Hello, December!

Dear reader,

A warm Hello to you. Where are you as you read this? Curled up in a warm blanket, with a coffee in your hand? Or are you in a bus or a subway, commuting to office and peacefully reading a slice of other people’s lives, as passengers move in and out at each stop? Or are you in your garden, with a hose in your hand, watching over the big roses that you planted few weeks back? Or are you looking out a grey window, watching over buildings from a glass house, wondering about the purpose of your life?

I am on my bed, my blue blanket snuggled under my legs. My back is against the wall. On my left, from the window daylight shines like in a cloudy day. A motorbike just passed by, wheezing out noise. A carpenter is knocking repetitively on a plank of wood somewhere. Other than that, the sound of my typing into this blank screen adds to the audio spectrum. There is a feeble wind outside as I can see the leaves of a big, nameless tree fluttering. It is about 11.00 AM in the morning.

I have a busy workday ahead of me. At work, we are currently trying to understand how cloud platforms work. My mind is also filled with a bunch of creative ideas, still in their nascent stage, in want of fleshing out. I just finished writing a small piece which will go as a voice-over in one of my videos.

December is here. And to tell you the truth, the cold ain’t so bad yet. I am seeing folks updating pictures of snow on Facebook and WhatsApp statuses, but I don’t feel the chill yet. In a few days, Christmas will be here. The malls, the churches will light up in fairy lights and Christmas trees. It would be a spectacle to behold. We will exchange Secret Santa gifts at work. Maybe, we will go out on 24th night, me and my teammates, and we will sit in front of a church as the night turns into 25th. The air will be chilly, and people would be in colorful sweaters. We will eat cake after the service is over, wish each other merry Christmas, and return home to our comfortable beds.

December is that month when we take stock of the year. The memories that were made. The profits and losses. The balance sheets of life. Did we accomplish our 2018 resolutions? Did we lose that stubborn belly fat? Did we travel more, write more, and make new friends? Did we get over our heartbreaks? Did we lose a loved one? How do we summarize the year, put a final sum in the balance sheet and decide what to prioritize in the coming year?

The coming year. A new blank slate where no child has drawn a unsteady line with the white chalk. A new blank slate,before the duster has been rubbed. A new blank slate with the promise of incredible things happening. A year full of promise. To ourselves, and to others.

As I write this, a fraction of sunlight comes through my window – as if the sun understands the palpable glee in my heart as I write this. In this moment, I am peaceful. In this moment, I am full of hope. In this moment, I do not care how today will turn out and if we will meet the client’s expectations. In this moment, I feel confident that I will do well, today and in the times to come. In this moment, I am truly myself.

Are you?

Love,

Arpita

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A Magical Day

There are days when you just feel good about life. Everything seems to fit perfectly into the grand scheme of life.

On these days, maybe someone tells you about how you add value to their lives, or help them out in tough situations.

Maybe an old friend walks up to you and you go for a cup of coffee or tea together.

Maybe you walk amongst the busy city streets, passing snail-like traffic and tree-lined avenues, the wind blowing your hair.

Maybe you pour your heart out in your writing.

Maybe you decide on a change in life.

Maybe you see a smile on someone else’s face, and you feel happy in their happiness.

These are days when it feels good to be on the face of Earth, even as the industries and cars blow smoke into the air, people die and hearts break. These are days that are just perfect.

Today was one such day.

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The perks of living in a small town

Continuing from my last post, which was a conversation about the perks of living in a big city, I wanted to highlight some points which are unique and enjoyable about small towns also. After all, nothing it pure white or black. So, here are my top reasons for enjoying life in small towns:

  1. Everything seems nearby – In small towns, most of the necessities are present within short distances, and you don’t have to traverse 15-20 km across town to get to your bank
  2. Traffic hardly comes to a standstill – Traffic in Bangalore is infamous, but small towners won’t ever complain of this
  3. People know you and you know people – As human beings, we crave familiarity. I have been staying in an apartment in Bangalore for past three years, and aside from the people who work in my company and also live in my apartment, I haven’t had a ten minute conversation with anyone. It’s that lonely at times! But back in my hometown, neighbors keep coming and we keep visiting them, so that sense of familiarity is always there
  4. The sheer peace of things – I don’t know if it is true of all small towns, but Durgapur is incredibly peaceful. I had not realized this until the point I had actually lived in Bangalore and gone back home after six months. The sheer silence of my hometown calmed my nerves, and when I say silence, it is not just external, but the pausing of the incessant internal buzzing noise in your head. In Bangalore, it feels like I am always on the alert and my mind is racing to survive and adapt. Back home, I can tune down, and enjoy a mental silence. Needless to say, I return from each of my vacations fully recharged and rejuvenated
  5. The special spots that you find to hang out with friends – While there aren’t exciting places to take people out, but localites in small towns always have one or the other special spot to hang out with friends – that bench under the tree beside the SBI ATM, that ground near your best friend’s house, the old school field and so on… you get the drill!

