Ireland

IRELAND the world of bars

Ours was a whirlwind trip to Ireland. We could not make it to the North of Ireland, but the South as far as I see it, was well covered indeed.

The North Ireland is under the United Kingdom. And the South is Republic of Ireland. There was some major confusion about visas. One web site said those having British Visa, would have no trouble getting in. One said it’s at the discretion of the Immigration officer.

VISA

Anyway not to confuse you – Those having British Visa’s made or renewed post 2015 would mostly have a BIVS visa. They will have no problem entering Ireland, as long as they have an immigration stamp in UK – meaning they have to come via the United Kingdom.

Those who have older visas – well October 2016 the end of the agreement between UK and Ireland, so you had better get an Irish Visa for entry.

ARRIVAL

We reached Knock airport. Two airports are close to Galway (from where we started the journey). Shannon and Knock. Dublin would be a few hours away.

DRIVING

We wanted to be free to stop for drinks or take a nap in the car. So we did not choose to drive around. Instead we hired a chauffeur driven taxi. It turned our pockets into dust, but was well worth it.

Also we had heard / read that the roads in some places can become so narrow that it could cause a traffic jam, if a car came in from the other side. So yes!! A traffic jam with only two cars is apparently an Irish thing. And it did happen, but far and large we found that Ireland very easy to drive in. The roads were very good.

http://citytaxisgalway.com

We used them throughout the trip.

At one point we had to take an internal taxi in Galway. The driver gave us a good rate – still a shock to our pockets – but you can also try to talk to the local taxi guys. They are willing to help.

THE IRISHAre very very very and I cannot add really add the number of “verys” I really want to – FRIENDLY. Helpful. Happy. Amazing Singers. Inborn Musicians. And some of them as naughty as their famous Leprechauns. Asking an Irish for help, could often lead to a story waiting to be told. Within an hour of us visiting pubs, we had heard the life story of many a local.

the friendly irish folk
the friendly irish folk

THE WEATHER. Now that’s the most controversial word in Ireland. This country is known for it’s untimely rain and bleak weather. The Irish, have got so used to it, that even their sheep look up in disdain and disinterest when the weather goes foul. Carry a warm water proof jacket. Ours stood us in good stead. If you don’t have a head covering, carry an umbrella. Scarves and mufflers are a good idea. We went in late September, which according to me is the best time to be in Ireland.

 

OUR ITINERARY

 We started in GALWAY

We stayed in The Twelve Hotel. This was a little away (appx 15 minutes by cab) from the main Galway city(Barna). We did this on purpose as the other hotel we were looking up, was bang in the middle of town and at the start of a noisy street.

I would recommend The Twelve in a heartbeat. They had a fantastic gastropub, an amazing concierge and fabulous rooms.

The breakfast was outstanding. The recommendations for restaurants, bars and pubs outside the hotel were bang on.

Our room was HUGE. And rates were fantastic.

The Quay Street.

The Spanish Arch is just outside Quay Street. Hmmm! It’s noting to shout back home for. Just an arch. But – once you go through, the sea catches up with you, and the view is spectacular.

the spanish arch - galway
the spanish arch – galway

The Latin Quarter, is a huge network of streets with all the shops, bars, pubs and restaurants. Since Galway is a student town, the place rocks on weekends. The streets are buzzing with the most amazing street performers, and the pubs and restaurants, put out seating outside (when the weather is good) and it’s a full bonhomie scene out there.

Here are some recommendations for bars and pubs.

For good wines – go to Bunch Of grapes, Quay Street bar, Freeny’s, Neactin.

Deli La Tosca served fantastic Spanish Wines.

Other bars and pubs.

The Crane bar was highly recommended, but we were not too impressed.

The Quay Street bar was super.

Restaurants.

Milano Pizzza (it’s a huge and popular chain), Kia (food was fantastic), Adbria, Twelve Hotel Gusto Bar, Lighthouse – at Abbey Gate Street, Quay Street Kitchen.

CONNEMARA

We went to Connemara for a day trip. We stopped at the Clifden Castle, for some champagne. (Um! It was our 12 noon break folks. You drink the coffee we will stick to our champagne- Thank you!) This was a really quaint stop, over looking the mountains. A perfect serene get away.

clifden
clifden

After that we stopped at the Kylemore Abbey.

kylemore abbey
kylemore abbey

http://www.kylemoreabbey.com

This was bought by Mitchell Henry for his wife. After she passed away, he sold it to the Benedictine Nuns. It still belongs to them. I do believe they could be the holiest of the lot, so peaceful is this place. It’s a museum of sorts, and we could hear plaintive piano music as we roamed around. They also have a walled garden, which was very non impressive. But do walk around. And take in the essence of old world charm.

 

DOOLIN. We stopped at Doolin on the way back, for a meal. Stone Cutter’s Café. A small quaint yellow house, in the middle of fields, occupied by sheep and cows. As whimsical as it can get. But the astounding part was the food. It was unexpectedly amazing, both in taste and variety. We were vegetarians and the mélange of dishes had us very impressed.

