Department Outing, Thommis Alm

Every year, each department in our company organizes a team event. These events comprise games, drinks, food and fun. Last year (the year I joined), there was a Barbecue party at a restaurant called Zum Reitplatz. This year, our department hosted an outing at the Thommis alm.

Welcome to Thommis Alm

Thommis Alm (or Alp) is a rambling Farm as well as a Restaurant, located in a village called Mesikon-Illnau. It is surrounded by other Farms, Farmhouses and lush green fields.

Thommis Alm

Here, one has to make reservations at least a year before an event because, apparently,  it is always booked.

We were served Àpero (Beverages) on our arrival at 4 pm. Women in traditional Swiss dresses served us drinks (beer, orange juice, water) and some snacks (biscuits, chips and nuts).

We went around talking to everyone, discussing jobs and families. After an hour or so of chit-chat, our secretary distributed a sheet of paper to everyone. This sheet had a list of games we were going to play that evening. Everyone was obliged to take part in all the games. After playing each, one had to note down the points in the second column. Three participants with the highest points were to be awarded prizes.

We had to note down our points here

The following were the games:

  • Stiefel-Werfen (Boot throwing): One had to throw boots, one by one, backwards into a bin. We were given 4 tries and 10 points for each strike.

Stiefel Werfen (Boot throwing)

  • Bierglas-Schieben (Beer-glass sliding): One had to slide a beer-glass towards a marked line without pushing it down into the attached basket. If it reached the nearest line, 5 points were awarded  and if it went up to the farthest line, 50 points were awarded.

Bierglas-Schieben (Beer-glass sliding)

  • Bierhumpen-Stemmen (Beer-glass lifting): Of the 2 participants, one who held the heavy beer-glass longer got 50 points.

Bierhumpen-Stemmen (Beer-glass lifting)

  • Wett-Nageln (Nail hammering): Hammering the nail on a wood-stump. 5 points were deducted for every try. i.e, more the number of tries, lesser the points. (This is where I lost most of my points!)

Wett-Nageln (Nail hammering)

  • Hufeisen Werfen (Horse-shoe throwing): Horseshoe had to be thrown into a Tyre lying on the ground. There were 8 tries and 10 points were awarded for each strike.

Hufeisen Werfen (Horse-shoe throwing)

  • Pantoffeln Tschutten (Slipper throwing): Throwing slipper into a basket. There were 4 tries and 10 points were awarded for each strike.

Pantoffeln tschutten (Slipper throwing)

I ended up with a total of Minus 5 points. Yup! -5! Mike won 80 points. He was REALLY good!

Other than these games, there was an indoor play area where one could play Fussball and Ping-pong. It was fun to watch our colleagues unwind and have a good time.

After all the games, it was time for dinner. Food was served buffet-style. Wooden chairs and tables were decorated with blue- and red-paper settings. There were salads, fries, meat and more meat. Luckily, our secretary had already informed the restaurant that I’m a vegetarian (So nice of her!) and so I was served an amazing Veg Barbecue stick which consisted of mushrooms, peppers and zucchini marinated in a Barbecue sauce along with a couple of veggie patties. They were so delicious!!!

Dinner Buffet

After the dinner, we all gathered outside where our Vice-President thanked us for coming and making it a fun event!!  The winners were announced and awarded prizes.

The game I lost all my points to!

I was given this hammer as a prize.

Nope! Just kidding!

Mike and I left the place with some very fond memories of time spent with our colleagues.

Cheers,

Madhurya.

Bidar Fort and Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib

Way to the Bidar Fort

Before going to the Black Buck Resort, we visited the Fort in Bidar. The Entrance was free and open for all. Even vehicles could be seen entering the place without a fuss. No one seemed to be looking after the more than 30 monuments within the Fort.

The Entrance

As we walked inside, a man claiming to be a guide, asked us whether he could show us around for Rs. 500. We thought it was too much and said so. Actually he didn’t look qualified enough to be a Guide. He began bargaining with us, coming down to about 300 bucks. We ignored him and walked on.

The entrance was huge with heavy, aesthetically-pleasing doors (with a few sections broken). There were mostly-destroyed, partly-worn-out monuments and relics all around us. We couldn’t make out what was what. There were no maps or markers around the complex to help us. And there was no authority we could inquire. As if he knew we would reach this helpless state and seek him out, the guy calling himself a “guide”, was just hanging around nearby. And this time, he agreed to a fee of Rs. 200. Some information (not credible though it might be)  was better than no information at all, I thought.