So, those were my top five reasons for loving life in small towns. My strongest reason is no. 4. To all you small towners, feel free to drop a line and let me know the things which are special to your place, and makes you feel like not leaving the place for the greatest wonders in the world.

Cheers,

Arpita

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The perks of living in a big city

Last week I was in my hometown, enjoying a week off from work with my family. Reason: Diwali. I met a lot of people during that time, socialized a bit and generally had a good time.

I belong from a small town, and of course, there are perks of living in a place like that, but there are times you crib about some important facilities not being present, especially if you have gotten the chance to live in a big city for considerable amount of time. In this post, I wanted to talk about some of the things that I miss about Bangalore when I go to my hometown/visit smaller towns on trips:

  1. Limited transportation choices – Ola/Uber are non-existent, and so are normal cabs. The auto-wallahs are too arrogant and would rather they have no passengers than allow you share the auto with other people – they want to charge you a fixed amount, and want you to reserve it for your purpose. Not great if you are travelling alone.
  2. No Subway – I am not a big fan of fast food joints, but I don’t mind a bit of Subway, at least it lets me have some veggies. Replace it with the fast food joint of your choice.
  3. Food home delivery apps – Extending point 2, home delivery of food is almost non-existent, so the delight of food-at-fingertip is a dream
  4. Not enough places to take your friends from other cities when they are visiting you – This is a big one. In my hometown, there are few choices w.r.t. malls and parks, but not really much of options to do different things. Sometimes, you are just bored and don’t know how you could entertain yourself or your guests
  5. Not enough cultural exposure/means to pursue cultural activities as a career – This may differ from city to city, but bigger cities usually have events catering to different types of audiences, which help with point 3 listed above, and also provides alternate career choices

These are some of my big reasons why I don’t enjoy being living in a small town a lot. Of course, there are some great perks of living in a small town, and I want to talk about that in a future post. Until then, do let me know what your big reasons are for simply loving living in a metro/big city.

Cheers,

Arpita

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Mysore Dussehra Vlog

Hey there fellow readers!

In my last two posts, I talked about the wonderful trip to Mysore that I was on with my friend Pooja a week ago. I tried my best to capture my feelings while on the trip in those two posts, supported by some lovely photographs to bring you the flavor of Mysore Dussehra.

However, what the writing and the photograph cannot capture, motion picture can! The sounds of the cheering crowd at the procession, the guzzling water at Kukkarahalli Lake, the sound of fresh morning breeze as our auto rushed through the roads of Mysore – the energy of this can only be captured through videos. This was one of the main reasons why I started my YouTube channel last year – to be able to re-live bits of history several years later.

So, without further ado, I present to you The Mysuru Vlog:

I have received some nice comments from my friends and family on this video. Excited to know your thoughts as well. Also, if any of you is a fellow YouTuber, feel free to say hi on my channel. I’m pretty small myself, and am learning with every new video – would be happy to know some of you who both enjoy writing on WP and YouTubing.

Until later,

❤ Arpita ❤

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Travelling to Mysore, Karnataka | Day 2

Hi everyone! Hope you had a chance to read the first post of my Mysore trip. If not, you can check it out here. Today, I am back with the promised final part of the series, so here we go!

For me, travelling means exploring the city as a local would – walking small distances, taking buses, going for a morning walk. Day 2 in Mysore was planned with that theme in mind.

Kukkarahalli Lake:

Our first stop was was Kukkarahalli Lake, which is a famous for bird watching. There lake is surrounded by trees, giving the impression of being in a forest. There was a good track built on all sides of the lake, where we saw many health enthusiasts going for a walk/run.

For me, walking by the lake meant reconnecting with my inner self, being in harmony with the colors and texture of the natural world, far from the artificial cubicles where we spend a lot of our time these days. That, and a bunch of wonderful pictures 🙂

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After the morning walk at the lake, we headed back to the Airbnb for breakfast and check-out. Our next stop was the Mysore Sandalwood Oil Factory.

