Bittersweet

28 June 2014: Today was going to be a very special day for me; I wanted everything to be perfect. I was amazed at myself for having woken up way before the alarm went off. In and out of the shower in less than ten minutes and on my way to Richa’s house. Richa – my friend, confidant, and soul-sister in every sense of the word. I don’t remember a time before we became friends and cannot imagine a life without her. We went to school together and went on to go to University together as well. It was Richa’s wedding in less than 48 hours from now and there was so much more to finish. I had packed my bags for the next two days and was on my way to help her mother through the wedding frenzy. Richa was getting married to this amazingly good-natured and affable Doctor. I couldn’t have been happier. With not much traffic this wonderful morning, I sped through the Delhi roads and got to Richa’s place in record 13 minutes. I dashed into her room and saw her fast asleep, I was so tempted to wake her up but decided to be sweet and make her some tea instead. I tip-toed out of her room and went down towards the kitchen.

The house was abuzz with activities; there were baskets of flowers strewn around, coloured cloth and laces, trays of dry-fruits and sweets and about a dozen sarees that had to be packed. Whoever said arranging a wedding was easy. I found Sarita aunty and sneaked up behind her and gave her a warm hug, she turned around in fright but the minute she saw me she smiled, and her smile melted hearts. She held me for a minute and kissed me on my forehead. “Oh, thank god you are here beta”. I smiled and held her hand reassuringly. I saw a small tear fighting to roll down her cheek. I knew the angst and pain she was going through, Richa was not only her daughter but the reason for everyone’s smile in the house. She was something else. Suddenly Sarita aunty looked at me and said, “ Beta tu kab shaadi karegi?”. I laughed it off and said, “Aunty, abhi tho bahut time hain. I have so much more to do”. “Let me go wake up your darling princess now”. “ You can always do all that after you settle down also, beta. How long do you want to stay like this, alone?” I could hear Sarita aunty mumbling under her breath about my marriage as I walked into the kitchen. I wasn’t alone, I had Richa and her amazing family. Having lost my own family when I was in college, I had almost been adopted by Sarita aunty and Kushal Uncle. Come July, it would be 6 years of the accident that took away my parents and if not for Richa I wouldn’t have survived the loss. As the tea brewed, I stood there thinking about all that happened in the last 6 years in my life. I poured out the tea into her favourite mug, laid out some Parle-G biscuits on a plate and walked into her room with a huge smile on my face.

“Good morning, RICHA, rise and shine,” I said as I placed the tray near the bed. Richa purred like a cat and slowly sat up in bed and smiled. “I still cannot believe that I am getting married. It’s all actually happening. Is everyone downstairs going mad yet, if they aren’t already mad that is”, asked Richa and burst out laughing. “Oh everyone is extremely sane”, I said. I quickly checked my watch. I had to leave for the airport in twenty odd minutes to pick up our friends who were flying down from London for the wedding. I had a packed day ahead of me, airport-hotel-lunch-rehersal for the sangeet-parlour-pick up duty again-drive to venue. I was up for it all. We chit chatted for a while and then it was time to brace myself for the day ahead. I left Richa’s house and drove towards the airport.

I was looking forward to meeting everyone, this would be the first wedding since we all graduated, there was so much to catch up on. This was going to be one big party. I was feeling happy. I pulled into a parking slot at the airport and walked up to the arrival area. I loved coming to airports, I loved watching people at airports- the tears, smiles, sadness, hugs, and warmth. It was always a treat to be at the airport. A few minutes later there was squealing, screaming, hugs, back slaps, and smiles all around. I was truly happy to see them all in my city. I drove them to the place where they were all going to be staying, after helping them all settled I left for my next work.

I drove to the venue where the sangeet was scheduled to take place that evening, I finished all the last minute checks and headed to Richa’s house again. Once I got to Richa’s place everything was a crazy rush. People were all over, Richa was getting her make-up done, the house helps were loading the cars with baskets of sweets and dry fruits and gifts for the guests. I got myself lost in this wedding frenzy as well. Before I knew it we were on our way to the venue. I seemed to have lost track of when the evening begun and when it ended. All I remember was lying on bed that night and sleeping the minute my head hit the pillow.  I woke up to find Richa awake; she stood in the balcony with her cup of tea and was glowing. I had never seen a prettier bride. We spent the next half an hour standing in the balcony talking; we spoke of our crushes, of college, of what life held for us in the future and the wedding. I would certainly miss her once she was married and gone. Just as we finished our tea, Richa’s mother walked in and whisked Richa away to get her ready.

