My Georgian Journal

18 Jun

“OMG! Are you actually doing this, Diana?!” I asked myself with a sudden hit of reality. Here I was, at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, waiting for my connection flight to Georgia. And I was travelling Solo.

That’s not the only highlight. It was my first Solo Trip. It was my first time to Europe. And, to top it all, it was heading to a country where I did not understand their language.

The excitement with which I took off in Bangalore was unexpectedly joined by a gush of anxiety. As I watched the screen at the gate flash “Turkish Airlines to Tbilisi – BOARDING”, I reminded myself how important this trip is to me. I’d been planning this for months. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. Spread my wings. Fly high by myself. Discover Life. Discover Meaning. Discover, Me.

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In sheer coincidence, I got to know after landing that I had stepped foot into Georgia’s 99th Independence Day! I guess this day will go down in history as well. Almost spontaneously I took to the streets to explore the festivities. Flags, balloons, dags, cotton candy, food stalls, art, souveniers and the like. It was an absolute carnival out there. The spirit of celebration was in every citizen’s cheer.

Musical notes flowed freely in the air, with live performances every few steps. Every musician strummed cords of joy. Around each artist were listeners huddled around, grooving together. Uninhibitedly. They broke into dance so naturally :) There is a sense of unision that music brings. I paused a few times just to watch people sway together.

The traditional Georgian dance and music performances showcased that night was sensational. On that mighty stage at Tbilisi city centre, was a burst of energy and talent. The show made a spectacular ending with fireworks like i’ve never witnessed before. It was like a magician’s wand in the sky. With a rain of colourful sparkles. It lit the sky, and my heart.

Although it was close to midnight, I was quite confident on heading back home thanks to technology. My Georgian sim card had 4G and I had marked my house location before I left. Gogebashvili was on top of a hill and I headed there. Residential hill, if I may say. With an array of cute little cafes and shops during the day. Except, there was this one small thing. When I reached the hill-top, I took out my phone to check which turn I needed to take. And then, I was greeted with two pleasant notifications. 1.) Internet not working. 2.) Phone battery low. Here I was, in a new country on the first night, at one of the many cross-roads, on a dimly lit street. “Great. Just, great.”

I lost count of how many Hail Marys I chanted while I experimented different directions. The streets were empty. Occassionally cars zoomed by. A few dim yellow lights on the alley were flickering. In the cold night, I could feel sweat trickle down my back. Half an hour of getting lost seemed like eternity. After enacting my “Lost-in-Foreign-Country-On-First-Day-with-Useless-Phone” scene to my worried hosts who only understand Georgian, I collapsed on my bed.

What a Day 1.

The next few days were thankfully less adventurous and more amusing. “I wandered lonely as a cloud, that floats on high o’er vales and hills; When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze…” Wordsworth’s words sounded prophetic to me. Here I was, wandering, feeling as light and carefree as a cloud, but not one bit lonely.

For Georgia was a real-life painting, with hills and valleys, lakes and trees, and at every step I took, I fluttered in delight… There was something so poetic about this place. I embraced every minute I spent exploring the city by myself. Soaking in the sights, sounds and fragrances. It was spring. Bright blooms. Surplus greens. Flower scents. Blue sky. Sunshine warmth. My days were wooing me with visual treat.

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The eve before I take-off. One week had flown past like the breeze before monsoon showers. I got into a cozy little cafe just for its’ great view overlooking the street. I sat near the window. Relishing the last few morsels of Georgian cheese. Sipping on a caffeine-loaded Turkish coffee. Looking out of the window. In silence. Watching the world go by. A wave of  sweet calmness and contentment blanketed me.

Never before in my life, have I felt this heightened sense of serenity. Out of the blue my brain played visuals from “Eat. Pray. Love.” I smiled to myself. When I had watched the movie years ago, I wished then that I did something like what Julia Roberts did. Get away from my regular life for a while. Get out of the country. Explore a new place by myself. Taste mind-blowing different cuisines. Praise the magnificence of the bigger world, life outside what I have seen. Rekindle my spirit. My hopes and dreams. My ambitions and aspirations. This travel had turned out to be a journey to self.

