Hey Canada (book)

Way back in Spring (it does seem like way back, now that I think about it) I came across a tweet from Tundra Books on the new hey Canada book that they were publishing.

I love new places and any pertaining literature is a great read! Plus, it was a children’s book. Plus it was illustrated. Plus it was a grand old looking grandma taking her two grandkids on a tour of Canada. That was history, geography and literature all combined. I signed up at the blogpage right away!

After a few weeks, I got the book and was readily impressed.


With colorful pictures, illustrations and printed on thick yet fine glossy paper, and just the right number of chapters to keep and hold the attention of children, the book was an easy read.

The book starts off with a colorful double-page spread of Canada (broken down into its provinces by color) and the route that readers would take along with the characters, complete with arrows and names of the cities that they touch.

The characters Cal and Alice are an absolute delight, not to mention grandma dear who runs a tight ship with the right amount of humor and fun in her tour.

I loved the “find it” feature that Gran gives the children as they enter each province. Loved the perfect way to keep the kids engaged on a tour by giving them something to look out for and sharpen observation skills, and ultimately encouraging learning.

Cal’s tweets are cute as he tweets facts out at each province, on the stuff that you should stay away from and the like. You can follow Cal here if you’d like.

There is a cartoon strip that Cal features in, called the Cal’s Historical U-turn:

A neat book that all early readers on would enjoy being read to and read by themselves. Gives a wonderful snapshot of Canada. A good addition to the Travel genre on the bookshelf, and even to read just before traveling to any part of Canada.


Book: Hey Canada

Author: Vivien Bowers

Illustrator: Milan Pavlovic 

Publishers: Tundra Books

plan B

It’s a few months now that we own a Nikon d60. It’s made a complete shameless brag out of me. Strangely, I am perfectly alright with what I’ve become. After clicking pictures and letting everyone and their second cousin know that am ‘oh-so-cool’ with my new toy in this part of the world, I did what emperors have been doing from ages. I moved on to conquer the next territory.

Read: I armed myself (and since am not the kind that cares for how many gapers or shocked expressions I leave behind) and clicked away in the streets of India.

Then Murphy’s law intervened. The card went full. I smugly fished for the other 20GB chip the husband thoughtfully slipped in. Couldn’t find it. Yeah. I didn’t bring that particular camera case with me to Bangalore, which is where I made my discovery. It  was Sunday and since I was so dependent on others to schlep me around, I settled to empty the 222 raw files onto my friend’s laptop. CD’s suddenly became scarce and I couldn’t buy me a stick. So I left with the promise that I’d get those couriered out to me in the next day or so.

I come down to Madras only to see the battery dying on me. Don’t ask and I won’t tell about the circus that happened with regards to having to (not) charging it. Some tried to help but long story short therein ended my snapping adventures, 3 days left to leave for home.

In the meanwhile the 222 beauties were sitting pretty where they were. In Bangalore. The friend was busy and understandably so and here I was panicking as I was leaving the country in 2 days!  I couldn’t possibly leave my babies back there! panicking, I thought of my Plan B.

Occasionally, I congratulate myself on the Plan B’s of life that I inherently have sketched out at the back of my sub-conscious. The plan B’s are the ones that always seem to have a foolproof success rate when called upon. So I racked my brains on what kind of plan I had to have in mind while sitting on a very noisy Shatabdi, and hey presto one brewed itself up right in front of my eyes. Worse case scenario was that someone had to travel physically over to one end of the town, copy the pictures, and then send them out to me.

Praveen was a blessing in disguise. He made time, hauled himself through an hour’s ride through a weekday traffic, spent time copying the pictures then spent another fair hour to hand them over to Ferrari who was coming down to Madras anyway next day. Ferrari in his part, went a step ahead and instead of sitting back with wife and family, and letting me search him down (after all the pictures were mine and he was doing ME a favor), he hunted my place with the crazy directions I gave him, drove down and in a 10 second Jack in the box play handed it over (like a secret service agent handing flaming information on a thumb drive) and went back to his day.

