Nostalgia


And so it begins. The much awaited and anticipated trip of the year. Next week am off to Mumbai with S. Hubby will come later in the month. We shall be in Mumbai the entire summer. I have been planning this trip for quite some time now. By planning I mean micro-detailing, breaking it down into weeks and days and making a list of things I need to do on those days. This method has hardly been a success in the past, but then one can always hope.

The highlight of the trip is going to be spending some quality time with my grandma. When was the last time I had a sit-down with her? The last I remember is 2009, right after S was born and she was with us. A year after that I had travelled to Edinburgh and even though I have been going to India on holidays, time with her had been short.

Now that she is at my dad’s place, I hope to rekindle and perhaps create some more memorable moments with her. The time she spent in the nursing home, I was engulfed with the most distressing nostalgia and helplessness. ‘Missing her’ wouldn’t cover it. There was this deep emptiness inside me and the thought that I wouldn’t get to spend a relaxed time with her whenever I visited India. It felt like I had to let go of a deep part of me. Time spent with her at the nursing home was limited to an hour. And when you know you have only a fixed time to spend, you can’t really think of all the things you want to say. There was no time to lie down idly and listen to songs and ghazals, there was no time to listen to her little nuggets of wisdom, there was no time to be lazy and be in each other’s company and just be. There was no time to discuss the subtle differences between the urdu ghazal words. There was no time to discuss Lata or Christie or Hardy. Most of the happy memories from my childhood have revolved around her. The summer vacations were spent partly in her home. Being in her company was enough. We didn’t have to do anything special to feel happy.

It has been predicted that this year will have a lot of rain. This looks like the perfect setup to have lots of chai and gupshup with aaji.

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2015 – the year that was…


…all about travel! After coming to Edinburgh I think 2015 was the most we traveled in UK. It’s partly due to having a car that gives you more freedom and roam around the countryside. Also, having parents over during the Summer holidays is another excuse to travel. 🙂 So here am trying to make a list of all the places we visited last year – day trips, holidays, weekend getaways all included.

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Early January last year, we went on a long long drive around five lakes. Most of the mountains were snow-capped, it was chilly and there was a stillness in the air. But nothing could stop our enthusiasm to go out and about.

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An impromptu week’s holiday was planned to Dubai during the school break. A family get together – my sister-in-law lives there – sun, sand and beach and an excuse to get away from the cold in UK.

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M&Ds theme park in Motherwell – an hour’s drive from Edinburgh. It was a nice sunny day in April – quite warm for Spring. Perhaps the first time we took off our jackets that year.

IMG_0185This is perhaps the hardest to summarize. Swiss trip! The highlight of the year. I think the reason I never wrote about this trip is that I am still trying to assimilate all the experiences and internalize the sensation that was Switzerland. Here’s a blurb: Family trip, train journey, heat wave, exploring the central belt of Switzerland, locating Yashraj filming locations, Zurich, Lucerne, Interlaken, Bern, Montreux, Geneva, Mt. Titlis, Jungfrau. Cheese factory, chocolate factory, chocolate train (yes, that’s the name of the train!), Gstaad, Saanen, Lauterbrunnen!

IMG_1651There is something Zen about going to Cragies and picking berries. Nothing else matches the amazing experience of picking freshly grown strawberries and cherries in this lovely farm. Note to self: this year pick a small quantity that can fit into the tiny freezer at home.

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Holy Island, Lindisfarne and Alnwick Castle.

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Another day trip to Loch Lomond and Loch Luss – castles and lakes that’s what Scotland is all about and I have no complains.

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Mid August saw us trying to climb up to the Arthur seat – a feat we did not achieve. This is at the top of another hill next to Arthur seat.

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A weekend trip to Bedford in September – we visited my husband’s cousin and his family. A visit to Cambridge ensued.

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Culross trip

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Loch Leven in October – another day trip to another Loch.

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When the Dinosaurs came to Edinburgh Zoo!

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And the Panda who wouldn’t show us his face… Pandas and monkeys – the funniest animals they make you laugh without moving a muscle.

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A thing off my bucket list – staying in a self catering cottage. October end saw us travelling to Aviemore Cairngorms National Park.

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Autumn colours and foliage

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Culross – The Royal Burgh


The Royal Burgh of Culross village is around 12 miles west of the Forth Road Bridge. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Royal Burghs were generally sea ports with a thriving community and flourishing trade. I wasn’t expecting much out of this coastal town with an industrial landscape but it was a pleasant surprise.

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It is the best preserved example of a 17th and 18th century Scottish town. The old buildings and cobbled streets of this Royal Burgh transported us into the domestic lives of the 17th century Scottish town.

There is even a 17th century model garden recreated behind the Culross Palace displaying a range of plants including vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, fruits and shrubs. There is an unmistakable aroma of herbs in the air around the palace gardens.

The village looks across the River Forth to oil refineries. The village is the closest thing to a 16th century village all due to the efforts of the National Trust of Scotland that has been working with Culross to conserve its historical past.

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The Culross Palace restored to its original mustard yellow render and wooden shuttered condition

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The Mercat (Market) Cross has a unicorn on top. (Did you know Scotland’s national animal is Unicorn?)

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What sets Culross apart is its stunning buildings and narrow wynds (A typical Scottish word ‘wynd’ referring to a ‘winding’ street)

The Palace Garden

The Palace Garden

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Another example of the stunning buildings

Another example of the stunning buildings

View of river Forth

View of river Forth

S talks


A weeks ago, the Son and dad had a discussion about old age and death. I thought he was too small to have this conversation but his dad went ahead and told him that people die after they are too old.

A few days after this S comes to me as asks:

S: Will you die before me?

Me: :trying to be evasive: Why do you ask? Don’t worry about it.

S: You are older. So you would die before me.

Me: Maybe.

S: What happens after we die?

Me: trying to be cheerful: Well, you are reborn again as a brand new baby.

S thinks for some time and I am sure that he will cry or get sad about his mommy dying before him.

S: whispering: Can you please tell Ganpatibappa not to make me into a baby girl after I die?

Me: What? Why? Why are you thinking about that?

S: Please can you tell him that? (still whispering)

I then turn my head up in the general direction where Ganpatibaappa is supposed to be and say: Please Ganpati, don’t make Shantanu a baby girl in his next life.

Me: Why don’t you want to be a baby girl in your next life?

S: I don’t want to be a girl because girls have babies and the doctor has to cut open the tummy to get the baby out. I don’t want my tummy cut. It would hurt a lot!

Me: !!!

And here I was worried about him being sad thinking about his mommy dying !

Day 20: Wise words


So it was a normal Monday morning. There was the normal rush for getting to school on time, pack the lunch boxes, get the breakfast done etc. We were well within time when I asked Son to change into the uniform.

Me: Come on S, let’s get ready, where’s your uniform?

S: It’s okay, we have time. Please help me with the clothes.

Me: a bit flustered, … Okay come on hurry up now!

S: Okay okay don’t get angry.

Me: more flustered – Am not angry!

S: Yes you are. You are always angry.

Me: (Angry but hiding it.) Am not angry, maybe I am. That’s my thing – being angry! Like your thing is to watch the iPad all the time and dad’s thing is to….. (wondering what to mention here)

S: (in a very quiet voice) Dad’s thing is to calm you down.

Me: !!!

Hubby smirking in the background having heard all this talk!

Over the weekend and then some


Belated Happy Holi everyone! From the photos around the blogosphere and on FB and whatsapp, it seems almost everyone I know had a colourful time this year. Not for us. A sunny weekend for us should usually suffice!

On Saturday I was busy slogging in the kitchen preparing this

Chicken Biryani

It’s a fairly simple recipe and gets cooked in less than 2 hours!

But that’s not what I was really slogging at. It was this

Puran Poli

Puran Poli

My first attempt at Puranpoli! It’s a classical Maharashtrian dish prepared on the auspicious occasion of Holi and Padwa. It may appear to look like a roti but it’s very sweet and very different from a normal roti or chapati. To describe it to a firang here, I would rather call it sweet tortilla! 🙂

It’s made from split yellow gram, jaggery and rava. Only 3 ingredients… sounds simple but the procedure is lengthy and hard.

