Posts tagged life

The Pandemic, Onset of Our Indefinite Nomadic Journey, Crossing Barricaded Indian State Borders, Collective Helplessness, and Fundraiser Campaigns

On Indian Roads Amidst the Second Wave of the Pandemic, Collective Feeling of Helplessness, Fundraisers, And Hope

 

Here in Himachal Pradesh.

I’ve finally ended up in the Himalayan mountains of Himachal Pradesh, and I would live here for the next few months. This mountain excursion was always the plan for the summer and now as my fingers freeze, I wonder why I chose Himachal. Because I love the mountains or because I’m familiar with the Himalayas from my last four-month trip to Dharamshala in 2019?

In the Shimla area of the mountains where I’m at, summer is not well-known. Locals talk about hailstorms and snowfall even during the months of May to July when the plains of India scorch. During the summers, rains in the lower part of India are scarce but right now heavy rain falls outside my one-bedroom-and-hall house. I have kept the netted house door open by sticking a thick foot mat between the door and its frame. The temperature is no more than 11 degrees outside but when all the doors and windows are closed I stifle, a claustrophobia I picked up, perhaps, by growing up in a very open garden-facing independent house of my parents.

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Best Non-Fiction Books I Read in 2020

Out of the 48 or so books I read in 2020, 25 percent — that’s only 12 books — were non-fiction. The rest were fiction books and children’s tales.

I started reading non-fiction in 2017 when I started this blog On My Canvas. I always read stories and novels, but nonfiction wasn’t a big thing around me. Not that reading fiction was a trend in my social circle either. I can count the selected few readers amongst my friends, batchmates, and colleagues at my fingertips.

There was one guy in college who loved Shakespeare and read philosophy. There is a poetry lover and creator who is still a great friend. Some of the elites from Vidya Mandir and other high-class Delhi schools could talk about Mark Twain and J.R.R Tolkien but only seldom did I see them with a book. Or maybe I wasn’t noticing books at that time myself. 

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Best Fiction Books I Read in 2020

 

I write because I read. I grow because I read. I can never be bored because I read.

Out of the 48 or so books I read in 2020, 75 percent — that is 36 books — were fiction. The rest were non-fiction books, children’s stories, and travel books.

Even though most of my writing is personal growth and travel-focused, I also write short stories and personal essays.

And for any kind of creative writing — travel, short stories, and even self-development — reading fictional books is crucial. Otherwise, how would I know how to describe a scene on the street or a conversation amongst two people sitting in a cafe? How would I keep the articles interesting and give them a story arc? A beginning, a middle, and an end, you know.

Apart from helping me write, fiction short story books and novellas are interesting and entertaining. They teach a lot about the history of the world. Fiction books also unravel the behavior and inner workings of human beings. (These 21 books changed the way I understand life.)

So while The Outsider taught me how straightforward life can be, Gora and Anna Karenina showed me a lot about the desires and limitations of human beings while telling the history of India and Russia. I wouldn’t have known so much about the Brahmo Samaj and the Russian high class if not for those two books.

I’m thankful.

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A Stunning Sunset at Mandalay’s Irrawaddy River

A Myanmar Sunset on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, Mandalay

I saw one of the most ethereal sunsets of my life on the banks of the Irrawaddy River in Mandalay. That Myanmar sunset was enough to convince me to wake up before 5 every morning for my twenty day trip in Burma.

It was the last day of 2019. My friend and I had just spent the day roaming around Mandalay ruins, discovering pagodas and ancient temples in the historic town of Innwa, and strolling around Innwa villages. There was a hot pot lunch in between at a place called the Little Panda Hotpot and BBQ Buffet. It wasn’t one of my brightest ideas to stop for a hot pot when we had hired an auto-rickshaw to show us around Mandalay. But the kind driver waited patiently for an hour. Also, I could not be blamed for the do-it-yourself hotpot for I didn’t know the restaurant would ask us to grill and cook everything ourselves without even helping us light the fire under our wok. Let us blame everything on the language barrier.

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47 Tiny Ways to Make Someone Happy (or Smile)

Though we all want to make someone happy or smile, we get so caught up in our work and lives and travel that we don’t bother to be any nicer or do beyond what is expected of us. 

I am no different and I openly talk about how my husband and I loosened up on being sweet to each other during the beginning of the lockdown to vent out a bit of pressure. But then we realized, hey, now we only got each other. There is no traffic, we can work together from home, and food is still abundant. We should sing don’t worry, be happy all day long. 

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77 Deep Questions About Life – And Their Answers

Important Life Questions to Ask Yourself

 

I remember a quote that once said, ask the right questions. Over the years I have realized that questions are much more important than answers as without asking the right queries we can never hope for the right knowledge.

