Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 - The Year Of No Limits.

Snapshots of this amazing year (Insta - @suitcasesandsnowglobes)
For the first fifteen years of my life, I lived in a large, long forgotten colonial home in a scarcely populated area of an average North Indian City. With acres of land and a small fleet of help at our disposal, we did not have a concept of neighbours and after school play dates. Once home from school, my brother and I had to invent our own games like climbing trees and chasing animals to keep our selves entertained.

When tired from running around the compound and bored with my dolls, I would role-play my ideal adult life. I would sneak into my father’s office and have important business discussions with empty chairs. Sometimes I would sit inside our black Premier Padmini car and turn the wheel right and left while having life altering conversations about Barbie Dolls with my pretend family.

Once a week my brother and I would climb up the loft in our room, get into life size trunks that smelled of mothballs and play spaceship. Even though I never said it out loud, in my mind, I was on the moon already. 

What a beautiful feeling it is when you truly believe that everything is possible. The certainty, that in the tiny part of the universe that we call our own, anything can be achieved.

In the universe that I inhabited during my growing up years, I was everything I wanted to be but as it happens with each one of us, sooner or later, reality entered my beautiful world. It started with being told that I was not good at spelling. Then I was informed that I couldn’t dodge the ball fast enough so basketball was not for me. Heartbreaks, interview failures etc etc…The list of can’ts and don’ts kept getting longer and deeper as the years flew by.

I took fewer risks and found a comfortable spot that conformed to what everyone else around me told me I could and could not do - believing it to be true.
Over time, that little girl who believed in magic, got lost somewhere in faded photographs.

Decades later, 2014, a year of extremes happened.
So exactly this time last year, in a fragile and extremely low state of mind, I made myself a few promises and one of them was to find myself again.

I made a list of everything I once wanted to do but never ended up doing because I thought I wasn’t good enough. Considering I sucked at it already, how much worse could it get?

In the book – Eat, Pray, Love, Ketut Liyer tells Liz, Balance is not letting anybody love you less than you love yourself.”

So I decided to take a quantum leap and shift focus on someone I left behind long ago. The little girl who hid in trunks and danced without music.
I had to find her again.

In the course of the year, I learned a new language, traveled to places I hadn't thought of before, started to (actually) enjoy cooking, got my health back on track, put my self out there to meet new people, made some amazing new friends, entertained more, drank less, took a lot more challenges at work, started saying NO if it wasn't good enough, went on a lot of first dates, spent time figuring out what I wanted out of a relationship, tricked my body, tricked fear and most importantly, learned to drive.

While I was learning new skills, something was changing at a deeper level. I was falling in love.

A few weeks ago, I stood in the middle of the Beagle Channel in silence. The only sounds around me were that of yawning sea lions and the slight rocking of a wooden boat. I spread out my arms and took a deep breath of the fresh Antarctic air into my lungs and smiled. 24,000 Kilometres away from everything I own and people I know, I was alone but for the first time in years, I was with myself. I was in love again.

I knew then that I had found her. I had found balance.

2015 has been beautiful, blessed and a year about the most important person in my universe – me.

I couldn't have done this without the ones who stood by me in the past year and pushed me to be the best version of myself - you are my rocks. Thank you.

And the one’s who led me to this journey. I can't thank you enough.

As we step into another year together, I hope that you too will try and search for that little girl/boy hiding somewhere deep within you and do everything in your power to chase the dreams she/he ever had.
I hope that you will fill each moment with more love and happiness.

Happy 2016. Happy New Year.

Love and Light,


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why Sri Lanka Stole My Heart and The 5 Things You Must Do There.

The first thought that crossed my mind as I adjusted my weary, desert washed eyes to the lush, bottle green, rain soaked mountains surrounding Colombo was that I needed to come back here. One visit will not be enough.

We have a habit of taking things close to us for granted and travel is no exception. Cities and countries close to where we live are always on the “I can go anytime” list. With so many lovely places to visit, we never end up going to ones that are a short plane right away.

Sri Lanka has been on my ‘someday’ list but with its proximity to India and Dubai, I have always chosen a more exotic destination to visit.

So when my friends Nick and Alex decided to tie the knot in Sri Lanka, I found no excuse to put it at the back burner. I bought a dress to wear to the wedding, booked a flight and waited anxiously to put an out of office and disappear for five days.

Usually before every trip, I spend hours researching the city and making plans (that I never follow) but this time, with Ramadan just getting over and campaigns going live, I figured I will just wing it.
The beauty of traveling is actually in winging it. What you end up remembering are the places you find by chance. Like an old bookstore tucked away in some corner or a cute roadside café.

Sri Lanka did something like that.
It could have been the deafening sound of the ocean, the melting butter type sunsets, the delectable fresh seafood or the people that stole my heart.

