Of Autobots and Alien invasion – Part 1

Venue: Somewhere on earth
Time: Early morning

The following happens to you when you binge-watch Transformers and alien invasion movies before bed.

Scene 1:

It was dawn. The golden hour looked perfect. The room was pretty basic – a wooden bed, table lined with a white tablecloth, chair, and my husband, N, sleeping beside me. I look at my fancy watch for the time – 6:00 AM. This is weird because I have grown out of any kind of accessory, and wearing a watch overnight seems unlikely. I woke up and walked toward the bedroom door.

I was on the first floor. The house was made of black rocks – more like a wada. The pillars were beautifully carved like the ones in temples. All the rooms were connected by a corridor that overlooked the chowk/courtyard. Our courtyard had tulsi, a bunch of other herbs, and two Autobots (of course). Let’s call them Bee and Dragon for now. They looked comfortable. Surprisingly, my dream-self felt that herbs and alien-transformers in the courtyard were normal. Weird. As I descended the stairs, I saw my in-laws. Excellent life choice to have everyone under the (same) roof guarded by the transformers!

Scene 2:

All the family members gathered in the courtyard. N and I had been entrusted with the responsibility to go out and buy supplies (for the foreseeable future) that day. Okay, this means going out all the time was not routine. It was not related to the pandemic.

We walked on a surreal landscape. The road was more like a vast ground lined by dense forests on both sides. A fleet of jets continued to land at a distance. The sky was lined with huge spheres made from hexagonal glass-like structures. Fancy but scary. They were the extra-terrestrial beings about to attack earth. Apparently, our town/city was at the center of the attack. Fun. The month-long supplies, transformers in the courtyard, and the unending queue of fighter jets made sense then. A war was about to begin.

I panicked. I frantically started checking my phone and smartwatch for any ’emergency’ warnings from the government. I begged N to return home. He said he would go ahead and buy the supplies all by himself, and I could return home if I was scared. I was so proud of him at that moment! So brave! There were no emergency warnings yet – we still had enough time to get things done. We got all the supplies.

Scene 3:

The sun had set. The war was about to begin. The vulnerable population – population older than 60 and younger than 18, differently-abled, and a few war-volunteers had been transported to safe bunkers. I was amazed by the technological advancements we had – 

  1. Smartwatch – Everyone wore a watch that was almost imbibed in their body and connected to the pulse. The smartwatch was a fit-bit, phone, communication device, and teleportation device. If you were hurt and needed medical help, you could simply teleport yourself to the nearest designated medical bunker. You would then be transported to your assigned bunker, where you would reside till the end of the war – months, years, or decades.
  2. Bunkers – The bunkers were of different kinds – medical bunkers, temporary holding bunkers, permanent bunkers, etc. The permanent bunkers were in deep seas for safety reasons! Of course, there was a central bunker that would co-ordinate with all bunkers for better/worse. All bunkers were equipped with technology and supplies to last for a few years. Bunkers were used only in catastrophic events.
  3. Ammunition – Civilians fought alongside the Autobots and super soldiers of the earth! You could buy the arsenal at random auto-repair shops. Had the earth become so vulnerable to attacks from the outer world that auto-repair stores sold weapons of mass destruction? We went to an auto repair shop to buy more bullets! There is a sentence that I never thought I would ever write/say/think about in my life. The salesman tried to sell us deadlier weapons with a sales pitch. I was in a shady auto repair shop at midnight, in the middle of a forest, where my husband was testing his new gun. What had I gotten myself into, even if it were in my dreams! 

I heard loud thumping noises. The war had started. I opened my eyes. It was N. He was thumping his keyboard. The laptop had ceased working. 

This is it. The aliens are coming, and they have taken over a scientist’s laptop, to begin with. 

More to come.

#lessonsOfLife 2020: A blessing in disguise

I apologize for interrupting the travelogue to write this customary year-end #lessonsOfLife series. Of course, this year has been unprecedented. No clue if anyone saw it coming.
Date: 01/02/2021

12:00 AM: A teardrop rolled down my cheek. Tony was no more. I lost it. I looked at the boys and said, “I can’t believe this is happening! What do you mean by Iron man dies at the end of the End game?!”
The boys and I had been binge-watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon over the past week or so. The year ended with Avengers: Endgame. The order of the movies is as below. Yes, we watched all 22-23 of them with full concentration. We ace all Marvel universe related quizzes now.

12:20 AM: We are another glass of wine down. I find it difficult to digest the fact that Iron Man will cease to exist in the universe going forward. I’d found him the coolest.
We open the sofa chaise to take out the bedding. The screws had fallen. I am sorry, but we just brought you home! How can something so new go bad so quickly?!

12:30 AM: N was inside the chaise with an electric drill and a bunch of screws. Ankit and I took turns to hold up the chaise and run for supplies.
It was 12:30 AM. It was a new year, a new beginning, and a new blah blah! This was not supposed to happen. Ordinarily, I would have been too busy dancing away the new year’s night with my loved ones for the sofa chaise to go wrong. Welcome to adulthood, I thought.
We installed a quick fix and moved on with our lives. If that is any indication of how the rest of the year is going to be.
Hoping the AFW guy comes soon enough to fix it. I am still sitting on the same sofa chaise to write this post btw.