But it took me a while to even understand what questions I should ask of myself. Some of those doubts were always there in the background, hovering, emphasizing that I didn’t understand life. I had a vague feeling that I was dismaying over things that didn’t matter while ignoring the universal realities that would pull me out of my little problem bubbles. But I wasn’t sure. And I never took out time to pin those deep questions about life, and, hence, could never answer them.

The process of questioning deepened when I started writing and reading full-time. As I had redesigned my life from a corporate cycle of drudgery, I was too eager to question everything and to be better at the things I had failed at before. It was like I had found vigor again. The more I read, the more I understood, the more life questions I had, and the more incomprehensible it seems now.

As Franz Kafka once said, “Anyone who cannot come to terms with his life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate… but with his other hand he can note down what he sees among the ruins.”

The effort continues.

I am putting down some thought-provoking questions that have hitherto found me here. I have followed a natural course and have clubbed thematic questions together.

I have answered all the questions to keep an account of my thoughts on the matter. As you will see, I have some answers, but some of the questions to life still dodge me. You can completely ignore my responses and find your own.

Along with the important questions about life and their answers, I am also putting down the books that have helped me understand the matter.

I plan to update these self reflection questions and answers year-on-year or whenever my understanding changes.

Till then, I present to you the questionnaire of life from my lens.

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Highs and Lows of 2019 – Travel Blogging, Himalayan Highs, and Personal Well-Being

2019 was a roller coaster ride. 

Waking up in my rooftop room that serves as my intermittent writing studio in Bengaluru, incorporating travel blogging with On My Canvas by writing throughout the year about my past and recent travels, connecting with other bloggers and travel writers, slow traveling in the Himalayas for four(4) months of summer while focusing on health and personal well-being and working remotely, writing thirty(30) long and super-researched articles in thirty(30) days in August, traveling in Karnataka on short and long trips, collaborating with both national and international travel organizations for the first time, getting my work and writing acknowledged over other media platforms, and then making my way to Myanmar via flight (after my plans to cross into Myanmar through Northeast got canceled because of the protests) and spending three weeks there — I never felt that the year was slow even though I slowed down quite a few time. 

Oh, On My Canvas also won three travel blogging awards within my first year of sincere travel blogging.

Let me tell you my favorite and not-so-favorite moments from this hap hazardous list of actions and achievements. Later I will also summarize the things that I feel I couldn’t do justice to and wish to focus on in 2020.

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A Memoir of Chile Independence Day – Or As The Chileans Call It, Fiestas Patrias.

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 barbeques, dance, sing, and act.

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My Love and Hate Relationship With the Colorful India – A Story and Memory Postcards

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 that I have lived in and visited in the last one year I have been 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 that are 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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On What’s Important –  With The Little Prince of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French writer, aviator, and a unique philosopher. He served as a pilot in the French army, flew for commercial airline companies and also in leisure. He wrote in the air.

On one of his flights from Paris to Saigon in 1935, Antoine’s plane crashed in Sahara. He was stranded in the desert with his navigator. They were far away from habitation and only had a few fruits and a day’s supply of liquids.

Dehydrated in the arid Sahara, Antoine began to see mirages and hallucinated vividly. On the fourth day in the desert, a Bedouin found them and saved their lives with a native dehydration treatment.

Inspired by his experiences in the Sahara, Antoine published a children’s fable for adults called Le Petit Prince or the Little Prince in 1943. This book is not only one of the most favorite children’s books, but also one of the most popular philosophy books. It is the third most printed book after Bible and Gone With the Wind.

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Let Life Flow Freely – She Knows Her Course Better than You Do.

Let life happen to you — Rainer Maria Rilke told a Young poet, Franz Xaver Kappus when he expressed his doubts about his poetry to Rainer in a letter.

 

Out of all the golden words that Rainer said, this advice struck me the most when I read the twelve-letter correspondence between him and Franz. Those letters are a brilliant read. But calling them a read would be undermining them.

The art that those twelve letters hold in their hearts thrives with life and hope and advice. That art is like that thunder which roars at night. That art is like lightning which dances across the grey sky. That art is like that twilight which doesn’t know any bounds.

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Why I Became a Part-Time Chef Even Though I had a Job

I wanted to see if the flavors I saw flying in my kitchen had wings. I wanted to see if my hands moved fast enough to massacre a red onion in under thirty seconds. I wanted to see if I could count on the buoyancy of the country eggs I poached. I wanted to see if I could scale the golden fish. If I could do justice to her death. I wanted to see if I could make the chicken fall off its bones. I wanted to see if the boiled spinach adorned a darker green. I wanted to see if anyone else could stuff more onions in paranthas than I could.

I wanted to see if any other spice could overpower asafoetida’s pungent-ness. I wanted to see if life could be lived without coriander. I wanted to understand the fuss about the snowy-white garlic. That always looked to me like the dome-like crown on the head of queen Victoria. I wanted to see if Tiramisu talked. Maybe it could breathe life into another being. As when I licked its spoonful, I was floating freely and kicking in my mother’s uterus again.

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