So Covid made the travel bug bite my children too and they were eager to plan the trip. Also, as they are growing our team of four now complements each other. As the calendar displayed April, they knew they had to plan. My younger one wanted a beach destination, the elder one was interested in a foreign trip; hubby dear wanted to save and I wanted a little off-beat location to avoid the crowd. So here I was with a destination that could quench the thirst of all – our archipelago of emerald islands – The Andaman and Nicobar. Yes, it wasn’t a foreign trip but it was no less than a foreign trip too. The turquoise blue sea, the landforms, the clean and green eco-tourism of the islands, and the island hopping made us fall in love with our very own isles. Here are the five reasons for which we loved Andaman….
- Greenery: 87% of the area of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is covered with forest. No wonder why this Union Territory of India comprising around 500 islands is also called the Emerald Islands. When our plane bent a little to turn for landing, we witnessed lush green forest patches in the sea. And Gosh! it looked like emeralds in the sea. This was a view to be witnessed and we were glued to windows even on our way back while taking off from the capital city of Port Blair.
Almost every resort is located amidst the lush green forest. So you inhale a lot of pure oxygen and feel as if you are on a wellness cation.
- Sea, Sea Beaches, and Sea Sports: So if you are a thalassophile and love every shade of sea, you are bound to witness them all here – from azure to turquoise, teal, cerulean, cyan, sapphire, and ultramarine. Andaman and Nicobar have some of the finest beaches in India. Do you know that Time Magazine gave one of Andaman – Radha Nagar Beach, the ‘Best Beach of Asia’ and ‘Seventh Best in the World’ in 2004? It is at the top in Asia by Tripadvisor’s traveler’s choice awards in 2022 too. This is the place where one can enjoy the sea, sea beaches, sea breeze, and sea sports at extremely reasonable prices. I mean if we compare it to those foreign destinations, especially like Europe and US. Explore the beauty of the marine world through your very own eyes. Enjoy Scuba diving, snorkeling, sea walking, parasailing, kayaking, jet skiing, etc. And in case you are not the one who likes adventure sports or for medical constraints opt for a glass bottom boat, fishing, sea sailing, dinner cruise, etc. Sea sports are available at many spots Portblair, North Bay, Havelock, Neil, etc. We did snorkeling, jet skiing, glass boat ride, bumpy ride, parasailing, etc. Though I missed scuba for medical reasons, I enjoyed Para Sailing. It was surely once in a lifetime experience. As I reached the top, I took a deep breath and watched the world beneath me. Everything appeared tiny, of least importance, as the ropes lifted me up in the sky.
- Cellular Jail: Don’t forget to visit Cellular Jail. It will give you a glimpse of the cruelest punishments given to our freedom fighters. Also called “Kala Pani Ki Saza”, the prison was used by the British Government to exile prisoners. If you are an Indian, you will understand the pain our people underwent to free our country from the clutches of colonialism. If you are a foreigner, you will understand the History of India better. It was one of the most formidable punishments of the colonial era as there was no means to escape. Numerous freedom fighters were imprisoned here. Veer Savarkar, being one of them, is the eponym of Veer Savarkar International Airport. Take a walk during the day through the premises, the jail, and its museum, and don’t forget to book a sound and light show in the evening. This will make you value your freedom and your country more.
- Island Hopping: Although there are around 500 islands only about 40 something are inhabited rest are either very small or occupied by protected tribes like those of Sentinelese which are counted as one of the most dangerous tribes of the World. Also, some are protected forest reserves or used by the Indian Military as their base. But believe me, you will not be able to cover them all so choose as per your time and interest. Notable among them are Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Dweep (Earlier known as Ross Island), Shaheed Dweep, Swaraj Dweep, Baratang, Diglipur, Little Andaman, etc.
- Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Dweep/ Ross Island Although this is a very small island but it holds its own beauty and charm. Even though it entails the ruins of British structures and Japanese bunkers made by freedom fighters. What fascinated me apart from the ruins was the protected forests and their flora and fauna. The island is full of deer and one can also sight peacocks. Cuddle them, feed them but don’t forget the timing of your ferry. No one can stay back on this island. You are allowed here for a limited time like our boat had given us three-hour time. We visited this island on a misty day which made this green island look lush green and more beautiful. Tall trees, shrubs, and climbers on the ruins make these structures worth for photo shooting especially if it is your wedding or honeymoon shoot. If you are alone, sit, relax and enjoy the beauty of the island with tea, coffee, or some snacks. Three hours, we felt were too less to enjoy and absorb the beauty of the island. Battery auto-drivers are good guides here.
