Sunday, 20 October 2013

A trip to Tbilisi - Part 1.

A last minute plan to escape Doha during the Eid break took us to gorgeous Georgia.
I loved everything about it- the weather, the architecture , the food and the people. The award for the warmest people I've encountered (so far) on my travels definitely goes to the Georgians.

Here are the highlights of our visit. But before I start, here's the view from the aircraft window just as we were approaching Tbilisi. My Dehradooni soul was ecstatic.
Drifting through Dry Bridge Market
Last Sunday, a dream of mine came true. My husband accompanied me to a flea market without ANY resistance.
 Miracles do happen.
I want to dedicate this post to Amma, who would have loved this market and I hope I can share some of the joy I felt (with her and others) that sunny Sunday morning through my twenty shots (camera not Vodka).

This is the famous Dry Bridge Market of Tbilisi.
We started off bright and early. The morning air was fresh and I had dreams of buying a new suitcase to accommodate all my purchases.

A vendor on her way to set up her wares.

The view from the Bridge.

Getting ready

All set and waiting...

The amazing visual feast of bric-a-brac was enhanced by the calls of 'India' every now and then. The old vendors would point to us and call out 'India'- we would nod 'yes' and then their wizened faces would break into broad smiles- almost like they were welcoming old friends. I loved it. I guess I have to thank Raj Kapoor and the Indian cinema for all the appreciative nods we got in the market from the vendors.

Here's what we saw...

from Soviet scales

to brass ware

and even surgical equipment. 

As I moved past these beautiful plates on display, I spotted a lady dropping some colour pencils on a mat. 
As usual, I was too slow to click and just as I fumbled the click, 
she had dropped the plastic toys, too. 
I love this instant art. Do you?

The picture says it all.

I asked this gentleman if I could take a picture and he not only gave me a warm smile and a nod, he strutted his strings, too.

Care for some art in the park?

I felt a tad sad for these puppets- mute witnesses to the ramblings around them.

No, I didn't have to buy another suitcase, but I did manage to buy a lamp (as usual) from a lady who promised me that it is a Russian antique. I don't know and I don't really care- I just love the green and gold. 
There is a dead fly inside the base, though. 
I wonder how it got in there and when? 

Watch out for more treats from gorgeous Georgia in my next post.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Free to forgive

A few months ago, I attended a writers'  workshop in Doha. Paula, our facilitator gave us a list of topics to choose from.

This poem was crafted at the workshop. Brigit was sitting to my left and we got chatting.

Here goes...

Free to forgive



Which one?

"Forgiveness is Freedom", said Brigit, "It frees your soul."

Aha! I like this idea. I'll use it.

Does forgiveness have a memory or is it amnesiac?

I forgive- you forget

I want my forgiveness back.

Do you even need my forgiveness?

"Forgive yourself first", said Brigit.

And I will.

Then I can be free.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Chicago for free

Walking Down Park

  "walking down park 
or columbus do you ever stop
to think what it looked like
before it was an avenue
did you ever stop to think
what you walked 
before you rode 
subways to the stock 
exchange (we can’t be on
the stock exchange 
we are the stock 

"did you ever maybe wonder
what grass was like before   
they rolled it
into a ball and called   
it central park"

"ever wonder why
so much asphalt was laid
in so little space"

I decided to start this post with extracts from this poem by Nikki Giovanni as it reflects exactly how I feel about built up spaces. Do read the rest of it, too.

Chlorophyll runs in my veins. I am a farmer's granddaughter. My inheritance is a hamper full of memories of my dear grandfather's love for his garden- the love with which he would sew little cloth bags to protect the grapes on the vine from the birds or the joy with which he used to pull out a tender radish from the ground, shake off the dirt and offer it to me to eat- washing vegetables was so overrated in his opinion. I ate organic food before I came across the word 'organic'.

My camera became chlorophyllous, too,  when I walked down Michigan Avenue in Chicago this summer. Here are some of the pictures I took of the avenue and some other well known Chicago spots.

Piggy in the middle...paavam.

Love these loos.

