Road Trip: Day Three

We took in the sights around Mysore a bit and then drove to Madikeri in Coorg. Less pictures from the drive this time around since TO was in a *major* snit from being denied a Choco Shot at a place we stopped to refuel ourselves and get some caffeine. Apparently if you deny a child his chocolate, the world explodes in lava and misery and there’s no kernel of joy and hope left anywhere. *rolls eyes*

Take a look at the grandeur of the Mysuru Royal Palace.

Road Trip: Day Two

After spending a fairly cozy night in Bangalore ( I have to remind myself to say Bengaluru; it doesn’t come easy) we started out for Mysore this morning and the road was fantastic! While Google was showing us a shorter option, Red did his due diligence and found a route that was slightly longer but the roads were FAB!

National Highway 75

Most of us, me included, usually talk about corruption in governments or wonder where our tax payer monies are going but once you start traveling by road you’ll see how beautifully the infrastructure has and is coming along across the country.

With plenty of good clean places to eat in along the way, this route is one that has fairly heavy traffic even for a Sunday but given the wide lanes, it’s no difficulty to drive here.

Road Trip: Day One

Red loves to drive. The longer the distance, the better. TO luckily has his spring break starting today…and yes while it *is* a funny concept in Hyderabad where we have Hot, Wet and Cold as the primary seasons; it’s a good opportunity for us to plan getaways.

TO diving into the bag of snacks within minutes of starting from home.

Our destination this time around isn’t Goa. Not yet anyhow, although with us you never know. We just might get a hankering for the pristine beaches of Varca and end up driving there impromptu. Anyhoo…Coorg is where we’re headed in a few days with pitstops at Bangalore and Mysore. Or Bengaluru and Mysuru to be more precise.

We drove leisurely enough, packed to the gills with snacks, comfy clothes and just took in the scenery of hills and undulating plains which merged into flat ones within the blink of an eye.

With stops at good, clean places for breakfast and lunch and being pleasantly surprised at the quality of service, food and overall lack of rusticness, the first leg of the trip’s been just dandy so far. Stay tuned for more from the travel diaries. Ta!

Movie Review: Shang-Chi and The Legend Of the Ten Rings

We have somehow avoided going to the movie theaters even post our vaccination. It just seems like an uphill task to expect the levels of cleanliness and hygiene I’d be comfortable with in these current circumstances. But OTTs rule and we’ve been able to view quite a few of the new movies sitting at home so we’re not entirely missing out on the fun stuff. One movie TO’s been hankering after is Shangi-Chi and when it showed up on Hotstar, there was no reason to delay watching it at all!

This has to be said before anything else- there wasn’t enough of main stream material about other countries and their cultures in the superhero genre of movies. For most of us it meant watching Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li do their thing and maybe be buddied up with a mainstream Hollywood actor for more visibility but Shang-Chi changes that completely. With a near- completely Asian cast, this movie is fun, entertaining and worth a big bowl of popcorn and nachos and you don’t miss out the other Marvel heavy hitters not being around to rescue it.

I don’t do spoilers much so I won’t do that here either. Suffice to say that there’s a battle between good and evil. There are some people who are very good at martial arts and yes, there are mystical creatures. A few unexpected characters do make appearances here and there but they are neither show stoppers or show stealers.

Watch Shang-Chi with your family for the magic that plays out on the screen, for the fluid dance movement-like martial arts and most importantly because its really a fun watch!

Kiss Your Right Bicep!

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

Red is a very good teacher. Primarily because he wants the person he’s teaching anything to, to genuinely learn and enjoy themselves in the process even if it’s something that they didn’t seek out on their own. The prime example of that is the time spent with TO and getting his concepts clear in math. Red will research long and hard and find the best resources which simplify things in such a manner that it doesn’t seem difficult at all for the person trying to learn.

Red is also a very good teacher when it comes to sports. He’s good in tennis and pretty decent in cricket and has spent countless hours tossing the ball back and forth with TO over the years. Thankfully TO hasn’t inherited my spastic movements in any form of athletics; he’s a decent bowler as well and like all young boys, frequently dreams of hitting a BIG one over the boundary and taking his team towards victory in a major tournament!

