All posts by vasudhachandnagulati

Breath-taking Locations to Motorhome

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Picture Credits: Namish Gulati

Motorhoming or camping is for those who want to seek solitude and the beauty of the natural world.

Our first campsite was Loch Ness Shores a franchise of The Camping and Caravanning Club. What newbie campers must know in advance is that campsites do not operate like your regular hotels, there are office timings (9 am to 6pm in most places, but do check) to be respected as well as quiet timings (11 pm onwards) to be strictly adhered to. Some places even have barriers to enter and are locked down at 11 pm or thereabouts. We being unaware of these rules arrived at 10 pm and were ticked off by Donald, the warden, for arriving late. An elderly gent he was right to do so having been at work form 5 a.m. In our defence the drive from Edinburgh to Loch Ness is so scenic and the fact that at 8 pm also the day is so bright that one easily loses track of time completely.
Any which ways, Donald showed us to our pitch.

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Picture Credits: Namish Gulati

A pitch is the word used to define your reserved space at the campsite. They can be either soft (grass) or hard, soft pitches are for tents and smaller campervans. The hard pitch is for the Motorhomes. A pitch will be provided with an electric point and a water tap, you hook-up your home on wheels to both these for the duration of your stay. The electric hook-up saves you the use of fuel and gas to heat up the interiors and the water tank of the motorhome can store up to a 100 litres of water. At the campsite you will also find well-appointed shower rooms and toilets, a space to wash utensils as well as paid washing machines and dryers. A café and provision shop also are quid-pro-quo. Other features are disposal points for grey water (kitchen and bath) and black water (chemical toilet.)
Once we had hooked up and felt less like chastised teenagers, we set out to explore Lochness shores, the only campsite we had booked beforehand from India. Tucked away in a corner of the banks of the loch, Scots for Lake, famous for the Loch Ness Monster here is where one can find a solitude that is soul reviving. The highlands frame the lake and the rippling, yet calm waters belie the threat of a Monster lurking in its dark depths, but then the legend of Nessie dates back to the 5th Century A.D. and is still a phenomenon that science has neither explained nor refuted completely. An anticipation of the promised beauty of the Isle of Skye was tinged with regret as we left Loch Ness two days later.

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Picture Credits: Namish Gulati

My first view of the morning at the Glenbrittle Campsite the next morning made me quickly forget any such regrets. Clean cold air laden with moisture and a hint of salt, the waves soundlessly crashing on the dark sandy shore and far on the horizon the pinkish blush of the sun hiding behind a thick blanket of pregnant clouds.
Sitting by the sea always makes me feel as if I’m at the edge of the world and when you get the opportunity to view this majesty meters away from you the moment you open your eyes, you might agree with me that the state achieved is total Nirvana.

Our next stopover was at the Glencoe Camping & Caravanning Club site. A 1963 song by John McDermontt the words Oh, cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe. And covers the grave o’ Donald makes one wonder at the bloody history of a place described also to be one of the most beautiful in the world.

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Picture Credits: Namish Gulati

As one crosses over from the picturesque town of Fort William to the verdant Glencoe, the views of the highlands flanking it are truly sublime, even a blink is too much time to take off them and while I soaked in the gorgeousness of it all, I felt only gratitude towards Nature for her selfless bounty.

Upending the Beaten Path in a Motorhome

 

To explore is as basic a need for humans as to breathe. The world and all its horizons having been explored and splattered across Facebook and Instagram, awoke in us the need to do our exploring a tad differently. If you have fond memories of childhood engrossed in the wondrous world of Enid Blyton, you would recall the Caravans that added to the allure of them. So, we decided to embark on our much anticipated discovery of Scotland ensconced in what could only be called a home with a motor and therefore a Motorhome. dsc_5766Having booked one from Desh, procured the necessary insurances to go for it and watched enough You-tube videos to have a false sense of bravado at the enterprise; My Spouse (who shall henceforth be lovingly referred to as The Man), two teens and I landed in Glasgow ready for a dash of adventure in a monster which can carry and sleep 6 adults or children within its caravanous hold.

I must amend my narrative to point out that, while the parents were bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to experience the Lowlands and the Highlands, the two disgruntled teens were not. They would rather have experienced Scotland via warm rooms in comfy Hotels vis-à-vis life experienced outdoorsy with toilets that required to be emptied out like chamber pots.

