Dear Girls by Ali Wong – Reader thoughts on the last book of the year :)

2019 is nearly over..a few more days and well, I don’t know what to say about this year. So I won’t go there. But what I can say for sure is, that my reading was great this year and I’m so grateful for all the authors who write and for all the amazing books that I read, that helped me get through life.

I could squeeze in another book before the year ends, but I want to take a break from reading for the next few days and maybe watch a little Netflix, or go and watch a few movies at the theatre and just chill with friends and family. Books are more than friends and family for me, but like everything good, I decided I should give it a few day’s of rest and start my next book only in January next year. And I am so excited to continue my reading journey into next year as well!

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Me and Ali Wong chilling at Radhanagar beach in Andamans ๐Ÿ™‚

So, enough said about all that, let’s talk about Ali Wong’s book, Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets and Advice for living your best life. This was my last book of the year and what a fun read it was!! I was laughing all the way during my vacation while I was reading this book – be it on the quiet flight, or during the long and difficult waits in the airport or on the beach when my daughter was busy making sand castles. I was laughing so hard in some parts that my husband became curious and read a few of those sentences and laughed out loud himself! ๐Ÿ˜€ I know many people prefer reading romances, or murder mysteries for their beach reads and I would too, but I was glad I picked up this laugh riot of a book for my vacation read.

Ali Wong is one of my current favorite stand up comedians so I had to get the book not just because she is hilarious, but also because it won the Goodread’s award this year, in the humour category (I think) ๐Ÿ˜€ She writes this book as a letter to her two daughters as a legacy for them to know their crazy, funny and intelligent mother when they grow up. But I think every woman can learn something from these letters. They are just universally applicable.

What was even more fun was to see the similarities between an Asian family from Vietnam and China, and between my own Asian roots from India. I was literally drawing parallels between Ali Wong’s mother and my own mother, in all those references in the book, and they were hilarious and heart warming at the same time.

Readers might feel like this is a book for feminists or Asians only or women only, or women who have become mothers, or women who have made it big..etc etc. But I didn’t think or feel so. Her advise and her anecdotes from life just seemed normal and practical. She talks about equality, of how men, women and different races just need to stop putting each other in boxes and restricting their creative abilities and just put themselves out there, or enjoy wherever they are doing whatever they’re doing. There is no social loser in her world. There are just different people rocking at doing different things in her book, and I loved that. It was such an inspiring and feel good way to end the year.

I do think however, that Vegans might want to stay clear of this book, since there is a lot of animal love in the book – if by animal love you mean, loving to eat animals in all forms and kinds and shapes. I’m a meat eater myself, but I have my own qualms about not eating certain kinds of meat because I’m not brave enough I guess, but Ali Wong has none of those qualms and she loves her meat. The more exotic the better..lol. So, I warned you guys ๐Ÿ™‚

I am nowhere close to being the wild child that Ali Wong is, but I still enjoyed her book, just as I enjoy her stand up comedy acts. So 2019, thanks for a great year of reading! And Ali Wong, thanks for all the laughs! ๐Ÿ™‚

Psst: The next couple of blogs with respect to my reading life might be about a few reading wrap ups, if I get the time. I will also be writing a blog on my trip to Andamans with the husband and the toddler – so watch our for those ๐Ÿ™‚

Questions to you guys:

Have you read any book that is written by a stand up comedian? If yes, did you enjoy it?

Which was your last book of the year and how would you rate it?

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab – This Reader’s Thoughts

I’m already cursing myself that I finished the second book and don’t have the final one nearby, so I can start reading it already! Ugh!!!

Because I am so considerate of everyone’s time (grin :D), if you don’t want to read the rest of my post and my thoughts, well, then, in a short summary, I absolutely loved the second book! As much as I did the first! And I can’t wait now, to finish the series. I read in the acknowledgements that it took V.E. Schwab years to write this book, so I felt a little guilty for finishing this so soon. But dear lovely, clever, amazing writer, you write so well, and the story was so gripping, that I just couldn’t help myself! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Also, from here on, there may be spoilers that I add in, because I’m gushing or wondering, so if you haven’t read the series yet, read further at your own risk! ๐Ÿ™‚

The story picks up from the first one. Actually, the first book doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, but well, didn’t we all want to know what happens to our favorite heroine Lila (who was actually my hero in the first as well as the second book), Kell and Rhy? I knew I wanted to know, so that’s where the second book picks off. In some aspects, its a brand new story in itself, but in many others, its a well conceived continuity of the story and we see Holland return from the grave..

There is this tournament where magicians compete, which was absolutely thrilling to read about, especially all of Lila’s fights, since she is the only one who was not a magician before, but is finding out that she has all these secret powers that she can harness! All through the book, we have this question – who are you Lila!? Two new interesting characters were introduced in this book – Alucard Emery and Ojka from white London. We have a new villain now – the fading yet still powerful and hungry King from black London – Osaron. I actually never felt like Holland was the bad guy, even in the first book. He’s just the good guy, who had been dealt really bad cards, according to me. I really want a redemption arc for Holland now though.

The settings in the second book with all the arenas, were well written and fast paced. We get to see more of our favorite hero – Lila’s mettle. Gosh, I love her and I so wish I could be like her – reckless, mad and utterly awesome. She overshadows everyone in the story, to be honest. In the second book, we don’t get to see a lot of Kell though. And more focus is given to Rhy’s thoughts and the new character -Alucard Emery. I wasn’t sure if I liked Emery or not. It was definitely a surprise to read that scene between him and Prince Rhy though. The chemistry of that scene was palpable. But is he good, or is he bad? I couldn’t figure out. But if Lila likes him, maybe he is good?

