Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Exoticamp : An experience sharing and review (Vagamon - Camp above the clouds)


Waking up to the sound of the strong breeze gently passing by
Stepping out of the tent and into the clouds
Gingerly dealing with your business in a strategically placed port-a-potty
Finding a beautiful path which feels like it’s straight out of a storybook
Taking that path for your morning walk
Walk a good twenty feet away from the path, cause there’s a calf grazing
This place can make anyone a photographer! PC: Me :) 
Wondering if Pixies and Fairies live in this carefully preserved strip of nature
Ending up in a clearing, then a cliff
Overlooking a valley where more than seven hills meet
Watching clouds gently fluff and puff their way,
Snaking through the gaps between the hills
Spending the most perfectly peaceful thirty minutes –
Listening to the wind rustle, birds chirp, just feeling the breeze
Even developing the plot for your novel – like I did
Finally feeling satiated and happy, and ready to go meet humans again
Have an emotional farewell with that location – because I might never go there again
Head back down slowly
Find another happy camper (literally) wielding her camera
Searching for spider webs with dew drops
Helping her hunt for those
Found em! (PC: Dhi Clicks)
Finding out that she hasn’t been up to the peak
Taking her there – cause you can’t be that close and miss a peak at heaven
Have another beautiful thirty minutes
I could stay here forever - for the rest of my life! (PC: Dhi Clicks)
Head back down together
Find an entire search party looking for you
Head back up with the full group – and be in a mannequin challenge
Cause, hey! Why not!
Head back down to the camp site
Gobble up a sumptuous meal – all that walking can get one really hungry
Then inch back into civilization slowly
Aahh…

Rewind 2 weeks
On the way to to peak (PC: Aditya)
I heard about Exoticamp’s Vagamon from a friend who wanted to go - up for any travel, I signed up immediately. Though, initially a little apprehensive about the idea of camping out in the open. That is something that’s probably more my sister’s cup-o-tea. I’m the clean stay-at-hotels and kinda traveler mostly. (Except my one time trek at Nagalapuram!) However the images they shared and just the idea was so poetic, I had to go and check it out myself. And boy am I glad that I did go.

There is something completely different about going to a place and living differently – We’ve all taken vacations where we go around, enjoy nature then go back to the comfort of a hotel room. I didn’t realize that just being in a hotel room is a comfort space that we never challenge – or at least fail to challenge often. Enjoying nature, and staying right in the middle of it – having a thin sheet of plastic separate you from the pounding rain, sweeping mist or even an animal or two – that’s a different living all together, one that has to be experienced to be properly appreciated!
View from the camp site *.*
This is not going to be a post where I describe in detail about what we did and how we got there. I do not want to spoil the fun of experiencing it yourself.
I do want to, however, tell you about the brilliant idea that is Exoticamp, and if you were to go to Vagamon – I’m happy to share a few tips about what to expect and what to be ready for J

Exoticamp was founded by 3 travel enthusiasts who wanted to make camping accessible to all – women and families especially. As boys, I guess they loved camping and living the rugged life so much, and when they became men and had families and babies, they wanted their wives and kids to experience they joy that they experienced.
5:00 pm - As we looked around,
the bags and camp fire logs lay waiting!
They find offbeat destinations – like Vagamon, Meghamalai, Kodaikannal to name a few, and they’re constantly on the lookout for more places to expand to. Their travel groups are a small enjoyable size of 20 to 30. They’ve made the camps family and women-friendly, but by no means coddle them. They let us women explore and live the wild dream is safe ways.
The cost is also extremely affordable – At Rs.5000 for 2 days (Including travel from Chennai) – (Rates as on November 2017) it is very wallet friendly. The price includes bus fares from Chennai/ Bangalore, Jeep transfers,  4 meals, Snack, Tent stay and all that (Only thing not included are 2 meals – for the morning we reached and the evening we left, where we were taken to good
Breakfast - yummy puttu
quality cheap restaurants). The experience they give us – making sure we are individually attended to, trying to ensure than we all get introduced to each other, so we’re basically one big group of friend on an adventure – worth every buck and second!