Over the next two hours, the frenzy peaked. While everyone outside the room seemed to be running round doing something or the other Richa and I sat in her room, taking it all in, just re-living the times we had spent there; laughing, crying, fighting. It was soon time to leave and we were out of the house and in the mandap. I stood beside Richa through her big day and saw her get married to the man of her dreams. Weeped with her and Sarita aunty at her vidaai, then stayed with Uncle and Aunty helping them out much after the last of the guests had left. It was almost 1.00 a.m. as I left the mandap and drove home. “Come home with us, beta,” Kushal uncle said to me. “It’s been a long day Uncle, I’ll go home and get some sleep. So should aunty and you,” I said.

It was a bitter-sweet feeling, I was happy and sad all at once. Happy that Richa was married and sad that she was gone. I drove in silence, didn’t bother switching on the music. The only noise I made was when I honked as I neared my apartment. The watchman swung the gate open and smiled at me. I half-heartedly smiled back and drove in. I parked and walked into the foyer, towards the lift. I got into the lift and saw myself in the mirror and smiled. A job well done, I thought to myself. I pulled out my keys and opened the door to my home. I stepped in and felt what I did every night when I returned home. I had returned to emptiness, I had returned to darkness.

Photo credits: Srivatsan Murali

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Laksh Farms 

Laksh Farms has been described as, ‘a piece of heaven in the crater of earth’. Located in the Mangar village, Haryana, Laksh farms is a 9 acre property nestled in the lap of the Aravalli hills. One often wonders how a thirty minute drive along the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway can take you to a world completely different than the one we live in. Established by Mr. Shakti Lumba and Mrs. Ila Lumba, Laksh farms promises to offer something for everyone.

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Photo by – Kaushik Vardharajan 

Living in sync with nature and sustainable farming is the USP of Laksh farms. All the produce at the farm is organic and there is no use of fertilisers at all. Cows, geese, butterflies, deer, peacocks, dogs, and goats are some of the animals that you will find in the farm. For children and very often even adults, watching the milking of a cow can be a novel experience.

Things to do:

Besides offering a complete rural experience Laksh farms also offers activities like cycling, rock-climbing, camping, eco-friendly farming, trekking, nature walks, and bird watching. Adding to the rural experience the adventurous one can also bathe under the gushing waters from an irrigation pump.


Cost:

A day out at the farm for an adult costs Rs. 1800/- and for accompanying children above 6 years of age Rs. 1000/-. This includes a drink upon arrival followed by an absolute feast. We were treated to kadhi pakoda, saag, baingan masala, aloo jeera, gobi matar, paneer in a cashew gravy, rice, bajra roti, methi roti, and phulka; all being made and served hot. Dessert was kheer and freshly made jalebi. You leave the farm in the evening after tea and cake, which is baked in-house.
The condiments on the table itself needed another plate. There were three different types of chutney and four types of pickles to choose from. The hosts at Laksh ensure that you are pampered silly and eat to your hearts content.

 

Things to carry:

  • To capture the beauty and serenity of the place it is best to carry a camera.
  • If you are a reader, carry a book, you are bound to find a nice corner to curl up in.
  • If you are travelling with young kids, then a cricket set or a Frisbee would also be a great idea.
  • If you wish to spend the afternoon lazing around, do carry board games that you fancy.
  • If you enjoy music then your own portable music device
  • While there is enough and more food that you will be fed at the farm, some makhana or pop-corn is always nice.

 

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Photo by: Kaushik Vardharajan 

 

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

 

Shiv Lumba, who handles bookings and enquires can be reached at +91 9871074201.

 

 

Change! 

Make the most of this courtship period, once married these men change completely,’ my aunt said as she sipped on her evening kaapi. I heard her, looked into my phone and remember texting my then fiancé and now husband asking him if he intended to change after marriage. ‘No baby, why should I change? I will always be the same.’ came the reply almost instantly. 
Today, it’s been 6 odd years of being married and not only has that lightning speed of replying to text messages vanished but with that a lot of things have changed. Am I complaining? Yes and no. 