- Swaraj Dweep or Havelock is home to Asia’s best beach, the Radhanagar Beach. Other notable beaches are Kala Patthar beach, elephant beach, Govind Nagar beach, etc. The island is famous for white sandy beaches, lush green canopies, coral reefs, marine life, mangroves, scuba, and other sea sports, etc. I loved this island, not only for its beaches and sea life but also for the mangroves, coconut trees, sweet coco water, and the hues of the sky, especially during dusk and dawn. What more? I particularly fell in love with wild mangroves and their areal roots peeping out to breathe from those marshy shores. The best way is to hire a two-wheeler for sightseeing or hop around on local AC buses which are quite cheap.
- Shaheed Dweep or Neil Island is famous for its calm environment and coastal landforms like a natural bridge. Sit back, relax, watch the sunrise at Sitapur Beach and sunset and do some photography. The island is so small that you can explore it on a bicycle. So rent a bicycle and enjoy exploring the tiny virgin island rather than hiring a taxi. You can also hire an auto which is quite reasonable. But remember, you might not get a good mobile connection here so carry enough cash for your payments. We really got stuck, as there are only two ATMs that ran out of cash. Though hotel staff was very cooperative and waited till we were connected. We could not visit other islands due to lack of time and rain. But in case you have time, do visit Baratang, Diglipur, and Little Andaman too.
- 5. Clean and Eco-Tourism: People take conscious efforts here to keep their surroundings clean. Radha Nagar Beach has also been awarded the prestigious “Blue Flag” certification from “Foundation for Environment Education, Denmark. The UT is working towards ecotourism and has banned plastic bags and plastic bottles less than 2 litres, people help each other in keeping their environment clean instead of playing the blame game. Even the sugarcane juice was prepared so hygienically on the street by a guy from Jharkhand that I wondered if I am in my country or somewhere else.
We have loved exploring foreign islands like Bali, Lombok, Mykonos, Crete, Rhodos, Santorini, etc. Of course, they have their own beauty, charm, history, culture, and geography but do we know our history? Our culture? Our Geography? Our people?
Yes, they are praiseworthy but our country is no less.
After joining Yoga, the first thing I did was change my lifestyle. As advised by my Guru I stopped packaged, refined and dead food first. Then I tried to treat my diseases- thyroid, gall stone, migraine, acidity, etc. naturally and now I am on my way to making my life chemical free. Although it is quite difficult to follow this path 100 percent, I keep trying my best as this has improved my life.
When I realized that our dishwashing gels, detergents, floor cleaners, shampoos, etc. are loaded with chemicals and pose serious health hazards; I started looking for natural and chemical-free alternatives. This industry is not regulated and so to be the best cleaning agents and stain removers, they add chemicals like phosphates, bleach, sulfates, etc. for instant results which can cause severe infections and allergies. In my quest for chemical-free products, I came across Herbal Strategi. Herbal Strategi has a range of products in seven categories – Repellents, Cleaners, Fresheners, Hygiene, Fogging solutions, Garden care, and Pet care which I feel are worth trying if you are also looking for chemical-free products or have skin or respiratory allergies and infections.
After thorough research, I was so impressed with the ingredients of the products that I tried to reach the founder Mr. John Thomas who started this business as he was facing respiratory issues. From a vaporizer to more than 50 products, Herbal Strategi has indeed succeeded in its mission of providing Chemical Free Products. Here is a short interview I had with Mr. John Thomas.
FCTB: I would request you to narrate the story behind this start-up. (How and why did you start?)
Mr. John Thomas: It was need-based. I had issues using chemical repellent. So I went to the web to search for natural alternatives. Nothing was available. CIMAP was then approached and they gave me a solution.
FCTB: Were you financially strong enough to start or did you have to work on it and took some help like a bank loan or something else?
Mr. John Thomas: I had to sell some patches of land held with the company to get funds.
FCTB: Who were your first few customers?
Mr. John Thomas: My friends and relatives tested the efficacy of the product.
FCTB: How did your business flourish? Had you visualized it or did it take a flight on its own? I mean if the products are good then the business is usually successful yet some people have faced hurdles and failures.
Mr. John Thomas: I had to face a lot of hurdles and failures initially till we got the source of raw materials right.
FCTB: The products are chemical free and I think they should break the market of chemically loaded cheaper products.
Mr. John Thomas: Yes, chemical-based companies have a lot of funds and hence can advertise heavily.
FCTB: But the prices are high. So how do you think you would and are tackling this issue?
Mr. John Thomas: Our prices for most products are around 10% higher. The floor cleaner is the same as Lizol. Some products are priced higher but have added benefits eg. Laundry wash has an inbuilt conditioner.
