Of musical heaven and bumbling husbands!

Brought up in a household obsessed with Hindi film music, my exposure to any sort of ‘non-Indian’ music is so limited, it’s not funny at all. So when the husband proposed we go to a Yanni concert last Friday, I was skeptical. Isn’t he the guy who played at the Taj Mahal a few years ago, I asked? That was the sum total of my knowledge of the master pianist. But the husband seemed rather keen, so we went. And I ended up being one of the loudest cheerleaders in our part of the stands. Now if only I could whistle, I’d surely have been the loudest!

To say the concert was good is to insult the magic of those two hours. There was divine music, exquisite dancing and a certain special something in the air. It was superb, magical, enthralling – basically out of this world. Tell me – where else do you get to see a big happy smile on everybody around you? The musicians seemed the happiest of the lot. They indulged in oneupmanship and cheered the loudest when their teammates outdid them. There was a special bond amongst them that was a privilege to simply watch. The evening ended all too soon, as is often the case with enjoyable evenings. The band played encore after encore, yet we in the audience hungered for more. We were on our feet, clapping and cheering and basically just refusing to leave!

In my post-concert euphoria, I was all set to be suitably grateful to the husband but that was not to be. On our way out, he asked me if the Taj Mahal guy was any good. With a transparently halfhearted attempt at keeping a straight face. Naturally, he got a withering glare for his efforts. The man is yet to learn when not to press home his advantage!

Where my legs declare a strike on me!

It’s official. My legs and I are not friends anymore. This is how it happened. Our friends, S and A, and the husband and I went biking the Lehigh Gorge trail at Jim Thorpe, PA yesterday.

“25 miles of pure nature, including small waterfalls, and continuous views of the Lehigh River. Make sure to bring your camera, lunch, and plenty of water for this exciting journey!” – the trail description read.

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Sounds good, doesn’t it? Except that we sort of missed the 25 miles part, concentrating on the waterfalls and nature bit instead. And how I wish they had mentioned bringing along a signed, sealed contract with our legs rather than the camera – I promise not to declare a strike mid-way down the trail, I promise not to go to sleep in the middle of nowhere etc.

So there we were, starting out bright and early at around 3 PM. The shuttle service that took us to the top of the trail was very reassuring – you should be back in about 3 hours, it’s an easy downhill ride. Plus it’s almost summer, daylight is till 8 o’clock, we told ourselves. How late can we possibly get?

The first 5 miles were just as beautiful as we had imagined them to be. Pure unadulterated nature – a playful river on one side, cascading waterfalls every few minutes on the other, chirping birds, a cool breeze – heaven!

Except that the easy downhill trail we were promised never materialized! And then the legs decided to make themselves heard.

My legs (grumbling): We are being ignored, you take us for granted, we protest this shoddy treatment!

Me (slightly alarmed): Err, no, no, what are you talking about? I love you, truly!

My legs (angrily): So when was the last time you gave us some exercise? And now you want us to carry you 25 miles – no way!

Me (totally alarmed now): Please, let’s go home and discuss this, okay?

Right leg (fierce and determined): No! We are tired of your false promises. We demand a break now! I am going off to sleep – bye!

Left leg (after a while): Wait, I’m coming too. Bye, JnM!

So there we were, four tired souls and a pair of legs on strike, somewhere mid-way along the 25 mile trail and with twilight fast approaching. There was no cellphone reception, no helplines, not a soul in sight and no access to a motorable road or civilization except at the end of the trail!

So what happened next? Please don’t ask, I don’t want to think about it ever. If I am writing this post, we must have come home, right? Right!

P.S. God bless the park ranger who found us, 3 miles short of the trailhead, and gave us a ride to the parking lot. I would have gone down on my knees to thank her except for those stupid legs, remember?

A weekend in the mountains

Last weekend, we took off to the Pennsylvania Poconos with a group of friends, eight of us adults and a cherubic two year old. What do I say of the experience?

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Picture this – a remote mountainside cottage surrounded with snow. An old-fashioned fireplace to keep us warm. Playing games till 4 o’clock in the morning. Getting up at noon and eating maggi for brunch. Walking out and making a snowman right at our doorstep. Stamping in the snow to loosen it up for our snowman. Giggling at the silliest of jokes and sometimes for no reason at all.

