Reconnecting with YOGA!!!

IMG-20171221-WA0047Although yoga was part of my upbringing; after teenage, I kept on getting busy in lot many other things and yoga shoved off. Soon I put on weight, got back pain, neck pain problems, etc. etc. I got alarmed when I noticed thyroid levels being high at the age of 28 and decided not to have any further lifestyle diseases.

 I started doing Yoga at home it helped control weight and back pain but I started reaping real benefits of yoga when I joined a Yoga studio called “Sohum Yoga studio” near my house. Mr. Umesh Dwivedi, my yoga teacher helped me get rid of the everyday thyroid pill. His way of teaching yoga is very effective for lifestyle diseases. And this was the time when I got reconnected with Yoga. I could not only maintain weight and manage back pain but also my tight muscles got flexible and relaxed. It got me more inclined towards Yoga, then Ayurveda, and eventually into the Indian traditional way of living. This was not enough… I wanted to do more and learn more.

Iyenger yoga is relatively newer way of practicing yoga. I got a little insight to it at Himalayan Iyenger Yoga center at Dharamkot. It’s a lovely center in Dhauladhar ranges. I met few passionate Yoga practitioners there. Here only I read Patanjali yoga sutra and learned about Ashtanga yoga. My belief towards yoga got stronger.

Yoga is a magic that we have inherited from our ancestors. It has tremendous healing power both physically and mentally. Unfortunately there are very few real yoga practitioners in present day. We have mix of power yoga, cardio, aerobics etc. in the name of Yoga at many yoga centers. There is a serious need for promoting research in purest forms of yoga.

Yoga is not just doing some pose but it is learning to balance, be stable, control body and breathe and be calm. Yoga is way of life. I can never have enough words to express my gratitude towards Yoga and people from whom I learned the little yoga that I know.

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The Hometown

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To me Indore… is synonymous to hometown, parents, childhood. It reminds me of the mischiefs that me and my partner in crime (my brother) did.  Its streets remind me of every moments I spent with my friends. Its markets remind me of tenacity to buy something. Whenever I told someone that I am basically an Indori, the first reaction I got was oh… its famous for food right? And I always nodded proudly. And always added Indore’s Market and city’s culture to it. But my city is changing now. It’s making the nation proud. It has got a new identity… “The cleanest City of India”.

Swach Bharat abhiyan (cleanliness drive) was launched in year 2014 and Indore City was declared as the cleanest City in India’s first swachchata sarvekshan (Survey) in 2017 and I am confident that the city will make it this year too. The way, Municipal Government is driving, is . However, It’s the spirit of Indore Citizen that helped city achieved what it has achieved. People are so involved in act that in my every visit some or the other person asks “do you find the city cleaner?” and when I answer positively, I can see the pride and satisfaction on their face clearly. This taught me few thing. Firstly, if you want to drive something from the roots, the sense of belonging in everyone is must. Secondly, you must seek for continuous improvement. And lastly, its people who drive the change. I see the change in mindset. Even if somebody throws something on the road by mistake, other person will pick it and drop in the designated bin. When citizens get it in them, the governance becomes easier. Yes… My hometown is changing and I am loving it.

 

A thought on Equality

On the occasion of 109th international women’s day, I wish all lovely ladies, a very happy Women’s day. I am sure you enjoyed the day.

Today. We are living in a world where many girl children are abandoned, very few get opportunities for education, every other day we hear news about sexual harassment or domestic violence and many are deprived of basic health and hygiene. If the woman is educated and independent, still she suffers for lack of safe working environment and fights for equal pay and opportunities.

There are many mind blocks put sometimes by society and at times by woman herself. There is an endless debate on the role of a woman and her ‘code of conduct’ in the society. Today each one of us is so opinionated about men and women that we naturally say or act in particular way.

But did we have such discrimination all along our thousands of years of history? I don’t think so… In ancient India Women were taught war skills, political skills, they explored and studied Vedas and Upanishads same way as men did. They also had authority to choose their partner, they had ‘swayamvar’. We worship Godesses and celebrate them. Depiction of Saraswati for knowledge, Lakshmi for wealth, Durga for Power, Mahishasur mardini for justice are the evidences that women had a lot of respect in ancient India. Nauvari sarees are proofs that women fought war or at least knew war skills.

There are many socio-political events and invasions that changed Indian culture. And in many aspects, what we call Indian culture is not actually “the Indian culture”. I do not intend to get into history but want to make a point that its time we get back to our basics.

I do not believe that role of a mother is superior to that of a father, sacrifice by a sister is bigger than that of a brother or home maker is a wife and not a husband. But I believe, and each one of us should believe, that life is same for everyone so everyone should get equal opportunity to live it to fullest.

