Monday 7 December 2015

In other news...

Y did well at her school sports last weekend, winning the girls 50 m race and coming 2nd in skating. Not having been much of an athlete in my school days, I get disproportionately kicked about my kids' sporting achievements, small though they might be :). Y was all smiles after winning the 50 m race and visibly disappointed when she came in second in skating inspite of being the crowd favourite :). She has entered herself for the Math and English Olympiads this year, and a Spelling bee, and seems to be stressed about whether or not she will collect any medals or certificates in these!
We have been very happy with her new school, and so has she. The philosophy, and Montessori-inspired teaching, has done wonders for Y. A couple of days ago, they made the first and second graders set up food and craft stalls while the preschool kids had their Sports Day. The kids worked in teams to attract customers, sell the products, handle cash, and calculate profit/loss made on their stalls. Y came back super-charged after the event, not the least because she had used the money I had given her to walk around all the other stalls and do some solo shopping on her own! I was happy to see she had bought not food, but lots of craft/handmade items, proving she is her mother's daughter after all :)
The winter holidays are almost here, and in a few short months, it will be summer break again. How the year has flown!

Ad-Lib #12

Resurrecting the AdLib series, because my 10 yo says the best funniest things. Some of these I posted on my facebook page but I want to put them down here as well.

Y singing: "Love is an open door...."
As snapping: "No it isn't!!"
The literal-minded don't get poetry. 

Ads to me: How much do you love me?
Me: As much as the entire universe.
Ads: Do you mean the observable universe?
Me: Huh?? (standard reaction!)

Ads: You know Amma, Adolf Hitler is a great example of a person who persevered against all odds to realize his dream. He started his political party in 1918 but did not become Chancellor until 1933. He waited 15 years to get to where he wanted.
Me: That's actually a really good example.
Ads (wisely): Yes, but no one will like to use it and say Hitler was really good at something.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Curiouser and curiouser

Very often, Ads will bombard me with random pieces of information. Sample from this afternoon, all in a space of less than 5 minutes.
Did you know Japan has 353,000 robots? The USA has 153,000.
If you tickle yourself, you won't laugh because the cerebellum send signals to the brain to ignore the tickling.
A US survey lists clergyman, firefighter, physical therapist and teacher as the most satisfying professions 
More than half of household dust actually consists of discarded human skin shavings, which are worn out skin cells (yuck!)
All of which makes me think of how different my kids are, even when it comes to being curious. Ads' curiosity is of the intellectual kind. He is interested in the large questions - the human race, the nature of God and the Universe, science and so on (though he has lately developed an annoying habit of reading all my whatsapp messages!). He learns through reading and accepts unquestioningly anything he reads. Long ago I suppose, he came to terms with the very limited intelligence of his parents and others around him and therefore relies on books for knowledge :)
Y's curiosity, on the other hand is more earthy. She is very interested in gossip, what everyone's saying, why that person said this and thought that....more like tell me the here and and the Universe are unfathomable and will always be :) She learns, not through books, but by unceasing questioning. What's that word mean? Why did Thatha say that? What do you mean by that? Why did this happen? She learns by doing and is far more intuitive than her brother- the main reason why she will always have better life skills than him!
Sometimes, I want to make a list like we used to do in school. List 10 differences between Ads & Y. I feel like drawing a line in the middle and listing them all down :) This is the case with many siblings but I am always amazed by how chalk and cheese my kids are. Nature intended parents to always be on their toes and never develop a sense of complacence while raising their second or third child.

