Sunday, March 19, 2017

Turning three, a Long Distance Anniversary!

When you turn three and you are continents apart, you turn back and realize you are right where you wanted to be as a couple, or maybe even ahead!

When suddenly your daily lifestyle turns from “married” to “single”, life abruptly goes into a limbo, sending you scrambling for ways to fill the emptiness.
When you can’t wake up next to each other every day, you text sweet nothings instead and pelt each other with ugly morning selfies! When you’re in bed alone, tossing ‘cause you just can’t seem to get comfortable, you realize that you are missing those annoying snores that had become your lullaby.(Time to rake out that recording of his snores on your phone :P)

When you’re time zones apart and your days and nights are flipped, you live each day twice! When you can’t wait up for each other after work to pour out all your stories, you chronicle them instead and fit them into long phone conversations and random hangout sessions. When you're at the mercy of technology to keep you connected, you hope those pixels better be capturing every inch of him well enough that you don't miss even a small blemish!
When you're spending most of your holidays apart, wherever you go, you leave behind little promises to return with each other. When the sight of every cozy couple makes you squirm inside 'cause you are painfully aware of the void you feel, you grit your teeth and suck it up because the thought of what the future could hold, makes this all worthwhile.

When the timeline of your life is running in reverse, you’ve been given a second chance. From best friends to marriage and then marriage to Long Distance; It’s another chance at courtship, to fall head over heels in love all over again!
When you no longer have the weekend multiplex dates to look forward to, you scour the internet for the perfect “Long-Distance-Movie-Night” app. And when you don’t have to share a popcorn tub or call dibs on the last piece of Nachos, you order delivery food for each other, point it at the small video chat window on the screen and munch it by yourself. When you’re celebrating most of the milestones in your life apart, you look back to the special ones you’ve had together for comfort and vow to make up for the lost ones in style!

When every day without him feels the same, you categorize all your days into three types:
Days that go by trying to fill the empty spaces,
Days that you count in between visits,
Days that you are actually together, you can see each other and touch each other.
When you have to fly across oceans to see each other, airports become special - sometimes that friend who brings us together again and sometimes the enemy that bears witness to our painful goodbyes. When there are long periods of separation between you, every brief meet becomes special; You treasure every moment with each other like an unexpected gift! And when you are with each other again, you realize distance not only makes the heart grow fonder, it also makes you wilder and more carefree! ;)

Even though you wouldn’t wish a long distance relationship on anyone, you embrace it happily, because it is the most amazing thing that could have happened to your relationship. And moreover, when you're treading a path less taken, you just drudge along determined to pave one yourself; hoping one day you'll have a hell of a story to narrate to your kids!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Two Already!

Well, this one zoomed by real fast. It's been two full earthly years! That's a giant step further into becoming a "husband" and a "wife" from "you" and "I". Enough time for the truth, the revelation of what we've really gotten ourselves into, to hit us!

Two years is just about enough to accept that, most of what is said about marriages is really true. Enough to upend a longingly uncomplicated single life and dissolve into the tousles of marriage. Enough time to have all those inevitable couple fights - "You dropped a wet towel on the bed", "This argument is getting one-sided", "You made me wait too long", "Why am I telling this to you like the nth time", "I don't get my me-time anymore" and the like! 

But it is not nearly enough time, to make you forget that everyone else is a rule and you're the exception. 
The sheepish expression on your face when it dawns on you that you pulled a "wet towel" yet again, magically straightens my disapproving brows and then that's that(It's another thing that we launch into a pillow fight a minute later! ). It takes me a couple of moments of being left alone to see the unfairness of an argument (really, just a couple of moments, but I know they must seem wretchedly long to you!) . But when I do make my way back to you with a more sensible mind and an even sillier heart, you soften; and that's all it takes to bury the thing. That surge of anger rising as I restlessly scan the incoming vehicles to spot you, is duly forgotten when a mutual favorite number pops up on the local radio and we hum along together, the bliss of the music and lyrics consuming us. The acceptance that I really have a memory the size of a pea, helps you summon the patience to explain that important thing to me yet again and pray, hope that I really get it this time. And well, we both being slightly(or mostly? That's a debate for another day!) introverted individuals, need constant self time to recharge ourselves. And when one of us is feeling deprived of it, a sympathetic nod is all that is needed to remind us that we totally dig each other!

