Rewind. Pause. Play

“Let’s see if you can imitate well.” His eyes would twinkle as he’d challenge me to a game he liked to play with me.

“Yesss, let's!” I loved to play with thatha.

He would then hum or whistle a series of complex notes and urge me to reproduce it. He’d listen to me, as I sang with near precision, with pride-filled eyes. As a child, I always refused a direct request to sing for an audience, even if it was family. This was his way of making a diffident young kid break out of her shell and find wings.

Ironically, I won my first ever award at a music competition the year he passed away. The void he created can never be filled but thatha’s presence lingers. Each time Amma makes Jeera rasam, I'm reminded of his musical parody about this comfort food and my face breaks into a smile. Every time I sing or listen to “Jagat Janani”, the kriti in his voice plays in my head; I’m aware it’s the only recorded song, a precious souvenir we have, in his melodious voice.

But, the years have piled on heavily and created a foggy path between me and memories of thatha. It’s as though a videotape of yesteryears has grained out except for bits of clear scenes: His serene face during the daily and elaborate morning poojai; his slender frame supported taut against the wall as he rested his almost bald head on the soft mattress, his supple body belying his age; his easy laugh revealing the slightly crooked line of teeth as he’d narrate funny stories or played silly games with me as I sat on his lap. I’d count his worry lines as they stacked up tall when he raised his eyebrows. I’d look on with a silly grin as he stuck his tongue out blowing air and making it vibrate. He could bend his palm easily enough for the fingers to touch the back of the hand. And, this would fascinate me to no end. He never denied a “once more” request to the inane games I loved and which, I now realize, can exasperate an adult.

When he left without a warning, I felt cheated, robbed of a doting grandparent who could’ve easily lived for many more years. That night of intense grief and unending tears is etched forever. I had slept from the sheer exhaustion of unrestrained sobbing and the shock of seeing the lifeless body of a person I so dearly loved. In my semi-wakeful state, I dreamt that he was still alive and the whole thing was a mistake. It was a dream that recurred in the many months to follow.

Years later, my mother confessed to experiencing a similar dream as mine. Many a time, I’d catch Amma’s eyes go all misty when an old photograph, a song or a recipe scraped at the scab of a wound that never healed completely.  She had lost a parent and her pain was deeper. Her stories of him shine a light on the person who quietly did his duty never expecting anything in return. I can completely imagine him being that person. When extended family and friends speak of thatha, it is easy to believe that he had touched them all, in many ways, by his genuine goodness. I’m bitter about not having an exclusive story to tell.

The pain has been numbed with passing years. But, the fragmented memories spring upon me when I least expect, bringing on a dull ache. I imagine how it would have been to watch my son play in his arms as I once did, to trust his sapience during my troubled adult phases in life, have him cheer me on, or watch his face erupt in joy at my small achievements.

I cup the sepia-tinted impressions together, worried they might crumble to powder. I’m desperate to piece them all together for eternity.

Choosing perfect pots and pans

To some, moving houses come as naturally as shedding skin to snakes. I admire the former's ability to wrap themselves with the new and blend into established territories like they have always belonged. I think of myself as someone who craves for newness but equally loath to part with the familiarity. The uncertainty of the foreign fills me with apprehension as well as anticipation. Fitting in has never been my favourite activity and I wonder if disparate elements can be fused together to create an agreeable flavour.

As I prepare myself to detach myself from the veneer of my home, I spend my time mentally stripping it of the memories it holds. I gather my belongings, the collectibles, the memorabilia that speak of the many travels, a shared life with my family, and a keen love for all things colourful and antique. In my head, I imagine various empty houses, not mine, where they will be placed to recreate an environment I call home.

I care less for the polished white interiors that gleam of a perfection I’m afraid to touch. I crave for warm hues to intertwine their fingers with the cracks in the wall winning me over with their conspiratorial smile. For, they are witness to our secrets, our laughter, our worries, and our decisions. I like to meander in long corridors, tracing out the dust collected on the frames of our candid photographs hung in random order. I allow the vacant spaces to be filled before they are infused with the aroma of love, laughter, coffee, and marinated with a mixture of friends-new and old, of mindless banter and serious debates.

Sometimes you have to give up the labour of love because it’s time for new birth pains. And yet, at other times, the creations do not turn out as intended; much like my trysts with cooking in the initial years of my wedded life. Armed with all the right ingredients, I’d try to add the flavours one by one as I remembered my mother doing it for years. Yet, the result would be vastly off. I had once lamented to her about how my cooking does not taste like hers although I use her spices and follow her recipes. She smiled, her eyes twinkling with a secret she was about to reveal. “Sometimes, the pans and pots are not right!” I looked on incredulously. “Yes,” She continued in a tone that meant she wasn’t joking. “It takes some experience to know that a shallow pan is usually the culprit behind curry mishaps and that a pot of sterner mettle is the best accomplice to dish out that perfect biryani. Sometimes, our love and energy need to find the right home to create the ambience we are seeking.”