In nature’s lap

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Away from urban lifestyle, without any pollution, only smelling soil and trees, only hearing birds,  feeling the calmness of the chilly breeze, experiencing every breathe, the nature gives a wonderful treat.  The peacefulness of the nature reflects in smiles, gestures and in life. We start living life. I am experiencing the same thing here right now. Mountains have always attracted me. This time on my solo trip to Dhauladher mountain ranges, I decided not to do anything that spoils nature not eating packet food, carrying water with me always so that I do not buy any bottled water, drinking coffee/ tea in mugs or glasses.  and trying to walk all around the hill station. I find myself more close to the nature this way. A calm afternoon at a small cafe sipping tea or coffee on the mountains  watching people, children, monks around with out making any conclusion about life is a retreat by itself.

I never thought that seating quite close to a waterfall can make mind so quite. Watching snails move could make heart so happy.

Yoga and trek are adding more life to this trip. The mind is more peaceful and free.

 

Paris: the city of art, Museums, fashion and love

IMG_0137When we decided to take a break in Paris on our way to US this May, we prepared a long to-do list for my first trip to Paris. We had 4 days there. It was quite inferential that we won’t be able to see all listed places and decided to just go with the flow. We had booked hotel near Gare de l’Est. If you plan to use public transport, then staying in vicinity of a metro station can save lot of time. We reached in the evening, checked into the hotel and went for a small walk before dinner. It was raining and quite cold outside. Nice weather and good food gave a warm welcome to the city of art, museum, fashion, culture, love and whatever you want to call. This city is like a charismatic lady with a great style. Everything looks so perfect that you don’t like to take off your eyes.

We started from Sacre Coeur as most Museums were closed on our first day owing to Labour Day. We walked most of the day and got the flavor of the city. Alas… What style and glamour the city has. I strongly believe that to get the true flavor of the city, you must walk on the streets. And here we are Champs Elysees. What a lovely place. So vibrant yet so formal. You get sunlight till very late in evening. It might go up to 9 PM. we were quite hungry by that time, and looking for some vegetarian food was a big task, as French apparently do not opt for vegetarian meals. Well… I and my husband both eat eggs, so if we did not get good veggie option, we asked for eggs.

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Champs Elysees

Next day we started with masala dosa at Sarvanna Bhavan near Gare du Nord. And we geared up to get Paris Pass which we had booked in advance and put it to full use. We also get 2 days metro pass and Museum pass along with Paris pass. This gives you free entry to many Museums and attractions with in the city. To be precise… after getting Paris pass, we paid entry fee only at Eiffel tower, all other entries were free including river cruise… although there are long queues at every museum/ attraction for pass holders as well. But I recommend a Paris pass, if you are planning to visit many attractions in Paris in 3-4 days. It’s a good deal.

For next two days we used the free metro pass and museum pass and visited many of the attractions. And last day we went to palace of Versailles. The palace is very huge and beautiful. Not just the architecture and art work of the palace makes it special but its vast garden are jaw dropping too.

At the end of the four day trip I had many photographs, a caricature, souvenir, chocolates with me… But the most important are the memories, that perfect city layout from the top of Eiffel tower, the evening spent at champ de mars, the Mona Lisa painting , the Mummy at the Louvre’s, perfectly preserved paintings, artifacts, and other objects of historical or cultural significance in different museums can never be erased from my memory. I can only try but can never express my experience of city called Paris. To me its city of perfection.

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Picture taken from top of Eiffel Tower (Paris is ready to Host Olympics in 2024).

 

Punekar’s heart beats on Dhol Tasha

A couple of years ago a Puneri friend said she can’t miss Ganpati visarjan in Pune at any cost. I wondered what is so special in Pune Ganapti utsav. I had already witnessed the enthusiasm of cities like Mumbai and Indore but then, I got a chance this year to visit the festivities. The city is transformed into something else during the festival. There are many ingredients to perfect Punekar’s Ganesh utsav, but the key ingredient is dhol tasha. These pathaks practice several days before the festival. Each one of them want to perform their 100% be it a lady, a man, a child, an educated, an uneducated… everybody puts so much effort and when one listens to it, he can keep on listening to it forever. I felt as if I was meditating. As if it was just me, the dhol beats and Bappa. “Ganpati Bappa Moraya”

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Try this get away to Pondi…..

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This one is for those who are furious of the daily work routine and have leave crises. A 4 day trip to Pondicherry (now known as Puducherry) from Pune was a real stress buster and wonderful kick off for the New Year 2017. Pondicherry was French territory before the independent India and a nice chill out- do nothing place. The moment I reached promenade beach road where most of the hotels are located in white town, I fell in love with the town. On the very first evening, on this 1-2 km beach road, we had decided that we are going to spend all the evenings here till we are in Pondicherry. The Gandhi Statue, Old lighthouse, French war Memorial are all on this very road. Also the famous Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry Museum and sacred heart of Jesus in the vicinity. These places can be visited on a rented two wheeler or on bicycle in one day.

