Just like that!

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“Purani Jeans aur Guitar…” @2003

(Guitar is behind me, Elvis poster and that favorite Jacket my brother gifted)

I was going through old photos to find my marriage pics because my 4 year old wanted to see it. Strangely I was not able to find even a single one in facebook, picasa, flikr or old harddisc, some of the hard disc are corrupt, great discovery of losing all the data that I don’t even remember.

While going through the pics I realized I used to be so happy and bubbly those days, ie before June2006. Happy with friends, happy cooking something in the garden, happy to get a new poster, joyful with kiddoos, happy in cutting moody cakes, making small surprises for friends, decorating the house with handmade stuff on festivals, celebrating nothingness with family, charm of visiting new places, the list goes on. In all this, the point to be noted was, I was wearing good fitted smart clothes but they were not the super high brands or super expensive ones that I wear now. We were going to places but they were not luxury outings that we do now. The car or bike we drove was not BMW high end product. Everything was under budget and normal for a middle class Indian family. But the smile in those pics is getting reflected in the eyes too, the sparkle is visible.  I can feel the smell of those stuff, the new poster in my room, hand painted walls, own designed suits, handmade pond, the turtle in it,  everything. The music, the taste, the smell – All, I can feel!

But for the last 10 years, I feel nothing. The smile was missing when I got promoted, when I got a salary hike, when I drove my BMW, when I went to my dream places like Venice, Zürich, Helsinki, London, Uday Vilas palace, anywhere. When I wear some of the most expensive clothes, watches, perfumes, anything. When I try to play with my kids, mundane chores of the house. The feeling, the memory, the smile, the association is missing. I don’t get sparkles in the eyes nor do I get excited or feel anything. Why? The attachment is gone, the feel is gone, and the depth is gone, lost somewhere, burnt and carried away with the ashes of my brother. Death leaves us buried inside, everything inside dies, am living a pseudo life, a life without meaning, a life without feeling. Just because I have to keep moving, just because I have to keep breathing, just because I have to keep taking care of people near me, people I am responsible for, people who matter to me, people who are my life. It’s scary somewhere deep inside to loose someone again that I am not able to fully attach with my own kids, I don’t feel anything. Neither their success nor their laughter. Because am totally not into it. Deep inside I guess I have this feeling of what if I lose this person, I fear when they go out, I fear when they travel, I even fear when they go to school, what if they will never return, what if this was the last time I talked to them, what if this was the last touch. That ‘what’ keeps me packed inside. I want to feel the fresh air again, the smile again. I want to set free again! But how? How do I come out of this fear? How do I start living again?  How can I be the person I saw in the pics before 2006? I have no idea. Till then I guess the expression, the feeling, the laughter in my life will remain the typical Plastic smile, same in all pics always. Why do I need to publish this, it’s in an impulse. I might not do in after few minutes. Might be accepting it opening will change something. Might be facing it bang on will decrease it somehow. Let’s not judge!

 

Vienna, Austria

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Welcome Vienna – From Helsinki we went to Vienna and then Bratislava, Slovakia. So this write up is in continuation with my last one (Helsinki). Here I will try to cover main points of  our Vienna stay (4-5 days). Below pics, kids are ready to explore Vienna, Bye bye Helsinki, till we visit again.

Reached Vienna airport, from here in that bus to the hotel. Below are the pics of our roof top in  Le Méridien. It gave a beautiful view of the city.

Our tour operator always takes care of good stay in terms of vicinity, food and comfort – Le Méridien Vienna – This hotel with an old-world exterior is a 2-minute walk from the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), an 11-minute walk from the Hofburg Imperial Palace and 1.7 km from Wien Mitte-Landstraße Bahnhof train station. Although we had to wait almost 2 hours for our room due to a big group and they were giving rooms one by one.

Austria’s capital, Vienna is well-known for its cultural events, magnificent sights, coffee houses, wine pubs, and the Viennese charm.

History – Vienna’s history dates back to the first post-Christian century when the Romans established the military camp Vindobona. Today’s cityscape is characterized by the abundance of baroque buildings created mostly under the rule of Empress Maria Theresia and Emperor Franz Joseph, who was largely responsible for the monumental architecture round the Ringstraße .

