The Girl from Darjeeling

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The year is 1974 and Yeshi has just turned 20. She lives in Darjeeling, a little hilly town located north of India, and also fondly called the ‘queen of hill stations’, and rightly so because on clear mornings, you can see the range of the Himalayas stretching far above the clouds in the sky. If you still have no clue, then the tea plucked from the estates of Darjeeling is famous worldwide.

Yeshi is different from her brothers and sisters. She is the only one amongst her kin and cousins who wanted to swot her young life to study medicine. She had the brains for it and she readily gave in the years it took for her to become a doctor. She dreamt of leaving Darjeeling, of leaving all that is familiar to her, and discover other cultures and places in India.

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Life in Darjeeling moves at a terribly slow pace. Perhaps that’s what holds a certain charm. People are in no rush to get anywhere, instead they spend time talking and chatting, being cherful and helpful. Yeshi’s brother-in-law is a horticulturalist, and has his own little green house on the roof of his house, where he grows impossibly beautiful flowers. That is so with a majority of the folks living in Darjeeling. They appreciate beauty and have beautiful homes and gardens, even though they are not rich. For Yeshi, who grew up here all her 20 years, this seemed a bit boring and she was ready to spread out her wings and fly.

ImageYeshi’s determination and hard work held with her all through her life. She went on to become a doctor in one of the bigger hospitals in the cosmopolitan city of Calcutta, where she also met the man of her dreams and married him, a man she says she fell in love with at first sight because he was so handsome and good to her. This photo has been taking by that man, and you can see she is really happy to be with him:

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I am happy to say Yeshi is my mum. At the age I am in now, I view my mum as my friend and partner. Like her, I have found my happiness in life with a partner I love deeply. Unlike my mum though, while she looked graceful and photogenic all her life, I looked like a scamp in my younger years. Well, lets say a very happy looking scamp! ๐Ÿ™‚

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45 Million Flowers, and then a Dirty Mind

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Yves and I had been to the Dubai Miracle Garden, which is home to over 45 million petunias, petunias and more petunias, on a land area of 72,000 sq m. After having read information on this garden prior to coming here, superlatives like “The world’s most beautiful and largest garden in the world”, I was surely expecting to see more than one variety of flower. If any other type of flower had been indeed used, then my untrained eye could not identify them, everything looked like petunias, not that I have anything against it, I grow them on my windows! The landscaping had been done cleverly to attract attention, with flower decked cars, hearts, stars, pyramids, igloos etc.

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After being done with the Miracle Garden (we covered the 72,000 sq m under an hour), Yves and I took the metro later in the evening. There was a big rush of passengers into the train and the train was already a bit crowded within. Yves and I pushed our way in, and there was a man standing near the entrance who clearly seemed to be making use of the opportunity to brush against many of the women passengers, including me. I made an immediate mental note of this man. Yves and I weren’t standing too far from this person and I looked to see what other mischief he was upto.

I noticed he was standing next to a girl, in fact close enough to her to be touching her and watching her with a fixed stare, while this girl was blithely chatting with her friend oblivious to the presence of this man so close to her. I was getting a bit angry seeing this pervert knowing that that girl could have been me! I told the story to Yves and he too noticed the man’s behaviour. I couldn’t really make a scene about this because I would have failed to make the girl understand what this man was doing. Instead I waited for him to look at me.

Soon enough, he relaxed his eyes and looking around saw me, and before he could get on his X-ray vision on me, I gave him my penetrating stare and shook my finger at him almost under his nose letting him know “I know what you’re upto and I won’t be standing that nonsense”. I could see he was visibly taken aback seeing me. I am pretty sure he may have tried many such acts before without having any women daring to do or say anything about it. He looked at me amazed, turned around, looked back at me still beetling my brows at him, turned around and saw Yves giving him the same treatment. By then, a few other passengers who were watching what was happening started staring at this man. This man took a step back from the girl he’d been almost squashing against, and kept looking at the ground. After a while, he walked away far to the back of the train.

I felt a little elated knowing that through his thick skin, he understood at least that his acts had been observed and not tolerated at all. Perhaps he would think about it and decide to be more careful in the future, and hopefully start respecting women some day! I also realise that in this country of the UAE, if a woman feels harassed, she will be heard if she raises her voice, and knowing this, offenders feel powerless when she speaks up. I’ve had another occasion in the past where I hit a man on his head with a book, in public, when I discovered something he had been doing very naughty. Women should dare to be more bold and speak out, the police are on the side of the women, that’s one of the better things of living in the United Arab Emirates.

Some of my sketches around Bali

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I am no great artist, but during the Bali trip, I decided to make use of any free time I had to make sketches, especially of those little moments that do not stick to the memory much later on. For instance, of Yves being so tired in a long flight, he kept fidgeting and lying down his head on his own meal tray, and then moving over to mine, shown on the sketch above.