As my thoughts meander, my mother’s words seem to ring with newfound meaning. I’m fuelled by a new surge of enthusiasm as I look forward to making newer connections and friendships. I’ve been wary of the latter as I find myself cocooning into a space that very few people are able to enter. I make acquaintances but I’m careful in choosing my friends. Growing up, I'd always worried about the kind of impressions I made on people. I hesitated before asking for help for I worried about imposing myself. Social gatherings had me looking on from the fringes, waiting for a smile, a nod or acknowledgment before I extended my own hand. Not surprisingly, I was never a part of any cliques.

I later went on to experiment with my true nature and feelings many a time until they found a solid home in the hearts of a handful of friends that are almost my shadow now. They have my back as I have theirs at all times, good and bad. Yet, setting aside these, I’ve failed to recreate the delicacy of friendship. I have fewer friends today than in my younger years and cliques are as elusive as ever. Despite my best intentions, I’ve ended up burning my fingers or licking the vestiges of friendships gone sour and bitter. However, today, I’m content with knowing that my methods weren’t incorrect.

It’s all about choosing the perfect pots and pans. 


Of self-respect and other things

R was called a loser by his best friend today. I was standing right there. I instinctively told the friend (nicely) that it wasn't a nice thing to say. The friend looked embarrassed and mumbled something. I let it go. It kept playing at the back of my mind, though. My son showed no signs of having felt bad but when I later spoke to him about the incident, he confessed that he did not like it. Why did he not, then, take offense? I asked. He simply shrugged.

How do I even begin teaching an eight-year-old about self-respect? I wondered. In many ways, I realized, he is like me when I was his age. Or perhaps, many kids this age are like this-holding friends in high esteem, eager to please and anxious to enter their good books. Even at the cost of getting hurt, literally and otherwise. He might eventually learn, without my intervention, that this is not the best thing to do and that his self-respect should always come first.

"Stand up for yourself," I sermonized to the boy who was now looking keenly at me. In my mind, several voices spoke out. "Am I over-reacting? They are after all just a bunch of 8 and 9-year-olds," said one voice. "Whether you're eight or eighty, you cannot have anybody trampling your dignity and self-respect," spoke another, aghast at the first. Call it a mother's heart, I felt a need to sensitize R towards his feelings. I realized the key to it came from within you. For, even before you learned to take a dignified stand or fight back as the situation demanded, you needed to identify the red flag situations.

I softened my words to convey that no matter how important the friend may be in his life, he/she had no right to say mean things or make him feel small and inadequate. When that happens, it's a clear indication to put his foot down even if that meant letting go of a friendship. I resisted the urge to add that not just in friendships, you should always find the courage to walk away from people and situations who do not value you. But, some lessons would have to wait. Others could be taught only by life.

R did not look too convinced. Perhaps, the last bit of having to forgo a cherished friendship bothered him or maybe the whole conversation didn't make too much sense, as yet. I had to contend with letting it go at this stage. I'd have to, in all likelihood, revisit this lesson many times in future. Some kids are equipped with sensors to effectively deal with threatening situations. Others, like mine, need extra fittings because they are too eager to please.

I've been, of late, a witness to many a disturbing trend amongst kids. Conversations are always about being one up on the other. Sample this:

"Know what? I'm reading 'A' book." says one with obvious pride in his voice.

"Oh, what's the big deal? I already finished that one last grade! The boy in the end...." replies the friend squeezing all the emotions out of the first and also spoiling the book without remorse.

"So, do you know what happens to this character in this movie?" asks another gloating over the fact that he had watched a movie that wasn't exactly meant for kids.

"Ya, of course, it's...." says the second not wanting to be left behind.

"Dude, you know nothing. It's nothing like that. I don't think you even watched it!" the boy smirks and laughs aloud.

Tender feelings are unceremoniously hurt by one, the victim then generously passes on the baton to another. For, that's how they all learn it. Meanness is more contagious than goodness. Kids being mean and forming cliques is age-old. But, this is something else. Even a silly tete-a-tete about the activities at school results in mindless debates about who has it better.

I can't even begin to wrap my head around the general obnoxious bragging about brands and gadgets. Who's teaching them the difference between a Mac and a Windows 10? How do they know about owning an iPhone is considered high amongst other status symbols? We do not discuss gadgets at home or own anything fancy other than a mid-end smartphone. I suspect (although I reckon that the peer education system is far more effective and up-to-date) R has no clue about a Mac or the latest high-end smartphone in the market.

I sometimes feel like the world has leaped two generations ahead when I was not looking.

The cosmos and I

It's a usual day in the household. I wake up after hitting the snooze button a couple of times. The inky blue sky outside is about to burst into a bright shade of daylight. I know it's only a matter of a few minutes. Is the darkness aware, I wonder, of the simmering ball of fire underneath the surface that's about to erase its identity? The rays either sneak its way, without a fuss like a blushing bride, casting a warm glow all over or scream for attention like a melodramatic model, throwing generous doses of orange and pink kisses to the night that gracefully recedes into oblivion. Does the night ever resent the day for its ability to make heads turn its way each morning?