Within the Fort

It was hard to follow him as he spoke too fast, but he told us what certain buildings were used for- Stables for Horse, Prison Cells, Court, Guest Rooms etc.. And a bit about the Architecture and the History of the place. Probably built by the Chalukyas in the year 977 AD, the present-day Fortress was rebuilt by Ahmed Shah of the Bahamani Dynasty using red laterite stone (in abundance in the area) in the year 1428 AD. The Architecture is mostly Persian-style. (Source : Wikipedia and our “guide”).

Takht Mahal, maybe?

Bidar Fort apparently has a number of monuments within the fortress complex. Prominent among them are the Rangin Mahal (“Painted Palace”), so called because of its elaborate decoration with coloured tiles; the Takht Mahal, or throne room; the Jami Masjid (“Great Mosque”) and the Sola Khamba Masjid (“Sixteen-Pillar” mosque), according to Wikipedia, but sadly, we didn’t enter any of those.

Rangin Mahal?

I wish I had done more research before visiting the place. I’d have demanded to know where everything was and asked to be taken inside. All I did was walk around, clicking pictures and admiring the beauty and the serenity of the Fort area, without a clue whether we were passing the Rangin Mahal or the Jami Masjid. It was August 15th, our Independence Day, but at that moment I felt least patriotic for the kind of Country I lived in, that didn’t honor its rich heritage and ensured its preservation for future Indians to enjoy.

Beautiful but poorly-maintained

The “guest room” had been closed, but the guide asked us to enter through the back door (which might have been a window, not sure, because it was too narrow.) and one could climb down a couple of storeys (?!?!) into rooms where (apparently) there was enough lighting and ventilation. Prasad came out drenched in sweat, but full of admiration for the ingenuity of the builders centuries ago. I thought it wasn’t right, going where one’s clearly not supposed to go, but HE didn’t mind; He was too happy to have seen an Engineering marvel!

Closed "Guest room"

We were told some “facts” like “this is where a scene from the movie “Dirty Picture” was shot” and some such. But we thanked the guy anyhow; He hadn’t exploited or harmed us. We paid him and explored the place by ourselves for a while. The weather was good and the long leisurely walk was energizing.

Perfect Weather for a walk

Wow! Let me try that pose!

The next day we visited the famous Gurudwar called the “Guru Nanak Sahib Jhira”. At the Resort we’d learnt the story behind this religious shrine – Guru Nanak visited Bidar between 1510-1514 AD on one of his missionary tours and seeing the plight of the residents who didn’t have proper water supply, shifted a stone and removed some rubble from underfoot, all the while praying, and out sprang cool and fresh water, which flows even to this day.

Entrance to the Gurudwar

We went inside, covering our heads with scarves, and spent some quiet minutes with the other devotees.

Looks Cute, doesn't he?

Later, we bought some Kadas for the kids and Roasted Corn-on-the-cob for everyone from the stores lined outside near the entrance.

It’s only after we returned home, did I realize how little we had seen. Not only had we missed looking at a number of monuments from up close at the Bidar Fort, we had also skipped a viewing of the Amrit Kund, the holy spring at the Gurudwar. How could we?!

Anyway, Bidar isn’t too far from Hyderabad. We’ll probably visit again. But…

The Big Fat lesson I learnt from this experience is that I need to thoroughly research a place before visiting, especially while traveling in India.

Black Buck Resort, Bidar

Did you say Black Buck Resort? In Bidar, Karnataka? A different State altogether! Would we be able to cover the place in 2 days?

Wait wait… Black Bucks, you said??? What wild animal can possibly survive the heat and aridity of Bidar?

A number of questions circled my mind and I tossed them at Prasad, who coolly directed me to the Resort’s website. I couldn’t believe he had already booked our stay!

I’d always assumed Bidar to be one of those drought-struck places with cracked agricultural lands, desperate for a drop of rain. Even the Resort’s website with its washed-out pictures didn’t look promising to me.  But of one thing I was pretty sure- anything would be way better than staying home over the long Independence weekend. So when time came for us to leave, I was super-excited; The kids were too. Medha, on our drive to the resort, kept saying our home must be thanking us for having left it alone for a while! I thought she made sense.