After a bit John’s (our helpful instructor at Atlas Motorhome & Campervan Hires) lilting Scots accent became familiar we finally understood the myriad workings of the interior of the van. It seemed daunting to remember so many details till he shared the written guide on everything that we could carry, I breathed a sigh of relief and promptly stopped concentrating.

Soon, excited and not in the little bit perturbed we set out and got our first learning that it might not be as easy as we had thought. With a well equipped kitchen the Motorhome carried there was a noisy issue for the crockery and other kitchen equipment rattled loud as the van meandered out through the cobbled streets of Glasgow onto the Motorway towards Edinburgh. To understand the full scope of the sounds, I can use no better expression than the one used by the Man, who soon would christen the rig a Haryana Roadways Bus! There would be many more learning along the way as we spent seven nights in our home literally on the move.

The first thing is size. Motorhomes are big. Really big. Ours was a monster that comfortably housed a not so slim couple with their five and half foot plus teenage kids. Delightfully called a Premier Motorhome – 2-6 Berth with a rear lounge or realistically the Rollerteam 746 can be a comfortable nest to explore the outdoors.  However, driving it is not as easy even though the vehicle is only two feet larger than an ordinary car. Judging the extra length while driving and reversing it as well as finding parking near cities is problematic. To top it all the wind speeds in Scotland can rattle the most confident of drivers, which The Man certainly is. Nevertheless the locations you can spend your holiday literally in the lap of Mother Nature make up for the ruts along the way.

Do look out for the next piece on Motorhoming:

https://vasudhachandnagulati.com/2019/01/04/breath-taking-locations-to-motorhome/

 

Patience is My Darkest Teacher

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SNAP! BOOM! BANG! is how I like to make decisions. Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling novel —Blink, waxes eloquent on the ability to intuit things at top speed and make snap judgments. “The first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact”, Gladwell writes: “decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”

This blog post is not on Gladwell; nevertheless, I evoke his name as the book certainly gave enough supporting evidence I wanted to hear and though there were various contradictions, I choose to ignore them. I have been accused way too often for being, wait for it: Impulsive! And if that weren’t an affront enough, Impatient, gets added to the litany of accusations against Lil’ old me. Contrary to those who accuse me (my queasy better half and my long-suffering mother), I like to think of myself as decisive and quick on my feet. As opposed to their thinking and over-thinking running around in circles, I prefer a rather swifter style: leaping in head first, thought later. And honestly speaking, there’s not been many terrible outcomes to report and no regrets since I put down all life’s experiences as learnings which help me evolve. If there’s any regret it is forced by the sanctimonious halos around their heads when I have landed with my brains splattered around me after a rather nasty fall resulting from the leap-first-think-later philosophy. Everyone is entitled to slipups once in a while, so what the hell I’m not claiming to be perfect.  And don’t they love to rub that in. But! However! Ergo! don’t even get me started on making the thinking-and-over-thinking people take a decision! A whole elegy can be written on the pains I suffer over this herculean endeavour.

What gets my goat though, is when the universe conspires against me. When events take their own sweet time to get moving. When delays happen over decisions the thinking-and-over-thinking people have finally taken. And then Patience, the unhurried witch, becomes my darkest teacher. She ekes out every moment deliberately, stretching me out on the rack and hangs me out to dry. With no mirage in sight, I suffer and learn.

There is a school of thought that I subscribe to: we come into this life willingly accepting unresolved challenges for our spiritual growth. This thought extends to taking multiple births in order to overcome said challenges. My accepted challenge or learning I guess is to cultivate the virtue of patience and one would think she would help me some once in a while, right? While I persevere and fail then begin again, she isn’t kind or humble, she’s bold and forceful, much like my Math teacher in High School: Mrs. Sunderajan, God bless her soul.

She might have been the kind advisor to Milton in his throes of despair and guided him to wisdom, but in my case, she continues to be a hard mistress. And, “when I consider how my light is spent”, Patience doesn’t in her innate kindness respond: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Padmavati by Sutapa Basu

padmavati I finally got around to reading Sutapa Basu’s : Padmavati, a book that was on my reading list for a long time. Historical fiction is a genre I enjoy for it gives a human face to an otherwise tiresome set of people, dates, and territories. When I read History in school there were numerous Kings and their triumphs to memorise, and far too few women worth anything in the annals of time. We can blame this on the Patriarchal nature of primogeniture, or territorial expansion as a measure of greatness. Fortuitously in the last decade or so many authors have attempted to bring the women of eras bygone out from the ignominy of disregard.

