The Aladdin's Cave

Hi, thanks for stopping by! The dictionary defines the idiom “The Aladdin’s Cave” as “a collection of interesting and beautiful objects”. Likewise, my website is a potpourri where you can browse and read from a variegated collection of articles on sundry subjects. Be prepared to stumble upon pieces ranging from noodles to analytics and from novels to friendships. Like what you read? Thanks a ton for being such a sweetheart. Don’t find it up to the mark? Well, blame it on back-breaking expectations ;) Jolly Reading!

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Hey!

Doesn’t the title of the post make you insanely happy?? Yup, me too!! :):)
Okay, kindly spare some time because it’s gonna be a little lengthy.

Gunjan and I took our first Europe trip together to Italy this March to celebrate our ‘primo anniversario’ and it turned out to be the perfect grand finale for the very first year of our marriage! Though we had to postpone the anniversary celebration by a week because of a work assignment I had in Germany (about which I hope to cover in another post), the love sickness that we suffered got compensated for in good measure with all the wild fun in Italy!! 🙂 If you know what you’re looking for and how to go about it, it’s a lot of fun to plan your very own trip customized just for you than to rely on travel agents to do so. Apart from being a means of sharing and treasuring our dream trip, I would be really glad if this post could help my friends in any way in planning their special trip and so I’m gonna try to be systematic about the whole thing.

Total Duration: 8 days (excluding the traveling time to and fro Italy)

Dates: 9th March, 2013 to 16th March, 2013

Weather: It was quite wet and chilly most of the times. That didn’t really play spoilsport because we were well equipped with umbrellas, jackets. scarves, gloves etc. We would generally visit one of the beautiful churches in the morning, plead and beg for a sunny day and get one for ourselves! 🙂 This only failed us once in Florence when the rain and the wind seemed hellbent to lock us indoors. But then we took a half day round trip to Pisa which made our day! Just try not to visit Italy when it’s very hot – from what I hear, the heat there incapacitates you.

Song of the Trip:Enjoy Yourself‘ and ‘The Godfather‘ tune! 🙂
Oh, the joy of holding hands and wandering and losing and finding yourselves in the cities of Italy! The country surely makes you an offer that you cannot refuse 🙂 Sauntering through the ‘viae‘, posing for pictures over the ‘ponti‘, romancing over a cone of the very best ‘gelato‘,  admiring the incredibly beautiful ‘fontane‘ or ‘basilica‘ in one of the ‘piazze‘, learning about one of the oldest and richest cultures of the world in the ‘muesos‘ and of Christianity and its spread in the ‘duomi‘…Well, all I can say is that the wealth and richness of the experience offsets the dent the trip makes in your bank account! 😀

Cash, Cards & Crimes: Read on for more clarity! 😛
I was quite surprised to find that cards are not accepted at MANY eateries, shops, ticket counters etc. in Italy. So you need to carry some cash with you at all times. Sounds quite straightforward, right? Now here’s the catch: the country is teeming with pickpockets and con-men and you have to be very alert AT ALL TIMES, especially while using public transports. Such a beautiful and culturally rich country shouldn’t be discredited with this but I guess that’s Italy’s baggage! 🙁 I could have been milder about this if I hadn’t lost about hundred euros, two debit cards, my driving license, PAN card and a precious picture of Gunjan and me to a gang of scheming, thieving girls in Milan’s metro. Residing in Italy, these skilled crooks are quite familiar with all of Machiavelli’s Principles and are experts at stalling tourists, creating distractions, faking misery etc.!

The country is plagued by many immigrants/unemployed people who are always on the lookout to earn a stray euro or two by tying a ‘blessed’ thread on your wrist or by playing the good Samaritan and pointing you to your hotel (when you’re already there) or by helping you with the ticket machine (which you have no problem whatsoever in operating on your own!). I don’t want this to be a demotivator – just the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach! Yes, ATMs are readily available. If you’re using a traveler’s card, no worries. If you’re using your International card, you might want to check the exchange rates, transaction fees and service charges.

