Life, photography, travel

Nature through my eyes

Life is when surrounded by nature.

Its bliss to wake up to the chirping of birds, 

And not to the honking of crazy berserks. 

Always wondered about Nature’s marvel, 

Whether a chivalrous man or some pretty damsel. 

I now know for sure it’s a stunning dame, 

As it loves dressing up and adores the fame. 

Sun and moon take turns to adorn the charm, 

Just basking in its vibrant hues keeps one calm. 

Horizon is not where the two ends meet, 

It’s there just to give us the visual treat. 

Me and my camera are in love with nature, 

We attempt to add its frames to our treasure. 

She 🌎 loved getting “all dressed up” and he was madly in love with her. So he ☀️ himself became her make-up and gave all the hues, to colour-up her mornings, evenings and brighten up the days.
It was only when they parted for a while they came even closer … 
Boundaries couldn’t keep him away from her, he simply spread his wings and flew over to catch her glimpse.
Friends forever !!!
She painted his world silver, made things look just a little more perfect and alive more than ever….
humor, Life

Lockdown Diaries

Last 4-5 months of this pandemic has taught us quite a few new terms, like “Quarantine”, “Social distancing”, “Sanitise”, etc. Another phrase which has been trending is “New Normal”, whatever we want to do or apply in the wake of current situation is a “New Normal” and of-course business meetings can’t conclude without applying this new phrase. Interestingly the word “Positive”, which used to be very frequently utilised to encourage people, be it in formal meetings or informal discussions, has suddenly become the most “feared” word lately 😊, for all the obvious reasons. 

The scenario not only has enhanced our vocabulary but it has amusingly impacted our family conversations also. Earlier we would discuss things like –  

new movie to watchnext family holiday,  

new washing machineschool syllabus,  

trafficpollution, etc  

and now the topics have transitioned into –  

how to sanitise vegetables? after how long is it safe to touch the courier?  

whether to use N-95 mask or a regular one?   

which fruits boost the immunity most? and so on… 

Besides these topics there is another big subject, which is a considerable matter of discussion and that is “house cleaning”. Now since I am operating from home and not getting “tired” because of not commuting to office (my only saviour has gone 😉), I need to actively participate into it. But a task can’t be given to you, just because you are available to do it.

After a lot of deliberation, I was assigned “dusting” job, which precedes brooming. As dusting is a part of “cleaning”, it has to be done in the morning only and therefore I have to schedule my morning activities in a way that I am able to complete this task before I login for my office work. After a few initial days of skipping it, because of mostly my reluctance and blaming it on early morning “Zoom calls” or getting up late, it eventually became a part of my daily routine. 

I had thought of “dusting” as a very small and trivial activity and hence assumed it would not take much of time. I thought it will be just about the centre-table, dining-set, TV cabinet and a bit of here and there. Who knew, that “here and there” would prove to be the most time-consuming portion. Anyway, I had to start so I began with what I had “presumed” to be my centre of activity. However, as I got into this, I unexpectedly found it to grow in size and I must say the growth was quite rapid and unusual. To my surprise, every nook and corner had a lot of dust, but that’s not what startled me. What came as a revelation was, I would clean the dust every single day and the next day it’d come back in the same quantity and sometimes even more. I felt like I was fighting an enemy and my opponent was fully enjoying it and coming back with full force every day. 

Every morning I would take more time than the previous day, each time discovering new “dust hubs” like above the almirah, behind the bed, on the top of the doors, behind the sofa, on the ceiling fans and whoa! the list went on and on. Maybe I was taking my job too seriously 😉.  

I assumed that the onset of monsoon would bring some relief, as rains usually settle the dust by making the sand moist and hence making my job easier. I started praying for an early monsoon like a farmer waiting for the rains to come and irrigate the crops. Finally, after what seemed like a very long wait, rain-gods showed up, however situation on the “dust front” didn’t improve 🙁.  

Now, even the monsoon is almost over and I haven’t found the solution yet. I am still wondering where does all the dust come from? I am afraid when “Mumbai Monsoons” can’t solve this problem who can…? 

**** 

Life, travel

Holiday

It’s been exactly one year since my last family holiday. We had travelled to Ooty (Tamil Nadu, India) and stayed there for about 5 days and believe me those 5 days were so much full of fun, laughter and enjoyment.

View of Nilgiris with “Toy Train”

It’s such a beautiful hill station and rightly named as “the queen of hills”. We all had so much fun that even after a year its memories are absolutely fresh and vivid. I clearly remember the excitement we all had, right from the time when we were shopping for our vacation to the rainy morning of 1st Sep 2019, when we finally commenced our journey. There are so many memories from that holiday that we as a family keep going back to; from going for a walk in the rains, to visiting the tribal village, to shooting birds (with a camera 😊) and many more.  