More importantly, two years is just about enough to get some dark truths out of the closet. Enough to get you to confess that between the two of us, you're the one more terrified of canines. And the sight of one, makes you wanna hold me tight, not to protect me; rather, to reassure yourself! Enough to make me concede that more often than not, I mix up opinions and facts and actually assert myself with such conviction as to make you think twice :P 

Yet, it is not nearly enough time to completely understand each other's daily shenanigans. Like why I love flopping on the wrong end of the bed at the end of a tedious day. If truth be told, staring at a slightly different patch of the ceiling somehow gives me the feeling that not everything in life is the same old, boring routine(Weird, I know!). And of course, it's my way of testing how long you can keep your OCD at bay, before promptly nudging me to my end of the bed, so that you can have "Your Spot"! :P And by Jove, I will never quite understand why your idea of cleaning up the wardrobe means emptying the contents onto the floor and arranging them in laboriously thought out categories while scribbling away on your notepad for the rest of the day! Well of course, we both know how it ends. At the end of the day, you hurriedly put them back in after I stare you down, exasperated! :O

Above all, two years may be insufficient to know each other inside out, but ample enough to look inside each other and discern the darkest fears and most cherished desires. It was enough for us to find it in ourselves to treasure each other's dreams like our own and find true happiness in helping each other chase them. Those very dreams may take over our life for the coming few years and we may not get enough of each other. But I know, as I look back at this day every year, it will invariably feel like a lifetime of "us" may still not be enough.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A trip to the lap of Himalayas, literally - Part 3: Manali - The Valley of Gods

We reached Manali at unearthly hours of the morning after a rather tiring Bus journey. A quick, but powerful nap later, I was literally jumping up and down in pure delight after I found fresh snowfall right outside our balcony! The sight of snow-laden trees and rooftops draped in white was awe-inducing to our little eyes. We quickly geared up for a day of 
snow-filled fun.

Our first destination was Solang , a snow capped valley nearby, well-known for its ski slopes. We drove through snow-soaked roads and rusty steel bridges over the rocky Beas river. It is in this very picturesque route that Kareena Kapoor rendered her perky moves to the peppy song "Ye Ishq Hai" from Jab We Met( one of my all time favourites :) ).
The stretch is flanked by apple orchards. Unlike what I'd imagined(a cornucopia of apples like the orchards straight out of those Vicco Ads!),  they were mere patches of bare naked trees casting a ghostly impression against the white backdrop. Sensing my disappointment, our guide explained that the orchards only start blooming at the start of spring and are generally ready for harvest by August-September. It means, most of the apples that we have all throughout the year, come from cold storage!

Solang Valley was every bit as beautiful as I'd imagined it would be. The panorama was exhilarating. The vast blanket of whiteness: a shadowless wilderness brighter than a sunlit cloud. It was like stepping into the realms of fantasy. What followed was reckless abandon! We tried Paragliding and Zorbing, devoured piping hot bowl of Maggi seated on plastic chairs that were planted on snow, tried on traditional Himachali outfits, made a cute little snowman, had more snowball fights, found childlike glee in sliding down on our butts from small slopes and when it got too crowded as people started following our cue, we found other slopes to slide on.

The following day, we woke up to a raging snowstorm. Though it meant that some of our plans would have to be shelved( we would be missing out on an adventurous rafting trip over the rocky Beas :( ),  snowfall was a sweet unexpected gift. Layered in extra warm clothes we walked into the shower of snow outside. There’s something magical about standing beneath the sky, gaze fixed upwards, hands outstretched, catching the snowflakes that fall softly on the ground. There’s a crispness in the air, like everything’s being made new. We savoured the experience till our hands grew numb from the cold.
Undeterred by the storm which by now, was showing signs of blowing over, we set out to cover the nearby touristy places. The visit to Naggar Art Castle is worth mentioning. The gallery wasn't yet open when we reached there and it was "We-Can-No-Longer-Feel-Our-Noses" cold outside! Before we could turn into frozen mummies, the kind guards on post invited us over to their little log cabin, where they had stoked up a smoldering fire in the central fireplace(Its called "Bokhari" in the local Pahadi Language) using logs from the surrounding forests. After we'd stayed long enough to make sure our noses were still where they were supposed to be, we thanked them and went on to check out the gallery. The Art Gallery houses artifacts from the life's work of the Russian Roerich family, mainly Nicholas Roerich. He was a prolific painter, writer, philosopher and archaeologist.(All in one lifetime?! Phew!). The patrician family had devoted their life to ensure protection of cultural legacy at a time when the surrounding world was imploding in itself, festered by wars and cultural decadence. It forced me to put things into perspective. Perhaps, in those darkest years of human race, people had too less to lose and the devotion to their chosen cause was too fervent to be doused. We, on the other hand, are so cocooned in our little nest of comfort and luxury that we while away our life without remorse. I now felt guilty about bickering over frivolous stuff the previous night( like who should get out of the warmth of the bed to receive the in-room order :P ).