I was so happy to see Lila and Kell get together, even if for a brief moment, in the second book. Oh, and Lila never ceases to surprise me, in this case, when she decides to dress up to seduce Kell! Lol..attagirl! Calla and Tieran are back as the parental figure characters and I was happy to see them back too.

But darn that cliffhanger!!! Which is why I want to read the finale as soon as possible! Its too bad I’m going out of town for a week and I don’t want to read the kindle copy. I want to read the collector’s edition itself..lol ๐Ÿ˜€

So tell me, you guys, 

Have you read the shades of magic series yet?

If yes, isn’t Lila the best?! Also, did you notice in the second book, there is a scene when the author refers to Lila as the ‘Wraith’ and how she had become Alucard’s shadow and would follow him everywhere. Ring any bells? Remember Inej? Another favorite female lead..I wonder if both the authors are friends? hmmm ๐Ÿ™‚

My U2 Experience – Attending a concert solo, with or without you ;)

Seems like a thing with me lately, doesn’t it? Doing things solo? I mean, we’ve heard of solo travelers, and reading is always a solo activity, but doing other things alone? Most people would cringe, or think, she has lost her marbles.

Add to that the fact that the person signing up for all these solo experiences suffers from major anxiety issues. Like major. You already know about it from my other posts – the pre-event anxiety, thinking of all the way this can go south and freaking out about it, trying to shut your stupid brain down from sabotaging your very good life and yet not succeeding, the list goes on and on. Others who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

So people ask me, why do I do this? Hell, I’ve asked myself a million times the same question – why do you have to put yourself through this Prachi, every darned time?! Especially when I’m in the tight grip of an attack, which generally happens before the event. So I asked myself one day, when I was not having an anxiety attack, and here are the reasons I do what I do:

  1. The very simple and obvious one – I cant find the right company at the right time most of the times. I don’t have the patience to coax people, I’m a bad group activity planner, and I can deal with my own company along with its inglorious panic attacks, than having to be stuck with a very annoying or very boring person. My husband is the best choice, but we have a three year old and she can’t be taken to all the places we want to go to. So, we split our activities and travels, and I go solo ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. The other reason, which is not the obvious one, is that I think of it as a challenge. Papa used to be the one person who would always tell me, ‘who says you cant do this?’ or ‘what’s stopping you?’. But now that he’s not around, (and I pray he really is in a better place or in another place), there’s no one to tell me that. So I say that to myself. I set myself up for these challenges to see if I can overcome my fears. I fear a lot of things. So when I am able to overcome my fears and go through one of these experiences and come out alive, and most of the times with a feeling of accomplishment, and sometimes with a feeling of elation, I feel great about myself ๐Ÿ™‚

So, coming back to the U2 concert, I had booked my ticket months back, as soon as I heard that U2 was finally coming to India to perform! I have been a fan of their band since I was in college and some of their songs have got me through so much in life. There are a handful of bands whose concerts I had decided I would try and attend, if I could get the chance – Metallica (I attended theirs in Bangalore), Pink Floyd (unfortunately, only Roger Waters came to Mumbai, but still, it was worth it), Linkin Park (I’m so sad that Chester has passed ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ), Coldplay, Maroon 5 and U2. So, you can just imagine my excitement!

The concert was in Mumbai and I live around 4 hours away from Mumbai. And I had to come back the same night, since my husband had an early morning meeting on Monday. Luckily, the concert guys had arranged buses that would ply from Pune to Mumbai and back again, so I booked a seat there. On the day of the concert, amidst constant anxiety, I boarded the bus. I was probably the only girl on the bus who was alone. But that was alright. I plugged in my earphones and listened to U2 all the way to the stadium.

The concert was being held at DY Patil Stadium, and we reached earlier than expected. I had eaten a packet of chips/crisps for lunch and was starting to get hungry already. It was hot and humid, but people were waiting patiently. I waited as well, alone, looking at all the different kinds of people who had turned up for the event. There’s a certain joy in people watching, you should try it ๐Ÿ˜‰ Finally, the gates opened at 4 pm.

Inside the stadium, the show organizers had arranged for the RFI card top up counters for cashless payments, very few food counters, and a drink counter. The biggest bummer was, that although they had a smoking corner and were selling cigarettes, there was no alcohol! Sigh. I was so hungry that I bought an entire personal pizza and gobbled it up. Then I walked around, and finally went to my seat.

U2 started right on time – 7:30 pm and they played non stop until 10 pm! They had Noel Gallagher as one of the guests, but sadly, he didn’t sing. The last two songs were Ahimsa and One where AR Rahman accompanied U2, and those songs were superb. The entire performance was surreal. I was alone and yet I felt as if I was a part of the entire collection of people in the stadium. I was singing on the top of my lungs along with all the others, swaying and jumping and head banging with the others, turning my phone’s torch on to make it a candle, along with the others, and I had no idea how the hours passed by. The experience was surreal and one that I won’t forget.

