The story of Winter Garden is something that builds up bit by bit. It is a story within a story and is pretty slow at first. It’s about two sisters, Meredith and Nina, and their mom, Anya who has been very cold to them all her life, and they couldn’t understand the reason for the same. When their father is on the deathbed, he takes a promise from the daughters that they will listen to Anya’s fairy tale in detail and try to know more about their mom.
death, Nina cajoles Anya to tell them the story and slowly but surely they
uncover that their mom is actually Vera and has a past that they know nothing
about. Vera’s family and her kids had witnessed pretty hostile situation during
the Second World War. They come to know how Vera dealt with the war situation
and lost her sister, mother, and son under extreme circumstances. I got very
emotional at one point when the story turns very gloomy when Vera details out
how they went through life without food and how she even fed her own blood from
her finger to her son, whom she couldn’t save from the clutches of death. That’s
the reason why later in life she was very interested in cooking and always used
to cook much more than what was required. She had seen very bad days in life.
beautifully illustrates why it is important to know your mother’s past to be
able to understand your own bearings in this world. Indeed, I felt that Vera
was a very strong woman who did her level best to tide over the disturbing war
conditions but sadly the impact of that experience on her life was so profound
that she could not get involved and participate in her daughter’s childhood. The
mother daughter relationship though is presented in a warm manner and one does
feel that Vera should have disclosed the secret much before to her daughters.
But it all comes together towards the end.
part of the book is actually a sad account of the extreme living conditions
that Vera had to face during the war. Later in the story she does come out of
her shell and starts interacting with her daughters in a friendly and open
manner. I would say it was a beautiful read towards the end. In real life, some
moms are very communicative with their children while others just go through
the chores without much thought. But a healthy mom-daughter relationship is
required to be successful in life in general. This book drives home this point
Before I go ahead and tell you how much I enjoyed birding at Surajpur, I would like to stress that reconnecting with nature has both physical and psychological impact that is good for human health and well-being. Keeping that in mind, it is time to introspect if your outings are just restricted to closed spaces. If that is the case, you need to get some fresh air too! In times of smoke and pollution all around and the air quality index shooting off the roof, a morning visit to a bird sanctuary will help calm your senses and will prepare you to take on life as it is. Though to be frank, I was myself coaxed to be a part of this birding trip by hubby and my daughter.
We started early
around 6 am and reached Greater Noida in around one and a half hour. The
parking was almost full and people of the birding group that we are a part of
were already there. It was cold but pleasant and we started the walk into the
forest-like space. A narrow ‘pagdandi’ helped us keep track of the direction.
We got to see many boards with details of the birds that we could find in the
darling daughter started taking quick shots in succession with her camera to
capture the birds idly resting or flying around. Some common sense rules of
birding include maintaining silence so that the birds are not scared away. In
addition, you need to wear clothes that act as a camouflage so you do not
become the object of attention. The birds need your attention, not the other
The walk was
refreshing and we wanted to linger on for some more time. I would like to
recommend this place and have also added a few pictures so that you get the overall
idea of the place. So, wake up early and visit Surajpur to be one with nature!
I had heard that Udaipur is called the city of the lakes and when I got there it was much more beautiful than what I had expected. It is also called the ‘Venice of the east’ due to its lakes, gardens, havelis, and forts. As we went to see the amazing picturesque spots in Udaipur, one thing became clear that this place was loved by the tourists and locals alike. This city was founded in the 15th century by Maharana Udai Singh on the advice of a sage he encountered on his hunting expedition to Lake Pichola. The sage bestowed his blessings that the palace the king builds will add to its prosperity. The boundary of lake Pichola was clean and free of litter which seemed to be an achievement in itself. Lake Pichola looks resplendent and you would like to instantly take a few pictures out there. This city has, for decades, inspired everyone from authors like Rudyard Kipling to filmmakers. The James Bond film Occopussy was extensively shot here.
So on the
first day, after settling down at Lalit Laxmi Niwas palace, we headed off to
the City Palace to witness the rich cultural history of Udaipur. It took us a
couple of hours to take in the beautiful City palace after which we rested for
some time in the Sunrise Restaurant. Then we headed off to the boat ride to the
Jag Mandir, which is located at the center of Lake Pichola. The boat ride
around the lake should not be missed as it will rejuvenate you beyond doubt. We
also visited the Sajjangarh widelife sanctuary where we were able to spot many
wild animals. There are golf carts functional there which will take you to the
enclosures and bring you back to the fort exit. We also visited the Hathipole
market where we did some shopping. But a word of caution here. Don’t trust the
Uber drivers in Udaipur. If you want a cab, you should prefer Ola over Uber
which are easily available. If you wish to explore the local restaurants, you
can reach Chand pole by the cab and then walk up to Gangaur ghat. There are
many good restaurants there. One of them is Café Boho, which we liked very
much. The atmosphere is very warm and welcoming and the food is good too. Same
is the case with Yummy Yoga which is a rooftop restaurant. But you will have to
climb staircases so think before you plan to go there. We had our breakfasts at
Padmini, which is at Laxmi Niwas and would like to add that the breakfast was
good. However, when we tried out Aangan restaurant inside Laxmi niwas, it did
not live up to the expectations.
thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Udaipur and then headed off to the next
If you are planning to drive to Udaipur from Delhi or Gurgaon by any chance, then stopping by in between might be required as it requires all of 11 hours to reach Udaipur from Gurgaon. Bijay Niwas Palace is an excellent stopover in between. It takes 7 hours to reach Bijay Nagar from Gurgaon and it would give you a much needed break. We reached Bijay Niwas around 5 pm in the evening and found to our surprise that we were the only guests there. We had booked a suite in advance and were elated to enter the grand haveli like setting. Bijay Niwas comes across as a quaint, little place where you can forget all your tensions and can relax in the lap of nature. Our room had a balcony attached to it where we spent a lazy afternoon eating pakoras and French fries and having our tea in the evening sun. The room had an old rustic feel to it as the switchboards and fans were quite old fashioned though all modern amenities were available in it. The whole palace had a central theme which was reflected in its tapestry and linen. It was last day of the year and we were amused to know that we will be treated with a bonfire out in the open. They also gave us an option to eat outside near the bonfire but we declined as the biting cold edged us to come inside once we took the warmth of the bonfire and enjoyed outside. It was a memorable day I would say as we were treated like royalty by the staff and served a wholesome three-course meal. We also spent some time near the swimming pool in the evening as it made us feel fresh and energetic. All in all it was a good decision to stop by at Bijay Niwas Palace and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have some peace and quiet for some time.
If you are still
searching for your ikigai or raison de etre, it’s time to look deep within.
This book deals with staying young as you age and finding your purpose in life.
If you are struggling in life and have not yet comprehended the real reason you
get up in the morning, this book is for you. It is even more relevant in present
times when stress and pollution are resulting in further shortening of the
human lifespan. It is like a breath of fresh air.
various surveys and studies, Japanese people live the longest and it is because
they keep themselves busy doing what they love and never retire. Their keys to
longevity are diet, exercise, finding a purpose in life and forming strong
If you want to
jot down your reasons to live, a logotherapist can help you with it.
Logotherapy pushes patients to consciously discover their life’s purpose which
propels them to move forward and confront the obstacles of life. The book
offers several case studies through which the basic principles of life have
The power of
flow in everything you do has also been touched upon in this book though you
can read Mihaly’s book “Flow” if you want to understand it in greater detail.
Basically, there is no sure shot way to find the elusive happiness but if you
can develop the ability to be in a state of flow, you will literally achieve
happiness. The book outlines various strategies to achieve this flow or optimal
This book also
provides you with the experiences of supercenteniarians – people who live to
110 years or more. Last but not the least, the book provides 10 golden rules to
achieve ikigai in life. If you are already feeling eager and excited, go grab a
copy of the book and find your ikigai in life!
Half-yearly exams are ending
tomorrow and finally I have got some time to put my thoughts to words. More so,
because the only exam left is the third language and darling daughter is
well-equipped to deal with French on her own. I am not exactly a passive
listener for other subjects and try to give my two cents in the time of need.
And yes, Google baba is always there for us when we get stuck.
Moving on from the family
brouhaha, today I would like to bring up the topic of ‘screen time’ which was
almost absent in our times. These days, kids are engulfed with various
categories of screen time, starting from television, tablet, laptop, and our
very own favourite gadget, mobile! So one thing after another and there you go.
Children do not have time to lift an eyelid or go play outside; remember
physical activity is a must. They are glued to the available gadget whenever
they can make fool of their parents. I have noticed that some parents in an
attempt to complete their work at home themselves provide these amenities to
their children. They will do their own work while the child happily watches
youtube videos to the hilt. Even infants these days would not eat their food if
they don’t see a specific program on the tablet which the poor bai holds right
in front of their eyes…
Coming to the point, needless to
say that I am not against the concept of screen time, but I feel that it should
be restricted by the parents and should be available to the children under some
form of supervision. It is for the experts to decide how much time should be
spent by a child in front of the screen. It should not happen that the child’s
eyesight suffers due to the neglect by the parents. That’s the reason why
grandparents are again in demand these days as they can at least engage the
child in a conversation and distract his/her mind from the screen.
There are parents who are giving a mobile to their children at a young age of 10 or 11 but it should be used under guidance. Similar should be the case for all other screens. Most importantly, there should be some emphasis on the family time when either everyone eats together or are engaged in an activity. What do you feel about this topic? How much screen time are your children getting?
This month saw the untimely
passing away of two stalwarts of BJP, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. It is
indeed a sad month for the party as these leaders are irreplaceable. The void
that they have left cannot be filled by anyone easily. Both the leaders were
very knowledgeable and had a large fan following across the nation. May their
respective souls rest in peace.
Right now I am a little excited
on hearing the news that our very own badminton player, P. V. Sindhu has won
the World Championship. Incidentally, it is her mom’s birthday and she has
dedicated her win to her mother. What a nice piece of news to end a Sunday
with. Sindhu was trying to win for the last couple of times but could bag the
medal this time round. Coach Gopichand must be on cloud nine and why not. It’s
a big honour for the nation.
