Tag Archives: family

Scintillating and Mesmerizing Taj Mahal

There are few things that are synonymous with India than the scintillating Taj Mahal.  Growing up in India as a child, Taj Mahal was in all my history books and we were often fed an overdose of the Taj. Yet, I never thought I would see the Taj Mahal in person. Having grown up on a staple of Indian movies where several romantic numbers in the 90’s were shot at the Taj Mahal, I always felt I had seen the monument in person. On a cloudy and humid July day, my husband, new daughter and I made our way to Taj Mahal. We were in New Delhi to finish the adoption formalities, and had the weekend when we decided to visit the magnificient Taj Mahal.

I will always remember seeing the Taj Mahal across the Yamuna River banks and our cab driver telling us there is the Taj. The distance did not diminish the beauty or the magnificence of the Taj. As we walked through security, I felt a sense of overwhelming uneasiness at the presence of such magnificence. While it looked just like in the movies, the enormousness of the monument was undeniable. As we walked through the pathway amidst thousands of people, some tourists and many locals, we were briefed about the history of the Taj Mahal by our tour guide. Every word echoed the years I spent in school in India reading and marveling at the romance behind the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan, a Mughal emperor for his most beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal to profess his love for her. He wanted to build a monument that was as beautiful as her. It was built to house her tomb which along with Shah Jahan’s is still seen in the Taj. It took twenty one years and several thousands of people to build the monument. Upon building the monument, it is told he cut off their arms so they would not replicate the Taj. The art inside the Taj is made of real gem stones from different parts of the world and the white marble is unique to Agra where the Taj resides. The marble glows on a full moon night which was demonstrated when we took a tour of how the art is created.
As I walked through Taj in my booties, I marveled at the architecture of the monument. Amidst thousands of people thronging through the doors of Taj, I felt a strange serenity. The monument echoed the love between a man and a woman, and as a girl who grew up on Bollywood romances of the 90’s I could only wonder how someone could love another person so much that they built the iconic Taj Mahal in her honor. The Taj Mahal is beyond a monument. It is the symbol of love that is often seen hidden in the pages of a romance novel. I am proud that I belong to the land of the Taj Mahal, a symbol of love even more than I ever was.

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Nostalgic Bangalore

Long before the travel bug took me to exotic places, I was a young kid growing up in Bangalore, India. Today Bangalore has been replaced by Bengaluru, the cool untainted air has been replaced by the pollution from the IT industry but the one thing that has never been replaced is the childhood memories Bangalore has always evoked in me. The streets of Bangalore holds stories of my childhood, playing street cricket with the boys, crushes and puppy love and the place I spent the best years of my life with the man whose dimples made my heart flutter- my dad or Acha as I called him in my language.

 

Bangalore is often called the garden city of India. The city has many iconic parks such as Cubbon Park and Lal Bagh. Cubbon Park is Bangalore’s Central Park that sits in the bustling business district in Bangalore. The park is encrusted by the Vidhana Soudha, the legislative chamber of the state government, Central Library and High Court.  My first memories of Cubbon Park includes going there from my school in kindergarten. We went on a field trip to the park which is India is fondly called picnic. I have been to the park several times in my years of living in Bangalore and recently introduced the Park to my husband when we visited India in 2009. It continues to evoke nostalgia in me. Lal Bagh is an Botanical garden in Bangalore which houses several varieties of trees and plants. The gardens spreads across 240 acres and was laid out in 1760 by Hyder Ali. I have spent several hours in Lal Bagh with my friends and family. I learned the species of plants walking through Lal Bagh holding my dad’s hands and in those moments I learned to love gardening.

