The journey of a lifetime… begins in a tree house!

The Canopy machan
The Canopy machan

The Wise have often said, “a couple that travels the world together, will always live together.” I and the Mister are like chalk and cheese, and it’s only by divine miracle that we are still married to each other. When I say, ‘trekking’, he’ll blurt out, ‘sleeping’ and then emphasize with a yawn. When I say, ‘kulfi, he’ll say, ‘ice cream’. When I say, ‘chai’, it has to be ‘coffee’… you get the drift. The idea is to agree to always disagree.

It so happened this month that we both agreed to make a small trip to celebrate a BIG occasion – yes, the Mister & I completed five years of this roller-coaster of a journey called ‘marriage’ on the 6th of May this year. Monday, the 2nd of May it finally dawned on us that Friday would mark our fifth wedding anniversary. And that it was a hot summer weekend too!

Although I’m sure I’m the soul that deserves an award for putting up with him for five years, he believes he should be given a bravery trophy for sticking by me all these years. Whatever our beliefs are, deep inside we knew we had to make it big. None of our close friends or family expected the two of us to stick together for so long, yet we did it and how! The celebration had to be a very special one indeed!

We live in Pune and the sun is not so kind in this month. We did not want to travel too far and feel all dehydrated and exhausted for our getaway celebration. We also did not want to increase our travel budget via domestic airlines. Our best bet would have to be a cooler hill station nearby – perhaps Lonavla, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani or our favourite, the quaint old Matheran.

We opted for ‘The Machan’ – a serene tree house resort 17 kms from Lonavla and 80 kms from Pune. And, much to our surprise, we got a 25% summer discount for booking in May. So that’s a Yay!

The morning of Friday the 6th was a busy one, we finished with the packing and tried to wrap up our work for the day, as we needed to push off early. We got into an Alibhag bus from Shivaji Nagar bus stand at sharp 12 noon, and reached Lonavla at 1:45 pm after a slow, not-so-bumpy ride in that rickety bus. Then we headed to Annapurna Pure Veg located right at Lonavla market for an amazing lunch – masala papad, roti, naan, bindi masala, veg pulav and glasses of chilled lassi to wash it down with.

It was hot, sweaty but the excitement of staying in a tree house got me all energized. Every moment was tugging at me badly like a perseverant kid pulling his mom’s saree pallu. We were to stay at the Sunset machan for day 1 and the Canopy machan for day 2, as we were a bit late in planning for our anniversary celebration.

Sunset machan verandah
Sunset machan verandah

The most popular machan is the Sunset machan and everybody wants that, why you ask…you’ll know soon from the pictures. It is the best machan ever: you can lie in a giant bathtub on the wooden verandah, watching the sun set amid the mountain peaks, while surrounded by trees all around you. Or you can laze around in the lounge chair beside. The feature image of the canopy machan is what I clicked when on our nature trail around the acres of trees in the evening.

So, we got into an autorickshaw from Lonavla and reached the resort in about half an hour. We checked into our machan – the Sunset 1 and knew in our hearts that this must be in the list of ‘Top 10 holiday getaways for nature lovers in India’ or at least in ’50 Best Holidays In A Tree House’. As you can imagine, I immediately got into the bathtub though it was sunny at 3 pm.

There was pin drop silence except for the cicadas playing spoilsport for most of the day. It seems summers are mating time for these insects that make a horrible sound by rubbing their legs, and there were millions of them.

Being inside a tree house with the tops of trees for company, is an altogether heavenly experience. I felt like a high flying eagle at times and also a monkey at times, which I most often do, machan or not!

We went out for buffet dinner at the fireside, though the heart was still in my little wooden house. Dinner was what you’d expect at a decent Indian restaurant, and finding the same here was super cool. Then it was back to our machan and back to sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor and just gazing at the view outside. The Mister had already had his time in the bathtub with some wine and pristne nature for company.