Hotels: We swear by the magical combination of Expedia and TripAdvisor! All you need to do is find your hotel on TripAdvisor, check the ratings, reviews and pictures and then use Expedia (or maybe booking.com) to make the reservations – very reliable and safe. Also, if you use Expedia, you get the added advantage of availing the services of Thomas Cook for your visa. You might want to check our reviews (posted by sgunjan) on TripAdvisor for the hotels that we stayed in:

Milan: 1 night
http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g187849-d202884-r159637938-Ibis_Milano_Centro-Milan_Lombardy.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT

Venice: 2 nights
http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g194822-d1646121-r159637084-Hotel_Villa_Costanza-Mestre_Veneto.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT

Florence (and Pisa): 2 nights
http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g187895-d232978-r154988188-Hotel_Jane-Florence_Tuscany.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT

Rome (and Vatican City): 3 nights
http://www.tripadvisor.in/ShowUserReviews-g187791-d1863272-r154984197-A_Peace_of_Rome-Rome_Lazio.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT

Trains: We made prior bookings using Trenitalia to commute between cities. The rides are short, scenic (especially the Tuscany region) and reasonably priced.

Expensive Leaks: Okay, I realize the crassness of this heading and so I am gonna keep it very short! Just so you know, using washrooms is a costly affair in Europe. You will be required to cough up a euro (sometimes more) for every visit and so you might want to use public restrooms available in restaurants (if you eat there), trains and at the sites you visit.

Packing for the Trip: Well, this will obviously be governed by the season in which you’re planning your trip but the rule of thumb is to travel as light as possible. I personally feel that the happy phrase ‘backpacking in Europe’ has an underlying message which we tend to overlook: Pack just what you ‘will need’ and give a miss to the paraphernalia that you ‘might need’. Escalators and conveyor belts are absent/amiss at certain stations and hauling the trolleys up and down the flights of stairs can be quite a task, more so if you’re running late.

Every morning, we both used to rue the lack of fresh jackets, don the only ones that we were carrying and then forget all about the frugality amidst the run and the fun 🙂 We did applaud each other though if one of us managed to get a pic where we weren’t cloaked in our “jacket of the trip”! 😀

Language: People involved in the tourism business generally speak passable (sometimes good) English but Italian is what you hear from others. Getting around is not really an issue but it will certainly help if you mug up a few Italian words and phrases.

Gadgets: Yep, it surely is liberating – being off the grid and all that with no mobile connections and internet to give you away. But I cannot deny the convenience of carrying your very own guide in your pocket! In our Google Nexus 7, we had offline Google maps of the cities we visited and apps to guide us through the cities. Everyday, we would star-mark the places which we planned to see (on Google map as well as on a paper map) and then charge forth to cover the day’s syllabus! 😛
Ah yes, a good pair of running shoes (if you’re an incorrigible traveler like us, prepare to walk for around a hundred kilometers or so!) and some sprays for pains and aches are a must. And needless to say that when you’re visiting a country as beautiful as Italy, your camera (maybe tripod too) and you should be inseparable! 🙂

Dine and Drink: With the ubiquitously available pizzerias and gelaterie and the lip-smacking cakes and croissants, you’ll find a lot to experiment and enjoy 🙂 Anyway, who am I to recommend their bread and beer? The Italian Cuisine speaks for itself, in volumes! Say Cheese! 😀
Chicken based recipes are not very common, though. Also, as a fall back option, you might want to locate a restaurant of your choice near your hotel. On certain days, we didn’t mind savoring ‘paranthas’ and ‘aloo-gobhi’ at the Shanti restaurant in Rome!

Public Transports: In all the major cities, there is a very good network of metros and buses. Well, trams too are available but they are slower. Try getting hold of a route map to help you get around. Spend a few minutes to figure out the connectivity and it will save you a whole lot of confusion later. Also, the hotel staff can guide you very well on the sightseeing stuff.