FCTB: Would you mind decreasing the price in case of bulk orders?
Mr. John Thomas: We can give discounts on bulk orders. Please contact the Marketing team to avail of exact discounts.
FCTB: So what are your plans?
Mr. John Thomas: We wish to create more awareness so that more people know the benefits of Natural and Herbal homecare products.
Let me give a short brief of some products that were sent to me by the company and I used myself.
Floor cleaners have toxic chemicals that can cause skin infections, allergies, and even eczema, psoriasis, etc. They also release molecules in the air that can cause lung infections, asthma, bronchitis, etc.
So what is the solution? You can use bio-enzyme, about which I’ve written a blog last time, and here’s the link https://fromcaterpilartobuterfly.com/going-chemical-free-series-bio-enzyme/ or go for chemical-free cleaners.
Herbal Strategi has a floor cleaner that is made of plant-based essential oils. What more? Your house becomes germ-free and ant free. So if you have pets or children who love to roll on the floor, use this product and forget your worries. Aroma….umm I love the subtle aroma of essential oils that Herbal Strategi’s products offer.
Mosquito Repellent: I had stopped using All-Out, Odomos, Good-Night, etc. ever since my elder son was said to be allergic and doctors had warned me from using these products. It was easier to follow the instructions till my younger one was born who would cry at a piercing pitch at a single bite of a mosquito. Mosquito Net appeared to be the only solution but as my elder son grew, he started hating net for fans and AC became less effective.
Herbal Strategi solved this problem too again with just plant-based aromatic repellents.
Laundry Detergent: In my quest for chemical-free detergents, I started using soap nuts to wash my clothes, when I read about them as natural cleaners. But stubborn stains were still a problem. Here also Herbal Strategi rescued. Their Laundry detergent is not only a detergent but has a fabric conditioner too. I’ve fallen in love with the fragrance in my clothes ever since I started washing my clothes with this product. They can be used in washing machines too.
Liquid DishWash: Again for a chemical-free dishwashing liquid, I made my dishwashing liquid using soap nuts with bio-enzyme which could not effectively remove the oil from utensils or grease from the stove and machines. Also, it emptied my bottle of bio-enzyme quite fast. Then I made my dishwashing liquid with squeezed lemons, baking soda, and some vim gel but again the bottle of liquid was used quite fast as it was used in larger amounts. And I didn’t always have time for it. Thus every natural solution had its limitation.
Again Herbal Strategi provided a solution. They not only have Liquid Dishwash but also have a detergent for dishwashing machines. What more? Made with plant-based aromatic oil and coco glucoside, which is a natural surfactant that improves the washing process. A non-toxic substitute of SLS.
Hand washes: Though hand washing was never my problem. But since I was interested in chemical-free products the product manager advised me to try Herbal Strategi’s Herbal Foam Hand Wash. I wasn’t very keen to try this and so gave my children to try this one and, lo and behold, my children loved the way liquid was getting converted into foam and then its mild aroma. They are a big fan of this product and obviously, they are not at all harsh on hands.
So if your children are reluctant to wash their hands or if you feel your soap is too harsh for your hands. Try this product and you will love it.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored blog post but all opinions are my own.
Is anyone in your home suffering from asthma or bronchitis? Are you allergic to phenyls and other cleaning agents like surf and vim gel? It is time to switch over your cleaning agents.
Phenyls, toilet cleaners, and other cleaners are loaded with chemicals. They are not only harmful to our skin, lungs, and bodies but to the environment too. So shift to natural and chemical-free cleaners.
You can make them at home or purchase them from the market. In case you find them costly ask everyone in your family and neighborhood to use the same, give bulk orders, negotiate and try to bring down the cost.
One such cleaner, I would recommend is Bio-enzyme.
Many of us have started segregating waste. But what do you do with your kitchen waste? Dispose it or do Composting?
Here is one more thing one can do. My environmentalist friend “Anamika Chaturvedi” makes bio-enzyme from fruit peels.
What do you need?
Citrus fruit peels, jaggery, and water in 3:1:10 proportion and keep in a plastic bottle for three months. Keep releasing the gases by opening the cap, every day. This is all that you need to make a bio-enzyme and guess what all a bio-enzyme can do?
- Use it like phenyl and water while mopping the floors and get rid of ants and cockroaches. It is a good disinfectant.
- It cleanses and de-clogs the drains.
- It also works as a natural pesticide and fertilizer and helps in the growth of plants.
- It helps in cleaning vegetables and fruits from layers of pesticides and insecticides.
- It helps purify ground water and river too as opposed to the regular chemically loaded cleaners which pollute the groundwater and water bodies.