Our flight was scheduled to reach Coimbatore at 11:20 am, but owing to a late start from Mumbai, we touched-down at 11:50. Since Coimbatore is a smaller airport and therefore cabs were not readily available. After waiting for half-hour, the cab arrived and we made ourselves comfortable in the car and excitedly started our second leg of the journey. We took a break at around 2pm for lunch and enjoyed “authentic” South Indian food, served on banana leaves.   

It took us close to 4.5 hours to reach Ooty from Coimbatore. We all were really tired as we were travelling since morning; nonetheless, the moment we stepped out of the car, we were greeted by the cool breeze of the mountains which brought a pleasant smile to our faces. We were welcomed at the resort with a warm and refreshing lemon tea. Within a minute’s time we all felt completely recharged, I don’t know whether it was the “Tea” or the “beautiful weather” of Ooty, which took our tiredness away so quickly.  

We were very clear with our holiday plans. Even though we had about 5 nights and 6 days with us, we intended to be in Ooty only, for the next five days and therefore we hadn’t planned to cover any other nearby location like Coorg, Mysore, etc., as our idea was simply to unwind and spend next couple of days there only, exploring just the nearby spots or maybe lazying around in the resort itself. We came across a lot of surprised faces when we told them about our idea of staying at one place for 5 days, as if we were committing a big mistake by staying at one location for these many days. I think Rain-Gods were also listening to our thoughts and they took us quite seriously as it continuously kept raining throughout our stay 😊, because of which we anyway couldn’t have gone to any other location.  

Beautiful flowers in the resort

Fortunately, the property was really amazing and flora inside the resort itself was no less than a botanical garden. Our favourite place in the resort was the holiday activity centre, which each one of us enjoyed fully. My daughter loved playing carrom or air-hockey with her grandmother while two of us sharpened our Table-Tennis skills.  

Adyar Ananda Bhawan

Despite non-stop rains, we managed to explore a couple of nearby spots. Although all the locations in Ooty were so very beautiful, however it is not possible to move ahead without mentioning a few of them, like the vibrant botanical garden whose roots go back to 1848, mesmerising “Dolphin’s nose”, serene Tea-gardens of Coonoor and the slow and romantic “Toy -Train”, which gives you the view of “Divine Nilgiris”. Apart from the majestic locations of Ooty, one more thing that I and my wife very fondly remember is the amazing dessert, “Kesari Bath” that we had at Adyar Ananda Bhawan. Every time we crossed the restaurant, we made sure to stop-by and have it, we convinced ourselves by repeating this statement to us” Holiday calories doesn’t count”. It was so really delicious that even while writing also I could feel its taste in my mouth. 

Now, about a little over 4 months being home-bound, we as a family have got a chance to spend some quality time with each other, since a lot of time is being saved that I used to spend commuting to and from office. Although an important aspect of a holiday is spending some quality time with family, but that’s not all, I believe the beautiful surroundings contribute a lot to it. I feel I am quite fortunate to have travelled with my family to a lot of beautiful locations like Shimla, Nainital, Mussoorie, Goa, Tehri Garhwal, Mahabaleshwar, Ooty and many more. I believe every holiday gives us lot of memories to be cherished forever and further strengthens our bond. I reckon, similar to getting our cars serviced at constant intervals, it is quite important to take a break from our regular routine and give each other a quality time at a “beautiful location”. 

View from Dolphin’s Nose

***

Life

The Other Side of the Coin

We all have been experiencing a lot of things which have changed around us owing to the difficult times that the entire humanity is going through. While we continue to fight this invisible enemy, I am writing this to share a couple of things that I have come to realise in last 4-5 months of this pandemic. Besides all the sad things we have been facing like financial difficulties, emotional imbalance, panic attacks, etc., there are indeed a lot of things that have happened which interestingly fall on the positive side. Since this is a disease, problems and difficulties are bound to come, however, as they say “every coin has two faces”, this one also has given lot of things to be grateful about. 

During this period, we celebrated our wedding anniversary, my wife’s birthday, my daughter’s birthday, Raksha-Bandhan (Indian festival about celebrating the bond between a brother and a sister). Though we missed being with our loved ones, shopping and dressing up for the occasion and all the other things of the likes that we correlate a celebration with; one new and a very interesting thing that I experienced is that we spent our resources like time and energy on purely the celebration and nothing else. Things like handmade cards, homemade dishes were in the forefront and the best part was that we spent and devoted the entire day completely to ourselves. “Did I say I missed the cake?”, No I didn’t miss it, as these are the perks of being married to an excellent baker. 