So you know what next to save for, right? Totally worth it – because it’s gonna stay with you forever!
An experience of a life time + bountiful of merry time!
And yes, please don’t hesitate to post any questions that you might have.
Enjoy!
B’bye!

Side Please!

Hi Guys!

I guess it’s kind of an achievement for me to post something before celebrating an anniversary of my last post. Fell short by just two months..huh!!
Well, the customary thing to do right now would be to launch a horde of excuses to defend my disappearing act. But instead, let me just offer you the trump excuse – Well, I was busy getting married! 😉 Hope that explains a lot! 😛
Yeah, and about him…
Though he’s been hanging around here, heaping amazingly biased praises and egging me on since the inception of this blog, yet, let me just introduce my Mr. Right here formally!
(Don’t we all love a bit of melodrama?? :-D)
Mr. Gunjan Srivastava — My Missing Puzzle Piece! 🙂
And life’s never been better! 🙂
Okay, I do realize that the title and the content of this post seem insanely inconsistent. So getting back on track…

This post is about my first-hand experience at full-fledged driving and the ensuing intellections. You see, earlier, I always considered the driver and the car to be a single entity. You know, like a package, two-in-one sorts. It makes me look so mean but I can’t distinctly recall having ever given much thought to the ordeal a driver faces while manoeuvring and motoring his harassed vehicle through the on-road mayhem. It always felt like the invisible thestrals are drawing our automated carts.

My sis and I used to go shopping with our driver and oh, how we drove him crazy! We would screech excitedly if we spotted something interesting and no matter what be the traffic conditions, we would plead and beg for him to let us out. The combination of being so sweet and such a pro at the same time proved quite troublesome for our poor driver.

OK, that’s about then.
But when I started driving in Gurgaon a few months back, my instructions were quite curt and clear to the passengers. Here are some of them:

1) You tell me the right turn at least two turns before or else I don’t turn at all.
2) You announce the way well in advance or get ready to receive an earful.
3) Air condition usage – my discretion (You’re not the one who has to worry about the pick-up and stuff!).
4) Music – again, my discretion (Why, you’re not the one who needs all the attention and concentration!)
5) Chit-chat – Huh! (Does this feel like a picnic? Well, certainly not to me!)
6) Parking – No, I don’t have the heart to talk about this one. Just know this that it was the Achilles’ heel of my rudimentary motoring skills.

Sounds like a shrew, I know! But trust me, the rules have mellowed quite a lot since I spent some time behind the wheels. I used to get so exasperated. The traffic in Gurgaon frequently makes me think of an unrehearsed sports day – a day when everyone’s out on the roads with their props (read cars) with no coordination whatsoever! It’s all about heaving, shoving, cursing, coaxing, honking,barking – ya, totally maddening! But thanks to the dedicated efforts of Kush Bhaiya and Luv Bhaiya (for accompanying me on those early morning lessons), Shelly Bhabhi (for being my learning partner), my papa (well, for many things but a huge one for passing the driving gene along! 😛 ), Gunjan (for dragging me in the most awful of traffic conditions so that I had no other go than to find a way out 😛 ) and to my ‘driver saheb’ (for his patience and very handy tips, like- just ignore the honking lot! 😀 ), I can proudly say that I find myself quite useful these days!! 🙂 And what a liberating experience it is!!

And apart from this essential skill, I learnt an even more essential by-product lesson:
“Always put yourself in other people’s shoes,
If it hurts you, it probably hurts them too!”

Yep, that’s about it for now!
Happy Living, Safe Driving!
And as Gunjan reminds me only too often — (esp for us girls, with the ubiquity of these shopping places causing constant distractions!!):

“Eyes on the Road”! 🙂

My School Prayer

Hi All!