My favorite part of the trip though, was the journey from Kullu to Manikaran. It had some of the most stunning views that I have ever seen! The roads are treacherous, narrow hilly paths winding through the mountains. But we were glad that our cab - Maruti Alto could maneuver it with surprisingly little effort. ( You don’t see these little, not so comfortable family vehicles much back in our big cities, but it’s apparently a big hit in these hilly regions due to this very reason! ).
The omnipresent Beas and Parvati rivers, now turgid from the unrelenting rains, kept us company all along; the gurgle of the river and the calls of the wind punctuating the bumpy ride. Nestled amidst these cloud masked mountains are little pristine villages untouched by the humdrum of the tourist cities. The handful aerie houses nest precariously on the edges of the lofty mountains. These little sleepy places where you wake up and walk into a flurry of clouds, where life moves in sepia toned stillness, they’re a paradise for backpackers. Tucked away behind these hinterlands, is the notorious village of Kasol, cited to be the unofficial drug capital of India, the land of Cannabis. We made a mental note to stop by one of the various Restos of this largely Israeli populated town, hoping to catch some puffing grass conversations. (Sadly, it never happened).
We got to witness the sinister side of it all, the dangers lurking beneath the veil of paradise when mother nature decided to wrath her fury. We were visiting the famous Gurudwara in Manikaran when our guide called up to inform us that we'd have to cut our trip short since the constant rains had caused major landslides and almost wiped off a small village nearby. Later on our way back, we actually got stuck in one. Large boulders had rolled off a scree slope, blocking the road between Kasol to Jhari. It took almost an hour to clear the mess and resume the traffic. The houses nestled on the mountains no longer looked so idyllic now!

The Jhari Landslide

On the last day of our trip, we took a whistle-stop tour of Manali. A few temple visits: Vashisht temple, famous for hot water springs ( which sadly have been converted to squalid, public bathhouses now), a temple devoted to Hidimbadevi, wife of Bheema and a small shrine dedicated to her son Ghatotkacha not far away from there. We did the customary spin of Buddhist prayer wheels that said  "Om Mani Padme Hum" at a buddhist monastery, strolled around Manali's old Bazar, ate hot Jamuns in the rain, took a leisurely walk in a nearby park covered by a dense canopy of conifers.

This had been such a gratifying trip. We'd lived some of our earliest fantasies, checked off quite a few things on our bucket list, interacted with people whose culture and lifestyle were radically different from ours and made beautiful memories. The feeling of having to return soon that we'd been trying to repress for so long, surfaced again. With a resigned sigh, I switched on my phone and this is what Uncle Google had to say:

From icy idyll to sweltering wretchedness! 

A trip to the lap of Himalayas, literally - Part 2: Shimla, the stairway to Himalayas

We were bound to Shimla by the Shivalik Deluxe Express next day. It meant waking up at wee hours of the morning. I didn't mind it though, it was my birthday and I was just too excited about the journey ahead! Thankfully, the Railway station was just a stone's throw away from our hotel. By the time we reached our platform, the train had already arrived. It had a colonial feel to it, with a rustic looking engine and large, spacious wagons with wide glass windows and comfortable chair cars for seating. The hospitality offered was laudable. Most of us looked like we'd stumbled into the train straight out of bed; And when the railway staff offered us a breakfast of sandwich and a steaming kettle of water for making tea, we gratefully gulped it down.