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Doolin stone cutters cafe
Doolin – stone cutters cafe in the middle of fields

CLIFFS OF MOHER AND ARAAN ISLANDS: When in Ireland, you cannot miss The Cliffs of Moher. The Araan Islands, were nothing great according to me.But the Cliffs – now they took our breath away. The entire cliff is cordoned off with a wall, so you cannot really stand at the edge. But – a little way towards the left (while facing the sea) start walking towards the cliffs and there is a little walk way, where you can jump the walls and you can walk along the edge. the height is imposing, and my toes curl inwards when I am very close to the edge of any height, but I got some awesome pics. The walk involved wall jumping and getting down from heights, but we had a great view. Since it was raining we got our shoes all nice and gooey, its best to wear sturdy shoes. Take your time and go to the Cliffs. The walk is a must. Try and see if you have the option/ luxury of choosing a bright sunny day. But Ireland being what it is – it could rain the exact minute you step out of your car.

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Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

KILLARNEY. This was the best part of our trip. The coolest, hippest!! The people in Killarney are mad, half drunk and uninhibitedly friendly. Within an hour into the city we knew who are the locals, who lived where, did what?O’connors pub: do go there. You must go there. For all the locals go there. And that is where the fun is. And if a band called The Small Hours is playing anywhere in Killarney, DO NOT MISS IT. Go to the ends of Killarney for it. It’s a husband, wife band, and they are fab.

O connor's pub and the locals singing
O’ Connor’s pub and the locals singing

The grand. Another rocking party place. Bouncers and all. The front, they play Irish bands, (the New Foundland was amazing) and in the back of the club, they have a discotheque. It’s a bit risque. So please go with company.

Food. We ate at the Khao (Vietnamese) and the Stone Chat Café. Fantastic food, authentic and fresh. There were many other restaurtants, but we had only two days, and both the days the lunch was out of Killarney.

Must Visit.: The National park.Take the Jaunty ride. Its fun. Alternately its an amazing place for a long walk.

Jaunty ride
Jaunty ride

The Cathedral: was very pretty. We did not go in, but the sites from outside were also majestic.

Ring Of Kerry.This takes a full day. So you can do what we did. We went half way then turned around and took a short cut back.

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Skelligs Chocolate Factory: is a must do. We stopped off the coast for a quick lunch. It was basic pizza fare therefore I did not write down the name.

We stayed at The Ross.: it was round the corner from all our sinful debacles. Completely walkable and very safe. Heart of town, but not in the noisy streets.

 

DUBLIN: We stayed at The Mespil. I don’t recommend it at all. Coming to Dublin after friendly Killarney was like getting lost amongst wolves. The city seemed too big, the people too busy and nothing suited us for a few hours. Once we got the hang of it we were good, but we would have liked to do Dublin first, so as to savor the flavours of small towns towards the end.

We were there only for a day, so have not done much sight seeing or food eating.

Temple Bar: The district and the bar. Every local will turn up their face at it, but I am telling you – YOU HAVE TO GO. Its jostle jostle, bump bump, no place to get drinks, too many people, loud music, but Oh Lord! Its amazing.

A tasting bar of the original Temple Whisky is attached to the main temple bar. Do visit if you are a Whisky lover.

At the end of the Temple Bar district, stands a small take away selling the most amazing French fries. PLEASE HAVE SOME!! 😛

The Quay Street bar was also nice.

Grafton Street: also has a lot of clubs and pubs.

Guinness: Now whether you like Guinness or not, you cannot come to Dublin and not visit the Store House. Book in advance and pick up souvenirs for your friends.

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Trinity College Library: is one of oldest and most well kept libraries in the world. Must visit.

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Trinity college Library
Trinity college Library

Food: We ate at the Bull and Castle. Fantastic service and great food. Hugo, was a champagne bar. We were caught in rain, and decided to stop walking and work up our appetite with cheese and champagne. They have a very cute window seat, so if you are just two on a romantic evening out, book it in advance.

Rasam: we had a private invite, but invite or not, distance or not –(its in the burbs) if you feel like eating Indian, go no where else. The food was authentic, fresh and the restaurant was one of the most classy ones I have ever see. Since it was a personal invite by the owner, I can vouch for the fact that the owner stands at the helm himself and manages the show.

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Rasam

 

 

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Beautiful Ireland
Beautiful Ireland

 

This husband wife team, have an Air B and B and the husband also has his own car which he uses to drive people around Ireland as a tour guide. Very sweet people if you want someone to drive you around.

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Japan

Japan

The land of the Rising Sun, Shoguns, Samurai and Sakura.

Time to Visit – Look up the internet for the year’s correct information on Cherry Blossom, (sakura) blooming time. Mostly it is End March to Early April. The cherry blossoms bloom completely only for a span of 2 weeks. Post that they start closing up, and the green leaves start showing. It has to be seen full bloom, else the entire point is lost.

Cherry Blossom time
Cherry Blossom time
Pink Blooms
Pink Blooms

Autumn, is also a lovely time to visit Japan. The colors change, and the leaves are in full glory, from yellows, oranges and reds. I have not seen this sight, but was told by locals that it’s a sight to behold.

Do’s and Don’t’s.