I had indulged in some doodling, then some reading and then stopped everything to just ‘get lost’ in the view. the night was dedicated to star gazing. Whenever the clouds parted, you could see a black blanket embedded with a million million glittering stars. I was lucky to see fireflies flitting away beside me, and began to feel like a magician. A monkey magician, if you may!

machan view
A view from Canopy machan

The complimentary breakfast is a never ending spread: there’s  french toast, pancakes, baked beans, boiled eggs, masala omlette, as well as mini idlis, medu vadas, uttapams and tea, coffee or juice. For the health conscious, there were fruits too. Lunch was at the fireside too, it was a shorter version of dinner, very few of us guests had come to have our lunch in the company of the hot sun.

the good life
the good life

All the food and the heavy dose of nature proved bad for me. I began to get attached to the place, where I was just a weekend guest. Anyways, the stay in the Canopy machan was good too – the antique brass switches, the lamps salvaged from a ship and everything wooden was there too, but no giant bathtub in the verandah.

The Mister made himself comfortable in the wooden rocking bench in the verandah instead. There is also a hammock, but the sun was shining right on top. I waited for the evening to set in, but lying in a hammock in a machan makes you sleep like a baby. I got up and began jumping around my machan like a monkey!

The Mister went for a full body Ayurvedic spa massage, there are other types too, while I lazed around in the bench and promised myself not to cry when we leave this place the next day. Shortly after, we went for a nature trail that ended at sunset point, on the trail we saw special trees and medicinal plants as well as poisonous plants.

A tree called Anjan actually stores pure water in its stem, leaves and branches after distilling it from the ground water. Standing around a bunch of Anjan trees makes you feel like standing beside a natural cooler!

We checked out a little while after our breakfast where we ate like kings and queens. The return journey was a quiet one, the autorickshaw guy sent another driver of his, we reached Lonavla in no time, and got a bus to Deccan in Pune. Lunch was at KFC in Deccan and then back home to Kothrud. Our 5th wedding anniversary has indeed been a memorable one, despite the last minute planning.

The journey of a lifetime… begins with a wedding or maybe in a tree house!

For all of you who’ve completed at least a year of marriage, the Mister & I wish you many lifetimes together so you continue to fight over tea and coffee like us, and make your yatra a memorable one!

Turning three and feeling young again!

I can’t believe our blog – that is also our source of bread and butter – turns three today! Here’s our mascot with the birthday cake:

LI-mascot-cakeAfter a false start on April fool’s day, our blog ‘Lighthouse Insights’ was formally launched on December 1, 2010. A day before I had confided to my hubby and partner-in-crime (then fiancé) that I plan to look for content related jobs to help moonlight my daytime struggle with design assignments I was struggling to find.

Why go outside when you can join me?” he said. Surprised and amused, I asked him what was he talking about!

He sent me a blog link with around 10 posts on marketing, word of mouth marketing, customer service, social media magic and more. I liked the substance in this blog but would I be paid? It was named ‘Bee Societal’ and I couldn’t imagine working for a blog named like that. Also, I was living in Mumbai and we didn’t know when to get married!

When everything is a big question mark, you surrender to the divine forces. I did that and almost magically, we worked on this blog with me in Mumbai and him in Pune. First things first – ‘Bee Societal’ was renamed to ‘Lighthouse Insights’ after a brainstorming session on the phone, minus our brains!

The initial months were full of self-training and observation – social media practices, human behaviour, blog content, SEO basics and link building, digital marketing, Seth Godin, English & grammar (actually studied through Wren and Martin which was optional in school!) and much more. This process of learning kept me engaged and excited as well.

But, the location difference was still a problem and we couldn’t be engaged forever. So we got married. One month later, we moved to a personal domain and there has been no looking back ever since. Within seven months of marriage and the blog’s first anniversary, the hubby put down his papers at the IT company that used to pay our rent and bills. January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012 was a complete roller-coaster ride of a year, we didn’t know what we had gotten into and didn’t know where it was leading us. With God’s grace, we were able to pass through painful wrists, a broken back, and some ‘medical conditions’ caused from insomnia, nervous tension et al. The most exciting bit was, of course, paying our bills right on the due date!