On some days, my mind is free from the mundane clutter and I receive the bounty of nature with a smile, my hands cupped in gratitude. Most other days, I ignore the drama in the sky.  A teasing interplay of the cosmos, filled with life lessons for those who care to seek. It would never matter to the day or the night whether I partake in their intimate discussions. I could choose to be a part of their clique, but if I did not, I certainly wouldn't be missed.

As I set the milk to boil on one stove and watch the veggies sizzle on the other, I take a deep breath, a reminder to myself. I could afford, today, to sip my coffee in the quiet darkness, letting the caffeine work its way slowly into wiping off the traces of sleep-induced lethargy. I savour these brief moments of languidness before I get consumed by the regular drill of routine life.

I play the roles of a mother, wife, homemaker. These are impressed finitely upon my person like the thick primary lines on my palm. The other fine lines criss-cross and intercept the primary ones but taper off abruptly; an eerie reflection of my life. For, every so often I seek out the person who might be someone other than these titles. Not out of any feeling of inadequacy but perhaps a curiosity to find out if there was a person ever waiting to be discovered. I fancy calling myself a person of importance - a freelancer, a blogger, a writer- at various points but they remain transient. They tempt me with a sense of purpose but I find myself retreating to the familiar and comforting territories of my primary roles each time these turn into shackles.

It is then, I realize, the feeling of importance that appeals to me. The ego bloats up in the know that my contribution makes a difference to someone out there and I add value. The fallacy of it all dawns sooner or later and I realize that I'm just a speck in the sea of humanity. I could be flicked away and just like my place in the cosmos, the world will only carry on in my absence, cleaner and lighter.

Caffeinated attraction

Words jostled inside Anusha's head as she snaked her way between the tables to her favourite spot in the cozy cafe. She slid her laptop out, rested the bag beside her on the silver grey cushioned sofa and called for her favourite cappuccino. They made it just the way she preferred: the right amount of milk and coffee, the closest alternative to the filter kaapi her mom made.

Gazing out of the glass window, she sipped her beverage, letting the bitter-sweet taste linger, weighing her thoughts before her fingers could fly on the keyboard to give shape to them. The white fluffs of clouds against the clear blue skies floated gently with the summer breeze and they seemed, to the writer in her, like mischevious sheep that had strayed off the flock.

Oh, well, it's my mind that's straying now. Need to get my act right for my next submission. Anusha willed herself back to the present.

The cafe was Anusha's muse, the mecca she haunted during the weekends for the past three months since she found her part-time job with an advertising agency. The work kept her finances going and, more importantly, gave fuel to her serious hobby. The process of lining up one word after another on an empty canvas, shuffling and re-shuffling them around until she found perfection filled her soul with inexplicable happiness and satisfaction.

Yet, today, the document looked back at her, stubbornly blank. There was too much chaos in her head to reign into subservience. As it always happened on the days she called home. Conversations invariably veered towards her marriage. The urgency and despair in her mom's tone always filled her with sadness and guilt. Sadness because her parents did not understand why she turned down most matches sent to her from the matrimonial site. It was another story that she got rejected many other times. She felt guilty of finding herself in a situation where she could neither summon the courage to rebel nor talk openly to her parents.

The MBA was more of an excuse to move away from home. To run away from the suffocation, the constant trials masquerading as the bride seeing visits, the prying neighbourhood; to find own feet, and perhaps romance some day.

Romance? Was she really cut out for the Mills & Boons kind of romance she secretly desired? A hot-headed feminist trying to break stereotypes, a logical person who never understood impulsiveness, a coward when it came to decision making, will she allow herself to fall in love?

A pair of teenaged girls noisily occupied the seat behind Anusha. Instinctively, Anusha leaned farther behind into the backrest. Not many moons ago, she was their age. Giggles filled up spaces between their hushed tones. They had bunked their college lecture and were discussing their latest crush. Anusha sighed. A predictably carefree life of college-goers who had no inkling of how their lives would shape up after the blissful years removed from truth and reality.

"Don't look now but check out that hunk there." said one voice, low with urgency.

"He's a bomb" gushed the other voice, stressing on 'bomb'.

A bomb? Anusha cringed and shooked her head at the language used. 'Stud' was the lingo when she was in college she recalled, immediately feeling like a fraud for judging the youngsters.

On an impulse, she looked in the direction of the ripple creator. She felt her heart skip a beat. Even her own matured eyes and mind trained to remain off flirtatious grounds agreed that he looked every bit the Greek God. Surely, a bomb that was intended to detonate any warm-blooded woman's mind, however nonchalant she appeared on the outside, to a thousand fluttering, tender feelings that sang to violins that played, without a permission, in the heart.

