August 26, 2016

Of customs and celebrations


August marks the beginning of the festival euphoria in India. As a child, I loved the second half of the year. School days would be generously sprinkled with holidays, the break for Diwali being the longest. The festivities at home were the most-awaited ones. The days leading up to an important festival like Ganesh Chaturthi or Janmashtami would throw the household into a frenzy mode of procuring the best ingredients for a 5-course meal, flowers, and other sundry pooja material.

We kids, of course only eyed the goodies prepared by the grandma and mom, waiting to dig into them. We could not eat them without offering them first to the Lord, of course. Tempted, furtive glances would be thrown at the spread of dishes; a great mix of sweet and savouries. Every now and then I'd loiter into the kitchen and pooja room to see how far the pooja had progressed only so I could appease my growling tummy and impatient sweet tooth.

Wisps of memories cloud my mind filling it with a bright tapestry; of the colourful decoration of the idol with flowers, the scent of incense stick mixed with the heady camphor-filled aarti, the hurried pace in the household; of Amma effortlessly ramping up energy, dishing out a scrumptious elaborate meal with the extra set of dishes for the naivedyam (customary offering to the deity) before aarti time; of her, in between all this, shooing us away from the sacred space of the deities gently admonishing us to first have a shower and then step inside.

Today, the tables are turned. As an adult and a parent, I realize being on this side of the scene is not as much fun. Festivals now bring in a dull feeling of dread, of impending duties towards the Lord above and mortals below and a self-imposed pressure to conform to the customs and rituals of yore. The responsibilities of the usual household chores, working in tandem with the child's school and spouse's work schedules, my own work deadlines, putting food on the table, all have a cascading effect and there's not much energy or enthusiasm left to walk that extra mile on special days.

I can picture my granny chiding me for all the drama and fuss I'm creating. She'd say at your age we did so much more and never felt the need to crib. True that. The next generation, though, pertaining to my mother and mother-in-law, seem to understand my predicament and empathise. They ask me to take it easy and do just the bare minimum for a festive occasion although they themselves did all of what the grandma generation did along with holding a full-time job.

I'm tempted to give up easily and do just a superficial show of celebration. I did that when I was pregnant with the child and couldn't run around much. I did that when the child was an infant and toddler citing reasons of not having enough hands to run the circus. Now that all the stages of acceptable excuses have been crossed, I'm forced to sit down and contemplate about my role as a torch-bearer of customs and traditions.

I think of all the times when I've placed a frantic call to the mother to ask for recipe proportions or to confirm about the rituals before a festival. I still do not hold the key to traditional recipes or niche preparations and look for simpler alternatives; the checklists before a traditional ceremony or occasion are always a blur and mixed-up. I wonder whom the next generation will approach when they hit similar roadblocks. Will I be able to answer satisfactorily about the why's and how's of a custom and rattle off the list of items to be ticked off the preparatory charts? I suspect I know the answer already. Perhaps the next generation will have an even more watered down approach and might not even bother to keep up. Time will only tell.

All that I realise and want for now is to create similar memories for R as he grows up. For him to associate the festivities with the folklore and tales of mythology, to fall back upon those during the times of being alone, away from family and friends; to stumble upon rare nostalgic memories if and when he chooses to follow old customs. The memories I create for him today may not be as rich or flavourful as they were for me. Nevertheless, they would be spun from similar fabrics of fun, bonding, laughter, family, and companionship.

****

What memories do festivals invoke for you? Do you follow the accompanying rituals and customs?

August 21, 2016

Taking the next step

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I've been blogging for more than five years now but only for the last couple of years, ever since the blogging community witnessed changes in the way bloggers projected and promoted their blogs, I've been wondering about my position and future.

While I loved to write, I was unnerved by the commitment, dedication, and aggression shown by the new-age, serious bloggers who are brand ambassadors of their blogs in a true sense. It was a new dimension for someone like me who had considered blogging akin to casually journaling random thoughts; solely as a form of catharsis and not really worrying about the impact of the written word on the reader/writer community.

As with any change, I found myself self-doubting, fraught with insecurities and consequently slipping into bouts of non-writing phases or half-hearted posts. I hesitated to go all out there and place myself under the harsh lights of scrutiny and competition. It meant I had to take stock and re-evaluate my present skills and future goals rather than meandering mindlessly. This took time.

