Today while cleaning my bookshelf I came across my old diary. I randomly opened a page where I read the below excerpt dated May, 2014…almost six years back…
“Melbourne, the city of music, food and culture. The city which has embraced the culture of the world in itself. The city knows how to enjoy life, how to sing fearlessly, dance frictionless and live endlessly! It’s been more than a year here and I have never even looked at it honestly. But today, when I smell Autumn, I feel I am still alive, somewhere inside.
What do I love most about the city? Oh, the maple leaves, just love them! Red, green, brown, yellow, so many coloured maple leaves, I just love them! They teach me life, they make the city colourful, they are just so Victorian!
Now it’s Autumn here, the city is all Red! The smell is fresh and wild. The weather is calling. When I walk alone and the strangers smile back, I feel less scared, I feel more like home now.
Do I love Melbourne? Why not! The city has changed my life in just a year. It has taken away everything but returned back my own self to me. I am knowing myself now and honestly am much better a person than many! I now love myself, take care of myself and don’t have to rely on anyone! I love this unconditional me. Everything is gonna be okay.
When I see people, street artists dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, so carefree, on the road, with all their passion, I feel strong. I feel I can make it…make it to live, to love and be loved.
May 24th, 2014”
I couldn’t stop smiling and also had tears after I read this. The innocence in the writeup and gust of emotions hit me, but what amused me the most was my positivity!
Today we live in a strange time. COVID-19 has taught us many life lessons, shown us the reality of many friends and family and also made us value both things and people more. Life is never easy and you don’t need a virus to remind you that! But we have to sail through, we have to at least try…after all these years, whenever I see someone on the road, walking sadly, I smile at them because I know that once I was that sad person and how powerful a simple smile can be. The tiniest gesture of kindness can heal a soul, mend a broken heart and bring happiness to someone. We all are flawed, none are perfect, we make mistakes and learn and then make the same mistakes again. We all are fighting our own battles and hence kindness matters, more than before now. Treasure your loved ones but most importantly, treasure yourself, you are all you have! 🙂
In the busy Melbourne life, suddenly I got two weeks break while changing jobs. Being a traveler at heart, immediately decided that am off to somewhere for a week! Considering its winter in July in Australia, the cheapest and best option was New Zealand. Within couple of days I booked my week-long trip to South Islands, New Zealand.
I wanted to have a relaxing trip and hence decided to visit only two cities – Christchurch & Queenstown. This was a solo trip, so I kept the itinerary simple. In no time I found myself in the JetStar flight from Melbourne to Christchurch! I had dozed off during the flight and woke up with the Captain announcing that the flight is landing. I opened my eyes and looked out of the window, the view was breathtaking. Something inside me said that my trip was going to be amazing!
The TranzAlpine train trip
Checked-in to Ibis, Christchurch. The hotel is located at the heart of the CBD (main city). My day 1 was just walking around the city and getting myself used to the cold. I called it a night pretty early as I had an 8am Tranzalpine train to catch the next morning to visit Arthur’s Pass National Park.
The Kiwi rail personnel picked me up at around 7.30 from my hotel and dropped me to the Christchurch station. The Tranzalpine train was already standing there and looked very striking and impressive. This train is operated by ‘The Great Journeys of New Zealand’ in the South Island over the ‘Midland Line’; it’s often regarded to be one of the world’s greatest train journeys, for the scenery through which it passes. The journey is 223 kilometres one-way, taking almost five hours. I had decided to go half way till Arthur’s Pass and then return back the same day.
The train left the mainland and soon was running amidst the mesmerising Southern Alps. We crossed snow clad mountains, rivers and waterfalls. There was a pantry inside the train, from where I got a nice coffee while I enjoyed the views. It felt both peaceful and exciting at the same time! The co-passengers were from different countries and they seemed to love New Zealand as much. With every turn the train took, there were more mountains and sometimes tunnels, overall this was my best ever train journey!
View from the Kiwi Rail
Arthur’s Pass National Park
The train reached Arthur’s Pass at around 11am. Few of the passengers got down here. The scenery was breathtaking! I couldn’t believe nature can be so beautiful.
It was freezing though, but I was all wrapped up in my jacket and beanie. I found my way to the Visitor Centre, collected some maps of the area and chose to do a hike to the Devils Punchbowl Waterfall. My return train from Arthur’s Pass was around 4.30pm in the afternoon, so I had around five and a bit hours to myself, to explore this beauty.
Started my hike, there was ice on the way but no one else around! I was very excited as I have not seen much snow in Melbourne or in the other countries I have visited, so it was a very different experience. Kept walking on the trail, was getting exhausted as it was uphill, but then I met some tourists coming from the opposite direction, who said it’s worth finishing the trail! The track crossed through a sparse forest and I could see snow-clad mountains from some points, the cold was getting intense but when I heard the birds chirping yet felt the silence of the place, I was feeling happy and ignored the cold. It was an experience I never had before! Finally, I reached the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfalls.