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An entire day of skiing and snowtubing. Interesting discussions and lots of banter and laughter. Three days of no internet, no television, no cellphone reception – almost no contact with the outside world. Just plain and simple fun! In short, an idyllic weekend! How I wish we had more of those!

Important note: I will be taking a short blogging break for the rest of February friends – we are off to Mumbai for our annual vacation home. I don’t need to tell you how excited I am, do I?

There’s so much awaiting me – a wedding, an engagement, a family function, my first visit to my very own home (the first time I’ll be seeing it as a home rather than a construction site!), a visit to B’lore and Pune, lots of shopping, hogging and of course meeting up with friends and family. All in the space of two weeks, can you believe it? I wish I could begin already…! 

See you soon friends!

A winter trek

Sometime in January last year, the husband and a friend climbed a nearby mountain range for a day trek. ‘What’s so unusual about that?’, you might ask. We live in upstate New York, that’s why. Average temperatures on a nice sunny January day here are below freezing. To say nothing of the fact that it was snowing the day the foolhardy two set out on their crazy (or so I claimed!) adventure.

‘Do I look like I’m crazy too?’, I smugly asked them when the poor guys invited me along. And ‘I just hope they come back home safe and sound!’, I prayed all day, as I enjoyed  some cherished me-time warm and cozy at home.

They came home all right, and brought with them some of the most breathtaking pictures I’ve ever seen! Naturally I was jealous as a cat! I’d mocked them too much to say anything then, but this year when the winter trek was being planned, I quietly slipped in a oh-so-casual ‘Perhaps I’ll come too!’. Hoping it would go unnoticed. Obviously it wasn’t, but what’s a few taunts and jibes when such gorgeous scenery’s awaiting me, right?

So a group of five friends, yours truly included, set out on a trek to the Skytop tower on the Mohonk mountain range early last Sunday. The final ascent to the tower was closed because of icy conditions, so I didn’t get my view after all, but the scenery on the way was worth every bit of the aching limbs that followed.

I leave you with some pictures and a suggestion – if you get a chance to go on a trek in the snow, don’t miss it! Take your precautions, wear lots of layers, put on sensible boots and go for it! Oh, and please don’t tell the husband I said that!

dsc05275Setting out!

dsc05328A semi-frozen stream on the way.

dsc05332Walking on snow is a tough job!

dsc053372But the view sometimes makes up for it!

dsc05327Pug marks in the snow – was that a bear? A dog, more likely, but it was exciting to imagine a bear instead!

dsc05347Lake Mohonk

dsc05353Sunset at 4 – it’s time to head back now!

dsc05365A sight for sore eyes (and aching limbs) – isn’t that just gorgeous?

Deck the halls with boughs of holly…

… fa la la la la, la la la la!!! 

So the Holidays are here. Imagine – five whole days of vacation with no agenda at all! Initially I thought we might get bored but I couldn’t have been more wrong – we are having the time of our lives and right here, around home!

The Christmas cheer started a while back when we put up our Tree.

Decorating the tree

(Picture re-used from last year since I didn’t get a good shot this year.)

Then there was the shower of gifts that decended upon us in office on Monday and Tuesday, the only two working days this week. Candles, chocolates, home-made tree ornaments, freshly baked brownies and cookies… the list was long and humbling. Especially since we had no idea what to expect and had not planned gifts of our own. (We were new to the workplace last year and weren’t really part of the social scene then.) Anyhow, I think we’ll stick to our plan and get back gifts from our India trip in February instead. 

Wednesday was spent mostly lazing around at home, the best way to start a vacation in my opinion! We had some friends over for chai and poha in the evening, and at night we accompanied a Catholic friend to Church for the Christmas eve service. 

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The church was beautifully done up and the service was moving except for one small detail we found confusing and somewhat amusing – the priest kept asking everyone to stand up and sit down every few minutes, at least ten times through the prayers. We asked our friend about it but he didn’t have a good explanation. Do you?

On Christmas Day, we headed out to the City. (And don’t you dare ask a New Yorker, which one – there’s only one City with the capital C, okay!)

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Santa Claus was out in the City too and had gone all high-tech, with a car decked up as his sleigh!

dsc05183There were gorgeous Christmas Trees adorning almost every other doorway.

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Our first stop was for candle-lighting and some heartfelt prayers at St. Patricks Cathedral on  51st and Madison.

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Next stop, the Rockefeller Tree. Can you make out how huge it really is?