My non-blogging phases, if anything, taught me one vital thing. That, I was unhappy when not writing. Secondly, I found my strongest supporter in my spouse. He has been a constant source of encouragement and has always given me sage advice. He's my soundboard and every time I voiced out a feeling of inadequacy, he knocked it off gently. He would constantly remind me about the need to shun self-criticism and work on building what I already have. While I'm scared of dreaming big, he urges me to believe more in myself and keep nurturing the skill without hoping for things to fall in place in the immediate future. For this, I'm ever so grateful to him.

Taking my writing and blogging to the next step largely means letting more and more people know that I blog. I need people to take notice and for that, I need to venture out into the open. The smallish network of bloggers I had initially built had disintegrated since many of them don't blog anymore or do so sporadically. I need to create a bigger and stronger network in the blog world if I want to sustain. That I'd also need to allow a dedicated time for regular blogging is implicit.

At this point, I need to thank another person who entered my life unobtrusively as a quiet guiding force. Shailaja (she doesn't need any introduction, does she?) has been instrumental in helping me shrug off the hesitancy. Whether it was directing me to sites on writing prompts, or sharing her own expertise in matters of social media and organized writing, or introducing me to a wonderful workplace, she has been generous in giving. She was the one who planted the seed of purchasing a custom domain for the blog in my head. It is, I learnt, one of the ways to give myself the visibility I desire and build a brand image for my blog.

Thank you, Shailaja, for all that you've done and continue to do for me.

So that, my friends, is how I came to purchase a custom domain for my blog. While I do not have any grand goals for my writing as yet, I have come to realize that, for my own satisfaction, I need to blog/write; better and consistently. And, to that effect, there's no harm in being a more disciplined blogger, serious about sharpening the knives. If nothing, I'll always benefit from the knowledge.

If you find me slacking off again, feel free to whack err. remind me about this post.

*****

I'd love to hear your story/thoughts about how you came to self-host or purchase a custom domain for your blog.

Would you consider purchasing if you haven't already?


August 18, 2016

When we met Bahubali!

Shravanabelagola lies prettily within a relaxing drive of approx. 180 km from Bangalore. That, it was just a short detour on our way back from Sakleshpur, sealed the deal for us. I had no clue about the history of the place apart from the fact there was a temple dedicated to king Bahubali. I was intrigued to know more especially having seen the eye-catching visuals from the movie.

We broke off from the clean, wide highway somewhere after Hassan to meander along the narrow but well-laid roads through a small village. Green fields alternated between flashes of multi-hued dwellings on either sides of the road. Soon our destination, the temple, lay within our view.



The husband claimed that he had been to the shrine when he was very young. Apparently, he didn't remember the details quite well. Especially, the fact that we had to set upon an arduous climb to reach the said shrine that was perched on the top of a steep hill! 



As you can see, the climb was a test of our stamina and strength. The first 200 odd steps were covered with the end in sight, so the strain got ignored. A periodical glance below after short spells of ascent left me awed with the beautiful sight and also a ticklish feeling at the pit of the stomach.

That's the Chandragiri hills (opposite the Gomateshwara temple on Indragiri hills) you're seeing. This is where Chandragupta Maurya breathed his last.


Our first landing was here. This structure, seen from below, was what we thought marked the end of our efforts. I remember telling myself, "Ok, now just a few more steps" But, alas, where was the huge idol hankering after which we had laboured this far up?! Turned out, it wasn't going to be an easy task being face to face with the mighty power. 

This structure was the Odegal Basti that enclosed three smaller shrines devoted to the main (Adi) tirthankara and two others. Upwards from here, the steps got larger and more cumbersome to lumber on. Two landings later, we finally entered the Gomateshwara temple or the sanctum where the massive idol of Lord Bahubali was housed. 

The history we learnt here:

Gomateshwara or king Bahubali was younger son of the the first tirthankara, Vrishaba Deva. He won the war of the throne against his elder brother, Bharata, but later renounced all power and wealth to become a Jain ascetic. (Also, the premise on which the famous movie, Bahubali, is based).

And, yes, it was about 650 steps up until here!



The Gomateshwara or Bahubali statue stands at an imposing height of 58 feet and 8 inches and is carved out of a single granite stone. It is considered the world's largest monolithic statue. A maha-ashtabhishekam is held once in 12 years that attracts large crowds from all over. You can read more about the history here.