Visit the shrines. You must. It’s a bit tedious, but the ones I would have left out, saying – seen one seen all, were the ones which will stay with me forever. Thankfully we had with us a friend who cajoled us and relentlessly took us to see everything there was to see. Be prepared to walk a lot.

Subway – The subway in Kyoto is fairly well connected. Its BRILLIANTLY connected in Tokyo. Take day passes. It works out super cheap and efficient. It is for 24 hours from the time you take it.

Taxi – Take as few times as possible. Prohibitively expensive. And they hate going to close by places.

Stay – in a RYOKAN in possible. At least for a night or so. We stayed in a very basic one. Try and find a little higher end one. It’s an experience you wont get anywhere else.

The people – are polite, amazing and extremely helpful. If you approach them for direction, they will drop what they are doing, drop the line they are standing in and take you to the place you were asking for. I have nothing but respect for the Japanese. We have never met a better race of people. They humble you with their polite behavior. You will find many of them wearing masks. Its not for their protection, but for the publics. They feel they have a cold or something infectious, and want to protect the public from it. Their motto in life is the neighbor should not suffer, at any cost. Absolutely amazing.

Weather – was cold in April, first week We got slight rainfall too. Look up the weather before you leave. It can get unpleasantly cold and take you by surprise.

Bullet Train– Shinkansen. We took it from Tokyo to Kyoto and back. An experience I tell you!! We were moving at the speed of 350 km/hr and felt not one lurch. Ever! Use the J R pass for the same.

Booking – can be done online. But you have to go and redeem it into a pass. It tales time so be prepared for the wait. Queues are long. Keep the pass carefully.

Its worth the money. We calculated daily tickets v/s the pass, and the pass was more worthwhile.

Train pass – The J R pass (Japan Railway) made a lot of sense because we traveled to Kyoto from Tokyo and back. From Kyoto we also went to Nara, using the same pass. We would have been able to use to to Mt. Fuji and Hiroshima too.

No eating in public transport! – Just not ok. Japan is so clean its unbelievable. And you wont see dustbins anywhere. Why? Firstly, people are not eating all over the streets. Secondly, they all carry a small trash bag with them. (YUP!) and take the trash home to throw.

Bus – Very effective. You have to pay when you get off. Keep change handy. They also have coin changing machines. In the bus!

Language – is an issue. Google translate is fantastic. You can also click a picture of the words you need translated and it converts those lines to English. Its fantastic and very helpful.

Guide – We booked for 3 days. Frankly you need them only for a day in Kyoto when you are doing the main shrines. Once you get the hang of the layout and language issues, you can maneuver yourself quite easily. We booked them through the Japanese Cultural Centre. _ Just for your info – they were just ok.

Tips – no one expects any tip what at all. Not the taxi driver, not your waiter in bars and restaurants, and not your bell boy. In fact they can take objection. I had taken small gift articles specific to India, and they were happy to accept those.

Drink – the local whisky. Its fantastic. Try the Sake. I did not like it much, but my friends loved it.

Shop – at local boutiques and stores. I picked up a lot of stuff from MUJI and UNIGLO.

Japan has lovely cotton clothes. Expensive, but some things were worth it.

Money Exchange – very funnily the best rate was available in the airport. Remarkably better. Both Tokyo and Kyoto city, had rates much worst than Tokyo airport.

Drinking water– tap water is safe in Japan. They have dispensers on every road, every corner, every mall.

Food – can be a bit of an issue. We had carried Theplas etc and were happy for it. Mostly we needed it in our train journey. Having said that we got great food all the way. You have to be a bit ready to experiment with Buddhist food etc. You can ask for chilli paste/ oil almost every restaurant. Also try the tofu dishes. You will not find better tofu anywhere else in the world. Jap food is healthy. I did not see even one plump person in Japan – forget obese.

Tofu Salad
Tofu Salad

 

HAVE THE LOCAL MEALS – see the restaurant section of this blog.

Buy local Japanese ingredients. I picked up Wasabi, Wasabi powder, Togarashi powder, some sort of ginger based powder and tofu skins.

Shiatsu Massage– It was soooo relaxing. It’s a kind of acupressure massage. They make you wear a robe and press points from head to toe. I felt like a zombie for a bit after the massage. The state of relaxation was really complete.

Voltage Issues – don’t buy electronics in Japan, unless you plan to use them in USA. They work on 110V.

 

KYOTO

Kiyomizu Dera . This is off Gion area – on a hillside. It was dark when we reached, but it was beautiful. I can only imagine it on a misty morning, with the clouds pouring in and the bells of the shrine tonging.

Gion – is a lovely area to walk around. Get the feel of the local area and the local life.

Nishiki Market. This is 100 years old. A sightseeing place as much as shop. Get the famous Japanese knives here. Buy some kimchi. Check out the different.

100 year old Nishiki Market
100 year old Nishiki Market

Philosophers Path. Dear lord! This place was heaven. The best Cherry Blossoms. The river flowing in between was filled with pink petals and the entire effect was amazing.

Cherry blossoms Also known as Sakura
Cherry blossoms Also known as Sakura

Ginkaku ji Shrine. The silver shrine. Thus named because the reflection of the moon would fall on the roof and make it look silver. Beautiful Zen gardens adorn the surroundings of this shrine.