1:00 AM: I reflected on the past year. In hindsight, 2020 has been a blessing in disguise for me.

  1. The arranged marriage train had finally stopped at the Baroda junction, and we’d tied the knot. 2020 marks the first complete year of us being married. Of course, long-distance was very difficult – the time difference, the yearning, the missing, the misunderstandings, the arguments, the love. Nevertheless, we survived. I am happy that I could move back and live a married life with a wonderful man.
  2. At Starbucks, several colleagues had some international exposure in business. For example, they had worked in either Asia, Europe, or both. I always wanted an opportunity to learn more about business in other markets. As luck would have it, I got the opportunity to learn business around South-east Asia at Visa. I felt lucky to have received international exposure at that level.
  3. I’d never met someone who’d gone to school at the IITs/IIMs. I always wanted to learn about their perspectives. Thanks to Visa, I had this incredible opportunity to work exclusively with folks who went to school at both IIT and IIM. I worked with and learned from the crème de la crème of the industry (quite literally). Such talented folks, all of them. I felt blessed. You learn a lot from a room where everyone else is a lot smarter than you are. I could not have asked for more.
  4. Infosys made me step out of the house at the age of 21. I hadn’t had a lot of time to spend with my parents ever since. The pandemic hit soon after I moved back to India. Both of my parents had to work from home as well. The lockdown gave us a lot of time together as a family. I will forever be grateful for that family time.
    A few minutes later, I drifted off to sleep.

I believe I learned the hardest lessons of my life in 2020 –
(1) Never take anything/anyone for granted.
(2) Enjoy every moment and be present. You never know which cosmopolitan at your favorite Social is your last one.
(3) Don’t be rude to anyone. You may not get a chance to apologize.
(4) Never take your paychecks for granted. Be glad that you have a job.
(5) Never take your health for granted. Who knew cold could be fatal?
(6) Never underestimate the importance of your hobby. Develop it.
(7) There’s no time like family time.
(8) Marriage needs work. Long-distance is tough.
(9) Life is tough. Nobody said it was easy.
(10) Recognize when people need you. Be there for them.
(11) A few words of kindness go far.
(12) If you have abundant, share. Support small businesses, non-profits, orphanages, assisted living, etc. They need us during tough times.
I believe surviving 2020 made me stronger. It gave me confidence that I can stand up the 8th time after falling seven times. It taught me that miracles happen. Most importantly, it taught me to have faith – a concept that was lost on me before.

2021 starts with fixing what is broken – sofa chaise, laptops, self, etc., and a more serious job hunt. 2020 brought quite a few surprises. I wonder what 2021 has in store. Onward and Upward.

Wishing you all a happy, safe, healthy, and prosperous new year. Happy 2021! Presenting our beautiful holiday cards for you. L-R: Ankit, Apurva and Ninad, Ankit, Apurva and Ninad.

#wontEatWillTravel Road trip – Christmas 2020

Almost 2000 miles. 6 days. 4 states. 4 national parks. The greatest road-trip of all times.

Ankit is visiting! My boys met each other for the first time.
Ankit and I hadn’t been to this part of the US yet. So, we decided to take a road trip to major destinations in and around Arizona. The destinations were a good mix of places we had visited earlier as well as new ones.
This post only outlines the trip. The upcoming posts shall go through all the days/national parks in detail.

Day 1:
Punjabi Dhaba, Kingman, Arizona (Must visit)
Hoover dam, Arizona/Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada
Night @ Las Vegas

Day 2:
Death Valley National Park, California
Night @ Las Vegas, Nevada

Day 3:
Zion National Park, Utah
Night @ Page, Arizona

Day 4:
Horseshoe bend, Arizona
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Night @ Page, Arizona

Day 5:
Lake Powell, Page, Arizona
Bearizona, Williams, Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, Arizona
Night @ Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Day 6:
Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, Arizona
Home Sweet Home.

