like new words, recipes, habits, magnets, snow globes and most importantly, I come back with myself. I come back whole.

I end up keeping simple things like a Metro ticket to remind me of "that time when...."


I travel solo to keep that magical feeling from my first flight alive. Even today, after so many flights, I always fiddle with the seatbelt to find the right side of the flap. And every time I look outside an airplane window and see the glittering lights below, I feel like a child in a candy store. I feel tiny. I feel blessed.

Never ceases to amaze me.

* Read more on my tips to travel on budget in The National Newspaper here 
* All photographs are from my travel page on Instagram @suitcasesandsnowglobes 


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