Calm in the Chaos

She waits patiently as he rushes down the elevator of their workplace.

“What is so urgent that I had to leave work and come meet you here! Who the hell is dying” he asks impatiently.

“I need a smoke” she smiles and gives him a sly smile as he looks on, bewildered!

“You called me down to be your passive smoker?” he asks disbelieving.

“Of course!” She pauses and adds, “nobody is dying, because he is already dead!”

He is used to ignoring such outlandish remarks from her. He changes the subject quickly. “So what are you stressing about now.”

“This is not stress, I prefer to call it indulgence” she quips as he rolls his eyes.

“You think I don’t know what’s going on here”… he retorts knowingly, “you cannot handle criticism, you never know what to do with it.”

He waits for her to interject but she is too busy lighting her smoke. “Not even when it is about you, and this one was about me! I bet you wanted to kill him for shouting at me.” He laughs, giving her another chance to whinge about their boss.

“Oh come on! I am beyond all that.” She tries to put on a mature face. “Can’t a girl enjoy a drag with her friend in peace”

He lets it go and looks at the watch impatiently, “I need to rush, the Hitler is waiting up… I will see you Monday?” he pats on her back as he runs back.

She stands there, savouring the last puff wiping the sweat off her palms.

He walks back on to the floor, wondering how much more of this verbal torture he has to handle before the boss calls it a day!

He passes her desk and stops dead on his tracks as he stares at the bloodied scissors lying on her desk.

“Indulgence” is the word that sticks in his mind!

Forever A Wanderer

It feels so good to be writing a travelogue again, especially because once Covid hit us, I was pretty much sure that the world as I knew – one where anyone could go anywhere anytime – was over. But, things finally came back to near normalcy and the only thing that Covid has done to my travel plans is to make me more conscious of how I protect myself in a crowded place, which I believe a lot of us should be doing anyway!

The thing about my travel blogs is that I never write to help others plan their visit to those locations – I only write to remind myself, maybe years down the line, what I felt when I was there! And did I feel like a whole new person when I was in the North-East! This was not my first trip to the region – I have been to Sikkim about 2 years ago and that was an equally humbling experience as the current one that I want to write about. Somehow, I never got around to documenting the Sikkim one but I didn’t want to miss capturing my memories from Meghalaya and Assam.

I have always been a mountain girl and the farther and harder I travel to reach the mountains, the more surreal the experience is. I was a bit anxious when I left for this trip and that is because this was my first real holiday plan with my baby boy and not a lot of people would have recommended a trip with so much of road travel if you have a one-year old companion. But the thing that a decade of corporate life teaches you is that if you do a meticulous planning with some contingency buffer, the probability of things going out of control reduces dramatically!

My husband and I are good travel planners and that’s one of the reasons we are together. Because we both know what we like and we both prefer structure in everything! May not be ideal for everyone but it works for us. We kept a simple route with 3 to 4 hours on the road each day – a little bit of sightseeing, a whole lot of being in the nature and enough time at the end of the evening to recover from the exhaustion of the day and be fully prepped for the next morning. The thing to marvel is not that we managed cover the whole itinerary but that my boy totally stuck to the schedule every single day. A bit of a showing-off but what can I say, I am a lucky mother!

I can describe in detail the route I took from Guwahati to Shillong to Mawlynnong to Cherrapunji and then back to Guwahati but such details would serve very little purpose. Hence I am going to talk more about the kind of places I saw and what I took back home with me.

Meghalaya is full of waterfalls – every one of them beautiful and breathtaking! I could probably spend days standing in front of them – there is a sense of thrill I get from that view. By the time I finished my trip, I had lost count of how many falls I had stopped at. Between the rains and the clouds, every turn in the mountain had a pretty little fall view to offer. I had to wait for hours for the clouds to pass to get even a glimpse of those majestic falls but non even a minute of that felt like a waste of time. Surprising how time becomes a privilege as soon as you step out of the city life!

It is when you travel that you realise how far away you are from nature in your day-to-day life. For me, travel has been an eye opener in so many ways. I am forever in search of newer experiences to take back with me. This trip offered me a lot of it – I went deep into the caves, wandered through forests, walked on living root bridges and went rhino exploring in the grasslands of Assam. And the farther I went from human habitats, the more peaceful and comforted I felt. It may sound profound but if you really want to get a sense of humility and mental stability, leave your comforts of daily life and go as close to the roots of nature as you can. You will come back a more wholesome person.