Here is the song line up, that they performed that night:

The Whole of the Moon – On tape
(The Waterboys song)

Sunday Bloody Sunday
I Will Follow
New Year’s Day
Bad
( with “Give Peace a Chance”)
Pride (In the Name of Love)

The Joshua Tree

Where the Streets Have No Name
(with “California (There Is Noโ€ฆ more )
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
With or Without You
(with “Shine Like Stars” coda)
Bullet the Blue Sky
(with “America (West Side Story)” snippet)
Running to Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Exit
(with “Wise Blood” and “Eenyโ€ฆ more )
Mothers of the Disappeared
Desire
(with Noel Gallagher)

Encore:

Elevation
Vertigo
(with “Live Forever” and “Iโ€ฆ more )
Even Better Than the Real Thing
(Fish Out of Water Mix)
Every Breaking Wave
(acoustic)
Beautiful Day
Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
Ahimsa
(with A. R. Rahman) (live debut)
One
(with Noel Gallagher) (also with A. R. Rahman)

But once the concert was over, I literally ran to find my bus, and finally managed to get a seat. That was when exhaustion took over. My entire body hurt, but my head was still buzzing with all the songs they played. What a night! I reached back home at 2:30 am in the morning, thankfully, nothing untoward happened to this woman traveling alone during the whole time. What an event and what a day!

Here is a small badly made video, of my experience and U2’s performance ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry about that ugly pole in between, but my phone wasn’t able to cut it off..lol ๐Ÿ˜€

American Gods by Neil Gaiman – Book Thoughts

What a book, guys. And what a story! I’m absolutely blown away and can’t wait to see the words on screen now. Sadly, the whole book hasn’t been converted into a complete series so I cant binge watch, but nevertheless, something is better than nothing ๐Ÿ™‚

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No wonder this book has won multiple awards!!

I decided to read this book, since I saw trailers of the screen adaptation and had been meaning to read another Neil Gaiman book since Norse Mythology and Good Omens for a while now. I just hadn’t made up my mind on which one, and well, ‘Gods’ or ‘The Universe’ decided it for me, when I bought this book on the spur of a moment at a book fair.

The storyline is simple – It’s a battle between the Gods, the old Gods and the new Gods. And in between this battle, is our protagonist Shadow, who has been released from prison and straightaway thrown into a strange and crazy world, that one would have only imagined to be stuff of fantasies.

Actually, the story is not so simple in hindsight. It is really complex, fantasy set in the present age America, where Gods are nearly powerless and walking around like you and me, losing out on faith from human beings and being replaced by the new Gods of money, plastic, TV, media, you get the drift. There are stories within stories, small chapters about the origins of the old Gods, and how they came to America, which all tie into a grand finale at the end.

But the book, even though it seems to be of the fantasy genre on the surface, in terms of the characters and the way the story moves, also felt like a story about love, faith, belief, betrayal, power – all talked about with elements of magical realism added in.

There are Gods from across the world who have a scene in this story, and from across religions and beliefs. I couldn’t even imagine the amount of research it would’ve taken Neil Gaiman to learn about all these Gods and Goddesses and their origins, the way they look and their powers, or their history, and give them all a part in the overall story.

The main characters are: Shadow (our protagonist), Mr. Wednesday (referred to as the All-father, or Odin, as many of us would know this figure more, thanks to the Avengers series), Mr. Nancy (Anansi God), Low-Key LyeSmith (who plays a double role, and is also Loki), Bathsheba, Bilquis, Mr. Ibis, Mr. Jackal, Mata-ji (Goddess Kali), the Ifrits, and many more. It is interesting to note that in Neil Gaiman’s book, the old Gods are all on the same side now – the good and the evil ones. They are fighting together to try and get more back from the new age Gods now.

There are themes of what it means to be an immigrant in America, what it means to be a God, who gives Gods their power?, what do humans believe in, what is the purpose of life and how love affects each of us differently, how friendships can be formed in the strangest ways, and how one can care about someone who betrayed them or used them as well. So many things to discuss about, that I think I have highlighted half my paperback already!

I loved the simple writing, and the subtly humorous way Neil Gaiman writes in. Even in scenes that are tragic or painful, he makes them matter of fact, which makes the storyline easy to digest. Even though it is a 500+ page book, its a super fast read, because you really want to know what will happen next.

Brilliant descriptions of locations, made up and real apparently, of a cold winter that made me shiver, even though its not that cold where I live at the moment, and interesting additions of the daily mundane activities that Shadow does, like eating a lot of fast food and simply walking, and sleeping and dreaming, makes the character relatable and the story very plausible.

All in all, I loved this book and can easily say, that I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing. No wonder he and Sir Terry Pratchett were such good friends. I sometimes secretly wish I had powers of invisibility and could time travel, just so I could hang out or eavesdrop on their hangouts and delight in their wit and intellect ๐Ÿ™‚

The Institute by Stephen King – Book Thoughts

Finally, I read a Stephen King!! One popular, mainstream and much loved author, who was on my list to read forever. And I’m glad I read this book.

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I usually have a ‘read the book first’ and ‘watch the screen adaptation later’ rule, but there have been some exceptions to this rule and Stephen King’s books have been one such exception. I have watched The Shining, Carrie, IT-Chapter 1, Pet Sematary, and haven’t read any of these books. Thankfully, he released The Institute and I was able to grab a copy on my kindle, and read it before it gets adapted on screen (if it does, that is).

So, in a nutshell, the story is a mix of Stranger Things and X-Files merged together. Take the kids from Stranger Things, only change the fact that only Eleven has powers, and make it that all the kids have powers, and add in a sinister Government experiment, similar to what Eleven was kept in and watch the events unfold. (I apologize if you don’t get my references, but if you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet, do watch it. You won’t regret watching it :D) There are no spoilers till here, since you get to know all this pretty much at the beginning.

