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On Stuart Hill in Madikeri Coorg: Nothing To Do But So Much To Do

Living, Writing, and Traveling Slow on Stuart Hill in Madikeri Coorg, Karnataka

February 2021

We have been here in Stuart Hill in Madikeri town for almost two weeks. The popular Coorg viewpoint Raja’s seat is near Stuart Hill. I’m seated in the garden of our homestay to write.

I don’t know the origin of the name Stuart Hill. The place must have a story from British times. I could go to the Madikeri museum to get a glimpse of this town’s history. But on this trip, I’m not hungry to know. 

Even though we were here on our first wedding anniversary, we didn’t make any big adventurous plans. In the morning we walked down the path going in front of our house. That trail is fringed by jungly plants and trees on both sides. Few houses peek out of that path here and there.

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An Old Himalayan Woman’s Routine Showed Me How Hard Is Village Life in India – Lessons On Resilience and Repetition

a man standing on a mountain a scene in hard himalayan village life in india to show resilience

Village Life of India : An Old Himalayan Woman’s Life at a Glance. Notes From Gagal Village, Mashobra, Shimla

I woke up at 5. The host’s kitchen hut was filled with yellow light from the bulb. Smoke rose out of the hut’s chimney. Our homestay’s mother, whom we called aunty, was already up.

Aunty must’ve folded the mat on which she slept on the kitchen floor, had lit firewood in the chulha, and must’ve been preparing milky tea then (a common scene in village life of India). Though I never entered the kitchen —when I had asked  aunty if I could make chapatis on her chulha, she had said women couldn’t enter there — from outside I had seen her fluff chapatis on the woodfire and paste the floor with yet another fresh layer of mud and cow dung. Aunty was somewhere between 60 and 70.

(I don’t have any pictures of aunty neither would I want to post them online. So please bear with me while I add photos of everything else around her home.)

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Cultural Differences, a Friend For Life, and Diwali in Chile

in chile in cauquenes with friends teaching english in chile

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

 

It is Diwali and I’m reminded of a Diwali I spent with three crazy Chilean sisters in a country home of Chile five years ago. Damn! It has been five years. The narrative tells just how different two cultures can be.

 

In 2016, I had been volunteering as an English teacher with the English Open Doors program in Chile. I was in the south of Chile on the Chiloé island in its capital city Castro. Like other volunteers I stayed in a Chilean home. The house had my bubbly host mother, other Chilean borders, and two more volunteers from England and the US.

It was Diwali and also an extended weekend in Chile. My host mother was visiting her relatives. Other housemates were traveling.

I had made many friends by then but Gabriela, another English teacher on the island, had become a special one. She invited me to a countryside family get-together with her two elder sisters. They were going to their parental home in Cauquenes, a small town in Southern Chile, to celebrate Gabby’s daughter Javiera’s eighteenth birthday.

Either I could’ve gone with Gabriela or traveled with an English volunteer best friend and housemate (and his other friends) to another cool place. (This things to do in Chile travel blog from my experiences will help you plan your trip.)

But spending Diwali with three crazy Chilean sisters sounded much more fun than talking about foreign things with other foreign travelers. So I packed my bags, took a bus to Gabby’s house, and together we took another bus to Cauquenes.

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Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own — A Meditation on Writing and Life

Virginia Woolf A Room of One's Own quotes feature image full of flowers

Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own Quotes — Wisdom on Writing and Life

 

Virginia Woolf was once asked to speak about women and fiction.

Woolf wandered the streets of London, sat by the riverside, pored over shelves full of books in the British Museum, went to luncheons, and considered the then state of literature. While working in a constricted space in that London where women weren’t even allowed to walk on turf paths in colleges (only men and students could), Virginia created a masterpiece on why there were limited women writers and even more limited writings by them.

Woolf delivered the lectures in October 1928 at the women’s colleges of Cambridge University. Published in September 1929, A Room of One’s Own is an essay based on those lectures.

Woolf went back to the works of Proust, Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Aphra Behn, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Kipling, Keats, and many more known and unknown writers to understand the truth. She read fiction written by women and studied her contemporaries’ books. She contemplated why the writing of men scorned women and if women were writing good fiction.