The five hour journey to Shimla was worth every moment. While the train lugged us away from a sleepy Kalka town into higher altitudes, I watched the valley tardily warm up and come alive as the Sun rose from behind a cloudy veil in the sky. We slowly wound our way through innumerable tunnels and over countless bridges( 102 tunnels and 864 bridges to be precise! The longest tunnel lasted almost 5 minutes!) and I couldn't help but wonder about the remarkable engineering feat that mankind had achieved - overcoming such insurmountable problems to inhabit this little corner of the globe. No surprises that this route recently became part of World Heritage Site, Mountain Railways of India. We could feel the shift in the climate, the icy chill of the mountains creeping into us as the train climbed higher. I felt a little sleep deprived, but the stunning views of the gorging valleys and the sierra of mountains didn't allow me a second of shut-eye, lest I should miss a moment of it.   

Our two day stay at Shimla was filled with exhilaration mostly and disappointment at times(making us wish we'd planned our time there better).  One of the first things we learnt after reaching Shimla:  Google distance yardsticks are of no help here. The entire city is built on steep roads and stairs! ( Try lugging your baggage till the hotel that you so proudly booked because Google said it's right next to the station, you'll know what I mean!). Nonetheless, we were ecstatic when we found out that our hotel room offered a majestic view of the mountains with a slight glint of snow on the other side.

Enticed by it, we soon took off for Kufri, a renowned Snow Point nearby. Snow Skiing, Sledding, Snowman - all those stuff from movies and books( If you're a Calvin buff, you'll know where most of that came from ;) ), now palpable! Gussied up in snowsuit and boots, we went on to attempt skiing. In my dreamy head, I'd imagined that I'd step on snow with the skis and in no time be zooming down those snow-capped mountains, but I couldn't have been more wrong! It takes Herculian strength just to propel yourself forward. And if you don't watch your posture, the skis can get tangled, threatening to send you tumbling on the snow like an out of control torpedo! I gave up after what felt like the hundredth time, kicked off  my skis and relished the rest of the time sliding down the slopes on a tube and chasing R~ with a snowball readily aimed at him ;). 

That night, walking along the famous Mall Road to The Ridge, we soaked in the colonial heritage and charm that the city has managed to retain. Absence of vehicles on these roads, fellow tourists shopping for popular wood-crafts, souvenirs and trinkets, the irresistible aroma of Samosas and Parathas wafting from the eateries: everything redounded to the overwhelming charm of the wintry night. The road further joins the Ridge which is a large open space at the heart of the city, housing Shimla's famous landmark - the Neo-Gothic structure of the Christ Church. A splendid view of the sprawling Shimla town from here, added to the magic of an already enchanted night, with the lights from the city's skyline looking like a cartography of fireflies ( "Or rather, a bevy of candles lit up for my birthday", quipped the dreamy Pisces voice inside my head!;) But I did end up bidding toodles to the best birthday of my life, with the customary cake and candle blowing, thanks to R~ :)).

Our last day at Shimla was a disappointment of sorts. The downside of a flourishing tourism industry is that most of the tourist places these days, are largely commercialized. A half a day tour to supposedly famous places around Shimla took us to Tattapani, a site well-known for its natural hot water springs, now conveniently encroached by "luxury" resorts and marketed as Natural Hot Water Sauna at exorbitant prices,  the oldest and highest Golf Course of India situated at Naldhera, which looks mostly desolate now and a river rafting spot enroute to Tattapani which doomed us to disappointment when we saw that the unamusing river Sutlej looked more like a ruddy stream. All this made us wish we'd stayed back and explored the British Colonial Architecture of the city instead. 
Still, Shimla will remain the beautiful place that gave us surreal images of a charming city, through beautiful songs like "Aaoge Jab Tum O Saajna" from Jab We Met.  And so, when the time came to leave Shimla, we packed our bags with the sinking feeling that accompanies all unwelcome endings.

A trip to the lap of Himalayas, literally - Part 1: Chandigarh de Shaan!