The moon hits the roof and makes it silver.
The moon hits the roof and makes it silver.

Arashiyama – Bamboo forest. Must see. Walk between the bamboos to get a feel of how we humans are small little midgets compared to nature.

Bamboo forest
Bamboo forest

Nijo Castle. The Shogun’s retreat. The great hallways, the conference rooms, everything reeked of great history.

Inari . The shrine of the 10000 red gates. Beautiful red gates one after the other. Each gate was offered as a payback for a prayer answered. Quite a sight to see.

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Inari Shrine -- 10000 gates
Inari Shrine — 10000 gates

Kinkakuji Shrine. – Golden Pavillion. We did not see this one. But its on the top list of sight seeing in Kyoto.

NARA

An hour’s bullet train ride from Kyoto. NOT TO BE MISSED. My favourite shrine. The shrine with the hugeeeee Buddha. Todaiji Shrine. Mesmerizing.

Todai - ji Shrine Nara
Todai – ji Shrine Nara

Deer Park. Very interesting. Buy the cookies sold by the vendor and feed the deer. They come so close. And try feeding them some other food! They look at you like you have committed a sin! ;P

Feeding the deers - Nara
Feeding the deers – Nara

Restaurants

We found all restaurants in Japan, very small, very clean and run by minimal staff.

Sigestu – Tenryu ji Restaurant . Buddhist / Zen Meal. Absolutely amazing. Its called Shojin Riori – the meal.

http://www.tenryuji.com/en/shigetsu/

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Zen Meal
Zen Meal

Beer Komachi – Cute pub bar. Small.

Falafel Garden – good hot fresh Lebanese food.

Arash Kitchen – also Lebanese

Kerala – amazing indian meal. Don’t go anywhere else. Book in advance.

L escamoteur – PLEASE GO. It was the most amazing bar we went to. Go early as you will get turned away if there is no place. Fabulous host, fantastic cocktails. Vie for the swing seat, if only two of u.

Mad place – truly! No food!

L’Escamoteur Bar
Address:
138-9 Saisekidori, Shijosagaru, Saitocho
Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto 600-8012

Contact Details:
Phone: +81 75-708-8511
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/L-Escamoteur-1392735951033939/

Swinging charis
Swinging chairs

On the same street as L escamoteur are many many restaurats. Great Italian places.

The Pontocoho Alley has many bars and restaurants. Dive into the small side streets. You will find hidden gems.

Some of the ones we visited were – Atlantis, K-ya, etc.

 

TOKYO

Hip – modern and completely city!

Shrines

Senso ji Shrine Either we had a shrine over load or this really wasn’t that fantastic. Worth missing.

Meiji Shrine – Please GO! The walk to this serence shrine is well – serene. I loved the peace and quiet. Shuts at 6 pm!

RESTAURANTS

Tofu Kai Zen Meal. Fantastic atomosphere and fantastic service. Book in advance.

La Jolla – Mexican. Was a good break and a good meal.

Gonpachi– very very famous. Kill Bill scenes were shot here. Fabulous food, though the din can get to u.

The dishes I want to highly recommend

Takana Meshi – Rice pickled with mustard leaves, and served in a hot stone bowl.

Zaru Tofu – Special cold tofu in a bamboo basket.

Rigelleto – In the famous Roppongi area. Fantastic – yum yum!

garlic mashed potatoes
garlic mashed potatoes

Try their – mashed garlic potatoes and Jalapeno fritters

Sembikiya    The fruit restaurant. MUST MUST MUST GO. Its located in the same buiding as the Mandarin Oriental hotel – the Nihombashi towers. 2 nd floor fruit parlour!

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We went quite beserk! Have the fruit platter. The avocado and tomato sandwich and the fruit sandwich. TRUST ME ! Your mind will be blown away!

Umenohana Ginzanamiki Dori it’s a mouthful to pronounce, but the food is worth everything u have and you may have to give away! Book in advance. – book a veg meal in advance. Zen Meal.

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Pinsa de Roma – small restaurant tucked away on way to Meiji Shrine, in the Takashite area. It’s a little off but plan to eat the pizzas there when you are on way to the shrine. You will not regret it! Best I have had. It was crisp, crunchy and sublime.

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Peking Restaurant at the Imperial Hotel. Great chinese food.

Vivo bar – fantastic music. Ask for RICARDO   very sweet chap. 

Peter Bar – at The Peninsula Hotel. View of the city. Nice.

 

SHOPPING AND OTHER THINGs

Ometosando – shopping. High end stuff. In the middle of the street , there is a Japanese Craft centre. Good stuff for souvenirs. Do go. Its worth it. I picked up really soft towels from there.

Liquor Store – amazing one. Small but loaded.

Liquors Hasegawa – Shop no 1, Under Tokyo Main train Station. East Spot. Chuo Dori Avenue. Close to Daimaru.

Pick up your Japanese whiskies and Sake here.

Other shopping places – Daimaru, Sogo, Mitsukoshi, Takashimaya. Frankly I went crazy for the local stuff.

