Friday, May 30, 2014

The radio

So I've been sick for the past few days with some serious tummy trouble. And no it's not all the chilli I had in Sri Lanka before you jump to that conclusion. Here I am in the company of my hot water bottle listening to a song I heard in the car while driving down the hills of Lanka. I used to hear it often on All India Radio Sunday Requests and the fauji requests program late at night tucked up in a razai during the Delhi winters as a very young girl. When I heard the song again last week I couldn't help but sing along and I was surprised that I remembered each and every word.

93 Gold FM in Sri Lanka plays old music, mostly soft country ballads and I loved it. Even the RJs are not annoying and there are very few advertisements. They do love their news though which includes business, entertainment and sports news aside from the main news. I downloaded the app yesterday just to relive the memory of that beautiful drive and was listening to it when this song came on again. So I found it on Youtube and saw Anne Murray for the first time. Such a simple looking woman. She sang beautifully and the young girl in me sang along. Here it is

Monday, May 26, 2014


As I sat in the restaurant at Colombo airport and looked at that beautiful sky I was sad to be leaving this beautiful island. I nursed my last cup of tea in Sri Lanka and looked out at this beautiful view and silently promised myself that I will come back and soon.

I don't think I've ever shopped as much as I did in Lanka. I promised myself not to shop for a very very long time. I got a sari from this lovely designer called Yoland. She does amazing batik work. I'm officially in love with her creations of gorgeous flowing silk lovingly designed. I mean you can see it when someone is passionate about their work. It shows.

Anshuman had his favourite Elephant ginger beer and read 'A prayer for Owen Meany' by John Irving. I remember reading it a long time ago. He's quite an amazing author. If you haven't read this book yet, do pick it up. And now I'm home listening to all my favourite music as I do every morning. I have to unpack everything. It's going to take a while. Ninna and I will be reunited after ten days. I've missed her terribly and I'm truly happy to be home.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Turtle talk

Yes people won't leave these sweet little creatures alone and now they're on the endangered list. But it was heartening to see this turtle farm where some good people are doing everything they can to save them. They collect the eggs that the turtles lay on the beach and bury them under the sand. The babies hatch in about two months. Then they are released back into the sea. Sometimes they get caught in fishing nets, sometimes if people get to the eggs they eat them. Only about 80% of the eggs collected hatch and out of those only a small percentage survive in the sea and live to be 30 years old and be able to mate and produce babies.

This is a baby Ridley Turtle. He was just floating in one place if that's even possible. He would blow bubbles at short intervals as if to indicate that he was alive and well. As I love to say- Ketlo cute che ne! ("So cute isn't it!" in Gujarati)

This one was swimming at super speed hence the blurry picture. I wanted to pick one up in my palm but you're not allowed to touch them. Although when the attendant wasn't looking Ruwan picked one up and waved it around at me as my eyes became wide with fear that he might drop the poor little guy.

I fell in love with this ugly boy's face. He was so cute and unfortunately was missing his right front leg. I cooed and talked to him for quite a while and he would keep his chin on the wall and look at me as though he understood everything. The attendant told me the turtles can't hear but they have great instincts so he could probably sense the vibrations of my voice. I wanted to pet him so badly but unfortunately as I said that's not allowed. He will stay at the farm for another couple of years and then released back into the sea. Right now because of his missing limb he is unable to submerge under water and hence cannot survive in the ocean. Once he gains more
weight he will be able to do so and it will be safe for him to go back to his natural habitat. I asked if I could feed the big turtles but was regretfully told that was not possible. The one on the left was equally cute and I talked to him for quite a while too. If I moved to the other end of the tank he would follow me and rest his chin on the wall. I couldn't stop cooing and saying,"I love you."

I wish I could have pet them but I'm sure you're not allowed to do that for good reason so I came away with wonderful memories.

We went to the Unawatuna beach which is quite famous but the tsunami that hit these shores has unfortunately changed the face of the land. It's a much smaller beach now. The place itself reminded me of Goa. The same narrow lanes lined with little shops selling beach dresses and loose pyjamas. The only difference is that this place is very clean quite unlike Goa.

