ANDAMAN – Swaraj Dweep (Havelock Island)

All aboard the Makruzz !

Makruzz Booking | Ferry/Cruise From Port Blair to Havelock, Neil Island to  Port Blair |

We felt we were on a plane than on a ferry service (1150 rupees per ticket). It took us 2 hours to get to Havelock Island, or Swaraj Dweep as it is now called, from Port Blair (where we had a great time exploring the Cellular Jail and Ross Island. You can read all about it here)

With so much to eat (at the café) and so many people and things to observe, we enjoyed every minute of the ride.

We took a cab from the port to Barefoot resort. This place is far away from the din of the crowd; It is clean. The staff is polite. The beach is gorgeous!

After we checked in, we were served coconut water in coconut itself! We were requested to take off our footwear and walk around barefoot inside the lobby and the restaurant. (As the name suggests) . The world-famous Radhanagar Beach is just a short walk through a jungle of gigantic trees from this resort.

The trees were so majestic they looked like gods themselves had come down to meditate or to view the splendor of radhanagar. We were awestruck as the ‘curtain’ drew and the first glance of the beach was before us.

I felt so grateful for the blessing of being there amidst such serene beauty. I spent a lot of time in reflection.

Food was great at barefoot. We got complimentary breakfast but for other meals we had to pay a lot, so we explored eateries outside the premises and ate at the resort only when we didn’t have another option.

‘I’m living my dream’ I kept thinking as Chrystal (maybe it was her stage name) sang jazzy music and serenaded the visitors in the lobby at night. It felt so peaceful.

We saw a million stars in the sky when Prasad and I decided to take a walk by the ocean at night!

Time moved at its own sweet pace here.

We got into a motorboat one day and drove to the Elephant beach. The price we paid (around 5k) included snorkeling. But it wasn’t such a great experience. First we had to wait too long for our turn. And when it did come, we were taken in pairs and were told that if we wanted to explore further, to go deep-sea diving, we had to pay 1000 rupees per person or 2000 rupees per couple. What a big scam it all was! First of all they weren’t upfront about what options we had and how much everything costed. And later kept adding one charge after another. So please do your research and demand to be given all the details before you go. The place and the experience of looking at coral reefs is not to be missed though!

Be prepared to find yourself surrounded by honeymooners on this beach! At one point I felt like I’d throw up if I saw any more red bangles and coochie-cooing!

The next day we covered the distance to the Elephant beach on foot instead of taking a longer route on boat (We didn’t know it was at a walkable distance! See… Do your research before you go!). First we took a cab to a point on the road to the jetty. Then we trekked a hilly but not difficult terrain full of hard rocks and dry leaves. Accompanied by the calls of parrots and pigeons and the whirr of motorboats we made our way to the sandy beach. It was prickly hot. We played in the water and munched on fresh fruits and other snacks available at the stalls nearby. We wanted to give snorkeling another try after last time’s disappointment.

We wanted to go further into the ocean. So we paid 4k for the 5 of us.

It was a jungle in the depths of the ocean. Madhav was too small to accompany us. First my in-laws went and came back and they couldn’t stop talking about the experience. Then Medha, Prasad and I went together with atleast 3 guides. They strapped jackets , tubes and masks on us and took us floating. We spotted pink and blue parrot fish, sea urchins, zebrafish, starfish and clownfish under the turquoise water. Colorful corals with clamshells breathing in and out were the next to make an appearance. I tried stretching my hands to feel the aquatic animals whooshing past and to set my feet on the cool smoothness of rocks underneath but I couldn’t move a muscle.

I had the best time!

We were sunburnt from spending all our days on Elephant Beach.

As we made our way back from havelock Island (it looked and felt more havelock than a swaraj dweep to me for some reason) on Makruzz I didn’t feel too sad to leave. I’d had my fill of the island.

I was looking forward to the last 2 days of our vacation.