Some cool things about them:
They do customized camps - even for smaller groups
They do theme based camps
They conduct camps for kids
They're safe and friendly 

What to expect/ Do’s & Don’ts
Happiness is an authentic Jeep Ride!
  • Be ready for a small but friendly gang of strangers. You don’t have to talk to everyone, but talking to at least a few makes the whole experience more enjoyable
  • The tents are to be shared by 2 or 3 people. So if you’re going alone – try to find partner(s) to bunk with early
  • The ride up the hill was quite bumpy, almost like a roller coaster. I loved it! But if you tend to get motion sickness, keep medication handy.
  • Waterbottles are given out but often shared. If you prefer having your own bottle, just bring a bottle of yours and fill it. Keeps things easy.
  • If you don’t like eating with your hands, bring a fork/ spoon (they do give plastic spoons sometimes, but they useless with meat. [Food given at Vagamon was authentic Kerela food]
  • Don’t forget to stay hydrated throughout – don’t be without drinking water for fear of the port-a-potty – it’s a fun experience, trust me.
    Camp site : Where heaven meets earth!
  • There is no cell-phone signal for the most part, so keep your family informed. Also don’t try to keep searching for signal, it’s awesome to let go and live for yourself in the moment. Try it!
  • Bring some snacks, if you eat smaller meals more frequently.
  • Take a power bank and a torch. Don’t forget the torch!
  • Take an umbrella!
    6:00 pm - Suddenly the clouds decided to pay us a visit. They stayed around for a good 2 hours or so. This was "Camping within the clouds" entertainment segment of the evening!
     
  • If you use contacts, don’t go to close to the campfire/ remove your contacts when you do
  • Be prepared for a lot of insects. If you’re uncomfortable around them, where full sleeved clothing with elastic cuffs if required. They’re mostly harmless and not a problem – just tickle.
  • The places are beautiful, and Exoticamp adventures are set up in unexpectedly gorgeous locations – however, try to avoid preconceived notions to make the whole experience more enjoyable.
  • They’re very flexible in terms of stopping on the way to enjoy a view, or for a shop – as long as there’s no bus to catch J
  • Be ready to trek, hike, get wet – live basically ;)

Base camp - which also has private access to a segment of a waterfall
My favourite part of the waterfall - the little pool of water collected,
where I tried to baby sit a little girl.
"I want to go in the water or to daddy! (who was in the deeper end of the pool)"
I gave up in 20 minutes I think . Heh.
 
Trek to the camp site from the base camp
 
Stopping to say Good Bye and enjoy the view - one last time - until we're back.
Syanora!

Try it and you will Have fun!
I did!


PS: Many photos in this post are by others. Thank you Dhiya, Aditya, & Bragadeesh for the photographs :) 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

That old neighbour

She danced, she sang, she loved and lived life
She probably still does, I wouldn't know
She was my neighbour
Not anymore
She was my friend
Not anymore

Her first kiss
I was the first one who knew
My first boy - friendship
She was the first one who knew
We read books together
We read out poems to each other
We drew together
We spent countless hours giggling
Like little girls do
At random things that made no sense to the outside world

She did have other friends
I had other friends

Be we had something special.
We were neighbors as well
Easiest to access

We got each other through the most difficult year of our lives
We have seen each other as we had all our pieces shattered

That shattered what we had
I think we started to remind each other of the sadness
Maybe we didn't want to remember that
Maybe we didn't know how to face each other after that
Maybe we just needed fresh starts

With that crescendo,
Eight years of close friendship disappeared
Like the whisp of smoke from a candle who's flame has been snuffed out

Now we follow each other on social media
I occasionally think about her
Or the fun we used to have
Send an extremely occasional text

Sometimes I wonder about who she is now
I wonder if she does too

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Preethi's Turbo Chop - A Review

My boyfriend lives with some room mates, and they take about an hour and a half to cook every proper meal. Of which, 45 minutes is spent cutting vegetables. I spend about 10 minutes cutting, when I have to.
I like cooking, even love it many times, but I hate the preparation!

Some are lucky enough to be able to cut and cook really fast. I have never been for them. Luckily for people like us, they have choppers in the market!

I bought a manual chopper from HomeCentre about a year back, it’s great for uniform small sized dicing. However, the handle broke after 20 to 25 uses. One carrot murdered it you see. I went back to the old school knife-wielding methods for a while, till I chanced upon Preethi’s Turbo Charger.

I’ve been using it for a month now, and it has really saved me a lot of time!
My review of the product:


Design:

Simple and efficient.