The legend of Rani Padmini, whether true or not, is well-known. A Queen desired by the boorish Turk, embraced the flames with hundreds of other women to save the honour of her clan as the brave Mewaris lost the battle to save Chittorgarh from the forces of Allaudin Khilji.

Basu brings to life the story of Padmavati creating an identifiable protagonist: a young girl with hopes, dreams, vulnerabilities and a quiet strength that is staggering. When one heard the mention of Padmavati there was always a misogynist ownership to it — it was a virtuous woman’s dharma to destroy herself than fall into the hands of the enemies of her state or religion. The novel explores a legend and makes it believable as it exposes the guilt of the young girl in love with her husband and country, whose only fault was that she was so beautiful that her looks led to the downfall of her people. Makes one reflect on the hundreds of Padmavatis who have lived and died as objects of desire and things of honour for a world of covetous predators and protectors.

A quick read, in Sutapa Basu’s Padmavati, the language flows easily and references to real places make the narrative interesting.

Author(s): Sutapa Basu
Publisher: Readomania
Release: December 2017
Genre: Fiction/Historical
Buy from Amazon

Should I Add More Details ?

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As an Educator I feel a real high when an experiment works. A little while back, I was struggling with getting my 13 and 14 year old students to accomplish the finesse required for Descriptive Writing. Despite the many examples I shared with them, or the standard teaching tools I tried, every piece they would write would turn into a Narrative. When I spoke to them to evoke the senses, the sense of sight overwhelmed their writing. They would describe what they saw so well, however, miss the point completely with the other senses. I would ask them to add details and they would look flummoxed. There was something seriously amiss and I was wondering where I was going wrong.

It was right about this time my husband came back from work one day and shared an experience he had in office. There was a lunch arranged for him and his colleagues to expose them to the challenges of the visually impaired. They were blind folded during the entire process from finding their own seats to eating the entire meal by just touch and feel. He told me how it felt as if the tastes took on a new meaning and how overcome he was by the entire experience.

It struck me to try a similar experiment with my students. I prepared my materials for the evening class with great care: some scarves and some everyday objects. When my enthusiastic bunch trooped in I shared with them what I had planned and they were very excited. After blindfolding them I handed in each of their hands a different object. The rules were simple, they were to feel, smell, taste, listen for a few minutes in complete silence. I told them I would take the objects away before they opened their eyes and hide them in a bag. They were then to write whatever they wanted to about their object. It could be a short paragraph, an essay, a story, anything. I gave them complete creative freedom. Once they finished they could read out their piece and only then could they view their object. I was hopeful of the outcome of this activity, but the results astounded me. Without much ado, I will share some and let the evidence speak for itself. There are many more. I will add them later as I am still waiting for my kids to share the soft copies with me.

 

The Holy Object

Pragya Singhal (Age 14 Grade X)

As I held the average sized object in my hand a number of ideas floated through my mind. I started from the top which felt grainy and uneven. I moved my hands further down which felt smoother and suddenly there was a huge bump which was hollow from inside. As my hand caressed the part under the bump I felt a pointed nose protruding put and further down smooth lips with a partition in between. I moved my fingers sideways and a curved and smooth ear was coming out on either side of the face. Then I knew that it was a small sculpture of Buddha and a sense of spirituality rushed through my body.

 

Lemon & Honey

Aditi Inamdar (Age 14 Grade X)

As I grabbed the object, my hands felt lubricated and the smooth texture of wax did not make me want to leave it. It smelt like lemon with a drop of honey. It seemed to have lightened up my mood and made me feel extremely calm. The rush of all these feelings inside me made me realize that it was a candle. I slowly moved my hand further up and felt that the wick was hard and short. It was rough and felt like the string of a badminton racket. Around it, was a small depression which seemed to be a perfect, symmetrical small circle. The candle was about the size of my palm. The edges of the cylindrical object were slightly curved. On the whole, the candle perfectly fit in my hands and the fresh scent refreshed my mind, leaving behind a soothing effect.

 

A Common Household Object

Vidush Gupta (Age 13 Grade IX)

The rectangular object pressed into my hand instantly brought rich chocolate bars to my mind’s eye. The crackle of plastic tempted me with the crunchy, creamy chocolate that I thought that it contained. This fantastical illusion was broken by the satisfying click of a button. That sensation and the familiar, comforting shape was reminiscent of the very symbol of control – the remote. The subsequent clicks of multiple, closely packed buttons revealed to me the truth- that I was holding the most revered of common household objects, the source of many wars, crusades and quests, the doorway to the bane of boredom itself… I was holding the elusive, immensely valuable television remote. Legend has it that in the time before time, when flip phones used to be a thing, the television remote was equivalent to Thor’s hammer. Only the worthy and powerful could hold it.