2013 has been a ‘floating’ experience. Both of our systems have been reconfigured and we don’t remember much of when we fell in love with each other, or when we met and decided to get married. Survival has taught us focus, discipline and perseverance, something our parents tried in vain!

Three years and counting…three years young and getting to kindergarten…relearning the childish way to explore…Thank you God for everything!

Deep down we are all a little selfish but…

It was a good half an hour past 9 pm yesterday. Our table was all set after an adventurous bike journey to the far end of Pune. While we waited patiently for our rather sumptuous dinner, I decided the time was just right to pop up a question that was bugging me ever since the Mister had interviewed a food blogger.

Every time the Mister had talked about the passionate Bengali blogger’s story and his constant struggle to maintain a delicious food blog along with a demanding day job, he had also made a passing reference to his Parsi wife being a foodie. The reference that came again and again felt like a constant jab to my wifely duties. Was the Mister making an indirect hint? Was he trying to tell me that his not being a food blogger despite being a foodie has got anything to do with me?

I confess I am not a foodie. I did mention this on our very first telephone call itself. He said food was not at all a vital factor for a successful marriage. I had given up non-veg (read eating animals) many years ago. He said it is perfectly ok with him. But, today after a year of being engaged and 2 years of being married, I was being rebuked for not being a foodie and a non-veggie at that!

stock-vector-vector-cartoon-of-man-and-woman-having-romantic-dinner-103838444

So how would it be if you had married a non-veg foodie just like you?” I asked the Mister while we waited for our dinner at Tawaah!, a restaurant located at the wee end of Sus  Road in Pune. Tawaah! specialises in North Indian cuisine with luscious chicken and lamb delicacies. The instant reaction was of amazement at my logical reasoning. He had quickly realised where this question was coming from.

The first round of piping hot chicken gravy arrived with lachcha parathas for the two of us.

I began serving myself anxiously waiting for his response. The gravy also called ‘tandoori murg tikka masala’ looked and smelt the same as the others that go by the name ‘tandoori murg makkhani‘, ‘tandoori murg handi‘ and other tandoori chicken and mutton dishes. But, these are in fact very very different like distant cousins or like chalk and cheese if you may. Only a diehard foodie can make it out. For me it was just a spicy gravy that I could finish my lachcha parathas with!

He had decided to buy time so he could think artfully before giving a ‘politically correct’ answer. So, while the Mister continued with serving himself, carefully taking the right proportion of gravy and chicken pieces and a portion of the onion-cabbage-carrot combo gratings, I became a little impatient. As always, he then squeezed the quarter lemon that accompanies such dishes though I do not understand the significance. Does the citric acid add to the flavour of the chicken? I always use the lemon quarters to wash off my greasy fingers 😛

The Mister realised that he had bought an enormous amount of time, so it was now soon approaching the Moment of Truth. Noticing the rising impatience in me, he took a deep breath just before he blurted out that many a times he did think about it – “How would my life be if I had married a crazy non-veggie like me? Both of us would be on the lookout for a foodie adventure every weekend and married life would be so much foodie…err fun. But then what if she did not like to read or take my tantrums or worse still watch those dreaded TV soaps?!”

I was already feeling better 🙂

After weighing the pros and cons of having a non-veg foodie wife, the Mister had realised that my con (read being a non-foodie) carried no weight when compared to her one pro (read being a non-veg foodie) and my multiple pros – only I can handle his extreme mood swings, temper tantrums, pamper demands and above all eating animals for him!

And, we had dinner in contented silence, not the one associated with unasked queries. The ‘mutton kheema pulao‘ became tolerable. Perhaps, we are a little selfish deep down but there is something called ‘love’ that makes us behave better.

And they lived happily ever after…

Love isn’t something you find. Love is something that finds you,” a very wise observation indeed by the American actress Loretta Young. But, what exactly is love and how does it find you? History has been replete with grand stories of love – Romeo and Juliet, Laila and Majnu, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz and many more stories of unconditional love.

The literary world has brought a wealth of beautiful meaning to love in the form of poems, essays, interpretations and research. Scientists have found chemical changes in a brain that is in love; at the touch of love, Plato said, one becomes a poet; love has immense potential to move mountains they say, yet no one has been able to decipher it!