Only in France

Paris, late October. I was picked up by a shuttle bus to catch my flight to Seattle. We had to stop for a couple more passengers before heading to the airport. In a narrow lane (all lanes in central Paris seemed narrow!), a truck stopped just ahead of us to deliver provisions to a hotel. The truck was right in the middle of the street/lane. He couldn't have parked anyplace else because both sides of the street were crammed with parked cars. Slowly, the driver got down, pulled down the tailgate, fished out a cart to ferry the provisions and proceeded to load the cart with food, drink, paper towels and what have you. 
I watched this performance, mildly incredulous at first and later, with rising panic. My driver sat next to me, unruffled and unhurried. Clearly he was prepared to wait as long as it took the truck to disgorge its hotel delivery. Slowly, behind us, a line of cars and other vehicles developed. No one honked. Everyone waited patiently.  
I couldn't stand it any more. Isn't there another way out of this street, I asked? My driver said no. Not that we could have moved in any direction anyway, as we were completely hemmed in. After a good 20-25 minutes, the truck finally drove off and traffic resumed as usual. And I didn't miss my flight as feared!
Of course, I had to think about all the shouting, cursing, honking and creative solutions deployed had this happened in India :)
Everytime I get annoyed and antsy, I think of the zen attitude of my driver and everyone around...and attempt to channel my inner French-ness :)

Saturday 24 October 2015


It has been a really long time since I blogged. Truth be told, life got in the way. But I hope, I am able to remedy that now onwards and start posting more frequently. 

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since my last post. Ads turned 10, an exciting milestone! Fifth grade, and the school workload increased quite a bit, catching us a wee bit unprepared in the initial months (daily homework - really????). Y moved to a new school and to Grade One, again a big transition for her. I turned forty, a milestone that I managed to exploit to the hilt :)
S was travelling to Greece for his company's annual conference so we decided that we would celebrate my 40th by holidaying in Greece and Paris. The timing of of our trip also tied up nicely with my organization's annual conference, which I was scheduled to fly to the US for, so we decided we would spend a couple of weeks in Europe, and then I would fly to the US and S would return to India.
We decided not to take the kids because, apart from the expense, right now, we have the huge luxury of having my parents babysit them, something I am grateful for every day. I had a fairly tough time planning the itinerary and organizing our travel in the midst of work, but of course it was all very new and exciting doing it!

I recently reread one of my favourite parenting books - French Children don't throw food - and was struck again by how much of a French mom I am :) I've always been pretty strict with my kids and very conscious that they and I are separate beings, and we don't need to be joined at the hip all the time. Even when we did not have the support system that we have now, I used to take time off to spend an evening with friends, or go out on my own while S took charge of the kids. When Y was as young as a year and a half, I have left her and Ads with S at his parents home while I spent a couple of days with my parents and other family. And I have never been hesitant to ask for help. The first time that S and I took off on our own was 3 years ago when we took a few days off to go to Himachal to celebrate our anniversary. This year, we spent a weekend in Mudigere for our anniversary and our Europe trip was the third time we were out without the kids.
I think it's important for moms (dads too) to make time for themselves and for each other. I've felt strongly for some years that the husband and wife need to be a strong cohesive unit. The kids will leave home at 18 and never look back but if you haven't invested in your relationship with your spouse, then what do you have but an empty nest to look forward to? I know from experience that every relationship, especially and ironically, the closest ones, tend to become very transactional and matter-of-fact with the passage of time. To NOT take each other for granted is hard!

So while I may not again (for some time atleast), take off on a two week holiday with S, I know we will both make the effort to take a week off every year with the help and kindness of our parents. Having an uninterrupted conversation over coffee, not having to referee unceasing arguments and fights, forgetting to be responsible and grown-up and discovering our goofy and silly selves again, was a priceless experience. I think I dropped a couple of years off my age right there :)

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Summer 2015 (Ads)

This is Ads' summer routine. 