I personally like this product as it is so versatile, natural and can be made at home and in case you don’t have the time they are not costly in the market too.
Anamaika Chaturvedi’s “Bhumitra” sells it for just 199 Rs. a litre. You can check and order at
Instagram : @bhumitra_ @bhumibuy
email.id : [email protected]
So you think that you are consuming the best and most nutritious thing available in the market by purchasing Californian almonds, Washington apples, Homogenized milk , Pro- heart conscious edible oil etc. etc. and you thank your stars for being able to afford them. Some of us even force our children to finish their plates, whether they want to or not and we ask them to be thankful because many parents cannot afford such costly and nutritious food. Right?
Though the food industry definitely wants us to believe this. Let us discuss them…..
We have read in our science books that milk is a complete food. Doctors too have told us the same ever since we were a child. Our grandma has sung poems on benefits of milk to make us drink it. So much so that in order make milk available to everyone, our scientists worked hard to make milk readily available to every individual in 70s. This resulted in White revolution and even made India world’s largest Milk Producer .
Result: Today every one can have milk but at what cost? It is either adulterated or the cows and buffaloes are given steroids to produce more milk which further throw people into the world of unknown health related issues like early puberty, PCOS, lactose intolerance etc. What we witness today was definitely not foreseen.
Even as per our ayurveda experts cow milk and ghee are no less than medicine and are as good as elixir.
But from cow they meant “pure Indian breed cows” like Red Sindhi, Tharparkar, Gir, Sahiwal, Deoni and not foreign ones like Jersey, Holstein Friesian, Brown Swiss etc. Because they had studied these local breeds and not these exotic ones.
Homogenized milk which looks smoother and stays fresh for a longer time has smaller particles as compared to non-homogenized milk. The tiny particles are actually absorbed by the bloodstream directly thereby causing harm to our health. So consuming homogenized milk regularly is also dangerous. Homogenized milk is also known to have caused cancer and heart diseases.
So what is the solution? Today as most of us have a sitting job instead of manual ones, it is best not to consume milk because our body cannot digest milk. Our forefathers could, because their job was mainly manual. This is the reason many people complain of stomachache and rush to washroom after a glass of milk.
Yet if you cannot imagine life without milk, drink either plant based milk like coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk etc. or A2 (our desi) cow milk.
Celebrities are busy promoting Washington apple. No doubt they have the best colour, are juiciest and crunchiest apples available in the market. But are they really the healthiest? Does our body really need them daily? Not actually!
Washington apples have layers of wax coating. It is done to increase their shelf life. Once you wash them thoroughly in warm water and clear the wax. Voila! That beautiful red colour vanishes. So is it really fresh and healthy?
What is the solution?
As ayurveda preaches, ” Eat local and seasonal”. Though local means nearby areas or 50 to 100 km radius at the max. Yet if you want, Indian apples, grown in Himalayas, you can purchase; they are now available through out the year. Apple has been a winter fruit and they are most crispy, juicy and delicious during this period except for Nilgiri ones where the season is from April to July. Indian apples doesn’t carry that wax coating. It won’t be juicy and crispy if you pick the cold storage ones. So don’t purchase if they don’t find them so. In summers relish other fruits like watermelon, musk melon, mango etc. because they will be gone with the onset of monsoon.
So if you think that Washington apples are unaffordable, chill don’t get upset. Enjoy the local seasonal ones ? Industry, social media and celebrities will advertise, what they are paid for and not the truly healthy things.
Most of us order Californian almonds and feed the whole family with a pride. But are they really healthy? Have you ever thought how each almond in the packet could be really same size and sweet. They are so perfect and flawless that we don’t bother to understand the other side of the story. Friends, California almonds , have almost 85% stake in Almond market. They are larger in size and are available in neatly packed conditions but please understand they are chemically treated to kill microorganisms and preserved which leads to 10–15 percent loss of nutrients.
Instead go for :
Mamragiri which has more oil and so more calories than the other two. Mamra is cultivated organically without using chemicals and therefore it comes with a price tag. It is very good for growing kids.
You can also opt for Gurbandi which are smaller in appearance but rich in oils and nutrients like omega 3, vitamin E, antioxidants and phytochemicals and provides abundant energy. They have a bittersweet taste and were originally grown in Afghanistan .
What white revolution or operation flood did to milk, green revolution did to wheat. Today our very own desi (local) breed of wheat which was rich in nutrients and had the ability to fight diseases is virtually missing. Every farmer is growing the hybrid variety. He wants to produce maximum to sell maximum and earn maximum profits.
There was in fact an article sometime back which went viral due to its revelation of causing belly fat and gastric issues. Result many people stopped consuming wheat.