One interesting realisation is about the “choice of vegetables” for meals which I used to be quite vocal in complaining about. Now since I am the one who usually goes out for vegetables and interestingly, I also end up buying similar sort of veggies, I no more have the luxury to express my displeasure. I initially thought the idea of only me going out for these errands had a larger and noble objective to minimise number of people going out, however, after a while I realised the hidden agenda and now, I can very well relate with the analogy of teachers appointing the most disturbing student as the monitor. 

Given the kind of profile I am into, I was literally living out of my suitcase; in fact, there used to be times where I was travelling for about 20 days in a month. Although I love travelling, but eventually it becomes tiring when you come back only to change the packing. Although it’s been more than four years that I am staying in my current house, nonetheless, I hardly would have got a chance to socialise in the neighbourhood, leave alone making friends. And I am sure lot of people in my society also would not know me. One fateful day after being into the house arrest for almost 3 months, all thanks to COVID-19; I planned of stepping out for a small walk, “of-course with all the precautions” in the mind. While I was enjoying my evening stroll after ages, of course in my society compound itself, I noticed two gentlemen interacting with each other, maintaining the proximity, so as to ensure “social distancing”. I greeted them and tried to strike a conversation with them and to my delight they were pretty welcoming. Within next 2-3 minutes, I also found myself chit-chatting with them comfortably. We had a great time together discussing lot of things like current situation, our surroundings, movies and what not. What started for me as a random meet, became a weekly activity and now I wait for Sunday evenings to meet with my new friends. This encounter is very close to my heart as I got my inspiration to “write” from it. I love reading books and would sometimes write also, however never thought of expressing my thoughts with a larger group at a platform like this. Although my wife had been pushing me to write for a very long time, I don’t know what, but something was stopping me. But a book written by my “Sunday evening friend”, who’s now a very good friend, acted as a tipping point and here I am sharing my experiences and realisations with you all. 

If I put all those difficulties that we all are treading through because of the pandemic, there are lots of positives and learnings also. It has given me the time to rekindle my own relationship with myself. When I look back, I realise that it has given a chance to spend more quality time with my family, which I was missing even when I was not travelling. This scenario has given me an opportunity to interact with the people who were just “some familiar faces” until sometime back. It certainly is a difficult time for all of us, in terms of its emotional and financial impact, but that is something beyond our control, what is in our control is to look at the positive aspects it has given. 

***

Life

Do we really get tired or it’s just a state of mind?

Imagine, it’s Monday morning, alarm bell rings at 5:30 am, with your eyes still closed, you drowsily move your hand and after dragging yourself a bit, your hand finally reaches to stop the alarm. Although it’s time to get up and start moving ahead with your routine activities like a small work-out, cup of coffee, newspaper, getting ready and finally off to office, you still lay in bed as you don’t feel like going to work today. You feel really exhausted and even before you realise, a chain of thoughts gets triggered in your mind,  

Should I go to office or take a day-off?“,  

I am badly tired”, 

I am putting so much of hard-work, I truly deserve some rest”,  

I am really exhausted”,   

It’s fine to take a day-off sometimes”  

You mentally decide to take some rest, as you really had a hectic week. You plan to take a day-off in order to refresh yourself and gather some energy. The more you think about your strenuous week and the way you had to really slog to complete your project, you feel all the more tired. While you lay in bed with this self-talk, you suddenly realise that you are so badly tired and can’t even gather the courage to move from your bed. You decide to call your boss to inform that you won’t be coming today and a minute later you finally you pick up the phone…  

Sounds Similar ???

Why do we get tired?“, I sometimes wonder……

Is it because of the physical and/or mental fatigue, that we experience after a frenetic day? 

Or, is it just a state of mind? 

If it is just because of the exhaustion that we experience after a hectic day, then how come we suddenly start oozing up with energy if we get a phone call from our best childhood buddy even if we have just entered home after a long day or if it’s a weekend and we have plans to go out

We binge-watch our favourite series for hours together and we still feel energetic but only an hour of working on a presentation or some data analysis reminds us of the screen time going higher and we start feeling our eyes burning

We get bored and feel sleepy after reading a document pertaining to the terms and conditions of the insurance policy that we have just purchased, however, we want to finish an interesting thriller novel in one sitting

Our exhaustion from the entire day melts away just after having a look at the innocent smile on our son/daughter’s face. 

What does all this suggest? 