A few tips if you are going on a road trip during the winters:
1. Clothing: You may need to wear layers. It can get windy, cold, and snowy.
2. Hiking: The major hikes may be closed during the winters. In the event you decide to take the trails that are open during the winters, I would recommend hiking/snowshoes and gear.
3. Gas: Across Arizona and Utah there are stretches with absolutely no civilization. Make sure your gas tank is always full.
4. Food/Drinks: We had a cooler bag full of adult/non-adult beverages at all times. We carried a month-worth of snacks as well. Most restaurants shut down at 9 PM. Depending on where you go you would want to check ahead and schedule accordingly.
5. Stay: We stayed at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas, Marriott at Page, and Yavapai Lodge at Grand Canyon. I’d recommend going for lodges inside the national parks if you can.
We changed plans on the go and ended up traveling a lot more than we should have. For example, Bryce Canyon and Zion were last minute additions. Had we planned better, we would have stayed at Kanab (a place between both the national parks) rather than driving down to Page for the night.
6. Please mind the road closures.
7. Spontaneous changes are good. Make sure you have enough fuel for it.
8. We tried to see sunrises, sunsets, and do star-gazing wherever we went. We are sunset-chasers. So, we made sure all the sunsets were picturesque.
9. Don’t approach the wildlife. If you suspect wildlife is around you, excuse yourself. (Story in the upcoming posts)
10. Make sure your team has more than one driver. The more the merrier.
11. Try to drive as little as possible between two consecutive destinations. That saves time and miles.
12. With the sun setting earlier during winters, try to maximize the daylight.
13. We preferred not to spend time at breakfast and lunches. So, they were always on the go. This helped us utilize the daylight better. We made a point to return to the hotel by 8-9 PM. So, our dinners were relaxed and we could call it a day early.
14. Don’t try to pack a lot in a few days. Keep it relaxing.
15. Please download offline maps. None of our phones had a network for long hours.
16. Make sure you have phone chargers in your car.
17. Mind the speed limits. We saw innumerable speed traps, especially in smaller cities.
18. The sun is brutal even during the winters. Make sure you have a pair of sunglasses.

Here’s how our road trip looked on Google Maps.

A few highlights from the trip –

Of the new life so far…

Statutory Warning: This blog post enlists a few updates from the last few months.

I missed the blog post deadline last week, courtesy of my laptop. The laptop Gods have spoken! It does not work on WIFI anymore and needs to be supported by ethernet. Sure. This post has been written on a (physically) semi-broken laptop. I’ve decided to stay with my laptop till further damage does us apart. Loyalty.

Life at Chandler has been surreal. The husband and I have already taken more than a couple of trips around (see posts below for details); happy that the travel game is still strong. Though we have been married for more than a year we have lived under the same roof only for two months. The ‘getting to know each other’ phase has been fun. Pretty organic. Love. You sign up for this phase when you say a ‘Yes’ to having your marriage arranged.

Our apartment is almost set. We settled on this pretty (read: ticked all of our requirements) sectional couch (after having visited every furniture store in the Greater Phoenix area). We also settled on this amazing new TV. The TV stand is heavy, and it took both of us three hours to put it together. I am going to try and avoid moving apartments for life because the thought of moving the tv stand makes me cry. We visited Hobby Lobby for some quote boxes and paintings. The mixtiles have arrived as well. Our apartment looks moderately decorated. Being a minimalist is not our thing. Now I understand why every family makes Costco, Walmart, and Target runs every week. It’s the battle of the finest.

The husband is delighted that everything in the apartment (except for his wife) works either via Alexa/Google assistant or his phone. The list of devices includes tv, thermostat, lights, and the robot. Our new hobby is to follow the robot as she vacuums/mops the floor. I would like to take a moment and thank James Dizon (the Godsent person who created the first vacuum robot). Sir, thank you for making our lives easier. Big fan.

I am still trying to find a balance between being a housewife, job-seeker, and (wannabe) blogger. Writing feels like life. Being a job-seeker and housewife is life. A few days ago, I realized how comfortable I had become – something N had warned me of. It is easy to get comfortable when you’ve slogged hard for ten years, and you get a break all of a sudden. You can be in your pajamas all day, sip wine during the daytime, take long naps during the afternoons, and binge watch Netflix. The fun you have has the power to make all those years of hard work a distant memory. You need a constant supply of motivation to hustle. You need to remember your dreams again and work toward them. Don’t let the fire die. You owe it to yourself. The struggle is real. We all fail but don’t quit. As they say, “When you want to quit, remember why you started in the first place”. The only road to success is to stay motivated and keep going. Hustle. Fin.

I look forward to reading your updates in the comments section. More to come next time.

Movie Review: Laxmii and more…

Runtime: 2 hours 21 minutes
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kiara Advani, Sharad Kelkar, Rajesh Sharma, Ayesha Raza Mirza, Manu Rishi Chadha, Ashwini Kalsekar, and Tarun Arora
Rating: 2/5
Featured image credit: onenewspage.com

I don’t watch horror movies. They leave an impression. N loves horror movies. This one was for him.

Look at the cast again. They’re all good actors. I had great expectations when I started watching the movie. But something was amiss.

It started fine. A few scenes scared the s#!t out of me (PS: I scare easy). That tempo did not stay for long. With the introduction of more characters, the acting failed to feel organic. This is not to say ‘bad acting’, just that the characters did not fit well. Laxmii, in terms of acting, could have been stronger. The supporting actors’ acting skills could have been utilized more. The VFX effects could have been sharper. The storyline is probably the replica of the original movie ‘Kanchana’; a few twists and turns would have helped to pep up the rating. However, Sharad Kelkar’s strong performance eats them up all – combined. He is excellent as Laxmii in the flashback. Overall, they could have done a much better job. On another note, the movie reminds you of ‘Bhool Bhulaiyya’ in a few ways.

