Loving the Sea

Hello! Been a while hasn’t it?

It’s good to be back after my long sabbatical from this sunny nook. The sabbatical began as a forced leave due to medical reasons. We were expecting our first offspring, you see. And somehow, I wasn’t ready to share the news until…well, until I had said offspring safely tucked into my arms.

But once that happened, my life, it sorta stopped being my life. I was transformed into a 24-hr snack bar and thus began my zombie phase… Being a new parent, it is a job that is difficult to prepare for. I am so grateful to my family for being the most amazing support system in the world. Couldn’t have done the first leg of this journey without them.

So, in short, priorities changed (duh!). This blog was my baby until a real baby came along demanding my complete attention. I put on my training floatie and dove into my new role, focussed on bonding with my wee panda. And here I am, a year later, trying to rebuild some semblance of an adult person’s life.

My toddler is a fount of joy and life has never been as fulfilling for me. My little man K keeps me busy all day…and when he naps, I read. The blog has been on my mind, I have a couple of unfinished posts sitting as drafts. Somehow, I never hit the ‘publish’ button. After months and months of consuming content – books, articles, blogs, ad campaigns, movies and music – I feel I’m ready to share again.

What better way to start than begin at home?

We moved two cities in the interim. From Porbandar to Kochi and now to Visakhapatnam aka Vizag. All along this cross-country tour, the sea has been with me. It is the one thing that has instantly soothed away the feeling of being in a new place. I really is a kind of a home for me. Given the choice, I will  always want a holiday by the sea, choose to breathe salty air instead of crisp mountain air and would rather buy a tropical island than a log cabin (ahem…once I have the dough, of course I’m buying an island).

This is the first time I have lived on the East coast of India…so I’m pretty excited to glimpse the Bay of Bengal everyday from my balcony. This quote I found on Pinterest explains my addiction better than I can. I added it to my favourite click of the morning sea in Porbandar. Perfect inspired creativity for my muse – the Sea.

She loved the Sea

 

Wanderlust: Ant’s-eye View of The Taj Mahal

In my short life, I’ve had two encounters with the Taj. While one was at that tricky age of 16, the other was at a slightly more befuddling 31 (does maturity really come with age?). Each visit is sharply etched in my mind, and I’m happy to see that by the second one, I seemed to have grown up a little. Or so I’d like to believe.

For most Indians, the trip to see the Taj Mahal is like a tiny pilgrimage. It’s after all the poster child of India, famed to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We grow up listening to the magical experiences of people who’ve been to this inimitable symbol of limitless love. On my first trip to the Taj, all of this was pretty much lost on me.

I recall being armed with a Kodak point-and-shoot camera, wearing a hideous blue tee-shirt identical to the ones worn by 40 other teenagers. It was a school trip with my batch mates. All of us had recently faced one of the biggest hurdles in our academic careers – the 10th standard board exams. We’d been slogging out butts off for over a year and now, were finally taking that well-earned break. The trip focused on a seven day trek in the Himachal hills and the visit to the Taj Mahal was just a tick on the North Indian itinerary.

And what a rotten time to pick for a trip to the Taj! It was the peak of summer, the sunlight glinting off the white marble made it difficult to see anything without squinting. People have to walk barefoot to get near the main dome but on this day, the tiled floor was so hot we had to make a mad dash for it. All we wanted to do was sprawl out under a tree and doze off in the gentle breeze. We weren’t interested in the back story; none of us had experienced true love yet. During the one hour guided tour, the only thing that made us pay attention was the barbaric folklore of how the hands of master artisans were chopped off so that no one could replicate the majestic Taj ever again.

We’d brought packed lunch from Delhi. It was made by our school cook at the crack of dawn and had been emanating promising smells on the four-hour bus ride. By the time it was lunchtime however, the food was stinking so ferociously that even rodents steered clear of the dustbin! The heat had been too much for the poor fried rice. Our fiscally prudent principal was in a fix, but made a stupendous, last-minute recovery with some packets of chips and flavoured milk.

As we left Agra, I felt a pang of dissatisfaction. I vowed to myself that I’d be back some day.

Taj blog 1

Now, almost 15 years later, I had once again come to Agra. This time around I was with family – N, his brother and my dear friend who’s married to N’s brother. We’re all shutter-happy people, so we had four cameras of differing capabilities to make some memorable pictures. We drove to the place where you have to park your cars, about 2 km away from the main grounds. From there, you can either take a ride in an eco-friendly electric rikshaw or ride along with an uber-friendly horse cart.

Taj blog 5

Is it a surprise that we chose the horse cart ride? Our awesome steed, Sajaan, was quite a cute fella. His owner claimed that Sajaan was super busy during the peak wedding seasons. North Indian grooms are notorious for riding up to the mandap on a beautiful stallion. Who can blame them? There’s probably no other way to match up to the gorgeousness of the brides. But I digress.

After a full-body search, we entered the sprawling compound. While my troops lingered around, I was impatient to get a first glimpse. When we entered the main archway, I remembered something the guide had told me all those years ago. If you stand directly facing the Taj and walk briskly towards it, the building appears to move back, and shrink in size. And, if you back away quickly while still looking at the Taj, it grows steadily and comes closer to you. This delightful quirk of the architecture was interpreted by our guide, “when you gallop towards it, the Taj bows and welcomes you but when you try to run away, it rushes forward and says ‘don’t leave me’!”