Travel has taught me a lot of things – humility, diversity, acceptance and so many more qualities which make me what I am today. And I want my son to experience all of that. I still remember the curiosity and excitement I used to feel as a child every time my parents took me to a new place. If my travel aspirations can ignite that spark in my boy, I would have done him a world of good! And truth be told, Meghalaya was a good place to start our shared travel stories!

Goodbyes

Neither of them liked goodbyes!

But today was not a day she wanted to miss. She had been prepared for this for a long time and in fact, had almost wanted it! She hated being too attached to anyone – hated when relationships became habits! And he had definitely become one. She got into the car and thought of all the days that she had stopped by his place to pick him up for work. Today was not that day. Today, she had to bid adieu as he was on his way to a new world – a world so far far from hers that she knew this was more likely a fullstop than a comma.

He was excited as he dressed up and stepped out of his apartment. This was the break he had been waiting for – to escape the monotony of life, years of waking up and sleeping under the routine drudgery of corporate boredom. There was no other thought in his mind but for the life ahead – the changes he wanted to bring to the world, to leave it a better place than what it was today. And that’s where he wanted his thoughts to be. A little bit of diversion and he knew where his mind would lead him.

She had dropped him a message that she will wait for him at the airport gate. He had told her he would be there sharp at 8. Both of them wanted to see each other one last time. She had stopped by the store to get him a little parting gift and he had been to the bookstore to get her favorite author’s latest book. This moment just had to be perfect for both of them.

He looked at his watch as he entered the terminal at 7:45 and she waited at the parking lot till 8:30 before driving back to her home.

Neither of them liked goodbyes!

Draught of Words

The gap between my writings is increasing at an alarming rate – from 6 months to one year to 15 months this time! This is probably the longest break that I have taken since 2010 when I first started writing in the first place. I obviously have the defence of being a new mom as the reason for not sitting down with my virtual pen for more than a year. The funny part is that I am using that as a back up response for a lot of things that I haven’t done in a long time – be it my yoga, sketching, watching sports or even meeting people socially. It has been a crazy packed one year for me – with my son on the verge of turning one – but I hate that I have used that as an excuse for abandoning my writing when I have still managed to run through at least three to four random series on Netflix / Prime. 

But the operational hurdles aside, there is a far more deeper cause which has troubled me recently, and that is the fact that I need my negative emotions as a catalyst for my words to flow. This is a slightly unsettling thought when you try to do even some basic level of introspection. The only solace is that I am not alone in this creativity draught. I read a piece recently by a writer friend I admire where she highlighted the same lack of motivation on account of absence of grief and pain. An ironical state to be in more so because when you delve further into this thought, you realise more and more that the writings which appeal to us in all forms – be it poetry or spoke words or prose – tend to have a lot more of negative emotions than positive.

How many of us are fans of poetry which glorifies happiness, laughter or euphoria. On the contrary the number of people who have made their name by romanticising emotions like pain, heartbreak, loss and grief can hardly be overstated! From Bollywood songs to the newer age content consumption media like your insta blogs all tend to have a remarkable bias towards heart break and no offence but that’s what catches the attention of the consumers as well.

If you ever sit down to wonder, you will probably realise that the reason for this bias is the way humans are wired. We like reading about other people’s pain than about their happiness. And before you conclude that this is my cynical mind talking (which also won’t be a far off conclusion), there is another reason why I say this. We like reading about other people’s pain because it gives us a comfort of community and takes away the sense of being helpless and alone in our struggles. Reading about other people’s pleasures on the other hand makes us feel deprived and envious – all natural emotions considering that comparison is the basic thread in the fabric of the societal construct.

So all of these words finally point towards one thing – without mincing words and without overanalysing – I have been happy! It is ironic that it has not let me write anything by shutting my creative brain which has for long been using my pain cells as the catalyst to give words to emotions. I shouldn’t be complaining based on this conclusion. But I am making a note to myself to change this. Pain is probably easier to romanticise, but positive words have their own way of reinforcing your mental state and that is what is going to be my future endeavour.

When life gives you lemons…

Disclaimer: The thoughts in this piece are personal and do not intend to judge the opinions or views of anyone else. The only intent is to evoke some (even if a very little amount of) positivity if at all I can inspire.