6 am: Up from bed
6.40 am: In the car, munching at breakfast. Granddad has cricket coaching chaperoning duty!
10 am: Return home. Swallow some coconut water/juice. Go down to play. Cricket, what else. 
12 noon: Back home. If lucky, he hasn't been yelled at by me for coming back late/not wearing a cap etc etc.
1 pm: Bath and lunch over. Fight with sister also accomplished. Amma nags incessantly to take a nap. Fed up, he retreats to his room. Half an hour later, he's either fast asleep or tossing and turning. 
3 pm: Milk and almonds/fruit time. Now he starts nagging Amma. When can I go down to play? 
3.30 -4.30 pm: Phone calls incoming & outgoing, making plans with friends on where and when to meet.
4.30 pm: The boy disappears and we don't see him until 7 pm.
7-8 pm: Bath, dinner, fight with sister!
8 pm: IPL time!:
9 pm: Bed

Supremely physically active to the extent that we sometimes ask him to cut back on the cricket. I have suggested he go swimming with friends to break the monotony, but he says - what monotony???? So we have let him be. After much persuasion, he has picked up his first Harry Potter and seems to be enjoying it.
I think he's happy :) 

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Arabian nights (& days) - Part 2

Dubai's Miracle Garden was a lot of fun, and it really is a miracle! Flowers blooming in profusion everywhere were lovely to behold.

Shades of Holland?

Which gal wouldn't love a castle like this?
An offbeat and excellent suggestion by a friend, to attend a traditional Arab breakfast in the old quarter of Dubai, turned out to be the highlight of the trip for me. Hosted in an early 20th Century "wind tower" house in the historic district of Al-Bastakiya, it was a heady medley of coffee, conversation and culture! A young Emirati girl hosted us and answered questions on Arab (specifically Emirati) culture, food and dress habits, and Islam. The food was yummy too and the three of us (S, Y & I) stuffed our faces.
Wind tower House

We also did the mandatory dune-bashing and desert safari the same evening. The dune-bashing was a different experience but the Thar desert safari was as nice as the Arabian nothing new there. Y thoroughly enjoyed the belly dancing and was almost up there on the stage with the dancer :)
We spent one morning at the Atlantis hotel/Palm Jumeirah to tick off another Dubai must-do. We never got down to much shopping (you get everything in India!) except for a few keepsakes and gifts. S and I salivated to see the huge variety of excellent-quality dry fruits on offer and stocked up.......yes we go bonkers over raisins and apricots, not over gold :)
The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi was a pit stop on our way to the airport. It manages to be both immense and beautiful. How many monuments can say that?
So, inspite of all my reservations, we did enjoy Dubai - a LOT. Staying with extremely hospitable friends who went out of their way to show us a different side to the city made all the difference. The kids stayed happy with plenty of company and having all the home comforts let us relax even at the end of a long day. One of our best holidays. The only regret - we didn't get to do a day trip to Oman which we were very eager to do. I am now hooked on Arab culture and cuisine and cannot wait to explore more authentic locales!

Arabian nights (& days) - Part 1

Dubai was hardly anywhere near the top of my must-travel-to places. I assumed we would visit it (briefly) sometime, enroute to somewhere else. Come on, Dubai is all glitz and glamour and artificiality - all the stuff that I run miles from!! I remember visiting it when I was about 8-9 years old to see my grandparents who were living there then and I had a fantastic time. I remember the milk being really thick and creamy (yum!), and living in air-conditioned surroundings all through the day was a luxury and novelty :)
This summer, not having much leave and forced to look at destinations that were a quick flight away, S suggested Dubai as an option as he had air miles that he could redeem. Free tickets are always good so I quickly got in touch with a couple of B-school batchmates who lived there and who kindly invited us to stay. Free flights and free stay! Wow. Dubai immediately began to look more enticing :)
Inexhaustible planner that I am, I started shooting mails to our friends discussing our itinerary. Being very spontaneous and last-minute sort of people, they were most amused and I had to endure some good-natured ribbing on my advance planning :) We flew to Abu Dhabi one morning and immediately ran into the most disorganized chaotic airport and immigration process we have ever experienced. Hungry, tired and more than a little sleepy, we kept the kids amused while waiting interminably in a long line. Finally we cleared immigration and met our friend who was waiting to receive us and drive us to his home in Dubai. It turned out that we had landed in the middle of a sandstorm. Our friend gamely pointed out all the sights as we drove by, though we couldn't see a thing ahead or on each side of us!! I was personally quite thrilled to see a genuine Arabian sandstorm while safely inside the car :)
That evening, we walked through the Gold Souk - full of every design and ornament, beautiful and ghastly, that the hands of man can craft from the yellow metal. Fortunately I don't care for gold at all else our purses would have been significantly lighter. This ring and the gold ATM took my breath away!