In the essays, Virginia emphasized — while showing her detailed thought process — “that a woman needs money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

In addition to being a seminal work on feminism, A Room of One’s Own is an infinite pool of wisdom on writing and life. In the essay, Virginia Woolf argued passionately and statistically about how cultural, spiritual, and financial restrictions may limit our creative freedom.

Given the essay has so much to read into, I will only delve into the lessons on life and writing that Woolf was so benevolent in sharing with us.

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The Pandemic Chronicles  – The Acceptance

a sunrise to show learnings

On one April morning. The lockdown continues. Bengaluru, India.

 

Hello Friends,

How have you been?

I have been juggling with writing, admin work, personal stuff, cleaning, laundry, cooking, and staying updated with the news.

Different news clips catch my husband’s and my attention even though we both scroll Google News. We share and collate our information at the end of the day during dinner unless he decides to escape to the bathroom. (For context you would need to read the first part of these pandemic chronicles. I can only hint that he avoids a dinner of raw eggplants and bottle gourd still in one piece.) 

Only one morning did we see a video on COVID statistics else we prefer to not distract ourselves at the beginning of the day.

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The Pandemic Chronicles – The Beginning

sunset bangalore india-1.jpg

Hello Friends,

How have you been?

Dictionary.com tells me that a virus means an infective agent that typically consists of a nucleic acid molecule in a protein coat, is too small to be seen by light microscopy, and is able to multiply only within the living cells of a host.

A small molecule that cannot be even seen by the naked eye, that needs us, humans, to live and multiply, has pushed us inside our homes and have locked us from the outside. 

Here are some of my observations from the months spent locked inside the house during the pandemic. I wrote these updates as a personal diary for me to look back into the events later. But then I decided to publish the journal entries for everyone. Of course, not before sprinkling a little bit of humor to the otherwise serious matter. I hope you laugh a bit. And if I upset you unintentionally, please forgive me for I am just a die-hard comic. 

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Thinking of a Career Change at 30? I Quit My Job, Too

Why I Quit My Job, Shelved My IIT Computer Science Degree, and Started Writing changing career at 30

Why I Quit My Job, Shelved My IIT Computer Science Degree, and Started Writing

A software engineer by education, I was once a coder and an investment banker, but now I write full-time.

In this essay I talk about my six-year-long journey of thinking of a career change, why and how I quit my job, and finally went through a career change at 30.

If you are looking for a career change in 30s, I would recommend you read this piece for I have given an honest account of my own journey from coding to writing.

Let’s read.

*

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Why You Shouldn’t Be Okay To Be Bored With Work

a woman photographer clicking a fish used as feature image for the article on why being bored with work isn't normal

Why We Believe Work Is Boring, Why Is It Wrong To Think So and How to Fix It

A lot of us get bored with work. But we think that it is okay to get bored at our jobs and we continue working. In this article I unfurl why we expect work to be boring, why it shouldn’t be, and how does this belief harms us.

 

Why Do We Think That Being Bored With Work Is Normal

 

We always say that work is supposed to be boring — because adults separate the idea of fun and work early on for us.

Since childhood, we are trained to think that work sucks. We are told that we should play all we want for we would have to work one day. We see elders going to their jobs, but they don’t seem to have fun — they say that work is something they have to do even if they get bored at work and don’t enjoy it.

No one ever mentions having a good time as part of a profession/job, and we start believing that work is a dull thing grown-ups do to earn money(the more the better) irrespective of how they feel about their profession.

Now no one can ever enjoy 100% of her work 365 days a year(I’m happy if you do) but the problem arises when we are mostly bored of work and do what we do to only get money.

We witness enough close people following the idea that work is boring.

My father opened his shop every day of the week except Tuesdays. He never complained about his business, but he never cared if he enjoyed his work or not. He was only concerned about making enough to raise his family. Our teachers, relatives, elder siblings all seemed to pursue a career to earn at their maximum potential.

Fun was never discussed in the context of work and even frowned upon. In his book Le Petite Prince, the French philosopher Antoine de Saint-Exupéry raises similar thought-provoking questions about adults keeping their matters of consequence disjoint from (and above) fun.