I know I’ve been away for quite a while (again) but trust me, really been caught up in quite a mess. Talk about one’s plate being full! Here my plate’s disgustingly over-piled and yet it’s getting ladleful of servings from every quarter.  And believe me, very few of these servings are palatable! As for the rest, I just have to shove them down my throat. No other go!

And it isn’t just me. Similar is the case with many of my friends. We say this so often — that one feels that he/she is being pulled in every direction, all at the same time, with forces of comparable magnitude. And we all know how that feels! Not good!

OK, that’s the cribbing part! A wonderful therapy, I must say! Makes you feel a whole lot better! 😛
But that isn’t the real point of this post. I intended it to have some spiritual merit too.

Sometimes consciously, sometimes not so, I say my school prayer quite frequently and it does a lot to restore some degree of sanity and quietude to my often toppled life. Not to mention, it takes me back to those amazingly sweet and simple school days, which are so fondly remembered by all of us.

It’s been eight years since I passed out from St. Joseph’s Convent High School (S.J.C.) and that would mean that I learnt this prayer some 18 years back! WOW.
Sharing a little something about our prayer time at school…

In S.J.C., classes one to five comprised the Junior Side while classes six to twelve comprised the Senior Side. There were separate assembly grounds for these two sections. When I think about it now, it appears to me that the time that these two groups devoted to the daily prayer was sort of a heads up to the continual shortage of time that seems to be the norm these days.

OK. Allow me to put that a bit more plainly.
As tiny tots, we would follow all the instructions to the tee – join our hands, close our eyes and recite the prayer very slowly and clearly, in a singsong manner. Listening to that recitation, you would have been sure that the kind Father was lending a patient ear to the cute prayers of these pure-hearted children.

In the senior side, all of us (though no less devout) would be in a frenzy to complete the prayer. We would all rush through the familiar lines like crazy, as if it were a verbal race of some kind. And before God could have turned His attention to this hastily delivered chant, we would already be wishing Good Morning to our teachers! I bet you wouldn’t have caught more than ten to fifteen words from that hustled buzz if you didn’t know it beforehand.

At times, disappointed and disturbed by this hurried salutation to the Lord, our Sister would ask us at the end of the prayer, in a very quiet manner:
“Children! How many of you actually remembered God during the prayer?”
Well, just a few proud hands shot up. Most of the girls would smile sheepishly and avoid the faculties’ eyes. On those days, a very guilt-ridden and earnest group of girls would repeat the prayer, enunciating each and every word, reciting the lines flawlessly.

Through this simple post, I wanted to share some of these fond memories. But more importantly, I intended to share my School Prayer here.
I’ve been saying this prayer for my loved ones and myself for so many years now and it always makes me feel that God does carry us in His arms during the difficult times and brings us ashore, no matter what! These lines, whether recited hurriedly, chimed devoutly, muttered nervously or petitioned wordlessly, have been my ready made supplication to God for anything and everything!

There are things we never forget and then there are things that we never wanna forget. This prayer is one of the things none of the Josephites would ever want to forget – not a word!
I’m sharing it here with the hope that it’ll help you stay connected with God and soothe your frayed nerves during troubled times!
(Many of you would already be knowing a variation of this. Here, I’m sharing my cure-all!)

Our Father In Heaven
Holy Be Your Name
Your Kingdom Come
Your Will Be Done
On Earth As It Is In Heaven
Give Us Today Our Daily Bread
Forgive Us Our Sins
As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us
Do Not Bring Us To The Test
But Deliver Us From Evil
Amen!

All for the Greater Honor and Glory of God!

Hallelujah!

Hello, Fellow Survivors!

And congratulations to us all for making it through yet another Doomsday prophecy!

Writing this post because I’m ginormously glad to still be around — what with those in the know (or rather, those claiming to be in the know!) predicting the end of the world – left, right and centre! Wasn’t the beginning to the end supposed to begin last Saturday?? Yeah, the schedule chalked out by some moronic creatures (oops, preachers!) did list May 21, 2011 as The Rapture Day.  Praise the Lord for ignoring all this morology and letting us live!