The words on the laptop made no sense to her and she erased them all. The submission would be delayed. The cafe was getting dangerous.


Rotting humanity

Doc, there's an emergency!

The breaking news flashes the brutal carnage. Images and voices float in my mind as I drive in manic speed to the hospital.

Of sirens blazing. Of toys and limbs lying scattered on a carpet of red and brown.

Oxygen! I scream. Pump, harder.

Doc, there's no pulse.

Shoulders slump.

I witness grief fuse into flames that rise up collectively at the mass funeral. The ashes fall lightly on me.

Will the stench of hate ever recede?

Written for a prompt at

The call of the wind

Mira stepped out into the wide balcony on the 12th floor of the high-rise she and Mayank had recently moved into. Their new home had been a joint decision.

Leaning on the railing, Mira circled the outline of the cup she held and thought wistfully. Just a few months ago they had been so happy to start a new phase together. So much had changed since then.

Mira was up for a promotion at work and she had been looking forward to the long overdue recognition after several months' of hard work. The only catch was it came with a stint abroad. Mayank had been supportive of her decision to accept the opportunity while he stayed back.

Yet, Mira couldn't fully rejoice.

Mayank had not been aware of a third party angle to the whole arrangement and Mira felt anxious and guilty as she pondered over the recent developments. It was not going to be easy but Mayank had to know. Mira had imagined the scene in her head with all the possible permutations and it made her dizzy.

The wind hit her face in rapid succession. The cool air felt like a balm. The view from the top overlooked the vast city skyline and the green and brown dots below made a picturesque sight much in contrast to the harsh realities. She closed her eyes to savour the moments.

Yes, the larger picture always puts things in perspective. The two pink lines were not about to cage her. The wind was calling out to her to spread her wings.

She'd show the world that Motherhood and career could go hand-in-hand.


Written in response to the prompt, "The call of the wind" at the BarAThon.

The wedding

Holding hands under the inky blue bejeweled canopy, they swore allegiance to each other. Bedecked in a brown shimmery, the translucent veil flowing away from her coy face, she looked up nervously at him. He replied with an imperceptible nod that spoke volumes of quiet reassurance.

Family and friends had gathered for the ceremony that would bind the two lovers for life. The atmosphere was electrifying and the air abuzz with each of them signaling to the other in a frenzy of activity. A huddle in here, a huddle there, some grouping for a light tete-a-tete, some to discuss an important ritual.

The younger lot broke away from the crowd, not entirely connecting with the significance of the gathering, their individual frames dotting the arena like lost stars.

At the precise moment that would signify the sacred union, the chief called for everyone's unwavering attention. The scattered swarm, even the ones that had strayed, converged obediently towards the altar. Each member of the audience held hands together, sending collective prayer heavenwards to bless the couple wedded into matrimony.

It was pure magic as the fireflies lit up, glowing like a hundred glorious suns, showering their wishes of hope and faith.

Tried to portray a wedding scene in the life of fireflies, who are known to synchronize their signals.

A 200-word fiction written for the prompt "Suns and Lovers" at the BarAThon.

All in a day's work

Adjusting her beige monochrome overalls, Kaya preened into the mirror. A slim body that was accentuated by a blue belt, she quite enjoyed the smirks of envy from her peers. There were talks that some important tenders came in solely because of her looks. But, she didn't care. She knew she had the stuff to make the cut.

"Oh, come on, will you? We're getting late" pressed Lakshmi who was more down-to-earth, hardworking and a stickler for punctuality. She had butterflies in her stomach. The duo was chosen to give a presentation to the head of the department. And, Lakshmi instinctively knew that only she held the cards to crack the deal.

They charted their way hurriedly through the cubicles that were arranged in neat rows. Heads bobbed in and out of them, urgent calls being placed at some desks, complaints being answered patiently at some, while a few wore an uncharacteristic look of calm as though to mock the ones who were running at a frenetic pace of the office hours.

"Hello, gorgeous girls, what's the rush?" a deep voice called out from behind.

Kaya almost bumped into Lakshmi who was walking a few steps ahead in a straight line. They spun around to face Kimi who was perched comfortably on the white desk. With a body that took almost the entire breadth of the surface she sat on, Kimi looked like a reigning queen that looked down upon the working class who did menial jobs for survival.

Casually swinging her stubby legs beneath the desk Kimi beckoned to Kaya and Lakshmi who were irked for being stopped thus. Now, they would be put to interrogation by the all-important person of the office who simply had to know everything that went about in the workplace.

Even as they regrouped themselves for a quick tete-a-tete, a burly moustached person barged in. Dubeyji was ordered by Ms. Raghav, the HOD, to bring the files for finance, design and the thickest of them all, the one marked as confidential, to her cabin.

He thanked his luck to have found all three at the co-ordinator's desk. He quickly grabbed Lakshmi, Kaya, and Kimi together in one swift sweep and marched away. After all, the Lord of the files couldn't be kept waiting.