The Beach Life :)

Bentota Beach

We spent five days on the West Coast – two in Bentota, one in Galle and two in Unawatuna. Here are my top five things to do in the area

Watch the sunset whilst sipping a cocktail at the Avani loft bar

We stayed at the Avani Bentota Resort and Spa that has a great beach, two pools, an amazing spa, rooms facing the ocean, great food and exceptional staff. The highlight of our stay was however sipping cocktails at the loft bar and listening to the waves make havoc on the beach.
If you are someone like me who is a sucker for sunsets, lazy jazz sort of tunes, passion fruit mojitos and free canapés (the staff kept bringing us free food!) – this place is for you.

(Avani Bentona Resort and Spa - http://www.avanihotels.com/bentota/ room rates starting from AED 470 for a standard room. Massages start from 250 AED for 80 minutes)

My Lovely Room at Avani Bentota Resort and Spa 

The View From My Room

Visit a turtle hatchery

The west coast of Sri Lanka is home to beautiful sea turtles. There are hatcheries all along the coast and they do some amazing work with the sea turtles and in the general cleanliness of the beach. If you are lucky, you could release baby turtles into the ocean with a silent prayer that your baby survives and then after a trip around the globe comes back years later exactly where you left it to lay its eggs.
The hatchery guide will take you around and show you turtles that are waiting to be released, turtles that have been found after accidents in the ocean, turtles for research and give you a brief background on the efforts these families put into the upkeep of the hatchery.
The entry is a donation at most hatcheries that goes into purchasing food for the turtles as well as eggs from black marketers.

Cute (not so) Little Turtle  

Take a cruise along Madu River

In just 5000 Sri Lankan Rupees, you can hire a boat for yourself and cruise along the sixty-four islands and large mangroves of the Madu River, just a half an hour drive from Bentota. 
The river is calm and the guide will happily do an island hop if you want. We went to four different islands. We saw locals grow cinnamon, got our feet chewed by humongous fish (at a rate of 1.5$ it has to be the cheapest pedicure I have ever got), saw how prawn farming is done and visited an island with a small Buddhist temple where a monk blessed us for good health.
On our way back, our guide encouraged us to ride the motorboat and I finally discovered what my horrible sense of left and right direction is good for. Seriously considering investing in a boat now!

(Captains Boat House - http://www.gangabadaasiriya.com/ Two hour boat ride for 2 people on a private boat AED 150 (Excluding tips) Donation at the Buddhist temple AED 30, Fish Pedicure  AED 6)
Cruising Among Mangroves 
Cheapest Pedicure Ever 
The Buddhist Temple Island  

Climb up Galle Fort and watch the world go by

Formerly a Dutch colony, Galle is a sleepy little town that seems to have never fully woken up from its colonial inhabitation. Cobbled streets, shuttered windows, cafes in verandahs, art galleries and old churches create a charming atmosphere.
Walk up the Galle fort, a UNESCO world heritage site not only for the stunning views of the Indian Ocean and its history but to watch a match without a ticket at the cricket stadium below (The cricket crazy Indian in me could not stop the excitement of watching the on-going India-Sri Lanka test series)
For souvenirs and quirky stuff check out the gallery called ‘Stick No Bills’ I went a little crazy here and picked up tons of post cards that I plan to frame soon.

(Galle fort -  http://gallefortguide.com/– Entrance is free, Stick no bills - http://sticknobillsonline.com/)

Views From Galle Fort 
An Old Church In Galle

Take a time out and watch a jaw-dropping sunset

There are a few things in life that compare to sinking your feet into soft, powder like sand and watch the sky change myriad colours for that half an hour before the sun melts into the ocean for the day and if you are lucky like I was, you will also get to witness a beautiful bride take her first steps into a new life with this magical backdrop. (And shed a few happy tears!)

(As all the beautiful things in life, this is free)

I loved Sri Lanka for these experiences and so much more - The really nice local beer, seafood, clean roads and pristine beaches but most importantly it was the attitude, generosity and honestly of the local people that truly touched my heart.

A piece of paradise awaits just a four-hour plane ride away. I can’t wait to go back. What are you waiting for?

(Emirates and Sri Lankan fly direct to Colombo everyday of the week from Dubai. For a cheaper option – Book on Fly Dubai)

Monday, August 31, 2015

What Is A Five Year Plan Anyway?

In a life that I once inhabited, I knew someone who was the epitome of righteousness for people around me. He was the person to look up to, emulate and go to for advice on life, career and all of that. He spoke a lot – mostly things that everyone already knew but did it with such an air of authority that made everyone sit and listen in awe. Yes, you guessed it right. He was a consultant.

On one particularly long drawn evening over drinks with friends and family, the topic of discussion turned to my future. He was of course, leading the conversation stressing that if I didn't have a five-year plan; I was more or less wasting my life.

As the evening progressed and my self-esteem steadily regressed, I realized that I didn't have a clue what the next five years would bring for me, what I wanted to do with my life or where I wanted to be. I didn't even have a one-month plan.
Was my life set for failure?

In the days that followed that eventful evening, I wasted tons of paper writing down plans for my future. I wanted to be a CEO, I wanted to do an MBA, I wanted to make lots and lots of money, blah, blah blah…. In the years that followed that eventful evening, my set answer for the interview question – ‘Where do you see yourself five years from now?’ was a well-rehearsed, politically correct answer that always got me the job.