The drive was good; It took us through a landscape in mottled shades of Green (not the lush green of the Tropical Rain-forests of Western Ghats, but no desert either). On our way, we stopped to buy fresh fruits like Figs, Guavas, Custard apples and a couple of Raw Mangoes from a local vendor.

Figs along our way

Bidar is about 134 km from Hyderabad. We stopped for a quick visit to the Bidar Fort (details coming up in my next post)  and then headed to the Resort. It was difficult to find the place as it is located deep in the Forest of Honnikeri, beside the Vilaspur Lake. There were no markers or roads to lead us to our destination. We got there only after we called up the resort and asked for help.

Blackbuck entrance

Black Buck Resort is hidden behind a veil of Greenery and is surrounded by hills. But I couldn’t find a Lake anywhere. It must be hidden too, I thought, at first. Soon I learnt that it had dried up because of sparse rainfall for the past few years. We were slightly disappointed. The views from the balcony of our cottage were beautiful, but I’m sure it would’ve been breath-taking, had there been a sparkling lake instead of a grassland. Still, there was just a tiny bit of water and cattle could be found grazing or lolling beside it, which felt serene.

View from the balcony

We headed for lunch right away. Food wasn’t too rich or the variety too much; There were a couple of curries, freshly-prepared Rotis, Biryani and Rasam and Sambar to go along with Plain Rice. A simple Rice pudding served as a dessert. Everything tasted finger-licking good, as if it was carefully prepared at home… The kids (hard to please) and Grandparents (harder to please) ate without a fuss! Phew!

It was soon time for Tea/Coffee and Black Buck sighting. We boarded a Balero and our guide, Harish, drove us to a grassland quite far from the Resort.

Blackbuck Safari

It wasn’t exactly a Savannah as I thought it would be. Short grass  covered the land here and there; A Runway (Our Air-force has a training center there) ran beside it and factories surrounded the area. Harish informed us that the animals had gotten used to the noise, but I was skeptical.

Blackbucks leaping

Hordes of Black Bucks grazed and chilled and went about their business without a care in the World, until they saw us approaching; When they did, they took off running and leaping, and boy how they leapt! It was a surreal vision! They looked like they were flying, especially the younger ones, who kept jumping higher than the rest.

Despite the runway and the factories nearby, the place did look serene and I remember wishing how awesome it would be if I could capture the feeling of the place too.

On our return, we snacked on French Fries and Capsicum Pakoras (not part of the meal. We had to order separately) and watched documentaries on a Projector screen. I wish the Government of Karnataka, of which this Resort is a part, screened educational documentaries related to Bidar, its history and wildlife, instead of just advertising their other resorts  or playing a documentary on the Rain-forests of Sahyadri Hills like they did, although those were interesting too.

Then it was Bonfire-time, which wasn’t much fun at all with a bunch of kids (Medha and Madhav made a new friend there) who kept running too close to the fire or too far from the light.

Bonfire

We gobbled up our dinner (Good food again!) and headed to our rooms. We had to wake up early for some bird-watching.

The next morning we were taken on an easy hike along the periphery of the resort.

Hiking in the morning

We spotted a bunch of Langurs perched on trees and relaxing on rocks, watching us with interest as if we were the animals and they, the spectators (Who knows, it might be the case in their World!), Big Eagles circling overhead and a few other species of colorful birds. We searched high and low for Peacocks whose familiar cries we could hear everywhere, but couldn’t spot a single one. They were evading us, probably because of all the noise the kids were making.

Langur family

But everyone seemed to be having a good time walking, enjoying the beautiful views and spotting (or trying to spot) wildlife. A few visitors to the Resort complained of not having experienced anything special, but my family was pretty satisfied.

View of a hut on our trail

The hills, shrubbery, early morning dew on leaves, villagers digging a well, a mama Langur picking lice off her baby, another mama protecting her tiny one from us, the absolute tranquility of the place, interrupted only by the screams of Peacocks who played Peek-aboo with us or the giggles of our kids, everything, made us feel glad we’d visited this obscure place. I didn’t mind having my perception of Bidar and its beauty altered for good.

Cottages and the dried-up vilaspur lake

Medha wanted even more of the experience; She wasn’t ready to head back home. But when she spotted a Scorpion in our bathroom, her resolve wavered.