Isn't that awe-inspiring? Such magnificent pieces of history and handiwork have a way of putting us mortals in place. Look at the chiselled features on the mighty sculpture. And, how well it has stood against the vagaries of nature!


Our temples, architecture, and history always leave me wonder-struck; I marvel at the wisdom of the powerful kings, the skill and talent of the local artisans, the stories of their lives underlined with deep morals; how they have left us with a precious legacy of philosophy and spiritualism! 

Why don't we learn more of these in our history lessons? Field trips like these will help to cultivate much pride in our heritage and culture; something that is starkly and sadly missing!

****
Have you been here? What are your memories from the trip? Do share. I'd love to hear.



August 15, 2016

Of journeys, digressions and connections





This long weekend break was something that we, as a family, were looking forward to. It came after a long while for the husband who had had a particularly gruelling period at work. Yet, for all the pre-vacation excitement, I was a bit down on the preparation part. The last minute packing rush and a slight overstep of the time schedules as the day made me feel snappy. To add to this, I was supposed to keep one eye on the Google map and another on the road till we made the last exit from the city. (We prefer using the maps without the navigator to save us data and phone battery on long trips )

I generally have trouble correlating the screen map with the actual roadway in the city that never seem to match what with the burgeoning over bridges and one-ways. I'd rather look out of the window and try to freeze the landmarks in my head than pore over a small screen. The husband and I have had many an argument over my role as the secondary navigator but to no avail. And, to set the record straight, we have had our share of wrong turns and subsequent corrective U-turns on our road trips that are NOT always my fault. However, this time, we surpassed ourselves. By the time we took the last exit, the atmosphere in the car was so thick that it could be cut with a knife.

Bangalore is more unforgiving than life itself. One wrong turn and you’re forever regretting and praying for deliverance because the next U-turn is miles away and the ensuing trap of traffic snares doubles up as a punitive measure. Not having enough sign boards at crucial points, unexpected roadblocks and badly planned exits play the devil's part perfectly.

Finally, we were out of city bounds. It was simpler to stick to the right path now and we cruised along the near-vacant highways. Travelling during a festival had its advantages, after all. The lovely crisp air and scenic beauty all around brought down the mood and temper within a respectable range and the rest of the journey was fairly quick and pleasant.

I was told that if I was to ever plan for a “do nothing” holiday, I should choose any of the Linger properties. Golden Woods, Harley Estates at Sakleshpur fit our holiday plans like a glove. Tucked away into the thick coffee plantation groves, our room was in a middle of nowhere with no TV, wifi and a near non-existent mobile network.

The next three days were a sheer bliss as we simply lapped up nature’s abundant blessings. In between spells of heavy showers, the sun’s rays would cast a silvery glow all over. Large, tiny, beautiful butterflies flitted among the thick green foliage. The air, shorn of the jarring city noises, echoed during the day with myriad sounds of insects and birds but fell dead silent after dusk with just some stray nocturnal critters making their presence felt.



Barring an invigorating trek to a nearby waterfall, we were cooped up in the simple but tastefully done up interiors playing endless rounds of UNO and reading the books we had come armed with. We needn’t have bothered for the homestay itself was stocked with some mystery thrillers, a handful of board games, badminton rackets, and cycling bikes to suit our tastes. We also spent a good deal of the time lounging at the sit out in our verandah that overlooked a lush green lawn dotted with trees and shrubs. Birds in exquisite colours and various sizes flew in and out of the tree boughs and we shared R's excitement in spotting them. A peacock cried out in a distance and we hoped in vain to get a glimpse of the royal bird. 


It was refreshing to shed our adult images and let ourselves drown in abandon joy and childishness. R looked on amused as the husband and I locked horns in mock tiffs, calling out bluffs and poking jibes at the other's misery at the card games. My muscles ached in protest as I held the badminton racket after ages and displayed some beginner's enthusiasm and rusty skills. My heart felt tender love to see the father and son bond over rounds of cricket and football. I chuffed with pride to see the kid picking up some tricks of the trade; chuckled as one of them kept signalling foul and then laughed silly over their own antics.