But the story isn’t just this, it does pose multiple questions that readers can think about and discuss if this is your book club selection. Questions such as:

  • Is it justified to sacrifice a small percentage of ‘beings’ in the name of the greater good? The theme in this story got me thinking about certain types of scientific experiments, especially with animals, where they don’t have any consent. It also made me think about the building of arms and ammunitions like the nuclear weapons and their harmful after effects
  • No matter what the technology or the source, how can human beings compare themselves to God or pretend that a bunch of them should be allowed to live, or that the decision taken by a bunch of them is the supreme and all correct decision?

The plot of the story is fast, and keeps you hooked on. The language is really simple, so you can fly through a 600 page book with relative ease. I couldn’t figure out if this was categorized as middle grade, because although the protagonists were all 11-16 year old kids, the content seemed to be fairly adult to me.

There were a lot of scenes that were hard for me to read through and made me cringe as well, especially since it involved loss, death and atrocities against children. So by the end, I was hoping and praying that the kids win. The ending was bittersweet though, and I was partially happy. But maybe that was realistic in a way, otherwise it might have been a superhero movie kind of a book. Still, I was heartbroken. I wont say much more, because I don’t want to give out too many spoilers.

My favorite part were the characters – Luke, Avester, Nick, Kalisha, such amazing children, really! What maturity and resilience these kids had! And their friendships, my goodness, to die for! I loved the way the author introduces Tim (the only awesome adult in the book), at the beginning and says, great events turn on small hinges ๐Ÿ™‚ That was pretty clever writing, I thought.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book and wondering now whether I should read ‘The Shining‘ and ‘Doctor Sleep‘ next, or whether I should just read ‘IT‘ before I watch the IT-Chapter 2 movie. Any recommendations? Or maybe a completely different Stephen King book to pick up next? ๐Ÿ™‚

Kudremukh Peak Trek – When the mountains teach you how to face your anxieties

The decision to do a one day trek to climb the Kudremukh Peak in Karnataka – the second highest peak in Karnataka at 1892 mts, was one taken in an instant of madness. In an instant when I was taken in by the pictures posted by my brother in law and his wife on Instagram, and in an instant when some unseen force was tugging at my heart. I didn’t even think. That was a first, since I always overthink things. No sorry, that was a second, since the first was when I booked my tickets for the U2 concert. But that might be a story for another time.

Psst! If you read till the end, there’s a short video of our trek, waiting for you ๐Ÿ˜‰ or you could cheat and watch the video straight..your call really ๐Ÿ˜€

I had booked my flight tickets from Pune, booked my bus tickets from Bangalore and had received a confirmation from Mr. Rajegowda, in his adorable broken Hindi, talking over not so adorable broken network connections, that my brother and I had our permits done for the Sunday trek as well.

I was going to travel alone at first, like everything I have been doing since I’ve become a mom. But soon, my cousin brother decided to join me as well, and in hindsight, it was a great decision to have him along.

My first lesson in dealing with my panic attacks started on the morning I had to catch a cab from my home to the airport in Pune. I was ready at 5:30 am, and there was no cab until 6 am. It didn’t help that the boarding would close at 6:40 am. I was standing alone in the twilight morning outside my house, and well, panicking. If you’re new to this, it involves a crazy increase of your heartbeat, sweaty palms, the feeling of doom, the feeling of wanting to go to the washroom, some nausea and dizziness maybe. I had spent 10K on my travel, and it would be really lame if I couldn’t go, because I couldn’t get a cab/auto to the airport! The Universe showed me some mercy, when I finally got a cab and the cab driver drove like a madman and we reached the airport in 30 mins! Bless him, I thought.

My bus from Bangalore was on the same night, and it was a sleeper bus. There were a lot of guys on the bus, and again, I started panicking. Luckily, it didn’t last long, because my brother turned up, and well, even though I pretend to be a strong, fearless woman, I was relieved to have him there.

Our bus was delayed by an hour, so instead of reaching Kalasa bus stop at 5:30 am as expected, we reached at 7 am. And then further trouble started, since being the unplanned person that I was, I had forgotten to check which mobile network would have connectivity in Kalasa. Apparently only Jio, BSNL and a little bit of Airtel works there. And guess which network I was on? Vodafone. Yep, no network connectivity at all. My brother was on IDEA, and at first even he didn’t have any network. We waited, trying to spot the Jeep that was supposed to pick us up, and I started panicking again. Luckily, my brother managed to get a bit of signal near the Police station, and we found our ride. The driver wasn’t happy and said something to us in Kannada. We could make out that he was waiting since 5:30 am and our phones were switched off. Not knowing Kannada was another problem, it seemed. It was another 45 minute drive, and a lot of it uphill on a very narrow and rickety stretch of mud-road. We thought we would break our backs even before starting the trek! But we didn’t. Whew!

Once we reached the homestay, we were told to hurry up and freshen up, since we were the last people to start and we had to leave by 8:00 am. They showed me an enclosure which had an Indian style toilet and said, you do everything here. I realized, how much I had gotten used to the luxury of a big clean bathroom, with a washbasin, a shower cubicle, a western toilet and toilet paper right then. And started panicking again. But there was no time to break down into full panic mode. So I did what I could, with what I could and tried to shut my brain at that point. We had a bit of rice for breakfast since I definitely didn’t want to poop while on the trek, and started off. I hadn’t slept properly since the last two nights, and I was hoping that I wouldn’t be too tired since I desperately wanted to prove to myself that I could trek the 22kms uphill and then downhill.