Solution: Try to procure Indian desi version of wheat like Sona moti, sharbati, Khapli. Sona-moti and Khapli are low in gluten and very good for diabetics. All packed and branded ones are high yielding hybrid varieties.
Or add millets and bran to it. One can also make it nutritious by adding some nutritious veggies to the dough of chapatis like puree of spinach or beetroot or carrot etc.
With Indonesia ceasing its export of palm oil, we are all terrified, there has been rise in oil prices. Why should we bother about palm oil?
Because it is used in almost all refined oils. It is high time we Indians should stop consuming refined oil. Almost all of them contain palm oil. Palm oil should not be used for two reasons: one, palm farming is destroying the rainforest ecosystem and two it contains trans fat, which is responsible for heart attacks.
Even those who are claiming to he healthy oils and heart friendly are refined oils.
Solution: Go local and purchase cold pressed oils. The best oil available to us, the North Indians, is cold pressed mustard oil, sesame oil, ghee (clarified butter), groundnut or peanut oil and south Indians can use coconut oil. But use cold pressed and not refined.
Do you know the process of making refined oil which makes the oil look better and odour free? It is extracted using high temperature and chemicals in which healthy fatty acid bonds are broken and trans fats are formed. Later neutralization of taste and deodorization is done which results in total loss of nutrients. No wonder, why the rate of heart attacks is increasing in our country.
So choice is yours. Together we can change the demand and supply patterns.
So how do you like to spend your New Year? Party? Family? Holiday? Cruise? Especially at a time when the third wave of the pandemic was knocking the door.
I am not a party person and so prefer to stay with family or holiday and this New Year we went to a very small cantonment town of Uttarakhand, Lansdowne. Named after, the then Viceroy of India, Lansdowne. It was originally known as Kaludanda. It is a lesser known but a picturesque hill station amidst coniferous forest in the background of mighty Himalayas.
Children were thrilled as they were already through with their half-yearly exams and they were looking forward for a holiday. So they got up early and we left at 7 am on 31st December,2021. It was 7/8 degrees in Delhi NCR and showing 2/3 degree in Lansdowne. We had two reasons for leaving early, one, we wanted to reach by afternoon as it involved Mountain driving and two, we were expecting a traffic on UP- Uttarakhand border.
The moment we reached Khatouli or midway for Delhi Dehradun. We noticed an interesting traffic movement. Almost 85% traffic followed Dehradun Highway which gave us two clues. One, there’s not going to be much rush in Lansdowne (as expected) which provided a smile to our face; two, Mussoorie was going to be full for the next two-three days (and we had avoided it).
Although the road was not as smooth as Dehradun Highway but certainly green and scenic. The trees from both sides of the road formed a beautiful thick green canopy. The whole stretch had fields mainly of mustard and sugarcane. Though the refreshment facilities were not much and after a stretch of a little bumpy ride in Najibabad, we couldn’t find a proper loo for about 15-20 minutes . But we took it positively and thought that this could happen anywhere even on highways and expressways and incase of unforeseen traffic jams etc.
Kotdwar to Lansdowne
By noon, we had crossed UP, Uttara Khand border and thankfully there was no queue for checking or RTPCR. Police was perhaps more busy checking suspicious people and families were spared.
The road to Lansdowne after Kotdwar is not only picturesque but also dotted with many riverine resorts, one would love to stop by and experience. But we were in a rush because our destination was booked right at the top of the town in “Tip and Top Resort”.
Though we stopped for refreshment at “Flavours” – a restaurant on Kotdwar-Dugadda road and it was worth visiting. The mountains looked lush green and beautiful with people working on their step-farms. Toilets were also clean and food definitely fresh, good in taste and prices were reasonable. So one can stop here and will not be disappointed.
The Garrison Town Lansdowne
The moment we entered the town or the cantonment area, the aura changed. The roads were spic and span, well painted, gardens were trimmed and blooming with colourful flowers, the town was extremely beautiful and soldiers could be seen everywhere guarding their town. It was a beautiful experience altogether, a little different from other hill stations of Uttarakhand. The U-pin turns led us to the top of the hill station, Tip and Top. This point is a famous view point and our resort of Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam was located here. The best location of Lansdowne, at least in my view. As we had reached early, we became the choosers. There were four family suits and we requested one with a good view. The In charge, Mr. Purohit gave us the one at the topmost location with a separate bonfire area and valley view. From our room, sun rise was visible through the mountains and from children’s room, sun set.
GMVN’s Tip and Top is a beautiful resort with cottages in all sizes which one can book online. They also have two Machans and Caravans which one can book only on arrival due to availability issues.