In the daily rush of work, school, and household responsibilities we had forgotten how to enjoy the small pleasures in life and bond as a family. Technology plays spoilsport even on weekends as we sneak in social media activities in the limited time we get as a family. I'm grateful for this break in many ways than one. It brought in the much-needed pause to reflect, take stock, rejuvenate and energise.


August 7, 2016

Life drama


Seeds we sow of verdant promises
some do bloom, many wither
Among uncertainties and skirmishes
We falter and dither

In quest of grasping eternal essence
We find our Selves shrinking
Into shoes larger than our tiny presence
Some lament, it's wishful thinking

Enacting roles in worldly show,
we get caught red-handed for
Fallacies we don’t care to amend
Alas, it's also what we don't know

Our part on the stage is awhile
Lives we play, all fragile
A greater truth awaits, as we leave
Stranger than the fiction we now believe

****
A round up of all the 7 BarAThon theme prompts into a bite-size philosophy. 

Day 7 theme prompt: Promise


August 6, 2016

Don't wish it away

Image Source

I'm experiencing a contented glow around me for I just finished reading a lovely book. While the book will appeal to all ages, it is essentially directed at younglings on the threshold of adulthood. Nevertheless, it contained a world of wisdom that is just as well needed for some grown-ups.

I'm referring to 'Anne of the Green Gables'. In a providential turn of events, I managed to land up with an extra copy while intending to gift one to a young girl. I gladly kept it at home for the time when R would be old enough to read it. In the meantime, it beckoned to me. I had missed reading some classics as I grew up and I'm glad that this book came my way.

This is not a book review in any way. I simply want to share some of the many thoughts the story led me to mull over; in a manner that was part humorous, part tear-jerking and for the most part meditative.

As little kids, our minds jostle with so many beliefs; the imagination, the curiosity, the yearnings for little joys, and great aspirations! The world reaches out to us with so many possibilities and each of those seem achievable in our impressionable minds. Alas, we grow up to shed all of these to don a cloak of so-called seriousness, rationality, practicality, and sensibility. The mind is shorn of all the wishful thinking one might ever indulge in for the fear of being laughed at in society. "Surely, that's not possible! It's time you grow up" is what we admonish our minds with, on those rare occasions when we do let ourselves run away with a little imagination.

Who is to say what is wishful and what is not? What may be perceived as removed from reality could be as much a possible dream if we only dare to give it wings. 

I remember reading an article about how we surrender to destiny at some points in our life and begin to use less and less of our free will. Especially, when the going gets tough, which it does for all of us, we succumb to the rule of not having any expectations because we fear the disappointments that come along. I'm sure we all have endured circumstances when we sigh and wonder, "What use is free will when we only get what is already predetermined?" We avoid aiming for the skies for we are terrified of falling; we stop ourselves from wishing the best for us, lest we jinx our own destinies. In short, we do stop living life to the fullest because we are mortally scared of being let down.

Destiny keeps changing as we take the different bends on the road. Goals might change but the zest to achieve them should remain unchanged. Imagination needs to be held onto or cultivated even as we grow in age or especially so because that keeps our world colorful and full of hope. Wishful thinking need not be shooed away. For, there are instances where destiny has said, "as you wish".

****

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? If you haven't yet read the book, I'd surely recommend it.

****

Linking this to day 6 of BarAThon

Theme prompt: Wishful thinking



August 5, 2016

Tiny shoes


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Asha felt the soft contours of the tiny shoes.The cute bow sewed over the baby pink woolen wooed her to defy superstitions this time. She smoothed her hand over her growing belly and shuddered inwardly with sour memories. Tears stung her as she thought of her stillborn ones and hastily moved to the next aisle.

A 55-word fiction for day 5 at BarAThon by Blog-A-Rhythm.


Theme Prompt: Tiny shoes


August 4, 2016

The stolen bead


Image source

One..two..three...Anju counted her precious beads carefully before putting it away in the safe place away from her younger sister Maya's eyes. Anju found it infuriating that Maya always eyed her stuff. Anju took one last look at her hiding place and returned tip-toeing to her bedroom to find Maya fast asleep.

Anju and Maya were a year apart; different as chalk and cheese. Anju was conscientious and serious while Maya was happy-go-lucky and a dreamer. The sisters got along for the most part but also squabbled bitterly when it came to their individual dispositions.