Nevertheless, the substance of the movie is good. They’re hitting the right spots. Our country needs to warm up to the third gender and be more accepting. This reminded me of a few instances from my past life –

  1. A decade ago – It was my last year of undergrad. I used to take the train to school and traveled first class. I took the train back home at approximately 5 PM. You see familiar faces when you take the trains around the same time every day. When the train stopped at Nerul, I saw a few ladies sitting on the floor of the first-class compartment (not uncommon). I had to jump over them to board the train. I didn’t get a chance to look at the faces – only their neatly pedicured toenails. As soon as I entered, I saw my mother’s friend from work and found a seat next to her. Lucky me. My seat did not allow me a good view of the ladies sitting on the floor though. The compartment was comparatively silent that day. My mother’s friend and I started chatting. She almost whispered and I wondered why. Out of curiosity, I tried to sneak a peek at the floor. She stopped me and whispered, “Avert your eyes. They’re transgenders.”
    TBH, I was amazed. Looking at their outfits, appearance, and voice I wouldn’t have been able to guess their gender. I don’t know where they were going, what they did to survive but I hope they tried to make an honest living.
  2. Less than a year ago, Women’s day celebration @ Visa – We had the pleasure to hear women leaders speak. One of them was Gauri Sawant. That woman is such a captivating speaker. I always knew transgenders in India survived in sub-optimal living conditions; she gave us a clearer picture. She told us about the journey of her life and her experience of being a transgender mother. She adopted her daughter, Gayatri, in 2008 after Gayatri’s biological mother (a sex worker) died of AIDS. Gauri saved Gayatri from being sold in the sex-trafficking industry. My heart sank.
    Then she moved on to tell us about how she started ‘Aajicha Ghar’. It started when a sex worker asked her if she wanted her 3-month-old son whom she could not take care of (doing what she did). Gauri took the baby as her own and started the organization. ‘Aajicha Ghar’ takes care of abandoned children of sex workers and transgender children. Noble. You can learn more about the organization here –> https://aajichaghar.com/
    I am awestruck by her dedication, zeal, and drive to make this world a better place. You need to be very special, brave, and courageous to be able to do this. Grand Salute to her!

The point is, the transgender community has been deprived of their fundamental rights. Have you ever wondered why you never saw a transgender kid at school or college? Why you haven’t met transgenders at work? Why it took us 100 years to put the 3rd checkbox for transgenders to identify themselves? They’ve been sidelined and discriminated against for years. We have been oblivious of their challenges. This needs to change. And we need to be the ones inspiring and implementing the change. Maybe start sponsoring education, make reservations at schools, colleges, and work. I, for one, have decided to be more cognizant of their challenges and extend monetary help to non-profits.

Hope this inspires you to make a difference. Looking forward to reading your experiences and ideas in the comment section. Love.

Air travel during pandemic

A month ago, I moved back to the US to reunite with N. Two weeks later, N and I traveled to Ohio to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding! So, I’ve had to travel quite a bit by air in the last 30 days. I flew United and Frontier

Picture Courtesy: N

A few things I noticed during the travel and tips around the same –

  • Check-in: Even if you web check-in you will have to stand in a queue to drop off your bags (if any). You’d see the 6 ft. distance marking on the ground while in the queue. Try to follow the rules and encourage your fellow passengers to do the same.
    Tip: Try to limit the luggage to carry-on if possible. That will spare you from standing in the queue and for luggage drop-off and baggage claim. A good way to avoid crowds.
  • Security check: This process has not changed much. It is really difficult to maintain distance during security checks. The length of the queue will differ by airports – busier airports will take longer. However, I was the only one doing security at the forever-busy Mumbai airport (IDK HOW!!). The security personnel will request you to lower your masks for identity verification purposes. You scan your boarding pass. All security personnel wear gloves that are changed now and then.
  • Before boarding: The airlines usually give you a heads up if the flight is full via email. You can move dates if possible.
    If you are at the airport, the number of passengers seated around the gate should give you a good idea as well.
    Tip: Grab a seat at an adjoining vacant terminal to avoid the crowds.
    Visit the restroom before boarding. Using the restrooms at the airport terminal should feel safer than the ones on the flight.
  • Layovers: We had a 5.5-hour layover in Denver and a 3-hour layover in Vegas. Here’s what we observed – the majority of the stores and restaurants were closed. Very few restaurants serve – some offer only take-out. Restaurants that have dine-in operate at 50% capacity or lesser. This means you may have to wait to be seated.
    We had brunch at Denver and lunch at the Vegas airport. There was sufficient distance between adjoining tables so it felt safe to dine-in. The servers wore masks at all times. The degree of cleanliness may differ by airports/restaurants.
    Since the layover at Denver was longer we had 3+ hours to spare after a leisurely brunch. Due to reduced flights, we found picturesque seats at a vacant terminal to chill and watch a movie. You can find a place away from the crowds at airports in case of layovers.
    Tip: Download movies/series on Netflix before you fly for entertainment purposes.
    Carry snacks whenever possible. It’s best not to rely on airport restaurants during the pandemic.
  • Restroom breaks: As mentioned above, use the ones at airports rather than the ones on the flight. The restrooms were mostly vacant – no queues at all. The stalls were clean and tidy as well. Some airports have blocked adjacent sinks to create the distance.
  • Boarding: Some airlines tend to check the temperature before you board. If your temperature is beyond the threshold you may be denied boarding. Passengers were boarded according to seat numbers and not zones. So, the latter half of the aircraft was boarded first and so on.
  • On the flight: Quite a few articles suggest that traveling via air is lesser risky because of the way the air is filtered and circulated. You should feel safe as long as you have your mask on. 3/6 of my flights were packed. The other 3 were roomy. Traveling in close proximity of unknown passengers feels unsafe though.
    The airline may/may not offer snacks and beverages. United did. Frontier did not.
    Tip: If your row is packed but the flight has enough room you may ask for a different seat.
    Sanitizing the seats, tray, and hand rest would be a good idea.
    Carry snacks if you have a longer flight/tend to get hungry.
  • De-boarding: This process has not changed much. Pandemic/no pandemic passengers are still in a hurry to de-board.
    Tip: Be patient and avoid crowding the aisles.
  • Baggage Claim: High chances of crowds gathering at this step. As mentioned earlier, please try to fit luggage in your backpack/carry-on to spare yourselves the trouble.