Be strong, my child
For you belong to the wild,
Of hills and valleys,
With life’s ills and highlights

A venture unimagined,
Opened doors of magic
A doe-eyed tourist,
Strolled in to mysterious mist
Into the unknown,
To a land far, far away
Like the start of a fairy tale,
So was I, whisked away

Bright blue mornings,
Warmed solo meanderings
Old cobbled streets,
Greeted fresh cherry blossoms

River Kura to my right,
Lofty Mt. Mtatsminda to my left
Cultural epiphany behind,
Promising pathway ahead
And the world at my feet.
The spirit of travel surged through my soul,
The power of discovery popped-open my mind

Leaving me thirsty for more…

If I were to pour out every detail of how this trip had an impact on me, I would end up writing a booklet. What I can tell you in short, is that some adventures seep into our ordinary lives unexpected. And for me, experiencing that Solo was life-changing. It is only when we allow these events to manifest, that our lives enrich with renewed meaning. Get out there.

The End. (For now).

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My other blog posts:

Read what I remember the most from my trip to Indonesia

Read how I survived a week in a trek to the Himalayas

Fine! Be picky. Choose what you would like to read here.

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Pause.

7 May

In our relentless pursuit of questionably attainable dreams, are we losing out on acknowledging ourselves? Are our dreams bigger than, us?

Allow me to gently immerse you in my thoughts. Pardon their rapid down-pour, but once it sinks in to your mind, it will light up a tiny space that you did not know existed. So make way.

As long as i’ve known myself, I have always wanted something or the other. In raw human instinct, of course. As a kid, they were things. Physical, touchable, materials. A doll house, for example. As I grew older, I wanted more than actual things. Peer group, for example. Today, what I want is even more complicated. Genuine friendship, true love, work satisfaction, are a few examples. But there is always something or the other. You get the drift.

These “wantings” over time, have snowballed into a formidable yet meaningful part of my life which today I refer to as, dreams. The fascinating thing about dreams, is that, the more you accomplish, the more they multiply. In number, in size, in every possible dimension. I’m starting to sense it may become an epidemic at some point.

So here we are, juggling between our numerous dreams. Some more heavier, more important, than the others. But each, equally desirable. It is these that we cling on to with dear hope. That makes every churn of effort worth it. What makes us get up from bed each morning. What kindles the fire in our hearts. What simply, keeps us going.

And every now and then, some of these dreams become reality. That takes us to limitless ecstacy. An intensely gratifying feeling. Where hope resurrects, flowers bloom, and butterflies emerge.

But, is that the only time we pause? The only time we take deep relaxed breaths? And let life temporarily flow in slow-motion?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for stopping by to smell the fresh roses. And I must admit it is quite a grand event whenever I do it. But I would also like to drop by, once in a while, to see how the sapling is growing, leaves sprouting, thorns forming, and buds taking shape. Because these are what are going to make my tomorrow’s dream come true. Another meaning to my life.

I hope that little light in that little space of your mind is now lit. So while we are at the chase, my beloved fellow-dreamers, let us consciously remember, to pause. Once in a while. To see how amazingly we are adapting, evolving, and growing. The dream might be distant, or it might be close. But we are pursuing it with our every cell. Let’s make every step count.

Just,

Pause.
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About this picture: I clicked this during a trek. We were quite a big group, and were at one of the pit stops. During this break, I quietly took my book and sneaked away to have some quiet time to myself. I paused :)
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More thoughts: https://dianathinks.wordpress.com/
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Indonesian Intervention

16 Jan

I felt like a sore loser. I had gulped enough sea water to be a threat to underwater life. I couldn’t keep my head under the water for more than two seconds. This, mind you, is despite being inside a life jacket. Bright orange isn’t my colour, I must say.

I was in one of the most beautiful beaches in Indonesia. The white sands of Sandranan glistened against incredible gradients of blue. And there I was, in the middle of that incredible blue, in a not-so-flattering snorkling suit. Futile attempts to breathe through my mouth wasn’t helping my ego. Or my nostrills. For a while I just buoyantly remained at the same spot. Just, you know, floating. Helpless. But hopeful. Hoping that noone notices me like this. “Are you from India?” A young girl’s voice burst my thoughts of doom.

I paddled around in penguin-style to look at her. “Yes”, I replied. Partly guilty of defaming my country. We struck a few minutes of broken-English conversation in mid-water. But she din’t need language to understand my state. “Hold my hand” the teen offered with a smile. Her friends and I giggled as we formed a human chain and moved around the sea for a while, before we parted ways.

I remembered my mission was not yet accomplished. “C’mon, Diana! You din’t fly all the way here for this!” I told myself. With renewed zest, I put my snorkling mask back on, and dunked my face into the sea. I tried a few times. And then – at one of those attempts that lasted more than a second – I saw it! I saw a glimpse of the majestic underwater world! There was no turning back now.