Promenade beach is a rocky beach. This beach road turns into walking plaza from 6PM to 7:30 AM. There are many eat outs on this street and nearby and you get huge variety food here for every pocket. This place is like a community center, where many exhibitions and competitions are held by government or private agencies. Which makes the street more vibrant.

Le café, my favorite café on this beach has two level sitting garden and rooftop, and both are astounding. Live dosa counter at the rooftop while watching dance competitions made that perfect evening.

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Le Cafe P.C. Amol Mujumdar

Our hotel Villa Bayoud is on the same street and thereof we could roam on the street till late. Booking this particular hotel was a wise decision for many reasons likewise, the villa itself is so splendid and the team makes the stay very comfortable, free WIFI can be exploited as the mobile networks could be weak, they make very nice omlette for the breakfast. The best part was the discussions with Mr. Patel over breakfast. Mr. Patel owns the hotel and has spent entire life in Pondicherry doing various businesses and is a seasoned traveler. We got many insights to the city from him. Thanks Mr. Patel and Villa Bayoud.

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Villa Bayoud: Beach Side Hotel in Pondicherry.

You find it difficult to choose between so many options for lunch or dinner. If you really want to try a south Indian thali food than I insist you have lunch at Surguru’s. It’s a very simple but very clean restaurant and food is delicious….. and if you are looking for north Indian food then Diliwala 6 can turn out to be the best choice. Else there are many other restaurants which offer Indian and continental food.

A lavish all course meal at Highdesign Hotel Promenade is icing on the cake for this trip. Promenade hotel has two restaurants and a rooftop café, however, we chose outdoor sitting which was close to the beach road and we could enjoy vivacious street during meals. The service here is really slow, so you need to take out enough time.

A Day at Auroville: This is a township developed to promote humanity. A very calm and naturally beautiful place located actually in Tamilnadu state, but very close to Pondicherry. The center of attraction is the Matri Mandir located at the center of the town. However, only people who are serious for meditation are allowed for the entry in this mandir. You need to get special permission if you really want to go inside the temple. for this reason, one has to visit auroville two times. First for taking appointment and second for visiting matri mandir. There is no online appointment option available. You will find many explorers out there. Since we had time crunch we saw the temple from outside. In my next visit to Pondicherry, I will make sure that I visit Matri Mandir.

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Matri Mandir, Auroville

Auroville has some nice cafes and boutiques where you find huge variety of locally made products including home decor, perfumes, cosmetics, health care and merchandise. There are many food joints on Auroville road but I assert that you try Tantos… the Italian restaurant. It has mouthwatering food. Especially the desserts.  We were told that if you want to try north Indian food in Auroville, the Roma’s Kitchen is the best. My sincere recommendation please keep track of time for lunch as after 3 PM many restaurants get closed and they open only after 6PM, if you miss 3PM deadline, then you may end up eating a grilled sandwitch and coffee at some café.

You may visit Auroville beach or university beach on the return journey from auroville. This is a mesmerizing sandy beach.

The most beautiful and famous beach in Pondicherry is the paradise beach. There are two ways to reach, 1 by ferry to the beach and another is by road. However, going by ferry is definitely a better option. The beaches in Pondicherry are very less crowded and clean and very steep. Bay of Bengal is very risky for swimming, there are few scuba diving places though. Unlike Goa, we do not find any watersport or tattoo making or shacks close to the beaches.

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Paradise Beach

We had our flight for pune from Chennai, we chose to take east coast road and took a small halt at Mahabalipuram and saw shore temple and panch rathas… they are stone marvels.  I wish I had some more time at Mahabalipuram.

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Shore Temple: Mahabalipuram

Reached home after a very short trip on Sunday night. And hey… I was so geared up for the office work on Monday!!!!

For ladies I have some packing tips…

Mostly ladies and girls wear Indian dresses at Pondicherry. I saw few French ladies also wearing salwar kurta. You can also wear Midi dresses or skirts but if you are planning to roam on bicycle or a two wheeler then jegging or jeans and shorts will give you utmost comfort. The day temperatures are pleasant. You can pair the comfortable bottom of your choice with shirts or cotton tops. Do not forget to carry goggles and nice sunscreen lotion with you. At evenings the temperature may dip slightly and it’s quite windy at the beaches so you may like to carry a light jacket or shrug while going out.  For footwear, a nice pair of flat sandals is a very good choice.