Local food – Basement of Takashimaya – there is a small super market called Medina (i forgot to write down the name – but it was something like that)

Akiabara – electronics market. You might not be able to pick up much because of the voltage issue, but do go and take a quick look. Its huge, massive. I haven’t seen an electronics market like this. Ever.

 

Japanese Knives
Japanese Knives

 

Tofu making
Tofu making

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pashmina – A seductive dance with a stranger.

Dear Reader,

Please hear this song  before you read the blog. This is an audio only link – Please don’t see the video!!

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I was alone in the studio that afternoon. With Pashmina blaring on the audio system, I danced within myself. My moves were silted, controlled. I danced not for passion, but for a show. Somewhere I had lost the fire.

It was hot outisde, and I wore a wispy thin dress which fell just on my knees. I need them thin flowing dresses – the costumes I wear sometimes choke me. As the song roared, I hugged myself and danced. Suddenly there was a threatening silence. The music was cut off. I turned, angry at having my peace and space invaded. Before I could focus, the music started again – softly this time, like an echo of a inner heart beat and the song of a soul. I was whirled  towards the wall, my head facing away, and a rough calloused hand slid on my waist, while the other hand moved up and down my bare arms. Holding me, but giving me space. And as the lyrics hit the room, our dance started. I had no time to feel anything, not even fear.

 

Pashmina dhaagon ke sang
Koi aaj bune khwaab aise kaise
Waadi mein goonje kahin naye saaz
Ye rawaab aise kaise
Pashmina dhaagon ke sang

 I was still not facing him, but I felt him – tall lean and muscled. Smelling faintly of tobacco.  Like a far away fragrance, I had always known, but forgotten. His long fingers caressed my dress, from my arms to the hem, from where hung faint wisps of threads. I felt like I was that soft pliant pashmina thread, and that thread was being felt and stroked for its susceptible beauty.

His fingers, just two of them, moved up my thighs, just grazing them, and his other hand rested on my forehead. Calloused, rough, long seductive fingers stroked my temple, while the other hand grasped my waist, and we both – our hips stuck to each other, did a half turn to the lyrics. My head felt light, dreamy. I had still not seen his face.

Just then I felt his  stubble, next to my face. Lifting me by my waist he swung me around. My legs taut and extended, my dress billowing around me, I felt like I was on the top of a misty mountain, and the breeze tingled on my skin. When he put me down, his fingers again moved along my arms, tingling with goosebumps, and my skin pricked in anticipation.

I felt in my head a long forgotten song. I felt it in my head, I heard it in my heart. And somewhere as I was being whirled around by this stranger, I realised that the music echoed in me from valleys of misty mountains.   

He let me slide down, and as his hands once again skimmed down my bare arms, his fingers twined themselves around mine, and locked them in.  His face was still to be seen.                                             

 

Kaliyon ne badle abhi ye mizaaj
Ehsaas aise kaise
Palkon ne khole abhi naye raaz
Jazbaat aise kaise
Pashmina dhaagon ke sang
Koi aaj bune khwaab aise kaise

His strong wrists felt mine. It was a signal, a move a dancer knows. I locked my palms around his wrists, and when I was lifted into the air, I knew he would let go of me for a few split seconds. I rose up, and free untethered. The trust was impulse, the move calculated. When I tucked my hand around me, hugging myself and twirled in the air, I knew I would land into his strong lean arms. There was anticipation. A tumble in the stomach –  I would finally see his face.

As I descended I opened my arms, knowing I would want to tangle them around his neck. Not had to – for he would hold me – but want to. He did not let my feet touch the floor, but grasped my waist when my face was just above his head. I lost all semblance. The dance and it’s grace were no longer my concern, and I struggled to peer down. Who was this stranger, who felt like home?

I looked down, and he looked up, his nose touching the bottom of my chin, and my world opened up. I gazed into eyes the colour of chocolate that is melting in front of you. Long eyelashes hid those half closed liquid eyes. Eyes that were locked into mine. Still held tight agains’t his chest, I heard and felt the world whisper its deepest secrets to me. Tumultuous emotions overwhelmed me. Had I been standing, I would have dissolved into a heap of passion. I felt frail, yet strong. I existed, but my soul had moved elsewhere.

 

 

Kacchi hawa, kaccha dhuaan ghul raha
Kaccha sa dil lamhe naye chun raha
Kacchi si dhoop, kacchi dagar phisal rahi
Koi khada chupke se keh raha
Main saaya banun, tere piche chalun
Chalta rahoon…

Pashmina dhaagon ke sang
Koi aaj bune khwaab aise kaise hmm…

I could  not take my eyes off him. Curly wisps of his hair stroked my face. I did not have to see the rest of him. Our dance so far had made our bodies an elemental knowledge to each other. Now only the eyes met and souls touched. I felt vulnerable! Soft! New! Old! Happy! Sad!

It was a new feeling. A raw awareness of self, but tangled with another secret, a known familiarity. I knew the path I had taken, which I had no control over, was dangerous, and a further dip into the labyrinth of emotions would have me crossing over into new territories. I was not ready, and yet my entire being yearned only to complete this journey.