For our first anniversary, Red and I were vacationing in a lovely waterfront resort which had a pool table. Being slightly clueless even then about the talents of his new wife; Red wanted to play pool and very enthusiastically I might add. After the first few balls left the table, one being airborne enough to nearly give him a lobotomy, he quietly and decisively gave me a book, led me to a pool side lounge chair and left me there to do what I do best- not be athletic in any form.

Photo by Josephine Gasser on Unsplash

This morning, possibly feeling enthused about having started off the year on a good note, Red tried to introduce me to tennis; again. He brought TO along as back-up for when I inevitably failed miserably but still persisted in teaching me the basics which kind of went like this: ” Try to find the sweet spot when hitting“, “wherever your racquet faces, that’s where the ball will go”, “don’t just hit the ball, brush it so it spins and moves better”.

In time his inputs became a bit crisper and to the tune of, “You’re using a racquet, it’s not a dosa pan!” And after a few times of my hitting the ball too high, too far away and once entirely outside the building fence, he told me to “kiss my right bicep“.

I thought that was too meta but I stopped and kissed my right bicep and got an utterly bemused look from him because he had meant that while moving the racquet I should move my right hand so far along that it would align with my face and close enough for me to “kiss my right bicep“. Ohhhhh…the a-ha moment had come in quite a bit late in the game. He did not, at all, intend for me to come to a standstill, turn and kiss my right bicep and ask, “Ok, now what?”

Photo by CARL HUNLEY JR on Unsplash

But you have to give the man props for his optimism. To try and nudge a myopic wife who’d rather be stuck in books all day long, to come and run all over a tennis court so she could develop a bond with the game after 17 years of knowing how bad her hand-eye co-ordination is truly the heights of optimism.

He also had to deal with my, “Oops, I did it again” look every time the ball left the confines of the court and went somewhere unreachable. Of course each time I did hit the ball with a wild swing he still ducked, because while he is optimistic, he certainly is not dumb!

Aftermath of a Movie

We watch one movie as a family every week. We usually do it on Friday nights since it’s a good way to bring in the weekend for TO. And since it’s usually a family movie, we all end up being either parts of “awwww” or “siggghhhs” or just have lots of laugh-out-loud moments.

With TO growing up the focus is moving onto movies which aren’t always in the kiddy genre although this topics are usually not too varying. Just the presentation of it changes from time to time. Last night he chanced upon Pacific Rim after I had nixed all the horror movies as being unsuitable. I had done in thinking about all the what-ifs he gets into when he sees the paranormal stuff apart from the fear which lingers when he sees scary stuff. With Pacific Rim I thought we’re on safe and familiar territory with Kaijus, sea creatures, aliens and people protecting the Earth.

I was W-R-O-N-G. So so so W-R-O-N-G.

He LOVED the movie. He was entertained. Mission accomplished. And then came bedtime. It kind of went like this:

TO– “Ayu, the last one that came out of the Breach…it was that 5 thing right? Me– Yeah, a Category 5 Kaiju (yawns widely). TO: Is there a Category 6 one also (more than a hint of hopefulness in his voice). Me: Baby why don’t YOU draw a Category 6 Kaiju the way you think it should look like TOMORROW. Good night!

TO (even more excitedly): What if that happens…IN REAL LIFE??!! Me: Not going to happen. It was a movie. Got to sleep (does air kisses and none of the kisses connect due to an extremely sleepy mother’s bad hand-eye co-ordination). TO: (wide awake) You don’t know that! It was an INTER-DIMENSIONAL portal Ayu. It could exist!

Me: Look, no portal exists under the Pacific Ocean that will let alien beings from other dimensions come back and attack us. And even if it did, the movie showed us how to defeat them so don’t worry about it. We’re good. TO: I’m not worried! We’re gonna NUKE the suckas! Me: (in my head) DAYUM! That movie choice backfired, didn’t it?”

And the chattering went on till I slept off. I could still hear him going on and going as his voice faded into the distance

(Excerpt taken from one of the seemingly endless conversations between a boy and his mother)

Note to self: NEVER underestimate the power ugly, sea-aliens who spit neon blue acid will have on your child. We’re back to Ninja Turtles.

PS: I also blame the distributors of Deep Blue Sea 2. If your movie was available to stream or rent and not just buy online we’d never back gone to this movie.