We stopped for tea at the Unawatuna Beach Resort. We were the only people there aside from some Chinese people who are everywhere. They do love to travel. And my huge hat makes another appearance along with the wayfarers and one of my favourite dresses.

See how happy I am? Yes I'm that happy. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Journeying on

That's Ruwan driving us from Nuwaraeliya to Galle on a misty morning yesterday. The clouds descended upon the hills to wave Goodbye and I was incredibly sad to leave this place that I've truly fallen in love with. I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful land in my entire life. I'm certain that I will come back and meet the flowers again.

And that's me all covered up in my favourite black shawl. My nose was cold and that smile never left my face for one second as I looked out of the window at just how gorgeous nature can be. We walked around the hotel, drove by a beautiful lake sprinkled with swan shaped paddle boats. We did go back to the lake but it was too late and it was closed so I looked at the sky and a million stars smiled down at me. I smiled back. I can't remember a time I was this happy. The Gods have been so kind. Let me thank the universe again for its benevolence.

There are lakes in the valleys and clouds on the peaks and a camera in my hands. Many many memories are forever ensconced lovingly in my mind.

Another tea estate we stopped at on our way called Mackwood. I bought a tiny teapot with a wicker handle and a stuffed toy baby elephant for Ninna to destroy. Anshuman picked up four kinds of chai. He has threatened to make his own blend.

Ruwan took this lovely picture of us against this beautiful waterfall. We stopped at a hotel situated next to it for lunch. I had chilli soya curry with rice and a lot of terrible dessert along with a gallon of water. Of course my eyes were watering, my nose was running, my ears were burning but I had to. I had to have chilli. Sri Lanka has converted me into a chilli fiend. Seriously.

We stopped at a an Ayurvedic garden. We were shown the various trees and smelled the heavenly fruits, leaves, and roots of various trees I'd never seen before. I got some really wonderful medicinal and cosmetic products. All natural of course and no side effects thank God. We finally reached the Jetwing Lighthouse hotel in the night utterly tired. This traditional dance show was being performed and I saw a little bit of it. We were checked in within minutes. Excellent service.
Well I did manage to swim across the breadth of the pool attached to a float. And that's me incredibly happy having achieved that feat. No matter how much sunscreen I pile on to my skin I get tan in about three seconds of being in the sun. So I now sport some excellent tan lines. I really don't mind. The water was worth it.

And that's my huge hat! I really do love it. The sea was tempestuous as the waves came crashing to the shore. I lay on a deck chair with a cool Papaya juice and enjoyed the view until it began drizzling a bit. There was thunder, lightening and rain almost all night. It was gorgeous.

We went to the Galle Dutch fort in the evening. The sky was truly brilliant. Some firangs were running on the periphery. Some locals were exercising. Tourists were walking around taking pictures. I took some too. I love this one. There is a little city with shops and houses with sloping tiled roofs within the fort walls. There were two museums but I was so tired that we came back. May be today we will go back and take a look.

Yep. When you see a giant cutout of Sangakkara telling you about a supermarket discount you know you're in Sri Lanka.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The heavens

So here I sit in a little piece of paradise as the rain gently falls on a million flowers and more. Nuwaraeliya is beautiful beyond any words could describe. Everywhere your eye travels there is a gorgeous bloom that smiles back at you. This place simply gladdens my heart. I will let the pictures do most of talking because i don't think I could do justice writing about it.

The Grand hotel is surrounded by a beautifully manicured garden. As i write this the sun has decided to make an appearance in a mild loving way so different from the unforgiving summer sun of Dubai. I'm wearing the blue sweater my father bought me in Delhi. Who would have thought I'd be wearing it in the hills of Sri Lanka.

The clouds are moving gently across the blue sky. The garden is sprinkled with some lovely topiaries. I wanted to take a picture with the dinosaur. There's a picture of me on my toes with my hands on the dino's face trying to reach up to give him a big sloppy kiss but of course you'll never see it. It's embarrassing enough writing about it!

The hills are covered in tea leaves growing in organised patterns. There are lovely tea shops everywhere. I mean this place is truly heaven for me. Tea anyone?

We visited a tea factory and were explained the whole process of how it's made. It was interesting and I got to have this picture amidst my favourite beverage. There must be enough tea in those bags to last me more than a lifetime!