His arms wrapped around me, my heart thudding , we danced. In slow motion, his steps synchronising with mine. Round and round we went, spinning over and over again, turning and whirling circles, head, body, mind and soul – until he lifted me and holding my waist – me standing straight, balancing only on his hands, he ran with me across the room. I don’t know how he held me. There was no definite grasp or hold.. like I was sitting on his palms, yet standing upright.

Poised in front of the huge sparkling studio mirror, he let me slide down. Like butter falling of the rim off a heating pan. Just as I was gliding below his knee, he stopped my drop, and slid his arms under my arms, holding me just under my shoulders. With the song belting its heart rendering lyrics, he lifted me up again, and his hands fell to his side. I immediately felt bereft.  For a moment we were two people – a man standing behind a woman, eyes locked into each other – reflecting in the mirror.

Before I could drown in his eyes, his hands went up and circled my neck, while his other hand thrust against my hips. Now I was to lead the dance, and he would be my shadow. I moved, my right  foot sliding towards the back. He followed. Both of us on the floor, in a split position.  My left feet to his left, my right to his right. Other than his hands around my neck, and his palms on my hips, no part of our body touched – yet the sync was perfect.

A dance where the partner can read your mind, is as near to bliss as one can get. Holding our sitting positions, I leaned back against him, and he leaned back towards the floor, till my back had arched and moulded perfectly to his perfectly bowed torso. Both his arms went around me, and both of us rose again, and in one fluid motion we were standing. I fell forward, my arms straight on my side, and his cheeks grazed my back, his palms went parallel to mine and our fingers entwined.

 

 

Shabnam ke do qatre yunhi tehal rahe
Shaakhon pe wo moti se khel rahe
Befikr se ik dooje mein ghul rahe

I had lost all sense of time and self. I only existed for this dance, for this moment and now for him.

His right fingers still entangled in mine, we let go of every other contact. Slowly facing each other, arms extended and holding only our right hands cupped into each other, we circled. looping the same path – slowly. His eyes held mine, all my control sacrificed. His fingers crawled up my pulsing wrist till we held each others arms. The feel of his rippling muscles, his penetrating glance, straight roman nose, damn it! his entire structure, made me feel like I was thrust into an alternate surreal world.

As the lyrics changed he pulled me to him, crushing me to his chest. My arms went around him, and I held him fiercly. We stood there, all dance forgotten, the world surrounding us forgotten. We only heard the din of volatile, erratic heart beats. Two bodies fused as one. Before the song could finish, he pulled out of my hold and without turning around, with his eyes still fixed into mine, he backed out of the studio, leaving me trembling and in tears.

I was left without words. What can one say to an interlude of this kind? What can one think? All logical reasoning had left me. I was a puddle of emotions. Wave over wave of tremors went through my body. Where had he come from, who was he? Who was I? – after he had danced with me?

I left the studio, not knowing what to do, where to go, how to proceed with life after this.

A dance with this seductive stranger.
A dance with this seductive stranger.

 

 

Jab ho judaa, khayalon mein mill rahe
Khayalon mein yun yeh guftagu chalti rahe
Haan haa..

When my stage show got over, I got a standing ovation for over 10 minutes. Abandoning my former routine and choreography, I danced alone. To Pashmina. And my partner was his absent shadow. 

 

Ye rawaab.. aise kaise
Aise kaise.. aise kaise..
Aise kaise.. aise kaise..

 

For English translation of the song – click here

The Taxi ride.

The husband had a school reunion – which in my priorities of life is way up there, somewhere way above back seat driving and just a notch below spending an evening drinking with good buddies.

We left home together, I took a cab from  half the way to meet our friends, and he was to join later.

We stopped our car, next to a taxi driver. He was staring ahead. And he was rocking himself mumbling something.That itself should have deterred me! Nevertheless he agreed to go to our destination and I got into the cab.

Oh! Man. The man was a certified maniac. He drove of at top speed and screeched to a halt at the next signal. Then he tried to weave his way between three cars. Yes!! Truly! I’m not joking. He was hallucinatory – because he kept thinking he was driving not a car but a road racer cycle with wheels no broader that 5 mm. He kept backing up and trying to squeeze his car in between whatever he could squeeze it between, cycles,car, hawkers, bus, ambulance, the wind!

At one point he over took three cars, not one after the other but all at the same time. They were all driving next to each other, keeping to their lanes. “This wont do!” he thought, and with a surge of adrenalin, he vigorously  changed the gear of his car, and took off, over taking all three cars, till I realised I am on the other side of the road,  – the wrong side. I screamed and lamented, but the bizarre man, just shrugged it off saying there were no cars on the other side and its ok to use that road. Thats when I started reciting the Hanuman Chalisa.

After many such sudden rocket launching type take offs, and race car type skidding halts, we reached the bottom of Malabar Hill. Now Malabar Hill, is actually a small hill. Not like those fancy streets named Brooks Hill, where you see neither a brook nor a hill!

The climb is pretty steep. When I directed him to take the left to the top of the hill, he just paused at the bottom of the hill. Seeing his hesitation, I asked him if his car will make it. In answer he grunted, rocked back and front twice, took a deep breath, and launched his car. In his mind he roared “Jai Bajrang Bali, aaj to tu dikha de isko!!’ (Salutions Oh! Monkey God,  today you show this woman what I am capable of!)

He was hoping there would be no other car ahead of him, and that he could take off at the same gear without having to stop his car. Unfortunately, cars kept coming up ahead of him, and he had to keep halting. That man did not take his legs off the accelerator, and whenever he had to stop he would pull the the hand brake – with the same ferocity he used to change gears. His entire body would jerk with either action. As a result the tyres would keep spinning even when the car had halted. My prayers went up with even more fervour.

Finally when we reached the top of the hill, his car slowed down in direct proportion to his and my own heart beat. Two minutes later we stopped at our destination. I scuttled out of the car,and peered through the window and asked his final fare. With a weak voice and a giant pause,  he gave me the amount.

I went away happy to be in one piece. Just once I turned around to see what he was doing. He was slumped against the seat, rocking back and forth, very relieved to know – I am sure – that he did not have to push his car uphill.

 

Writing workshop – A letter to my dark side.

This is for a workshop, a bit of me, a bit of fantasy!

 

 

Write a letter to your shadow, your alter ego, your darker side, or the parts of you that you have repressed in favour of your more socially acceptable persona. Try to include the reasons why you disowned these parts (or characters) and propose a reconciliation.

Listen Witch,

I have left you many years ago! Why do you haunt me now? Why do you come back as a sniveling cranky hormonal laden bitch and make my day a harrowing hell? Why do you leave me in tears and make me take out my hormone induced shit on my loved ones. Why do those tears at that time feel Oh! So right? And why does the damn sense, that blasted common sense which used to be my constant companion, desert me in my hour of need, and then come waltzing in after I have had a crying fit. And then proceed to make me feel like what I am – A hormonal laden nut case, fit only for the mental asylum.

You idiot! Why do you expect from men, the kind of love and tlc you need? They are too busy cranking up their own testosterone to bother. You had become a nice independent human being. Why have you turned into a blood thirsty vampire?

Go back to work. Learn some meditation. Get a life. Damn it – get another man for all I care. Just let go!

Next time you get into a fit where you feel you just have to cry and find excuses to do so, do me a favour and walk away. Take a stroll, go hit your punching bag, go take a dump. Just get out. Deep breaths, deep resonating breaths, deep ultra fulfilling breaths. That will help. Men wont. Your dogs might!

But seriously, this shit you throw around, only you can understand. This urgent need to cry, this urgent need for a hug. And of course you are too egoistic to ask for it.

Get a grip on yourself. And if you cannot – lock your self in your room and take it out on yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself a good round of shouting at! No point doing that to anyone else. They wont understand. You know yourself that you have lost a few good friends, who you thought were menopausal raving savages. Do you want to be one of those??

I’m warning you – you had stayed away. I had pushed you away – those many years ago! Damn it I will do it once more.

The Dad!

The Dad, taught me a lot of things. The good from the bad, the right from wrong, acceptable and non acceptable, table manners, and many other random things fathers teach their children. The point here is how and what I finally learn’t and imbibed!!!

My poor long suffering father tried his level best. He is not to be blamed for what I finally turned out to be.

Learn to be feminine : My biggest failure and the poor man’s biggest exasperation. I was happy playing football, climbing coconut trees. Skirts imprisoned me, jeans set me free. Shoes hampered me, bare feet made me fly. He tried – he really did. I just could’nt manage. To date I rather talk about the air and wind than nail polish and the best colours available, in the best manicure salon in town. I had a daughter, and everyone at home was worried I will make her like me. All I did was leave her to her own devices, and she is a fine girl child. But hey! every time she bought some nail polish or girly shoes, I rolled my eyes at my own creation.

Don’t be rude: I wasn’t rude. I swear. Ever! I was just outspoken – assertive, And as a kid – precocious (How I love that word!) And this particular trait, got me pulled up and glared at very often. My dad has the patience of a saint. I tried it, all the time.

Study hard, get good marks:Physics was boring. Maths was a pain in the butt. I hated Marathi. Chemistry teacher was a bitch. Whats left? Social studies, English and Biology – I excelled at these. So 50% marks was a sure shot and thats what I got. Dad set a dictum – get 65% and get your cycle. Damn! I had to really study hard that semester. But I got my cycle. I was fed up of borrowing my handsome neighbours’ (not really!) and / or the old manager who stayed with us.

Respect your elders:Even if they pinch your cheeks or marry you off mentally to that dirty pan chewing, oily moustached, pawing geek? Even if they go through your cupboards? Even if they make nasty comments about your mother? Even if they peed all over the toilet seat? It never happened and it never will.

No boyfriends:That one had me twisted up and churned into good old oily ghee! I loved boys. Oh! so much better than giggly girls, who had a tummy ache when they ran, or the other girls who had to take permission, and were normally not given it, to step out into the beach and play. Boys – I could keep up with. I learnt some of my best skills with them – running bare feet, horse riding without shoes, cleaning the fish pond, repairing a cycle, hiding bleeding wounds, playing with marbles. As I grew up, they made more sense to me, in college, then the snivelling girls who cried entire days for a lost hair brush, or sulked over cracked nails. I still like boys. Only now they are men!

