Monday, May 8, 2017

A to Z Reflections...


When the challenge was announced this year, I had almost made up my mind not to hop in this year. First, I had not been writing much in the past three months, second, my hands had been full with everything under the sun, and third I did not even have a theme in mind.

But again, as they say, old habits die hard! So, after three years of participation, the itch to participate had slowly begun to grow, fuelled by fellow bloggers posting their curtain raiser posts! As I reread some of my own older posts in the hope of landing an idea, I came across a list post I had done long ago. I zeroed in on the theme purely by accident and based on this I did my curtain raiser post albeit a bit late. The real challenge was now to find a 'list of 5' for each of the alphabets. Unlike the last three years, where I was completely ready with some posts and most of the words to begin my posts with, this year was my most unprepared one! But again, writing every day brought me back to my 'form', as they say in cricket.


Yeah! I survived!!
Since I was writing every day, it left me with little time to blog hop, but I think I did pretty well with visiting an average of 12 -15 blogs per day. If I regret something, it is the inability to reply back to the readers' comments. I have always felt the need to reply back to someone who has taken the effort to visit my blog, read my posts, and leave a comment, but I just couldn't manage with the limited time. So forgive me for that. Maybe being more organised next time will help.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing these lists of 5 this year. I struggled with keeping my posts short as I knew there's limited time spent on posts during a blog hop. I even hated myself for restricting the words in many of the posts, but it also taught me to be as brief as possible, which admittedly, I am not very good at! But it gave me food for thought, it let me pick threads from my own life and experiences and left me with ideas for more elaborate posts on some of the topics.

I thank everyone who has been a part of my A to Z journey, nudging me to carry on, on days I have wanted to give up, turning up every day to read and encourage and giving me some brilliant posts to read in return!

Until next year, Ciao!











Saturday, May 6, 2017

When the hills beckon...


When the Shivalik beckons, dare we say nay? When namma Bengaluru was blowing hot and hotter, the hills coaxed us to come visiting, and there was little we could do other than tempting ourselves to be lured. So off we went packing - bags and bums to Shimla.


The route.

There was no direct connection to Shimla, the nearest airport being Chandigarh. From Chandigarh, we drove up the mountains. The toy train was tempting, but it only takes you from Kalka to Shimla. Also, it takes about 5-6 hours by train. Tourists who take that scenic route vouch for the ride but our stay was in Kufri, so we’d be stuck with the pricey, money minting cab drivers in the hills if we chose to travel by train.  Hence the wiser option was to take a cab from Chandigarh and retain the cab for the duration of our stay. 


The climb.

Pine trees stand tall on the mountain slopes, defying gravity and as you go up the winding route, you cannot but escape being drowned in the sheer beauty of the Shivalik. Slowly, colourful houses in pink, green, orange, blue and every other delightful shade start making their appearance and one can only wonder how they manage to balance themselves so precariously on the slopes! 


The best time to visit.

You can visit Shimla any time of the year. 

The place gets covered under snow during December and January, and many people love visiting it during the winter months. There are a lot of activities such as skiing that you can do during the winters. 

Shimla is famous for its apples. If you want to take a tour of the apple orchards and the pomegranate-laden trees, June and July are the best times to visit. The apple trees start flowering by April and May and get fruit laden by June and July. 

And if you just want a place to cool off, summers are great.   


The best place to stay.

Our room
We stayed at Kufri at the Kufri Pacific resorts, which is quite a distance from the main town. But it is an idyllic place to stay, and the temperature is much lower than the rest of Shimla. It is also the center for adventure sports. So, staying here is fun if you don’t mind the ample travelling up and down the hills.

But if you are looking for a central location, Mashobra is ideal because it is surrounded by the other tourist spots and travelling is less stressful.

Shimla town as such is too crowded and I wouldn’t recommend it as an ideal place to stay.


The best things to see and do.






The climb up is via Solan. Mohan Shakti Heritage Museum is on your way up in Solan and is a wonderful place to visit. Your cabbie might have to take a slight detour for about 3 km but it is totally worth your time. Not many people know of this place and hence it is not crowded and allows you to admire the tall statues, the pristine cold marble, the chequered lawn, the landscape and the gardens at leisure!  