    Overall, it is hard to rate whether or not it felt safe to travel by air. Pretty subjective. Personally, I don’t mind traveling by air at this point. There are ways one can maintain distance and take precautions but in the end, it boils down to one’s immunity. I was very aware of anyone sneezing/coughing around me. But the only one sneezing was me (i tend to sneeze when temperature changes). A few parting tips –
  • Take direct flights wherever possible.
  • Did not see anyone wearing PPE kits; masks and face coverings were it.
  • It would have been nice to see more sanitizer lying around. Please carry a sanitizer and make sure to sanitize every time you touch a surface.
  • Make sure to carry sanitizing wipes to wipe the area before you seat yourself.
  • Please carry hand sanitizing wipes just in case.
  • You should carry a moisturizer in case the sanitizer tends to dry your hands out.
  • Carrying multiple masks with you should be a good idea. Change masks if need be.
  • Please carry napkins just in case.
  • Please cover your mouth if you sneeze or cough.

    On that note, I recognize that wearing masks throughout the journey is annoying but you gotta do what you gotta do. Every time the masks irritate you just remember ‘This too shall pass’. Please take a test if you experience symptoms shortly after your travel.

    Stay safe. Safe travels.

Of Desiderata

Date: 07/27/20
Author: Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952


To beat the chaos, I was looking for a few inspirational words. I stumbled upon ‘Desiderata’ (Latin for ‘desired things’). Exactly what I was looking for! The poem is string of wise yet subtle words by the poet. Here’s the sense I made of it –

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Keep your calm when there’s chaos around you. You lose the game when you lose your calm. Being at peace is more important than winning the argument.
Despite the differences, be on good terms with everyone. If people want to be harsh, let them be. You control your behavior.
Be honest even if the truth hurts. Be mindful of how you speak (something I need to learn). Listen to everyone – age, status, stature, position don’t matter. Develop the ‘art of listening’.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

I’ve been wondering if the first sentence means ‘walking away’ from loud and aggressive people. Usually my mind shuts down when anyone starts yelling at me. I mentally walk away. That brings me peace. Wondering if that is the right thing to do. Probably not. Something that needs to be worked on.
No two people can be compared to each other. Everyone is unique in their own way. Everyone has been built in a certain way. Again, you never know what chapter of life they are on. I have never understood the term ‘rat race’. Life is not a race – it is a journey. I’ve never compared myself with others – maybe with the previous me. I am here to enjoy life – even the 12 AM work calls.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be actively involved in your career. If you don’t do what you love you’ll be forced to love what you do. Success is directly proportional to your passion and involvement in your career.
Beware of suggestions/tips from (not so)well-wishers. Not everyone will be happy at your success. Suggestions should be welcome but implementation of the those should be at your discretion.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

You can’t fake feelings. You can’t fake chemistry. Love will happen if and when it has to. When it’s right, you cannot walk away.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are your best teacher. There is a wealth of knowledge and enlightenment inside of you. Every time you have a question – look inside.
You are stronger than you think you are. Look back – you’ve surmounted unimaginable mountains. Let your spirit shield you from the negativity – even from within yourselves. You’ve not come so far, only to come this far.
Everyone makes mistakes – don’t be hard on yourself. Doesn’t mean let every mistake go. You’re fine as long as you make new ones.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

You are here because you are meant to be. You are here because it is written. You are here because you are destined to be.
None knows the bigger picture. When you feel restless, breathe. Keep calm. Trust that the universe is unfolding the bigger picture. Keep going. This too shall pass.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

I’ve always been at odds with the God. A few events in life had shaken my faith. I have only found faith 5 years later. I know this is not ideal. But now, i feel at peace. Whichever God you worship (if you do) – let the faith be. If you haven’t found faith yet – maybe some day faith will find you. If not, you never needed it at the first place.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Not every dream is fulfilled. It may be easy to break spirits. Bad things happen. Circumstances make you want to give up. Life looks like a bad idea. When this happens, make a list of all the positive things in your life. Be grateful for everything around you. Enjoy the joy of little things. Believe in the goodness of the universe. Most importantly, be happy.