Learn your mathematical tables by heart:Gah! This was serious one! He took those up every morning, but I still failed mental Arithmetic. I had to recite from 6 times to 16 times. I hated those mornings. Which were almost all mornings! He expected that specially because his mother was a genius at it, as was he. Sorry – the genes by passed me – like by – miles and miles.

Learn to drive only at 18:That one mom detoured. She put me in driving classes when I was 16. I went at it with glee. Her only concern was it should be a female teacher, as so it was. She turned out to be a lesbian, and her hands were on my thighs the entire training weeks. She tried to get closer to wish me well for the test, that is when I pinched her. But we are side stepping the topic at hand. When he found out he roared at mom. She just turned her snubby nose at him and reminded him that he had learnt at 14 and should not be the one to talk. And that was that!

Be good to the help: I was. I loved them. They were my pals, my defenders, advocate and body guards. There was one man I hated. With a vengeance. And whenever I got the opportunity, I would grab his hands and bite him – hard. I have never forgiven him to date – because he marched up to dad, and demanded I be punished. He showed his red, angry bite marks -(I think he bit it further himself, so that I get harder punitive action!!) Thats the one and only time dad has slapped me. Later I realised he was more upset I was biting his sweaty hands than biting him! Or was that mom? I’m not sure any more!!

Learn Cooking: That I eventually excelled at. But not before I was tested by fire and flame. He made me make veggies for dinner and would rate them from 1 t0 10. He had no praise till I reached level 8! But it stood me in good stead! I strived to get better. Later in life, when I started my own food business, he told me – maintain quality, strive to make it the best, and success will always be yours. For the first time I listened and triumphed.

I cannot say I should have listened to everything he taught me, because the first thing he taught me was to be myself. And thats the one thing I learnt from him. (He must be regretting that now!!)

 

Dad!
Dad!

 

The hands that warmed my soul – a short story.

I was being wheeled away into surgery. It was time to face the inevitable.

The brains were already a little fuzzy with the sedative they had administered an hour before. I saw serious faces around me, peering from above, trying to push their positive feelings into me through their touch. But it was all superficial, because no one was feeling positive.

And in the middle of all this I was giggling. Not because of the sedative, but because I knew this was the end – of something. The final point, the final dance, the final sigh!

As I sunk into deep sleep, and slipped into oblivion, I felt cold all over. Almost immediately, a warm hand slid into mine and lifted me up. I did not hang around the operation theatre. I did not see the surgeons. But I heard them – there was no panic in their voice. The body was still breathing they way they deemed perfect. But the breaths I took, when I left with the warm hands were deep, and pure. It felt that if I leave those hands, my breath might just leave me altogether. So I clung harder. I felt complete and utter trust.

The breaths were different. My chest did not move, my nostrils did not flare, but still the lungs filled with deep satisfying pure oxygen. We flew over the hill, across the sea. I could see the lights of my city fade away. Somewhere inside that city, in the hospital, they were still operating on my body.

The hands holding mine had no face. Just a feeling, of intense love, of happiness and freedom. A massive heart warming energy. I could see a formless floating body next to me. The hands stayed steady in my focus, but the body kept shifting and stirring.It was like every movement of the air, did something internal to that body and changed it’s appearance. It shifted form but the colour remained the same. Weird colour. I could not put a name to that colour. It was somewhere between a hazy transparent thready blue grey. Everytime the form shifted, the colour got more or less intense, more or less transparent. It had no face yet it had a contour. No features yet I felt the eyes on me and the breath sweet on my neck. I named this creature Love. Because no other name seemed to fit better. And no other word was in my brain. All language and its accessories had vanished.

There was no feeling of space or time. No thought of wonder. No anxiety about where we are headed. Yet my mind was clear – of the pre surgery fuzz, of the anesthesia. My body was floating, mindlessly, but the mind was all there. I had never felt clearer, or more confident and intelligent, yet at the same time more thought free.

There was no talk. Just words communicated by the touch of warm hands. I felt enlightened, filled in with what seemed like very pertinent information. I knew that information, but if that time some one asked me to write it down, I would not have the words to. If someone asked me to communicate through osmosis I could talk volumes!

We did not float, as much as just moved. It wasn’t jerky. It wasn’t even smooth. I felt like I am skidding along a wire, balanced to perfection – with no fear of falling or even a perception of plunging into a depthless pit. Like I am a creature who has done this since the time I have walked.

I don’t know how long we were up there. To this day, I have lost the sense of time.

We did not meet anyone else. Did not see any other person. Nothing. Just plain blank space, yet a feeling of being in connect with everything and everyone. Connected but not disconcerted. Involved but not disturbed. Happy, but not excitable. A perfect state of being. A utopia of emotion.

We neared the city again, and I started hearing distressed voices. As we neared the hospital I heard everybody in the operation theatre shouting “ We have lost her! We have lost her!” And I realized I had died.

In the next instant I was in my body again. But not in the theatre. It was just that moment when I was fuzzy brained and people were peering down at me with concern and I was giggling.

I went in – and the entire story repeated itself.

I was trapped in the astral plane of happiness forever and ever.

 

 

( I have joined a writing workshop – the prompt for the day was – stare at a picture and write a story on it)