While the relationship has changed and evolved, I do miss the the spontaneity that a new relationship brings with it. Just the other day my husband says to me, “did you buy flowers?” This while I had got flowers almost three days ago and were placed in various vases at home. “Bought them myself given I don’t get any from you now,” I said pushing my luck. “Also, I bought these three days ago,” I added. “Wow, I didn’t even notice,” he said. 

So caught up we often get in our routine of work and children that we sometimes forget to notice the things around us. 

So what is it that I miss from 6 years ago? That’s the thing, I cannot seem to really put my finger on it. It could just be the time we had then, most of our time now goes in bringing up the two boys. 

Am I happy? Hell, yes I am 🙂 and who says change is a bad thing? Embrace it, and if you don’t like it, ensure you are vocal enough about it. Don’t sulk or crib about it. Take charge and see the world of difference it makes to your life, lady! 

  
P.S.- husband, if you are reading this, flowers and other material display of love and affection is always welcome. So do keep that in mind. 

Fate?

“You promised you would get it. I worked so hard. I never ask you for anything, this is just not fair, baba,” Rishabh said to his father. “We are not saying we won’t get it, just wait for a little while longer. In a month you turn 18, and then we promise we will,” said Rishabh’s father for the umpteenth time. Rishabh was promised a motorbike if he fared well in his exams and he had, he had secured a distinction in his exams and was the top in his class. Not only had he done exceedingly well in his exams but he had also gone on to secure a medical seat for himself at AIIMS on his own merit without his parents having to pay any donation. Rishabh was truly a gifted child. He worked hard and therefore his demand for the motorbike was completely legit.

bike

When most other kids his age were spending money partying and impressing girls, Rishabh would be found spending his time and money in book shops or animal shelters. He was most passionate about both these things. His father, Ramesh, worked in an oil rig and spent a good 8 months away from home. Usha, his mother worked as an administrator in one of the leading hospitals in the city. He was unlike what most people said about single kids. He was the antithesis of the notion people held of single kids; spoilt, bratty, brash.

“How is a month going to make a difference, Ramesh? Why don’t you take him to the showroom this weekend and let him choose the bike he wants,” said Usha. “He has kept his end of the deal. Now it is our turn,” she went on. “ I am not saying I am not going to get it, Usha. Just want him to wait until he turns 18. That’s all. Don’t want him riding a bike before that,” said Ramesh. Rishabh who was passing by their room caught to that last sentence as he crossed their room and said, “baba, is that why you are asking me to wait?” “Come in, Rishabh,” said Ramesh. “Baba, you are going to leave in two weeks time and I want you to be with me when I get the bike, and when I take my first ride in it. Please let’s go this weekend and get it,” he said looking like a little puppy that you just couldn’t say no to. Usha stood in a corner smiling. She knew only too well that Ramesh would eventually say yes and take Rishabh to the showroom.

“Aai, Rahul is celebrating his birthday at this new place called Raasta. Can I go?” asked Rishabh when his parents were having their evening tea. “How come you ask only Aai permission for all this? What about asking me?” Ramesh asked, putting on his stern voice. “ Baba, do I have your permission to go for Rahul’s birthday treat tonight?” Rishabh asked, and they all burst out laughing. “Don’t be too late and make sure someone is dropping you home. Where is this Raasta? And what kind of name is Raasta?” Usha said. “We are old now, Usha. This new generation and their lingo is too much for us, “ said Ramesh. “Neither of you is old, please don’t take off on a tangent now,” said Rishabh smiling at his parents. “Baba, you will have drop me there by 8 this evening. This place is on M.G. Road,” said Rishabh. “That is far, Rishabh. How will you find your way back? I can wait and drive you back home,” said Ramesh.” No, no. Rahul’s birthday is only tomorrow technically. So we will be there until after 12 for sure. I will get one of the guys with a driver to drop me home Baba, don’t worry about that. Just need to be dropped there,” he said.