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Places to See – Schönbrunn Palace – the former summer residence of the imperial family, is one of Europe’s most impressive Baroque palace complexes. The land had been in the possession of the Habsburgs since 1569, when the wife of Emperor Ferdinand II had a summer residence built there in 1642, which she called “Schönbrunn”. The palace and garden complex built here from 1696, after the Turkish occupation, was redesigned from the ground up by Maria Theresia after 1743. For most of the year, the Habsburgs resided in the countless chambers that a large imperial family needed in addition to the formal state rooms.Today, the palace is part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage due to its historic importance, its unique grounds and its splendid furnishings. (www.schoenbrunn.at)

A wedding photo shoot was going on at that time. Below are some of the pics.

Other palaces – Hofburg Palace, Church, museums etc. We did visit a church which had something related to Trinity but I am not able to recall it’s name at present.

The above pics are of our walk near the hotel, we tried to explore the area, Hofburg Palace and surroundings.

From this place we were on our own and almost got lost from the group, we decided to meet at McDonalds over the phone. Unfortunately after walking for more than 5-6 kms also we were not able to locate McDonalds, no one was able to help on the streets (If it would have been India, people would have dropped you to the place by then). Then finally we asked a Tourist Center and they told in the market there are three McDonalds, so which one. Finally we settled for the nearest one and had our much required burgers and coke. The other group had it in their McD! Half day went like this. Later on we realized it was quite near to our hotel. Then in the evening we went to an Indian Restaurant because most of the people in group were used to having Indian food, so I was deprived of trying out Austrian cuisine. Every evening we tried different Indian restaurants.

Above – The Hundertwasser House in Vienna bears the unmistakable hand of the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The Hundertwasserhaus can only be viewed from outside.
Right opposite the Hundertwasserhaus, however, is the Hundertwasser Village, which is open to visitors. It was created out of a tire workshop in 1990-1991. The artist created his own shopping center here with a “village square”, a bar and numerous stores in the typical Hundertwasser style. Below, a lady walking by caught my attention.

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The next day was Guided City tour followed by Private cruise. Later, the other day we went for Art Home, museum of natural history and shopping. The Guide was Chinese and Bus driver Austrian. Driver was very particular about time and from the hotel itself we was angry because people did not turn up on time. Finally, by evening he was literally shouting at us and we had to tell him to leave. So he dropped us in the middle and went, the poor guide tried to cool down things but we were happy without him, so she said she will walk to the hotel which was near the market and we all went for window shopping.

Museum of Fine Arts and the Natural History Museum were built in the Neo-Renaissance style. They not only hold remarkable art and natural possessions, but are also architectural masterpieces.

The Museum of Natural History is among the largest of its kind and one of the most important museums in Europe! They have permanent and special exhibitions, monthly programs, research, planetarium and a place to shop too.
Tuesday: closed

You will need 2-3 days to cover all the exhibits and programs. We had to rush from one room to another to cover each section. I loved the old coin and rocks area and kids liked the Huge animal and space exhibits.

Fine Art Museum – The Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) is one of the most important European museum buildings created in the 19th century. The monumental structure, built as part of the Emperor Franz Joseph I expansion of the city in 1858, was intended to both unite and suitably denote the artistic treasures that had been collected by the Habsburgs over the centuries.
Monday : closed ( and unfortunately it was Monday, so we could not visit)

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Our Private Cruise Dinner –  Normally, the cruise along the Danube River is 3-4 hours and they serve Austrian dishes, but as our group was totally Indian (80 people), we were served Indian buffet-style along with live Music and Belly Dance (not Indian 🙂 . They did try some Shah Rukh Khan songs too but the choice of songs was really pathetic. Hop aboard the boat and off we went for illuminated Vienna night tour. Below are the pics of inside of the boat, kids enjoying the view and in the third pic here, my son trying to search for the dancer he fell in love with.

I guess I was comparing it to Venice or Zurich tours so did not find this a very overwhelming experience but you will experience the city of Vienna from a different perspective.

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Seegrotte Hinterbrühl –The mine stays at the constant temperature of 9C in any weather. For those who forgot to bring their woolens, there are blankets available for renting at a nominal 50 cents. Going under the ground is always fascinating experience. Here you have a chance to visit an old gypsum mine that was flooded.

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They partly filmed ‘The Three Musketeers’ here & the ship was left as a souvenir. During the war it served as a plane parts factory.

An old model is put on display in one of the caves. I did enjoy the tour although it was slightly overpriced at €9. Overall it was an ok, but I feel it’s not worth a second visit. The snacks shop outside is overcrowded cause of long wait to go in the cave, our kids enjoyed ice-cream and chips there.