New Year Celebrations
Though the resort had arranged a bonfire and buffet for the guests but children wanted to enjoy in the cottage and watch some TV show. It was getting colder and so we chose to be inside, made some Maggi and that’s it. This was definitely one of the best ways to celebrate for us. Although not for a health freak like me but on 31st, it was ok. This was the way children wanted it.
The next day we got up early, enjoyed our hot sips with the hues of sun peeking out from snow-packed mountains. I just hoped if I could welcome every New year with such serene brightness and positivity. Children were still sleeping and so we sipped one more cuppa to enjoy the warmth.
Later we got ready, had nice breakfast and went to Tip and Top view point. Though the choice was limited but bread omlette and aloo paranthas were good enough to fill our bellies.
At ‘Tip and Top’ View Point, we did some photography viewed some distant points through the telescope and got back, walking. At resort, we picked the car and went for boating at Bhulla Tal. Although I wanted to start my year by visiting the famous Tarkeshwar Temple (an ancient Shiva temple) but children wanted to relax and enjoy. So we agreed reluctantly. Though there was some rush but since it was managed by Indian Army hence our turn came within no time and we enjoyed boating in that small pond. The charming mountains showed us a different beauty from this part of the town.
For lunch we went to the main market but there were just 2-3 restaurants and all full, so we picked some cake and pastries from the Cant Bakery, which was damn cheap and went back to resort for Lunch. The market also was very clean although this area was not in the cantonment zone.
Later we went to the Old British Church. Though small but it had its own beauty. Sun set view point was at a walking distance from resort and so we walked down and my passionate husband did some photography of the changing shades of sunset.
Children were full of zest, as it was 1st Jan, 2022 and so we did some bonfire in our area, with just four of us and enjoyed. The dinner was ordered from the restaurant that day and since we were all tired; all of us slept by 10/ 10:30.
We were ready to depart on 2nd and so after a nice breakfast under the sun, we packed up and left for Noida. Since we departed late, we got stuck in a small jam on Meerut Expressway, possibly because of the New Year weekend. Though we reached home a little late but we had welcomed this New Year, the way we wanted to, with a new ray of hope, health and happiness.
Sonal Singh is an inspiring personality. She is among those few people who raised my interest in poetry. This is the first time I read a poetry book because my interest lies in prose. Though, I love to read poetry off and on and have written a few too.
So, when “Islands in the Stream” of the author was released, I couldn’t resist myself from asking for an author’s signed copy. She had once urged me to read and write poetry explaining me how cathartic poems are and her book proves it.
Sonal Singh, through the language of her heart has awed me. She is right in saying that “Poetry speaks a language that can neither be spoken nor be heard. It has to be felt, eyes closed, with beats of your heart.”
“Islands in the Stream” is a book which has mainly free flow verses without much rhyming, meter or musical pattern yet it beautifully succeeds in striking the chords of reader’s soul proving that she’s truly a poet at heart.
The book has been divided into two parts – “Nature’s Rhapsody” and “Life’s Foibles”.
Nature’s Rhapsody has poems which took me some time to understand and absorb. I absolutely loved and learnt a lot from each and every poem. What an audacious selection of similes, metaphors and personification, she’s done!
“Eos’s Sojourn” was my favorite in this section. She’s not only created a beautiful imagery but even the personification done is marvelous. I’ve never read such a bold and beautiful description of the dawn. Further, I loved the coquetry of dusk in “Dusk’s promiscuity”. Another beautiful description of nature is found in “God’s Boudoir”.
The next section “Life’s Foibles” is what I enjoyed the most as they are very relatable. Like first poem “Islands in the stream” was loved by me because that is what we the individuals are. “An ode to life” is a poem which has beautiful imagery.
Then some are woven into beautiful heart wrenching stories like “Chords of Pain”. At points, you feel as if you are a part of those poems. They are heartwarming and so you feel related to them.
Through her poems she reveals her own character too which indeed is that of a nature lover, a young and beautiful woman -inside out and a mature human being at the same time.
I liked the painting of stream with the hues of dusk and dawn too, on the cover page which is beautiful and apt. It has been painted by Nirmala Singh, a renowned artist and writer and author’s mother too.
Here are the Book Details and the book is available on Amazon:
Title: Islands in the Stream
Author: Sonal Singh
Publisher: Authors press
No. of pages: 84
Price: Rs. 295/-
“Happy Anniversary Mummy” greeted my elder sister with a cake. It had not been even a year of my father’s demise and she had the audacity to wish Mummy. Yet I kept a mum. “So what if Papa is no more. For us, now, you are both – our Papa and Mumma. Because of him we are. Because of him you are our mother. Because of this date, you became two and then five and now thirteen. Isn’t it a day to be celebrated? Because of him, you are not alone but with his children and grandchildren. Just because he is no more, we shouldn’t be unhappy. He is in all of us. We all carry some or the other trait, he had. He always wanted us to smile. Let’s celebrate his life instead of mourning his death. He is blessing us.” She said in one go.