The situation in J & K is
slowly returning to normal. It will take a lot of time though. Due to the militancy,
the development could not take place but slowly people are realising that the
government decision to scrape Article 370 was the right one. Recently read
about a couple who left their high profile jobs to settle down in Laddakh and
help in the overall development of the region. Thanks to them, solar panels
have been installed in many schools and children are getting the education they
so rightly deserve.
I have been reading a book or two
and the next post would most probably be a book review. So, stay tuned!
Educated is a memoir by Tara
Westover which has quickly climbed the success ladder due to its neat prose and
simple writing. It is actually the story of Tara from her childhood days to the
present. There is a flow in the book as when you will pick it up you would want
to go back to complete it as soon as possible. The setting is of Buck’s peak,
south western Idaho in America where Tara’s family lived. They were actually Mormon
survivalists who did not believe in sending their kids to school. Tara’s father
suffered from bipolar disorder and the family had to witness his ideological
mania over and over again. Her mother was a midwife and herbalist whose
business prospered later in the day and she gained much reputation with her
herbs and tinctures.
Tara was the youngest of the seven
children who had to study on their own as there was no emphasis on the studies.
Rather, children were made to work in Gene’s junkyard scrapping metal and
cleaning other stuff. Whenever anyone got hurt they were not allowed any
medical care as the father thought that it was against the wishes of the lord.
So when Tara has tonsillitis, she is made to stand in the sun with her mouth
open so that it gets healed itself. When Gene gets burned, even then they do
not take him to the hospital though the burns were severe. They make do with
the balms that Faye prepares for Gene.
When Tara joins a singing group,
the clothes they wear are termed whorish by the father. The negative influence
of younger brother Schwan on Tara is evident throughout the book. He would get
mad with her if she did not do as expected.
Tara is interested in studies and
tries to clear the ACT so that she can join college. She just didn’t want to do
the junkyard work anymore. While at BYU, she gets exposed to the outside world
for the first time and her professor sees the spark in her and sends her on a
scholarship to Cambridge. From Cambridge, she further goes on to Harvard for
her doctorate. She does have a few boyfriends, but she is unable to confide in
them about her family.
Educated just shows how someone
who was not even homeschooled properly can go on to achieve the degrees that
most people would die for. To be frank, real education is not really about the
degrees but is a freedom of choice and facing reality with all your guts. It
means living with passion and doing what you love most so that you achieve the
real purpose in your life.
The suicide of VG Siddhartha has
yet again brought depression to the forefront. He was unable to pay his debts
and as a result chose the easier route to eternal peace. He didn’t want to take
any further blame for the dire situation at Café Coffee Day. CCD is a popular
coffee outlet for the youngsters as one can sit there without being disturbed
for long. Even free Wi-Fi is available.
Depression can ruin anyone’s life
but when it goes out of hand it takes the form of suicide. People with
depression are so despondent at times that they don’t think even once how their
near and dear ones will cope with the situation once they are gone. The mind
plays games that no one knows about. It is very necessary to contain the
problem before it goes out of hand either through medication or counselling or
both in moderation. The role of family members in providing support to the
depressed is also of utmost importance.
Another interesting piece of news
that I came across today related to a customer asking for a non-muslim guy for
delivering food from Zomato as saavan is going on. He received a befitting
reply from the founder Deepinder Goyal, “We aren’t sorry to lose business that
comes in the way of our values.” Actually it is a dangerous trend which should
be contained as early as possible. Such absurd demands cannot be met and they
only show the mental bankruptcy of the person demanding.
India is a secular state and
people should be encouraged to treat the fellow men in the same regard. There
should be no distinction based on caste or creed and everyone should be treated
with equal respect though sadly that is not the case. But the bottomline is
that whenever there is an opportunity to put things right, we should do that as
was done by Zomato founder.
I lost my baby Beetle yesterday. He was a pet dachshund and lived his life to the fullest, being ill for about a month before moving away to a whole new world. I am still coming to terms with the fact that he is no more around and I can’t take his name often. I am remembering all the good moments spent with him one by one. He was always active and jovial at home. Outside of home, he used to become a bit territorial but we could manage that. I was his mom and he was closest to me though Harsha and Eva were also very close to him, something I witnessed when his last rights were being performed. All of us broke into tears as we shared a bond and Beetle was our family member.
What was the most funny thing
about Beetle? Well, he had a liking for the carpet in the living room and used
to dig right in its middle whenever he felt like. It was as if a tunnel was
being built with all diligence. This breed, dachshund, are famous for their
digging and hunting capabilities. Also, he had a very loud bark, enough to
scare a non dog lover. He used to guard the gate with all his might and wouldn’t
allow anyone to come in easily. I had to lock him up briefly before I could
even talk to the person at my door. Whenever I felt low, he would come and sit
with me and try to comfort me.
Beetle was a perfect apartment
dog and stayed with us for close to 15 years. We will miss him terribly and the
void cannot be filled by anyone else. I feel like I have lost someone very near
and dear. Hope he finds even more loving parents in his next life. You will
live with us in our memories, Beetle! Goodbye for now.