Mysore Sandalwood Oil Factory:

This is a pretty offbeat choice of location to visit on a 1.5 day trip, as most people like to visit the usual touristy places in Mysore (e.g. Vrindavan Gardens, Chamundi Hills). However,  I have always been curious to know how the things we use daily get manufactured. A part of this interest sparks from the basic science school education (which I could remember as the guy was explaining the oil extraction process). The other part is, as someone who works in an industry which is all about automation, I could see huge scope of automating the manufacturing process – till today, they separate oil from water manually. For me, such a business model is not very sustainable/scalable, as it is very people-dependent.

The facility is a small one, and a big part of the tour is restrictive and not demonstrative, so I would not necessarily recommend this if you are planning to visit Mysore, unless you have a kid who goes to school or you are yourself a manufacturing-enthusiast.

Oh, and by the way, a 5 ml sandalwood oil bottle sold at the factory outlet costs 2,500 INR – so I could not really get any souvenir from there. The other stuff, soaps and incense sticks we can get in any market.

Mysore Palace:

Next stop was Mysore Palace – but this time, the interior tour (cost: 50 INR per adult). Mysore Palace is a combination of Hindu, Mughal and European architectural style, and I especially enjoyed the richness and detailing of woodwork on the doors, and on the ceiling of Diwan-e-khas, the private chamber. There are portraits of different members of the royal family along the walls of the palace, and also of some British royalty – especially loved the magnificent frame of a queen and king, whose names I cannot unfortunately recall.

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The charm of visiting the palace somewhat faded because we went during a very busy time and we were constantly pushed around in the crowd. The best time to visit this would be when it is relatively emptier and you can appreciate the paintings, the ceiling and floor designs and picture yourself in the bygone era, with the palace being lit by earthen lamps, and women in flowing dresses walking in the halls, silent on their feet, but laughing easily and happily. Sometimes, when I am in places of historical importance, I just feel amazed when I think that there was an actual world that existed inside those palaces, and how far we have moved away from those times: to take a simple example, what the world of women must have been within the walls of the palace vs. today, when two girls can visit the palace on their own without having anyone to escort them.

Lunch Scenes @ The Old House:

It was almost 1 PM by the time we headed out of the palace, and it was time to grab some lunch. I had looked up The Old House while planning the itinerary – it had a rating of 4.6 on Zomato. The idea was to eat one meal at a nice place on the trip and this Italian place became a good choice – the first day had been good ol’ McD for both lunch and dinner 😛 .

Pooja tried Aglio Olio and ABC juice, and I took my usual white sauce alfredo pasta. Both of us loved our dishes, and Pooja literally loved the ambiance (she said I had done good research on the food place – pat on the back, whoo-hoo!) and we definitely recommend it to anyone who likes Italian. They also have wood-fired pizza, if that is something that entices you.

We also checked out a tiny apparel store (Maya Lifestyle Boutique) just next to The Old House – they primarily sell pure-cotton and khadi clothes, as well as natural oils (Pooja purchased a bottle of tea-tree oil). A nice attraction there was a bunch of turtles they kept in front of the store, and a bunch of kids kept throwing them food and admiring as they moved and ate.

Railway Museum:

Our return train was at 3.30 PM, and we still had an hour in hand, so we visited the railway museum right next to the station. There is an entry fee of 20 INR, and separate fee for the toy train ride.

The museum houses a photographic exhibit of the evolution of railways in India, and engines and other train parts which were used in previous decades. It is an open, outdoor museum, with quite a bit of greenery, so we also did a bit of photography and video-graphy there.

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And with that visit to the museum, our trip came to an end. As the train was leaving the platform, I kept thinking that I had lived in Bangalore for so long, and it took me three years to actually visit Mysore even though it is merely 3.5 hours away by train. Mysore is a nice weekend getaway from Bangalore, and the best part of the city is its mix of history, nature, and modernity. My memories of Mysore would be of a green city with pure air, which gave me a nice break from the world which sometimes feels like it is closing in on us, choking us with its complexity.

P.S: I will be uploading a video of the trip on my YouTube channel probably this weekend, so if you are interested, do follow me and and press the bell icon so you are notified of the update. If not, I’ll share the link on the blog in a future post, anyway! 🙂

 

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Travelling to Mysore, Karnataka | Day 1

Like every year, my current year new year resolution was to travel more. In fact, if I look back at my new year post on this blog, I am very specific about the goal: travel to at least three places. November is around the corner, and I had not quite gotten closer to that goal: until this Friday, that is.