Taj blog 2

Over the years, Shah Jahan’s ode to his precious wife has turned a mild shade of yellowish-cream. Despite this unfortunate reality, it is one of the most enchanting buildings on Earth. When you see it across the water canals and lush green gardens, its hold over you intensifies. You cannot run away from it, if anything, you almost never want to leave.

The Taj Mahal’s beauty stunned me, I felt paralyzed. How do I capture an authentic bit of what I see and feel in a few photographs? How can I translate this inexplicable sense of wanting to get closer and yet being afraid of missing out on seeing it whole? Of wanting to touch the perfect reflection in the still water? Of being overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the art that has witnessed the turn of over three centuries? How do I convey the delicate, gossamer dreams carved out of Makrana marble? The peace and serenity that I feel here?

Eventually, I realized it was my only chance, so I had to try my best. The pictures in this post aren’t entirely satisfactory, but someday I hope to get another chance to improve on my humble attempt.

Seeing the Taj with grown up eyes was a gift. Having lived through some of the highs and lows of love myself, I think I better understood the creation this time around. When you see the Taj, you can’t help but think about how deeply the emperor had loved his sweetheart, and how inconsolable his grief must have been to inspire this final resting place for her.

Tagore perhaps interpreted it best when he wrote, “let this one tear-drop, this Taj Mahal, glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time, forever and ever.”

 

 

Picking up where we left off: Back, alive and kicking

Hello again from Porbandar, almost the Western tip of India. The sun sets here around 7:30 p.m. which is crazy, for someone like me who’s used to twilight around 6. It’s taking some getting used to, my brain still thinks it’s late afternoon even though it is time to switch modes from being an advertising professional to a blogging Sunny Nomad.

We’ve landed a nice little flat on the sixth floor and when I work, I gaze out at some greenery. If I crane my neck, I can catch a glimpse of a river in the distance. It’s nice. The other day, a couple of flamingos cruised past as I looked out for some inspiration. Isn’t it wonderful when you’re rewarded so handsomely? Unfortunately, by the time I got out my camera, they were way past the zoom capabilities of my point-and-shoot.

Our very few neighbours are helpful and settling in has been made possible by our very efficient chowkidar (watchman) Karsanbhai. I also have to remind myself that every woman is a ‘ben‘ while every man is a ‘bhai‘ in these parts. You show respect by calling someone ‘mota bhai‘ or ‘mota ben‘ – loosely translated ben is sister, bhai is brother and mota means someone older. The other day I received a package, and the mailman called me Priyankaben Nayar!

While I speak a smattering of the Mumbai version of Gujarati, N is fluent in the Kathiawadi dialect spoken here. When I open my mouth, I usually end up amusing the listeners, but am learning to overcome my embarrassment and soldiering on.

The picture above offers you a glimpse of a lovely reflection from my balcony in the soft evening light. The breeze just completes the feeling of being on a vacation island, high above the noise and pollution. What a glamourous vision of Porbandar, don’t you think?

Since my work has resumed full time, all the DIY projects I’ve been dreaming of will take some time before they take physical form. But I hope to share something pretty soon. My kitchen needs rescuing, every day I find a new way to organise and re-organise almost everything. Those tips I pinned about using baskets for storage (since we have an acute shortage of cabinets) have come in handy. In Mumbai, I dragged N to Crawford market just so we could pick up some quaint old wicker baskets. They’ve been an absolute life-saver.

This weekend, I intend to pretty up the open storage and hang some pictures on the walls. Am looking forward to making the home cozy and comfortable, one day at a time. Cookies and lazy mornings are what keep me going!

But enough about me. How have you been?

 

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.

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.

Everyday Inspiration: Blue Buddy

The life of a nomad means I often stay away from all that is cozy and comfortable for long stretches of time. We have been away from our home in Kerala since early February. This little birdie has added to my sense of feeling at home on several occasions.

No matter where I am, I have always managed to spot my blue buddy – the white throated, blue winged Kingfisher. Am fascinated by this fisherman and have spotted him everywhere – in Mumbai, Delhi, Diu, Goa and Istanbul. A pretty little one visits us often in our backyard in Kerala.

Back in Mumbai, I saw one almost everyday, on my way to work on a bursting-at-its-seams local train. I looked forward to that part of my journey and spotting one meant this was going to be a good day. Yeah, a little cuckoo maybe, but it was my way of holding on to hope.

Once, while on a research trip to Delhi, I was lost in a maze of roads and traffic. I looked up, out the window, and there, perched on an electric wire was this harbinger of comfort. I smiled to myself and thought, if this little guy (his size is barely 28 centimeters while am 172 centimeters tall) can survive this city, so can I.

The several shades of the Kingfisher’s blue feathers inspire me. The idea that we all have wings (metaphorically speaking) and a chance at freedom if we spread those wings, lifts up my spirits no matter how tough the going gets. Am drawn to nature and all things blue, so this one fits the bill perfectly.

I’ve tried to capture the lovely creature through my shutter whenever possible, but like all winged ones, he’s pretty flighty. I will continue my quest for a perfect shot, but until then, whenever am missing the blue one, these keep me happy.