The past few months have been rough for all of us. Being positive has been a tough job. Negative thoughts have been natural to even the most positive people we know. To beat the negativity, do things that make you happy. Try to change ‘not so ideal’ circumstances; if you cannot change them it is okay to walk away. Make peace. Be at peace. Remember, inner peace is more important. Fin.

Posting a happy picture of me –

What will be the new normal?

We all know life may/may not be the same once all this is over. The world has come to a standstill (the only movement being people visiting grocery stores and hospitals. Dark.). You and I have been forced out of our gyms, swimming pools, workplaces, shopping sprees; forced to give up on our favorite party/hangout places, even our favorite coffee shops. All for the one thing invisible to naked eye. The one who must not be named.

Every time my mother and I chill at our new hangout place (read: the ever cluttered dining table) we talk about things we would need to be equipped when we start commuting to work again (almost 2 hours each way). I have suggested the following –

  1. We build a disinfectant tunnel in the staircase to disinfect every person and thing coming in and out of the house
  2. We wear a space suit to and from work to protect ourselves from the outside world

    From the way Aai was looking at me during this discussion I couldn’t say if she thought I was crazy or was considering my ideas.

On a different note, my father was courageous enough to visit D-mart one day. Never thought one would need ‘courage’ to visit a supermarket, did you?
Apparently, he had just missed the action. D-mart had opened the doors that day to a thousand eagerly waiting and angry shoppers. The D-mart authorities had to summon the police and ambulance to handle the stampede.

We have decided to shop online going forward – a big shift from roaming the aisles and judging every product you touch and see.

This made me think how my habits have changed/concerns one would have ever since the ‘one who must not be named’ started creating havoc.
1. I have never liked buying clothes online – despite having lived 10 ft away from Day One for quite some time. But buying clothes right now is important because –
(1) Most of my clothes are inappropriate to be worn at Visa. They’re very Seattle, Starbucks and NYC. Also, half of my wardrobe is in NYC.
(2) The material of the clothes is not suitable for Indian weather.
(3) The style is not acceptable/appropriate/suitable.
(4) Seattle summer clothes cannot be used in Indian summers and workplaces.
So, I ended up buying $300 worth stuff online. Of course, none of that got delivered because everything got locked down soon after I placed my order.

2. A visit to the bhajiwala was enough for me to not want to go again. There was no ‘social distancing’ anywhere. This made me think if we should buy frozen veggies instead. Hoarding would be the next option – buy enough to last at least for a couple weeks.

3. Visit to a (small sized) supermarket made me really furious. There was a long and socially-distanced queue to enter the supermarket (alright) but there was no social distancing inside! I bumped into 3 masked people.
What was the queue outside the supermarket for? Was it not to avoid the crowding inside? This made me wonder if kirana stores/online grocery deliveries would be better options.

4. Eating out is not an option (since everything is closed). I am skeptical about online food deliveries as well. Fomites have been a major contributor to the spread of pandemic. You never know who’s got it. You always hear about Delivery boys getting it – they’re so susceptible. You can never sanitize enough. Some of them claim ‘contactless deliveries’ but how contactless can it be?
Badly missing Pizzas and Pastas and everything else in between.

5. About commuting to work – most of us take multiple hours and several modes transport to reach work. I take an auto (3 to 5 passengers) – train (192928510 passengers) – auto (3 passengers) to work every day. The passenger count in bracket does not include people who I am in close contact with on train stations.
How am i supposed to do this going forward? HOW?!
I have a suggestion – maybe we can ‘fly’ to work like the Jetsons? Maybe we should seriously put our brainpower into developing a low-cost flying solution.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock (1660125a) The Jetsons (Ani Film and Television FULL COPY: http://www.rexfeatures.com/nanolink/le7r

6. Social distancing – This concept is going to be tougher in high-density areas/countries. I cannot imagine how one would maintain social-distance at train stations where there is usually a long queue to climb on and off the bridge. How to maintain distance in local trains where you can’t differentiate if the sweat on your body is yours or someone else’s?

A few more thoughts –
How safe would throwing parties be? Would you require every attendee to upload their test results when they RSVP?

How safe would pubs/clubs/bars be? Will they check your temperature to determine whether or not you are ‘safe’ to enter their bar? Will you now be carded for temperature and age both?
If yes, forget bar-hopping till we have a vaccine.

How safe would sharing food/drinks/smoke be?