 

Growing up in India in the 90’s, one spent most of their time playing with family and friends. During one such summer when my cousins visited Bangalore from the Middle East, we ended up visiting Tipu Sultan’s Palace in Bangalore. The Palace is well preserved with history and the artifacts are reminiscent to the era gone by. Tipu Sultan ruled over Bangalore 1800’s and was very powerful as a ruler. He is iconic to the history of India, and his palaces can be found in Mysore and Bangalore. Bangalore is iconic for shopping, and is one of the biggest metropolitan cities in India. MG Road in Bangalore has an array of stores and brand names. Today, there are malls all over the city but in the 90’s MG Road was the fashion hub of Bangalore. For kids like me, a trip to MG Road was similar to going to disneyland. Shops like Big Kids Kemp had people dressed up as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

 

While Bangalore is a metropolitan, there are several places around the city where one can spend a weekend enjoying nature or history depending upon their fancy. Mysore, near Bangalore is home to Tipu Sultan’s historic Palaces. If nature feeds your fancy, there are several waterfalls around Bangalore such as the magnificent Jog Falls, Shivasamudra Water Falls. Jog Falls is my absolute favorite. Labeled India’s second highest plunging waterfall, the drop is estimated to be about 253m. If coffee is in your staple, a trip to the coffee mecca near Bangalore called Coorg is an absolute must. Coorg borders Karnataka and Kerala. While coffee draws people to Coorg, the beautiful talakaveri brings the locals in heaps. River Cauveri that runs through Bangalore and is the main source of water begins at Talakaveri.
As I started writing this blog, I realized I had not seen many of  the tourist spots of Bangalore having lived there for over 12 years of my life. Yet, I decided to write this blog because Bangalore is more than a city to me, Bangalore is home. It evokes memories of the days I spent with my dad before he passed away, it reminds me of a carefree time in my life. The streets signal memories of cricket. Irrespective of where the journey has taken me, or where my physical address resides, Bangalore will forever be home.

 

HIKING THE REDWOOD REGIONAL PARK

Hiking is more than just an exercise for me, it charges my depleted battery and invigorates me. I enjoy scaling the mountain and reaching the summit. In my own weird way, I feel close to my dad as I stand on top of the mountain. My dad passed away years ago, and even after twenty years I feel connected to him as I stand on a mountain. After hiking Mission Peak for exercise twice to three times a week, this June my husband and I adopted a german shepherd puppy Zed. Since June, I have stayed away from hiking and have missed it terribly. During this Labor day weekend, we took our puppy hiking not once, but thrice. He had all his shots and we were elated to abuse his tiny paws.
Redwoods Regional Park in Oakland was one of our hikes. We were looking for reasonably easy hike that was shady for his black fur. Encrusted by acres of redwoods, nature provided a shady carpet for Zed’s tiny paws. The park has several acres of land with children’s park, fishing and camp grounds. There was even a wedding happening in one of the camp grounds. We walked for two hours before turning back to our car. Zed was famished and tired to say the least. He was knocked out the moment he sat in our car which was our mission.

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An Evening in the backwaters of Kerala- Kochi and Alleppey!

Kerala, a coastal state in the southern part of India is my home. I was never acquainted with Kerala beyond the few months vacation I took each year as a child. Yet, every time I think about her, I remember the many overnight train trips we took from Bangalore to Kerala. The next morning I always woke up to the most beautiful orange-reddish hue of the rising sun, the glistening water from the suns rays, the pristine clean air, the paddy fields, the fishermen on their boats, and the farmers in the rice fields. Kerala felt like a magical wonderland and stood true to her name “God’s own country”. My vacations for the first eight years of my life began with this dazzling display by nature. In 2009, after several years of being in America I decided to visit Kerala again. This time I was flying 30,000 miles with my very American husband to acquaint him to my childhood, my family and the state my family call home.

 

I spent most of life as a city girl in metropolitan Bangalore. Bangalore is the technology hub of India or as we like to call it India’s own Silicon Valley. As a child, I visited Kerala couple times a year to spend time with my grandparents. My grandpa worked as a doctor in a missionary hospital in a city called Thrissur. The hospital was surrounded on all sides by mountains, an each day I woke up to the spectacular landscape outside my window. I was the only child within 10-15 miles of the hospital, and needless to say I was rotten spoiled. My earliest memories of Kerala include my grandma waking me up at 5:00am to show me the dancing peacocks and around afternoon we witnessed the parade of the pigs. Each day followed the same routine, but the city girl in me soaked in every second of my country living. My dad and I hiked the mountains, and I sang Christmas carols to the priests and nuns during Christmas holidays. I spent hours listening to my grandma tell me stories, and my grandpa’s pokey kisses with his mustache. To this day, Kerala evokes nostalgia in me.