The sketch below shows Yves dreaming of French food. We left France only a few 16 hours and he’s already missing French food!! Well to be honest, I do love myself a baguette with heaps of butter in it along with some French style saucissons and gherkins! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Here are some random moments during our trip. I knew that if I didn’t do anything to record those moments, I’d easily forget them later on. For instance, the moment when we arrived at a wonderful place called Kintamani, and we were immediately surrounded by salesmen and women trying hard to sell us their wares. Of the time when living in a hotel in Kintamani, I found the guy who ran the place absolutely hilarious. He would try to look so serious, hardly smiling, and trying to seem important because his title was hotel manager, but everytime he spoke, he’d be jumbling up his words in the most funny way! Because of his serious exterior, Yves misunderstood him at first, but later on the more often we talked to him, we liked him very much.

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Here’s the funny hotel manager below, I’d asked him how long he lived in Kintamani, and he said ” I’ve lived in Kinatmani a long time, almost 2 hours…..oh, errr, I mean 2 years..” Hahaha!! By the way, this is Yves’ sketch!

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Now, here’s some sktches of a super-fantastic snorkelling experience I had in a place called Amed. just befor this incident, I had twisted my ankle in a bad way, and coupled with the fact, I’d never snorkelled in the open sea before, my confidence was at it’s lowest when I’d step into the water. Plus after having watched numerous shark documentaries on NatGeo, I had a small fear of being gobbled up by a giant shark. So, Yves had a brilliant idea, he managed to find a really good diver who would lead me into the waters holding my hand, so I could have a view of the breath-taking coral reefs and a sunken Japanese ship that lay in the ocean depths. I have no words how grateful I am to this man, he quieted my feelings of anxiety, and assured me that not only would I be alive by the end of it but I would even have had a fantastic time. These are some sketches of my snorkelling experience and a picture of the lovely man, Made, who really gave me something to remember all my life!

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“Women were not meant to live en masse”

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I think this old photo of my aunt along with her guitar group of the days gone by somehow fit this particular extract from a lovely book called “One Pair of Feet”, written in the ’40’s by Monica Dickens. This paragraph has kind of stuck to my head ever since I read them, she writes so wonderfully!

“Women were not meant to live en masse – except in harems. They inflate the importance of their own little center of activity until it eclipses the rest of the world. Men manage to pigeon-hole their life : work, domesticity, romance relaxation, but a woman’s life is usually untidy as her desk. She either fails ever to concentrate on one thing at a time, or else fills one pigeonhole so full that it overflows into the others.”

I haven’t yet finished her book, and I am in no hurry to do so, the book is so enjoyable! I am trying to read it as slow as possible to savour all the lines! ๐Ÿ™‚

There’s my aunt, right in the front center!

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Things I saw around Dubai – Carbage and a Foul Festival

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Inspite of Dubai surging ahead in ‘leaps and bounds’ with tall gleaming hotels and buildings, and opulence to be seen everywhere, there are certain things like the cryptic message in the photo above, that can make one smile and almost lend a human touch to the big commercial city of Dubai.

For those of you who haven’t got it, the message above is trying to convey ‘Please place your garbage inside this container’. ๐Ÿ™‚ Dubai is made up of roughly 80 percent of expatriates ofย  many different countries. Most of them do not have English as their first language, so it’s almost common to see bizarre messages that have you scratching your head in wonder! ๐Ÿ™‚ By the way, the ‘garbage’ is no spelling mistake!! I have actually heard several people pronouncing it ‘carbage’!

Many of the spelling mistakes especially found in restaurants can be quite atrociously funny! Examples : French fries – French fryce, tomato salad – tomotto sallad, chicken burger – chicken berger, Cordon blue – Gordon Blue, it’s such a long list! (And I swear I didn’t make it up!)

In fact, I almost wonder sometimes if killing the English language has become a fun hobby for them. If yes, they are doing a good job keeping their customers amused, as long as they don’t make any mistake in the food ordered!

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When I saw this flyer lying outside my door, at first glance I was wondering “What’s a Foul Festival? Is there any spelling mistake here? Could it possibly mean this is some stinky food??” And then upon asking some right people I found out that foul is a kind of Arabic bean!! Aahh!

Here’s another funny something I found inside of an Indian menu :

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There’s no spelling mistake here (well, biryani is spelt a bit funny), but check out the message at the top, underneath ‘Andhra Meals’ – Not to be shared! I cracked up seeing that! ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess the manager got tired of seeing one guy ordering a big meal and then sharing it with his family! Just to enlighten you, an Indian Meal is something that is actually quite a filling dish with numerous bits of vegetables and different lentils and drinks and sweets, and an unlimited amount of rice and chapatti, an Indian bread. Here’s a picture of a meal. The plate comes along with a fitted banana leaf on which you eat your food, preferably with fingers:

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