Ye Gods…

Be Careful What You Wish For…

My parents shared their good experiences with me by making me a part of them. Places they went to as children or travels they’d enjoyed were recreated with me so I could see what the fun was about. Places they hung out in or eateries they frequented in their youth; I’ve been to quite a few of them and have been able to sample (‘cuse the pun) things for myself.

My mother in particular, watched movies with me which were a part of her childhood- The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins etc. She introduced me to Elvis, the Beatles and of course Rabindra Sangeet- the staple food for the Bangali’s poetic soul. Given that this was the foundation laid for me, why wouldn’t I try and carry out the same with TO as well, right? Guess what? BIG MISTAKE!

I am a person who is deeply-rooted to her memories. I have a very retro-laden soul. I usually fall back on books I’ve read and reread when I need a break from the day to day. I watch movies which have proved to be hits and enjoyable no matter when I watch them. To make a long story short- my experiences associated with things are important to me. Nuff said!

The other day TO was complaining that we aren’t doing enough “family time” when it came to hanging out together and having fun. This came on the heels of us putting an end to screen time for the day. He wanted to kill two birds with one stone and have his digital media fun+have his parents around. Now in the past, us having him choose something for us to watch as a family has usually ended up being movies like The Chipmunks (high-pitched annoying gits)or yet another rerun of the same animated movie. With becoming a tween just around the corner, TO has been chomping at the bit for some “grown-up” stuff aka HORROR!

While we do give him a free hand when it comes to choosing his kiddy material, we are quite restrained when it comes to exposing him to material which is even PG-13. His can’t always compute why people do certain things so it’s easier to let him watch his dinosaur or TNMT which is fairly straightforward and doesn’t need a TED talk for clarity.

When I was his, age my mom and I used to cuddle on the big couch in the living room and watch horror movies which were usually Rated R. My mother would make sure the carnal stuff was fast forwarded or would cover my eyes and then let me watch the blood and gore without any qualms. It wasn’t her fault that the undead serial killers would usually start killing people while they were “at it”. Talk about coitus interruptus! But it boiled down this- I could take the blood and gore and wouldn’t start climbing into bed with my parents because I got scared in the middle of the night by seeing shadows on my wall after Freddy, Jason or Michael had gone on a rampage. To find a middle path with TO, we had to look for movies with some blood and gore but with next to no “adult stuff” so creature movies is what we’re usually left to choose from.

Last night we watched Deep Blue Sea– a favorite of mine since I first watched it during college and possibly after bunking a rather boring class. With DBS I discovered there could be shark movies after Jaws, Thomas Jane was a hottie and LL Cool J was funny.

What happened last night was this- an unending running commentary about who was going to die, why they ought to die, why they shouldn’t mess with sharks and a shout every time there was a remotely loud noise from the screen. This kid killed D.B.S for me! He just took it apart, shredded it and scattered those pieces willy nilly all over the place; never to be put back again. There go my plans of introducing him to Die Hard and Under Siege in due time.

I love my kid but he can’t mess with the classics! I guess we have a long road of Jurassic Park and World reruns in our future before he’s all out of his “special inputs” while the movie runs.

And as for horror movies; they’re permanently on the back burner. Can you imagine watching The Exorcist and having a barrage of questions about why the girl’s head turned back 180 degrees or why she barfed up green vomit or why Michael Meyers never talks or why Jason’s mask rarely comes off?

I can totally imagine being interrogated about why Samara Morgan’s hair is all over her face instead of being brushed over like normal undead killers…gimme a break!

Always Choose An Experience…

For everything else there *is* Mastercard. Or Visa as the case may be.

Let’s start with a bit of a context for this statement to make sense to those it hasn’t. My father’s a career banker. He has hopped all over the country before retirement and taken us with him. And while many don’t like the gypsy life, if you’re born into it; you don’t know any different.

In every place we lived in, local sightseeing spots, some out of the way spots- nothing was left to be explored. And during holidays, we explored places which were doable (7-8 hours in usually a white Ambassador without AC) and that was not only an eminently acceptable way of spending time as a family- it was the norm. No place was left out- religious ones, historical ones, architecturally renowned ones…nothing. As a result, traveling was understood as what “one did” because something was out there and it was meant to be seen.

Haldighaati

After the initial bouts of motion sickness passed, we would sleep turn by turn. My mother would always be very strict about nodding off while sitting next to a driver, those being the days before airbags and seatbelt’s in India, and anyhow who needed to snooze would need to head to the backseat and another person would replace them up front.