I have not written much in the last few months (7 months to be exact!!) and somehow, did not find enough motivation to write either. But this is definitely not because of the pandemic and the lockdown and the general negativity that seems to have engulfed a lot of people that I know from near and far. In fact, I do not feel as bogged down and low when compared to the world around me and the people that I have been talking to; and I am now considering that as a blessing in so many ways. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with being upset or cynical or afraid about the times we live in. Things are quite unsettling across the world and all of us are probably headed for a kind of world that we never imagined or anticipated.

I have taken these past 6 months to step back from the rush and it has worked out better for me than I ever imagined. What do I mean by that? Definitely not that I am a more evolved human who has somehow reached bliss in a time when everyone else is panicking. But I have undoubtedly stumbled upon a certain perspective and that has been a real surprise “growing up” moment for me. Honestly, when I look at the last decade or so of my life – the running around and the hustling which never stopped since I got my first job and moved to Mumbai – this break, the last 6 months, have been a welcome change – an unplanned sabbatical (of an unusual kind) and a chance to step back and breathe slow.

This surely does not imply that I did not have my negative moments and my breakdowns – I have spent sleepless nights too fixating on the misfortune that has taken over the world and all the negativities that it has brought along with it. I have felt helpless and immaterial, and claustrophobic with walls closing in with all the news and opinions and warning messages. That was actually one of the reasons I went for a social media blackout about a couple of months ago, and ended up realising that I did not miss it one bit – not even for a day (ok except maybe some football tweets and some nice blogs by a couple of friends of mine). Again, I am not saying that social media is good or bad, it just wasn’t turning out to be too good for me. I am sure I am going to come back at some point of time – maybe once I have stories to share with the world and eager to know about people’s thoughts – currently neither motivation exists for me.

This lockdown has ushered into my life some beautiful realisations which have made me thankful and in a lot of ways content with what I am and where I am in life. I have made a small list of these here to act as mental notes which I can come back to the next time I feel hopeless or lost. And maybe it can remind you too of what you may have temporarily forgotten:

  • First, of course, is the much spoken about feeling of privilege – privilege to have a roof over my head, a job and a family (near or far) as a backbone to my entire existence
  • The love that I have for the work I do – as tiring as it has been with the work-life balancing line completely blurring – the fact that I have a job which I love doing has made it easier to wake up every morning and switch on the laptop
  • The care and understanding of a partner – and this I cannot emphasize enough – because the amount of time we have spent together in the last 6 months has been a gentle and beautiful reminder of why I decided to spend my life with him in the first place
  • My inner circle – family and friends who all seem to have come closer to hold on to one another maybe for their own reassurance or for mine – either which way, it has only strengthened my belief in humanity
  • Things which a crazy-working-hectic-train-travelling-weekend-partying-Mumbai-city-life does not allow much – alone time at home doing things which I want to do – the books I have read, the paintings I have made and the recipes I have tried have only multiplied in the last few months and that has just made me feel a little bit more wholesome
  • And last but not the least, the gift of time – time to introspect, time to talk to people, time to think about myself and time to spend without a single thought! This ability to have a blank mind is often underrated and in fact, I never thought I could master it at all – and somehow I have.

Needless to say, but as a closing remark, like everyone around me, I too am eagerly waiting for the world to become safer, to step out again, to restart the life that I have lived the past 10 years in this city and to do every single thing that I have planned to do. But a year or so of a pause doesn’t really seem to be a deal breaker – guess I have finally learned how to make lemonade!

Coffee and You

I sit there looking at you, unable to turn my gaze away, almost on the verge of creeping you out with my unfazed stare. You are not the prettiest in the room, definitely not the tallest, or the fairest, but you are the most alive! I can almost see your eyes dance as you wade through topic after topic, animatedly crushing my opinions about politics and psychology. It’s been a year of watching those eyes dance and I still can’t get enough of them. You momentarily glance at the screen behind me, while I talk about the book I have been trying to read for almost a week without any progress – and I know in my head that you are trying hard to balance between your love for football and your eagerness to shower me with a hundred percent attention. I try to play the perfect date by momentarily dragging on with some unnecessary details till the clock hits half time!