That's The Grand Nuwaraeliya. It's a superb place. Everyone smiles and greets you. The service is great. They don't know how to make fish but the breakfast is wonderful. And did I mention the garden? Oh the garden is to die for!

We went to the Botanical Gardens Hakgala and again I have no words to describe just how fantastic the experience was. I walked alone for a while on a road surrounded by enormous trees and beautiful blooms. It was so quiet and all I heard were crickets and a few birds. I was at peace with the world in those few moments. I had no worries, no complaints and no thoughts.

There was a Japanese garden with a serene pond and a bamboo grove. There is so much peace in this space that you don't want to say a word. Those of you who meditate could spend hours here just breathing in the calmness. Everything was still including my inner self. I was content.

Some more lovely flowers and so much joy...

The clouds descend from the heavens above to the heavens below and I was so lucky to be there. All I can do is thank the powers that be for having been so kind to me, for letting me be a part of so much beauty. So thank you.

The usual selfie with Anshuman and I. What can I say? He is like that.

All set to go with the sun rays for a little trek in the hills.

Onwards and upwards. got out of breath very quickly and thought to myself,"I'm going to start working out and give up smoking when I get back to Dubai. This is just not done!" And then my inner voice laughed and said"Yeah right Parul Gahlot!"

Almost reached the top and then the two Smokey Smokersons had to wait a while and drink some water and get a picture taken.

And last but not the least here's the most beautiful little person I came across in Sri Lanka. Snot was flowing freely from his nose but he was such a beautiful boy that I had to give him a kiss. He looked very frightened but nothing can ever come between me and a kiss.

Sometimes it pours and then it drizzles and then it stops only to pour again. How much I love this rain... How blessed am I...

Goodbye for now from the ethereal Nuwaraeliya... I'm going to walk in the rain.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Big love

So we drove from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya yesterday. Sri Lanka is just so lush green that it's a pleasure just looking out of the window. Our driver Ruwan Kulasekara (actually I don't know his last name but it sounds like Nuwan Kulasekara so I'm going to call him that) drove very very slowly in keeping with everything else in Sri Lanka. Here they seem to have all taken all the time in the world which is why the rest of us in other parts of the world find ourselves struggling for it. He informed me that Lanka has the highest number of public holidays which means the economy grows very very slowly and the people are most happy. Makes sense no? At one point there were a lot of injured and disabled elephants in Sri Lanka due to the disturbances in the region. They got hurt by the landmines and so the then president Premadasa set up the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage about 25 years ago. We stopped on our way
to meet the elephants. Anshuman and I fed this lovely pregnant elephant Komali. After the food was finished she kept her trunk on Anshuman's lap wanting more but the food was all finished. She was thoroughly dirty and so adorable.

And then we heard a whistle and heard a herd of elephants moving urgently in the direction of the river. They love water and spend about two hours or so in the water. We followed as Komali ran as
an elephant possibly can to join her friends. And there they all are. Mamas, Papas and babies headed towards a much needed bath. I could only stare with wide eyes at how adorable these giants are. How can someone kill one to get to their teeth. I've never bought anything made with ivory and I have no intentions of doing so ever. I beseech all of you who read this to do the same. Poachers should be hanged. Seriously. I would have no problem signing a death sentence for

one and breaking the nib. And there they are in their natural habitat cooling off. The attendants take very good care of them. They bathe them and even remember to clean behind their flappy ears. Although I saw one of the girl elephants (I think she was a girl because she kept crossing her hind legs) bathe and then shower mud all over herself with her trunk. Messy people they are and so adorable. They did try releasing the elephants which grew up in the orphanage into the wild but it didn't work. They would go into
the villages as they had become quite used to being in the company of people. The villagers began hurting them afraid that the gentle giants would hurt them or worse. So now they stay within the orphanage all their lives. This little fellow followed his mum everywhere. They really are so affectionate. I felt like it's their earth and we had no right to do what we've done to it. I won't even talk about the circus and the zoos and the way they treat animals.
On a lighter note Anshuman pointed to something in the river and said,"Look at that!"