The Chicago River

Friday, 20 September 2013

A Love Letter

Dear Vitiligo,

You rocked my world when you first came into my life- 13 years ago.
You were my 9/11.
My Tsunami.

I tried to hide your first few spots
with a Band- Aid.

You were my extra marital affair-
My secret
to be kept hidden from family and friends.

You filled my thoughts, my hours and my days.
I could think of nothing else.
You consumed me.

Your passion was brutal- you drained me
and robbed me of my melanin
pigment by pigment- I was putty in your hands.

You seduced me
with treatment options
Steroid creams, Ayurveda, Chinese herbs, PUVA and NB-UVB.

Your kisses left spotted evidence
on my neck, my cheeks, my hands, my eyes
which I tried to cover up-

with Turtle necks
long sleeved tops
and fancy sunglasses.

Oh! Mrs. Jain..."your colourful tights are so in".
And those scarves-

Little do they know-
I'm keeping you all to myself
You are my secret lover- I'll bear your bruises in private.

You took me to the dark side
I clawed my way back
Bring it on you bastard - I am ready to break free.

The doctor said,
"Consider yourself lucky-
It's not cancer."

The husband said,
"I bagged a great deal-
 A BOGOF- married a brown girl, got a white one for free- Yipee!"

I quit the doctor
kissed the husband.

You are a part of me and always will be
A topsy- turvy fantasy
a threesome- you, me and hubby.



All the hullabaloo caused by the new Miss America made me think about pigmentation and hence my letter above. I have lived with Vitiligo for thirteen odd years and see myself as 'a-patchy-Indian' (Apache Indian) :)
I enjoyed reading this article:

In case you are wondering about Vitiligo ( also known as leucoderma), here's an explanation:

Vitiligo Explained

Whilst vitiligo is a relatively common skin disease, it is little known by the general public and often not well understood by the medical profession. In modern society appearance can be all important.  It is the constant worry of the increasing visible difference that makes vitiligo so extremely difficult to live with.  It is for this reason that sufferers can find it hard to adjust to their changing appearance; It can even raise questions of cultural identity when darker skinned people may have to face the prospect of a future with white skin.
and a BOGOF is- buy one get one free.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Osseo, Baraboo and the Devil's Lake

Food, Glorious Food

"I love chocolate cake.  
And when I was a boy 
I loved it even more."


by Michael Rosen

Like Michael Rosen, I have always loved sweet things, but unlike him, firstly, I was never a boy and secondly, the sweet things I loved as a girl were either my mother's pinnis and gajar ka halwa or my grandmother's kheer or they came from Kumar Sweet Shop in Dehradun in the shape of gulab jamuns and ras malai. But my romance with all things sweet continues and flourishes with the blessings of my sweet toothed family.

So, our next stop, after we left Duluth, was a place which has the slogan 'So good, you'll want dessert first!' printed on it's place mats.

The promise of good food made us enter a town which reminded me of an old western movie. 

Osseo was deserted. The shops were all closed and shuttered. There was  not a soul on the road. All that was missing was some tumbleweed and a hound howling in the background. I almost expected Gregory Peck (from the 'Duel in the Sun') to show up in his cowboy overalls- I wish! 

As it was a Sunday, we figured that the good people of the town must be in the town's churches. 

Our rumbling tummies tempted us to try to find Norse Nook and we did.

As soon as we entered the restaurant, it felt like we had been playing a game of hide and seek in Osseo and we were 'it'- ALL the people were here- a surreal moment indeed.

Here's why-

Believe me, these beauties are as good as they look, if not better. We were all behaving like Homer Simpson when he's 'drool-dreaming' while we were waiting to be seated. 

The Tasty Tardis...
The staff's Nordic costumes, the wooden panelled walls, the vistas painted on the walls and the lamps take you back in time- Norwegian time.

The place was super busy,  so we were served quickly and efficiently but without the friendly chat. 

The food was okay but the star of the show were the pies- UNMISSABLE.

Although we licked our pie plates clean, I didn't step out of the restaurant feeling satiated. No, I wasn't hinting at going in for a second helping. I felt that the old world charm of the place juxtaposed with the cold detachment of the people around us. In a crowded room, buzzing with activity- I felt like an alien. Maybe I am too sensitive to the vibe of a place, but I do like it when people around you smile and nod when you establish eye contact with them. 