How safe would traveling be in the future? Most of us want to travel the world! How will that look like now? Would you still be open to back-packing and living in hostels across Europe? How would group tours be like?

Will you feel safe to go to group classes – yoga/crossfit/dance/etc? Would people still go to morning walks and laughter clubs post lock down?

How will the GenX learn any more? Will online classes be the way to go? Will schools reduce the number of students in a classroom and run shifts to accommodate everyone for offline classes? How will the kids have fun at school? What about schools in the rural areas that may not be equipped to go online?

How will the workplaces handle it? Most of us travel at least a couple hours exposing ourselves to every kind of virus and bacteria to reach work. How safe will be for other people to be around us? What would team lunches and happy hours look like now?

How safe would dating be? It involves “meeting” unknown people.

How will festivals look like? How does one celebrate Diwali or Ganeshotsav without family/extended family/friends?

What about big fat weddings? I am willing to give up on the auxiliary parties but what about the actual wedding – haldi, mehendi, wedding, reception?

All this and more. We are living in unprecedented times and must take equally unprecedented measures to fight this. It will take some time for us to determine our new normal post the pandemic. The way we live, eat, drink, breathe, love, date, pray, travel, play, have fun is all about to change.

There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

C.S.Lewis

Life as we know it is about to change. Something fun to tell our grand-kids, huh? More to come…

So far so good…

2019 was a roller-coaster ride. 2020 has been a ‘Sky scream Roller-coaster’ ride so far. Here’s what has changed.

USA to India

$ to ₹

Retail North America to Asia Pacific

Retail to Payments

Starbucks to Visa

Matured market to a Raw/mold-able market

High visibility to C-suite visibility

Building stores to Building products

SODO to BKC

Link Rail to Local train

8:30 AM – 6:00 PM to 7:30 AM – 10:30 PM

Uber to Ola

Starbucks Coffee to random Machine coffee

Living alone to living with parents

Extremely Single to Extremely Committed (Meet N)

Amazon to Flipkart

Live2Dance to Living to work

Work-life balance to No work balance

Knowing people in Seattle to still knowing people only in Seattle

Strictly Diwali parties to celebrating every little festival

A whole walk-in closet to having 2 divided closets (Mumbai and NYC)

Partying every weekend to having partied once in 7 months

Everything being optional to being obliged to do an array of things

Antonio Spa to Manjiri beauty parlor

Traveling to a new place every month to traveling to work every day

Canon to Capital Social

Wine to Cosmopolitan

I am surprised at the number of things that have changed in the recent past; amazed at how well I have taken them. It’s been a hell of a ride. Hoping November 2020 brings a twist to this tale. More to come.

Image courtesy: http://www.giuseppemorcinelli.com/so-far-so-good

#wontEatWillTravel Malaysia (Overview)

It’s been forever since I’ve had the mindset to put pen to paper. My recent solo trip to Malaysia changed things. This post is an overview of my trip to Kuala Lampur/Malaysia. Details to follow.

Airport – KLCC
Airline – Malindo Air (Not recommended. Please choose another airline. Poor customer service. On my way over all I was offered was water. The flight was delayed by 2.5 hours. You have to pay extra for food when you book your ticket (was unaware of this concept). The food wasn’t good either.
Visa – Easiest Online Visa ever (one of the reasons why I chose to visit Malaysia). Beware of fake Visa sites. Your visa expenses should not exceed $60-$70. Make sure you apply for your visa only via an official Malaysian website ending with .my.
Hotel – Furama @ Bukit Bintang. It is a good hotel except for the construction going on all around. That makes the commute very difficult. I would recommend staying at KL ‘downtown’ (area near the Petronas twin towers) instead.
Transportation – Mostly Grab. Not all the tourist destinations are connected by public transport (surprisingly). You will need to alternate between Grab and the train.
GRAB – Impressive application. The drivers are pro-actively responsive. Loved how easy to use it was. I could not sync my credit card for payments so had to rely on cash.
I struggled with time management on my last day in Malaysia. I asked a Grab driver if he would wait for me at one of the attractions and drop me at the hotel later. I’d pay him accordingly. He agreed!! That made my life so convenient!
Trains – Trains have a good frequency. The tickets cost around 1-3 RM. Tickets can be bought at the kiosks apart from the ticket counter. The kiosks do not accept folded currency.
Funny but true, the trains to and from the airport cost you 55 RM!! Grabs cost you 65 RM. Weird!
Regular Taxis – They charge you at least double of what Grab would. Also, they have no tracking system so definitely not a safe option for solo travelers. Feel free to test your bargaining skills.
Buses – Debatable frequency. The construction going all around must be one of the issues. Also, some of the bus stations are located at shady places where you may not feel safe as a solo female traveler.
Demographics – Malay + Chinese + Tamilians; most of them are 2nd or 3rd generation Malaysians. Inter-caste marriages have led to cross-cultures as well.
Culture – I’d go with conservative. Most women adorn a headscarf. You can see a good mix of Malay-Tamil-Chinese culture with all the sects protecting their own cultures well.
Don’t be surprised if you hear ads of ‘Folic acid’ and ‘Stay in your own lane’ on the radio channels.
Languages – Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and English. Also, Manglish. Add ‘La’ at the end of every sentence to sound like a local. Can definitely help you bargain better.
Weather – September through January is monsoon. If you travel during this period (like I did) be ready to forgo a few attractions. The rains dampened Melaka city tour and all of my evenings.
Attire – Multiple forums advise you to go conservative. You can differentiate between locals and tourists based on the way they dress. I’d suggest go all cotton and conservative (I went from Denims to Uniqlo 3/4th in the middle of Perdana botanical gardens to Save My Soul). Temples require you to be dressed appropriately (read: no legs showing) in order to enter. Mosques provide you with the traditional Islamic attire at the entrances that you have to wear if you wish to enter. I recommend carrying a scarf in your bag and a bathtub of sunscreen.
Safety – As a solo female traveler, I tried to be aware of my surroundings at all times. Malaysia is notorious for bag snatching and robbery (ALL Grab drivers warned me against it). I don’t know the statistics for crime against women/sexual assaults though (red: prefer not to google either). All the tourists seemed to be guarding their purses more than their lives.
I chose group tours instead of private ones. Grabs felt pretty safe/Normal cabs did not. Trains are safe. I waited at a shady bus-stop, all decked up, for half an hour in complete darkness and received some unwelcome attention. I’d avoid doing that in the future. Along the same lines, Chinatown becomes shady after dark.
PS: You can keep your passport in the hotel locker. I was not asked for any ID ever. Please do not carry it if not required.
Currency/Money – Ringgits/Dollars/Rupees everything seemed to work there. I was the happiest since Chase Sapphire Reserve worked at most places (it doesn’t work everywhere in India).