I hate having to ask favors of people however close they are, but desperation of a new photographer in me had to try. Frankly, neither of them had to do it, and they could have very well turned me down, real lives being so busy and all.  They owed me nothing. Yet, they made time and took the initiative to do it. It speaks volumes of the people they are and am thrilled and humbled to know them.

(Of course I didn’t say it and you didn’t read the fact that I actually threatened Praveen and whined and appealed to the pro-photographer Prabhu before they agreed to do this for me. Okay? Okay.)

Most were personal family pictures and hence not on display, but do check out the few pictures – India 09 – I salvaged from the set. Come back and let me know? :-)

Color me

Color me

ps: incidentally, I have a HUGE respect for photographers in India, completely blown away for their capacity to make sense of a shot with so much noise (cam-speak, not literal decibel noise) around! Amazing folks, totally!

IST again

IST = Indian Standard Time. The time by which Indians go on with their lives. Runs at a minimum of 30 minutes beyond the time zone that one lives in.

Can I just go back to my deep roots and claim IST and blame it on work, work and more work for this delayed post? :-) (Oh okay, Ive been tweeting a bit, and if you aren’t on there yet, you should, coz well, most of the world is out there from NASA to the county govt schools, to SRK to Ben Stiller to Chitra Banerjee, (who’s incidentally following me! yes, my moment of bragging and am gonna brag coz well, it’s my blog, so there! :p), but hey, tweets take less than a minute and posts take umm.. an hour?)

So am forgiven? Good, thank you!

So as some guessed and others knew for a fact, I’ve been away in India, mid-April for a couple of weeks. This is probably the longest I’ve stayed away from my blog, without the hugest urge to write in it despite having enough to write on. Yet, there was a bit of guilt that hung around me along with the heat, traffic and the sweat. It gnawed enough at me so much so that I wrote the last post on a borrowed neighbors’ laptop, sitting in an open terrace under a thatched roof braving the bright light, heat, grime, the sounds of autos and bikes whirring their way in and out edged with the incessant barking of a dog no one cared for. The things one does when something dear to their heart becomes a part of their life.

This blog is and will always be my baby. One that you nurture, talk to, listen through the silence it offers, the words it forms by its own and a reflection of the kind of person one has traveled though. I don’t really read through my archives very much, but occasionally some post, thought, word or event would pop up and I’d most likely than not surprise myself and wear a smile of reflection or pleasure when the memory comes washing over. Yes, there’s been an occasional tear too, more of a melancholy than of sadness, most definitely.

Flying down, the only over weight luggage I paid with my pensive thoughts was for my heavy heart. Real life has its challenges and drains, and no matter how strong and relentless and resourceful a person is, occasionally there are moments of lag, moments when the guard is down. Being consumed was just a matter of time, not to go completely under but just to take a breather and come back up again vigilant and energized. Something like the last straw on the camel’s back. Loads are meant to be shed after they have borne their dues.

After spending 16 days away, flying back up, I compensated for my light, laughing heart by bringing in an extra suitcase with me. Yes, we believe in keeping the balance in this world, in all avenues and forms. With the purpose of the trip resolved and taken care of, the last few days provided me what I craved and needed most.

Ladies, boys, gentlemen and girls, childhood buddies, acquaintances that turned into confidants, college friends renewing bonds differently, cousins who became friends and blogger pals reaching across the medium.

Incidentally, I got teased on the schedule I live by on the refrigerator, to the conservative salwars I wore, to the fact that I still cook every night, to the fact that my fingers look the same since 20 years ago, to the way I apparently roll my R’s (I so do not!!).