I did SO much during this holiday. Road trips, street food, historical spots, art galleries, museums and many many more. But this beach-snorkling incident left a mark in me. The best part of this trip was losing track of time immersed in the miracles below sea line. Swimming with bright finned friends. Touching the coral reefs. Feeling, accomplished.

As we enter into a new year, with new missions to accomplish, let’s be cognizant that we may have similar moments. Where we start off feeling like a sore loser. Helpless, and without a direction. Look around, and you’ll find someone to offer you a hand. Or maybe, you might be the one who gets to offer. But trust me, once you get a glance of how success feels like, you will be unstoppable. May 2017 give you opportunities that help you discover new strengths.

When I landed back home, my friends eagerly asked, “How was your holiday, Diana?”

“Breath-taking,” I said.

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More thoughts: https://dianathinks.wordpress.com/

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Hello, Himalayas!

24 Sep

Baby steps. The last time I heard this, it was with reference to a baby. But this time, it was with reference to me. “Take baby steps, everyone!” I heard my trek leader say out-loud. We were on the final lap. The last two thousand feet of our twelve thousand feet journey. And for me, it was turning into a gruesome test of will power. I was no longer climbing up using my trek pole. I was fueled on emotions. And that too was running low.

We had started at 3.30 am. When the sky had covered itself with a thick black blanket, and tiny twinkles were generously sprinkled on it. If I could run my hands through that starry sky, I would have a handful of sparkling glitter :) At one point, we all switched off our torches. We just stood there in darkness, in the middle of nowhere, gazing up, starstruck. I soaked in the silence, and the shine. “I could do this for hours,” I thought to myself, as I immersed myself in the quiet silver light. It was a plethora of stars, a massive celebration going on up there.

It had taken us four days to get where we are – almost ten thousand feet from our base camp at Sari, Rudraprayag. We had hiked through dense forests, vast meadows and everything in between. Flawless scenery flowed continuously, changing by the hour. It was like being inside a real-life Windows Screensaver.

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The squishing sounds from muddy forest pathways were strangely comforting. Tall trees, thorny bushes and slushy grounds. We were tiny ants making our way through a humongous green world. A few chirps were heard at a distance, while a few other feathered friends were spotted. My excitement peaked at the foot of falling water. It was yet another first for me – Not seeing Spring Water in a plastic bottle. But in its’ native place. Pure clean water flowing from nature’s lap. We never saw their origin, never saw their end, but those sparkling streams fresh water quenched the thirst of body and mind.

Do not trust meadows. Yes, those vast, serene-looking unending stretch of open space. They look nice and welcoming. But I swear they are not easy to hike! Their breath-taking look literally does take your breath away. Huffing and puffing all my way, the more I climbed up, the more they suspiciously grew bigger. To baffle me further, I saw buffaloes double my size leisurely race me to the top. I must admit though, the pleasure of seeing vast grassy area gave me some kind of kick. It also kicked the city-lover in me.

img_4733-copyI thanked the Quechua Gods who created my trekking shoes, for keeping my grip and my dignity. Each terrain was a different chapter in ‘How To Trek Without Slipping and Falling’. With a few excerpts from ‘How to Deal with Embarrassment’. Also recommended is ‘Trekking for Dummies’.

There is special joy trekkers experience close to sunset. This feeling arises when after hours and hours of walking, somewhere in the near vicinity, we spot our next base camp! The sight of those multiple bright orange tents is an instant boost to our climbing speed. Being a first-time trekker, my biggest apprehension was about living in the woods. Tents, to be precise. I later realized that I got better sleep in my sleeping bag, than on my own bed. (Sorry, bed). Make-shift bathrooms served their purpose. Torches gave enough light. Changing clothes inside tents improved your acrobatic skills.

But none of this passed my mind while I struggled to reach the final destination – the summit of Mt. Chandrashila. My vulnerability had reached a greater summit. I could feel my calf muscles stretch with every step. My heart was throbbing at a rate I had not felt before. My throat was dry, and my lungs felt heavy. Despite the chilly breeze, I was sweating. I cursed the hyper-excited Diana who signed up for this a few months back. I paused. Tried to calm the chaotic voices in my head. It’s too late to give up now, I thought. I did not trek for four days to quit so close to the finish line.

“Baby steps”, I told myself. Let’s do this. One, small, baby step at a time.
And that’s how I touched twelve thousand feet.