We can pretend to hack it, but it remains elusive. This cupid once struck, bounds two individuals to reconfigure themselves completely for the other. So, we say that love is blind. Yes, it is because what the eyes cannot see, the heart can.

It is our second wedding anniversary today and the mere thought of it sends shudders through me. It is unbelievable! We made it through two years of serious infighting, work conflicts, unequal distribution of labour with large helpings of chaos, clashes and ego thrown in. We have swum against the currents while arguing nonstop about which way to head next. We would pull out our hair in horrifying frustration even when the heart wanted to say, “If it were not for you, darling, I would have never known true love!”

Love made us strong, love made us vulnerable, love made us love each other and do things we would have never done otherwise. We had diametrically opposite views on how stuff needs to be done yet we did all of this together.

So, at this juncture I am utterly at a loss of words. I too, like the many greats cannot describe love.  Perhaps, love is a matrix which engulfs you. Once you are in, its wonderland all the way. Your sense of logic and reasoning delude you into believing new rules of survival. But, you definitely come out richer.

If you were to ask me whether love has certain rules or does it take care of itself, I wouldn’t know what to say. Maybe the couples who have celebrated a platinum anniversary would know better, but I have my doubts. In all these two years I have realised that love needs to be nurtured much like a seedling, yet there is no guarantee that it will grow sky high and strong. Some divine calculations are on every moment up there. But, what I can confirm is that love is not a zero-sum game. We win some, we lose some but there is winning in the losing too!

  • ‘Be truthful’ yet not so much as to hurt the other’s heart. “What are you doing about those tyres around your waist, honey?” can be easily rephrased, isn’t it?
  • ‘Be honest’ and divulge your attractions for someone you have taken a liking for, but do not – I repeat do not – ever cross the line of no return. Affairs on the sly are a complete no-no.
  • ‘Be open’ to new ways of doing things. There may be a thousand ways of changing a light bulb, while you have been changing it in a particular way all your life!
  • ‘Be polite’ and don’t forget your manners. A little sorry here, a little thank you there, a little please in between is not such a tough ask, you know!
  • ‘Surprise’ is something that adds a spark anytime, even after we’ve quarrelled like cats and dogs. This is one element that is inexpensive and gives joy to the one who surprises as well.
  • And, most importantly, ‘express’ your undying love anytime and everytime; do not wait for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Life is unpredictable and do make the most if it every moment that you breathe.

We do not know what lies in the future, but together we think we can make it. How many more years, you ask…Well, maybe forever and even longer…

We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. Even longer,’ Pooh answered.

Of Candle light dinners and the dark ages

Courtesy : toonpool

I can distinctly recall that one memorable day from our courtship days. Mr. Right went all out of his slothful way, to make me a dinner that I’ll always remember. The ‘tried-to’ barbeque chicken, the fried ‘hilsa‘, the sautéed tiger prawns all with a splash of Maggi hot-n-sour sauce. I’m not so sure whether he has bartended before but the Smirnoff-Tropicana lychee cocktail was a killer. The yummy masala cheese cubes and the strawberry with cream still linger in the memory of my taste buds. I could cross seven Antarcticas for him!

I had shut off the lights and lit some candles left over from Diwali. We had the most beautiful romantic dinner anybody anywhere could ever have had.

Someone wise had said that ‘With great power comes greater responsibility’. He or she was not wise enough to include the lesser souls like me, who have ‘no power’ at all. Which means that I cannot start the washing machine, I cannot open my inbox nor can I play pop-in, pop-out with my toaster.

Every morning the Mister and I make a list of to-do’s and as soon as he’s out to office, the power takes a cue and goes for a nap. The to-do’s listed under my name have piled up so high, that if we were to do a see-saw with our list of to-do’s, the Mister will be seen smiling and waving cheerfully from the ‘up’ side.