If the terrain was unendingly dull and unchanging, I would be asked to play word games or just conk off till we reached the next rest stop. Stocking up on a list of junk food curated by the child was an unheard concept till our generation became parents and the kids became the ones who dictated how the holidays would be spent.

And while having money was an enabler then, is one now and will always continue to be one, the focus wasn’t ever on going to “good places”, staying in a posh hotel or having a pool to jump into at the end of the journey. It was all about the parents opening the eyes of their child to everything they could about the country they lived in because the knowledge could help them in a future geography test. Kidding…

Chhota Imambara, Lucknow

I remember very little about Lucknow- I think I saw it as a toddler. I have vague recollections of seeing goldfish somewhere and my mother said it was in the Chhota Imambara.

When we moved to Delhi, Appu Ghar was a favourite that I got to indulge in infrequently. But we went to Surajkund quite a few times and it was fun for a preschooler!

Surajkund, Faridabad

I remember skipping and jumping on the steps and being told to be careful and not fall into the dirty, stagnant water-yes..that was my mother’s worry. I don’t think she’d have minded a dunking in free-flowing water much.

Trek to the now-visible Shiva temple in Koliyak Beach, Bhavnagar

I have lovely memories of Koliyak in Bhavnagar as an 8 year old and even better ones as a 20 year old on a return trip to the place.

The Queens Botanical Gardens, the Orchid shows, the trips to The World Trade Center, Bronx Aquarium and of course Coney Island were par for course since those are outright sight seeing spots but those have been the kind we visited the least.

We would still hop in the car and take off for whichever river, dam, temple, palace was worth seeing-never mind how far. The further it was just meant the earlier you got out of bed to start off. And over the years indelible memories have been formed at Menal during the monsoons and at Bundi which we just swung by since it was “close by”.

Of course the memories of eating pipping hot mirchi bhajjiyas in the pouring rain, on the side of the road also stands out vividly. Our driver, Chhattarsingh ji used to drive a tank in the army before he retired and joined the bank and the car used to be a toy in his hands. He loved to take us around the different tourists spots and would never say no to a hot cuppa!

Palitana Temple

We’ve done pav-bhaaji picnics sitting near the Mahi River, eaten deliciously unique cold curd set in stone plates after climbing up 7000 steps to the Palitana temple. I’ve travelled through pouring rains on a Kinetic that clearly was more than up to the task to see the Champaner fort and then semi-trekked up to the extremely crowded Pavagadh hills. And it’s all been terribly interesting to say the least!

The ruins of the Narasimha Swamy temple, Hampi

The ruins of Dholavira, the terracotta temples in Bishnupur, the Gol Gumbaz up close, wandering around lazily in Bidar fort, crossing over on the ferry in Hampi and coming face to face with him- cannot be replaced!

Gol Gumbaz, Karnataka

In this year and in the months to come, any sort of travel may seem like an indulgence because of the risks associated with it and yet people will and are stepping out.

They are opting for road trips, choosing their next travel experience with more diligence and curiosity than ever before because traveling was never something that anyone was told they couldn’t do. Staying at home under duress was never a condition we had to wrap our heads around.

So when given the option to indulge- materialistically, gastronomically or whichever -ally it may be…try and choose an experience related to travel. It’ll stay with you always and you’ll be replaying bits and pieces of it in your head over the years to come.

Cannot put a price on that!

Breakfast Conversations On A Sunday

After a slightly longer than usual week where TO tested positive and then negative for Covid; we are back to enjoying family time around the dining table. And it feels great! It’s lovely hearing him prattle along where I can share those amused side-eye glances with Red instead of the three of us being in different parts of the house and staying apart out of necessity.

Everything from triple-decker sandwiches to Elon Musk to mutation gets discussed if TO is game and if Red’s in the mood to indulge in curiosity; which he usually is. I usually eat when I sit at the dining table and my mouth doesn’t open for much else.

Eating Hungry GIF - Eating Hungry Starving - Discover & Share GIFs

Speaking of Mr.Musk, his latest announcement (read it here) was being discussed at the table when TO said it was both illegal and dangerous. When Red tried to tell him how it might be beneficial, TO said he thought people who put things in other peoples’ heads were the “M-word”. He actually said it as the “M-word”.