***
In the darkest hour,
Saw an endless tower
The quiet stars,
Gave us gentle power.

The ascend begins,
With creaking crickets
Pacing footfalls,
With clinking trek poles

On stony ground
We climbed up proud,
Stretch of height
Was in a shroud.

An hour has passed,
Expectations surpassed
Rays of dawn,
Subtly brushed the clouds.
We were merely mid-way.

Sky grew lighter,
Body felt heavier
With sight of summit,
Eyes were brighter.
Mountain top moved like a mirage.

Unending ocean of grassy green,
Waded through its’ high and low
Steeper steps gave quite a blow,
Yet we soaked in scenic glow.
To reach the peak are miles to go
Let us for now take it steady and slow.

At the zenith awaited a dream,
A breath-taking soulful gleam
Cotton clouds a touch away,
Snow-capped mountains there it lay
Misty magical hills and valleys,
At the height of nature’s glory.
Oh, the view from the top!

The peace of simple solitude
Was to me a promising prelude
The quiet kiss of calmness
Covered me with gratitude
These emotions and sights of stunning beauty,
Will you stay, forever with me?

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***
Epilogue: I am back home, from a trek I will never forget. And now, when I see a mountain of challenge in front of me, I say to myself, “Take baby steps, Diana. One, small, baby step at a time.”

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Read other blog posts: https://dianathinks.wordpress.com/
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Oh, Mumbai!

27 Mar

I landed. The race had begun long back. Hypnotically, I joined in. And from then on, there was no looking back.

I could feel it in every step. A spring of rapidly converging ethos. Minds that exuded volatile visions. Ancient analogies of architectural amaze. There was an unbelievable descent of stupefying valor. Focused. Distinct. Dynamic.

My palate touched paradise as ethnic sauces slurped over my tongue. The taste of traditional cuisine augmented the authenticity of Indian spices. The street food had me floored. There were chances that the Power Puff Girls would’ve made an appearance with this perfect blend of sugar, spice, and everything nice. Chaat, Pav Bhaji, Pani Puri, and related desi cousins, turned out to have a long lost connection with me. I subconsciously enslaved to those heart-warming flavours served hot.

A girl like me could not but stare, gape, and most unfemininely jaw-drop, at the unending array of all things girly. At this shoppers’ oasis, I offered the last ounce of my dignity as I bagged the lowest prices. Every bling, every texture, every hue of rainbow on cloth, bag or shoe caught my eye twinkling. Precautionary Warning: Shopping at Colaba Causeway, Linking Road, or on similarly tarred nature, may result in mild vertigo due to over-exposure to mind-numbingly attractive articles. Side effects include related monetary loss.

Majestic. Built, style, architecture. They weren’t buildings, they were history. As I unknowingly played the role of a wide-eyed tourist, I learnt what differentiated old from antique. Everywhere, I saw stories on stone. Be it at the steps of the Gateway of India, the luxury of The Taj or the massiveness of CST, which, I have to brag, was an absolute vision under a gleaming full-moon night. The sights quite simply said: there was an era before this, there were people before you, there were unforgettable incidents here before you reached. I was humbled by the magnificence of the structures. And the insignificance of our accomplishments.

Any Mumbaikar would undeniably agree that a walk along Bandstand or Marine Drive is a highway to attain your Zen moment. The Arabian Sea welcomes every thinker on it’s stony lap with fresh breeze and fine waves. Land’s End (self-explanatory) has secretive powers to put an end to your most existential questions. Just being there, soaking in your silence, listening to the waves hit the rocks, letting the gentle wind brush your tress, can cool your mind like mint leaves on a summer noon.

Personal space is a dream. Being seated is an achievement. Get out scratch-free, and you’re a winner. The local trains gave me more adrenaline gush than I would’ve got being on any survivor reality show. Repressing the memory of multiple high-decibel female voices ranting into my ears an assortment of sour words, this is probably the most adventurous ride of my life. Amusement parks can take the back seat. (Maybe even literally). The 0.032 milliseconds that I took to get off at the Bandra station, cost me heavy uncontrollable incoming women’s traffic into that Ladies compartment. After an almost-Olympic jump, I felt accomplished I landed on a platform I hadn’t caught a glimpse of earlier.

Once again, almost hypnotically, I joined in to the race. The continuously flowing crowd. The constantly bustling movement. The supremely active citizens. Overflowing, exuberant energy, everywhere.