To be continued…

ANDAMAN- Cellular Jail & Ross Island

This post (& the next few) will be about a memorable trip we took 2 years ago. Thanks to copious amounts of notes I took in my journal, I’m able to recollect those memories and write them here. Prices, rules and the availability of hotels and services mentioned might have changed in these 2 years.

It took 2 hours of flying over Bay of Bengal to get to Andaman from Hyderabad. We got out of the tiny Port Blair Airport to a stinking hot climate in March, which is not the right time to travel there maybe, but that’s the time we get to travel due to holidays at school. Anyways, nothing bothers me as much when I’m traveling!

We stayed at Comfort inn, located quite close to the airport. The rooms were luxurious and comfortable. Food was pretty good but the service was sluggish.

On our first day we visited the cellular jail built by the British to hold Indian Political activists and Freedom fighters in prison.

I think rickshaws are the best way to get around in the city of Port Blair. We had booked our slots for the light and sound show beforehand, but we didn’t have tickets to explore the place which has a museum inside. The ticket counter had closed for the day. Thankfully, the guard still let us in.

Model of the jail
Inside one of the cells

I can’t express how it felt to see the huge expanse of the building that formed the jail. Just a sweeping glance of the dark cells as I entered the premises ran a chill down my spine. I could feel my eyes getting ready to burst into tears any moment. Kaalapani, as this episode in history is called, because it is surrounded by water on all sides, where no prisoner could escape alive and where some of our renowned freedom fighters were brutally tortured by the British. (Please read this brilliant article to know better) was an eye-opener.

The light and sound show at night presented the struggle, the humiliation, the despair the inmates went through during their solitary confinement in such a barbaric place. What all our forefathers (and foremothers) had to go through for us to be able to live in relative comfort now! I hope we don’t take our lives for granted!

Stories of Veer Savarkar , Mahavir Singh and riots like Mopla, Lahore and so many others that I learnt about as we walked inside the museum, stories that, I’m sure we didn’t come across in our history books (or even if they did, were not dwelt upon much), simply brought goosebumps and so much anger. I felt so achingly patriotic at that moment. This is something no Indian should miss visiting.

The next day we went to visit the Ross Island. A motorboat called Aryanrider, drove us from Aberdeen Dock to Ross Island for 2100 rupees. It wasn’t 10 yet but it was sweltering hot. After a short ride, we were on the island, called ” Paris of the East”. The British who tortured Indians to their bones on Port Blair went home to Ross Island for a luxurious life. They had everything to keep them entertained – swimming pool, bakery, clubhouse, tennis courts, a ballroom, church etc. The Island is now mostly deserted. It bore most of the brunt of Mother nature’s rage during Tsunami and protected Port Blair and other places from being hit. Only the tentacles-like roots of Ficus trees seem to be holding the crumbling remains of this once-glittery ‘paradise’.

Roots holding the building from falling apart

Even though it was quite a shock to find it at such close proximity to the cellular jail, the place reminded me of simple, sultry summer days of my childhood. The ocean surrounding the island was so tempting, it would have been nice to take a dip in it to escape the heat!

To be continued….

Dear New Mama,

Do you feel like you aren’t getting a moment’s rest? No time to take a shower, to eat something without being interrupted by a sudden wailing? And sleep? What’s that?? How was life before a baby (or a twister more like) rolled out and took complete control of it?! you may wonder.

Many have gone through this before and many still do. But when you are in the thick of it all, it is hard not to assume you are all alone in this. It is nice and necessary to connect with other mamas.

https://www.inc.com/

Motherhood is something nothing can prepare you for. When everyone asked me to get all the sleep I could before a new baby arrived, I found it funny! I thought I would be different, my baby would be different. Thank God I believed it, I enjoyed my first pregnancy in all that ignorance! I hope you enjoyed every bit of that baby inside you, the flutterings in your belly, the relief of listening to the lubdubs of a tiny heart beating, the excitement of the arrival of a new being into your life. It is all too precious!

Now that your baby is here, get all the help you can. You don’t have to do it all. You’re hanging in there, trying not to lose your mind. That’s more than enough. You don’t have to have a clean house, 3 different meals a day. You don’t have to be the perfect wife, the fun mama to your older child. These roles will be waiting for you whenever you are ready.