Later, with time I started admiring my sister for her trailblazing thoughts so much so, that we started wishing mom on her anniversary and celebrated our father’s birthday too, instead of mourning or trying to avoid the dates. With this beautiful thought, we started celebrating the anniversaries and birthdays of every member of the family even in my Grandpa’s WhatsApp group with their pictures – living and departed souls- both. Even though Grandpa passed away some eighteen years back, we started celebrating his birthday and wedding anniversary. Reason …same…. because of him we all are. We often remind each other of his never-dying spirit. We often tell our children his stories. We tell them how he established himself in India after partition.
We wrote messages to heaven. We remembered everything we liked about our beloved deceased. The family of my grandpa is huge now. He had six children and now those children have also become grandparents. I am glad we all are connected – again- because of his sanskaras.
Today on Mummy’s anniversary, I know she must be missing Papa but what could be better than celebrating his memories this day, his adventurous and daring attitude. Why not rejoice when people remember him for his unique personality? Why not take pride in the fact that numerous people came to join his funeral and consoled us. I didn’t know many, being his daughter. Let’s celebrate lives rather than mourning their deaths because the fact is, sooner or later, we all have to go.
Let’s make this world a little better place before leaving for our final abodes and try to abolish that orthodox thinking.
With World Tourism Day, just gone by, let me take you to a small Greek Island, Mykonos, which truly syncs with the spirit of holidaying. Eat, drink, rest, enjoy and be happy. Mykonos was the last Greek island in our itinerary of Greek vacation in 2018. Our trip to Greece was about to end. Although we were tired but hubby and elder son still wanted to have fun whereas I wanted to relax and so my younger one.
So, we took good rest and enjoyed the pool in the Villa we had booked on the day we reached. In the evening, we purchased some juicy, tangy and crunchy Mediterranean fruits and ready-to-cook meals from the supermarket right opposite the villa and enjoyed the dinner amidst hues of pink, orange, and grey sunset.
You got it right, the sun sets late there and even at 9 pm you feel like doing your evening walks.
Mykonos is quite costly island and so we opted for a villa which was in the city rather than on a beach. But believe me, every nook and corner of the island is spic and span. Also, the Greek Villas have a charm of their own. Painted in white and blue, most of them have pools, jacuzzies, colourful flowers hang over their gardens, balconies, arched entrances, and gates and offer beauty and luxury in their own way. These pictures are the pictures of the villa we stayed in.
Our room was about 8000 INR a day, which was a family room with two queen-sized beds, a pantry with an induction, cooking ware and crockery so that guests could cook and serve on their own, and a washroom. The walls of the room and in fact many walls of the villa were painted beautifully with floral Greek paintings.
There are not many tourist spots in Mykonos. The island is known more for summer parties, beaches, and 16th-century windmills on a hill near Little Venice. Little Venice, I would say is a “must-see”.
Hanging over the sea, these are colourful buildings, which belonged to wealthy merchants and sailors once, who wanted direct access to the sea. The distinctive Venetian-style architecture is one of the reasons how this area got its name perhaps.
Today, this area is full of Cafés and Restaurants. Do sit here for some time, order something and enjoy the waves. People often complain about the price here, but I would say go for it, who knows when will you visit such a scenic place again and have a wonderful time with yourself, if you are alone and your loved ones in case you are with them.
By the time we reached a Café, Veranda and found some space, kids were already hungry and I wanted to order lunch but it was noon. So, I asked if lunch was ready or they were still serving breakfast. The well-dressed pretty waitress laughed and replied, “At Mykonos, we don’t serve breakfast. We are party lovers. We party till dawn and get up late.”
True she was! Every single person, I met was enjoying his/her life there. No work is considered menial there. Probably like a utopia or protopia.
Take a walk around, not only the sea and colourful structures even the alleys are picturesque. The two storeyed buildings exhibit beautiful symmetry. Tiny balconies have mainly blue archaic wooden railings. One can see bougainvillea or other flowers around. In fact, this is what makes Greece look different from other countries.
We also enjoyed ourselves at the beaches and since we are not party people, we preferred to stroll on the beaches and the market and yes, unlike others, we slept nicely at night.