Written for the prompt "Lord of the files" at the BarAThon.

Would you like to read the other posts in this series?

A new haven
An irrational dream
The fault lies in our stares


She lay crouched in the dark musty nook. A lone streak of light shone in through the small hole in the makeshift wooden door to the tiny storeroom where she hid. The light diffused air particles in the line of her view as she strained to see outside.

The living room windows opened out on the first level just above the storeroom and she could hear their low voices.

She stifled a rising cough in the throat afraid to attract attention. The voices now transformed to chilling war cries.

Boom! Boom! Bang!

Shrapnel flew and came pelting on the tin roof of the storehouse followed by rapid footsteps. She shuddered. Fearing the worst, she flung open the door and dashed out.

A bile rose to her throat as she saw the damage caused and shook with vengeful rage.

Her favourite white bone china vase with indigo prints that once stood proudly near the window lay shattered in pieces all over the store roof and the ground below.

The two culprits jumped out from behind her displaying toothy grins and cried out in unison.

 "Tag, you're it, Mom!"

"Of course, I'm good at playing the bad cop!" she replied with a twinkle.


Written for the prompt "War and pieces" at the BarAThon. 

Would you like to read the other posts in this series?

A new haven
An irrational dream
The fault lies in our stares

A new haven

"Papa!" squealed the little one, jumping up and down, jabbing his little hand towards the aqua blue clear water.

The father, a few meters behind, smiled wearily. His steps were slow and heavy from plodding through the ankle length snow. He caught up breathlessly alongside his son who was now beside himself with all the excitement of discovering something extraordinarily beautiful.

Despite the fatigue of setting out on a week-long expedition with the 5-year-old, the magnificent sight of the snow-clad slopes all around encasing a glistening water body right in between made the adult smile.

The chill at dawn break was prominent and in spite of being covered in thick black overcoats, they two expeditors shivered slightly.

Releasing the child from a bear hug, the father looked deep into those twinkling pair that shone with pride, happiness, and fascination.

"Papa, this place looks great. Can we move in here?" the voice was thick with hope and expectation.

"I'm afraid not, Son!"

"Why not?"

"You see, there's danger beneath the beauty in here." the father's voice dropped to a whisper

"The water here means the ice is melting," he continued, his snowy white shaggy brows twitching solemnly.

"Why did the ice melt, Papa?" the little voice was now choked with fear.

"Men," the old flightless bird clenched his fist in anger. "And their selfish ways."


Written for the prompt "Ice and Men" for BarAThon.

An irrational dream

Image source

Pazhaniraja Elangovan trudged his way up the small slope on his rusty bicycle, a hand-me-down from one of his rare kind-hearted clients. A package, a heavy brown carton lay tied to the backseat with several ropes. The chains creaked as he pedaled harder on the slope.

Sweat trickled down his shiny brown face. Tiny buds of fresh acne dotted his forehead and chin area that was also beginning to sprout hair.

"Pazhani, don't keep loitering out in the hot sun," his Amma often chided him gently.

Pazhaniraja would dismiss his Amma's plea with silence.

She had suffered enough bringing him up single-handedly but was still worldly naive. What did she know about managing a part-time job as a local delivery boy, a night school, and a full-time dream? thought Pazhani irritatedly but also controlled his tongue.

His dream. Yes, he dreamed of owning his own business someday and making lots of money. He had many ideas but needed time to work on them.

Today, he thought excitedly. Wednesdays was usually a little free on the work front. His friend had promised to introduce him to someone who was willing to listen to his idea.

Even as he got lost in his thoughts about this meeting, his phone rang. It was his boss who had also given him the phone to attend to the ad-hoc work related calls and messages.

What now!? Pazhani frowned.

"Pie!" barked the voice, "Have you delivered the carton? Now, get to 12th Main, Rajaji Street. Mr. Sarathy will give you a parcel to be delivered to a place in Maruthi Nagar, Hambalipur."

"And, hurry on, it's urgent." added the gruff voice, almost out of breath.

Pie was what his exacting manager called Pazhaniraja because he found the latter's name tongue-twisting and would end up murdering his birth name. In fact, it was Pazhaniraja who suggested the nickname. He was fascinated by pie diagrams. Of course, there was the homophone too. Though, he never understood it.

Pie mentally calculated the distance between the two places and the time taken to cover it on his cycle. It was going to take him all day and he'd have to miss the meeting and will perhaps be late to school too.

Breathing out rapidly, Pie swung his leg over the seat and stepped up on the pedal.

"I think I now understand Pi. Sometimes, even when there's no logic, one must go on!"


Late to link up to the second day of the BarAThon. Based the story on the prompt, "Life of Pie". 

Would you like to read the other posts in this series?

A new haven
The fault lies in our stares

Bhutan: The last leg of our journey at Paro and a round up

Did you read the last post about how we made it to the top of the Takstang Monastery? If not, please do go back and read it.