Before the caves we had gone to the below place, if someone can help me with its name.

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This is the trinity, I was talking about earlier.

 

Our day ended in yet another Indian restaurant, this time punjabi food. Next day early morning we started for Slovakia.

This is somewhere in the middle of Vienna to Bratislava. You are not allowed to eat inside the bus, so when the driver stopped to get fuel and we came out to get fresh air, we all settled down on the side road itself to get our hands dirty in Veg Biryani and Samosas!

My younger one got upset here because he did not get his double share of a chocolate. Finally he was busy with the flowers. Then we started for Bratislava.

P.S.

Hitler –  Seeking a career in the visual arts, Hitler fought bitterly with his father, who wanted him to enter the Habsburg civil service. After his father’s death, Hitler eventually persuaded his mother, Klara Hitler to permit him to pursue his dream to become an artist. As she lay dying of breast cancer in the autumn of 1907, Hitler took the entrance exam to the Vienna Academy of the Arts and failed to gain acceptance. In early 1908, some weeks after Klara’s death in December 1907, Hitler moved to Vienna, ostensibly in the hope of renewing efforts to win acceptance in the Academy of Arts. He lived in Vienna from 1908 to 1913, after which he moved to Munich. Being fascinated by Hitler and in general history, this was also a major attraction for me to visit Vienna.

No farewell yet to Vienna because we came back in the night. But closing this blog here only, will continue about the next place in later write ups. Good day guys!

 

 

 

The story teller

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In India these monkey story tellers used to be common, but now a days they are seen only in folk based restaurants or special events.

I won’t go into the details of right or wrong treatment to the animals in this but unfortunately  this is a vanishing story telling art.

 

 

A home maker

When we have kids, the whole life revolves around them. How to behave, how to react to things , what to eat, where to go, everything. What do we get at the end, nothing.

I left my very rewarding and respected job before my second child was born (5 years back) because in the new city that we shifted I did not have support system to take care of them behind my back. Now after years, am considered a good for nothing home maker who has nothing significant to contribute in anyone’s life. Am the first to get up in the morning, do everything to make life smooth for the family, the last person to sleep, but still most of the people ask – what do you do the whole day? As if angles come and do things by magic.

Forget thankfulness or gratitude, my work is not even recognised by anyone because I am a simple home maker. On the other hand, the bread earner is respected and praised and given his due regards because he is the .. well Male of the house!

A women working and managing home is supposed to be superwoman- handle everything without being tired ever. But she does get a bit of respect because she is working. Home mom is worthless. Why??

Leave your self respect, your life for someone and expect nothing in return. Keep moving, keep doing!!

Is it not pathetic

Helsinki

Helsinki (capital of Finland) has been awarded city of design by UNESCO, is considered most honest and livable city in the world. When I heard we were going to Vienna and Helsinki in summer vacation, I was overjoyed and thrilled. I always prefer less commercial and close to nature places and Helsinki is one of the best cities of Europe (small country of just 5.3 million people). We went by Jet airways from Ahmedabad to Delhi and then to Helsinki.

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Delhi International Airport above to below is the Helsinki Airport

 

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View around Helsinki from the window of our bus taking us from airport to hotel. All sign boards etc have three languages – Finnish, Swedish and English.

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Education
Finnish education is considered one of the best in the world. Our guide gave a lots of details about the languages you need to learn, the way it works their and how they are the best in education in the whole world. Summing it up, it’s definitely worth trying school/college in Finland. There is a near absence of poverty. For residents, school lunch is free, preschool and college are free. Most students are healthy and know three languages (Finnish, Swedish and English). The best and the brightest want to become teachers in Finland. The teachers are given high respect and trust because they make the best human beings out of small kids. They don’t follow quick fixes but believe in strategic and permanent growth.

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Reached our Hotel Kamp –  is a 5-minute walk from shopping in the Market Square, a 6-minute walk from the Ateneum art museum and 2 km from Temppeliaukio Church. Breakfast was complimentary and they have an Asian kitchen also. Food was very good.

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Below – World heritage site – Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage site and popular with tourists and locals. Originally named Sveaborg (Fortress of Svea), or Viapori as called by Finnish-speaking Finns, it was renamed in Finnish to Suomenlinna (Castle of Finland) in 1918 for patriotic and nationalistic reasons, though it is still known by its original name in Sweden and by Swedish-speaking Finns.