Perhaps  passers by like us have diluted the local friendly flavour. Or perhaps, this is the price of progress an establishment pays- too much activity and not enough warmth. I don't know. 

I have eaten at super busy places elsewhere and they still manage to make you feel at home with just a smile and a kind word while nudging you to clear up quickly so that they can serve the next waiting customer.

And along came Lisa...

We spent the next day relishing the gorgeousness of Devil's Lake State Park- thanks to Karun bhaiya and Seema bhabhi for finding this place.

All that canoeing made us very hungry- but then again when are the Jains not hungry?

So we all set out to find a place to eat.

Curiously, a lot of restaurants in the Baraboo area are shut on a Monday. 

The women were set against eating at a fast food restaurant and the men were unable to understand the fuss- 
food is food is food. Right? 


Finally, we found it:

And along came Lisa...

She was our server and she restored my faith in the warmth of the American people.

As the other Jains were vegetarians, and the menu had very limited options, Lisa toasted fresh pitta bread, sprinkled some chilli flakes, freshly ground black pepper and crushed sea salt on good quality olive oil and brought it to our table (all without being asked). The first plate disappeared before you could say 'Pitta'- so she brought another with a beaming smile.

Lisa is a Jersey girl who came to Wisconsin to attend University and stayed on in WI. She's getting ready to start her Masters soon. All the best Lisa. 

The rest of the food was great, too. The menu boasted of corn fed organic chicken and my snobbish food attitude convinced me that it tasted sooooooooo much better than normal chicken. My sweet potato fries (shallow fried in olive oil) were to die for- the golden brown crust yielded effortlessly to reveal the sweet comforting wholesomeness inside as I dug in...YUMMY.

You do realise that the Jain clan never gets to take any pictures of the food- we love our food too much to faff around with cameras, so sadly you have to rely on my descriptions and imagine it all.

The Barn in Baraboo

The Bar at the Barn in Baraboo
The willow at the Barn
All of us left the Barn that afternoon with blessed smiles and happy tummies. 

My question to you is- what makes a meal at a restaurant special for you- the food or the people (be it the person serving you or the people eating around you)? 

Food for me has always been about love- the sweetest morsels I have ever tasted came from my papaji's (grandfather) hands when he would make a 'girai'- a bite of roti and subzi and dab it with some pickle or coriander chutney and feed me- even when I was a teenager. His gardener's finger nails still carrying evidence of his toil in the soil earlier and his eyes sparkling in a sea of wrinkles as if he had satiated his soul by offering me the first bite of his lunch.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The last of Highway 61

"The sea
seemingly a constant to the naked eye
is one long goodbye"


by Dean Young    
Grand Marais
Deflated of the morning's excitement, we slumped back into our car seats and looked longingly at the beautiful Lake.

Who am I kidding?

I stole the glimpses while the children complained of hunger. 

At times like these, I  choose to edit out the background noise and just enjoy the sights while still appearing to be sympathetic to the state of abject starvation my love of exploring places puts my children into- by nodding my head and uttering 'umms' and 'aahs' at strategically timed intervals.

I held on to my wits while we drove back on Highway 61. A couple of hours later, we parked at the New Scenic Cafe- 
Map to the scenic cafe, Duluth MN
This image has been copied from
Suffice to say, we were famished and had no energy to even think about getting the camera out of the bag. So we ate and reached food heaven. 

Thanks again to Kirstin and her family's recommendations.

Here's the link to the cafe- enjoy and salivate:

After the meal, the bill came with a well thumbed leather bound notebook for customers' comments. 

One of our fellow diners had written: ' the avocado and tuna starter was so good, I asked it to marry me.'

...that sums up the awesomeness of the food we ate there. I am drooling as I type. 

The Blue Brigade at the New Scenic Cafe.

After dinner, I spent a long time soaking in the beautiful garden of the cafe. All my senses were dancing with joy that evening. I managed to click a few shots of the beautiful flowers- somehow documenting the experience with a camera seemed unnecessary at that moment.