I did and saw a long elephant turd floating in the river. "What's wrong with you?!" I said. He ignored my question and said,"Aww it got stuck in the rocks and broke." I shook my head and he continued,"Imagine what a beautiful digestive system an elephant has. And then we bought some notebooks and souvenirs made from elephant poop. Very nice. These two guys slept in the water back to back until some of their friends woke them up by prodding them with their trunks. And now I need to get ready for breakfast. So it's Goodbye for now from Nuwara Eliya in beautiful Lanka! 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

See! See! See! See!

So I had spicy biryani again. And I loved it. My tummy is going to begin protesting soon but I don't care. I'm on holiday and I'll eat all the chilli I want. That's me applying lip colour and looking  at my image on my phone. Anshuman asked me today," Why are you so self obsessed?" I had no answer for him but I think I should have said,"I love myself about as much as my loved ones do. Okay may be a smidgen more." And smiled coyly but such things only occur to me in hindsight. I'm slow that way. My witty remarks are usually restricted to afterthought unlike my husband who throws wise ones at will.

I took this picture last night just to give you an idea of this glittering city. I met an interesting man today. His hair was shoulder length, curly and perfectly coiffed with bobby pins. His eyebrows were carefully threaded. His nails were longer than mine and perfectly manicured. His shirt was so tight the buttons were ready to pop and his eyes were adorned with kajal. He is the front desk manager at our hotel and he was interesting. He was also very professional and good at his job which is so much more important than merely his appearance.
He got me a reasonable cab in record time and explained everywhere I needed to go to the driver. I jumped into the red Prius, a very comfortable car and looks quite nice too. First stop was Odel, a small department store. I bought a huge hat. I always wanted a huge hat and it gave me great pleasure to get one. Now I hope I can sport it on the beach tomorrow in my new, lovely blue and white Odel dress.

Next was Paradise gallery that I liked a lot better.  There were so many small things that I picked up but my favourites have to be the five notebooks I just had to buy. I don't really write much in notebooks anymore but every time I buy one I delude myself into thinking that I will begin. There were some lovely ceramic offerings but I was hesitant to pick up anything because of the way airlines handle luggage.
 The last stop was Barefoot which is a cafe and boutique. A live band was playing lovely soft music. A woman in dark glasses was on the keyboard. People were guzzling beer and listening to the music. I went in and shopped some more. I think I have enough body butter to last me for the whole of next year now I'm happy to report. What can I say everything smelled so good I had to pick it up!

Another beautiful sunset from the hotel garden. We sat and ate two plates of deviled sausages. They really were the devil with enormous amounts of chilli disguised in sweet sauce. So addictive. And as you can see the railway tracks run parallel to the beach. The sounds of the waves is probably the most soothing sound I've ever heard and then when the whistle of a train disturbs the steady hum, somehow you don't really mind. Anshuman was wondering what the people travelling in the train must be thinking of all the people having fun in the pool and the restaurant. I was wondering the same thing...

I can't swim but I can get into the pool as long as one arm is latched on to the rail so that's what I did. I stayed with the kids in the shallow part of the pool. Sat submerged in the water for as long as I could hold my breath till all I could hear was my heart beating in my chest. I got so tired by the end of the day that when Anshuman asked me to accompany him to the casino I said,"I'm so tired!" He asked why. I replied,"I shopped so much! It's so tiring." He started laughing. He doesn't realise what serious business shopping is! So many choices to make. So many bags to lug. And yes so much joy spending money. But then he would rather be making it than spending it. Suits me just fine, thank you very much!

And there I am totally refreshed after my almost swim and enjoying a cup of Dilmah. I had a Sri Lankan buffet for dinner and I have to say the Lankans really do love their chilli. There was Chilli coconut, Chilli onion and Chilli Chilli, fish curry, beef curry, appams, potatoes and some terrible looking dal. Fish was really hard for fish so I mixed the chilli chilli and the chilli coconut and the fish and rice which ended up looking like a massacre on my plate. I proceeded to eat hungrily in big mouthfuls. Afterwards all I could say was,"See! See! See! See!" So I had to have a papaya juice and caramel custard.

Having said chilli way too many times in this post it is now time for me to bid you Goodnight from lovely Colombo!