Now, you look at me, as if to return my stare back with a vengeance and I hold your gaze, trust me this is more romantic to me than holding your hand! Why do you like me so much, you ask absent mindedly, making it seem like a normal conversation. The first personal question you have asked since we started dating and I blurt out, unthinking, that maybe because you are easy. I stop short realising the wrong choice of words. You roll your eyes in disappointment – of having stumbled upon one more guy mistaking approachable for easy! You have seen your share of men with misplaced belief systems – the ones who could not help getting attracted to you for you are like a filter coffee in a world of oreo milkshakes, easy to get addicted to but impossible to reduce dosage once someone gets hooked!

And what do I do with such addiction if I am not prepared for it, if I am not looking for an addiction or if I pride myself on my so called self-control? I blame the coffee! Of being a heavy dose stimulant, a drug that recharges my system without my permission and makes me feel alive even if I don’t want to. It is easier to accept that you play with the boundaries of my mind without my consent than to admit that I have let my self-control slip. And of course, if you have done this to many men before me, then it must be you who is a bad habit and not me who is a drug addict. It would probably let me sleep at night peacefully believing that I am still driving this, that I still can restrain, that its all you and not me!

Oh wait! You are already getting up to leave and I have to do some damage control here! So words rush out of me – easy to be with, I scream! You give me a puzzled look, and I repeat – you are easy, easy to be with, easy to build a life around, easy to fall for! I have a million other ways to tell you why I am not one of those guys – and why you are notrepeating your mistake! But I know you have heard my voice even though the words are yet to leave my mouth. So I gently place my hand on yours, in a casual yet reassuring way, and ask you with a smile, do you want to try the filter coffee here? It is supposed to be perfect!

This Day That Year

This same day 10 years ago, you wanted to get away from work early, so that you could bring in New Year the way it is meant to be. You had never partied into New Year – New Year meant wishing your parents at midnight and getting up in the morning to visit a temple because that’s what your dad told you was the right thing. With this new city and new freedom, you needed to see what the hoopla was all about. So, you wanted to step out of work at a decent hour – 9PM – to step away from the crazy work hours and the pointless job. You wanted to wear your little black dress and stilettos, with a mild yet inviting makeup, and step out into the city lights dazzling like a diva. But you had to down two tequila shots to make you forget last year’s heartbreak, make a resolution to not think of your failed relationships and step into the new year full of dreams and plans – plans for a decade to earn more money, travel more and fly higher. You stood at the bar as the clock was about to strike midnight and amidst the gossips about cute guys in office and bitchy bosses – you welcome the New Year with customary New Year hugs and countdowns and a couple of more tequila shots!

Fast forward ten years to this day – you get invited to 3 such parties. Your boss tells you to leave at 4PM but you love your work too much to delegate to your junior and step out. You decide to wait till 7PM and then call your friends who you know have made your past year tolerable and tell them you need to see them before the year runs out. The past year is a fleeting glimpse of hectic work moments and some priceless conversations. You meet your friends in your work clothes – hair undone, the morning eye liner and lip shade peeling off – forget to touch up on your makeup. You don’t need prior notice for clicking photos for you have fallen in love with your after work tired-yet-satisfied look. The clock is about to strike midnight as you sit with your scotch in hand laughing over the silliest of memories with those same people in the last few years. You laugh a little more when you think of your younger self from a decade ago. The dreams are still there – some achieved, some in the distance which you are not sure are within your reach. You earn much lesser than what you thought you would earn in your 30s and you definitely do not have the strength or aura to walk around in stilettos all night. And when the New Year hits, you are not all you wanted to be but you are a better version of the human you used to be. Your dreams don’t scare you but provide you an assurance that you are still an ambitious soul. And when you feel a little too down about what you failed to achieve, the people around you hug you and tell you how their year was special because you were a part of it!

You haven’t grown up to what you thought you would be but you have grown up all right! There are dreams for the next decade as well – just not to fly high, but to stand strong!

Riddles

She: You know how when you go to buy the perfect party dress… you roam around hundreds of shops and finally settle for one which fits you in some aspects but makes you look incomplete in others? You still buy it because you are running short of time and you think perfection is a myth. And then when you have accepted that is how you will probably look on that special day, you get completely blown away by this perfect dress that was everything you every dreamed of! You wanna buy it but then you already are vested so much in the existing one that you do not have the courage or the resources to buy the next one!