Scorpion in the bathroom

We helped her (hopefully) understand that the wild is the home of beasts and critters and we were only  guests there. We just needed to be extra extra careful and leave their home just the way we found it.

After a hearty breakfast, it was time for us to leave.

I felt our Home was too happy to have us back. And Medha agreed with me.

(We paid Rs. 4352 per adult per night that included accomodation+ all meals + safari + Bird watching +taxes)

Trip to Japan Part 2

This is a guest post by my brother-in-law, Mike, about his recent trip to Japan. You can read Part 1 here. Thanks for taking the time to record your experience for us Bro!

The Sales Manager of our subsidiary in Japan picked me up in Tokyo and brought me to Osaka, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan and among the largest in the world, with nearly 19 million inhabitants (according to Wikipedia). We checked into Hotel Osaka Garden Palace, freshened up and left our rooms to meet the client, who was already waiting to get the Job done.

The maintenance manager there is over 70 years old and is still in good shape. He works as a consultant and isn’t planning to retire anytime soon. He reminded me of my grandfather-in-law in Mangalore, whom we fondly call “Nana”. Without any further discussion, we directly went to the workshop to begin our work. It took about 2 and a half hours for me to fix the compressor.

The Customer was very happy!

As a symbol of apology for the inconvenience caused to the client, I handed over 2 big bars of Toblerone! Apparently, they are very fond of Swiss chocolates. Once the job was completed, our sales manager insisted on taking a group picture. It is a general practice here in Japan to take a picture with all the members involved after completion of a work.

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To celebrate, we went to a restaurant called Japanese BBQ. It is also a common practice in Japan to get to know someone personally before doing business; You have to go out, eat and drink beer and Sake (Japanese rice wine made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran) together. I drank some beer and sake and tried Sushi and Sashimi, which are special Japanese delicacies.

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With a respectful bow and a hand-shake we returned to our hotel after dinner.

The next morning (Wednesday) we headed back to Tokyo by train to visit the office of our subsidiary. In the evening we boarded another train to Yokohama, where our service center is located.

Yokohama is in the outskirts of Tokyo. Most people who work in Tokyo live in Yokohama as living costs are cheaper in Yokohama but the salaries are higher in Tokyo. I checked into the Royal Palace hotel, which had a beautiful view of the city. Yokohama reminded me of Winterthur; Small but busy.

The next morning on Thursday, we took a train back to Tokyo. After finishing my work, I decided to leave from the downtown area at 7 pm and take a bus to the Toyo Narita Airport. After the formalities, I relaxed a bit at the Emirates lounge, which was pretty big, and reflected on the past week with satisfaction. I’d accomplished what I set out to do and and had experienced another culture and cuisine along the way. It felt good, but I was anxious to be back with my wife!

 

Trip to Japan Part 1

This is a guest post by my brother-in-law, Mike, about his recent trip to Japan. Thanks for taking the time to record your experience for us Bro!

I work as a Technical Support Engineer in one of the World’s largest manufacturers of reciprocating compressors (where my wife, Madhurya, works too). I provide support to the clients and our subsidiaries from our office in Switzerland. I hardly visit clients and only when there is a need. (I was a field service engineer in my previous job and visited clients very often.) It had been more than a year since I last did a customer-visit and was beginning to miss it. Just when I was craving for one, we received a call from one of our biggest clients in Japan saying that their newly purchased compressor was leaking at several points and they needed immediate action. As there was no field service engineer available to take care of this problem, I volunteered to go there and fix this on my own.

As it was going to be a long and tedious flight, our coordinator decided to fly me in Emirates Airlines’ Business class.  After discussing with the colleagues of our company`s subsidiary in Japan, we organized a week-long trip. I was going to fly on Sunday night from Zurich via Dubai to Tokyo and be back on Friday evening. At 7 pm, on Sunday, I was brought to the airport in a Mercedes Vito (You get free limousine service from Emirates if you book Business or first class)

After a 45 min drive to the airport I directly went to the gate as I only had a cabin baggage and no check-in and decided to spend sometime in the Emirates Lounge.  As I waited for an hour before boarding, I enjoyed the view of the planes landing and departing while relishing nice food and drinks in the lounge.