 

The Mysterious Object

Navya (Age 14 Grade IX)

The mysterious object, possibly a paper weight, felt extremely unique in my hands. I had never in the past felt something like it, something so tiny, yet heavy, as if it contained numerous stories and memories. Its upper metal portion seemed as though it was a carving of a pattern or a figure. It felt cool under the comfortable temperature as I slid my fingers about it. The metallic part however, was

attached to a rather coarse base, circular in shape. Textured like sand paper, it was nothing similar to the smooth upper portion of its body. The object somehow seemed as though it was an important and cherished part of someone’s life, gone through years of handling. A thing that I could easily wrap my fingers around, an item so smooth, yet rough, it just reminded me of life. Each one of us faces struggles, endures pain and travels through hardships, yet we bear them and find a solution, a solution that guides us through to emerge as a strong, beautiful and unique being. Our polished exterior is a result of all the rough times and experiences that we have been through. It is this strong base that makes us who we are, gives us support and helps us face challenges. This mysterious object too, possibly a treasured belonging, had a smooth top simply held by a rough base.

 

A Pyramix

Grisham Bhatia (Age 14 Grade X)

The Pyramix felt as light as a feather in my hands. Its smooth surface reminded me of silk cloths. Its numerous and flexible pieces moved as gently as they could. A slight push was all that was needed to move its pieces and give the Pyramix a new shape and structure, a structure which felt as rough as sand paper. The ease with which it changed its entire nature familiarized me with the dark thoughts that people can also change themselves in a moment’s notice. On the other hand, the Pyramix also took me back to my cherished childhood days. Holding it in my hands, I remembered the good old days when I used to play with blocks as small as my fingers, and innovate things which are yet to be discovered or created.

 

The Object That Was Barred From My Sight

Aditya UK (Age 13 Grade IX)

The unknown object which was barred from eyesight felt very prickly, it kind of reminded me of the thorns of the rose but just a lot more in number and less sharp, after observing it for more longer my definite conclusion was that the prickly structures were mini bristles. After feeling the object for a little more time, it seemed to be cylindrical in shape with open endings in both the sides. The object was very light and had these small line-like protruding structures which were fixed in the inside of the hollow cylinder. It had a smell but it was unrecognizable. I thought the object I was holding was a hair roller as it felt a lot like one that my sister uses at home or it might be a mini-pencil stand too.

Needless to say the quality of their writing has improved as they now understand they must not let their sense of sight overwhelm their other senses.

 

No Room For Small Dreams- Shimon Peres

20180311_160150431403436.jpgWhen a Book has these many markers sticking out from it, it is evidence enough of having been a more than satisfying read.

There is something about Israel that has always caught my fancy. It all began with the movie Raid on Entebbe (1977 ‧ Television film/Docudrama), my parents true blue cinephiles had the VHS tape among others in their collection. I was all of 8 when I saw the movie, later Dairy of Anne Frank primarily and hundreds of other books on the Holocaust cemented my curiosity of the Jews and the land of Israel. So, it was due to providence itself that into my hands fell the autobiography by Shimone Peres, one of the founding fathers of Israel. The number of autobiographical books I have read and enjoyed I can count on one hand, Open by Andre Agassi had reigned numero uno for quiet some time until now when No Room For Small Dreams usurped it.

From the title itself I found myself mesmerized by the book. I read the title again and again, I wondered at its meaningful depth – haven’t the most questionable of dreams resulted in the most amazing of creations. Israel had been an almost implausible dream and its creation an almost impossible task. No Room For Small Dreams is the condensed version of its creation in the words of one of its architects, Nobel laureate – Shimone Peres. Born in Vishneva, Poland in 1923, his family had lived in the area for several generations, they called the village ‘shtetl’ yet it was never home for the many Jews who lived there ‘They saw it more as a way station, one of the many stops over thousands of years along the road back to our homeland. The land of Israel was not just the dream of my parents; it was the animating purpose of so many people we knew.’ In 1934 Shimone Peres with his parents and brother immigrated to Mandatory Palestine, the land that would be Israel. In this autobiography he reveals how an uneducated yet literate son of a librarian and lumber merchant became twice Prime Minister and President of a nation that would defy all its detractors to transform from a hopeless desert of permanent poverty to a technological miracle and a hub of scientific enterprise.