The next morning we bid Duluth adieu and made our way to Wisconsin. 

p.s. Duluth- we love you and the North Shore.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

HELP! I am turning into a BLOG MONSTER.

The husband came back home last night to discover that there was NO dinner, NO plans for dinner and NO hint of any plans to order any dinner.

After being together for twenty plus years, he KNOWS exactly what to do when I am wallowing in the throws of creativity. Close the door securely behind him and start dialling for Pizza, but NEVER utter the words:
'What's for dinner tonight?'
It's called 'self-preservation' in the Jain household.

The sad truth of the matter is that instead of pouring my thoughts into words on my computer screen, I spent almost five hours prettying up my blog. 

YES, I tried every template, every font and every text colour on the palette to make MY blog look fabulous- so much for the 'journey of self-discovery'!

It's not easy for me to face the fact that while I am trying to exit one kind of rat race (the real world kind), I am parking myself at the start line of another - preparing to jump into the virtual vortex of the BLOGGING world.

I find myself visiting my own pages any chance I get.

How to get new readers?
What makes for a successful Blog? and 
Tips (from 5 to 21) on how to get noticed, have become my permanent google searches. 

I feel for my colleagues at work who HAVE to politely accept little slips of paper with my blog address scribbled on them, peppered with silent pleas to check out my latest posts.

Why am I so desperate to stick another label (i.e. Blogger) on me?

So, I ask myself-  Is this what I really want?

Will my journey of self-discovery twist and turn through this obsessive compulsion I have to get noticed for the work I do?

No, says William Martin in 'The Sage's Tao Te Ching'- 
"The only approval we need is our own."

I promise myself to disentangle the creativity from the publicity. I hope to spend more time writing. And if that writing finds its way to a reader, great! If not, then that's fine too as I relished those moments of creativity.

And just when I thought I'd sorted my thoughts, a friend forwarded me this TED talks video:

(you may want to watch the video before you continue reading)

Yes, the story has to be written.

But, is a story a story if it's not read? Is a picture a picture if it's not seen? Is a movie a movie, if it's not watched? Is a song a song, if it's not heard and then sung again?

What do you think?

How much of our energies should be channelled into making people aware of our creative outbursts? How much is too much? I would love to find out your thoughts on the subject.

And why do I need to justify how I spend my creative energy? Is it wrong for my family to eat Pizza while I polka dot my blog's background?

"It is time to cease worrying about how you are perceived" says William Martin in 'The Sage's Tao Te Ching'.

This journey ain't gonna be a bed of roses- that's for sure.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Scenic Route- Highway 61...continued.

You had me at Nani....

Walking a trail is thirsty work. So we decided to drive to Naniboujou Lodge - just across from the Judge C. R. Magney State Park for a drink. I had stumbled upon this lodge while researching the area-thanks to CAPH52's  trip report on- 

The name conjured up images of a roly-poly nani (grandmother in Hindi) in my mind and I made a mental note of visiting this lodge. I am so glad I did.

My lemonade was refreshing and freshly made.The husband was thrilled, too...
We were served by a beautiful smiling girl who hails from Jamaica and although she loves the area in the summer, she's still getting used to the winter snow.

We were rather intrigued by a pair of oldish ladies,seated by the window opposite us, enjoying their afternoon tea. For reasons I cannot fathom, every now and then they would shoot us down with weird looks- these were NOT the friendly glances given by strangers that we'd got so used to in this land of the 'Minnesota Nice'.

My paranoia even tricked me into picking up that shiny cutlery you see on the table above to give my face a once over.

I don't know why these not-so-pleasant moments become embedded in the fabric of our otherwise blissful memories. 

Moving on to the blissful- the warmth and old world charm of Naniboujou- or 'the aura of the 20's'- as their website states, is priceless. The serenity of the dining hall calms you with its harmonious explosion of colours.

The staff suggested we check out their back yard before we head back...
... and so we did. We sat and posed and chatted and rested our tired feet in this jewel of a place hugging the North Shore.

Check out their website: Do stop by - if you are visiting the North Shore. be continued