Goodbyes and New Adventures

Photograph: Mood for Reflection by Priyanka Nayar

It is time for us to move again. Yes, I know, seems too soon to me too. We’re all packed and ready to push off to Porbandar for our next adventure. It’s been a good first stint in Kerala. The people, the food, the beaches and the wildlife have made their excellent first impressions.

It’s been just over a year since we came here, but we’ve travelled away from home so often, that we haven’t seen everything that there is to see and experience. We’ll be back some day. Maybe to another part of the state.

This has been the kind of sabbatical from normal life that only very few lucky people can manage. It has spoilt me, for now, wherever I go, I will miss the lush greens. The place where we lived afforded us a view of the Arabian Sea on one hand, and the beautiful backwaters that Kerala is famous for on the other. Will be hard to find something to beat that.

Am one fourth Keralite, but have been to Kerala only once, over two decades ago. I’ve learnt some local cuisine, picked up a few words of Malayalam, and bought my first ‘set saree‘! It’s been wonderful being introduced to my roots. I’ve floated through most of my life not belonging to a particular part of the country, I surely will continue to do that for the rest of my life too. But now I know a little more about where my grandfather came from, and perhaps a little about why I am a fan of curry leaves.

There are still a bunch of things that are on my bucket list – am yet to take a cruise on a house boat, live in floating houses and watch a Kathakali performance. I haven’t had a whole host of dishes that I dream about, haven’t caught a glimpse of Periyar, Thekkady, Kumarakom or Munnar and not even had fresh seafood by the sea in Cochin. So I am far from satiated and my heart wants to come back and complete the journey.

Au revoir Kerala and my lovely friends here. Unfortunately, I’ve had to use the farewell cards I designed a short while back. But like the card says, it’s goodbyes only until we meet again.

The picture above captures my thoughts as I sign off, and prepare for the train journey tomorrow morning. If you’d like to see the art print for this and other pictures by me, you can find them at my store. Some of them are available as iPad and iPhone skins too.

I may not be able to write again until we’re well and settled in Porbandar. But my head is all abuzz with ideas for DIY projects and cozying up the nest there. And I’ve been busy pinning inspiration on my Pinterest boards. So when am back in full swing, there will be loads to share. On our way to our new home, we’re spending a few days in Mumbai, I should also have some stories to share of my time at markets, old haunts and with dear old friends.

Have a super weekend yourself, and an even better week ahead. xoxo, Sunny Nomad me.

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This Time That Year: A Summer in Paris

The year was 2007. Three young students from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA) were headed to Paris to represent India at the L’Oreal Brandstorm marketing contest. I was one of the three, we were up against teams from 36 other countries. This was the second time L’Oreal India was even participating in the global finals. We worked hard for six months leading up to this fabulous moment. We didn’t place amongst the top winners of the contest, but we sure came away with precious moments and memories.

It was my first trip out of the country. And that too to Paris, in June. The most glorious time of the year to be there. I was so kicked on so many levels. I was there to represent my country, to make new friends, to show what a good brand management student I was and to experience a culture I had only read about in books. I was on a high, as were my team mates.

For the first time, I understood what it meant when people said diversity. Up until now, the only diversity I’d experienced was that of the geography of states and languages within India. Here, 37 countries brought people of all colours, hues and tones. Of different races, languages and cultures. Though the conclave lasted only three days, the memories are burnt in my mind’s eye forever.

I made a lot of friends, some of whom I’ve managed to stay in touch with. Some others have faded away as part of a refreshing experience. My mind was not ready to absorb everything I saw, heard and smelled in those 9 days in Paris. After the conclave got done, we moved out of the trendy hotel the company had put us up at to a hostel on the outskirts of the main city. Clichy was far from all the important sights, and it gave us the chance to explore the Paris metro. It was lovely to hear the recorded names of stations in French, which sounded nothing like what they looked!

We took in all the tourist destinations, spent a good hour browsing through the Shakespeare Book Co.’s collection and wandered through Montmartre’s alleys. This was where artists like Salvadore Dali, Modigliani, Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh worked. I was delighted to simply walk down the same cobble-stoned roads as these artists must have ages ago, gazing upon the beautiful city that may have inspired their work. I almost wished I could have a tiny little flat and live here forever.