I know it is annoying when someone gives you advice (without your asking) or tells you to do something differently. It is hard to let it be. But know in your heart that it all comes from a place of love and concern for you.

Take time for yourself… go for a stroll, do some stretches, take a long shower, go for a drive. Spend time with that amazing person (you!) even for a few minutes.

You must’ve put your career, your everything on hold for this baby. Have faith in yourself and these words that it will be waiting for you to get back when you’re ready. If not, you’ll figure something out. A job that doesn’t respect a mother and raising kids is not worth keeping.

And you will eventually get to this other side where we’re waiting, rooting for you. Your baby won’t remain that cute, colicky munchkin forever. It will grow up and you will too. As you fret and fear and lose yourself in the muddle of mommyhood, take time to breathe, to resurface, to look around and cherish what you already have…

Love,

Your friend and sister.

How to get kids to read (more)

As a child I was surrounded by books. When there was nothing else to do, my sister and I naturally gravitated towards books. We did not have many children’s books though. We read whatever we could get our hands on. Our parents weren’t worried about what we were reading. We were library members and often visited bookstores- a very uncommon thing in India in the 90s.

I clearly remember picking up a Sidney Sheldon book to read, for the first time. Nowadays people might find it terrible that a child be allowed to read an adult book, but I turned out Ok, well, almost! So I believe any reading is good reading. The picture of a friend who would read the newspaper covering the fried snacks we munched on, comes to mind! 🙂 I encourage my kids to read all kinds of age-appropriate literature.

For kids ages 10 and 7, my kids read considerably more, They just enjoy inhaling the smell of a book, the anticipation of the arrival of a new book, the experience of doing nothing but immersing oneself in a good book and telling us all about it!

So how do you get them to this stage? Here are a few things that have helped me along this reading journey-

  • Start early – This is a no-brainer, but many fail to do so in this day and age. They ask, here in India especially, ‘Oh what’s the use? The child is not even listening or understanding.’, but they do. I observed my daughter trying to imitate my facial expressions as I read to her as a baby. I let my kids play with the books, and sometimes even chew on them! Be prepared to read the same book over and over again!
  • Read to your child – no matter how old they are. For a while I was ashamed that I was still reading to my kids when they were supposed to be reading by themselves. Oh what the heck! They loved to hear all the different character voices I made and I enjoyed snuggling with them on the bed and reading to them. But when I listened to podcasts like “Read- aloud Revival” I felt assured that I wasn’t hindering my kids’ progress. Most of the times, kids simply skim through the pages to get to the end of a story. They need to hear how a word sounds or comprehend the deeper meaning of a character’s speech and thoughts. By reading aloud you are taking their reading to a higher level.
  • Keep trying new books and genres – I’m always observing my kids and talking to them about what their current interests are. When I found out that my daughter enjoyed cooking and eating, I bought her the “All Four Stars” book and when I realized that my son preferred humor instead of action in the Avengers series I bought him, I ordered the “Wayside school” and the “Weird School series”. It is frustrating when a book doesn’t end up piquing the interest of my kids. But I suck it up and try to put a different book in their hands.
  • Read books yourself – Model the behavior you wish your kids to emulate. This applies not just for developing reading skills.
  • Cut down Digital Distraction – We have a rule in our household- No TV until we have finished all our school work and chores and only during and after dinner. Getting bored and doing nothing is permitted but reaching out for digital devices to entertain is not!
  • Carry a book wherever you go – so that there’s no chance you get bored on a long drive or a boring party! Sometimes I carry my kindle so that I can read aloud and all of us are happy! My sister’s mother-in-law keeps a stash of books ( along with some toys, which she changes often) in her car to keep her grandkids busy on their outings. I thought it was a brilliant idea!
  • E-books are perfectly alright – I used to be a purist about paperbacks once upon a time, but now I buy whichever is cheaper and easily available.
  • Talk about the books you’re reading– kids love to talk about what they do or read. Showing interest and really listening to them as they enthusiastically enumerate every. Single. detail will help build their love for reading.
  • Don’t compare your children’s reading level with someone else’s- My daughter reads faster than me but she might be reading slower or fewer books than her friend. It is all ok. Reading , like any developmental phase, happens at different paces for every individual.
  • Take a chill pill- you are not a bad parent if your child doesn’t like reading yet, nor is there something wrong with them. The problem could simply be not finding the right book to read. My teenage cousin wasn’t a big reader, but I like to think that I changed that by giving her the twilight series. Now she reads more than I do!