The truth is, all of it was bullshit. I would always come back from an interview with a bitter taste in my mouth because I knew I had been bluffing. I didn't know what my plan was. I was just getting better and better at making up a perfect picture people could buy.

Ten years, five homes, four jobs, three relationships and one sky dive later, I don't think I ever will. None of those perfect plans have ever worked out and it makes me wonder if the consultant was right.

Is an unplanned life a wasted one?

The thing about living an oblivious, unplanned life is that time passes by in sections – sometimes fast and sometimes slow instead of major milestones and rewards. You blink an eye and a year is gone and then another. Life becomes a series of threads stitched together with stories and adventures that sometimes make for interesting conversation over drinks. You remember feelings rather than actual events, bits and pieces of people and places that crossed your path.

Like the time when you laughed so hard that you almost died of a stomachache.
The look in his eyes when you just started dating and how it made you go so weak in the knees, the smell of fresh pasta in a tiny street side café in Italy, sunsets, walking on the grass barefoot and then lying down to watch the sun dance amongst the leaves for hours.
You remember contours of a face and forget the face itself and cheesy lines from books that you quote in real life. The regret of not getting the extra scoop of ice cream because someone mentioned ‘calories’, the sound of church bells, songs and Michael Jackson dance steps. You remember pain, sorrow and joy.

You forget the promotion letter you received that is thrown somewhere at the back of your bedside drawer, long conversations on your performance at work with the boss, the traffic delays, the clients, the campaigns, the dress you spent a fortune on and the pair of shoes you so loved once.

And is it worth it?

Perhaps it is. One day five or ten years down the line in the middle of a random conversation with a stranger you look back it all comes together. You have grown up. You have changed. You don't have the dollars and the title but you have something else. Something bigger.

You realize you can finally say no to things – social invitations, people who are ruthless, negativity, consultants who try to coach you and boring dates.
Sitting and drinking wine in a quiet restaurant makes more sense than getting beer spilled over yourself at a concert and when you are there your biggest concern is if the loos are close enough.

You spend money on experiences and understand the importance of comfortable footwear, breakfast and vitamins. You forgive easily because keeping a grudge is a lot of effort and brain time. You are comfortable with your quirky, unique, unplanned self.

It hasn't been a wasted life.

I would love to go back in time and tell the consultant that I am glad I never had a five-year plan.

It isn’t about what is yet to come but a spark of epiphany that occurs in the present and flashes everything that has transpired in front of your eyes validating that you exactly are where you ought to be in the now.

It is about the five years that went by. The rest is just coincidence that will occur sometime in the future. And when it does, I will just wing it! (Like always)

*Image: Google. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

These Nine Things Will Happen When You Emerge From Heartbreak.

I grew up believing in fairy tales. When I saw him for the first time entering a coffee shop looking for me, I knew I had found my prince charming. He was everything I could have asked for and more. I fell head over heels and was swept away even before our first date ended six hours later.

I had never been this high and happy. I was so involved in my blissful state that I didn’t anticipate a fall – ever.

So one day, out of the blue when he sat on my couch and told me he was leaving me, a sense of numbness spread across my entire being. I could not understand the reason for this sudden track change.

When someone you love decides to walk away from you, the world under your feet shifts. Cracks don’t just form around you but in your very core. When people die, they are gone for real. You have to accept the inevitable. But when someone choses to become a stranger – it always lingers, as you never really know why.

A relationship that once bought out the best version of yourself suddenly makes you a horrible person. Lost, unaware and in no control of the situation, you become someone you cannot relate with.

I spent the last one-year in a bubble. I took a thick duvet, covered my face and just lay in the warmth. But eventually I started to pick up parts of myself that lay scattered and tried to join them together.

As it slowly vaporizes from your life, a relationship teaches you a lot about yourself and everything around you. I experienced denial, lots and lots of anger – at him and then at myself, pain, hurt, acceptance, forgiveness and finally, a true sense of gratitude.

Even though it was not my longest relationship when measured in time, it perhaps was the deepest. Getting in it taught me a lot and getting out of it, taught me even more.

Break ups can be hard. For the ones going through the pain, I wish you all the strength. It is not easy but I can tell you this –

Even though today seems bleak, there will be a tomorrow when the sun will shine.

You can walk in the shadows for a long time but one day, you will have the courage to walk in the light again. 

Each day will make you stronger and smarter. There is no need to be hard on your self.

You will make new friends who will welcome you in their lives without judgment or doubt.

The moment you start letting go and shutting one door, new windows will open.

Slowly but surely, memories will fade. You will visit them rarely and even though you will wonder if that person still exists, new memories will form.

Life will pass by in a moment and when it ends, you will smile. Because even if was for a brief   moment, you found a love that shifted the world under your feet.

You will never forget the one you loved, but you will find reasons to love again.

And then one day, someone will sit on the same couch and tell you what you have always wanted to hear. That day, I hope you trust love just one more time again*.

(*Inspired by the beautiful quote by Maya Angelou – “Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”)

Image courtesy – Wordporn


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