Moti, the white one and Tarzan, the brown
Kufri is home to the Himalayan Nature Adventure trek and sports. A 3km trek on horseback takes you to the top of the mountains. You’ll have to book your ride and the activities you wish to undertake before setting off.  

The real adventure is riding on horseback up and down the steep hillside. You aren’t sure if your horse will topple even as it gallops at a steady pace. There were a few mishaps, and we saw a lady fall down. But if you have a good guide, like ours, you are in for luck. Our guide, Satpal expertly ushered his horses, talking to them lovingly while familiarising us with them – Moti, Tarzan and Lovely, on which we rode. He offered us interesting tidbits about the place, about how to balance ourselves on the horse on slopes and luckily, we rode to and fro without any hitch!

The horse takes you to the telescope area, where you’ll see guides offering to show you around the place through their telescopes. I thought it’s more a scam, but look if you want to anyway. For 200/- per person, I thought the prices were too steep and the telescopes did not have the expected zoom. They showed us the Indo-Tibet border, which looked like a row of white coloured houses and nothing to prove that it was indeed the border we were looking at! They showed us the Shimla Vaishno mata temple, Kali mata temple, and the house of Ranchod Das of the 3 idiots fame, besides a few more spots.

That's me, zipping under a cloudy sky!!
A jeep takes you to the adventure spot. You can enjoy Ziplining, Valley crossing, Zorbing, go-karting (in winters), rope bridge, commando net etc. 

For about 2000/- per pack you can enjoy the whole gamut of adventures or even opt for a sharing pack if you wish.

Ziplining was on my to-do list and I did manage to get myself harnessed on the line in spite of the flicker of fear in my heart! But it was totally worth the effort! The adrenalin rush and exhilaration of gliding several hundred feet above the ground is something to be experienced in order to be felt! 



Atop a Yak!



Once you are done with the adventure sports, the jeep drops you back to the horse pick up point, where the yak men await you with their hairy beasts. 
You can take pictures dressed in Himachali attire, complete with a Yak, gun and hat to go with it! 

There was this woman with a basket nesting a python, offering to wrap the reptile around us for a fee! Ugghhh! I wanted to have none of that slimy, slithery, serpent near me!    

And did I mention that we got to enjoy a plate of steaming hot maggi and tea at the end of our trip?
Ah! The happiness of savoring hot food when you are freezing! 



Shimla is famous for the Mall road where you can shop, eat and visit the Hanuman temple at Jakhoo. Two lifts take you up to the Mall road. You’ll have to buy tickets to go up and down in the lift. Enjoy the fresh cherries, and shop for woollen clothes if you like, on the Mall road. There are some good eateries too. There’s an old Christ Church and the Ridge which gives you a lovely view of the hills. Then there’s Johnny’s wax museum, a la Madame Tussauds, on Mall road if you like to see.  

Near the church, you’ll get tempos that’ll take you further up to 8000 ft above sea level, to the famous Jakhoo temple. Here, the world’s tallest - 108feet Hanuman statue towers over in deep orange colour. Legend has it that Lord Hanuman rested here when flying to fetch the Sanjeevani mountain. 

There are plenty of monkeys who will not hesitate to rob you of anything ranging from your dupatta, spectacles, goggles, eatables, bags etc. So be careful.


There are plenty of museums, and the two worth seeing are the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies museum and the Army Heritage museum if Indian history interests you.

You could get a tour of the apple orchards if you visit in the monsoon. But, also be prepared for heavy traffic jams caused by apple laden trucks and slippery roads due to rainfall.
You can also go skiing in the winters, and enjoy other winter sports too.




Chail was on our way back to Chandigarh. So, we visited the Kali mata temple and the world’s highest cricket ground at Chail. I think you can give it a miss, because there’s not much to talk about it. The cricket ground does not resemble a cricket ground and is more like a school playground for the kids of the Army school in the campus. 