Ultimately, it is all about gifting the joy of reading to your child. Rest assured that they will reach out for a good book to escape when things aren’t ok and enjoy when life’s good.

Manasa

Sun, Sand and Serenity at Devbagh Beach Resort

After a short flight early (like very early!) in the morning, we were in Goa!

These are COVID Times- so we were given ppe kits to protect ourselves. Since the airports want as less contact with the passengers as they possibly can, boarding tickets are not handed out, which makes for a safe but chaotic experience.

We were ready to explore the sandy shores of Devbagh, a 2 hour drive from Goa. Our bus arrived on time. We got into it, stopped at Krishna restaurant for breakfast and off we went enjoying the scenic beauty (think tall swaying Coconut trees, blue waters and sloping roofs of village homes) of coastal Goa and the winding hillside as we entered Karnataka. At the border between Goa and Karnataka states, the police will check for alcohol and stuff, just telling ya….

We had to kill some time at the Jungle Resort Office as our boat that was to take us across the ocean to our resort hadn’t arrived yet. We explored the vicinity with the hot sun pressing down on us!

We climbed steps to see the beautiful and serene Durga Devi temple, with a stunning backdrop of mountains. Then we climbed even higher to see the Sadashivgad fort resort, where we were served kokum juice. We were so thankful, as some of us were parched and beginning to feel dizzy! And we climbed once again to reach the sea view point! (We’re quite an adventurous bunch you see!) and boy was I glad to have put my exhaustion aside and made the trek! The hazy views of the ocean, the hillside, boats passing by – all were absolutely breathtaking! I wanted to linger there for a while longer, but we had to make our way back down.

It was a short ride to our resort. We felt relaxed under the shade of the boat. The walk towards the lounge or the gol ghar was quite cool and sandy.

We had a good lunch of South and North Indian entrees. That’s the thing with Staying at one of the Jungle lodges, you don’t have to go around looking for good food. Everything… Snacks and tea/coffee and 3 meals are all included when you pay for the stay.

We slept like logs in the afternoon as we hadn’t slept much the night before, plus there isn’t much to be done on a beach when it is hot under the sun.

Beverages and Biscuits were served right beside the ocean in the evenings, Can you imagine that?!

Kids and adults alike enjoyed dipping and splashing about in the water. Kids took to water like Fish to the ocean! I was quite reluctant to get in, not wanting to get my new dress dirty, but the sight of the water and everyone else having a good time was so tempting, I told myself, damn my dress or having to clean up all our messes later, I was going to go home without any regrets!

I did have a great time!

If we weren’t in the water whenever we could, we hung about on hammocks, which were everywhere, napping or reading. It was hilarious (and painful) to watch some of us losing balance and falling off them!

And kids spent hours on the trampoline or the outdoor Rope courses hung between trees. We didn’t have to keep an eye on them all the time or entertain them as there was no time to be bored on our 3-day visit!

Our nights began with bonfire and snacks. Imagine eating barbecued veggies, potato fries or pakoras in the dark with the ocean lapping (more like lashing) at you, your feet sunk in soft sand, twinkling lights far away…. it couldn’t have been more magical!

I simply wanted to enjoy the quiet sounds of nature, but some of us had other plans. They wanted to play antakshari. We ‘competed’ with another group of visitors. They were a good sport too. We sang and sang and nobody lost, so we ended the game to have a quiet dinner, again by the ocean.