When my turn came to board (Business class and first class fliers are given first preference), one of the ground staff members started lecturing me, saying that my hand bag was 10 kg instead of 7 kg (as allowed) and that I needed to keep it in front of my seat and not stow it above in the compartment, her reason being, ‘if there is a turbulence and the bag falls, someone will get hurt’ and all I could think was ‘lady, if the bag falls, one will get his or her head broken anyway; It doesn’t matter whether it is 7 or 10 kg’. Thankfully, another member of the staff checked my boarding card and informed me that I had been upgraded to first class!

Inside the Aircraft Boeing 777-300ER, my 1st class seat was like a suite. It had a minibar, a seat so big, it could be converted into a bed and a wide-screen monitor to watch all the latest movies and shows. I felt like a king!!

The stewardess brought a nice glass of champagne (something you generally don’t get for free in Economy) and asked what I would like to have for dinner. After selecting from a wide range of options, my dinner arrived in 30 minutes. The plates were made of ceramic and the spoons and knives were metallic. The Food tasted great.

06_First class Dinner

I fell asleep as I watched a movie and woke up again, early in the morning, as we landed in Dubai after a 6 hour journey.

At the emirates lounge in Dubai, I refreshed myself and boarded the next flight to Tokyo. We were taken from the terminal to the aircraft in a 20 minute bus ride.  It was another 10 hours flight in which I slept for a few hours and spent the rest watching the movies I couldn’t finish in the first flight. Finally on Monday night at 10 pm (GMT+9) I reached Tokyo Haneda Airport. Passport control was done within a few minutes and I proceeded to the nearest Taxi stand to get to my hotel and sleep for a few hours. Royal Park is a 5-star hotel close to the airport. Although the room was great, I could only sleep for a couple of hours due to jet lag.

Tokyo is similar to Dubai or Zurich, a big city. It is bigger and more populated than any other city in Japan.

07_Tokyo downtown

On Tuesday morning I was picked up by the Sales Manager of our subsidiary in Japan. We took a train to Osaka, which is about 560 km from Tokyo, to visit our client. Public transportation is quite advanced in Japan. There are many high speed trains running at 250 km/h speed from Tokyo to other cities in Japan. The train ticket costed 14,500 Yen which is approx. 110 US$ for a 2.5 hour train ride to Osaka.

(to be continued…)

Around here

Around here-

  1. I’ve been feeling kinda down lately, like I have a ton of things and thoughts swirling in my head needing my immediate attention and weighing me down.
  2. I’ve not been able to read anything for a longer stretch of time, except browse other blogs and recipes online. I picked up my favorite “The Happiness Project” and couldn’t read further than a couple of chapters. I started “Gilead”, another bestseller, and I had to toss it aside as I could not focus.
  3. I’m trying to get Medha to learn the parts of Body in words for a test without much success.
  4. We’re figuring out how to use my brand-new Morphy Richards Convection Oven: Butter Naan came out hard while Whole-Wheat Pizza came out doughy. No more Baking for a while!
  5. Rains have been few and far between, and Mosquitoes have swarmed the place.
  6. I tried a lot of new recipes I found online; None tasted as good as I hoped.
  7. I haven’t finished a Birthday Project I began with Medha.
  8. I feel like I need a change, but not sure what sort of.

Sounds depressing, right? Don’t worry (especially you, mother). I’ll be fine. Everyone feels this way- confused, scattered, down, sad, worried- now and then. It’s mostly due to exhaustion and less sleep. It also happens when you do not take things light and slow.

I need to do one thing at a time, work on one thought at a time. And forget the rest… until it is time to focus on the next.  And smile, and laugh a lot, even though sulking and complaining comes easily. And, of course, be grateful for all the big and small joys and an ordinary, uneventful life.

Yeah. I get it!

So let me have another go…

Around here-

  1. I’m trying to be mindful of what I eat- fruits instead of desserts, dry fruits instead of biscuits.
  2. We’ve been cooking and eating a lot of bottle-gourds, colocasia leaves, drum-sticks, and banana flowers fresh from our Farm lately.
  3. I’m meeting and befriending new Moms at Medha’s Tennis lessons- Very accomplished and down-to-earth Women.
  4. We’re looking forward to our next weekend getaway to the Black-buck Resort in Bidar.
  5. I met Medha’s teacher, Subhashini Ma’am, at the Parents-Teachers-Meeting and learnt that Medha is doing just fine at school. She just needs to overcome her shyness towards her Teachers and practice a few words everyday.
  6. I just began reading Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s “An Autobiography”. The description of his childhood and his Voice (I can almost hear it!), that sounds as if it is dripping with honey, have kept me engrossed for now. I want to read this to learn a bit of Indian History and also in honor of the upcoming Independence Day.
  7. Medha and Madhav know the appropriate use of words like “Thank you”, “Please” and “Sorry”. Their gesture, coupled with their gentle voice (especially Medha’s),  just melt my heart down and make me feel like I have the sweetest kids in the whole world (Not always, but very often).
  8. I’m coming up with ideas to write blog posts even when nothing much is going on or my mind is a blank space, like right now!