Overall, the experience was good. It was a break away from the scorching summer heat. But the winding roads did make me sick. So, if you are averse to the twists and turns of the mountains, take adequate precautions. A light meal and some sour candies should keep your tummy from flipping over.



Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z - 5 steps to a catch some good Zzzzs!!


Sleeping well is quite important to our body. Doctors would tell you, that sleep supports your body’s circadian rhythm. When you sleep, certain body functions occur, which wouldn’t occur if you were to remain awake. Perhaps that is why it is important to sleep and wake up at the same time every day so that the body can perform to its maximum potential.
Repairing and relaxing the body happens during sleep and thus sleeping well is important to de-stress and rejuvenate your body. It is during deep REM sleep that our subconscious thoughts are manifested as dreams.
Here are 5 ways to help you get some great Zzzzs.
#1. Maintain a regular sleep cycle.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, so that the body’s internal clock falls into a pattern. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another, so choose your sleep hours according to your lifestyle. Having said that, the body needs 7-8 hours of rest each night- try to get adequate rest.
# 2. Eat a light dinner.
Heavy food, spicy food, and late dinners can make falling asleep difficult. Stick to a set dinner time, which should ideally be 3 hours before your bedtime. Eat light- preferably fill up on raw vegetables and fruits. Also avoid drinking too many liquids, especially alcohol and caffeinated drinks before bedtime.
#3. Limit technology at bedtime.
Limit your exposure to light at night-time. Bright screens interfere with sleep and body’s rhythms. So, avoid watching television or meddling with your smartphones and tablets late into the night. Keep away distractions at least an hour or two before bedtime. Use that time to read, or to listen to soft, soothing music.
#4. Relax the body.
Take a walk. Or better still, perform yoga. Shavasana or the corpse pose is quite a relaxing posture. All these activities relax the body and prepare it to sleep. However, avoid vigorous exercise before bedtime as it tends to have the opposite effect and keeps you awake.
#5. Create a proper sleep environment.
Before you jump into bed, draw the curtains to block out outside light from the room, light a scented candle or spray some sleep inducing fragrance like lavender or jasmine and switch on some light, soothing music at the lowest audible volume.


So, learning to sleep well is not really rocket science. Sleeping well is meditative and it can help your body to feel rejuvenated and be prepared for the next day. 

I think we'll all need this tonight!! 


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Y - 5 things to tell Yourself


I don’t know about you, but I talk to myself a lot. I’m sorry if I sound deranged but I believe we have two voices, the one in our head and the other in our heart. The rational head can give you tons of solutions but it based on what people say and how your previous experiences have been. And it is always peppered with doubt. On the other hand, the voice in your heart is full of hope. 

Here are 5 things you should tell yourself, i.e. things that your heart should tell your mind.  

This too shall pass.

Our life is full of ups and downs. But sometimes the bad phases are so painful and dark that it seems like we are stuck in that rabbit hole forever. But remember, that no matter how long the troubles last, it has to have an end. When the days seem dark and there’s no ray of hope, don’t give up yet. 

Tell yourself, This Too Shall Pass. Trust me, it will.


I can do it!

Often, we want to do something, achieve our goal, or take a risky decision. But there are people around you who tell you that you cannot, or you shouldn’t. Why, even your inner voice tells you, you cannot. When you are stuck with a decision, when in doubt about your ability, when the whole world seems to weigh you down, don’t give up on yourself yet. 

Tell yourself, I Can Do It. No one knows you better than yourself.


It’s my life.

Yes, it’s your life. You have the right to live it the way you want to. Don’t let other people influence or dictate how you should live, what you should do and what decisions you should take. Don’t let others tell you when or whether you should get married or have children, run a business, see the world, or paint, be in a homosexual relationship or a live-in one. Life is short. You don’t want to die with regrets, do you? When someone’s interferes in your decisions, don’t be forced to comply. 

Tell yourself, It’s My Life. I’m going to live the way I want to.


I don’t have to be perfect.