A ferry ride on the Dubai creek and a fantastic Lebanese meal later, we were back home & happy to hit the sack at the end of a long long day.
The high points of the next couple of days were the Global Village, which is a kind of Dilli Haat but only 50 times larger and having craft and food stalls of what looked like almost all the countries of the world. We only managed to peek over the goodies in Iran, Pakistan and Lebanon before it was time to leave. The Dubai Mall is the world's largest mall, not that you can really tell because I wasn't going to go walk through every square feet of it! It looked much like any other mall, only a lot cleaner and shinier than most Indian malls, and of course with a massive variety of brands and products on offer. We went to the top of the Burj Khalifa to get a birds'-eye view of the city. From that high up, the scale of this country's achievement- creating a fairyland out of wasteland and arid desert - becomes palpably obvious. All thanks to the black gold lying in abundance under all that sand and sea.
A couple of things that rankled me throughout our stay in Dubai was the excessive use and wastage of power and every other resource. Three rows of street lamps spaced no more than 500 metres apart on every road and highway, each lamp-post topped with several lamps aglow, are completely unnecessary. Recycling- whazzat? Lights and air conditioning are on everywhere all the time. Even 9-year old Ads was aghast at the over-consumption and waste of natural resources.  
More adventures and observations coming up in Part 2!

Monday 11 May 2015

Mother's Day

A day prior to Mother’s Day, there was a lot of shushing and secret goings-on in the kids’ room. Only since no one in this family has a clue as to where anything is, they had to come ask me for supplies. Paper. Glue. Scissors because one would not share hers with her sibling. Then sketch pens because again, they wouldn’t share. As if that wasn't enough to put two and two together, they came up and asked me for two copies of my passport and “Amma, your photo should be on it, okay?”
In between, a huge fight erupted. We heard screaming and tears. I was prevented from intervening by the husband. You aren't supposed to see what they’re doing – he hissed.
Finally, what I received on Mother’s Day was a couple of very cute cards (with my Xerox passport photo pasted on them!), a painted Nutella bottle with I love Mom written on it and containing 2 finger rings made with loom bands, and a “pen stand” pasted over with coloured printed paper. Apparently the pen stand was the bone of contention, because Ads had appropriated Y’s and given her a pen (that didn’t write) in return!

More importantly, I got lots and lots of hugs and kisses on this special day. As much as I scoff at Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents’ and all the other days as yet another marketing stunt, I won’t deny that all those extra cuddles did make me feel very special. Even moms need validation every now and then!

Monday 16 March 2015

Keeping at it

Ads recently won the runner-up prize in a Junior League tournament conducted by his tennis academy. He was thrilled and so were we, more so because it has taken us 4 years of almost continuous tennis lessons to come to this point. While the prize in itself is not a major thing, it does signal his tremendous progress both physically and mentally. From a kid who has always lagged behind his peers in the gross motor skills area and who lacked the confidence to compete, to a kid who now plays tennis and cricket with equal aplomb. From someone who hated sport to someone who enjoys a couple of sports (yes we are a long way away from being sporty and we are very opinionated, it is enough that a couple of games are approved!). From being nonathletic to running, throwing, catching and swinging better.
I am glad we kept at it because heaven knows I have wanted to throw in the towel many many times. As his tennis improved, his cricket skills picked up and now the cricket helps his tennis. Between chess, tennis and now an upcoming intensive cricket summer camp, we will have no time or energy to focus on that important life-skill, swimming.
I am looking forward to the stamina improving over the summer. I also hope he gets better at handling his frustration and getting over the small losses and disappointments which bother him so much. Most importantly, he will learn that to play any sport even reasonably well requires enormous grit, patience and strength.
Baby steps. Have I said this before????!!!! 