Conversations ranged from toothy woes to surprise pregnancies, to behind the camera shooting to cricket palooza, to customs across oceans, to how much each of us have changed to the children’s achievements, to hairstyles to jewelry, to blogs and their owners, the ones who touch us to the ones who scorch, to the literary art that one takes for granted to the flow of words that inspire and tickle us, to the medium that binds us all, to the years that flew by, to the grayness at our temples, to the wide womanly hips our children gave us. To the SMS’ that puzzled me to the voices on the phone that didn’t match the words they scripted online, to the jokes that I didn’t get to the ones that made me laugh and giggle like a teenager again.

From the ‘omigosh Really?’ to ‘Yes, can you believe that?’, to the simplicity that bonds us all in our thoughts, to the devious scheming ways the world hands us, to the lessons we learn, to the ambitions we create and chase, to the warm hugs of care and camaraderie to the crows feet that formed while parting, to receding hunched backs and the waves before the handshakes, and the grins that said more than words could.

…and that’s how I gathered little gems:

From the sedate precocious Ravages who took time off his intensely busy schedule to make lunch with the “visiting royalty” as he teased me, I picked up wisdom and laughter in his soft tones.

Lakshmi brought a quietness with her that made me want to go back to the shy, quiet person I once was. I think I scared her away with my bear hug and incessant chatter, and I secretly suspect she got her husband to do the rescue call (quite like the one where you get a friend to call you when on a blind date?). Okay, I kid, the poor girl had to go home and play mommy, but am I glad she made it and we did meet!

Terri is poise personified. The anxiousness I faced briefly as I walked up the mud path, disappeared as I settled down and chatted like I would with girlfriends I’ve known awhile. Two hours flew by with talks that I now recollect as flowing, casual and smooth. A delightful evening that would stay ong with me.

I found warmth and an affection in Praveen that I am yet to feel in any of my (cousin) brothers. A truly wonderful evening that I laughed through despite the long day.

Usha made me realize what once again, how unlucky it is to be the first-born. I could so adopt her as my older sister and that would just make my second wish come true. Down to earth and with a ready smile, hugging her felt just right.

Shaking hands with Vijay and then sitting down to have the most tasty pav bhaji I’ve ever had, time flew as we talked like buddies. To the ease at which I could speak my mind and the complete confidence that he bestowed me, a wonderful guy who planned and drove me to different corners of crazy Bangalore. Taking care comes easy to him.

Nikhil’s probably the only Indian left on earth who actually says a time and then lives by it. He said 11 am and there was my decrepit cell phone blaring away on the dot! A pity we couldn’t meet, but boy, am I impressed!

The most surprising and a fine time spent was with Anand. Thank the useless Bandh (oh ok, if the bandh didn’t happen, he wouldn’t have been in town!), Anand suddenly showed up in town and we finally spent a stolen couple of hours talking about movies, art and literature the way we see it. A conversation that encouraged and brought back the last ounce of faith that I needed. Memorable indeed.

Rambodoc of course is more strict and scary on the phone than on his blog. What? You don’t believe me? Well, you shouldn’t coz I kid! The man actually laughs. Then he actually is patient and listens to me prattle on and on. Of course it comes with the territory, but yea, it was actually fun (yes, I laughed) to get to talk to him a couple of times before I left.

Gradwolf, Idling in top gear were a pleasant company. The poor chaps waited patiently for me while I navigated autos, traffic, lost keys and munchkin, and made it just in time to see Lavs receding back complete in tow with her grandma! I actually wrote this nice post on their request, which they now somehow chalk it to not being up to the mark to post on their blog, and didn’t post it!! *sigh. Kids these days and the panga they maar. Anyways, gradwolf’s like this precocious kid you hated while back in school. The one who made the fun you feel like you’re being a jackass and a brat and make you look bad coz they were very very good? Yeah. That sweet he is. (chamathu for tam-speak). Idling of course is like the next Sun-TV hero that they weren’t lucky enough to have. If I were even a few years younger I’d have stared at him through the ice cream and would have promptly borrowed a laptop and added him as my friend on facebook and then write non-stop on his wall or poked him forever, so fb’s servers couldn’t accomodate any other girl’s pokes or wall whatevers. Then again, am a maami, so I shutup and behaved, and took a picture with him. Who knows where he’d go in the next few years?