We sort of wandered around after that, on foot of course, the best way to explore a city I always say! Bryant Park, Macy’s, Time Square and Broadway, stopping to take in a movie (Valkyrie) and a breather at AMC, yummy Kathi Rolls at the Indian restaurant nearby and interesting sights on the way…

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A store-front display I loved – a sari-clad doll!

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Skaters at Bryant Park. No, I am notorious for my lack of balance and did NOT dare try my hand (or rather feet) at this extremely scary (for me) sport!

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Another Tree at Bryant Park.

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One of the famous store displays at Macy’s.

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And finally, an innovatively decorated Tree at Grand Central. Can you make out what the decorations actually are?

And on that note, I’ll bid you adieu, until next time. Happy Holidays, Merry Xmas and a safe and joyous New Year to all!

Baby’s Day Out!

The husband had some work in Washington D.C. on Monday and I used the opportunity to tag along, bunk work and spend a wonderful day in the National Mall area of D.C., taking in the sights and lots of pictures, all for you guys of course. We have been there several times before, but the fun of roaming around aimlessly with no one to prod you along is something else, I tell you!

Early morning, the husband dropped me off at Constitution Avenue and I walked around merrily without a plan…

… stopping to take pictures of pretty little street corners on the way.

And then I turned a corner and this is what I saw… no, seriously!

Imagine turning around a bend and coming across THE most famous address in the country! I was surprised, shocked and excited all at once, to put it very mildly. One would think I would have had a fair idea of what to expect after wondering about the security guys popping up from behind every other tree – but I am the original naive girl, I am!

Is that Uncle Sam on the right, mowing his lawn this nice October morning? Somehow, I don’t think so!

It felt strange – the National Mall area was uncharacteristically peaceful on Monday morning.

These D.C. moms had the walking track all to themselves!

The school kids were out in full force too!

And this outdoor creche had me fascinated! Who were these kids? Why were they in the National Mall area? Were they out for a baby picnic perhaps?

I took advantage of the lack of crowds and signed up for a free tour of the Capitol.

Our tour guide was amazing! She was a history student with an encyclopedic knowledge of American Presidents and politicians.

The Capitol building itself is BEAUTIFUL!

And finally, I visited the lovely Botanical Gardens right opposite the Capitol.



I had a wonderful time, overall! Before I sign off, let me leave you with our good thought for the day – this board outside the Gardens was a pleasant surprise for me! Please do read it through.


P.S. In case anyone is wondering, the baby in the title is NOT me – I was talking about the babies in the pictures of course!

Babies, Going Green and a Movie!

Is it just me or do you feel uncontrollably drowsy in a moving car too? I have heard babies have this habit of going off to sleep the minute they step into a car, some friends of ours kept this as a last resort option to calm down baby when all else – monkey faces, lullaby singing and frantic rocking – failed. So is this another of my childlike habits, or are adults prone to the fall-asleep-in-car syndrome too?

Yesterday marked the first time the husband and I successfully remembered to a) pack in reusable paper bags that were so far gathering dust at home, b) carry them from the car to the grocery store and c) request the cashier to use them instead of plastic. Phew! Despite all our good intentions, this is the first time we managed to achieve all three together!

The cashier at the Indian grocery store seemed pretty surprised incidentally and everyone else in the queue kept eying us with what looked like surprised, amused, admiring, indulgent and in some cases, sadly, cynical looks. On a more positive note, there is also our local farm store that offers brown paper bags free of cost, and also gives a small discount if you bring your own, to encourage reuse. I wish the Indian store would take note too!

We went out for a movie for the first time in months, or so it seemed to me, last night! Ghost Town is a happy-sad, sweet and funny movie, one I would recommend for a fun Saturday night out with friends. I was initially apprehensive about the title, (I must be the biggest scared puss ever!) but while the movie IS about ghosts, they aren’t really ghostly ghosts, if you know what I mean! I especially liked the part where Dr. Pincus (a funny name in itself – try pronouncing it a little differently!), a man whose people skills leave much to be desired, slips into dental jargon when pushed into an awkward position, those scenes are simply hilarious!

Surprisingly for such a light comedy, the movie managed to slip in a beautiful message amidst all the tomfoolery. We all know we get to live only once and none of us know how much time we have left, yet do we really stop to think – How can I best use the time I have? If I die this very moment, can I die in peace, knowing I lived my life to the fullest and did my best for the people I love? Or will I leave behind regrets, unanswered questions and unfulfilled promises?