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One of the Submarine of World War II time, below is the sleeping beds.  dscf7740

The island is beautiful and you can see people relaxing under the sun. It’s a poets and painters place.

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Helsinki is a food heaven, mostly people prefer local and fresh food. If Japan has sushi, Finland has reindeer meat, which is processed and canned to last for months or even years. Take home a can of this specialty.

Our guide informed that people will not smile or be courteous, be in buses or shop, anywhere, but it’s not considered rude here. There is a level of trust.

Getting Around in Helsinki
The city is walkable and compact. Public transport is good, bus, trams and metro. It’s very economical to travel and goes on trust, so you don’t have to show ticket but if caught will have to pay fine.

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A walk in the market square, buying some souvenirs (Cups in the pic-  the double hole in the handle is for married and one is for  single people )

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Street artist on the corner left. Cycles are very common mode of transport in Finland.

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Wishing locks I guess! Near market square.

We took a private cruise in the evening on Hudson River (from Market Square)

Winter World, Helsinki – Snow attractions and activities are available in any weather. Igloos, ice sculptures, toboggan hill, kick-sledding and tandem skiing. You have to take tickets and some group trips are also arranged. Below are some pics, we had a great time here and it’s a must visit.

We had a great time in winter world and I would love to visit it every year.

Some of the streets, park near our hotel, in the below picture they are preparing the street for some flower decor.

Giant Wheel

A different experience

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Men on wheel

It’s amazing to see these people risk their lives for such things!

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Giant wheel

Mukteshwar – a must visit place!

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When we started from Kathgodam on the curves of the beautiful mountains, it was a breathtaking view. Looking down in the valley made some butterflies dance in my stomach! A never ending smile automatically came on my face and eyes were getting such a delightful view that I was not ready to miss out a single moment!!

Enclosed by fruit orchards and thick coniferous forest, Mukteshwar was developed by the British as research and education institute (IVRI) in 1893. It owes much of its current day standing to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, which possesses a large part of the land and most of the deep forests that surround Mukteshwar.

Getting there: Mukteshwar is 350 km from Delhi,India, a drive of about 8-9 hours via Nainital, 53 km or Haldwani, 49 km. The nearest railhead is at Kathgodam, 72 km, from where buses and taxis are available for Mukteshwar.

Best time: Mukteshwar is a year-round holiday destination. Rainy months can be avoided.

Accommodation: KMVN has a tourist bungalow and there is a District Board guesthouse midway to Nainital where you can stay with permits. Other than this, deluxe cottages, luxury tents and rooms are available at an up-market resort – tariffs start at Rs1550 to Rs3800 for a double room (this rate is few years back when we went). Mukteshwar Himalayan Restort is in collabration with KMVN and GMVN (deluxe double room – 1400/-)

Route:Delhi – Moradabad – Haldwani – Bhimtal – Bhowali – Ramgarh – Mukteshwar.
Rail: Kathgodam (72 km).
Air: Pantnagar (95 km).

Places of interest:
Nainital (46 km), Bhimtal (38 km), Naukuchiatal (43 km), Ranikhet (85 km), Binsar (85 km).

Bheemtal, Side view of Nanital, Pine tress, wild flowers and there magical fregrance. All welcomed us to the Mountians with open arms!! As if saying – come and embarase me with all your strenght, take a dip in my beauty and get refreshed and relaxed!

After a one hour drive we reached Mukteshwar Himalayan Resort. Frankly speaking after depositing the advance amount online without seeing or having any idea of the resort we were a bit skeptical, but a single view of the place made us relaxed! The green hills, a view of the valley down and the high mountains, somewhere behind them was the mighty Himalaya peaks but were not visible in this season.

It’s said that this gives a divine view of the Himalayas, the 6596 m high Neelkantha (Blue-throated Shiva), the 7120 m Trishul (Shiva’s Trident), Nanadadevi, 7817 m (Goddess of Bliss), Nanadaghunti 6310 m (the Veil of the Goddess) and the five-pronged chimneys of the Panchuli peaks

Resort rooms were very comfortable, some people started with the TT round, the food area, balcony from our room, a small temple, play area, beautiful trees loaded with apple and regional fruits were creating a magical feeling.

After having breakfast we discussed with the management of the options available, one was to get in touch with Camp Purple guys who will take us for tracking (450/- per person), rock climbing, and some water activities. Other option was that this guy here will take us for site seeing and forest walk. We settled for the second option. Ordered a cab which would take us to Mukteshwar Mahadev temple which was 7 km (cab took 400/- for this) from here and we could explore other things around.