Tryst with dance

A few months ago, a friend called to ask if I would agree to be the MC for her daughter's arangetram. I know the Bharatanatyam Guru as well, who is a friend and who used to teach Y briefly. Of course, I was flattered, though I immediately pointed out that what I new about the dance form could be written on one side of a very tiny envelope! No problem, said my friend. We will work on the script together and do a couple of rehearsals. You will be fine.
And that's just what we did. We wrote and rewrote the script. I kept editing till the last minute to get it perfect. I had to keep checking on the pronunciations of quite a few unfamiliar words. Finally the day arrived. I wore one of my lovely kanjeevarams and donned a very traditional Tam look. It was so much fun! The stage was beautifully decorated and lighted. The women were dazzling. The parents had left no stone unturned to ensure that their daughter's talent was showcased to the hilt. She danced with grace and poise. The accompanists were really good. I got a lot of compliments for my MC-giri, not to mention a beautiful brass Ganesha as a gift.
It was a lovely experience. I am so glad I did it. It was not only fun but and I learnt something new.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Y - Patchy Progress (Not!)

Some milestones for Y -

  • Learning to skate/rollerblade for the last month and a half and doing pretty well so far. I used to think skating would not provide much exercise but it appears I was wrong; atleast in the initial stages it seems to be hard on the legs and thighs! From initially just lifting her feet high and walking to now smoothly coasting for short stretches, Y seems to be enjoying her weekly class so far.
  • Transitioning to Anna's scooter, a much larger and taller one since she outgrew her own scooter. It took Y no time to learn how to manage on just 2 wheels instead of 3.
  • Reading! She has been a slightly slow starter just like her brother inspite of having books and bibliophiles in her DNA and home ever since she was an infant. Fortunately I never fussed about them picking up reading. Just like Ads, she has leapfrogged into it and is now comfortable with the equivalent of the Ladybird 2 and 3 series and is asking to read the Geronimo Stilton books now!
The biggest transition has been to start wearing an eye patch for 4 consecutive hours everyday, for the last 2 months. She was diagnosed with lazy eye in November and has been so good with wearing the patch. I am super-proud of her! The patches prescribed by the ophthalmologist had adhesive on them and irritated her eyes no end. A couple of times, when we peeled it away it left bruises which later drew blood. I had to order a 100% cotton eye patch that could be fitted onto the spectacles, from the UK. They were simply not available online in India. Of course these cloth patches don't work as effectively as the adhesive ones, but we will find out when we meet the ophthalmologist again at the end of this month. We hope the lazy eye problem is corrected and she does not have to patch any more. The issue, as always, has been social. Random people exclaiming and asking OMG what happened? does not really help us. We know that when we step out inside the community, there will be atleast two people who ask us about the patch. I used to get livid with people's curiosity. I would never ask a child I do not know, why he is limping/wearing a patch/wearing braces etc etc but this is India and people are always curious :( But wiser people have advised me that explaining to others calmly makes a big difference to the way Y views herself, and it helps her articulate to others when they ask as well. So I am trying to subdue my natural reaction of annoyance and do what is best for my baby!
If she has to continue with the patch for some more time, I anticipate there is a lot of counseling and some delicate social navigation in store for us. But - as always - teaching moments aplenty, both for mommy and baby!!!