My travel partner was Pooja, my friend-cum-colleague from Mu Sigma. You might remember her from my Pondicherry trip. Our Mysore trip was to be 1.5 days long. We took an early morning train (Mysore Express: 6.00 AM at SBC) and were in Mysore by 8.15 AM. It was the day of Dusserha, and we were told that the we could expect to find the place crowded. I sort of expected that to happen at the station as well, but turned out that was not the case.

My first impression of Mysore was of a rather quaint and quiet town, with a wonderful weather. Pooja had packed us breakfast (bread and boiled eggs) and we ate that sitting on the platform – our Airbnb check in was not until 9.30 AM. We had plenty of time to kill until then, so we decided to take a walk to the Airbnb after breakfast. Besides, what better way to know a city than take a walk in it?

The walk to Brindavan extension, which is where our stay was, solidified my first impression of Mysore. It is a city with clean, wide roads. We did not see much traffic in the morning hours. Both sides of the roads were lined with trees – it reminded me of Durgapur, my home town. In addition, as we would later find out, the transport cost is far less compared to Bangalore standards. All of these features kind of tick the box for me as far as a quality of living in a city is concerned. I told Pooja that I do see Mysore as a city where you could settle down.

Our Airbnb was in a nice residential area with ATM and convenience stores nearby. We booked the room five weeks in advance for approx. Rs. 1,400 a night and let me tell you, it was worth every rupee. There was a well-furnished kitchen area (accessible to the guests), clean drinking water, a wide, spacious balcony with comfortable seating arrangement and a lovely view of a coconut orchard.

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Our room was clean, well-ventilated with a double bed and air conditioning. The bathroom was clean and clean towels were provided. It felt like home away from home. In fact, I’d have been happy to chill in the room for the entire stay.

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The primary objective of our trip was to witness the Dussehra procession in its full glory. We left the Airbnb around 11.30 AM, and took a bus to the four-point circle near the railway station. By then, I was quite hungry and we ate lunch at a McDonald’s with a nice roadside view at the four-point circle.

After that, everything was a bunch of confusion. We didn’t quite know where to go for the procession. We went in front of the palace, but entry was barred due to the procession. Some person tried to talk us into buying passes to go inside for Rs. 1,500, but we decided to stick to the outer area to see the procession. After asking few people, we reached KR Circle. It had already started getting crowded, and the circle area was closed off by the police for the procession. I could see people on rooftops of the shops and houses in the circle area. Pooja and I somehow managed to sit on one of the roadside boundaries, like you’d sit on a motorcycle. It was uncomfortable for sure, and the crowd kept pushing and pawing. To top it off, there were a bunch of over-enthusiastic local young men who kept blaring a  cheap wind instrument that the vendors were selling. The sun was strong, and the procession was nowhere to be seen.

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After waiting for about two hours, the procession started. There  were elephants decorated beautifully, folk dancers singing and dancing and so on, but from my vantage point, I had a poor view of things. Frankly speaking, for the large part of the procession, I kept asking myself why was I putting myself through this torture. The event reached its climax when Ambari, the golden howdah passed us. The crowd went up in a collective roar, people raised their hands in prayers, and finally, I started feeling better about being there.

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As the crowd started dispersing, we went back to the palace. We thought we would visit the interiors, but it was closed for public viewing at the time. Instead, we roamed around, took some amazing pictures and sat on chairs in front of the palace, waiting for another 1.5 hours for the palace to light up in its famous Dussehra way. Meanwhile, Pooja and I chatted about Mysore, life, work and countless other things.

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As the clock edged seven, we got off our chairs and walked towards the front. I was about to get my phone to recording mode, when amid the collective cheer of the crowd, the palace lit up with thousands of lights. In that moment, in the sheer excitement and happiness that was part of every single person in the crowd at the time, I was glad that I was in Mysore. I was happy that I was lucky to witness a special moment in history, and it was, in fact, the excitement of the crowd which made it even more special. It made me not miss the Durga puja back home and feel a oneness with what I call the spirit of India.

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Leaving the palace made us understand what people said about Mysore crowd in Dussehra. We walked all the way from the palace to the McD where we had lunch, and for the major part of the way the traffic was not moving at all. Fortunately for us, both Pooja and I are enthusiastic walkers, so we just walked all the way (hoping it would help me lose some belly fat 😛 ).

This was the end of Day 1 for us in Mysore. Day 2 was even more fun-packed, because I had planned the entire itinerary for that day and we were able to stick to it to the T. I will be back with the next and final installment of this series soon. Until then, do enjoy the pictures I clicked, and let me know what was the best thing you liked about Mysore in case you visited the city.

❤ ~Arpita~ ❤

Copyright © 2018 Arpita Pramanick

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