The Devil’s Punchbowl Trail
Waterfall forming a stream
Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall
The waterfall was massive and really worth the hike! On one side was the waterfall and on the opposite side was this huge snow-clad mountain. I felt an immense happiness inside me. Nature had waved its magic wand again and made me ecstatic! I spent some time by the waterfall, just hearing the sound of water gushing down and then forming a stream. The return trail felt shorter as I was already so gratified and had all my energy back from the picturesque magnificence around. I reached back to the base and grabbed some food in the Wobbly Kea Café and Bar. Then I explored around little more and soon headed off to the station for my return to Christchurch. Chatted with the co-passengers on the journey back and shared my solo journey experiences with them with a glass of wine! Nothing feels better than telling your stories to strangers, who are your friends in a strange way! Arthur’s Pass had made my day and so did the transalpine train journey. After a quick dinner at Christchurch, I crashed off to bed.
The city which recreated itself
As many of us know, the intense earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 & 2011, created widespread damage to buildings, infrastructure and human life. My third and final day in Christchurch was exploring the city and enjoy a laidback day before I head off to Queenstown. I walked down to the Canterbury Museum after a sumptuous breakfast and coffee.
The museum had a beautiful adjoining garden and some really amazing piece of architecture. After spending some time there, I walked up the street to do a punting tour on the Avon river. It was a perfect day for punting! A leisurely trip along the picturesque Avon River, being punted by a friendly, informative guide felt very relaxing. There was lovely scenery in the Botanical Gardens. We were given blankets and hot-water bags to make us feel warm. The short half an hour tour felt even shorter when the surrounding was so breathtaking!
After the punting tour, I walked across the ‘Bridge of Remembrance’, dedicated to the soldiers of the World Wars and then reached the Christchurch Cathedral. As I got to see more of the city, I noticed how much damage was caused by the earthquakes and how the people here had accepted that and bravely rebuilt the entire city! Met many locals, who spoke of their loss during the earthquakes, but they loved this city and embraced all that they had to face because they felt Christchurch is where they belong! Many of them were immigrants from Afghanistan, Israel, Bangladesh and India. You learn so much, when you travel!
I was pretty tired by late afternoon, had some food but kept thinking of how brave the locals were and how much they loved this city. I reached the hotel by evening, went to my room and packed by bags as I had an early flight the next day. I went out to have some dinner in the Indian restaurant just opposite Ibis, called Mumbaiwala and had a happy tummy!
When reality strikes!
It was around 9 pm and I was watching the television in my room, almost half asleep, considering I walked a lot around the city that day. My mind was full of thoughts and my body was tired. Suddenly, my bed, the television, the tables, chairs and everything in the room started trembling horribly! My first thought was that I was dreaming, since my mind was full of those broken buildings which I had witnessed throughout the day. But it took me couple of more seconds to realise, that it was an actual earthquake!!!
I held the bed frame strongly and was scared to death, started thinking of my family back in India and every fraction of second felt like ages! After around 30-40 secs, the shake stopped. I was still immobile on my bed and was having a brain-freeze too. As I regained my senses, I jumped off the bed and dialled reception. The lady from the reception seemed pretty calm and said there is nothing to fear, this was just a minor tremor! I was freaking out on the other side and immediately hung up and rushed to the ground floor! Saw many frightening faces like mine in the lobby, all with the fear of what that city was infamous for! The receptionist calmed us down and after spending an hour in the lobby, anticipating another tremor, I was too drained out and returned to my room and felt asleep!
From the first day itself, Christchurch won my heart! The way this city has faced the most dangerous natural calamity and has accepted that fact and rebuilt itself, is sheer bravery and courage. Rebuilt not just buildings and infrastructure but also their minds, their hearts, their history and their future.
Life’s never easy but happy are those who face their fears and move on! No wonder the receptionist that night was so calm! She has experienced much more intense earthquakes than that minor tremor. Christchurch taught me that history and culture of a place is not only to treasure what was created by our ancestors, but it is also what we create as we progress. The history of Christchurch is not the infamous earthquakes, but it is the people who love that city more than their lives and properties. They say, ‘a thing of beauty, is a joy forever’, and Christchurch, you will be the most dangerously beautiful city I have ever been to! Stay safe Christchurch, until next time!
This blog post is dedicated to all the brave hearts who were sacrificed in the Christchurch mosque shootings, March 2019. I have visited this city and seen how brave are the people of Christchurch. My heart goes out to all the families who have lost their near ones in the shooting. May they rest in peace wherever they are! Hope the world becomes a better place one day.
Last few weeks I have been feeling fervently quite low due to several reasons. Mood swings, unsolicited tears, drifting apart in solitude etc. Guess we all go through this phase once in a while in the journey of life. Not everyone is perfect or let’s say none of us are perfect!
When I have my lows, I feel that, the moment a dear one comforts me or even speaks to me in a kind way, I feel like I’ll break down and can’t control my tears. Even if someone just touches my shoulders in a comforting way, I feel like a kid and start crying. It’s probably an accumulation of my emotions which just comes out with the human touch. After the tears leave me, I feel so much better!
