bombay | india

our next stop after christmas in koh kood, was india – first: bombay (or mumbai, as cheeks has grown up calling the city). it was busy, crowded, and loud – i didn’t expect any less! we visited with relatives and friends, rode on rickshaws, explored many alleyways and ate lots of food – especially the food that cheeks missed after being away for so long.

we stayed in bandra, an old portuguese town that is now also home to many hindus, muslims and parsis (aside from the christian population). the suburb’s numerous churches were all lit up and decorated with garlands and star lanterns for the holidays. it got me in the holiday mood, for sure!

one of the most memorable moments for me on this leg of our india trip was riding the rickshaw. it goes at just the right speed that i saw everything – like everything was going in slow motion, and i could peek through the crowds, and through the cracks between windows and gates. a man was getting his beard shaven in a makeshift barber shop; a pair of cows were waiting to be fed on the sidewalk (a blessing for the feeder); a crowd in front of a gated building waiting for news about someone who got electrocuted because of a loose electrical wire; a cobbler, again in a makeshift shop, sitting on the ground repairing chappals. small vignettes of daily life in mumbai.

people from opposite ends of the social class spectrum live side by side in mumbai. there is no way you can deny that poverty exists. the most expensive home in the world, the antilia, and the largest slum, dharavi, are both in mumbai. it’s definitely a huge contrast from here in cincinnati, and most US cities, where local governments try to “clean up” their cities by relocating, not allowing, or even arresting homeless people. how real really is it living in a city where you think everyone is doing okay socially, financially, and every other way?

if you had any doubts about visiting the city, don’t let my views add to your hesitation. ofcourse you will be saddened by the things you will see, but you will also come to admire the people who live it day after day. cheeks and i bought fresh coconut juice from a vendor along carter road, and cheeks asked if he ever thought about moving back to the countryside. he responded with a smile: “this is my home now.”

koh kood | thailand

i am reminded of louis ck’s bit where he talked about the wonders of flying – it is such a revolutionary invention! how could anyone not be in awe knowing that when they step onto a plane, in less than an hour (for some flights), they will step out in a different city, in a different state! and how about being able to fly to different countries??! THAT is pretty awesome!

(Note: the plane photo above is over tokyo – can you see mt fuji in the distance – towards the right of the frame.)

so i am grateful. grateful for the opportunity to simply get to travel. grateful to be immersed in a different culture, and taste different flavors, meet the people who live and travel there …

ok enough of the sappiness!

once we arrived koh kood, an island close to the cambodian border, i felt restless. i needed something to do right away. i needed to know what the plan was for the rest of the day, and the days after. the idea of “no plans” seemed oddly suspicious – as if i was being left out of some grand master plan!

stillness is not an easy thing to attain. my brain, especially, wandered in and out of thoughts instead of just being in the moment. there were books and magazines laying around, and i would pick up one, only to put it down a few minutes later because i wanted to look at the other one. restless.

it took almost to the end of our few days there until i was close to living in the moment. i let the rustling of the trees in the breeze become my soundtrack as i laid under the sun. i felt the cool water on my feet as the waves of the ocean crept up the sand, and buried them under. i smelled the salty air. i savored the taste of every ingredient in that “black allure smoothie” (black sesame, banana, yogurt, honey, coconut water & flesh).

when i allowed myself to BE there, all my senses were heightened. i truly felt alive.

every morning , i struggled with the “no plans” idea. but it was such a great feeling to not think of time in the sense of trying to be on time for something, or trying not to be late (except for the massage sessions i booked, i did NOT want to be late for those!). at any point in the day, we went to the beach, or stayed in the villa and cooled off in the pool; we played a game of knock knock and munched on chiwda and jagabees; we napped; lived in swimsuits and sunglasses; ate lots of chocolate, macarons and ice cream; we hung out together and wandered off on our own; no TV … could we take this routine back home with us?

let’s see how we fare this long weekend. hope you enjoy yours and find the time to unplug!

holiday break

we just recently returned from a holiday trip to koh kood (in thailand), mumbai and pune, (india). i feel really blessed and grateful to be able to travel to far-flung destinations such as these, and also to be able to meet up with family at least every year or two. I know of so many fellow immigrants who haven’t seen their immediate families in years; so with that, i’m very lucky and very fortunate.

flying over the holidays … not sure whether i would recommend it! we experienced weather delays both on the way out and back, and trying to decide between the (minimum) options offered by the airlines was a headache – “if we take this alternate flight, we won’t arrive until the following morning; how about the hotel we booked for tonight??” “should we wait for this delayed flight anyway and see if we can make our connecting flight?” arrgh! truthfully, i was happily enjoying my eggs and chorizo torta from Tortas Frontera at o’hare X-D


in any case it didn’t take long for us to forget all our woes when we (finally) arrived to sun, sand and blue waters. we definitely made a good choice by choosing relaxation first before hustling in mumbai. this was a trip that awakened the senses, in both quiet and loud ways.

more on these places in the next posts.

happy new year

i stopped making new year’s lists a few years ago, and tried to be more spontaneous. i found it wasn’t instinctual for me as i preferred planning ahead and a bulleted list was what i required to stay focused, and feel … accomplished. however, the problem with such a list is that i tend to measure myself against it – how many have i ticked off? “go to the gym 3-4 times a week” – more like once every 3-4 weeks! ack!

but at each and every end of the year, when i look back to the year that was, there were plenty of other memories / events / to-do’s / gatherings that took over my starting list, and i end up always, ALWAYS, happy.

this year, i choose happiness. simply that. it’s a great compass to deciding what to do in the moment, how to live life, and how to love.

some may think this hokey and living in denial, but i believe this:

“change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” – wayne dyer

so with that thought, what are your new year’s traditions? whether it be making lists, or something else, i’d like to read about it if you are willing to share!

we received a package over the holidays with the following contents and their significance:

  • bay berry candles – per the label: “A bayberry candle burned to the socket puts luck in the home, food in the larder and gold in the pocket”
  • red socks – red is a sign of prosperity
  • a gift certificate for a sweet shop – for a sweet life in the new year

doing something to ring in the new year appealed to us after this! cheeks and i are still trying to start our own traditions, and since we are both non-religious people, non-denominational traditions are preferred.

thanks for stopping by and reading my first post! i plan to continue writing more this year, so come visit often!