Prasad and I sat outside our cottage early in the mornings, listening to the sound of the ocean, sipping the coffee he would prepare for me. It was the best feeling ever as I wrote away and he sat in silence, both of us lost in our happy places!

On our first morning there, we went for a nature walk with the naturalist, Mr. Dilkush (a gentle old man, who was affectionately called so by everyone). As the case with most of our hikes in jungles, we learnt so much about the natural habitat we had come to explore. We learnt that we were on a peninsula and not an island and that it was about 90 acres size, and a 5 acres area was allotted by the Government of Karnataka to Jungle Lodges to build the resort.

Here we listened to Dilkush elaborating the medicinal values of plants like Sarpagandha, explaining the reason for the high biodiversity of the mangroves of Maavinaholla. Even though we have visited many mangrove vegetations, never had I seen such sharp breathing roots everywhere. We learnt to identify the loud, throaty calls of White-bellied Sea Eagles and enjoyed the sight of a Pond Heron lazing around (she is aptly described as ‘Gundiya Rani’). I had no clue that we shared the same state bird with Karnatake (Blue Jay)!

It was a nice hour and a half walk around the resort. And then we had a great breakfast. I loved the paranthas with chole. And then we were off on a boat for dolphin safari. I could doze off on the choppy waters of Arabian sea as the boat sped by. It was that soothing. There was hardly anything to see but deserted islands like Sanyasi island, the Koormagad (Shaped like a turtle) or an island that looked like an elephant bathing in water!

We spotted a couple of dolphins that quickly sprang into the ocean before we could get an eyeful. We decided to do the tour and try our luck once again the next day. (This was included with our accommodation, so why not?!)

After the safari we tried a lot of water sports (Now this was not part of the package and they were all quite pricey, so we had to be careful!). I tried jet ski and banana boat. Jet ski was quite scary. I thought I would be thrown off the seat of my ski, so I held onto my dear life (or the lifeguard, rather!). I thought banana boat would be more scarier, where we would be tossed into the ocean, but it was ok. I actually enjoyed the feeling of anticipation of waiting for the cue to let go off our banana tube, the motor boat pulling us making a sharp turn and us being thrown into water! Who knew I had any ounce of daredevilry in me! Even the kids tried all of this! They wanted to enjoy every little bit!

The next day We had fun playing throwball cum volleyball at the beach in the morning.

Then we went for the dolphin tour. No luck once again. It was high tide, so we were tossed about on our boat. I was sprayed with salty water the whole time. It was a roller coaster ride for sure.

We went for a hike to kaalimitti in the evening. First we walked a gravel path to a village beside the resort, hopped onto autorickshaws, drove a long time passing through villages where I enjoyed peeking into the homes of locals, all the while the seductive coastline to our left tempting us to take a dip in!

It was a moderate hike. We climbed up a hillock and went down it and climbed across black stones to reach a small cove with black sand and water. It was difficult for some of us but we all managed somehow.

On our return we came via a different route, a little easier, but this one involved wading through water for a part of the journey!

It was nice to play in that water and watch the local kids playing cricket on the shore. But we were quite tired by the time we reached our resort.

The last night was bittersweet for me as I wanted to savor every bit of the time spent with my family and friends by the bonfire, the ocean ceaselessly continuing its journey in and out of the shoreline of Devbagh, not caring who had come to visit or who was leaving.

I didn’t want my vacation to end.

I looked around and wondered how everyone else was OK with leaving this beautiful place behind. I was crying inside like a baby! I didn’t want to go back to my daily routine! But we had to… The chaos at Goa Airport where it looked like almost the whole of India had turned up, didn’t make it any easier on us!

Every beginning has an end just as every end ushers in a new beginning….

Here’s to more traveling and exploring and learning and living in 2021… Thanks for being with us all these years, dear readers…

Love,

Manasa

(Before leaving, we shopped a bit in Margao, a city in Goa (Zantye’s is awesome for Dry fruits and other Goan snacks) and had a fabulous lunch at Antique Mardol, close to airport)

Winter thoughts and Crafts

“We are Not all in the same boat, but we are all in the same storm”.