It’s got 4 parts: The wired motor, A separator (plastic layer between motor and the bowl), The blade, and the Bowl/ bottom container.
It’s got a plastic body, which looks durable. I dropped the bowl once, and it didn’t break. However, it is plastic, and it could break.

However, it’s easy individual part design makes it very very easy to clean! And since the bowl can be emptied quite comfortably with a spatula, we don’t even have to wash it in between cutting different vegetables for the same cook – which is not the case for mixer grinders.

The separator is very clever, leaving the motor completely clean even after multiple rounds.
The blade is quite sharp – so handle with care.

Size: It can cut 2 to 3 medium sized onion at a time. So you’d need to go a few more rounds if you’re cooking for a bigger group. It’ll still save you time, so worth the effort.


Chopping Quality:

Pros: It cuts really fast, no matter what the veggie is. It cruised through the carrots without a hitch. It’s great for carrots, onions and so on. You can stop mid way for a coarse finish, and go a bit longer for a fine finish.

I loved the coarse finish I was able to get for my fresh chili + ginger + garlic mix.
Cons: It’s not a chopper exactly. It’s more of a grinder. Especially with the softer veggies like tomato and cucumber – it completely purees it. So, when you’re looking for a puree maker, it’s perfect.
The first time, I was trying to cut tomatoes for a salad and I was sourly disappointed.  However, when I was helping my dad with the curry, the puree consistency was perfect! Was better even that chopped tomatoes!


Power Consumption:

Very negligible. It does the work in minutes, so it probably takes up far lesser energy than our Mixies.


Overall:

It’s a small, easy to store and handle, great product that would really help with everyday kitchen use.
Priced around the 2K range, it’s easy on the pocket and a great gadget. I would especially recommend it for amateur cooks as it saves a lot of time with recipes that need chopping.




Monday, September 11, 2017

Three Ladoos

Occasionally, I go to office on my scooter.  A couple of those times, at a Subway close to my home, I’ve spotted this really wrinkly old man – pushing his rickety old cart up. The first time I saw him, he was struggling to push his cart. Despite his cart being mostly empty, he is old and mostly bones, and was really putting all of his might into it, and yet moving only a few feet per minute.

The first time I saw him, after a brief internal discussion, I turned left at the signal (instead of going straight) parked my scooter, and went (walking against the traffic) to help him drag his cart up. The entire time I was pulling (he was pushing from the other side) he kept saying “Paravalla ma” “Naa pathikraen ma” and “Thanks ma”


Sometimes, when I stop to help someone, or even see someone like this, I wonder; It’s their job, they choose to do it, so maybe they should be fine? They probably won’t find someone to help every time, so why help occasionally – it probably doesn’t make a difference anyway!

Like once, my boyfriend and I spotted and old man looking obviously lost on the street, with 2 big bags. We helped him get in the car after asking him where to go. “The big gate, near the turning, at the corner” were his directions. We took him right to the corner, found the big gate, helped him get off. As we – a very satisfied couple, turned the car, he was still standing outside staring at the gate. We asked him what was up and he looked even more confused than before, and said, that doesn’t look like the right gate. Worried now, we helped him get in again, and turned out that the gate he was looking for was a mere metres from where we’d picked him up. Close to the turning we were supposed to take. He’d mentioned corner, and we’d assumed corner of the road we were on. Since then, I’ve been a bit wary of helping old people especially. They’re not the clearest when articulating what they want sometimes.

Last Wednesday, I saw him again. This time, his cart was overflowing, and he was panting and his toothpick sized legs were really struggling. If he’d moved feet earlier, this time, he was moving inches. He had hardly come up 1/3rd the bridge through three traffic cycles. So, I parked my bike again, and went to help him haul it up. This time, there was no protest from his side. He was obviously too tired and glad to have any help. This time when we reached up and turned left, he gave the happiest wrinkliest smile ever, and told me a “Romba Thanks ma”. I was glad that the decision of my internal discussion was to stop and help him, even though I’d been hungry.

I realized then that it doesn’t matter if it’s their job. Or, if they may not find someone to help them everyday. Maybe God sends us along to help them when they need that extra boost.