You want to work or all you want to do is have fun? Someone would say when we created a game out of a mathematics problem.

From our younger years to adulthood, we grow up concreting the idea that something we enjoy can’t become our career.

But this isn’t true. Let me tell you why.

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Most Common Spanish Phrases For Travelers [Survive South America]

a landscape of peru countryside

Unlike the US schools, we do not have a Spanish course or learn any foreign language at schools in India, especially in the small town where I studied. I grew up studying Hindi, English, and Sanskrit. I took a French language course during college, but a few classes and a French certificate was the farthest my foreign language aptitude took me to. 

 When I landed in Chile to teach English, I couldn’t even speak a few simple Spanish words coherently. I started living with a Chilean host mother who took upon herself to teach me the common Spanish phrases and words so we could communicate. Thus began my struggle of learning to speak Spanish in Chile.

I didn’t know then that the Spanish language would become one of my favorites, and also my third language.

Without trying to be melodramatic, I promise that if you start speaking even the most basic Spanish travel phrases when you are backpacking in South America, you would fall in love with this language; for Spanish is a passionate dialect. Spanish words and phrases cover almost every emotion; some of the feelings that can be described eloquently in Spanish are strangled by the lack of words in other languages I speak.

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Learning Spanish in Chile – A Mind-Numbing Experience

ubiquotous graffitis in valparaiso in chile.jpeg

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chile government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here.

I went to Chile in July 2016 to teach English in a state school. I’m not a trained teacher, but I was volunteering as part of the English Open Doors Program, an initiative of the Chilean government.

All my friends, family, relatives, and acquaintances asked me what made me go to Chile. I told them I didn’t think much. They asked me if I could speak Spanish; I replied I would learn Spanish in Chile.

My family concluded my idea to travel to South America was an immature escape as the journey would leave me all alone and financially unstable. I was sucked into a whirlpool of emotional hurdles stirred by my loved ones who asserted they cared.

I was fired. I had just ended a two-year relationship I believed was my long-lasting love. The Titanic sank. I was going to be twenty-nine soon. Friends were getting married. Babies were being born. I did not know anyone in Chile. I did not speak Spanish.

Before I left, an uneasy feeling lingered in my stomach. Like the one that makes you shuffle through your pockets when you walk out of your home. Later I understood I was scared: of being alone, of unknowns, and of not knowing Spanish.

I did not know that in a couple of months I would learn the foreign language and speak it fluently.

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Fiesta on Chile Independence Day [Or as Chileans Call It, Fiestas Patrias]

with chilean students in chiloe island

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

 

Today is the independence day of Chile, which is also called Fiestas Patrias or dieciocho, the 18th. Having celebrated this grand day in its mother country, I promise you that the one week of celebrations preceding the independence day and on the day itself are unmatchable. And why shouldn’t they be?

On this date in 1820, Chile overthrew Spain and freed herself from 300-year-long captivity.

Chileans are thrilled around their independence day and celebrate it with honesty, love, and passion. Children, students, adults, grandparents all dress up, decorate, cook, visit their families, talk, celebrate, drink, host barbecues, dance, sing, and act. [Here is me being honest about Chilean traditions and customs.]

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My Love and Hate Relationship With the Colorful India – A Photo Diary

kerala backwaters.jpeg

As I move onto a new journey that takes me outside India for a couple of months, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the places I have lived in and visited in the last one year in India.

India — a country with distinct religions from the ancient Hindu to the declining Zoroastrianism, with a myriad of languages and dialects from Konkani to Jarawa, with a plethora of geographies from fathomless deserts to treacherous glaciers, with a vast network from modern sea links to old hanging bridges, with a wide assortment of food from homely dal roti to mouth-watering, overnight-cooked chicken biryanis, with a range of commutes from rusted Hero bicycles, serene camels, and obedient bullock carts to fancy Rolls Royces, from peaceful Tamil marriages held for two hours during daylight to exciting Punjabi wedding functions sprawled over many days in luxurious hotels spread across India; we have it all.

This large and miscellaneous congregation of people — that India is — sometimes makes me proud, but sometimes the restrictions of this collectivist society suffocate me.

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