I mean, the state of affairs might not be super ideal, weight loss pills might not be as effective (or at all effective) as they ought to be, a sane and sound system might still be a distant dream and the whole world, in general, might seem to be a shambles. Yet, whatever it is, am I not delighted to fret over these things instead of groping my way through some mystic tunnel or gliding ethereally or…er..Well, I’m not so sure about what people exactly do en route to the Pearly Gates!

Whoa! No Mr Grim Reaper (or. if you like, our very own Yamraj)! Please don’t be mistaken! I’m not complaining and for once, really, really not curious or nosy. Happy to mind my own petty businesses! 🙂

You see, it never does to tempt Providence, and so brazenly, at that. We keep cancelling bulk orders ever so often. It’s just not right. We might be asking for big trouble because we never know just when our luck will run out! Yes, I have always maintained that it’s just too risky to rub Mr. Yamraj the wrong way! Why meddle with things so totally out of our scope? Why not be contended with butting into the affairs of the lesser mortals??

I mean, there has to be a stop! First of all, we come up with this rotten idea of mischief – whereby anyone and everyone is so eager to share their two pennyworth (and much more) on the impending doom. Then, this freaking bit of an idea snowballs into this raging madness. And then, people are making money (via movies and documentaries and books) out of this whole business! Talk about being an opportunist!

OK, just picture this for a sec! What if the merciful Lord’s still willing to put up with our lot for a millennium or two but on witnessing the ongoing hype about an impending apocalypse, He reviews His original decision! What if He gets so convinced about the futility of our damned race that He decides to toss an apocalypse our way?? Then what?? All that ill-gotten money won’t buy you the Noah’s Ark to row to safety!

Yeah, so the point being — go find something else to thrill yourselves with and leave the doom alone. A little knowledge (and a truckload of stupidity) really is a dangerous thing!

A Night to Remember – 2nd April, 2011!

A week’s gone by since the night the whole nation was thrown in a state of euphoric excitement, when the Indian Team gave us all the joy of our lives with that magnificent World Cup win over Sri Lanka… but the jubilation continues still…
The whole affair has been extensively covered by the media, in every possible way! So, obviously, you won’t find any novel piece of information here…Just a few pithy proverbs to sum it all up!
Just wanted to post something about our super-awesome cricket team…so that many years down the line, I can read this post and relive some of the moments that are so, so hard to come by! 
Winners make it happen, losers let it happen!
World Cup, 2011: Some people dream of success while others wake up and achieve it! 
Indian Team:- Putting your best foot forward!
Batting:- The whole is greater than the sum of its parts!
Bowling:- A problem shared is a problem halved!
Fielding:- Many hands make light work!
Gary Kirsten:- He doesn’t boast who does the most!
Sachin Tendulkar:- Ability can take you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there! / Nothing succeeds like success!
MS Dhoni:- Nothing ventured. nothing gained! / There’s a method in his madness!

Yuvraj Singh:- Cometh the hour, cometh the man! (in almost every game!)
Virendra Sehwag:- Well begun is half done!
Zaheer Khan:- What can’t be cured must be endured..(by the other teams!)

Harbhajan Singn:- Prior preparation prevents poor performance!
Munaf Patel:- All’s well that ends well!
Suresh Raina:- Mighty oaks from little acorns grow!
Virat Kohli:- It is through the small things we do that we learn, not the big things!

Ashwin:- The key to all action lies in belief!

Gautam Gambhir:- In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity!
Ashish Nehra:- Some days you get the bear, other days the bear gets you!

Piyush Chawla:- If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!
Yusuf Pathan:- All sizzle and no steak!



Sreesanth:- There’s none so deaf as those who will not hear!

By a Blog—On its Blogger!

Marry in haste,
Repent at leisure,
That comprises the truth,
In no little measure!