Early next morning, as Anju retrieved her possession, she let out a gasp of horror when she found a bead missing and looked pointedly at Maya who was busy decorating her doll's hair with similar looking beads.

"You stole mine, isn't it? You never had the color "pink" in your collection!" discerned Anju bitterly.

Each of the sisters had got a set of beads in different colors as a gift from a visiting relative. Anju liked to preserve her gifts and use them judiciously. Maya, on the other hand, gave in to her impulses and remained carefree with her belongings.

"Of course, I didn't. I don't know where yours are. Besides, what makes you think Chinni bua wouldn't give me my favorite color!" shot back Maya.

Anju stormed out of the room in the hope of finding the culprit.

Maya just rolled her eyes and impishly thought to herself, "How silly! As though the thief would sit there waiting to be caught red-handed!"

Anju was, but, sure of finding a clue at her hideout and her eyes almost popped out upon arriving there.

She looked on incredulously before letting out a small chuckle.

She was so sure it was Maya.

A lone bead shone out in the brilliant color of Fuchsia as the rays of the mid-morning sun now fell on it. It must have rolled out of her case somehow and got wedged in the hitherto dark recess of the tiny closet.

And, yes, it was Maya, an illusion, indeed!

Linking it to day 4 at the BarAThon


August 3, 2016

Fragile lives

Even the ferocious perish one day
leaving behind bones and clay

Ensconced within a tough exterior
we are, but, fragile lives
eager to bequeath a lasting memoir

Why, then, do we overlook the right,
 lusting after power, position, might?

Let’s practice a life of grace,
despite experiencing 
undesirable snags we must brace

Rather than surrendering without a choice,
Let’s exit quietly with poise


Image credit:Pixaby.com

Linking it to day 3 at Bar-A-Thon
Theme prompt: Fragile lives




August 2, 2016

Missed chances

She was desolate since he preferred the overseas opportunity to marrying her.

She also knew that one failed chance could brighten another.

He never received that email and assumed his dream company did not prefer him.

She had wiped the last remains of the digital footprints, convinced that what you don't know cannot hurt you.

***

55-word fiction for the second day at the BarAThon

Theme prompt: what you don't know


August 1, 2016

Truth is stranger than fiction


Siddharth entered his grandpa's study. The sunlight filtered in through the translucent flowery drapes and fell on the large mahogany bookcase that was filled with his dadaji's favourite books. The study table was as tidy as he remembered from his childhood. As a curious kid, he'd often wander into the study only to be admonished by the old disciplinarian. Today, however, he had entered the deceased grandparent's sanctuary as a young adult to gather some old business files and in turn, revisit fond memories.

**

Siddharth Sahani was the sole heir to the famous Sahani group of companies. The young, capable and ambitious youth had heard famous stories about his successful grandfather Ashok Sahani; of how he built the empire from scratch and was such a genuine philanthropist despite being so successful. 

However, as a child, Siddharth loved to hear the stories told by his doting grandfather himself. One particular story always caught his fancy and he'd demand to hear it again and again. It was a story about how three blind men robbed a bank*. They had pulled off an impossible feat that would go down in the annals of crime. The planning and execution would make a classic case for your management studies, his grandpa would add with a twinkle in his eye. He'd narrate the story with the same passion and details as if it were a real story and he a part of it. "Truth is always stranger than fiction", was his oft-quoted line.

Although the duo was very close, there were some things that Ashok preferred to guard about himself. Siddharth always sensed an element of mystery about the older Sahani. But he idolized his dadaji and always sought the latter's opinions on matters of life and career. The business tycoon had only one thing to say, "Life is full of mysteries and surprises. So, be prepared to achieve your goals but always have a backup plan."

**
As Siddharth rummaged through the old files, his mind playing out snippets of memories in a loop, a newspaper clipping fell off from between the sheets. Yellowed with age, the print was fading off from several portions. Yet, the headline caption seemed to scream out loud and clear,

"Biggest Bank heist leaves the Investigative Agency baffled"

Worn by time, the entire report was not quite legible. Yet, it sufficed to ring a bell, far too familiar.

Siddharth was nonplussed.

Why was this news article safeguarded? Why was dadaji so fond of this story? What did he mean by "truth is stranger than fiction" ?

Some things will always remain a mystery.

****

*Inspired by this.