I have been inspired by the words of the man himself, and share some with you. The heads under which I have categorized the sagacity in his words are not necessarily the way he has done so in the book. These are derived out of my own need and my own understanding of them.

Overcoming the impossible:

We felt as though our mission was greater than securing a homeland, it was our job to imagine a new society…It gave us a family larger than any we had known and a purpose greater than ourselves. the hardness wasn’t an inconvenience; it was the reason we were there.

On Leadership:

I was assigned a job that would give me my first experience as a leader – not of men, but of sheep. Yet there was striking similarities: shepherd, for example, may have authority over his flock, but that alone does not mean he can control it… It took time and patience to master the skill. We had to find a common language, a common understanding. I had to know their fears as if they were my own, so i could understand where they could not be led – or at least, when I’d have to move with more deliberateness. I had to be both empathetic and insistent in stating my intentions – a figure they would follow, even reluctantly, if only out of trust.

On one of his biggest lessons learned from Ben-Gurion:

I had seen something else, too, something that would strongly influence my thinking about leadership: when he had been most frustrated, most intent on walking away, he had remained open to the arguments made by two young men with a mere fraction of his experience. He had nearly given up on the larger debate, but he had not given up his belief in debate.

On Chutzpah :

 In almost every meeting, we found the same set of circumstances – a courteous but firm dismissiveness… And yet I knew that we never achieve great things if we let austerity become an obstacle to audacity. To build a stronger, more prosperous state, we had to set our gaze higher than our temporary limitations.

The lesson on Cynicism is by far my favorite in the entire book:

Experience has taught me three things about cynicism: First, its a powerful force with the ability to trample the aspirations of an entire people. Second, it is universal, fundamentally part of human nature, a disease that is ubiquitous and global. Third, it is the single greatest threat to the next generation of leadership. In a world of so many grave challenges, what could be more dangerous than discouraging ideas and ambition?

 

Classification : History
Genre: Autobiography
Pub Date : Sep 14, 2017
Page Extent : 336
ISBN : 9781474604208
Price : Paperback – Rs 449 Kindle – Rs 338

Too Close To Home by Linwood Barclay

After reading a few intense books I like to settle down to read something light or a thriller. This time I picked up Too Close To Home by Linwood Barclay. Never having read him before my interest was piqued by the blurb of the book. What’s more frightening than your next-door neighbours being murdered? Finding out the killers went to the wrong house… The next line clinched it for me – For the Cutter family, the idea that they may have been the intended target seems crazy.

For a murder mystery to thrill one always judges it rather unfairly by the standard of wonderment felt during the youthful dalliance with Christie. A quick read this one, and contrary to my expectations a well-handled plot. Barclay’s writing delivers as he manages to give the reader numerous suspects and peels back the layers of their compunctions slowly and surely. With likable characters he reveals their back-stories and has the reader connect to the Cutter family (Jim, Ellen and Derek) on both the emotional and intellectual level. A hardworking people they have pulled themselves up, on stairs made of the sands of lost dreams and human frailty. With the police foolishly making incorrect assumptions and pinning their sights on Derek, the teenage Cutter, it falls on his father Jim Cutter to unravel the plot for them. While the reader is engaged in figuring out how a 10 year old secret hidden in a salvaged computer is raison d’etre for the murder, multiple scenarios line up for Jim to wade through: What does a best selling author and professor fearful of ? What is Ellen hiding from Jim? Is Derek’s trauma at his friend’s murder obscuring something more? How does a forgotten boy’s suicide suddenly need to be looked into now? A corrupt politician and his rotten chauffeur, a girl who was rescued by Jim, a gay teacher and his paramour, Jim’s new employee – the list is endless for Jim to sort through. Jim’s own biases towards most of the characters conflict his judgement pushing the motley of narratives together and throwing them apart equally swiftly.

A vein of dullness runs through the story-line, the characters and the setting are nothing glamorous and the author makes it a point to express the wanness of the town ironically called Promise Falls, and the sallowness of its inhabitants. As the story progressed I was impressed by how cleverly Barclay built up the story towards an expected outcome, walked away from it completely and finally circled back uniting it at the end with what can only be called poetic justice. By the time the book moves closer to the end and before the murderer and their reasons are revealed, one can guess the end. However, the tension continues to the end as the interweaving plots converge. An author whose other books I would certainly want to read.

Originally published: 25 September 2007
Genre: Thriller