Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Empathy and Being Real

Happy 2018 to all reading this post - May only the best come your way this year!

This post is linked to what I wrote previously on Acceptance.

Being empathetic is really important in this day and age. There is just too much hate in the world right now. What if we tried to treat others the way we'd like to be treated ourselves? What if we only said to others what we'd love to hear being said to us? The world would transform. It's like I always like to say : Every Drop Makes An Ocean.

Last year was a revelation of sorts. Without getting into details - it suffices to say that I evolved as a person in the year that went past.

We all learn everyday. Some lessons are taught to us nicely and some we learn the hard way. Sometimes drawing a line verbally or physically is necessary. Sometimes crossing over a fragile line to give the other person a hug is also equally important - more so when you realise they were literally craving for it.

Something I also learned last year was to let go of expectations. Here it's important to note that I had a lot of unrealistic expectations from myself. I'm not the first mom to multitask and I'll not be the last. Women in the previous generations had it harder because blah blah - but that does not take away from the fact that in this day and age, it's quite tough to present the balancing act. I learned to do only as much as I could handle and take some time to rest. It did wonders for my mood and self-esteem.

And coming to the topic of social media. Yes I'm on social media now more than I ever was. I like observing people and trends. Hands down, I have more respect for people who portray their real selves on social media because it takes guts to do so.

Be real. Show real emotions. Say what you mean and mean what you say (they're both different by the way).

On that note, I'll sign off !

Monday, September 25, 2017


It's been a little more than 2 months since my last post. Needless to say, school has reopened this month and I'm getting my precious 5 hours to myself when the kids are away. 5 hours may seem A LOT but to be honest, it's not much :)

On a daily basis, I enjoy observing people and making little notes when I interact socially. I can strike up a conversation with anybody; so it's win-win :)

I can't believe we're hurtling towards the end of 2017. This year has mostly been very good to us, and I'm quite grateful for it. In this day and age; if you have a home to come back to and a family that loves you for who you are - there's nothing more you can ask for .

And that brings me to the topic of acceptance. What is acceptance? It's when you are judging less and introspecting more. It's when you're not trying to be one up on someone and instead, walking hand in hand with them. It's when you're not crushing someone's self esteem to bits and instead, showing empathy.

'Cuz remember, we don't know what the other person is going through. We haven't lived even one day in their shoes; so we are no one to advice them about what they should do with their life.

How about we say; 'Hey, I know how hard this is for you. I'm always here if you need me'.


'Hey, I know this is tough. Hang in there buddy, we're in this together'.


'Hi! Just checking in on you! How are you feeling today?'


I think judging and criticizing is a very sadistic behaviour. It is done for the sole purpose of belittling someone and not 'for their benefit'.

The world needs more of people who love unconditionally and who can accept each other regardless of size, shape, looks, clothes and all such irrelevant and trivial parameters.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Our Italian Sojourn - Part Two


We arrived in Florence by train at the Santa Maria Novella station which is HUGE and has a lot of cafes and even a nice supermarket. It also has a Mc Donalds and yes the veggie option is available too (what a relief).

An important note here:
All public toilets are of the paid category, it costs anywhere between Eur 0.50  - Eur 1 to use. The other option is to go to a cafe, eat something and then use the toilet there for free. And of course - no water in the toilets. We are so used to this coming from India and having lived in the Middle East that we take it for granted. Flushable wipes are a good option to carry though I don't know how eco-friendly they are.

Keep an eye on your valuables at all times and I don't recommend wearing expensive jewellery. It's best to keep the gold and diamonds at home and go to Italy wearing something very inexpensive - saves a lot of headache! If you're using a backpack, wear it in the front .

After checking into our hotel (no recommendations here, our hotel was comfortable but not the sorts I can recommend), we relaxed a bit before heading to the Eco Florence tour in the evening. This is a highly recommended tour! The pick up is at the Church of San Philipe in the main square - our guide was a lady who drove an electric cart and we were given audio guides to listen to. The biggest highlight of this tour is the Piazza Michalangelo, which is a uphill drive to a point where one can get the best view of the city of Florence! Thumbs up !

You can read more about the Eco Florence tour online and it is bookable on TripAdvisor/Viator etc. 

Florence is SO beautiful - it has the old world charm, the cobbled streets and there's all the beautiful Renaissance architecture all around. 