Now this is where a bit of a backstory is needed. I’m an ok driver. I’m not so much of an ok-curser. I curse. In 3 languages no less depending upon the mood I’m in and SADLY on many of those occasions, an impressionable but thankfully distractible child has been sitting behind me and has absorbed quite a few of those choice words.

Let it be known that the same child still has to be told a million times about where his dirty clothes ought to go or why the sticky peanut buttered-spoon shouldn’t end up on the sofa upholstery but when his mother questions someone’s parentage or expresses her views on where a person can take their turn signal and how far up they can stick it up a body cavity; his ears become like this-

Anyhoo, with TO dropping something akin to a potential A-bomb (for me) at the dining table, Red and I asked him uber casually what he thought the “M-word” was and my heart sprouted wings and flew away when he mouthed the word- MORON.

Thank you Galactic Ameba…I still have more time left before Red dishes out one of these looks at me again-

Johnny English - What Is Wrong With You GIF by MikeyMo | Gfycat

The Throwback Blog Post

I know the references to Corona-impacted travel have been overdone, but with no clarity in sight about future travels, modes of recreation etc people are harking back to the good old days. Sadly for some of us they were just a few months ago. Check out my posts on my last trip here and here.

Social media platforms and photo-sharing sites have cottoned onto the idea of ‘Memories’. What were you doing on this particular day in the past. Say 3 or 4 years ago. And since our smartphones are an extension of our hands these days, most of us were doing a heckuva lot and the pictures speak for themselves.

Our family had taken our first holiday together to the mountains of India. The Kumaon part of the Himalayas to be more specific. TO had done the entire trip via trains and road and was amazed at the amount of things he saw.

A flight ends up having an amount of sameness to it after a point. And so do the actions associated with it. Go to the airport, check-in, keep an eye on the kid to make sure he doesn’t wander off, buy him KFC stuff before boarding all the while promising that yes, once we board, he would still get his Cup O’ Noodles as well and possibly some juice too!

There’s rarely any drama on a flight. Loads of it while traveling by trains and right from the time you enter the railway station. It’s a different kind of world altogether. With everything from livestock to fresh produce to wailing kids to frantic people and in India, usually a yelling patriarch of a family herding everyone in the direction of the train which is about to leave.

Railway stations would make for lovely dioramas I’ve always thought. But enough of that later. Onto our journey and why I woke up feeling nostalgic.

My child has traveled in trains before. With people and prehistoric pets both, he’s not fussy, but he’s not landed in a mess of a station where people are pushing and shoving like it’s their goal in life (aka Nizamuddin in the rains and Delhi people doing what they do best!). Neither has he looked out a window and seen mountain tips in the distance and taken in cleaner, fresher air all around him.

In 2017 we took a very memorable trip to Binsar, Uttarakhand. Red and I had been around the area before but for TO it was really quite an adventure. The poor thing emptied out the contents of his stomach all the way to the resort because of a lengthy diversion we had to take due to some road repairs. And he bore it like a champ. Of course, I defy any child to be like a parrot on steroids after having puked continuously for 3 hours. That he was still semi-bright eyed was good enough for us.

The resort was lovely. With mists hanging off the trees, big-ass monkeys threatening us from disturbing their morning rituals and lush green views of valleys and mountain peaks. The local cuisine was quite different from what we were used to back home but both Red and TO have simple needs- their idea of soul food basically forms the foundation of all Indian meals across the length and breadth of the country.

We stayed in a hut on stilts and I had the camera set up on the tripod the entire time to take pictures of birds and long-tailed ancestors who kept dropping by to steal our food.

TO showed his chops by giving Red and I a thorough drubbing in Monopoly and the three of us cuddled together under the blankets while it rained and turned the whole area a bit gloomy but pretty nonetheless. He did zip lining from a fairly high point and yelled in joy just when he landed safe on his feet. I, with my usual aim and focus, used the rifled to pop balloons but possibly knocked a few leaves off their stalks. You know…the good stuff!

A family trip is rarely without drama. Especially with hyper people like myself in the mix. But every so often we stop to take a breath and look around us and just take it all in. And those moments are what you remember one fine day when you wake up under semi- house arrest and longing to hit the road.

Here’s to better times for everyone. May you have your travel dreams fulfilled!

Check out these links from my Insta feed for some images of our trip: