The journey towards home

I have always thought of myself as someone who lives mostly in the past. By that I mean, I think of my past a lot. And by think, I mean in an analyzing sort of way and not why-did-that-happen-to-me sort of way. More than necessary, maybe. I love talking about the past, drawing inspiration from the past, thinking about how I behaved in the past and analyzing it. I rarely think about the future. It sometimes scares me that I literally have no idea where I want to be in life few years from now, or few days from now. Needless to say, nostalgia is a big thing in my life.
And for this reason, trips to India, to home, are even more special. Apart from meeting some of the most dear people, I feel I always find more about myself when I visit places which were a big part of me (in a more active way) many years back. And this time, the trip started amazingly the moment I came out of the Mumbai airport. In spite of me telling my mom not to exert herself and come to the airport, there she was, standing in the crowd, wearing a familiar salwar-kameez and with her trademark shock-white hair (which I was sad to note had become even whiter in the past year). I literally ran to her, we hugged each other and as usual she remarked how thin and underfed I looked. (She always says this, even though I go back with extra pounds!)
We boarded the service/travels which ferries travelers from Mumbai to Pune along with 4 other people. I made myself comfortable and opened the dabba which mom had got for me (again, something she does every time!), which had my favorite faral items. This was the first time I was going home during diwali in 6 years and needless to say, it was bliss eating all that amazing stuff after what seemed like an eternity.
Anyway, we got talking with one other traveler in the car, an uncle who stayed in the same locality we used to stay many years back. My mom and he both remarked that how they think their faces look familiar, when after some time we realized that he is the same uncle who used to own and run an ice cream shop (Dinshaw’s brand) right around the corner of my childhood home. And we used to frequent the shop often. I remember the shop fondly (though I was very young to recollect the face of the uncle who ran the shop), I also remember the name of the ice cream sundae I used to always take. It was called “jumble double” and consisted of two scoops of ice cream in the flavor of your choice, topped with chocolate and caramel syrups and some nuts. This was long back, almost 20 years back and that uncle was amazed that I remembered what I used to order. But then a lot of people are amazed when I tell them I remember very small details (probably insignificant, now) from my childhood. Things like parts of conversation with people or what I had exactly thought on a particular day at a particular moment or what I had eaten on a particular day many years back. Anyway, the uncle said that the shop no longer exists and he retired some years ago. It was such fun talking about all the familiar places around our old locality.
The moment we got out of Mumbai and hit the expressway, the driver of our car put some songs on his CD player and I was delighted to hear all the familiar Sandeep Khare’s poems and songs. Khare is one of my favorite marathi poets. Our conversation slowly dissolved in the songs as we savored the melodies. I think the ride from Mumbai to pune was one of the highlights of the trip. The setting was perfect. It was dawn (around 4.30 am) and the sun had just started to rise, a cool breeze on an unusually empty expressway, amazing melodies emanating from the player, my mom by my side and me munching on home cooked snacks and thinking about all the good things in life. Also, I saw one of the best sunrises I have ever seen, that morning. When we entered a still-sleepy Pune, we crossed a bridge and I saw this silhouette of a rower with his boat in the river, and the orange-yellow soft sunlight beautifully lighting up the entire river which was partially covered by fog. It almost killed me a little bit that I could not get the car to stop so that I could capture that amazing setting on my camera. I sighed and savored that setting with my eyes, and dreamed about home.

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A comeback…sort of!

I am not sure what exactly I am about to write, because I don’t really have a particular point in my mind. Happens a lot these days. Not having a particular point and lots of random thoughts in mind trying to figure out if at all there is a point. In my mind. Or to anything. I generally attribute this state of being to being lost. So these past few weeks, there has been a background thread running in my mind as to what really defines me. Is there anything that is really “me”? In its pure unadulterated form? Whatever I like or dislike, whatever I do/don’t do, whatever I am or not am…that is a result of the happenings and influences around me. So, if the influences had been different, the environment different, would it have resulted in a different “me”? I always hear people saying “be yourself. Do what you like”, but even this, I have never really understood. What does being yourself really mean? At a very superficial level I guess it means not to be influenced by other peoples’ perception of you and doing what you like. But then, you liking a particular thing is in itself influenced by so many people and happenings around you. Your surroundings. And I sometimes wonder – Just because you are doing what you really like to do, are you being yourself? (whatever that even means). Anyway, this thought that whatever “me” I know myself as, is variable, was bothering me no end. And I had a lengthy intense discussion with the husband about this. Anyway, bottom line is life is a journey where you find yourself. By looking inside you, questioning you, and by making sure the known and the knower are the same.

Among other interesting things,
Met up with fellow blogger and college batch-mate yamini over coffee and chocolate cake. We spoke, ate, walked and chilled out on a lazy sunday afternoon by the lake. iLike 🙂

Went camping with grad school gang and had awesome time. There were many “firsts” on this trip and they turned out to be interesting experiences. 😉

Another camping weekend happened with some friends and was fun as always. I am realizing that camping can get highly addictive. Who needs hot showers, soft comfy beds when you get to wake up to chirping birds and stove side maggi.

I have been questioning myself on whether I should stop blogging because these days I am not really finding anything in it. But then, few days back, in a particular weird state of mind, I read one of my old posts and got some comfort! 😀 So I guess, blogging is still on, for now.

I recently realized that one of my common lines to the husband these days is “mujhe bohot ajeeb feel ho raha hai” (I am feeling very weird!). This always precedes the conversations I mentioned above.

Another short trip is happening and that is a hiking+camping trip in Utah. But for that, I really need to buckle up and spend the next few remaining days in the gym preparing myself to keep up with the other expert hikers in the group 🙂

Oh, and yes..Fall is here! My favorite time of the year. I love the slight chill, falling leaves, orange, pumpkins and squashes in the farmers’, scarves and chunky sweaters, hot starbucks and cozying under the blanket for some extra time in the morning.

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The day I took the plunge!!

There are certain things people keep doing and which are talked about a great deal. Things like falling in love, experiencing the thrill of living by yourself for the first time or engaging in adventure sports like bungee jumping, skydiving and WW rafting. All these things are talked about in such a great deal of detail that all of them have become clichéd. And yet, when you yourself experience one of these things for the first time, howmuchever clichéd they might be, the thrill is tremendous. For me, I have always wanted to do all the dare-devil sports. And I kept thinking about doing all of them in my head for many years, so much so that I kind of got tired thinking about them and waiting for the right time to do them!! (things like lack of money, lack of time and lack of other resources always got in the way!!).

And just like that, during dinner with some of my friends, we were talking about the psychological effects of turning 30, and whether one looks at life differently. One of my friends was turning 30 in a few days from the said dinner. And I mentioned how I am turning more scared of things in general as I am growing older. And how I am not liking it. And I mentioned that I really wanted to do skydiving before I got so scared that I changed my mind! And just like that, it was decided that all of us would go skydiving the weekend after my friend’s 30th birthday! Reservations were made, videos were watched, deep breathing exercises were practised and much anticipation was built in those couple of weeks leading up to the D-day! For many days I was battling myself on whether to tell my mom about this whole thing. At first, I was not going to tell her, and had planned on writing a letter and keeping it, just in case anything happened! But then, I scrapped the plan and went ahead and told them everything! I had a whole speech prepared because I was so sure mom would object, but to my utter surprise, the moment I told her, she squealed with delight and said that finally I am going ahead and doing it! And that even she wants to do it some day! (there went my speech). There are so many such times when my mom really surprises the heck out of me!!

Anyway, so a big burden off my chest, I was happier that I was going to do it with my parents fully aware of what I was up to. When the said day arrived, we reached the place an hour late after battling horrible traffic and were sure that we had missed our appointment. But they did accommodate us in the next few slots, and in the meantime we were told to sign some papers. Things like we realised the risks and that this might lead to our death. Once the formalities were taken care of, the husband and I went to the watching area to watch two of our friends take the jump first. Once their jump was over, we were tucked into our jump-suits and were scooted off to the waiting aeroplane. They did ask us if we wanted to say anything for our friends and family before we went. S said something along the lines of “go skydiving” and I said “I do hope I survive this jump to actually tell the tale” :D. Once our statements were captured on the video, the plane started, and with that so did the acceleration of my heartbeat. I knew I wasn’t scared per se, but my heart rate was definitely up! Once we reached 14,000ft (which is the highest height they were offering), S who was seated next to the door, got ready for his jump first. The moment the door was opened, that was the first time I actually realised the height and the amount of wind outside! And just like that, in the blink of an eye, S and his instructor disappeared. I think that was the first scariest moment for me, and I, very dramatically shouted S’s name!! Next was my turn, and we scooted closer to the door. I guess in the entire skydiving experience, for me the scariest moment was the point when I was dangling from the plane, ready to jump. Scary and exciting at the same time. Because once I jumped, the wind was so strong that I couldn’t really think about anything much!! The first 50 seconds before the parachute opens is the free fall, where you are falling rapidly down (The speed was scary, based of the amount of upward wind thrust that was hitting my face!). In the pictures and the video it seems as if you are floating in the air like a bird, but in reality gravity if doing one heck of a job!!

The birds in the sky!

After about 50 seconds of free fall, the parachute opened and the instructor gave me the steering of the parachute so that I could operate it. I was extremely thrilled to be given such a big responsibility 😉 and grabbed the steering. We then did some sharp turns and somersaults and then glided around for a bit. The views were amazing, we could see the Santa Cruz beach, the fog covered hills and the highway. S, who had jumped before me had already landed and I could see his parachute touch ground below me. During the time of my landing, the wind was a bit eccentric and the instructor told me that we wound be doing a horizontal landing, where I might land on my bum. And that is what happened. I touched back down, on the earth, safe and sound. I thanked the instructor and babbled something about how awesome I was feeling to be alive. I ran and hugged S, then my friends and my instructor.

The entire way back, I was reliving the jump and smiling to myself at the amazing thing I had experienced. I think it will be a while before I forget the feeling.

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This and that!

– Among many other things, I have been feeling a bit lost past few weeks. Probably because I am not giving enough time to just sit and laze around, thinking about nothing in particular. Hectic days at work somehow trickle down to the remaining part of the day and whatever free time one has goes into thinking about how to solve a particular bug at work 😐
However, I am getting better at handling this and making sure I do keep my mind work-free for the remaining hours of the day when I get back from work.

– My mother continues to surprise me. In a good way 🙂

– A trip to India is getting me all pumped up and excited. It is too early to say, and I have not even booked my tickets yet, but I am smiling just at the thought of spending time at my place and hopefully spending the diwali at home as well. After years.

– I get really mad at people, when they find out I plan to go back to India in the near future and say “oh, everyone plans that, but no one really does it”. I get mad and I judge the people who say this. I mean, they are judging me (without even knowing me that well). I know, I am going back, and that is all that matters. Hmph!

– I have reduced my sugar intake drastically past few months. I now eat pastries, desserts, ice creams only once (or some times twice) a week. That is still kind of high, but considerably low as per my previous consumption. And I am feeling the difference already. smooth skin and not a single outbreak in months!

– People around me, friends in general are making babies left and right. Each day I see at least one announcement or a new baby picture on someone’s profile. I have never been particularly intent on being a mom. Even today, I am super doubtful about the whole process and there are days when the husband and I talk about these things and I just cry out- I want a baby, but why don’t you give birth to it! Silly, I know but I seriously wish things were the other way round. As scared I am about hospitals, needles and the paraphernalia, I don’t know how I am going to deal with the baby making process when the time comes. More than the process I am also worried about how our life will change after a baby. I mean I can no longer go hike whenever I want, or just sleep till noon. But I am told there are other adventures when the baby comes and I am just finding it hard to agree to that. Sure, it will be all cute and nice, and awww…but I need my excitement.

– I get these thoughts and these are most of the times followed by a guilt wave. I am so heartless, I lack the ‘motherly instinct’, I will never get a baby and that will serve me right. But I am not even too sure about the whole “motherly instinct” part. Is there really anything like this? Or is this just social conditioning?

– The husband and I camped over the weekend amidst foggy hills and a scenic beach. This was our first ‘solo’ camping trip. I mean, not solo, because there were the two of us! We have camped before and it has always been with a group. But this time we just decided at the last minute, on a friday evening to go camping the next day. And it was a weekend well spent! Some of the notable mentions include seeing deer just outside our tent, eating maggi and wine in the cold of the night, a tired, sound sleep, waking up the next day and going to the beach and eating maggi by the beach (we cooked it on our small camp stove!), hiking in the mountains soaked in fog and dew (it reminded me of wuthering heights-exact same landscape!) and on sunday treating ourselves to an amazing Italian meal of pizza, pasta and Tiramisu in the neighboring Italian town of Sausolito.

A mile into the hike

Dense fog-covered hills

– During the above mentioned hike, we hardly saw any people on our way and it was so quiet, eerie and beautiful! All we could hear were the waves breaking on rocks at some distance and our own footsteps. And during the difficult parts, me huffing and puffing along the way! And all we could see was the small path in front of us, because the dense fog had covered everything else. Utter bliss!

 

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The age of Doordarshan

One of the things I miss about my childhood is Doordarshan. We never had cable at our place when I was a kid and got it only when I was in college. Hence, doordarshan used to be the common form of entertainment apart from playgrounds and summers spent at grandmother’s place. And I am glad it was. Television back then (I am talking about the late 80s, early 90s) was sacred. As in, we kids were allowed only select tv serials at select hours of the week (and not everyday!) Hence, the anticipation of waiting for the favorite program to air, used to add much charm to the whole ‘tv watching experience’. It was hardly the “idiot box” back then as it is today, with the infestation of so many channels and so many (useless) programs. Doordarshan in its earlier days was awesome!! Over the span of 10 years or so (from the ages of 5 to about 16), I had many favorites on doordarshan. Mostly aired during the late 80s and early 90s. Shows like Tom and Jerry, BQC, Vikram Vetal, Chanakya, Udaan, Oshin, Surabhi, Malgudi days and Dekh bhai dekh are the ones I remember fondly till today. The husband too, used to watch all these shows when he was a kid and we often talk about these old shows, catching snippets of them on youtube. It feels warm talking about the shows we saw as kids, living in different states in different childhoods. Yesterday, one of such talks led to the talking of tele serial Udaan. I used to love that serial to bits. And I was surprised to see that the tune of the serial automatically came to my mind yesterday after so many years! I immediately jumped up, grabbed the laptop and did a quick search on youtube only to find that the serial is not available online. And the only way to get hold of it is by ordering a dvd of it (which is unavailable currently on flipkart). But seeing the clipping of the opening title track brought all the fond memories of DD flooding back. And I sighed-“those were the days”. Doordarshan had some kickass programs those days, and so many of them were so ahead of their times. Especially Udaan. I mean, how often do we see portrayal of women in realistic and strong roles. Roles that are fit to be ‘role models’ for young kids. Like many young kids (especially girls), Kavita choudhary used to be one of my role models growing up. I wanted to grow up and remove the injustice and put the wrong doers to shame.