I have no words for the trek, because, it was hard and it was breath-taking. We went through the jungle, crossed multiple streams, and walked on the edge of mountains. Some stretches were flat and easy, while some were steep and made us out of breath. I realized that despite my running, I was still unfit. But our guides seemed to be made of a different element altogether. They literally flew through the trek in their t shirts and sandals! No fancy trekking gear or trekking shoes for them. They were the ones who kept me inspired enough to keep going. Reaching the peak was insane, because the rain Gods decided to show us their strength and fury right when we were just 1km from the peak. All the trekkers were drenched and shivering. My brother and I found out, by getting drenched to the core, that our so-called rain jackets, were not exactly rain proof. Couldn’t do much about that 11kms up a mountain. So we managed by shivering and eating bananas and ice cold rice with our ice cold fingers, when we reached the top.

Downhill was another ballgame altogether. My shoes were wet and the ground was slippery from all that rain. And looking down from the edge of the hill where I was walking, gave me vertigo. I had no idea that I was afraid of heights as well, until now. Another fear added to my list. But I had no options. I couldn’t give in to panic, or fear. I had to keep moving. I fell and slipped almost five times. Twisted my ankle twice. One of the other experienced trekkers helped fix the pain, bless him. And one of the guides joked, when I fell for the fifth time, that don’t worry, I fell seven times yesterday! Talk about trekker’s humor ๐Ÿ˜€ But the biggest shock was when my brother skidded at an usual angle, and slipped off the edge! You know, when stuff like this happens in movies, everyone is so fast to react! But when it happens in real life, people freeze. There were five other trekkers in front of us and behind us, and all of us froze at that instant. When my mind started saying, this is not how I want to lose my brother, did I sit down to give him my hand. But right then, he slipped further!! And that was when I saw the fear in his eyes and in my own. And I screamed his name. This time I didn’t freeze though. I lay down as fast as I could and grabbed one of his arms. This time the trekker in front of me didn’t freeze either, and he held on to his arm and someone behind me grabbed his leg and we pulled him up. It is safe to say that every trekker was shook up at this point. The local guides did assure us later, that people don’t slip or roll over the mountains all the way down, but my brother said he was glad we didn’t have to test that theory. The rest of the downhill walk, my brother and I decided to forget about walking fast and competing with the other trekkers. We became the slowest of the bunch. We walked holding hands, always having each other’s backs. We even sat down and climbed down, not giving a damn about how funny we looked. We were that shaken up.

But…we did it! The last 4 kms were the hardest, because it had started raining again, we were cold, hungry, and aching from everywhere. But we did it, and that feeling of achievement and elation, overshadowed everything else. The shower we took later that evening, and those hot pakodas that we had looking at the rain, now dry and warm, but still aching, almost felt like heaven. I don’t know if I can explain the feeling we had in words. I was so proud of myself for being able to do this! I am 37 years old, a working mother, and this was my first long trek and I did it! I survived! I was riding on the adrenaline high, I was riding on the images I had filled my brain with, of the forest and of the mountains, I was riding on some strange positive energy, which stayed with me for the rest of this week!

We returned on the bus the same night, and I had my flight from Bangalore the next afternoon and I reached Pune on Monday afternoon. It has been 4 days since I reached back from my trek. Life has resumed, I was so happy to see my husband and daughter and have network connectivity again! Work and office has started as if I hadn’t even gone for that trek in the first place. But I have bragged about it everywhere. I earned my bragging rights, I felt ๐Ÿ˜€ And look at me, I still cant forget that experience. It had been so hard, so challenging for me, to overcome my anxieties and fear, to test my physical limits, but it has felt so rewarding. I want to go on more treks like this, and my brother said he wanted to go too. He made a good trekking and travel partner, in hindsight.

And as promised, here is a short video of my trek. Starring me, video credits go to my brother ๐Ÿ™‚

Some tips for trekking, if you’re a newbie like me, and if it is a long trek like this one (22KMs):

  • Engage with the local guides and homestay people for a more authentic experience
  • For Kudremukh Peak, especially, the forest officials allow just 50 permits per day. So do plan accordingly
  • You can camp/stay overnight at the homestays as well. We had arranged our trek via Mr. Rajegowda, who is a very helpful person. If you want his contact details, please drop me a message
  • Carry your own water bottle and bananas for snacks. This trek was a strictly no-plastic area, but in general also, we need to care about our environment
  • Carry a proper waterproof jacket
  • Trekking shoes are better than normal sports shoes. We wore our running shoes and they would’ve worked all right, had it not rained. Once it rained, our running shoes were hopeless
  • Carry some first aid like band-aide, some relispray, and some pain killers. No need to carry the whole medical kit though
  • Pack light, especially your backpack, if you are planning to carry one for the day trek. No heavy cameras, or other unnecessary items
  • The Kudremukh peak trek is a day trek – usually starts at 7:30 am and trekkers need to return before 6 pm. If you are traveling from Bangalore, then the KSRTC sleeper bus is the best way to travel. My return bus fare cost me 1100 Rupees and the total cost for trek, guide, homestay, meals, permit cost around 2500 per person

I hope you enjoyed this post, and I’d highly recommend doing this trek ๐Ÿ™‚ Send me links of your posts, if you’ve done other treks in India that I can check out. Until the next time then..