Travelling - It leaves you speechless and then turns you into a story teller.
-Ibn Battuta

Wanderlust, that's what put us on a flight, carrying us more than a thousand miles away from home to Chandigarh, the first leg of our week long trip to the enchanted land - Himachal Pradesh. We were still minutes away from landing, when the majestic Himalayan Ranges loomed into sight, dotting the horizon to our right, the peaks appearing as though suspended in air, like a cluster of clouds. They were beckoning us, with an icy cold carpet outstretched in our welcome. The allure was compelling, but we still had a day to kill before setting off to the foothills of those snow dappled mountains. 

Before you even land in Chandigarh, you'll realize why it's reputed to be arguably one of the most well planned cities in our country. The aerial view of it presents a contour so neatly designed in sectors and blocks, that you're reminded of the pictures of those well planned American cities that you see in movies. Chandigarh as a tourist spot though, has very less to offer, with a handful of gardens and lakes that one can laze around in. Since we had an afternoon to kill, we set off to visit one of the well known gardens called the Rock Garden and later explore the city. 

We were surprised to find a few Cycle Rickshaws on the road, a rare sight in Indian cities nowadays, but decided to take an auto anyway(for humanitarian reasons). The auto, painted completely blue, looked like it'd just been assembled from spare parts and made such annoying blare, yet surprisingly offered much better leg space than our recently bought Grand i10! The roads looked impeccably maintained, wide open and flanked by trees, not to mention, separate lanes to provide entry for houses on either sides. If you're a person who loves order, you'll love it here! All areas or extensions are marked by sector numbers with each sector said to be self-sufficient, complete with blocks of residential neighborhoods and a central marketplace.( Such a well planned city to live in, don't you think? Except for the day, when you forget to buy that one important thing from your long list of groceries and you've to rush all the way back, coz there's no shop around the corner to your rescue :P ). 

The Rock Garden didn't prove to be anything extraordinary, but the experience of strolling around the city is worth sharing. After cursing ourselves for whiling away some precious time traipsing around the garden, we decided to head on to Sector 17, one of the central places in Chandigarh, with thriving shopping centers and eateries. When we arrived at our destination, I was amazed by the sheer number of shops selling blazers and suits for men, something that we South Indians can only imagine buying on a really momentous occasion( Most likely when you're about to tie the knot and usually from reputed designer outlets like Raymond et al. :P). And here, there were rows and rows of shops lined up, selling them like it were a roadside sale! R~ being the "more traveled one" between the two of us, stepped up to show off his demographic knowledge. He explained to me that, while it could be explained as a necessity because of the extreme climate that the city faces, the number of suit-selling shops, men strolling around the city clad in them for no apparent occasion and the fleet of cars on the road compared to bikes, were also symbolic of "The Punjabi Shaan", a testament that the Punjabis truly live lavishly. On the contrary, the city skyline is mostly limited to four-storied buildings, with many of them unpainted, embodying the simplistic and eco friendly philosophy it is built on. The marketplaces give the impression of Chandigarh, as a city grappling to maintain its legacy. The once vibrant and thriving centres of the city, now housed shopping centres mostly on the ground floor, while the upper floors looked desolate and unkempt. I thoroughly enjoyed shopping there though, filling our bags with the baroque Phulkari worked clothes and fuzzy, warm sweaters. 

Soon it was time to head to Kalka, a small town less than an hour away from Chandigarh where we would spend the night and board the renowned narrow gauged train to Shimla the following morning. We had sacrificed a day from our trip to include the journey since many fellow travellers had deemed this as an unforgettable experience that one shouldn't miss. While walking back to our room after a decent meal at a dhaba nearby our hotel in Kalka, we chanced upon an ornate chariot, adorned with flowers. The unmistakable sounds of a "Baraat" somewhere nearby explained its presence, poised like an unflustered bride waiting to embark on a fresh journey. I smiled at the moment of resonance, as sonorous emotions of excitement about the journey that awaited us the next day, engulfed us.

P.S: Something to muse upon: 
Beside the Rock Garden in Chandigarh, The High Court of Punjab and The High Court of Haryana are housed within the same campus. It reminded me of the fact that Chandigarh serves as the capital to either of the neighboring states. However, it's also a Union Territory, meaning - it's ruled directly by the Union Government of India and is not part of either state. Does that mean, I was in two states at once, or in the middle of nowhere?!