He: Are you saying you want me to buy you a new dress? Because well if you do, the person who you should be talking to is your boyfriend and not me because I have bigger things to handle right now!

She: Really? Can I help you with that?

He: I really really want to move to this role that my boss just hired someone else for. I know that guy is a complete misfit and he is just not good enough. And you know me! I have the dedication and passion to get the best out of that role. I can do the justice to the role that it deserves. He is just not the right guy! That job needs someone like me!

Sadly, metaphors and subtlely were neither’s strong point!

The other side of Europe

There are some things of which you can never have enough – like a mountain view, filter coffee, Agatha Christie novels and holidays in Europe. You know how you sit with a map when thinking of a holiday and explore Africa, Australia, South East Asia and then just end up in Europe every time? No? It somehow happens to me every year! And I will still not say that I have had enough of European holidays!

Every time I have been to Europe, I have found something new, something that the previous trip conveniently managed to hide! In this trip, it was the fascinating landscape. Somehow, so far, Europe to me was medieval towns, small lanes, cute cafes, riverside walks and a little bit of mountains. But now, after Germany and Slovenia, Europe feels far less man-made and much more of nature’s creation. I planned this trip carefully to circumvent the big cities to the extent feasible and go to places not too famous among tourists. Advantage – the experiences were exhilarating and you feel so connected to the nature that it humbles you. Disadvantage – planning is not the easiest and it takes massive amounts of research and commitment to be able to cover all that you want with minimum hiccups.

I have chosen to write a detailed account this time (so be prepared for a 10-15 mins read) about each of the countries I visited, mainly because I did not visit the conventional places, and if there are any travelers out there, looking to plan an offbeat vacation like mine, they may benefit out of this!

Germany

Germany was the reason we planned the trip – not in the least because I thought it was a beautiful place and hence a must visit, but more so because my sister lives here (in a University town called Regensburg). There was only one thing that I had always wanted to visit in Germany – Black Forest, and hence my entire stay in Germany was planned in and around Black Forest and Regensburg!

We started from Munich (in a car hired from Sixt) and drove southwards tracking the route of Füssen (the town closest to Neuschwanstein castle), touching the German / Swiss border to visit Rheinfall, then to Friedenweiler at the southern tip of Black Forest (Baden-Württemberg), along the Bundesstraße 500 (Federal highway than runs through the forest), to Baden-Baden at the Northern end of the Black Forest, onward to Bingen in Middle Rhine valley before finishing with some city touring in Nuremberg, Regensburg and Munich. This whole drive took us about a week’s time with 4 hours of drive per day on an average, and an overnight stay at most of the stops. The drive was smooth as silk and the roads were best-in-class as one would expect when one thinks of Autobahn!

Do you know that feeling when you look at some pictures and think that nothing can look as beautiful without some camera filters? Well Neushwanstein castle does! In fact no amount of pictures can prepare you for this pretty sight! We stayed overnight at Füssen in a small hotel overlooking Hopfensee (Lake) in a peaceful neighborhood. The drive to the castle was hardly 5 minutes, and we took a bus to the Marienbrücke – the bridge which offers an unhindered view of the castle and the lakes beyond with the Bavarian Alps backdrop. From here we hiked a small way to the top for a less crowded view, you could choose to hike the whole way (completely skip the bus), which we avoided for it was a scorching hot day! The walk back downhill was a breeze though. You can skip entering the castle but do walk around for views from all directions. Trust me, you would not regret it even on a hot day.

Next up, we had the Black Forest to look forward to. After getting a hang of how smooth and tireless the driving was, we decided to take a detour for the Rhine Falls. What we missed reading on the map was how and when we crossed the border to Switzerland! Mind you, there are signs and a small check post, which you would easily overlook, especially if you are from India and you are used to endlessly long tolls even for crossing from Mumbai to Thane! Thankfully, our car was compliant with the toll requirement (otherwise you would have to buy the same from a fuel station before entering Swiss). Rheinfall (as the falls are referred to in German) springs up on you out of nowhere, you are in a city neighborhood and suddenly the roar of the falls hits you and after a few minutes of walking, you see this gigantic water body with unimaginable volume of water!