Similar is my case,
Akin is my tension,
All down to my dysfunctional, so-called blogger,
Whom I don’t even wanna mention!

I chose her in a hurry,I was so rash,
And for all that recklessness, I get treated like trash,
No posts, no blogging bash,
So, naturally, no AdSense,
& I’m never gonna make any cash!

She used to put in hours,
Real long and hard,
But it was all a trap,
A ruse, a charade!

She promised to be a pro,
& did pen a masterpiece or two,
But that was in days of yore,
She just won’t dish them out anymore!

All she does of late,
Is try out different templates,
& the little she ever stores in drafts,
Oh! trust me, it’s the scum of the writing craft!

I wanna drag her to the court,
And make her do time,
But her sis and her uncle
Are lawyers in their prime!

What am I to do?
How long can I sulk?
To whom should i turn?
To get rid of this lazy bum?

Me and Meri Navratri Maggi

Hi!
Do u wanna know something silly??
A flock of people whom i consider to be extremely lucky are the ones who get their “Me and Meri _____ Maggi” stories printed on the Maggi packet.
If you ask me, that’s what real stardom is all about! I mean, who doesn’t know about Maggi? It’s like a unifying force, like a thread connecting countless hearts (or maybe, tongues?), like a yummy shrine to which we all get (happily) drawn to like a herd of possessed swine! 🙂
It’s an addiction, a habit, a ritual, a…well, words fail me. But then, we all know what it really is.
And to be able to share your Maggi story through Maggi with all the Maggi lovers out there – WOW! i think it’s quite a feat and it fascinates me no end.

And on more than a few occasions, I have fancied about giving it a shot. But then, let’s be realistic. I mean, what are the odds of it actually getting published on that sacred yellow wrapper? 🙁
Well, I needn’t elaborate on that. Nevertheless, the obsession remains – with Maggi as well as with its familiar, promising pack.

And today, when i do have a special story to share, I thought I shouldn’t give it a miss. I mean, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush, right?
(I agree that it isn’t always the case. But then, in this particular instance, i am absolutely clueless as to the location of the bush, the path leading to the bush is strewed with bottlenecks and no matter how many birds to be found in that bush, i know each and every one of them is unattainable for me)
So even though I get to share it with only a few Maggi fans and even though my Maggi story is posted on my blog and does not adorn that much-coveted packet space, yet it’s some solace to see it here.

So here it is – Me and Meri Navratri Maggi Story!

My dearest friend Nimisha and I had observed a fast this navratri and it was quite a nice experience! As it was the ninth day of Dushera today, we were supposed to end the fast this morning. But Nimisha couldn’t consume non-veg even today (came to know about this only yesterday night 🙁 ) and so we obviously considered it quite pointless to go out or even place an order for home delivery.
(Sorry, no offence to vegetarians but that’s the way it works for us – especially after such a long period of abstinence!)
So today being a Saturday, we were both dawdling away the morning in bed, feeling not the least bit excited about the much awaited completion of the fast, our taste buds chiding us for our betrayal and we, quite defenseless against the rebuke.

And then it suddenly struck me and I exclaimed “Maggi!!!”
Without wasting a single second, both us friends were up and about, super-active, totally rejuvenated!
Chopped onions, tomatoes and green chillies and sautéed them, added the tangy Maggi taste-make, water and noodles and our yummy, ever-dependable Maggi was ready in no time!!
(Thanks to Shelly Bhabhi for sharing this mouth-watering recipe!)
And how we devoured it all in a revered silence!!!
A delicious end to an auspicios phase…right, folks? 🙂

(Please feel free to share your story about our favorite Maggi here, through your comments! After all, the location of that bush remains elusive for all of us, isn’t it? )

…….

…….She stood at the gate…at the very spot where he had left her…
It was as if she was rooted to the ground there…
Incapable of movement……
Oblivious to the rain soaking into her..to the cold of the night….to the sound of the thundering of the clouds above..