Today, on my way to work, on my scooter again, I was crossing a bus stop, when a lady waved me to stop and said “Please drop me at the end of the road” (in Tamil) The road is on my way, and a good 3 km stretch. I stopped, she handed me a plastic bag and requested I keep it in front – I hung in on the little storage holder hooks provided in scooters. When it was time to get off, I gave her the plastic bag back. She opened the plastic bag and asked me to pick one of the little pouches inside. “My daughter is getting married” she said with pure pride and happiness that only parents can express. “These are sweets for that.” She beamed and hurried away. Sputtering out a congratulations, I looked happily at the pouch with three ladoos in my hand. My Monday was made!



Monday, August 28, 2017

How to put a baby to sleep

Once upon a time,
In a land far far away
There lived many little babies and their mommy.
Luckily for her, she knew how to put them to sleep - so she too could sleep peacefully at night.

This would probably be a fairy tale that many of my girl friends would weep over - happy tear, tears of hope.

I'm going to share a secret here. One that is actually quite well known, and practiced widely worldwide. How to put your baby to sleep.
How did it all come about? Being one of the youngest among my cousins, I have many nieces and nephews. One December, cousins who had just entered parenthood a few months ago, brought with them their 5-month-old baby girl. That trip was the first "vacation" for that little thing, but having come from a cooler place, not to mention random people poking at her and carrying her, she struggled. My cousins were tired, 5 months of little to no sleep can do that to people. Luckily for them, I knew the secret that isn't quite a secret - How to put a baby to sleep.

The Secret?

Read to him/ her. 

Sounds too simple to be true? Well, it is though. 

It's not the story or the adventure that puts them to sleep, it's the rhythm
Read a bed time story softly, slowly and with a constant pace, you'll have the baby sleeping in no time. It's almost like an easier lullaby for those who are tone deaf 😉
This is also much less stressful and tiring than trying to rock your baby to sleep or other means. 

Another essential Characteristic of Bed Time stories is how they begin
Have you noticed that so many fairy tales begin with "Once Upon a Time"
Did you think that all writers in that era started their stories with those four words? Nah. It was edited into the story by the fairy tale book publishers. 
Why though? Conditioning. 
Conditioning is not a negative thing. It can be just a comfortable pattern that our brain gets used to sometimes. When a child hears "Once upon a time" or when a baby hears the tone with which you say those words, and that particular pattern on sounds, after a few repetitions of this event, they'll know it's sleep time. 

It doesn't have to be a fairy tale for a baby. When my niece was crying, I used to read her articles from a magazine that was available! You can read the news! Just start it with Once Upon a Time.

Disclaimer: Of course there has to be one! 😉
If your baby is crying because of hunger/illness, this method won't work.
It most other situations of unrest, this will at least calm babies down, if not put them to sleep completely.

Try it, and let me know if it works! :)
Sweet dreams!



Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My Love affair with notebooks

I love food and I announce it often times, proud and loud.
However, that I love notebooks is a quieter thing that very few know
I am in a way ashamed of it even
Not ashamed that I love notebooks,
But that I don't love them right

I could be compared to a cruel man
Who collects gorgeous women
And keeps them locked away
Cruel, not because he doesn't love them
But because he collects them believing he would love them right at some point
And never feels any moment is special enough
For that amazing occasion

One souvenir I get myself
From almost every country I visit
Is a notebook, (or two, more like - just in case, you know?)

I have notebooks of all kinds
Tall ones, fat ones, tiny ones
Ruled...unruled
Locked, easy to open
In a box
Hard bound, spiral bound
Many pretty pretty ones

I keep them safe and neat
In my cupboard
Often finding an old one,
And spending a moment smiling at how beautiful it is
Promising it that one day, I will write something very special in it
But I become like a protective father then
Like no man is good enough
No occasion special enough to start them

I have used many notebooks
Bought them for specific purposes
And left them forgotten

So all these heartbreaking realizations later
Earlier this month,
I made a very difficult decision
I decided not to buy myself anymore notebooks
(Yes that's the sound of my heart cracking)
I followed it up with an even more difficult decision
That I would start using my notebooks
Before I get another new one
(Crushed to pieces, that's my heart)

I've even started clearing my table
Cleaning it, so only the special notebook can sit there proudly
I came to terms with not buying new notebooks for a long time

Last night,
My dad came home
he tossed a really pretty notebook right next to me
My hands itched to touch them
My eyes were analyzing them already
It however felt like a cruel joke
Like being taunted with that carrot you don't deserve
"Take it. I don't think I'll use it" He said
"Why thank you, I really appreciate it"
I let out the breath I hadn't realized I was holding in.
It all felt right again.