 

In 2010, I sat at San Francisco airport waiting to board my flight to India. I was a bundle of emotions: I was going back home after eight years with my African American husband and I desperately wanted him to like India. Twenty three hours later we were in Chennai, India. Unlike the unfriendly American customs and immigration, India welcomed him with open arms. “Welcome home”, the lady at the immigration counter said as I stood there dealing with pangs of jealousy. I was expecting him to be grilled like America grills me at the port of entry.

 

We began our Kerala adventures with Cochin or Kochi as she is now called. It was my first time in Kochi too. My friends in India booked my trip, hotel and all the nitty gritty details. Our personal car driver welcomed us to Kochi and escorted us to our hotel. On our way I made my husband speak few sentences of Malayalam and like a proud mamma I flaunted my training. He took us to our five star hotel, Travancore Court to freshen up. Kochi is one of the major ports of Kerala, and one of the biggest cities. Like most big cities, Kochi is energy personified. We began our Kochi adventures by visiting the famous Chinese fishing nets. There are tours to see the Chinese fishing nets in action, but we stood on the shores witnessing the fishermen catch fish with the fishing nets. Our next stop was the beautiful and serene Fort Cochin. Having lived in India most of my life, I find it hard to believe that Fort Cochin could be this calm on a normal day. But we choose the least touristy day of the year, and the Fort was all ours. Fort Kochi stands as an embodiment to the British era when the Dutch and Portuguese came to Kerala to trade spices. Kochi was one of the biggest spice trade ports in India, and the architecture and ambience of Fort Kochi was synonymous to the western conquest of India. We visited the Dutch cemetery, Dutch palace, Churches and museums. We visited the Jew town and  Vasco da Gama square before calling it a day. It was New Years Eve, and as we louged in our hotel room we heard music. A concert was in full effect right across from our hotel, and we relaxed to the commotions around us. My African American husband saw an elephant carrying lumber on the street, and took several pictures. I don’t think he had ever seen an elephant outside of the zoo and was rather excited. For me, it just reminded me I was home.

 

 

I intended to make my New Years day a lazy one, and the backwaters in Kerala provided perfect ambience. We rented a houseboat for a night in Alleppey and hung out in our house boat. The water was pristine encrusted on either sides by green trees. I am a talker generally, but with the tranquility around me I was scared I might spoil the ambience with my chatter. We docked for the night and enjoyed the serenity with some amazing Kerala food. As I sat on our boat porch the next morning, nature displayed the most beautiful sunrise yet. The fishermen were on their boats fishing against the glistening water from the suns rays. It was picture perfect, and the photographer in me took a million photographs.

 

During our stay in Kochi, we decided to go shopping for some jhuba or tunics to the western world. Jhuba is cotton tunics for men. They are perfect for the humid tropical weather. At the store, the ladies marveled at the freak of nature walking with me. My husband played American football in high school and like most American football players he is wide on top. They asked him if he was related to Muhammad Ali because of how he was built. When we explained he played football, they were stumped. They failed to understand why someone who played football with their foot would have wide shoulders. Football to them was American soccer and American football was an nonexistent sport. The ladies at the store flirted with him as they helped him try out tunics. She prohibited me from helping him as she felt him up in the process. He was basking in the attention. While African Americans complained about their hair, Indian loved everything about it. I could have made some money had I charged the people who wanted to touch his hair and feel up on him.


Kochi was an embodiment of contradiction like most of Kerala. Internet cafes and tall building adorned the city, while the countryside was untainted and pristine. The backwaters oozed tranquility and my one night on the houseboat rejuvenated me beyond any other place I had visited. Nature reminded me of my childhood days in the lap of nature- the many hikes holding my dads hand, the stories told by my grandmother, cozying up to my mom for warmth and my grandfather’s lap. The simplest moments always evoke the most nostalgic feelings!

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