Her sad, soft gaze had accompanied him till the end of the road…
After which, the treachorous turn had bereaved him of her eyes’ company…
And now vacant, they saw nothing of the lightning that cracked open the heavens…

The only thing she was conscious of was the feeling of a growing loneliness…seeping into her… threatening to engulf her whole being…
And she still stood there….utterly powerless against the potent pain in her heart….

And just then…when she thought she could endure it no more…a sudden memory returned to her in a flash…
It wasn’t hard to recollect….because it had happened just a few minutes ago…or was it a few hours back??..
She couldn’t tell for how long she had been glued there…

It was the memory of the last time he had hugged her…
With the memory, the warmth of the moment returned to her…
Spreading inside her…dislodging that dreadful pain…
Its place being taken by the warmth of love…his love…the very reason for her to continue to be…

She thought about the embrace…
About his whispered promise to return soon…
The completeness she had experienced in those few moments….
How alive she had been…how very alive…
She realized that she needed to feel that again…all of it…
And she knew he’d keep his promise to her…no matter what…

She gradually felt the strength of her body returning to her…
And she knew she couldn’t give up…
It wouldn’t be fair to them if she broke down…
He had promised to return…
And she knew that it was enough to keep her going…

She clung to that remembrance….
Playing and replaying it in her mind…
Deriving courage from it…from him…
For she knew he would salvage her…
The way he had done now…
The way he always did…

The Good, Old Mays…(Part-II)

This post is a continuance of The Good Old Mays…(Part-I)
Sorry for the unceremonious ending of the previous part. I hope you can pardon such an indecorum on the part of a nine-post old blogger!
OK..so picking up from where I left..

My mom and us two sisters used to spend part of the summer vacation at my nana-nani’s (maternal grandparents) place and my aunt and two of my cousin sisters would also join us there for the vacation. This was one of the major highlights of our holidays and we really looked forward to it. We four girls would be glued to each other and what fun we had! Doll-weddings, needle work, cribbing and doing homeworks, reading and narrating stories, playing games, sharing candies and chocolates, watching TV, being treated to ice-creams and kulfis and the special “Holiday” menu…year after year, we shared these days and thus ended up becoming the closest of sisters who still share such a special bond!

During this long vacation, it was only natural and fitting that we should miss our school friends but then we had our own special set of summer friends eagerly waiting for us in all the comics and story books! Chacha Chaudhary, Saabu, Pinkie, Tinkle, Champak, Tintin, Calvin and Hobbes…Just loved the whole lot! (Actually, still do!) You could while away the hours, lapping up the plethora of interesting stories that they collectively offered. You could just enjoy the read but if your imagination was wild enough, you were free to accompany one or more of those characters on their adventures and help them figure out ways to get out of the soup (as a rule, all these folks had a penchant to land into one ever so often!). And if you were in the mood for some real thrill, you could even decide to get in the driver’s seat and let the (ex-) protagonist be your sidekick!

A post about those days can never be complete without mentioning the innumerable games that we played! Some of them were the ancient and widely popular ones like ludo, snakes and ladders, spell-bound, kitchen set, doctor set, lock and key, name-place-thing-animal, “pitto”, “kabaddi”, hide and seek….and then you could improvise too!  The next few lines may appear very silly to you but you won’t know what fun it is till you’ve tried it!
OK, so at the risk of soundind extremely stupid, let me tell you about this very innovative game that my sister and me enjoyed so so much. It was named “kathin raasta” (tortuous terrain!). We would run all around, pretending to be traversing forests, rivers, mountains and deserts. My di would lead, doing running commentary to warn me of the impending danger and I would follow her religiously – not missing a single turn or bend or leap! Ya ya, i know it sounds silly but take it from me, there was superb coordination between the two of us and it superb fun!!