Thursday 5 February 2015

Karnataka Heritage Trail -Part 1

A long weekend came and went and how could we not have headed out of town? :) This time, because S had been going ga-ga over some pictures of Pattadakkal that some friend had posted, we decided to do Hampi-Badami-Pattadakkal-Aihole. First, a night train to Hampi, which turned out to be a dirty town which became much nicer as we headed out of the city center and towards the Jungle Lodges Sloth Bear Resort.  Airy spacious cottages well-spaced from each other, spotlessly clean, and with very friendly courteous staff. How I wish more Govt.-run establishments were like this! Though of course JLR charges an arm and a leg so that level of service is to be expected. 
Hampi was beautiful. A little underwhelming at first though; having been to Khajuraho and Orccha in Madhya Pradesh, not to mention Belur/Halebid closer to Bangalore, I did not find the architecture and carvings that spectacular. Soon, however, the sheer scale of the site, the history and the impressive natural setting (boulders and all) had me mesmerised. Hampi was crawling with foreign tourists and was hot even in January. I can imagine the scorching heat during the summertime. After doing a little sightseeing, we headed back to the resort for lunch, a short nap and then a safari into the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary. 
This safari was unlike any safari I have ever been on. We trundled along in the bus for what seemed like miles until we reached a rocky hill up which we all huffed and puffed. On top of the hill, was a viewing platform on which all of us were asked to perch for the next 2 hours until the sloth bears made an appearance! The rest of the 'safari' was fairly typical. There were the serious wildlife-watchers with professional-looking cameras and binoculars who were highly irritated on spotting us tourists accompanied by small noisy kids. There were the small noisy kids who occupied themselves in running up and down some rickety stairs :) There were some bored adults as well who were merrily taking calls and speaking loudly into their fancy phones. 
It was windy, cool, and beautiful. I settled down and relaxed until such time as the bears made an appearance. They did not make us wait too long. It was quite fascinating to see the black furry shapes clamber down the rocks even if from a distance.
Chariot at the Vittala Temple Complex

Miniature Hampi - the prototype of every building was this

Elephant Stables

The zoom

View from the top- at the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary
Finally, it was time to go back to our cottages for some well-earned dinner and an interesting BBC documentary on the wildlife around Hampi. Day 2/Part 2 of the heritage trail to be posted soon!

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Only about Y#2

This had been lying in my drafts for almost a year. Just discovered and posting.
On our drive home back from a road trip, Y is looking out of the window. Suddenly she exclaims - "Wow! This looks just like India!"
We tell her, this is India only baby.
She's shocked. "What! How did we get here so fast??"
I have nooooo idea what this girl is thinking about half the time! :)

"Amma, Bharath (of the Ramayana) was such a good boy. He did not want to be king. Only the chappal was the king."
"Good thing the chappal was clean. Otherwise the throne would have become dirty."
And she was offended when I laughed and laughed :)


Ads has recently started writing a diary. What has he gotten himself into? Did he not know (and why did I not anticipate) that being who he is, he would get stressed about not writing an entry every single night? Last night, he was so tired he could barely drag himself from the dining table to his bed. Yet his last words before sleeping were - "Amma, wake me up early tomorrow. I need to write in my diary."
Which of course, I did, because this kind of discipline and diligence is SO me. Some people call it borderline OCD behaviour :) 
When you see flashes of yourself in your kids, sometimes you want to steer them away from doing what you did...Sometimes, you just smile in understanding and let them go ahead, even though you know nothing good is ever going to come out of it.
I am told that both my kids need to be more outgoing, and able to make friends easily. Now I can never buy this "extroverts are better" argument. Nature dictated that my kids are both a little reserved and shy. After all, their parents are not extroverts! However, over the years, education travel and workplace opportunities have transformed S and myself into socially adroit and confident creatures. No doubt the same will happen to Ads & Y as well. I have no burning desire to have them be social butterflies or the life and soul of the party, at this age. I do coax them every now and then to go up and talk to kids they don't know, and help them strike up conversations with casual acquaintances. But I don't make a habit of pushing them. Often when I speak to someone in the elevator or in the park, Y has asked - "Why did you speak to that Uncle/Aunty? You don't know him/her." I know something clicks when I respond; there is my small learning moment! I know how long is has taken for Ads (many many years of nagging!) to voluntarily offer a greeting to someone he knows or a visitor to our home. Every time he does it, Y learns from him. Baby steps!
It's ok to have a couple of good friends, and a couple only. I never had a huge gang of friends growing up and even now the number of good friends is really small. Isn't that how it is for most of us? It was hard for me to be open and gregarious. Over the years, I conditioned myself differently and now it's become second nature. Perhaps my only role is to facilitate my children's journey. Point, coax but never ever force them to be something they aren't. 
I will have to gently break the news to Ads that his diary entries have been dated wrongly. He thinks we are still in January but it's already the 4th of February! He has to fill in 3 days worth of entries in the middle :) What fun we are going to have today!