The next day we headed off on the Best of Tuscany Tour. This is a group tour, travel is by an airconditioned bus and the points of sightseeing are the towns of Sienna, San Gimignano and Pisa. It is a full day tour and can get a bit hectic with little kids but given that there's a lot of travel by the bus, there's plenty of time for them to get rest and sleep off for a bit. The Tuscan countryside is a sight tto behold! After our trip to Sienna, we stopped at a farmhouse for an authentic Tuscan lunch with homemade ingredients. We also tasted the wines - Yum !!

Sienna is very rustic but beautiful, San Gimignano is vibrant with little shops selling trinkets and cafes etc. And Pisa!! No words to describe what we felt at seeing the Leaning Tower - it's surreal!

The Best of Tuscany tour involves a LOT of walking and especially in Sienna and San Gimignano - all of the walking is uphill. I recommend wearing good walking shoes - I practically lived in them all through the trip !!

This tour is also bookable online and a big thumbs up from us - highly recommended!!


After enjoying Italy for a whole week, we travelled to Milan by the super fast AV train that departs in the morning. Overall, our experience with Trenitalia has been very positive including interactions with their staff at the customer service desks everywhere and even the staff on board. They are very kind, very helpful and supportive. 

Milan - what can I say! It is one of the fashion capitals of the world - it is stylish! The architecture is modern, everyone is on the go. The city has a fantastic subway network of 4 lines, of which one line has a driverless metro as well. Because there are 4 lines, the subway routes are not as easy to understand as the one in Rome, but what I especially liked is that you are never too far from a metro station. The metro connects the whole city and is a VERY convenient mode of transport as compared to taxis which are expensive. 

We stayed at the Novotel located near the Ca Granda metro station - an excellent property and highly recommended. The shopping district of Milan goes by the name of Buenos Aires and it is located very close to the Duomo - some great deals are always available on the choicest of brands. 

We went on two tours in Milan - both extremely good and recommended. Do remember that none of the tours offer a pick up from your hotel - so it is your job to figure out how to get to the meeting point. The first was a tour to the village of Turino from where we boarded the Bernina Express towards the Alps and onwards to the lil Swiss town of St Moritz. The highlight of this tour is the train ride through the mountain passes - it is very exciting for kids and adults alike! The climb is quite scenic and your eyes will never tire looking at nature's bounty. Keep your camera(s) charged and ready to click !! It was 28C in Milan versus 10C at St Moritz - cold!! The guide took us on a beautiful walk along the lake and then there was some free time to spend drinking in the natural beauty of which we could never get enough!

The other tour we did was that of Lake Como and Bellagio. The drive to the village of Como is so spectacular, and once we get to the village, there's a little cathedral there to see. We spent the best time lounging by the side of the pier on the benches there. There are free bikes to ride around a LOT of space for children to run - win win !! The tour continues with around a 45 minute cruise to the village of Bellagio. Sumedh was happy to look at all the ducks that seem to love the waters in Italy and at one point we also spotted a gorgeous Big white Swan when we docked at Bellagio! 

It is worthwhile to mention that we had Indian food delivered to our hotel twice by the Taj Mahal restaurant and they offer excellent service! Here's a link to their presence on Zomato  (https://www.zomato.com/milano/taj-mahal-isola/menu)

We flew back home from Milan with our hearts bursting with memories - this is a trip we'll always remember. We managed to fall in love with everything - the culture, the vast blue expansive skies, the friendly amiable Italians and the yummy food! 

And yes we're already planning our next holiday next year to a new destination - let's see where we end up going!!!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Our Italian Sojourn (A Multiple Part Series) - Part One


Early in the month of March, we decided to finally plan a holiday after  a 3 year hiatus. Our last holiday was to Greece in April 2014. 

There was no such reason for not going except that our little one is not very comfortable in confined environments such as flights, so we wanted to wait till he was a bit older. He is nearly 5 now so we thought better now than never!

As we looked towards European destinations - Italy came to mind. I have always wanted to go see the Leaning Tower in Pisa, and the ancient historic sights of Rome. But the south of Italy is said to be beautiful and very picturesque - the Amalfi Coast is very popular with tourists.We spent a few weeks of debating whether we should visit the south of Italy or the north . We had only 10 days in hand - and ultimately we decided on the North.

So we chalked out a route which would be Rome - La Spezia (Cinque Terre in the north west) - Florence and finally Milan. The plan was to fly into Rome and fly out of Milan and our dates were June 23rd - July 4th. 