We ended the day at a small town called Friedenweiler at the southern tip of Black Forest, in a homestay where we had the Black Forest view from the patio. The drive from here along the B-500 highway, entirely through the forest, is the best drive I have ever experienced, with super tall trees and breathtaking curves along the road. It is as magnificent as the Youtube videos claim! Travel tip – Do take a pit stop in any one of those small Bavarian towns on the way (we selected Triberg) to have the authentic Black Forest cake from the region. You could stop overnight at one of these towns inside the forest if you prefer, we skipped that as we had too much ground to cover, plus the forest was best experienced along the drive.

We drove straight to Bingen in the Middle Rhine valley and booked the cruise for the next day. The cruise provides you flexibility to get on and off at any of their stops. There are 40 castles and fortresses along the cruise and on a bright and sunny day, any one of them would be a good hike opportunity. You can plan the hike based on the cruise timetable. A word of caution though – the cruise ships are a bit crowded and getting a good seat that provides a view of the castles could turn out to be quite a task!

I am not going to dwell too much on the remaining three cities because… well they are cities and not even remotely as interesting as the other smaller places I visited. But I want to share here some of the things that left a lasting impression on me – the beautiful English Biergarten in the middle of Munich City (which is a mini version of Central Park, and you can spend a good half day walking around the winding lanes), the cobbled streets lined with shops and cafes and the Danube riverside walk in Regensburg town and lastly the Nazi Party Rally grounds in Nuremberg where you can walk through the history and the atrocities of the World War. Warning: this experience may leave you depressed and resigned towards the brutalities that humanity can impose!

Austria

I promised to myself the last time I left Salzburg that I would come back here (probably to re-scout this city as an option for my retirement home!) and true to my word, 2 years later I landed in the city. This time though, I spent a total of 3 days in Austria, spending most of it in the Bavarian Alps of Salzburg and nearby Berchtesgaden and a day in Vienna before catching my return flight back.

Austria was much hotter than I remember from my last trip! Granted this was June and the previous one was April but the temperature levels are alarming and the locals confirmed it too. European homes are not made for such temperatures – most of them do not have the cross ventilation that we in India are familiar with or even ceiling fans for that matter. Lesson learnt – Need to be more careful while booking stays in Europe in case of another summer holiday.

What made me fall in love with Austria the last time I visited was the Bavarian Alps – miles and miles of it with pretty, hidden lakes. So this time, I spent more time in the Alps. A day is enough to cover the small city of Salzburg – the usual town square, Mirabell gardens, Mozart’s birthplace and a late sunset near the Salzach river. We spent a whole day in the Alps in Berchtesgaden near Austria / German border. We took the Jennerbahn (cable car) to reach the summit. From here you get a breathtaking view of the Alps, which you just cannot get enough of. Plus, you can walk to the nearby Königssee – a lake as green as emerald with a calm and peaceful backdrop. There were some tourists (not a lot) and you could easily spend a lazy afternoon here sipping beer or enjoying Gelato (try their berry flavours – they are out of the world!).

Vienna was as culturally rich as I remembered from the previous visit. We did all the usual things – visit to Stephensplatz (cathedral and town square), Wien Prater (Ferris wheel), Schonbrunn Palace gardens and finally the Royal Orchestra (which was an invigorating experience even though it wasn’t the first time I was attending this, so I guess novelty had very little to do with the experience). The new thing which I previously missed was the Vienna Zoo which is inside the Schonbrunn Palace gardens – the oldest zoo of Europe and home to a polar bear, a giant panda, an Australian koala and some of the large cats like leopard and tiger. Though watching caged animals is not something I usually fancy, this zoo has tried to mock the natural surroundings for the animals and done a pretty decent job out of it. So for the time being, I can tick pandas from my bucket list – till I plan my China trip!

Slovenia

I have saved the best for the last!

Slovenia is not a part of the bucket list of a conventional tourist, and honestly it neither fits into the historical marvel of the Western European countries nor into the upcoming party destination profile of the Eastern European neighbors. It is a small haven in itself and had it not been for the border that it shares with Austria, I would not have ended up here. But how thankful I am that I did!

I spent a couple of days in Slovenia – mainly in and around Bled but those two days were the highlight of my trip. The town is a preferred escape for cyclists and trekkers. We were told that a car hired in Germany cannot be taken to Slovenia, so we took the train from Salzburg to this small town and then a bus from the train station to reach the lake. Bled is one of the many lakes in the Julian Alps, and is surrounded by mountains and meadows. We stayed in a small local house, whose backyard opened into the meadow. You could sit here in the sun, close your eyes and let the sounds of birds, horses and streams completely take you to a Zen mode.