I read this somewhere and felt it reflected the thoughts I’ve been feeling lately.

I’ve been speaking to lots of people and getting to know how they are dealing with this Pandemic. I am thankful that we are able to live an almost normal life here. Even though cases are increasing here in Switzerland, we are still not having a lockdown. But people are scared and worried. It is normal to feel this way. However, does worrying solve this issue? I doubt it.

Along with stressing themselves, people are transferring this stress to their extended families and friends. Because of this, relationships have been tested. Friendships have been broken. To these people I can only earnestly say that even though we are not in the same boat, we are all in the same storm. We are all going through the same s***. Some, more than others.

Instead of bringing others down with negativity, do your best to be positive, be thankful for the friendly people around you, for all the lovely festivities coming up and nurture your relationships in the best way possible. Support each other and be kind!

Now that I am close to the last month of my pregnancy, doctor has recommended that I stop working. It’s really cold and snowing out here, so I have nothing much to do. When I am not doing household chores, cooking, dropping Neel to day care and going grocery shopping, I have been doing a lot of DIY crafts and activities.

1. Diwali crafts

Neel and I made these lanterns and diyas. I let Neel draw on color paper before cutting them to make the lanterns. For diyas, I followed this video.

2. Advent gifts

Every year, around 24 ladies from our village come together to make advent gifts. Each one makes 24 identical gifts and labels them with the number provided by the organizer. The organizer will then rearrange all the gifts in such a way that each one in the end gets 24 different gifts to be opened from 1st of december till 24th of december. This year I made these frames/ wall hangings out of washi tapes and cardboard boxes. In every frame, I stuck Christmas card which I made using thick golden cardstock.

3. Christmas tree hanging

This year, because of the Pandemic and my current situation, we will be spending Christmas/ New year at home and so we decided to put up our own Christmas tree. Along with the regular Christmas tree decorations, I decided to make some of my own handmade ones too. Using empty toilet paper rolls, I made these golden flowers.

4. Christmas gifts

I made these handmade gifts for my friends using mason glass jars, golden washi tapes, golden color spray and candles.

5. Christmas activities

Neel and I are doing a lot of activities together in the spirit of the holiday season. We both check Pinterest for inspiration and if he likes something he says “shall we do this together mama?”

Playdough Christmas tree

Christmas tree cards

Neel is my partner in all of these creations. He is one excited kid when it comes to celebrations and festivities. I think he gets it from his mama. Thanks to him, I’m enjoying making crafts, decorating our house and celebrating all the festivals. So you can see, I have kept myself busy lately and I don`t think I will be stopping anytime soon (until the baby arrives at least). I hope you all enjoy this holiday season in whichever way possible, small or big, with or without family, and make the most of it.

Love,

Madhurya

Reflections (November ’20)

  1. I began the practice of writing, meditating, exercising and blogging for 10 to 15 minutes everyday.
  2. It stresses me out when I have to post something on a particular day, but when I work on bite-sized pieces everyday, I don’t mind it as much.
  3. Discipline is my middle name. I’m nothing if I’m not disciplined.
  4. I’m not a very impulsive person, and I’m very protective about my time. I can’t stand it when something unplanned gets tossed into my schedule. I like to be prepared before I face a day. But, given time, I’ll warm myself to the new idea.
  5. I love being that person people find comfortable talking to, someone they can turn to. I want to be known for being a good listener than for being a talker.
  6. I feel like I’m slowly feeling comfortable in my own skin.
  7. Kids respect my ME time. They don’t disturb me when I’m writing or meditating.
  8. I felt bad about being rough with Medha regarding her studies. I realized I needed to be a patient, creative teacher before I expected her to be an enthusiastic learner.
  9. Medha is quieter compared to Madhav, my younger one. Who knew, my son, who didn’t begin talking for a long time, now doesn’t know when to stop!
  10. Kids have to figure out what makes them tick. All I can do is instill them with the core values of hard-work, discipline, kindness and integrity. In fact it is far easier for me to show them how these values work in real life by practicing them myself.
  11. Kids experiencing slight discomfort in their bodies can unravel me. I need to steady myself and remain strong for them.