It means tiredness is more of a psychological thing than a physical thing. Having said so, I am in no way discounting the efforts that we all put while commuting to our workplaces or while working on a challenging project or handling daily chores and so on. We all work really hard towards a lot of things and we do get tired also, nonetheless, up to a “great extent” it is psychological than anything else. 

So, what does it mean? 

Does it mean, if we are in control, we can switch-on and switch-off our mental states? 

In my opinion, the answer is “yes”. If we can prep our mind not to get overwhelmed by the challenges that we have handled “today” or the challenges that we are expecting to face “tomorrow”. I believe the key lies in training our mind to live in the “NOW”, the “present moment”, rather than living the stress of the day all over again or thinking and getting anxious about what’s going to happen tomorrow. This doesn’t mean that we should not plan things, it is very important to plan our goals but as they say “journeys are often more enjoyable than the destination”, therefore, we must learn to enjoy every moment of the journey rather than getting astounded by the complexity of the final goal.  

Robin Sharma also quoted beautifully in his bestseller, The Monk who Sold his Ferrari, 

The past is water under the bridge and the future is a distant sun on the horizon of your imagination. The most important moment is NOW”

If we can train our mind to step away from this “time-trap” of living either in the past experiences or in the anticipation of future events, we can enjoy each and every moment with almost similar energy and it will surely add more life to our lives. 

*** 

Uncategorized

Embrace the Change

Our lives go through many changes from time to time, sometimes pleasant and sometimes not-so-great, nonetheless, this is something completely unavoidable. Rather, the more we want to move away from these changes the more we find ourselves closer to them.

Moving from a small city of Dehradun, which happens to be my hometown also, to a super-fast metro city of Mumbai was a 360 degree change for me. Not that I hadn’t lived outside my hometown ever, in fact I had earlier stayed and worked in Delhi for about 7 years, but staying in your hometown really spoils you. There are so many things that you have to let-go off like, reaching your office in about 10-15 mins. of drive, catching-up with your old-buddies on weekends or visiting old food joints that you have grown up with; there are so many things about your hometown that really really spoils you. One has all the more reasons to get spoilt when the hometown is Dehradun, which has a beautiful weather as it is just about an hour’s drive from Mussoorie, “The queen of hills”. 

Whenever we move to a new location, we all have our fears and anxieties and I was no different. I had lots of apprehensions in terms of the language, the environment, the culture, etc. I had heard a lot of things about Mumbaikars (locals of Mumbai) not liking the people coming from the northern part of the country. These perceptions were not because any of my friends or relatives had shared their own bad experience or something, rather due to what I had heard from people, read in newspapers or read over internet. I had heard that the language divide is a big divide and I may not be able to survive beyond a few months since I don’t speak their language. 

Any kind of a change brings forth both the things, “anxiety as well as excitement” and this was quite a big change as it was going to not only impact “my life” but my family’s life also. It was not only me who had to adjust to the fast life of Mumbai, but my elderly mother, my adorable 4-year-old daughter and my ever-supporting wife. 

I had to make a choice between all the “advices” that I was getting and the “exposure” that I could foresee, which will surely help me become a better professional. Situation becomes difficult to handle when you have multiple things going on in your head. Nonetheless, I have always believed that depending on which thought you give importance to, it grows up to take a larger shape. Therefore, without paying any heed to all these, I finalised to move to Mumbai and take on life as it comes. 

After landing in Mumbai and stepping out of the airport, the first thing that I experienced was the whiff of humid air hitting my face and all the positivity that I had built to convince myself became shaky and I asked myself, “Amit, have you taken the right decision?”. But now it was too late to think of anything but a U-turn. 

Now it’s been more than 4 years that I am living here in Mumbai (Navi Mumbai to be precise) and fortunately I have never experienced any kind of trouble in terms of language or culture. Any location for that matter is different from the other one and for our country as they say, it is a land of varied cultures and diverse languages. Mumbai, despite being such a densely populated city, accommodates everyone with love and affection. Contrary to the general perception, that lots of people attempted to make me also trust, people here are pretty supportive and quite helpful. 

There are a lot of learnings from this experience of mine, however, I am sharing two of the most important of them. 

Firstly, “don’t believe in perceptions, go for the facts”. Ironically, the people who were advising me not to move, had no personal experience of living here, neither any of their family members had ever stayed in Mumbai. 

The second learning that I could gather is, if you face any change, “accept and embrace the change fully”.  It puts your mind at ease, which in turn makes you feel comfortable and things around you start appearing beautiful. Science also supports the same, as Newton’s third law of motion states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”, in other words the more we resist the more we find ourselves in trouble”. As a natural human reaction, we resist the change and I believe that resistance is the root of all those worries and concerns that we all go through. In order to be accepted, one must accept the change first of all. It is like a mirror “If you look at the mirror with a smile on your face, the mirror is bound to smile back at you.” 