And what I brought back, along with bottles of wines and olive oil, was a celebrating spirit. I fell in love with the locals who are always so happy and in a celebrating mood; just like their tourists. It doesn’t matter what he or she does. They are just happy and this trip confirmed my belief that you don’t need to be rich to be happy.
I realized the intensity of “revenge tourism” when my children asked me to take them to any place we could. They just wanted to go out to a place where they could breathe, feel a change, play and chill. Since hill stations near Delhi NCR appeared jampacked and monsoon had also arrived we chose to divert ourselves from these hotspots.
With Monsoon already in, every place in the plains appeared heaven to us, the pluviophiles. So we selected Vrindavan and booked Anandam Clarks Inn Suites. Everyone was happy, the moment we boarded the car after lunch, on Saturday, the 17th July . As we crossed Greater Noida, the showers along with the music induced a state of euphoria. Even my younger one, who is a homebody was enjoying it.
The drive from Noida to Mathura was about two and a half hour and by 5 pm we reached our hotel in Vrindavan. All thanks to Yamuna Express Way which made our journey fast and enjoyable.
But as we deboarded the car, the building gave us a grim impression. Yet, I told myself and my family that probably due to lockdown they had not been able to maintain the property. But no! The services were taking hours and the brand thus appeared overpriced. Thankfully, we had booked for just one night. My husband’s sixth sense worked.
We asked them to clean and sanitize the rooms and left for our darshan to Prem Mandir. Prem Mandir is known for its colourful lighting after dusk. And lo! the beauty of the temple indeed held us spellbound. But the crowd had thronged the temple and in this post covid-19 second wave, we had not expected it. Our e-rickshaw guy told us that Mathura and Vrindavan always experience such a congestion around Guru Purnima and the next day being Sunday, more crowd was expected.
I and my husband got upset. This was not a retreat we had expected leave aside the spiritual aspirations. That too in the Covid era. We came back to our suite, thankfully the food was good and we received clean upholstery after repeated reminders. We thought of changing the hotel, the very next day and went to the city. We also went to Iskon, which gave us a concerning picture again. Moreover the city appeared to be deprived of greenery.
Now we had reasons to flee. Although I wanted to visit Banke Bihariji Temple but did not dare to. We decided to hop on to Bharatpur, which was just an hour’s drive from Vrindavan, the very same day. Bharatpur, we knew was famous for Birds Sanctuary and we had been to this place earlier as well. We just hoped for a silent escape this time but the moment we reached the highway, four major hotels in a row had been booked, almost fully, for destination weddings.
Surprised, we went to Kadamb Kunj right across the road and here we were in a silent, simple, clean and green hotel though the structure needed some renovation. The drizzling started as we were taken to check the rooms . The foliage and the petrichor urged us to book the rooms right away. The sheets were being changed, the washroom was being sanitized and that satisfied me.
We enjoyed ourselves in the resort that evening. The food was good and as per my taste, not very spicy, just perfect. The next day was Monday and we woke up to heavy downpour. The breakfast in the restaurant with green views through the glass made us feel ecstatic.
We knew our last day of this holiday was going to be amazing. By noon the heavy downpour had given its way to drizzling and we sat in the car for a visit to the sanctuary. This sanctuary has shown different colours and beauty in different seasons to me. Our trained English speaking rickshawala guide told us that not many migratory birds would be visible in July but we will not be disheartened.
Due to incessant rains and the first day of the week, we didn’t find tourists; just two-three families and some research scholars. What more could we have asked for?
The moment we entered the sanctuary we were welcomed by peacocks and peahens. Although we didn’t see a dancing peacock since drizzling had just stopped many were drying up their beautiful wings opening them fully. It was an amazing site to witness.
The trees were dancing and brimming with fresh green leaves, wet and still dripping. The rickshaw man then took us to show 200 to 300 years-old turtles. He threw the balls of wheat flour and the turtles came out of the muddy pond. Again a site to witness! There were monkeys too in all sizes but since they were well fed, they did not jump to snatch anything.
We plucked some jamuns too. Though they were not sweet but the moment was certainly filled of joy. As we moved further the pure fresh oxygen, the greenery, the wetland, the curved and the intertwined trees, the colourful peacocks, the coos of cookoo, the hornbills, the parrots, the laughing doves, the gazing owls, the peeping nilgai, the painted storks from Srilanka, the tiny weaver birds and their story of love (that its male makes five to six nests for its female) and the beautiful weather, everything, almost every small thing just made our day.
Bharatpur turned out to be just a perfect and beautiful escape after months of lockdown and maddening weeks days. It was as if God was trying to make me feel good through his art, the nature, the Keoladeo National Park. After all, Bharatpur is also a part of Brijbhoomi (the land of Krishna).