Till then we were escorted for a forest walk to the near by hill, as soon as we started climbing, the enchanting music of pine trees created by high wind gave us a feeling of – “If there is heaven, it’s here and here alone!” From the top we could see the small wooden and stone houses and the huge potato plantations with other orchids. After spending some time with mother nature we came to the waiting cab.

With all due respect to old music, I prefer fast tracks. But the driver had put typical mountain songs which actually mixed well with the situation at that time, speedy curves and deep down valley. Finally in 20 min we reached the temple. The entire region and mountain ranges are known as “Mukteshwar” after “Mukteshwar Mahadev”. Pilgrims and tourist alike in order to have breath taking view of the valley and stunning view of snow capped Himalayan peaks, make it a point to visit the temple. A few seconds spent in and around temple premises gives a divine spiritual peace and at the same time exotic view of lush green forests
After having some conversion with Shiva, I started admiring the bells there of all the prayers people come with …praying silently to HIM! From there we got a good view of the Chauthi Jali, our next destination.

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A school on the way to Chauthi Jali …….


It was a small walk to the rocks,Chauthi Jali, awesome! Rocks were cutting out at a bizarre angle, as if every step trying to peep down to the breathtaking view of the valley. There were some group of people trying the ROCK Climbing exercise, which was a very interesting view. They were taken to a very small distance but I think that would be good way down for a starter, I couldn’t try my hands on it due to back problem, but could feel the adventure in those who were going up and down with the rope tied around them.

We stayed there and watched some good rockers!! Then we had a good walk to the KVM guest house where our guide had promised for lunch. Again set out for a curved ride from temple to the resort, in between stopping at a Chocolate Coffee shop buying some yummy chocolates for my son. After having grand lunch n tea, it was 6.30 pm and our guide friend tried to cajole us to go for the waterfall walk next morning. We insisted of going for the 4km (total 8) right that moment. So they took two torches with them and we started departing down the slop crossing the potato and paddy plantations taking a short cut rather then a simple walk on the road. The small apples, khumani, and other fruits gave a wonderful view, specially the green, brown, golden shades of Pine trees are beyond explanation.

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The walk was a great experience in itself and we were told beforehand that it was a small waterfall (the larger one was 9km away, not making it possible for a walk that day), after going up and down the area, crossing a small stream of water, the road was hardly visible and we came to a point where he told us to walk down to the waterfall.I had to get rid of my shoes cauz they were slippery on the in between soil …with the help of tresses and strong grips… we finally could hear the music of water falling on stones….the small local kid with us who was carrying a torch …jumped on the rocks to a point where he fixed the light in such a way that it created a magical effect on the falling water over the stones….he demonstrated us a beautiful lighting show……in the moonlight where all the stars were really twinkling (not like our cities) and we could hear the unadulterated melody of wind water n rocks….it was a moment to be cherished….clicked forever in the memory lane.

We were reminded of the walk back …and so started the battle again, don’t know about others but I was worn out …took 4-5 stops on the road and instead of the danger of night and no lighting, we took the shortcut only to stay away from the loooooong walk….njoying antakshari on the route back ….oldies …which made it difficult for a friend to join in cauz of her limited knowledge of Bollywood music.

Finally when we climbed the last rock to land on the road near our resort, we were so exhausted that we lied down on the road itself,watching the stars. A beep from a coming vehicle forced us to go back to the garden where we were treated with a local fruit juice – Burans! It is a State flower of Uttaranchal state. It grows at a height of 6-7 thousand feet. In Uttaranchal and Himanchal Pradesh, BURANSH QUASHES is a popular drink, whereas in Darjeeling it”s dried flower are used to prepare Roksy, a traditional wine. Fresh BURANSH is an eatable item for local people. Medical Science now accepts the fact that BURANSH SQUASHES is useful in treatment of Cardiac-problems, High blood Pressure, Asthma etc. BURANSH SQUASHES is an effective cold drink. It is a unique gift of the Himalayas. (Red Flower in the middle in these pictures)

After a yummy dinner we all settled for indoor games and then finally dropped dead to sleep . Next morning we had plans to explore Nanital.


Morning views of Mukteshwar before leaving for Nanital. A a promise in the heart to come and spend more time in next visit!!!

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Miles to go!!!