That program had amazingly strong characters in the roles of Kavita, her dad and (if I remember correctly), her husband. Just listening to the title track yesterday gave me instant motivation and the same energy I had felt as a 8 year old when I used to watch the program. For many years, as a kid, I had cradled the secret ambition of being a police officer (or anyone who punishes the law-breakers). While in school, for the elocution competition, I had spoken about Kiran Bedi after doing a lot of research on her. I fondly remember getting inspired by fictional characters like Kavita or real ones like Kiran Bedi. Somewhere along the line, my love for being a police officer was quietly replaced by my love for Science. And now, the only thing I can do is wistfully look back and remember Doordarshan for airing shows that did inspire me in a big way.

Over the past many years, I have stayed away from television. Be it in India or here, I keep myself away from cable. No reason in particular, but neither the husband nor I are particularly fond of television and hence we end up not taking cable at all. I did catch some American sitcoms recently when they came on netflix, and I felt glad I have kept away from cable!

PS: I had written this post some weeks back, but got to posting it only today.

PPS: I have been having a hectic few weeks where I sigh with relief every friday and say a silent TGIF!!

 

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Announcement!

The babies are here! And they are quadruplets (or so I think)! For the past 2-3 days S and I have been super excited about the new additions to our patio family. The pair of birds who had made a nest in our patio gave birth to a bunch of little birds! (I mean, they laid eggs and they hatched.) It is just so much fun observing their feeding cycle. The little babies always seem to be hungry! They sit with their heads popped a little out, and the moment they sense their parents nearby they will open their mouths/beaks and crane their necks for food!!

The other day, after their feeding, the babies were snugly tucked in, and the parents sat at the edge of the nest, keeping them warm. It was such a pleasing sight! And it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside seeing the happy family all cuddled together. It also made me incredibly sad at the same time thinking that there are so many people out their who are not blessed with a happy family. And how having a strong supporting family makes life so much better. And yet, in spite of having dysfunctional families, people do fight to be happy and content and make peace with the situation. And many times grow up to be these amazing role models. Howmuchever I complain that humans are capable of cruelty beyond limits and even though sometimes I wish I belonged to a different species, there are times when I am just so easily inspired by the tenacity of human spirit. The ability to bounce back, to make best of the situation and to live life happily. I context switch a lot like this, these days. (Imagine going from baby bird birth to my wish to belong to a different species!).

Anyway, main intent of this post was to share some baby bird shots I managed to take. I think I should have done just that and saved your time 😉

Where is my food?!!

Be patient…otherwise you ain’t getting it!!

Here you go!

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Party on the patio!

Bird #1

2 really cute birds are making a nest in our patio (balcony) corner. And the husband and I are making sure they are comfortable. We put out bird food and water for them. Mostly, the bird food gets eaten by squirrels that frequent our patio. But I think these 2 birds are quite wild, and anyway do not prefer the food we put out. They are really tiny and fly fast and make the cutest chirping noise. It is just so much fun to wake up every morning and check on them the first thing. Every morning they are either busy building their nest with twigs in their beak or just sun bathing on our patio railing. Whenever we go out on the patio, they do not like if we spend more than a few minutes outside. Especially if they are in the middle of their nest-building. They fly around chirping wildly hoping we will go inside. 🙂

Bird #2

Bully!!

Our most frequent visitor!

Few weeks back, we procured a bunch of plants for our small patio garden. I was still recuperating from my fiasco of caring for an orchid (make that two orchids). What happened to the orchids is better left unsaid! But the husband mentioned he will take initiative to care for the garden and I reluctantly agreed. We got a mint plant and a flowering plant from the farmer’s market. I did ask the gardener there to show me the least maintenance plant and he pointed towards the mint. Hence, that was one obvious choice. To give company to these two, someone from my company gave away a bunch of tomato saplings and I got home 3 of them. My group mate who is into gardening assured me that tomato is a robust plant, and I need not hyper ventilate at the thought of keeping it alive.

The husband is getting super excited about our small plant collection and wants to add few more flowering plants to it. Me, I still think we are biting off more than we can chew. But either way, our patio is currently a very happening place. With birds, squirrels and plants in abundance 🙂

some of our plants-tomato, yellow flowering plant, another tomato, chillies

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