Before I continue, here's a check-list that will come in handy for travelers.

Things to keep in mind while visiting the Taktsang or the Tiger's Nest Monastery 

1. You are supposed to be fully clothed while visiting this one or any other monastery/temple or Dzong in Bhutan. Which means you cannot wear short skirts, shorts, capris or the likes. Even your hands must be covered, so choose a full or three-fourth sleeved suit, top or shirt. Alternatively, you can wear a jacket or shrug.

2. Use of photography/video is prohibited in the inner sanctum of all temples and monasteries. At the Tiger's Nest, you have to surrender your backpacks with mobiles outside with the security. There are no lockers but like I said earlier, it's absolutely safe even without the lockers.

3. Wear a good quality and comfortable pair of sports shoes if you're trekking to the Tiger's Nest Monastery. Trust me, the quality of the shoes makes a big difference. Seasoned trekkers and runners can vouch for this bit of nugget.

4. Carry water bottles and some dry snacks in your bag pack (and an umbrella if you are visiting during the rainy season). Make sure the pack isn't too heavy at the same time. Our guide was sweet enough to carry two extra bottles for us in his pack since we were carrying just one bag pack for the six of us.

5. The rise in the altitude can cause some people to become breathless, dizzy or feel uneasy. The symptoms could range from having a dull ache in the head to severe nausea. So, if you feel at unease at any point during the climb, please let everyone in your group know and stop till you feel better or if you're feeling worse, abandon the trek. Thankfully, none of us including the kids had any trouble.
It took a good one hour to visit each of the smaller shrines inside the Tiger's Monastery and by the time we came out we were famished. The thought of starting on the arduous route yet again made me want to just stay back! Well, that wasn't possible and also we had to make it back to the cafeteria at a decent hour for lunch. That was incentive enough for us to dismiss our inertia and start our descent. Our stock of biscuits and some fruit came in handy.

We huffed and puffed our way down, wondering if we really climbed all this way up. The path did seem to stretch on endlessly. The only way to minimize the strain, I realized, was to converse energy by talking or complaining less and just keep walking. As the cafeteria came into sight, we did not feel any less than conquerors. After filling our tummies with some yummy food, we completed the last leg of the trek to reach the base with renewed vigour.

Even as I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment, I worried about the body getting stiff and dealing with aching joints. However, I was pleasantly surprised to note that other than being exhausted from a rigorous day, there was no major ache. In fact, all of us were fresh and raring to go the next day with no signs of fatigue. 
It was the final day of our trip. We proceeded to visit the highest motorable pass, the Chele La pass from where one can view the Haa valley on one side and the Jhomolhari peaks on the other. We caught a tiny glittering part of the snow clad peak for a few seconds. For the most part, it was as though we were engulfed by thick, moving clouds. It can get extremely windy here, so make sure you carry your mufflers, sweaters, jackets. Also, take note that there are no toilets here. A cold and windy place compounds the inconvenience? Of course! Ah, well, that's something one has to contend with here. 

If the Punakha Dzong was magnificent and huge, the Paro Dzong was no less beautiful if only much smaller. 

That's a view from outside the National Museum of Bhutan. Doesn't it seem like the heavens are showering their blessings?

The original building that housed the museum got damaged by a fire and was under restoration. The exhibits were shifted to a temporary building which we visited.

Not a large museum, it was still interesting with sections that housed information about the climatic change and its impact on humans, the flora, and fauna. Exhibits of animal masks, each animal representing a human trait or nature. Sections that spoke about the history and culture of Bhutan.

Well, didn't I say we had hatched plans to get pictures clicked in the national dress of Bhutan? There was a quaint little store in the midst of this idyllic view (well, isn't the entire country idyllic?) that gave out these outfits on rent.

We left for Phuentsholing the next morning. As it happens with a great vacation coming to an end, I was fraught with mixed feelings. I felt blessed to be able to create and take back some lovely memories.

Although small in size and economy, there's a lot the entire world can learn from the kings/leaders of Bhutan and the way the Bhutanese conduct life. May this country ever remain as pure and pristine in its beauty, thoughts and action!


I recently viewed a TED talk on how Bhutan stands in the wake of climatic change. It's something I've been mulling over too. Will try to share my views and the video in a post, soon!

Hope you all enjoyed Bhutan through my eyes.

The fault in our stares #100-wordfiction

He offered to walk her to the station. She sensed his well-toned arm within the suede jacket brushing against her slender, bare one as they tried to match their uneven strides. He leaned in suddenly towards her ear to whisper something. Her tensed muscles relaxed even as her full-throated laughter echoed through the dimly-lit streets. As the wind teased, his hands enveloped her from behind draping the jacket over her.

Despite enjoying the pleasant company, she felt at unease. She instinctively knew they weren't alone that night.

The judgemental stares turned into full-blown gossip by the time she came home.