See… I feel so better already. Like I say, Writing everything down is a sort of conversation I have with Prasad or my Sister. It helps me clear out the fog in my brain, make sense of what’s going on and come up with solution. It cheers me up and makes me feel like myself again.

If you’re reading this, it means you’ve taken the time out of your busy schedule to learn what’s going on in my life. My most humble, heartfelt gratitude to you. Thanks for letting me share my stories, my life with you…. I hope YOU don’t forget to write  and share yours too.

Love,

Manasa.

Munot Ball

The Munot is a 16th century Roundel (circular fortification) at the center of the Swiss city of Schaffhausen. It is an undisputed landmark of the city. No other city in Switzerland has constructed a building of comparable beauty and magnanimity.

History goes like this- After Schaffhausen became a part of the Old Swiss Confederacy in 1501, the council decided to strengthen the city’s fortifications. After years of planning, in 1589 the Munot was finally built. Soon after completion, doubts surfaced whether the Munot could withstand the ever-more powerful artillery. Luckily, only once, the Munot was militarily occupied: in 1799, during the French Revolution.

Now, it is a tourist attraction and hosts a number of events.

To enter the fortress, one has to climb quite a number of stairs (I don’t know how many exactly). The Interior of the fortress has a huge arch, which has a thick ceiling of about 4 meter, made of gravel and supported by nine pillars. Through 4 circular chambers, light falls into the casemates (a small room in the wall of a fortress, with openings from which guns or missiles could be fired, according to Google). The fortress is surrounded by Rose gardens and vineyards.

On top of the Fortress is a bell, which was mounted in September 1589. The Bell has a diameter of 90.5 cm; a height of 70 cm and a weight of 420 kg. It is rung every evening at 9 pm for 5 minutes by hand by the guardian of Munot. This guardian is responsible for the maintenance and order around the Munot, and also helping around during the events and taking care of the visitors.

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There is an open area at the top of the fortress, from where you can view the entire beautiful city of Schaffhausen and the river Rhine.

Breathtaking views of the city.

There are seating arrangements where visitors can relax and buy refreshments in the summer. This open area is where most of the cultural programs take place and one of them is the Munot ball.

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Between June and the end of August the traditional balls take place on the Munot.
The Quadrille, also called Française, is a ballroom dancing, which began in the 17th century in France and England for the first time. This traditional square dance is being celebrated in the Munot balls for over a 100 years. The Munot Club was formed several years ago; Members of the club can learn the Quadrille and take part in cultural programs. They also help the state in taking care of the Munot.

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This year in June, my mother-in-law and I decided to see the Munot ball; It was my first time. Casuals are a big no-no. So we both got dressed up for the occasion. But by the time we climbed the stairs and reached the top of the Munot, we were exhausted and soaking- wet. We had to pay 10 CHF (10.17 US Dollars) to enter the Ball. It was only 7 pm and hardly 10 people were around. The musicians were getting ready. The restaurant was doing its final preparations. We ordered some cold drinks and fries to eat. As we waited, we started checking out the dresses worn by the other ladies, remarking `Oh she looks good!` or `look what she has worn!`. As the people began gathering, I noticed that 70 to 80% of them were older than 60 years. It was fun to discover that there’s no age-limit to enjoy a bit of dancing!.

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When the music began, the couples took their positions around the periphery of the area and started ballroom-dancing. It was so beautiful! This was the ‘unofficial dance’ as the bell was not yet rung. At 9 pm sharp, after the bell was rung for 5 minutes, the Quadrille began. Quadrille is performed by 4 couples in a rectangular formation. Couples dance together in a figure or “set”, each dancer dancing to his or her partner and each couple dancing to the other couples in the set. You might have seen such dances in movies like Pride and Prejudice or Becoming Jane. The dance ended after 15 minutes with all the couples running around the periphery. Yes! Literally! Everything happened so fast, I could not capture it on my camera.. It was fun to watch though!