Wednesday 21 January 2015


Lately, I have been finding these kind of love notes everywhere in the house. Inside her school bag, my closet, on her table, and in my workspace.

Last weekend, I moved around systematically from room to room, gathering up these bits of paper to store them safely in one place. Later, I complained to S - "Gosh, there are sooo many notes Y has written for me...I had to find a folder to cram them into!"
My husband gave me a strange look. Part annoyance, part jealousy. He said - "Do you know I have only ONE such note. Even that has Amma crossed and replaced with Appa!"
So I am #1. This is exhilarating. Cheap, I know...but exhilarating :) Sanjay calls her "Jalra". Sour grapes, I say.
Though I will be the first to admit that I can take no credit. That's just the way my little girl is. Devoted and affectionate. Every single day, I fail in my own eyes as a mom. Everyday I go to sleep thinking I need to do better. But in her eyes, it seems I am already perfect. Thank you for keeping me up on that pedestal, Y! I won't grow all proud and haughty because your brother will always ensure I come down to earth with a big crash!
But sometimes, even I feel she can take it too far. One day, she asked me what the word "react" meant. I explained - "Suppose I annoy you and you get angry with me. That means your reaction was anger. " She looked horrified. "But amma, I can NEVER get angry with you!!"

Monday 5 January 2015

A lovely forest interlude

Some friends and I have been on calls and fb messenger for several months, figuring out options for a short holiday prior to our B-school reunion. One friend and her two daughters were travelling from Mumbai. Her criteria was someplace in the woods, with lots of birds! This narrowed down the field considerably and finally we fixed on Masinagudi with a brief one night stopover in Mysore.
The thing about travelling with old friends is that you can just be and do your own thing without worrying about offending anybody; though obviously since they are old friends, you want to hang around with them and don't want to do your own thing! Our reservation at Mysore was messed up and we got moved to the Lalitha Mahal Palace at the last minute, which turned out to be a good thing because it's a lovely property.

Exterior of Lalitha Mahal Palace Mysore
Next day, we drove to Masinagudi and Inn the Wild, which is a gem hidden in the lush forests around Bandipur/Mudumalai. The way to get there is by undergoing a bone-rattling 20 minute jeep ride over a kutcha, extremely rocky path which was quite thrilling due to the possibility of cracking your skull any minute!

The cottages
What did we do? We walked, we ate, we fished (for the first time- too exciting!), went on night safaris. Some of us did a lot of bird-watching. There was a lot of wildlife spotting- elephants, peacocks, langurs, spotted deer, gaur and wild dogs to name a few. It was quiet and immensely peaceful. Mobile connectivity was patchy (what a blessing).
One afternoon stands out. We had been taken to a small rocky stream after our Bandipur safari, and we spent lots of time splashing and playing with the kids there. We headed back for lunch soaked to the skin and extremely happy and exhausted. After lunch and a bath, while S and the kids napped, I elected to stay outside the cottage. It was the perfect temperature with the afternoon sun playing hide and seek behind some clouds. Every now and then, I had to move the chair to get the optimum combination of heat light and shadow :) I was reading a particularly appropriate book- Under the Tuscan sun, and alternately reading and dozing but what I remember vividly was the extraordinary feeling of contentment that I was experiencing. Happiness, well-being, peace all rolled into one made for a mix which I subliminally recognized as an all-too rare experience. 
Masinagudi wasn't the prettiest place I have visited, or the most interesting. But it was one of my best vacations. Raising a toast of a few more such in 2015!