Itinerary Overview

Day 1:

  • KLCC Aquarium
  • KLCC Park
  • Batu Caves
  • Sri Mahamariamman Temple
  • Reggae Bar
  • Chinatown
  • Petaling Street

Day 2:

  • Melaka – Day tour
  • Bukit Bintang
  • No Black Tie – Jazz concert
  • Pisco – Peruvian bar

Day 3:

  • Suria Mall
  • Bukit Bintang
  • Perdana Botanical Garden – Bird Park, Butterfly Park, Deer Park, Tun Abdul Razzak Memorial, Unique trees park (or something to that effect)
  • Petronas Towers
  • Heli Lounge

Day 4:

  • National Mosque of Malaysia
  • National Museum of Malaysia
  • Central Market + Kasturi Street
  • National Textile Museum
  • Thean Hou Temple

Attractions I could not cover/would want to cover the next time I am in Malaysia –

  • Hibiscus & Orchid garden – Closed for renovation
  • Jalan Alor AKA Khau galli of KL – I am sad to have missed this. The rain dampened my spirits every evening.
  • KLCC Eco Park – Rainforest in the middle of a hustling city. I chose not to visit.
  • KL Tower – Fell short of time. Also, having lived in the city of Space needle I did not feel the need to go to another needle kinda space.
  • Genting Highlands – I heard rave reviews about this place during my Melaka day-tour. Sadly, I did not have enough days to cover it. The pictures look amazing though.
  • Penang – The pictures were to die for. But Penang is farther away from KL and not a day-trip material. I’d suggest a road trip for this destination.
  • Little India – Fell short of time. Also, coming from India I opted out.
  • Glittering Fireflies & Kuala Selangor Night tour – Not enough time, guts and energy. Also, probably not a good life choice during monsoons.

Pro tips –

  • Wear cotton as much as possible.
  • Beware of purse snatchers.
  • Carry a portable charger. In hindsight, life would have been simpler with it.
  • Do not fold your Riggits. The kiosks won’t accept them.
  • Map your destinations beforehand so that you don’t lose time searching for them and don’t miss out on the fun.
  • Mind the timings for temples and mosques. They are not open throughout the day.
  • Grabs are difficult to find during prime time. I waited for an hour on Day 2 and ended up taking a cab.
  • In hindsight, taking trains would have been much more economical and would have caused lesser frustration. Trains are traffic-proof.
  • Hydrate.
  • I’d rather stay in a hotel near the Petronas towers and Changat Bukit Bintang than farther away. Though my hotel was in close proximity, the construction and rains made it impossible to commute to the more happening places.
  • Alcohol is expensive – or at least it was wherever I went.
  • It is okay to carry a backpack everywhere. Most tourist attractions have stalls to take care of your bags.
  • You are in good hands with T-mobile. God bless T-mobile.
  • If you decide to click a picture with parrots at the Bird park please mind their toe-nails!
  • Carry a camera instead of relying on your phones for pictures. You need your phone battery for Grab.
  • Carry an umbrella/rain jacket if you decide to visit during monsoons. Most resorts/ few tourist attractions are closed during monsoons.
  • Always carry enough cash (you probably know that).

Keep watching this space for details and pictures.