In short, cook the yellow gram and drain out all the water, add jaggery to it and cook on low flame till it’s soft and dry.
Make a soft dough of rava by mixing water and oil in it and soak it in oil till it becomes soft and stretchy.
When the stuffing has cooled down, the poli is ready to be rolled out.
Grease a butter paper with enough oil so that the dough doesn’t stick to it. Take a small ball of dough and flatten it out into a small circle, place a small ball of stuffing at the centre and wrap the dough around the stuffing to make it into a ball.
Roll out the puran poli taking care that the stuffing doesn’t come out of the dough while rolling it.
Heat a non stick pan and grease it with oil.
Hold the butter paper upside down and hold the edge of the poli on the pan and peal away the butter paper. (!)
Cook it over low to medium heat and flip it once.

Phew…..do all these things just right and you might get a full whole unbroken puranpoli!

Chicken biryani and Puranpoli done on Saturday! Time to rest for the next month or so.

Yeah right!

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No, on Sunday Hubby and I went to dance! Yeah you read it right.

Scotland’s national centre for dance – Dance Base – had an Open Day on Sunday to encourage new dancers to join the thrill. Bone tired we dragged ourselves to the Grass market where the centre is located and danced our feet out for a one whole hour to Elvis Presley’s c’mon everybody! After the one hour, we were drenched in sweat for the first time in Edinburgh. I experienced my heavy lethargic leaden legs turn light, supple and brisk. I had a spring in my step. Thanks to hubby dearest for pushing me off my ass and getting me on my feet quite literally. (On a negative note, don’t you just hate it when husbands come up with the most rational and practical answers/solutions to some of the most persistent long time problems you have had? Once you listen to their talk, you hit yourself mentally and wonder why you didn’t think of it!)

So after grudgingly admitting to having a great time dancing, we lingered on walking down the pubs at Grass market and that’s when we came across the armchair book shop – a quaint, cosy little place. Anyway, am not committing myself to a weekly dance class yet but yes, in an ideal world I would do it just to get my agility back. When you can’t do a 2 minute simple dance sequence you realise how dull and heavy your body is. And to think there was a time (another world, another lifetime) when over the weekend I used to dance for 3 hours and then swim for an hour!

About swimming, I can’t swim even a lap now. So much for the bragging. Anyway the brat is all nervous and turns into a cry baby when it comes to his swimming lessons. (yeah, we decided to start him early, though we think it’s late – but that’s the normal parenting anxiety). All was well for the first couple of weeks but then he suddenly developed this anxiety about swimming. Now every time we reach the centre I can the tension building on his face, the anxiety making its way up from his stomach to his face. Love, anger, threats, treats – nothing works. But I appreciate his guts to enter the pool even when he has cried copious amounts. Last week he just held the bar for the entire class duration. Today, he cried and cried and then cried some more. It started when we entered the changing rooms. His coach has been very patient with him so far, giving him time and not forcing him to do anything against his wish. But today she nudged him and pushed him and enticed him with sharks, ducks and fish toys and made him swim! (thank you God) He seemed to be okay with it. Keeping fingers crossed for the next week.

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Embarrassing your kids is a totally different high! I have only just experienced it. My dad still does it and I still get upset and embarrassed. I take kiddo to a music class every Monday where they are taught instruments, notes and rhythm. At the start of the session, we all stand in a circle and dance to the routine intro song. Most of the times the steps are the same but sometimes the instructor switches them (patting your head instead of your knees etc). So this Monday, we all were standing in a nice big circle and at a point, she changed the steps. I had tuned out and kept doing the wrong step. The brat noticed this and kept nudging me. When I realised what I was doing, I kept doing it and went a step further and did a funny little step complete with facial expressions and hand movements (think Joey’s dance in Friends). The horrified expression on the brat’s face was priceless. There was disbelief and then anger. For me though it was hilarious. Nothing more pleasing than making your kid uncomfortable with a little funny stuff. 🙂 Now I know how my dad feels.

What have I been up to?