Iโ€™ve got your back, girl..

Tell me a story mummy!!โ€, my four-year-old daughter said with the insistence of a politician.

โ€œAlright, alright, what story do you want to hear today?โ€

โ€œA scary one!โ€

โ€œNot again!โ€, I said with an exasperated sigh.

โ€œWhy donโ€™t we listen to some nice happy story today? Maybe about princesses and magic and unicorns?โ€

I wasnโ€™t sure where she had picked up this fascination with scary stories. That was all she wanted to hear about lately โ€“ monsters, ghosts, scary animals. She was supposed to be four years old only and I was supposed to be protecting her from all the nightmares.

โ€œPleeeeeeeeeeeeeease!!Just this one more time mummy!!! Pleaaaaaaaseeeeeeeee!โ€

โ€œOh alrightโ€. I gave in.

โ€œOnce upon a time, there was a kingdom and in that kingdom there was a castle, and in that castle there lived a beautiful princess with her mummy and papa. She was very kind too and really liked to read booksโ€.

โ€œAnd her name was Tisha and she lived with her three best friends, Neha, Pooja and Shanaya, and they had different color rooms. Tisha had a pink room and Neha had a purple room and Pooja had an orange room and Shanaya had a blue room!โ€

This is how our story sessions went. I would start and she would butt in, in-between and change the course of the story, or add her own bits.

โ€œRight. Then one day, Tisha, Neha, Pooja and Shanaya were playing in the park and it started getting dark. Mummy had said not to play when it is dark and not to go near the jungle, because the scary monster comes out in the night to eat little childrenโ€. I said with a careful voice, like an instruction.

โ€œBut they didnโ€™t listen to mummy that day, and decided to play hide and seek insteadโ€.

โ€œNo! But Tisha was a good girl and she listened to her mumma, so she went home with Shanaya. But Pooja and Neha didnโ€™t listen, so they stayed in the dark to play hide and seek and Pooja went to hide near the faaaaaar end of the playground, which was very close to the jungle where the gruffalo-monster livedโ€, my daughter corrected.

โ€œHmm..ok, so then Neha was counting when she suddenly heard a scream! It was Pooja!! She was screaming, help me!! Help me!!! Oh no!, thought Neha, the monster has got Pooja!! She ran towards the sound and saw that the most scariest, terrible looking monster was standing in front of Pooja and was going to catch her.โ€

โ€œThe monster said in a scary voice, hahaha, strayed away from home did we? I will gobble you up for dinner today, yummy yummy.โ€

โ€œBut the gruffalo monster didnโ€™t know that Neha had the magical powers to call her friend princess Tisha and princess Shanaya. Neha quickly rubbed her magic ring and princess Tisha and princess Shanaya got the message and they took out their magical wands, and their magical tiaras and wore their princess dresses and sat on their magical unicorns and flew to the gruffalo-monster!โ€, my little daughter added, rather excitedly. Of course she wanted a really scary monster to fight, of course.

โ€œAnd then, princess Tisha said to the monster, let her go, you naughty monster! How dare you try to eat my friend!! I will turn you into a little bug and put you in this jar!โ€ And so, she moved her wand in a circle and said shimmer and shine, give me your powers to turn this naughty monster into a teeny weeny bug!!โ€

My daughter would finish the whole story herself, I was just there to start and end the story, I thought, with a smile.

โ€œYes, and with that, the terrible and naughty monster was defeated, and all the princesses went home, and changed into their pyjamas and had hot chocolate and went to sleep. Good night nowโ€. I said a little sternly to my daughter.

โ€œGood night mummy, donโ€™t dream of the monsters!โ€She giggled, as she gave me a kiss.

But how could I not dream of the monsters, my darling? I donโ€™t want to stop you from spreading your wings and flying, but how do I stop those monsters? Lurking in the shadows, waiting for little girls, little boys, big girls, women, anyone who dares stay out in the darkness. Who dares to go beyond the playground to venture into the forest. Where do I find that magical power, to turn these monsters into little bugs that could be squashed. I couldnโ€™t sleep because I was feeling the rage of a million women. I couldnโ€™t sleep because I feared for my own daughter.

All I could think of, was sending a silent prayer to all the mothers and sisters, for all the daughters and sisters, so that only our prayers and togetherness can keep us safe from the monsters. So that when the time comes, we save each other. We rush to each otherโ€™s aide, without even asking, โ€œwhy did you go there that late in the first place?โ€ We punish the monster. Not each other.

 

 

 

 

 

10 things I learnt from 10 years of being married and running 10K!

A lot of tens in that subject title. I thought of trying to make it a clickbait title. I wonder if it will work ๐Ÿ˜‰

This year, I ran my first 10K run, and a few more 10Ks eventually. I also crossed another milestone in my life – being married for 10 years ๐Ÿ™‚

If I look back at my twenty year old self, more than a decade back, I don’t think I had plans of doing either. I was never a runner and exercising had always been a chore for me. I was thin by the fact that I walked a lot, danced a lot, and smoked a lot. And I thought being thin was being healthy then.

If I look back at my twenty year old self, I had never imagined being married. Marriage was never my priority and not something I wanted from my life. I had a number of relationships and flings. But to be with one person and commit yourself to them and be loyal to them for the rest of your life, was something that made me shudder then.