Rahul’s party was not just a celebration of his birthday but also a celebration of everyone moving into college. Post this big party, everyone was going to go their way, some were moving abroad, some to other states and some pursuing different vocations. This party was also a ‘coming-of-age’ sort of party and many of them were eager to have their first taste of alcohol and even some weed that Rahul had managed to score from some seniors. Rishabh knew that once he stepped into AIIMS his life as he knew it would change forever. For him, Rahul’s party was a chance to gather memories to last a lifetime. He was looking forward to it. “Have a good time Rishabh. Send Aai a message when you leave from here. you know she will not sleep until you come home anyway,” Ramesh said as he dropped Rishabh off at Raasta. “Yes Baba. Don’t worry. I will.” he said.

The party was a riot. By midnight everyone was drunk, alcohol was free flowing, emotions running high, everyone was getting sentimental about leaving each other and going their way. Rishabh was the only one who sane and was enjoying all the gimmicks the alcohol was leading to. Ramesh’s physical absence in their lives had led Rishabh to grow up too fast too soon. he took on the role of the man of the house and fulfilled it to the ’t’. He was a teetotaller and Rahul’s party that evening wasn’t going to change that.

The cake was brought out and a very drunk group sang “Happy birthday” loudly. The cake was cut, smashed, eaten, and eventually polished off. By 2.00 am, everyone at Rahul’s party was staggering towards the door ready to leave. Rahul who was gifted a bike for his birthday was insisting on riding it back home. “I can, I can do it,” he was saying to Archana.

Archana was Rahul’s girlfriend and the only other person besides Rishabh who wasn’t drunk that night at the party. She was trying to make sense of what Rahul was saying, all the while convincing him to not get on the bike and drive home. “Rishabh, you need to help me here. He wants to ride the bike when he cannot even stand for a second,” she said. “Rahul, dude. Let me ride the bike. Why don’t you get into the car and get home,” Rishabh said to Rahul. “Nooooooooo. It’s my bike. I can ride it. Archana will sit with me and I can ride it,” Rahul said loudly. “It’s my happy birthday. It’s my birthday. I can do it,” even louder this time. Rishabh then had to physically have him sit in the car and ask the driver to start the car. “You go with him in the car, I will follow in the bike,” he said to Archana. She nodded and mouthed a thank you as she got in to the car and shut the door.

Aai I am leaving from Raasta now. Will see you at home soon. Don’t worry. Love.’ 

Usha’s phone beeped a second later at 2:32 a.m with the text from Rishabh. She smiled and turned her bed-side light off before snuggling into Ramesh. “Got the message?” Ramesh asked groggily. “ Yes,” she said smiling. “go to sleep now.” she said closing her eyes.

It was over within seconds. One second Archana saw the truck before her and the next second she saw the bike go under it. The police reports said the truck driver was drunk. Rishabh’s blood reports came back absolutely clean. Rishabh was declared dead on the spot; the truck driver got away with some minor scratches on his arms and forehead. Fate? What fate? Whose fate? 

Alphabet Soup For Lovers – Book Review 

I picked up ‘Alphabet Soup for Lovers’ by Anita Nair, with a lot of skepticism. I don’t particularly enjoy her style of writing and therefore the skepticism. But boy, did this book prove me wrong or what.  

 

This book will now go into my list of favourites. I haven’t enjoyed and relished reading a book as much as I did this in a long long time. Nair has so beautifully merged two of my favourite things; food and romance. The story is partially told by the cook who is learning the English alphabets. She uses ingredients to learn the alphabets and so effortlessly leaves the reader with very valuable life lessons with each alphabet she learns. 

One alphabet that stood out for me was ‘U’. Nair has used this alphabet to describe a lentil we call Uzunthu in Tamizh and Urad in Hindi. She describes it as the prince among the lentils. She talks of how there would be no idli or dosa without Uzunthu and a South Indian household would never function without these two essential breakfast items. 

Sometimes I think Uzunthu is a lot like hope. When the days stretch pointlessly ahead. The only thing that can give it some meaning is hope rising to the surface. But I have also heard that too much of Uzunthu causes deafness. I am not surprised. One needs to even hope in moderation. Otherwise, like an appalam into which too much Uzunthu has gone, it will puff out and shatter into shards.’ 

This book leaves you with hope, it leaves you with a wonderful aftertaste. 

Do read this one, it is full of soul. 

Buy your copy here.