We landed into the Fiumicino Airport and we were aghast to see the horrific queues at Immigration. About a 1000 odd people crammed into the hall and obviously the airconditioning was not able to support the load so it was sweaty and hot. There is no priority for elderly folks or families with kids - we requested them but we were turned down. We did see Australian and US passport holders being fast-tracked - no idea why.  If we were warned beforehand, at least we would have kept some extra food and water for the kids. Eventually when we were an hour away from the counters, we requested a lady ground staff and though she was quite rude, she fast-tracked us. 

We checked into the Mediterraneo Hotel at the Central Termini, which is a beautiful location to stay. It's very close to the Metro line and all major locales such as the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain etc are just 2 stops away. The hotel also has a lot of cafe style Pizzerias all around so there's no dearth of choice for meals. The Central Termini is full of branded stores and it also has a nice McDonalds that does stock the McVeggie burgers. We needed a break from pizza by the 2nd day, so this was a nice option for us to refuel. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our half day tours of the Colosseum, the Vatican and we explored the Spanish Steps etc by ourselves. The Colosseum is exactly how you see it in photos - huge, imposing and the history of this space literally pours out of each facade. Our guide led us through the history of this arena, and the way she was explaining it, we could imagine the scenes in our minds.

The Vatican City is inside Rome and has its own entry point demarcated by a huge wall. The tour we went on basically covered three points - the Vatican Museum, St Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. The Museum is filled with paintings from that era and plenty of frescoes. There is a lot of walking and stair climbing which is ok but it got uncomfortable due to no air-conditioning. The St Peter's Basilica is enormous, with beautifully carved gates and columns; but indeed the Sistine Chapel is the best of the 3. Serene, tranquil and it houses the best ceiling frescoes painted by Michaelangelo. In those days, without any equipment and just using vegetable dyes - he has truly painted masterpieces, some of which are 3D. The intricate detailing of each painting there literally gave us goosebumps!!

We got stuck in a heatwave that hit Rome - temperatures hit 35C which is not very high if you consider the heat in the UAE but it was HOT outdoors.
Luckily, the evenings were very pleasant and post 4 pm it was quite nice to be outdoors. Considering that sunset is only by 9:00 pm , we had quite a lot of time to tour in the evenings.


After 3 days in Rome we headed to La Spezia. There is a direct train (Trenitalia of course) from the Central Termini and the journey is about 4 hours through the picturesque north western terrain. I highly recommend getting the Eurail pass, we got ourselves the 4 day pass and it was quite useful. The trains are extremely comfortable and there's enough space even for big pieces of luggage.  

As the train approaches La Spezia, the glorious seascape comes into view. Imagine the turquoise languid waters that gently splash over the rocks ashore - bliss!! La Spezia is a small scenic village and it is through this station that the train departs towards the Cinque Terre (the 5 villages). Many tourists like to hike through to the villages, it's not too far. 

We stayed at the CDH La Spezia, a 10 minute taxi ride from the railway station. This hotel is right at the central square, just minutes away by walk and there are ruins of a castle in front of it.  The village square is a delight to just stroll around, there are little shops everywhere and even a small kids play area. Overall, we were enraptured by the ambience and the vibes all around. A village is a village - wherever in the world you go ! :)

We took the little train to the 5 villages, but got off only at Vernazza and Monterosso. The village of Monterosso has a nice small beach. Oh and if anyone prefers cruises, there are day cruises that depart from the dock at  La Spezia too.

After La Spezia, we visited Florence - keep watching the blog for further posts!


Monday, May 8, 2017

My Age is more than just a number

Oh yes, you read that right! 

Sometime in late March, I entered my mid 30s. My older son Samarth was busy announcing my age to all and sundry and I heard a lot of chuckles around and was beginning to wonder why. What is so great in hiding one's age? 

My age is my badge of honour. I very proudly say it loud and clear and don't attempt to hide it with a tee-hee or ha-ha or some joke.

So apparently there's this saying, that don't ask a woman her age and a man his salary. Because a woman never lives for herself and a man never earns for himself. Really? Is that even true in today's day and age - I think it is really outdated. 

I can surely speak for myself. I enjoy my me-time as much as I enjoy my mommy+wife+multiple role time with the family. Yes, I am not ashamed to admit that those snippets of time recharge me and remind me about what I am as an individual and allow me to reflect on my journey so far. After all one cannot pour from an empty cup!!

I wear my age proudly as a title. I do not care if 'I look my age or younger or older'. I am so self-assured that comments do not matter to me anymore. I think all women should be comfortable enough to reach this point in life where nothing can shake them anymore. 