I just realised that it’s been a month and I haven’t updated my blog. The in laws are here and we have been super busy. It started with the assault on the senses – with all the Indian delicacies that they got from India. We are still enjoying Summer and the weather in last month has been amazing with many bright sunny days. Princess Street and Royal Mile is buzzing. First things first, food!

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Biryani in the making…all set to be layered

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Layering and adding dry fruits

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Modaks!

We went to the Extreme Stunt show and Shantanu had a great time there with all the tractors crushing cars!

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For the FIL’s birthday we went to a place called Linlithgow. It’s a 15 minute train ride away from Edinburgh.

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There was some wnid but the spot was amazing. 🙂

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There was a canal nearby and on this particular day there was a boat race…not any boat race, but a cardboard boat race. It was very interesting and entertaining. Groups of kids came up with artistically built cardboard boats. It was great fun to see them all toppling over each other.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival deserves a separate post altogether!

Random updates


I have lots to say but can’t pen down a proper post.

So the heatwave in UK. It felt really good a couple of weeks ago to be out without wearing kilos of overcoats! My tops and dresses were finally seeing the sunlight after a long time. Two weeks of warm sunshine and now am miserable. It’s 25° today  and it’s so completely still. I can’t see a single leaf moving. Nothing stirs, not  a single breeze. Weather warnings are issued and then there is the danger of roads closing down if the tarmac melts.

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School’s out and holidays have started. Am busy planning, organising and chauffeuring my son around for play-schemes and summer classes. This is one of the things I like about living abroad. There are multiple activities for kids to enjoy and be occupied with instead of going to movies and malls. I know there are many activities even in India, but commuting here is just so easy and comfortable. It’s also a big relief to know that I can now drop off Shantanu at the classes and he will stay there and enjoy. I dreaded the first day thinking he would cry and wouldn’t stay without me but I guess improved English language has given him quite a confidence boost. Now I get pronunciation lessons from him! It’s a “khaar” now “kaarr” he tells me. And sometimes if am lucky, he even allows me to teach him a few words.

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I have finally taken to housecleaning a bit more seriously. It may have something to do with husband calling it a “kabootarkhana”. But I have a feeling that a new vacuum cleaner, IKEA and shopping (even if it’s storage) may have pushed me off my butt the edge. Shantanu is delighted to know that I can use the vacuum cleaner and he almost fell of the chair when he saw me ironing. The husband, though, is still on the fence and is scared to break this streak of wilderness in me. He is afraid that if he so much as makes a comment, the spell will break and I would be a vegetable again. On a serious note, it was triggered by moth attack, and in no way was I responsible for it.

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I have been reading a lot but have no time to review. Will get back to that now.

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The other day we had a scary seagull incident. A couple of seagull chicks got out of their nests and we moving around in our society’s parking area. Every time someone passed them by, the mother seagull would screech and attack. After watching the scene for some time, we decided to call animal rescue. Sadly, it seems seagulls are not that important to them. They told us to be careful and carry umbrellas when going out. It would take a couple of weeks for the chicks to fly. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait that long. One the second day, we saw the chicks walking on the rooftops. There were no more screeches after that.

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Shantanu had a class picnic before the holidays. We went to Kinghorn beach by train. It was a brilliant day to be outdoors and Shantanu had a lot of fun. This was the first time he put his feet inside water. I had a flashback to the days when I as a kid went to Worli Sea Face. My cousin and I used to have lots of fun in the sand, trying to make castles. The highlight of those trips to the beach wasn’t the water or the sand or even the giant wheel. It was the scooter ride. In those days my dad had a scooter and my uncle didn’t. My parents and us kids used to go on the scooter and my uncle and aunt travelled separately. So my cousin and I took turns standing at the front of the scooter. There was still always a fight and a lot of crying on the way back. 🙂

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It’s been more than a month now to our Paris trip and am still missing it. Never has a city or a place affected me in such a manner. I have resolved to go there once more….sometime! I still have to write an entire post on our Disneyland trip and I don’t know where to start. Five days in Dineyland and it was still not enough. 🙂

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So what’s the update on rains in Mumbai. Last I heard, it was still raining cats and dogs and the potholes are getting bigger. Mumbai does turn into Venice during monsoon.

And how have you all been?