Books I read

The Monk who sold his Ferrari

Lady of Bolton Hill

The Sunday Lunch Club

Krishna’s secret.

All the books I read were good. Sunday lunch club was a bit slow but it was a delicious read.

My hope for December-

That I continue to read, write, exercise, meditate and blog. All these things kept me mostly sane and productive through the month of November. December is all about holidays and travel around here. I hope it doesn’t throw me off-balance. 🙂

So, what are your hopes and dreams for December? And for 2021?

Love,

Manasa.

A Scandinavian Vacation

This is a blast from the past- one of the trips we made last year for a long weekend. Most of these places might be closed now due to COVID.

I was not so keen on visiting Sweden, as I had my heart set on a sunny location like Slovenia or Italy, but as it was peak travel time, we finally agreed upon Sweden.

It turned out to be a short but beautiful trip.

Where did we stay

We stayed at a lovely AirBnb in Saltsjö-Boo in a beautiful guesthouse located by the sea. It was a cabin which had a large bed, kitchen, bath and dining table. All the amenities were available. Neel was really happy as there was a huge lawn with toys right in front of our house which belonged to the family who owned the guesthouse. It was a perfect house located on a perfect location. We could take nice walks along the pathway by the sea. While Mike and Neel enjoyed watching all the boats and ships sailing, I had a good time looking at the gorgeous Scandinavian homes. We also spent time drinking cups of coffee on the lawn while enjoying the beautiful views of the sea.

Places we visited and things we saw

1. Unfortunately, on the day we landed in Stockholm, my mobile crashed, so I HAD to find a dealer who could fix it or buy a cheap mobile. So the first stop we made was to Kungsgatan, a central area in Stockholm full of shops, cafes and restaurants. We spent the rest of the day walking around the city. We also visited The Stadsbiblioteket (Stockholm Public Library) and spent sometime browsing the books.

2. When you visit Stockholm, you cannot miss the old town- Gamla Stan. It is filled with cobbled streets and 17th- and 18th-century old, colorful buildings.

3. An Archipelago tour with a guide was a perfect sightseeing tour on a boat. For a duration of almost 3h, we got to see a beautiful collection of islands, learnt about Scandinavian culture and history and also spotted some amazing homes. Depending on the tour you take, it costs around 610.00 SEK (1 SEK= 0.12 United States Dollar) for 2 adults and for children under 5 years it is free.

4. All you Music lovers, do not miss Abba The Museum. It takes only a couple of hours to get the most out of this museum dedicated to the famous Swedish band.

5. Vasa Museum– Honestly, I was not such a fan of this museum, but Mike and Neel (die-hard boat-lovers), were really impressed. So do visit this museum if you want to know more about the history of Vasa (a Swedish Warship).

6. We also visited a beautiful archipelago town, Vaxholm. We had to take a ferry to reach this town. Wooden homes and fishing cottages beautify this quaint place. We really enjoyed spending time walking, eating Swedish lunch and lazing around while having coffee. Mike even bought an authentic handmade wooden boat from here as a souvenir.

If we ever visit Sweden again, I would love to explore more of its natural parks and nature reserves.

Madhurya.

The Monk who sold his Ferrari

I gave this book a 5-star rating on Goodreads.

It is about living your best life, written in the form of fiction. This book is a discussion between the 2 main characters- lawyers, one ex who has turned yogi and another, who is about to have his life completely changed.

The yogi who traded his prized Ferrari for a life of wisdom and inner and outer vitality, shows the way.

Well, I wouldn’t have minded if it was wholly written in a non-fiction format as at times the dialogue and humor seemed forced.

This book can’t be read in a single sitting (not for a slow reader like me anyway). It needs to be read slowly, savoring every word, sometimes re-reading to ensure certain ideas and practices stick. In short this book needs to be studied.