100-word fiction story written for a prompt "The fault in our stares" at the BarAThon second edition.

Would you like to read the other posts in this series?

A new haven
An irrational dream

Bhutan: River-rafting at Punakha and an unforgettable trek at Paro

From here on, we begin the last leg of our journey in this mythical, mystical and beautiful country of Bhutan. And, like the icing on the cake, the last few days of the trip built up to a befitting crescendo.

As we bade goodbye to Punakha, we rounded it up with an exhilarating white river rafting ride on the Mo Chhu river. This was not on our itinerary initially but one we could, fortunately, fit into our schedules and oh boy, did we enjoy it!

Our group could be best called as rookies in the field of adventure sports and were suitably excited and anxious about what to expect. We assembled at the starting point of the one-hour rafting ride on the Mo Chhu waters, slated to end at the Punakha Dzong where the Mo Chhu and Po Chhu merged as one.

Our rafting guide, Karma, was a cheerful and lively fellow who kept us (and the kids) entertained through the entire ride with his perky commentary and instructions. At the outset, we were given our life jackets, head gear, and the oars with specific instructions on how to hold the oars and the precise rowing movement to follow upon the said command from him. We were to basically aid him, the lead navigator, to traverse along the rapids. This was going to be a basic level rafting with zero-risk and we made sure that our frisky kids were eligible for the ride.

All set for the ride: happy and excited!
We had never imagined the kind of fun that ensued. Every rapid we encountered had us in raptures and soaked to the skin, the sudden uptilt of the raft as it glided over the waves brought out peals of nervous laughter. Our guide kept the atmosphere light and lively with his pep talk, encouragement and anecdotes.

Our driver, Tending met us at the point where our river rafting ride ended and we left Punakha for Paro, our minds and body still tingling with the thrilling experience. We once again stopped by at Dochula pass, but this time it was for lunch. Paro was about a 3-hour drive thence.

Can you guess this location from the image below?

It's the airport at Paro. Wedged between mountains and a river, isn't it such a beauty?

Now, imagine being able to catch this view from thousands of feet above on a flight and watch this spectacular sight zoom in slowly as you gently glide down and touch the runway.

While we weren't lucky enough to experience a flight journey thus, we were certainly lucky to catch an airplane take off and then again a couple of days later, on our return journey, another making its descent. Considering the rather low frequency of flights in and out of Bhutan, these were rare sights, indeed.

On a side note, how convenient it must be to simply walk into the terminal from one end and then hop onto the aircraft from the other end just like that!

As the sun began to sink behind the mighty Himalayan peaks, we reached the resort at our final destination, Paro. We were advised to rest well for a long and tedious trek next day to the Tiger's Nest Monastery or the Taktsang monastery.

This monastery is rather significant in the mythology of Bhutan as it is believed that Guru Rinpoche flew, seated on a Tigress, atop the cliff of this mountain to quell certain evil forces and it was then he discovered a tiger's cave or nest. The tigress on whose back he flew was none another than one of his consorts who transformed herself into one to aid the Guru in vanquishing the demonic forces.

We booked a guide from our hotel for this trip since the monument was a treasure trove of stories and mythological beliefs of the Buddhists and we were eager to hear them all.

Can you see how high up there we had to climb and how steep that is? That's a total of 10 km (the ascent and descent put together). And, none of us had even done a 10 km marathon on a level ground before! That we were skeptical and apprehensive was putting it down mildly. The only thing we knew was that we didn't want to give this a miss at any cost.

We learned that there are ponies available for the ascent up to a certain point (for a distance of 2km until the cafeteria) post which one had to eventually go by foot. We decided to use the option. And, it proved to be a very wise decision. The journey is certainly long and tedious, so if you are a rookie trekker, don't be embarrassed or shy to do the same (even if you see people older than you climb all the way). Remember, you have to also walk all the way down.

But, what did I know? It's not a cake walk to ride a pony on the steep slopes. One, you feel bad for the poor creatures. Two (and, here I only speak for myself), the horses are definitely sure-footed but as they totter on the rocky edges from where you can see the deep valley right below your feet, you can only hold on to dear life and wonder if it would have been a wiser decision to trudge on foot.

Yet, now that I came back alive I can say that pony backs will save you the precious energy you need to conserve for the rest of the trek.

So near, yet so far. After this point, there were treacherous stony steps that wound down and then upwards in a zig-zag manner right up to the end point.

 Just a tiny glimpse of the path we traversed.

At a landing that provided a bird's eye view, perfect for taking proud selfies. It was surely a proud moment as we made it to the monastery.

There are about 5-6 temples clustered together within the main monastery. Each of these depicts the Guru in various emotions, each of them carrying a significance and a little story. The tiredness of the trek dissipates slowly even as peace and awe envelopes you in a spiritual embrace.


Did we collapse in exhaustion after the trek? What you need to know before you embark on this trek? 

All this in my next post. Do come back!