Are you trying to a perfectionist? Is the illusion of perfectionism making life miserable for you? There’s no perfect skin colour, there’s no perfect profession, there’s no perfect house, there’s even no perfect spouse or children! Similarly, you don’t have to be a perfect parent, perfect spouse, perfect child, perfect employee, perfect host, perfect yada, yada… No, you don’t.

Make it about gratitude and happiness than about perfection. When thoughts of perfection plague your mind and you feel you don’t have the perfect things or people to make life wonderful, don't fret.

Tell yourself, I Don’t Have To Be Perfect, neither do people and things around me.

I love you.

We always tell our loved ones that we love them. We pamper them, make them feel good, and make them feel loved. But what about you? Are you treating yourself well? Like they say, charity begins at home, love begins with self. Love yourself, keep yourself pampered and happy. Unless you love yourself how can you love others?

Tell yourself, I Love You. Every single day. 


Friday, April 28, 2017

X - 5 Xcess baggages you needn’t carry...



When you fly, the airlines specifies the weight of baggage that you can carry. Anything more than the specified weight, you end up paying an extra tax for it. As with the airlines, so it is with our lives. All our lives we walk around carrying a lot of xtra baggage. It does nothing except make us pay for it by eroding our own peace of mind. What are these xtra, xcess baggages?

Here they are-  

Expectations.

We all have expectations from people in our relationships. We do something for them, and we want them to remember what we did, and give it back to us when we need it. And when they don’t, it doesn’t go down well with us. Expectations in a husband-wife relationship, child-parent relationship, or in friendship, are quite common, but they end up ruining the relationship.

Don’t carry that xcess baggage of xpectations.

Do your deed and forget about it. If you aren’t likely to forget it, don’t do the deed. Don’t give yourself an xtra baggage to carry, by counting your favours. Karma has its own way of finding its way back to you and repaying you for all that you did, good or bad.


Anger –

Anger is like a piece of burning coal. The longer you hold it, the more it burns your hand. It will leave you charred and worthless. Yes, circumstances make us angry, people make us angry, and many a times we have no control over those umpteen things that make us angry.

But don’t carry around the xcess baggage of anger.

Instead, whenever you are angry, don’t react. Pause for a minute, take deep breaths and do nothing until you are calmer. An angry mind is prone to taking decisions that we might regret later. But also, remember not to leave the issue unresolved. Talk it over, take appropriate action, but resolve the matter. Otherwise, you will still be carrying that anger in your heart!


Feeling of hurt –

People have the ability to cause hurt to each other. They say or do things that leave us hurt and upset. The feeling of hurt is more when people whom we love and trust are responsible for it.

Don’t carry the xcess baggage of hurt.

If someone has hurt you, do this analysis. Is the person a loved one, someone who’s presence makes a difference in your life or is it some random person who merely has a passing presence in your life? If they belong to the latter category, there’s no point carrying the hurt. If they belong to the former category, ask yourself if you want forgive and forget, talk it over or give up on the relationship. You will know what to do. By carrying around the hurt and not doing anything about it, you are doing a great deal of harm to yourself.  


Past mistakes and feeling of guilt –

Who doesn’t commit mistakes? No one is all-knowing, or godly enough to have never committed mistakes in their life.

But don’t carry that xcess baggage of guilt.

It was a mistake, you realise it, you feel bad about it and swear to never repeat it again. Leave it at that. What’s the point in going over past mistakes, ruminating over it and killing yourself with guilt? What’s important is to learn from your mistakes and get on with life.  


Revenge –

Don’t hate someone so much that you wait to exact revenge from them for the misdeeds they have done unto you. Someone might have broken your trust, or tampered with your emotions, but is revenge the answer?

Don’t carry that xcess baggage of revenge.

Even if you succeed in taking revenge and destroying the other person, you aren’t going to feel better. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is the best revenge.



Whether it is an emotional baggage or moral one, xcess baggage is xcess. You have to stop continuing to carry it. Leave it on the ground, and save yourself the trouble and pain.
No matter who is responsible of the action, in the end, your response is about you. Make that count.





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