Sathya of course was completely chicken to meet me alone and so dragged his buddy Aravind along. Spent an excrutiating half an hour, when they (the locals) tried finding me (the visitor), this despite me the “under the bridge, if u are coming from panagal park, keep looking left, if you see Saravana Stores, turn immediately right and you’ll see a maami in a black salwar eating panju mutai and that maami is me” – kinda directions, they still managed to overshoot past me and make the panju mutai guy feel sorry for me and hand me more directions to pass on. In any case, so Sathya still worries that just two youngsters are still no match for this maami’s scaredy looks and talks and so tweets and invites the whole town to this Kerala restaurant. Long story short, me the maami, was completely made to feel like a teenager listening to the group’s laughter and teases. They of course think I was uncomfortable and all that, but am not telling them I went back in time and thoroughly enjoyed the lunch. …that’s where I picked up my lost laughter again.

Good day Sunshine is surely a bright radiating sun’s ray, with her tinkling laugh and her patient understanding of my crazy schedule. Too bad we couldn’t meet, maybe one day. :-)

Ferrari was like 10-second dignitary that does naam ke vaste visits. “oh hello, how are you. doing well? yes, so am I. Now I go. See you later.” Then again, that is pretty much how newly maried men behave when the wife’s given strict orders on how the day’s schedule goes. :-) Jokes apart, he came through for me with amazing steadfastness, wilingness and goodwill.  More on his 10 second cameo later!

..and then there were more:

To my high school friends who didn’t recognize me but remembered me for my laugh (which I went in search of) and the joie de vivre that I believe I still hold, it was awesome shocking the heck out of your faces when i said I had three children. I know, am cuckoo! :-)

To my childhood buddies – SCA and Deej – who scraped through their busy schedules to pick me up, and take me out and sit down to a fine lunch while they of course had a fine field day teasing me while I sat there playing a spoilt brat sulking, a big thank you. You guys rock!

To my college friend Kavi and husband who put me up despite her crazy home building and construction work and cooked me a delicious lunch when I landed and for indulging my trigger happy fingers and taking me to some nice spots, thanks girl! :-)

To a childhood acquaintance VS who’s turned into a quiet sober friend I can say just about anything and not be judged, to be there for me without saying a word, thank you!

..and to the most important people in my life: My children and my husband who managed without me for the period of time. For being diligent, behaved and responsible without a single whine and create trouble in their usual self. To the husband whom I’ve missed immensely and who has only risen in my eyes in his own quiet way.

It’s simply great to be back home.


It’s indeed a blessing and a fortune to spend time with folks who want to spend their time with you. Makes me reflect for just a moment on something that shouldn’t have happened ages ago. Oh well… You win some, you lose some. I think I’ve won qualitatively a lot more than Ive lost, if at all I have.

So, as you’ve guessed by now, my mojo is what I brought back snuck into an extra suitcase that I paid for with my time, smiles and the bounce in my step. Worth it all eh?

les fleurs de bruxelles

My love for the country and the city is no secret. All I need is an excuse to talk about it, and I do so with gusto, happiness and thrill that’s palpable (as am told) in my words.

When a friend who disappears on me for long periods of time, remembers this little quirk of mine, and sends me these images, they ring precious, thoughtful, and well, poignant. This couldn’t have been timed any more perfect and the big grin on my face says “thank you”!




Grand Place – Center of the city becomes vibrant every alternate year for their August 15th celebrations. Last I saw them was in 1996, and there’s a picture of a very pregnant me holding my one year old daughter atop the City hall looking down at the colors, from the spot I’ve marked. The memory of it came rushing back as I saw these this morning in my inbox and well, what can I say, my heart’s been singing since.

I certainly am blessed! Enjoy!