The only moderator for our high spirits was the sight of the school diary because in that was penned down the long and rueful list of “Holiday Homework” (H.H.W). Not a single subject was missed. No such stroke of luck. Mathematical problems, essays (and “nibandhs”), using pencil shavings to make an owl, filling countless pages of writing books in the hope of seeing some improvement in handwritings (didn’t really work for me :[ ),  learning the history and geography of India and the world by rote, developing familiarity with the plant and the animal world, understanding the sciences and forces operating behind practically everything that happens and a lot more – you were expected to master all this and be prepared to put your knowledge to test (quite literally) post the vacation. But to be honest, not all of it was detestable and then there was ample amount of time to whine and complain while working so you could complete it eventually. Not much in advance though – we all know how ten percent of a task is completed in ninety percent of the time and the rest ninety percent is somehow squeezed in the remaining ten percent of the time (:-P) Nevertheless, the purport of making the homework double as a killjoy failed miserably because we all know that there is no dampener potent enough to quell that happy, carefree mood!

So these were the some of the main elements of those blissful days and my heart really yearns for them…
The memories of those days stay as fresh as ever and never fail to bring a smile to my lips. It was like festival time – lots of fun and food, endless flow of cousins and other relatives,  many many hours to be pampered by your parents and grandparents and indulging yourself in all that is merry!

The Good, Old Mays…(Part-I)

The month of May…

It brings back the priceless memories of such blissful days. We used to have summer vacations during May and June and what fun we had! Two months of unadulterated joy!
I was hoping to immensely enjoy this last summer vacation of my life but it didn’t work out as planned and I’m stuck with my training now. There is lots to do and no matter how optimistically I think, a trip to my home doesn’t seem possible in the offing.

Consider this post to be a sorry attempt to recapture some of the key factors that made these two months such a favorite with all us children. I call it a sorry attempt because no number of words and posts can do justice to the memories of those joyful days. Yet, i wistfully try…

First, about the week just before the holidays began…

The teachers used to get busy competing with each other, as to who can give the longest list of holiday homeworks and we children? Oh, we would be too busy making “Happy Holidays” cards to worry about it then. The newfangled e-cards are great – I, myself, being a proponent of 123greetings.com (:-P) but they come nowhere close to the fun and excitement we found in making those scores of holiday cards in school. Our creativity was pushed to the hilt. Papers, colors, scissors and all the paraphernalia related to card-making flew all around. They came in all shapes, sizes, color and quality (quite literally!) But it’s not as if you could simply pick up any one you  liked…No dear. Not so simple. There was a very complex priority order that had to be adhered to. And if you were to digress, matters could get really, really complicated. But we were all pros there! So generally, no such sentimental mayhems preceded the holidays. As a rule, the best of the lot was for your best-friend (you could even let her choose!), then came your favorite teacher, then your lunch-friends, then other friends, then other teachers, then classmates, then bus-friends…This is a generic picture…you could change the order a little…(really, it wasn’t that complicated either-we followed it quite effortlessly!)

Summer vacation was synonymous with so many lovable things…and one of them were Mangoes! Pulpy, juicy, luscious mangoes!! 🙂 How we loved feasting on them…

They say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” I say, “Too bad, but I’m still thankful…’cuz mangoes do!” 🙂

Rightly crowned as the king of fruits, it used to be our staple diet for the vacation. Lichis, oranges and the throng of melons followed but mangoes beat them all by huge margins!

My cutest papa would get cartons and cartons of the best ones and stock the larder but the plenitude of mangoes was never an overwhelming issue for us. All of us used to rise up to the occasion and amongst us, handled the issue quite efficiently. Mangoes, mango shakes, guramma (a tangy chutney made from raw mangoes), pickles…we adeptly switched from one to another and were always ready for more! No “weighty” issues to make you feel guilty then…just slllluuurrrrrrppppppp!!! 🙂

(Sorry for the abrupt end…will wrap it up in the next post!)
To be continued…

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