We had some wine on a side-walk cafe beside the Seine, walked along the river by day and cruised on it at night. The air was filled with art, music, French and style. We toured the Louvre, I ran to catch a glimpse of Van Gogh’s work at a museum dedicated to him. Unfortunately, it was closed, but just outside, I met local artists and saw the work of the master replicated beautifully by them. I almost walked away with a oil on canvas, but alas, my meager budget allowed me only art prints of the originals. Sigh!

Apart from enjoying the atmosphere of the romantic capital of the world, Paris was a crash course in different kinds of personal style. Things that were on the ramps were on the streets in Mumbai too. But I had yet to see such clever mixing of colours and textures. I was a student, I couldn’t afford much, but I did come away with two beautiful and surprising pullovers.Those and a couple of berets is all I bought to keep the spirit of personal style alive for me. Even if I wear them at home, they make me happy!

My one regret is that I didn’t possess enough skill or capability to make the most of my borrowed camera. A cousin had lent me his point-and-shoot and now I have thumbnail sized memories to look at whenever am nostalgic.

I created this collage above by using some clever filters and effects in Coreldraw. It is a beautiful reminder of a wonderful time only four summers ago. I’ve made another version of the same photograph, and if you’d like to check it, you can head over to my store on Society6.com.

N and I plan to return to the city someday, together. He’s done a trip with family a year after I was there, we didn’t even know each other. I can almost see us walking along the quaint sidewalks and soaking in the Paris air. Of course, he will drag me to music shops. But I will tug at his arm as we cross Valentino. Who knows, we may just be able to buy me something gorgeous in Valentino Red. One can dream.

Vintage with a Twist: A Class Act

We’ve all heard the age-old wisdom of when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I thought of taking a shot at it, and came up with this art print. Why not be classy, stare life in the eye, and make some lemon tea? Surviving a challenge with grace, charm and style makes me feel much better while am trying to get through it. The key of course is to remember that you will get on the other side, it’s the middle that sucks, but is going to pass. Hang in there buddy, you’re gonna make it.

 

Soak up the Sun

This picture I took of a kitty lounging in the summer sun in Istanbul last year, makes me long for a day like that one. I wish I could find a grassy little spot under a tree and just stretch out, with a book and let my thoughts wander. This weekend may very well be the last lazy one we enjoy. A big move is on the cards for June and we need to get started with packing up our life here. And…we’re getting a light drizzle almost everyday, so the monsoon isn’t that far away.

Somehow, doesn’t summer seem to always be full of so many things to look forward to? As kids, summer vacation meant plans for craft projects, hide and seek, late night card games, board games and climbing up every tree in sight, whether there were fruits to be had or not. It also held the promise of travelling to a new place. My dad is a civil engineer, and was usually posted to different parts each year. School year began with either a vivid essay or a drawing of some memory of the lovely, jobless time spent licking orange flavoured ice lollies. Mangoes were another treat that summer never failed me at. I miss sinking my teeth into a huge slice of cool water melon.

When we lived in Nasik, my sis, our best friend and I would plan sleep overs on our terraces. We’d spend the evening lugging up bedding, mosquito coils and other meagre comforts up the rickety ladder propped up at my friend’s house. Going up was so dandy. While the other two slithered down skillfully, I had to be coaxed down like a cat stuck on a tree. I now am so grateful for their patience. They never gave up on me, and never stopped making plans to go sleep on the terrace. And there we’d lie, looking up at the sky, marvelling at the twinkling stars. Slowly, we’d pop off to sleep, conversations terminating mid-sentence, tired from all the planning and several trips up and down.

As we would be flopping around through the day, waiting for the ice-cream cart to come by, I don’t recall much parental supervision or interference. We were happy they were at bay, they were probably enjoying the much needed break too. When it got really hot, we’d fill up a tank with water and get in, in our bathing suits. That was pretty much the only time the bathing suits came out, unless we were away for a beach holiday.

What do kids do today to while away the abundance of time in summer vacations? How come we don’t make these plans anymore? Why did we really want to grow up so fast, when it seems obvious now, that there is no greater joy that just soaking up the sun?

 

Vintage Treasures: Mahatma Gandhi’s Home

A quaint little house stands testimony to the simple, rustic life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Father of our Nation. He was born in Porbandar and lived in this house until his teen years. As you duck when you pass through the short doorways, you wonder how a tiny, frail man could have managed everything that he did. About how he continues to inspire people around the world with his words – written and spoken.