And yet, here I am. A decade later, running my 10Ks and sticking to one guy, and being loyal to him, for 10 years.

I was thinking about both these things, and I realized, that they were similar in some way, in terms of challenges, rewards and the things I learned from both these milestones. But I have to warn you here. If you’ve come to this post looking for rainbows, sunshine, all things lovey-dovey and all about positivity, then maybe this won’t be the right post for you ๐Ÿ˜€

So, here are the ten things that I’ve learned/experienced doing the ’10’ milestone:

  1. There’s a lot of work that goes into it- if you’re new to this. Running and being married I mean. I had never run more than 5K. I had never been in a stable, faithful relationship for more than 3 years, before I got married that is ๐Ÿ˜› So don’t assume that it’ll be a piece of cake
  2. Don’t compare your running or your marriage with that of others. Especially the ones who are running marathons and the ones who are celebrating their silver anniversaries. Be realistic for goodness’s sakes! You are unique and your relationship is unique, and everyone goes through their battles to reach where they are today ๐Ÿ™‚
  3. You can look absolutely disgusting and still feel great about yourself. Finishing those 10Ks in my stinky sweaty clothes, and having my husband seeing me in those same sweaty stinky clothes and yet being proud of me, made me feel awesome about being disgusting
  4. Music is a good way to bond – both with running and with your partner. Find your playlists, find your mix tapes, find songs that make you smile, reminiscence and do a jig, or pump up your runs
  5. You can have a belly and still be married and still run a 10K – no problem!
  6. You can eat more. Its a simple logic defined by me. The more I run, the hungrier I feel, the more I eat. The longer you’re married, the lesser your partner eats, so you get more food automatically. Don’t ask me why he eats less, its just my gain I guess..LOL
  7. It’s easy to cheat the world, but not so easy to cheat yourself. So got to keep it honest, at least with yourself. Easy to add a run saying you did run a 10K and post it on social media, when you might have actually walked, or not run at all. Easy to post cute pictures of you with your husband, right after a fight, but you know the reality. You can fool the world, but you can’t fool yourself
  8. When you cant have sex because the child is sleeping in the middle, or because your partner is too tired, go for a run instead! Win-Win! You get to wipe out those hormones, and keep your shit together and lose some calories in the process! Also, I doubt couples who have been married for 10 years, are doing it, like teenagers do. Let’s be real now ๐Ÿ˜€
  9. I couldn’t think of a clever learning for point 9 – so I’m going to cheat and say, just because I ran my first 10K in the same year we celebrated our 10th marriage anniversary, doesn’t mean I’m going to run my 25K when we celebrate our silver jubilee..I cant plan for that ahead in the future!
  10. Coming back to point 1 – yes its hard work, takes a lot of patience, and planning and team work and working around each other and fights and good nights. But I think at the end of that run, and at the end of those 10 years, it feels good ๐Ÿ™‚ It feels good to know you can run 10K. It feels good to know you have someone who has your back and had your back since all these 10 years ๐Ÿ™‚

So there it is – my great life lessons on marriage and running. Things I have learned so far, that is. I’d love to hear about your lessons on running and marriage or being in a long term relationship as well ๐Ÿ™‚

 

The Trinket Seller

pile of women s assorted colored bangles
Photo by Pradipna Lodh on Pexels.com

Anjali walked down the beach with her friends and family, and her four year old daughter clutching on to her hand. It was so beautiful, the wind in her hair and face, the soothing sound of the waves crashing over the rocks and the soft reggae music wafting from the shack nearby. She just loved Goa, and was glad that they had found this corner of the beach, which hardly had any tourists or vendors. It was clean and seemed perfect at that moment.

Hello didi, want to buy some bracelets? Or some anklets maybe? For yourself, or your little baby? Look I have them in so many different colors and designs. You can buy the elephant one or the tortoise one. Maybe a red one to match you baby’s dress?”, a gentle yet determined voice of another woman took Anjali out of her dream-like state.

No, thank you, sorry, we don’t need any. Thank you so much“, Anjali tried to decline as politely as she could with a smile and tried to walk away.

But the trinket seller was relentless. By now, Anjali’s daughter had caught sight of the colorful bracelets and anklets and had started tugging on Anjali’s shorts asking for her to buy the rainbow colored one with the tortoises. Anjali sighed and selected the one her daughter had taken hold of, and paid for it.

But the trinket seller wasn’t done it seems. “C’mon didi, buy a few more please. There haven’t been many tourists out here today and maybe you can buy a bracelet for yourself? Or some souvenirs to take back for your friends and family?“, she smiled as she started walking with Anjali.

Anjali turned to look at her properly now, half out of frustration to ask her to leave them alone, and half out of curiosity, since the trinket seller was speaking impeccable English for someone from the village. She was dark skinned, but her skin glowed like smooth dark chocolate. Not a single mark on her long oval face. She was slim and was of the same height as Anjali, which wasn’t very tall, and she was wrapped around in a simple cotton saree. Anjali thought that for all her expensive clothes and shorts, the trinket seller looked a hundred times more beautiful in that simple saree. She had wanted to tell her to go away, but something in the other woman’s twinkling yet tired eyes made her stall.

So, she asked, “Did you make these yourself?”