If anything - my age has taught me to reflect on the inner core rather than the outer shell. It has taught me to look through the facades and masks that some people insist on wearing. As I enter a new year in life, I have learned to tune into my instincts more than ever and trust them to help me make decisions. Yep, I'm certainly doing a lot of important decision making these days :)

Ageing gracefully is an art and I do intend to take baby steps in that direction. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

In 2017 : Emotions, Prioritizing and more..

How soon two months of the new year have flown by us!
Towards the end of 2016, I learned a harsh lesson and learned how to cut off toxic people from my life. It really felt like a breath of fresh air!  Getting angry and giving an intense reaction was the easy way out and it would have been so convenient to choose it. But I chose to give a cold shoulder - something I thought I could never do. For me the most important thing was that my kids were watching my reaction and they were simultaneously imbibing. At that time, I felt a bit like the lion in this pic below :D
Every time life gets tough do you give up? Do you find an excuse not to exercise? Remember that you are a role model for your children and that they are always watching you. If you enjoy exercising chances are they will too. Kids pick up your behaviors. Exercise is important know matter how old you are. Kids should be getting in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Make a change today! Show your children how important it is for them to take care of their bodies. It's the only one they have.:
I realised that only when we stick up for ourselves and prioritize our feelings and emotions - will other people do the same. We need to be stronger and sometimes more vocal - not to be confused with being rude. Being vocal is being assertive - and yes it can be done very politely.
Here's something cute that has been doing the rounds on the internet lately - How to convert your 'sorrys' into 'thank yous'. Reducing the number of unnecessary sorrys - also aids projecting a more self-confident version of ourselves.

One of the images I liked from that link is this one below. What a difference words can make!


Vocalising is so important - it is something I am learning along the way. Body language and mannerisms that accompany the words - can change the meaning altogether. Assertiveness is important and so is realising the importance of self-respect.
If there's one thing I am working on changing in myself this year, it is my reactions to unpleasant situations. I want to be calmer, I want to be more composed. It would be more of a personality overhaul, I guess. Over time, I have realised that people who intentionally want to hurt us by way of their words or actions, are fuelled by our reactions.
The easiest way out is to keep quiet - and let them know they have not affected you in any way. Barking dogs, seldom bite.
Here's to a year of positivity, a year of making slow and gradual changes. Wish me luck!! :D

Monday, December 5, 2016

In the pursuit of Happiness

A few days ago, I was having a little chat with my not-so-young 10 year old about what happiness is really about. He is at this age where he relates the source of happiness to everything materialistic and specifically gadgets. He is surrounded by kids here in the Middle East who have the latest gizmos and spend a lot of time gaming. Their conversations are seemingly centred on who played what, whose online score was higher and the latest updates ... so on and so forth.
When recently we were thinking of whether or not to get him his own laptop - I raised my hand in disagreement. Until he has a real need for his own laptop, I don't think it makes sense for us to give him his own. Seeing as there are a couple of laptops in the home already - I thought of it as a nice opportunity to teach him the importance of shared resources.
I don't know about other households, but I do tend to place a lot of value on family time and real human interaction. For instance, I expect my children to engage with each other in whichever way they find mutually fun (they are 6 years apart so maybe there's not many games that they can play together). Even if it's just kicking a ball around in the corridor or chasing each other around the house - it's something REAL and tangible and that's what makes it special. When I see them collapsed in fits of laughter, I know then that these rules are so worth it! :)
Even though we can afford those gizmos that he so craves - I have limited his gadget usage to TV and his Lenovo Tablet which is password protected - he doesn't know what the password is. I keep a track of how much screen time he is given. And somewhere along the line, I am teaching him to be conscious and aware - to not be simply drowning inside some virtual quicksand.
But first as adults, we need to ask ourselves - What do we base our happiness on? Is it external factors all the time, or intrinsic? Are we seeking validation all the time from our social circle or social media OR are we learning to be happy and content on our own? Our children are watching us all the time and imbibing subconsciously.

To summarize, I'd like to think we have to work in tandem. Parenting and teaching life lessons in this day and age is challenging no doubt. If we're not effective role models, we cannot expect our child to learn anything. If you take away all of your child's gadgets BUT you are always busy on your own phone/tablet, it does not make any sense. If you don't give them real alternatives to what else they can do with their time, then is it going to work? I don't think so.

In a couple of decades, my son will not remember his top gaming score but he will surely remember those fist fights with his brother and all those songs they like to sing loudly together.

Those are REAL memories :-) unbeatable, precious and priceless.