Once you have done a lot of trips, you figure out that running around throughout the day is not your thing. At the same time, I am a sucker for hikes and walks and I am always on the lookout for hidden trails and dirt roads. So with that in mind, I spent a day just walking around Lake Bled, viewing the Bled Island from every corner possible, stopped in between for refueling with a Gelato and the gorgeous Bled cream cake, watched the sunset over the Bled castle with a beer in hand and took the Pletna boat ride to the island. Even if you are not someone who fancies walking around a lot, just do not miss the view from the western end of the lake – the shot is breathtaking!

I spent the next day visiting Soteska Vintgar (also known as the Bled Gorge). This place is about 15 mins drive from the Lake Bled. There are cabs which take you back and forth from the town centre and drop you at the entrance of the gorge. The trail is 1.6km long, hugging the gorge (comfortable walkway is built along the gorge). The landscape is untouched, refreshing and picture perfect! This place is not to be missed, especially if you are a nature enthusiast like me. The Radovna river which has carved out the gorge flows in full force and the trail ends at Sum Waterfall, with numerous spots on the way to stop and marvel at the landscape around you!

This trip to the gorge is a half day thing, and you can either spend the rest of the day visiting Lake Bohinj and other nearby sites or lazying around Lake Bled and shopping at the town centre. I preferred the latter as I just could not get my eyes off the magnificence of Lake Bled. If not for Slovenia, my trip would have been nowhere close to as satisfying as it turned out to be.

I want to close this piece with a small note – the temperature levels in Europe are alarming and having visited Europe 5 times in the last 8 years, I have witnessed this increase and can vouch for it. While there are a lot of things that are causing the environmental damage, tourism could easily be one of the main reasons. Travelling is a great hobby and vacations are an integral part of our lifestyles – but let’s resolve to travel responsibly and to not disturb the sanctity of the ecosystem and do all we can to maintain the pristine beauty of nature. Only then can we ensure that the marvels of nature which bring heaven on earth remain a reality, and not just a folklore!

Every Teardrop is a Waterfall

“I can’t believe you agreed to meet me”, he looks at me with light in his eyes.

And I can hear my roommate’s voice shouting at me that it’s always a bad idea to meet an ex! This is going to be a bad evening, I realise but try to force everything out of my mind and look at his face. He is pretty much the same man, who left me in the middle of one night and never came back, except there are more wrinkles on his forehead.

“I can’t believe you selected this place”, he smiles at me teasingly, his gaze moving from my eyes to my lips, as I tried to avoid looking at him and stared instead at the ceiling, the same roof below which we kissed for the first time five years ago!

I hear my roommate warning me to not make the same mistake again and I have to shake my head to stop my ears from ringing. “So how’s life”, I manage casually to make time move, to stop the floor from sliding beneath my feet and to prevent my legs from shivering.

“Well, Singapore is easy”, he says, “but it’s not home”, he adds as an afterthought! His hand moves on the rim of his plate and I am taken back to a time in that hostel room, under the moonlight, when his fingers used to dance on my pale skin. But the gleam of the ring on his finger brings me back.

I feel nauseated, and my head starts to spin, but my ego holds my mind in place. I cannot break down in front of him, I promised my roommate before leaving. “You are exceptionally quiet today, I don’t remember this side of you!” he tries to make conversation but words fail me and I fight to hold back the tears stinging the back of my eyes.

He reaches over and touches my cheek with the words “You look stunning, you know” and I pray to god to not let him realise how much I am trembling! “I should never have left…. I think I made a big mistake”, he adds quietly as I keep dodging those brown eyes that made me fall years ago.

The “date” comes to an end, we get up and all I have managed is three words the whole evening! It’s now or never, I tell myself as he holds the car door open for me. I was always the hesitant one when it came to making a move! I pull out a box from my bag, and hand him the chocolates I made for him.

I see what I think are tears in his eyes, as he hugs me close with “You still remember my favourite homemade chocolates!” He takes the box and lingers for a while holding my hand, and finally comes close to my ears with a whisper “call me soon!”. With that he turns and walks away.

I stand there looking at his car leave, with a relief I hadn’t experienced even for a day in the last five years, wondering how long it would be before he has the first of those chocolates and bleeds to death!