We all have different stations to be in at different times. New locations to go. Strangers to befriend. Initiatives to take. Experiences to gain. The idea is to look forward. Keep moving. Keep going. Be, Unstoppable.

***

The sea waves waved at my wandering thoughts,
The ocean looked like my mind.

Buildings built-up inspiration in heights
Heightened my dreams and aspirations.
Aspiring artists and talented tourists
Tour the city in amuse and wonder.
Wondering the secret of this land’s life
Life bubbling in every person
Personal pride being city’s child
Children of glorious past and present
Presented a view of bright sapien minds
Mindful of all the place offers
Offerings of wisdom, talent and experience
Experiences, oh, unforgettable ones.

And as for me, I returned anew
Renewed, refreshed, recharged
Sights opened my eyes and thoughts
Expedition excited every sense.
A joyous self returned,
Filled with memories to linger.
Somewhere during the journey,
I felt belonged.
Somewhere during the journey,
I left a bit of my heart behind.
Somewhere during the journey,
Mumbai,
You changed me.
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https://dianathinks.wordpress.com/

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From Delhi to Goa

21 Feb

I froze. Not in shock. Not in fear. Not in disaster encounter. But in drop of temperature. At 3 degree celsius in Delhi, with the multiple layers of wool on me, my resemblance to a stuffed toy was the least of my concerns. My futile attempts to hide were mocked by the smog. My attraction to bright burning coal almost seemed hormonal. Hazy mornings put me in daze. Cloudy evenings chilled my brain. And yet, it was never too cold to suppress my mind – of fascination.  The Capital City. The undeniably magnificent antiquity. Tinted with glossy class.

Fast forward one week. Humidity dripped from every forehead. Breeze brushed my hair. Sun kissed my skin, a bit too much. Ton of tan. Lots of sand. Sea and land. Evidently, I’m in Goa. The smell of seaweed was strangely soothing. Waves of heat warmed by heart. I heaved a deep breath of exhilaration. Ahh, there’s something about beaches.

May crushed spirits arise
At breath-taking sights
May music find its’ tune
On tourist maps anew.
With sun and moon as witnesses
Watch your brightness outshine,
Let your hollowed heart transform
Into a spring of soulful twilight.

Every step on new land
Is part of a dexterous plan
Behold the journeys ahead
Preserve the ones that’s sealed.
If not for undiscovered destinations
What joy would travel bring,
If not for the unknown future
What life would we be living.

As I seek solace in silent words, I cannot but await, the path that lies forth. With a sail that’s drifted to places old and new, experiences that’ve been bitter and sweet, I realize with childish contemplation – everything is unique. Each second is so intricately woven we cannot relive it.

Every city, every person, every situation, has something different to offer. And its’ dynamicity is your ultimate tutor. As none of it ever stays the same.

Therefore, Seasons change. Temperature varies. Culture collides. Body ages.

And People, they evolve.

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https://dianathinks.wordpress.com/

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We Live. We Learn.

10 Dec

I have an event I’m organizing, starting in less than two hours. I have a work submission in another few hours. Meetings both scheduled and unscheduled coming up back-to-back today and the rest of the week. My to-do list runs into pages. Some get the honour of getting ticked. A few unfortunate others don’t. My typing skill has drastically improved. So has my ability to gobble up lunch when on the run. I have already got three notifications that my laptop battery is about to die. In the middle of all this chaos, you know what my mind tells me to do? Write.

Therefore I submit to the greater will. The one that keeps me alive. The affair that keeps me going. The secret that spills when I type. I always wonder when people say, words fail. Maybe verbal words might. But written words win. All. the. frikkin’. time.

Catastrophe comes unbidden
Caressing uncalled sentiments.
Hammer on a wooden plank
The crack refuses to budge.
Shadows pounced. Vultures circled.
But I am nobody to judge.

Sunshine shyed away,
Clouds cried all night,
But the moon never ceased to shine.
Thunder struck strong,
Earth split footlong,
But the lightening was always bright.

It pains when bones start growing
It hurts when wings start sprouting
Beating wings against strong winds,
Crushes you inside out.

But that’s how you learn to fly.

We humans have innate incredible strength. Our mind has this supernatural threshold for pain. It surfaces only when the circumstance seeks it. It is then, we realize, how powerful beings we are. We are born to understand, cope and create. Absorb what you see around you. Soak in words from the wise. Treasure your mistakes. Inspire. Be inspired. And march forward.

We live. We learn.

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https://dianathinks.wordpress.com/
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