Throughout my read I was reminded of how life management was really all about mind management and that I am the gardener and protector of my mind. A single pest of a negative thought was all it took to unravel the carefully tended space. I began to notice when my thoughts were spiraling downwards. I started paying attention to what was going on within and without.

It is still a struggle to pull myself up when I’m upset or angry, but I’m learning ways to control myself through meditation and Journaling.

So many interesting and thought-provoking ideas like the kaizen method (constant and never-ending improvement), philosophy of opposition thinking (replacing a negative thought with a positive one) and Magic rule of 21 (performing an activity for 21 days for it to become a habit) were introduced and dwelt upon. I’d read about some of these concepts in other self-help books, but it is never a bad idea to have them reiterated.

Of all the lessons I learnt from this book the most powerful one and the one that’s already making an impact in my life in areas like my job and my kids’ education is this – RUN YOUR OWN RACE. It doesn’t matter where I stand compared to my peers, it only matters how far I’ve come and what needs to be done next.

One practice I truly want to explore is the idea of a Dreambook. It is a notebook filled with pictures of the things, people and places that inspire you. This would be such a fun activity to do with my kids.

Every second you spend thinking about someone else’s dreams you take time away from your own.’

Time is the most precious commodity we are all running out of with every passing second. The author believes that we are all born with a purpose and every life’s mission should be the realization of that purpose, but that’s where I disagree– Not all of us have big dreams or goals. I don’t. Or maybe not yet . I believe in making the best use of TODAY, or this very minute. If doing nothing but simply enjoying birdsong as I sip my Chai makes me happy, then it is time well spent.

I can go on and on about the things that stood out for me, motivated and inspired me, but I’d love for you to try the book and taste it for yourself. It has changed my perspective, and I can’t say that about many books ( the ones that come to my mind right off the bat are ‘the happiness project’ and ‘eat pray love‘) And if you have already read the book, please share your thoughts…

Love,

Manasa

What we are… (Nov. 11, 2020)

We used to post this every Wednesday, and we thought why not begin blogging again by recording what we are upto. So, currently,

Here’s what Madhurya had to say-

Reading: Get a life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert.

Watching: Movie “The bridges of Madison County” and series ” How to get away with murder” on netflix.

Eating: All the dishes I prepared for the pre-diwali get-together we had with a couple of friends.

Making: Diwali diy decorations and Advent gifts for Christmas.

Wishing for: a white christmas, a better ending for 2020 and a great start to the new year.

Learning: to pick my battles with Neel and to take it one day at a time.

Thinking: about how our life is going to change with the arrival of another little one. Excited and nervous!

Listening: to many kannada and tamil songs.

Loving: that the holiday season is here. Let’s make the best of it!!!

Here’s what I had to say-

Reading: Oh! So many- The monk who sold his Ferrari, The lady of Bolton Hill, Don’t Overthink it and How to be a writer, depending on my mood and whats closeby. 🙂

Watching:  True Detective on hotstar. Just love Matthew McConaughey’s character, his negative but wise observations about life and the small-town America shown in the first season.

Eating: lots of veggies that are available in plenty at the local market. I’ve become quite the expert on meal-planning and preparing after all these years of cooking for my foodie family, and also because I’m always short on time.

Making: videos and props for my online classes.

Wishing for: this new work+life balance to continue. I don’t ever want to get back into the pre-covid rat race!

Learning: that it is all in my mind. I have the power to be whoever and however I wish to be. I have more energy and time for the things that matter to me. And the same goes for you too, my friend.

Thinking: of where to travel to, next. What would be safer, Goa or Andaman? Or a jungle? A girl can dream right?

Listening: to Office ladies podcast and laughing along. Angela and Jenna (actors on the show) dissect the episodes of The Office, and share the backstory and facts and tidbits. I simply devour them, being such a fan of the show, especially the first few seasons.

Loving: having friends or family over for dinner on Saturday nights.

Love,

Madhurya & Manasa.