Although he calls me a perfectionist, deep in my heart I know what he really means to say. He is actually fed up with me taking forever and ever and ever and the frequent power cuts do not help my cause either. I’m not a sucker for the idiot box and reality shows bore me to the peak. More so, I haven’t even re-subscribed to our DTH. God knows I’m even contemplating a mini-Nirvana every time the power goes off. But who is to tell the Mister that? He has a picture of me sitting delighted, relaxing my butts on the ‘down’ side of the see-saw and fanning myself with the exotic hand fan I had bought during our honeymoon with one hand and my list of to-do’s in the other.

I have no intention of celebrating ‘Earth Hour’ every hour of my daytime nor do I relish smelling my armpits. At most I wish to end the Dark Ages with a peaceful candle light dinner. I have four boxes of plain white candles, a box of scented candles, a teddy bear candle from my recent birthday and a red glass candle stand that slouches rather passionately beside the bed. I wish someone out there ‘plucks out’ that memorable day and waves it in front of the Mister.

He gives one glance at the meter box and it winks back ‘I’m on work strike mate!’. The Mister then promptly takes me out for a quick fix dinner at any one of our neighbourhood restaurants. I’m certain that the owners of these restaurants are bribing my meter box. Corruption is everywhere!

But with the frequent power cuts, we both have come to the same conclusion which is a rarity in our case – ‘with no power comes no responsibility’. Adios Antarctica!

Of Coffee Connoisseurs and Chai Shaukeens…

I still remember the day vividly. That was the day I had told my mother that I have found my Mr. Right at last. In my heart, I always believed that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But she confirmed it nearly thrice a la Big B style and eventually locked it after a few days of resigned contemplation. The question mark on her face was too evident so neither did she smile nor heave a sigh of relief for her ignorant daughter.

For those who are unaccustomed to my very basic wishes in Mr. Right, please read an earlier post written with all the mighty stupidity I’ve been bestowed with. I’ll unravel them layer by layer as I have nothing better to do now.

A few glimpses of Mr. Right begin to show from the honeymoon onwards. Although the risk of sounding like a nagger looms large over my head, I promise to put down only pure facts and nothing more here.

The coffee is breathtaking at Coorg. Mind you I said Breathtaking alone which means it takes my breath away when its brewing. Where on Earth or the other planets have I claimed to love coffee or even know how to brew a decent one?

I was a  ‘Complan Girl’ right from my kindergarten who retaliated in her adolosence to become a diehard ‘chai-shaukeen’, especially with an essence of ginger – a most exotic and cute sounding spice. But who is to explain this to the Mister. Yeah, my Mr. Right is the Mister now and I know now that the light at the end of the tunnel was just another lost soul with a torch in his hand.

The Mister sipped loads of black coffee in an aura of divinity while I watched in daze. I was after all a cutting-chai types. Cut to present when we are as good as an old couple with all ‘Niceties’ of speech and manner nearly vanished, we have become what we were to begin with.

The Mister will not shut the toilet seat; I can see my mum smiling now. She was smiling when I had told her how he cleans and scrubs every inch of the bathroom and the toilet bowl, every time i came visiting. Little did I know that it was just a quick fix before the arrival of the school inspector. It so happened that yesterday he came in early and asked for coffee which is very rare. I was delighted and nearly jumped up in glee, that a lowly ‘chai-shaukeen’ was offered the task of preparing the royal beverage – coffee!

In my divine glee, I not only boiled the filtered coffee powder but also watched in horror as it spilt out in all its Vesuvius fury. Before I could wipe out all evidence, I realised the Mister had witnessed the entire ‘open-and-shut’ case with a rather wide open mouth. He couldn’t bring himself to speak for a few seconds.

After some life-changing moments had passed by, he started blabbering something what now seems to be just my mum smiling away in all her glory. Your Mr. Right, huh?

What can a ginger-tea lover possibly know about brewing exotic roasted and powdered and refined coffee beans? Well, nothing really. The Mister has realised that and now handles all the delicate coffee management devices in our kitchen. It is not so often that ‘realisation’ hits so hard. For someone who promised to try the lowly ‘adrak-chai’ in the name of love, now protects his royal coffee from chai pollution.

I can see my mum’s smirky smile, flash back to that mushy day and cut back to this dreadful day and my mum smiles all the way.