She had a sheepish smile and replied, “Since you were my first customer today, I’ll tell you the truth. I collect the stones, but there’s someone else in the city who strings these together for a price. We get to sell these to tourists and whatever we earn, a split goes to the maker of the trinkets. It’s one of the sources of our livelihoods, and like your daughter, my daughter loves them too. Sometimes, even my little son wears them.”

Both of them laughed at that and Anjali was impressed with her tenacity and her cheerful way of speaking. She thought maybe it was time for me to help another woman in need.

What’s your name by the way? And you speak very good English, I must say“, Anjali asked her with a smile.

Kavita. Actually we all go to night school to speak English since most tourists speak in English here and its good for the trade. Otherwise, I speak Konkani with my family“, she replied.

Wow, that is so impressive. I feel almost ashamed saying that I’ve lived half a decade in Maharashtra and still cannot speak Marathi properly. I’m Anjali.

As they walked a little more, Anjali had a thought. She took out 1000 rupees and handed it to Kavita with an encouraging smile, and said, “You don’t need to sell a few of these today. Maybe you can take the rest of the afternoon off and get your son and daughter to the beach to play, and let them wear a few of these trinkets.

Suddenly, the smile on Kavita’s face faltered and she looked uncomfortable.

Sorry didi, I know you are well to do, but free money is not good money,” she said, with a defiant yet the same gentle voice.

Anjali felt mortified. She realized, in the breath of that moment, that in her effort to try and be helpful, she had not only humiliated this self sufficient and self respecting woman, but in that one suggestion, she had tried to create the class barrier between the two of them that she used to be so careful not to do back in the city. She realized, that in the end of the day, she was no better than the rich snobs she used to dislike back in the city, in her society and at her work place.

If you want to give me the money, you will have to buy an equivalent number of the trinkets“, Kavita added.

I’m so sorry, I really didn’t mean to offend you. I’ll buy ten of the anklets and see if you can give me different colored ones.”, Anjali said with a frantic effort to try and make amends.

She made the trade, and a short walk later, both women bid goodbyes to each other as Kavita spotted some more tourists heading their way.

A few days later, Anjali wrote on her travel blog:

Travel Blog Giveaway!

I am hosting a giveaway of these beautiful hand made anklets made from stones collected right in my country, by the pristine beaches of Little Vagator in Goa. All you need to do is tag your friends, like this post and follow me on Instagram. Oh, and most importantly, spread the word about Kavita, the beautiful trinket seller and buy a bracelet or an anklet from her whenever you are in little Vagator next, and tag me in the post.

As she hit the publish button, she realized, in a way, she had become the trinket seller now, handing over beautiful anklets, to increase the footfall on her blog. She just hoped and prayed, that some of her good luck would flow down to Kavita as well. The woman who inspired Anjali that day on the beach.

 

*******Short story by Prachi :)*********

If you guys enjoyed reading this story, or thought I could improve upon something, please drop me a comment ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for reading!

 

But mummy! Boys donโ€™t cry!!

Two days back my nearly four year old daughter returned from childcare and told us about how a boy in her class fell and got a bad cut with glass and had blood oozing all over his leg. In her words below:

“Mummy! You know, Akhilesh fell down today in the big mirror door and the mirror fell on his leg and he got a really big dummm! And then there was soooo much buddd! (Blood) It was red like the colour of apple! Teacher told all the cheeren to sit on the other side!”

I told her, “oh my goodness! That’s terrible! He must have been so scared!”

And she said, “mummy, you know, we were not scared. But Arvi cried. I didn’t cry. But Akhilesh was crying like this wuan wuan. But he is a boy na! Boys don’t cry na!?”

I was stunned to hear her say this. She is just three and a half years old and I couldn’t imagine despite all our best efforts of instilling themes of equality of genders, she had somehow picked this up from somewhere. I tried to make amends by telling her that everyone cries. When we are sad, or hurt or upset, we all cry. Even mummy cries and even papa cries. I wasn’t sure if I got the message across, because she had already bounded away to play with her toys.

Then again, yesterday, she came back home looking very glum. When I asked her what happened, she said, “Mummy, I had a fight with Nysha because I wanted to sit in the window seat and she called me a boy!”

She looked absolutely mortified to have been called a boy.

“And she also said my hair is short like a boy. And my hair is not pretty. So even I called her a boy.” She said with a bit of indignation.

It took me a moment to digest this again and it took me back to when I was in the seventh grade and we had terms like ‘boy touch cross’ and ‘girl touch cross’, which basically meant if you had touched a child of the opposite gender by mistake, it was like getting a disease. And all that immediately reversed the next year when most of us attained puberty and well, wanted to sit with boys and vice versa. I wondered if this was similar or if it was something I should be worried about. If by these small actions and words, they were building up a sort of subtle gender segregation , in their innocent years.

I told her, “but mummy has short hair too and always dresses like a boy. That can’t be so bad?”

But she said, “I don’t want to be a boy”.

I wondered why we had all these boxes as well. She could be whoever she wanted to be. Why did we call a girl who dressed like a boy a Tom-boy and a boy who dressed like a girl, a sissy or metrosexual? Who defines what is right and what is acceptable?

All this has been on my mind since I received a text wishing all the men in the group a happy international men’s day. I instantly wondered, why do we need a men’s day? Are they feeling left out? And then realised with a shock that for all my preaching on equality, somewhere deep down I was judging men too maybe? For having it all?

Preaching is so much easier than practising. My daughter has a long way to go anyway, and she is innocent. I can try and change her judgements. But what about my own judgements?