Bhutan: The picturesque landscape of Punakha valley

Punakha would be the most scenic places we visited in Bhutan. We left Thimpu after breakfast for this valley which was about a 3-hour drive. Our itinerary suggested we leave before dawn to catch the sunrise at a breakfast point on the way. However, since it had rained the previous evening, it seemed futile to clamber out of beds and the cozy hotel with kids in tow just to see the thick clouds descending over the far away mountains.

The roads all over are well-laid and except for the drive from Phuentsholing to Thimpu, the travel time for the rest of the tour did not span more than four hours. The drive around the winding, hilly lanes of Bhutan is sheer poetry. All along the way, you'd be accompanied by mountains in varying shades of green. The vegetation covering them is so dense that you can't see an inch of the Browns. These are punctuated by deep valleys every now and then. The crystal clear fresh rivers flowing through the passes are a refreshing sight and you never tire of taking in these chaste sights.

We stopped by at Dochula pass, a peak at an elevation of about 3000 meters or roughly 10,000 ft above sea level. On a clear day, one can view the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan range from this point. This was where we were supposed to halt to view the sunrise. And, we knew our decision was not in vain because even at 10 am, we couldn't view past a 50-meter radius because of the thick mist all around. The constant chilly breeze lead us to bury ourselves deeper into our jackets.

Here's a snapshot of the heights of the peaks that can be viewed from here.
That's a lovely little cafeteria at the pass where you can stop for breakfast/lunch or snacks.
These are the Druk Wangyal Khang Zhang 108 stupas or war memorials also known as Chortens of victory.
Now you see them, now you don't.
The pic below is of the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang or monastery that was built to commemorate 100 years of monarchy in Bhutan. As we embarked to climb these steps, we were stopped by the guard up here who forbade us to venture any further. Taken aback, we turned to find another guard at the landing where we stood and asked why we were being stopped. He mentioned that the Queen (the wife of the fourth king) was visiting the monastery presently and we needed to wait until she left.
Wow, the Queen! We asked if we could wait and see her. To our surprise, he nodded his head in affirmation and asked us to step aside. His only request was that we shouldn't click any pictures of Her Highness. Of course, we were only too ready to comply. After about 15 minutes of waiting in childish anticipation, we saw her descending the steps with just a couple of guards and a Lama who accompanied her. We waved out to her and bowed with a namaste which she graciously responded to and also wished us a pleasant stay.

Buoyed by this unexpected pleasant turn of events, we continued our journey onwards.

At Punakha

The Punakha Dzong was a bewitching sight that held us in awestruck wonder. The Dzong is one of the oldest and the most beautiful ones in Bhutan, we were told. The latter part is easy to believe. Situated on the banks of a river, this gorgeous Dzong or fortress stands against the backdrop of the lush green peaks. A line of Jacaranda trees in full bloom dots the boundaries of the Dzong.

The Dzong is also considered important in the history of Bhutan. It used to be the seat of administration when Punakha was the capital of Bhutan. The recent king was coronated at this fortress.

The Mo Chhu and Po Chhu rivers that up until this point flow as separate rivers from Tibet converge here and here on flow as one river down the Punakha-Wangdue valley. Mo means mother and Po means father. Chhu means river, hence the names. True to their names, the flow of the Mo Chhu is far gentler and less dangerous than the Po Chhu making it suitable for water adventure sports like white river rafting.

We found a guide inside the Dzong who gave a brief about the history and significance of the place. There's a Buddha temple (the picture below) within the Dzong (as is the architectural norm of Dzongs) where the entire life history of the Buddha is depicted through paintings.

Our next stop was at Chimi Lhakhang. Literally translated to No-dog, this monastery was built by a Lama, Drukpa Kuenly who was known to practice Buddhist teachings in an unorthodox manner. He was also known as the Divine Madman. The temple is known to bless people who are battling infertility, hence it is popularly known as the fertility temple.

It was a refreshing one-hour walk (up-down) through green mustard and paddy fields to this temple.

It had been a fairly hectic day thus far. We had spent a great deal of climbing and walking around the Dzong and later at the Chimi Lhakhang. We were famished after we were back from the fertility temple and devoured the freshly-cooked food at a homely guesthouse we stopped by.

The weather just doesn't allow you to feel lethargic for too long. Our energy levels were restored with the short lunch break which was well past the usual lunch hour.

Just before we checked into our hotel that evening, we visited this huge suspension bridge and walked along the stretch. It was an amazing experience to walk on this iron swing bridge with the river gushing below us and the vast cloudy skies above. The gusty winds lent a thrill to the entire experience and we giggled like school kids as we strolled over to the other side.

We met a group of monks (below) at the other end.

We checked into our hotel that evening, our hearts filled with an explicable sense of satisfaction and happiness.


Next stop is Paro and the travelogue is soon coming to an end. I've been trying to jot down most of the events as they occurred. Hope you enjoyed reading this.