Life

What’s your “High”

I was reading this book called “When strangers meet” by Kio Stark, gifted to me by a colleague, who also happens to be a very good friend of mine. The name itself was so intriguing that I couldn’t stop reading the book. It has some genuinely nice insights about interacting with strangers.

I reached home from work and started packing my bags, as I was supposed to travel to Munnar (Kerala) for a 4-day workshop. My flight to Cochin (Kerala) was booked for the next morning and in order to avoid any hassles in the morning, I pre-booked the cab thereby allowing myself to sleep for 10 more minutes; morning sleep is truly the most precious. Luckily, the cab arrived on time. I boarded and made myself comfortable on the rear seat. A lovely song, in fact one of my favorites, from a hindi movie was playing in the car. To be precise, “Sach keh raha hai deewana” from “Rehna hai tere dil me” was playing. Since, I was travelling to an exotic location Iike Munnar, I was anyway in a very good mood and this song added to the glee. Just by entering the car, I started dreaming about the tea-gardens of Munnar and its lovely weather. 

I thought of interacting with the cab-driver, just to make sure that I am putting my learnings from the book into practice. To start the conversation, I asked him where does he live in Mumbai, to which a quick response came, “Mahim” and then there was silence again. I was expecting that this question itself will initiate the conversation, but I was wrong; dynamics of every human interaction are different. So, I started to think about something else to keep the conversation going. Then a thought hit my mind, of going into reverse psychology, so that he’s bound to ask me a question. I told him to stop the music and to my delight, the plan worked, he asked, 

kya hua saab, aapko gaana pasand nahi aaya” (what happened sir? did you not like the song?). 

Now I got a chance to keep the conversation going, I told him, 

nahi nahi, ye bahut achcha gaana hai, balki mera favorite hai”, (No, the song is really nice and in fact one of my favorites)

My response completely took him by surprise. Baffled to hear this, he said,

arre agar pasand hai to fir band kyu karwa diya”, (if you really like it then why did you ask me to stop playing)

I told him that because I wanted to talk to him and music was the hinderance, that’s why I asked to stop the music. Hearing what I said, he got even more puzzled.

While now the conversation had started, I asked him, where did he belong to, as in where was his “hometown”, to which he answered “Begampur, a village near Allahabad”. Just to give him a little more ease, I shared with him that my hometown is also in the northern part of India and it is in Dehradun. By now he got a little comfortable talking to me and we discussed lots of things ranging from Mumbai rains, Marine drive, Vada pav, etc. I think we were around Chembur, when he stopped the car and got out to get pan-masala for himself. He came back in a minute’s time with his mouth full of some strong-smelling pan-masala. I really don’t like pan-masala and have always had this question as to why people consume it. 

Since we already had got comfortable interacting with each other, I couldn’t stop myself asking him about this habit of chewing pan-masala, however his response left me thinking even after I got down from the cab.

He replied by saying, “this is something that keeps him going”, and somehow, he already anticipated my response to it and therefore continued by saying, he knows this isn’t good for his health but anyway we all have our drives and passions which not necessarily are good. Now I guess, it was his chance to take me by surprise. I really got perplexed and asked him to explain what exactly he meant. 

He answered by saying, when you booked this car you had a choice of booking “Uber go” also which is comparatively less expensive and you could have saved money, but you didn’t do that, rather you went ahead and booked “Uber Premier”, why because travelling in a luxury car is something that gives you a kick. Same goes for me, consuming tobacco gives me a high. We all have our drives, for you maybe luxury or comfort is something that gives you a high and for me it is tobacco.

To be candid, I was not prepared for this kind of an answer. Although, I completely disagree with his justification of consuming something as harmful as tobacco, but the fact remains that he left me thinking about it. 

Yes, we all have our passions and drives and there’s always something that we do because of certain emotion attached to it and that emotion could be anything from luxury to comfort to status, etc. I think we must be mindful of all the activities that we keep doing as they slowly become our habits and before we even realize we become addicted to them. Its good to pamper yourself, however it is also of great importance to understand, is it actually pampering or does it harm you physically, financially or may be mentally.

More often than not, we get muddled between 

what is a passion and what is an addiction?”.

Actually, there is a very thin line of distinction between these two. In fact, any passion can turn into addiction. Addiction as we define it, “is a repeated behavior even though it is harmful.” I guess, if in doubt, we must ask ourselves, “given the harm, am I willing to stop?” and If the answer is no, “you are addicted”.