I had never seen such a beautifully-coordinated dance, with so many participants, in my life before. Though my mother-in-law and I did not take part in the dance, we had a great time watching it.

Love,

Madhurya

( I got all the information on the Munot and the Ball from this Website. I have translated it from German.)

KBR Park and WOFL

We live in a beautiful neighborhood, far from the noise of busy streets, completely surrounded by huge Neem (from the Mahogany family) and Teak trees. And that’s why we’d never felt the urge to take our walks anywhere else but here. For a change, we decided to go to Kasu Brahmananda Reddy National Park this Sunday, early (or as early as possible on a Sunday, with a couple of kiddos) in the morning. Kasu Brahmananda… Oh Forget it, KBR National Park is in one of the prime locations of Telangana, India, called the Jubilee Hills and is about 390 acres in size (according to Wikipedia). We paid Rs. 20 per adult and Rs. 10 per child to enter.

Inside the park

I’m glad we went there. It almost felt like we were walking in the midst of a Forest (almost, because of the walkways and a lot of walkers and joggers). It reminded us of one of our favorite spots in Tucson, US, called the AZDM (AriZona Desert Museum). Just like in the Desert Museum, the trees had markers with their names on them. And there were boards everywhere explaining how the flora and fauna are useful to us and how we should do all it takes to protect them.

Board inside the park

“Let us all promise to be eco-friendly ALL THE TIME!”

Medha walked the whole 2 km distance while Madhav covered half the loop; For the other half he had to be strapped to the stroller while he ate a bun (Food is not allowed inside, but we sneaked in a few snacks for the kids!). They both enjoyed spotting squirrels and peacocks and imitating the sound of peacocks. Peacocks. They were everywhere. They stunned us with their rich royal-blue bodies and feathery skirts trailing behind. I couldn’t capture their majesty on my camera, as the guard didn’t allow me to carry my bulky camera inside! (I wonder why. Seriously! Everyone carries a cellphone these days, don’t they?)). I had to make do with a cell phone, which I hate using for clicking pictures (due to its limited flexibility). We did have a good time there though and plan on visiting again.

We had worked up quite an appetite by then. Usually on weekends we go for lunch buffets. But this time we wanted to try something else, so we picked WOFL, listed on Zomato as a good place nearby. WOFL is a tiny eatery tucked in Banjara Hills, not too far from Jubilee Hills. It is easy to miss if one is not paying close attention while driving.

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We hadn’t eaten Eggs and Waffles in a long long time, so we were too excited (especially the kids and I. Prasad, not so much. He kept bickering about mosquitoes as we sat outside in an area whose decor brought to mind outdoor European Cafes. I was least disturbed by a mosquito and so were the kids). I kept clicking pictures even before the Food arrived. I’m sure the other guests found me crude and not sophisticated enough to be dining at a swanky place. But that didn’t stop me! 🙂 I can be pretty shameless when I need to get my work done!

Prasad ordered a Mushroom Omelette while I chose the Greek Omelette (expecting to gorge on my favorite Feta Cheese after a long time. Sadly, there was no Feta Cheese.). We ordered a plate of Scrambled Eggs for Medha and Hashbrowns for Madhav. Madhav isn’t big on eating Eggs; We thought we’d share bits from our plates with him. We also ordered a Cafe Latte, asking the waiter to bring it as soon as possible since I was starving.

The Food didn’t take much long to arrive, but the sides we ordered, like extra Bread slices took forever to. I thought everything was delicious and homely, but Prasad said HE could have done a better job with the Eggs (He’s capable enough!). The Belgian Chocolate and Blueberry Waffles stole the show! They were just the right texture and taste and everybody dug in and cleaned up the plates!

I thought the food was a bit pricey and the portion-size too small.

We’d go back there again for the ambiance and the Food; I want to try their Pan-cakes next time. The waiters looked well-dressed and stylish, but a big part of their attire was missing- their SMILE! They looked like they were forced to do the job. I hope the owners work to improve their customer-service; Then I’m sure the restaurant’ll earn a 5 rating, one better than its current 4 on Zomato.

Cheers.

Manasa.

Crochet Project- Granny Square Table Cloth

Crocheting is a simple art. My mother inspired me to try it. I remember her holding a ball of yarn in one hand and a needle in the other, walking around the house, crocheting. Till date, she has produced a number of table cloths and they are all still in good condition.