A bus-load of senior citizens clamber up the precarious staircase, holding onto the rope for dear life. They speak a tongue, foreign in these parts but comfortingly familiar to me. I interject their chatter with, “where have you come from?”, in Marathi. A happily surprised smile, a short pause and the dhoti-clad gentleman breaks into Marathi that could only be from Pune. Am from Mumbai, and there is usually a mildly cold war between the two cities of Maharashtra. One, the commercial capital of the state and India. The other, the bastion of all that represents the Marathi warrior.

But in these parts, we bond over the syllables of a common language. I relish the texture of the words being formed in my mouth, and I strain to hear the gurgling sound of my mother tongue from these village folk. Strangely, am comforted by the fact that home is indeed not that far away.

As we amble through the museum and get ready to leave the sunny courtyard, I look back one last time. The lady in the nine yard saree, who had almost not made it to the top floor, mops her forehead with the corner of her pallu. Even though she has skipped the trek to the third floor, she seems satisfied with her tour to a sliver of history.

Shutter Love: Porbandar

Hello, hope you had a lovely weekend. We spent ours travelling from the state of Gujarat to the state of Kerala. En-route, we had a grand time with family and friends in Mumbai. It’s wonderful to be back home though, and am looking forward to a week filled with once-familiar, now blurry in memory sounds, sights and smells.

Before we left Porbandar, I had intended to do a full post which captured the city through my pictures. So here it is, visions of a wonderful time getting to know a new port and people. The pictures capture life around the sea, simply because that is where I hung out most often.




More pictures of Porbandar from a tour of Mahatma Gandhi’s home tomorrow.

This Time That Year: The Big Two

Today, we’re leaving from Porbandar and heading back home to Kerala. Today also happens to be our two-year anniversary. We didn’t have a traditional Indian wedding, we don’t really have a traditional Indian marriage either. We exchanged our vows in a registrar’s office, and celebrated the occasion with an intimate party followed by a large reception in Mumbai.

Did I mention we got married in Goa? By Goan law, I now own half of everything that N has! I don’t think it works the other way around though.

Why this picture you ask? It’s been quite the proverbial ride, these past two years. We’ve moved four houses, 2 states, travelled to yet another one, camped in a hotel room for four months, and visited two beautiful countries. Not to mention the countless trips from wherever I was to Bombay. We’ve moaned about the weight gain after marriage, walked kilometers along beaches, talked about the mundane, the interesting, and pretty much everything in between. Experimented with diets, attempted to recreate classic cuisines, made to-do, to-buy and to-gift lists. Run amok in malls (we’ve lived in tiny hamlets for a while now), exclaimed at the rising prices of milk and eggs, given up on saree shopping for the mothers since we’re both clueless there and discovered the joys of online shopping. Who doesn’t love stuff arriving in brown packages that can be ripped open?

There have been a few downs too, sneaking up suddenly. Just like you come down on the Ferris Wheel and think you’re going to crash to the ground. Why are they called Ferris Wheels? In India we call them Giant Wheels, yes, even the little ones are called that. And Indians love their Giant Wheels. They’re a rarity in the cities, just like the dwindling population of sparrows. That is something to talk about in another post though. The downs, well, while they last they also hold the promise of an upcoming high. So we’ve mostly managed to get by.

We’ve rationalised how we can’t have a dog if we move around so much, and yet melted into a puddle every time one of us finds a picture of a cute pup-we-must-have. I’ve coaxed N out of his digital dinosaur phase and he’s given me tips on driving. I will soon qualify as a woman navigator who’s as good as a man navigator (yeah, apparently there is a bar to rise up to there). Meanwhile he’s learnt to toss omlettes into the air like a chef at a breakfast counter.

I’ve discovered that the secret to marital bliss is lots of ice cream in the freezer and he knows that a morning without a cup of tea can bring out the grizzly in me! (That rhymes, I think I’ll make it into a poster. What say?) And he’s also realised that all those art projects I begin are not always going to get finished. While horror movies are his thing, crime series are my thang. When I say “You’re my lobster,” he just shakes his head and smiles.

It’s been a mad two years. Am grateful for them and for the love of two families instead of one. I think I may have grown up a little bit too, against my own will. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all. This business of growing up and growing old together. I look forward to it now.