Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Europe Calling!

2014 has been tough. Dealing with the departure of loved ones never happens. Perhaps it takes a lifetime. There were some sparkles of joy amid the tough times. The European vacation was one such breath of fresh air. I am writing this post to keep an account of the fact that we made our first trip to Europe in 2014.

Trinity College, University of Oxford
We travelled to three destinations – London, Paris, and Switzerland over 13 days. Thanks to Kesari Travels for organizing such a wonderful tour and sending such an amazing tour manager like Mr. Kedar Billay with us. My mom always wanted to visit Switzerland and she was thrilled when we reached her dream destination. My husband on the other hand wanted to spend time loitering around the streets of Paris. He did it too. And I had my heart set on London - especially as I wanted to visit the University of Oxford.  Done :)
Inside Louvre Museum, Paris
Though it is difficult to choose between any of the three destinations, I would say I loved Switzerland the most. It may be because we spent the maximum number of days there.
While the Trafalgar Square in London is amazing and nothing beats the Paris Eiffel tower, Switzerland is like a dream. Heaven. I haven’t been to Kashmir but now I know what they call it the Kashmir of Europe. 

While we were on a cruise on Lake Geneva, the tour guide told us an interesting story that left me in awe. Am sure aspiring authors would be inspired by this story.
Lake Geneva, Switzerland
Story synopsis: Sometime in the 19th century, the famous P.B Shelley and his wife Mary were on a holiday with Lord Byron and his wife in Villa Diodati, near Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The weather was too stormy and none of them could go for any outdoor activity. Since they had no option but to stay inside the house, Lord Byron suggested that to keep boredom at bay, each of them write a horror story.  Nobody took Mary seriously as she was a novice amid the great literary stalwarts. Mary was just 19 and took up the challenge to pen her story on that rainy night.

Guess what story she came up with? She created Frankenstein. The rest is history.

Jungfraujoch, Switzerland
Surprisingly, all through this trip, I had my favourite author Paulo Coelho's new book 'Adultery' in mind. When will I get to read it, would it be better than his previous books... I had been wondering. The book had not yet been released in India at that time. I knew I would pick it up as soon as I was back in Mumbai. When I finally got hold of the book a couple of weeks back, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story is set in Geneva! Coelho also mentions about Mary Shelley and Frankenstein in this book!! Besides, currently, Coelho is residing in Geneva! It was a wonderful connect though I was a little upset that I didn't know he was in Geneva when I visited. I feel good thinking I breathed the same air he did for a day at least. Simple joys of life :)

I have to go back to Europe again – to explore the English countryside and spend some more time in London and Paris. Besides, I have always wanted to visit Eastern Europe. I want to travel there, live there, and just enjoy the coffee there.
Till then, I wish all my friends a Happy Mahalaya and a wonderfully fulfilling Durga Puja. May all your dreams come true. Stay blessed.

Monday, September 8, 2014

My Friend Ganesha!

Ever since childhood, I have been fond of God even though I am not particularly religious.
As a child, my favorite Goddess was Saraswati. Fasting for the Saraswati Puja every year used to be very exciting. It hardly had a religious connotation. I would get to wear a sari, have yummy narkel kul and topa kul (perhaps called Jujube fruit in English), and use doat- kolom to write the Saraswati mantra on coconut leaf. The best thing about Saraswati puja was that by 8 am the puja would be completed and so the fasting ended too! We could have as much kul as we wanted along with sweets galore. And yes, we were not supposed to study on Saraswati Puja...one more reason why that day was extra-special :). Goddess Saraswati has a veena (multi-string instrument) in her hand. Since I love music, I was automatically her fan.

Next, I was mesmerized by Jesus Christ. This may be the impact of spending too many years in a missionary school and college. But there is a certain aura about Christ that appeals to me all the time. Besides, churches and chapels have a calming effect which I enjoy. In my teens, I would buy pictures of Christ, as I would buy of Sachin Tendulkar and Salman Khan. I loved wearing a cross round my neck too. Jesus is symbolic of true love, peace, and compassion.
Thirdly, of course Loknath Baba. I learned about him from my father when I was in Class IV, I think. In Class VII, during my P.T class, one day, my sports shoes were not washed. I had completely forgotten to clean them the night before. In the morning, all I could do was paint some chalk on the unruly pair. It was almost like applying face powder on a black shoe. Our teachers were extremely strict when it came to snow-white sports shoes. I was very scared. When my teacher came for inspection, we were all standing in a row in ‘attention’ position. The girl standing next to me had dirty shoes and was sent for detention. I had kept my eyes shut and was constantly praying to Loknath Baba to save me J. And yes, it was a miracle! The teacher did not notice my unwashed shoes! She moved on to the end of the line and caught two more girls. Ever since that day, Loknath Baba is a family member. He didn’t come to my rescue during my Maths exams though! He asked me to help myself :p.
I don’t know how and when Ganesha happened. It certainly has a Mumbai connection. In Kolkata, in our puja room, my mother has several Ganesha idols. My favorite is a pristine white Ganpati. Mom usually drapes a green or golden silk scarf around him. He looks simple, yet gorgeous. He used to be pampered the most during Poila Boishakh (Bengali New Year) celebrations at home.

After shifting to Mumbai, I witnessed a lot more celebrations around Ganeshji compared to Kolkata. Today being the final Ganpati visarjan day (Immersion ceremony), I thought of writing this post. My fondness for Ganesha has grown a lot after I moved to Mumbai. Ganesha has an endearing personality and is more like a friend than God. He always seems so content with himself, perhaps that is the trait I admire the most. In my ex-office, there is a very elegant and cute little Ganpati that brightens our workplace. For years, I loved offering flowers to that Ganpati every morning. Simple things bring such unprecedented joy! After I left IBM, I miss that. But I know my friend Ganesha will always be by my side.
Happy Ganpati to everyone!