She taught me how to do a slip knot (basic knot) with her threads, which were mostly white, size 3 or 10, with a hook/ needle size of 1 mm; And from that to make a chain. This is the easiest way to learn crocheting. I practiced everyday by making long chains which helped me to get a good grip over the needle. Once you get that grip, it is easy to make any kind of stitches. Then I learnt single crochet and double crochet stitches.

Using these basic stitches, I made simple table-cloth patterns copying my mom`s old patterns. I bought a few Crochet books and learnt the tougher and trickier patterns like triple, treble, cluster, double treble crochet etc. I also checked online for good patterns. I don’t follow any particular website but “Red Heart” has free patterns with instructions which can be easily understood by beginners.

One of the things I have made so far and which (in my opinion) is one of my best works is a Granny-Square patterned table-cloth.

Granny-square table-cloth

A granny square is a piece of square fabric produced in crochet by working in rounds from the center outward. Although there is no theoretical limit to the maximum size of a granny square, crocheters usually create multiple small squares (called “motifs”) and assemble the pieces to make clothing, purses, Afghan blankets, and other household textiles. (Source: Wikipedia)

While browsing for different patterns, I came across this blog, which gave me an idea to make a table cloth by creating small granny-square motifs and stitching them together. However, instead of making the same square patterns, I decided to make different kinds with an assortment of colors to bring a twist to the design. I found a lot of ideas here.

I used balls of yarn from a brand called Loops & Threads Soft & Shiny, which I had purchased in the US from a shop called Michaels. To make the table-cloth more vibrant, I used colors like landscape, Blue lagoon, circus and jewels. I also used a 2.5mm crochet hook for this project.

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You can use any type of yarn with colors of your choice to make this wonderful table cloth.  This can be used as a table cloth or a mat or to add a pop of color to a chair or a couch by laying it on the headrest.

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My passion for crocheting increased with the birth of my niece, Medha. I started making sweaters, booties, and scarves for her. So far I have made things like tops, shrugs, skirts and many more. My upcoming projects are a table cloth for my mother, curtain tops for our home and more dresses for my nieces and sweaters for my nephew. I will continue to update you all with my progress.

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Love,

Madhurya.

Letter to Medha

Dear Medha,

It’s been 2 months since you joined a Tennis Class and you still enjoy going there everyday (Phew! I don’t have to cajole or threaten you to go! I don’t think I could have.). You know way more about Tennis than I do! I feel so jealous when you talk “forehand” or “backhand” with Papa; It feels as if you both are speaking a different language altogether!

You enjoy the other games that the coaches make you guys play in order to improve your strength, concentration and co-ordination. Thanks to all the practice you get at home, you are able to hit the ball right across the net (Papa has a ball stuffed inside an ugly sock hanging by a length of rope in the middle of our living room for his budding Tennis Champ to practice!)

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Playing “house-house” with your baby brother is another favorite. You like cooking and serving everybody fancy food like “Cracker soup”, “Pink Sugar Milk-shake” and “Pink Chai”. As you “cook”, you describe the process, like it’s done on cookery shows. It sounds so good, it makes my mouth water! The other day you told me you don’t need a laptop to check the recipe while cooking, like I do. “I know everything!”, you said, as a matter of fact. Wish I were so confident!

And my heart swells with love and pride when I watch you play with your brother and he repeats everything you say or do ’cause it doesn’t happen too often; You both tease and fight with each other quite a lot too!

There are times though that I have to remind myself that you are just a 5 year old kiddo and not someone older! You have such strong likes and dislikes, high opinion about the world around and the people in it; And you are so vocal about it too. The only thing that holds you back is your voice, which is so soft, a listener has to place her ear close to your mouth to comprehend what you’re saying. And that’s the reason why you get disqualified from speeches (according to your teachers), even though you are the best of the lot (according to YOU!)!

When I stop doing about a hundred different things at the same time, like I usually do, and pay attention to you, really look at you, I’m shocked at how tiny you still are. You just act older, like you don’t really care whether I show you any affection or not! Then I hug you real tight and you let me; Then I promise myself to savor every bit of this age before it is too late and you’re all grown up.

With baby

 (My baby with her baby “Saraqueta”, the space monkey)

Love,

Mama