Linking this to the first day at Bar-A-Thon




There's something about travelling

I don't remember when I developed a love for travelling but for as long as I can remember now my wish has been to tour the world. And, not the touristy kind of tours that have you rush through more cities and towns than the days of travel itself; handholding at every step and prompting you on what to see, do, and sometimes even eat. Yes, I've done my fair share of these and they are not necessarily bad. Just that they don't let you journey, explore or discover as travel should.

I've dreamed of standing ankle deep in pristine snow, my hands outstretched to catch the soft flakes as they gently caress me and fall noiselessly on the ground. Of admiring towering mountains that proudly look up to the clear blue skies, their peaks fleeced with white clouds some of which cascade with a gentle breeze to kiss the green earth. Of meditating on the banks of glistening blue-green expanse of water that stretches up to the horizon and calls out to the migratory birds to pause and rest.

I dream of travelling to be with the beautiful, bountiful Nature that planet Earth has been abundantly blessed with.

On my own little travel escapades, even if I haven't travelled a lot, I've realised that each little town, city or country has something unique to offer. You need to travel with all your five senses open to receive the experience. Travelling to a new place always sets my heart fluttering in anticipation of what's in store; imagining the mood of the place, wondering about the general disposition of the locals and being excited about getting a sneak peek into a different culture and way of life.

So, what is it that I love about travelling?

The culture of a place never fails to intrigue me. I like to gather insights about its history, the places of worship, traditions and customs. It's meditative to draw parallels between what I learn from other places and what I know of mine. I usually try to fit in places of cultural interest along with usual scenic sights and a couple of lesser-known gems in my travel itinerary. Lesser-known locales always spring in a surprise. They could even backfire in terms of having a pleasant experience. Yet, isn't this the crux of a journey? Accepting the thorns along the way?


Travelling with a kid who's incidentally turning into a wildlife enthusiast has lent a new and exciting dimension to my travel plans. Wildlife safaris usher in a sense of suspense; they cast a spell of ticklish expectation as you move through the thickets wondering what creature might be prowling just behind those bushes and ever hoping to sight that elusive big cat.

Our first brush with spotting the wild in their natural habitat in Sri Lanka had me lusting for more and it became a sort of addiction with me. The spouse and I invested in a DSLR and we began experimenting more with this fascinating species of the outdoors. Our recent thrilling experience of spotting a whale while on a dolphin sighting trip in the wild sea seems like a sign from the universe that if you wish with your whole heart, it just might come true. Talking of the sea-life, we got initiated into the thrills of getting up and close with coral reefs and underwater sea creatures by our friends who are scuba-diving enthusiasts. I surely hope that was only a teaser to our grander dreams of joining our friends someday for some snorkelling and scuba-diving.


Travel is incomplete without indulging in the local cuisine. As a child that grew up on Enid Blyton books, I was very fascinated with the images painted by the descriptions of scones, marmalades, juicy tarts, and macaroons. I pictured myself biting into these luscious treats at those idyllic locations. One can develop so much love and ache to visit a place through the books and cuisines you read about!

Food, I believe, is one of the finest ambassadors of a location. Even if it's within the same country and the fare isn't largely off your usual, the singular characteristics of the town seep into the preparation making the same fare taste so different and unique. Take for instance the spicy-tangy chaat that everyone loves. I'm sure you agree that the pani-puris of Mumbai taste different from the puchkaas of Delhi or the golgappas of Kolkatta.



Being a vegetarian, I do worry about the kind of cuisine that awaits me during travel to a different country.  As a rule, I do prefer to have a slice of the local flavour if it's not too off my comfort zone. I like to try the variations that even a vegetarian spread offers.

We did gorge on the simple but delectable string hoppers in SL. They are very similar to our idiappams but the name has such a lovely ring to it and there they have it along with a dal variety.  The different kinds of rice and noodles in Bali were steeped in the local flavours heightening our experience of the lovely island.

I have so many places to tick off from my travel bucket list. Now, If only travelling didn't cost money, I'd surely have turned a nomad. Sigh! But then, one can always and ought to dream.

I found this beautiful quote from a book I'm reading currently that translates to, "It's sad to have your dreams not come true but it's sadder to not dream at all."

I am blogging about my dreams and passions for the Club Mahindra#DreamTrails activity at BlogAdda. You can get a Club Mahindra Membership to own your holidays!