I have observed that the human touch work wonders to me. Holding the hand of a close friend while walking the known pathways, giving a good-bye hug, greeting someone with a peck and a hug and similar small gestures of being human is sometimes healing. Many of us stay by themselves and don’t have family nearby. There is understandably a feeling of loneliness and solitude. But when another human, who loves you, makes their presence felt, you feel happy, you feel there is someone who cares!
The world these days is delimited by definitions, it was not so when I was a kid. If two guys walk with their hands on each other’s shoulders, we blotch them as ‘gay’, similarly if two girls kiss, we say they might be ‘lesbians’, or if a guy and a girl hug each other, we say they might be dating! Things were not like this when we were kids, we used to happily walk hand in hand with our friends, be it a guy or a girl. We would kiss and hug each other without thinking even once! It’s so easy to show hatred, have fights, arguments, even kill each other, then why is it so hard to love each other just as humans without the discrimination of race, cast, creed or sex! When our parents love us, when our grand-parents hug or kiss us, when our friends cuddle up next to us, it’s all a very human touch! It makes us feel alive, feel a part of the world, feel human!
The human touch is therapeutic to me when am feeling low. I used to cling on to my bestie all the time whenever we would travel, and she would always shrug me off from her and ask why I am ‘glued’ to her all the time =)! I would reply saying that we live in opposite hemispheres, when you are with me, I want to feel your presence! Well, each of us is different in our own ways and how we feel or how we heal. But I guess the small gestures of love which I call as the ‘human touch’ is necessary to signify the presence of love in this world without the precincts of demarcations!
If it’s easy to show your hatred, trust me it’s easier to show your love! Just hold your friend’s hand while you walk, give your mom a hug when she is angry on you, tell your sister how much you love her and care for her and that you are always there, call your father more often, smile at the passer-by on the road. We all have our pains, all have our own battles to fight, the small gestures of love keep us going. Life is all about the small things, cherish them and smile! xoxo
My friends and I decided to travel to Noosa this year January. Noosa is located on the southern end of Queensland, an Australian state and is in the Sunshine coast. Noosa Heads, a town and suburb of the Shire of Noosa is located approximately 136 kilometres north of Brisbane, the state’s capital and is in the main hub.
We flew to the Sunshine coast airport from Melbourne and then rented a car from the airport and drove down to the Peregian beach where we had booked our accommodation. It’s a scenic 24km (approx) drive along the coast with the sea in sight now and then. We had booked our stay through Airbnb and must admit that it was one of best houses we ever stayed!
On the way to the Peregian beach we stopped for lunch and had some wonderful Thai food. The weather in January was hot and a bit humid too. However, the sunshine was welcoming and the beautiful beaches stole our heart.
The beach was even more mesmerizing in the night! The starlit night, the lashing of the waves, the quietness and the companionship made us cherish every moment and feel at peace.
A Day well spent
The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we decided to explore Noosa by ferry. We boarded the ferry from the Noosa Yacht & Rowing Club and there begun a wonderful journey in the Noosa river waters. It was a beautiful sunny day, the sky and the river water was clear blue and the weather was impeccable for a river cruise. We disembarked at the Sofitel Noosa Heads and gallivanted in the Hastings Street famous for its boutique shops and restaurants.
We had a wonderful Indian lunch at Kali Gourmet Indian restaurant . The restaurant had delicious Indian food and warm and welcoming staff. We then explored the beach at the Noosa Heads and the colourful boutique shops in the Hastings street.
We took the return ferry in the afternoon and then decided to view the Sunset from the Laguna Lookout in the Noosa National Park. It was a spellbinding sunset. We were captivated by the landscape and life felt good!
Fraser Island – Adventure reloaded
The next day we had planned a day trip to the famous Fraser Island. The Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island stretching over 120km. We got picked up by the tour providers at 6am and then headed off to our first stop where we boarded a four wheel drive tour bus. We crossed the Noosa river in the cable barge and stopped at the Rainbow beach for morning tea. It was a scenic journey so far and the rainbow beach was true to its name.
Next, we had a rocky ride inside the forest area to the crystal clear freshwater Lake McKenzie. It was an absolutely beautiful lake with tropical turquoise water, fine white sand and surrounded by forest. After our rocky ride, the lake was welcoming and we immediately jumped onto the water. We spend time in the lake exfoliating ourselves with the white sand and splashing water on each other. It felt like we voyaged back to our childhood! Soon we felt hungry and were served delicious “Aussie style” bush barbecue with a varied assortment of fresh salad and drinks. We stuffed ourselves and soon it was time to head back to the mainstream.
On the way back, we dropped by the magnificent Rainforests. We walked inside the cold, dark pathways of the forest. It was thrilling and we praised nature at every step. The luxuriant canopy of palms and vines made each moment memorable.
We returned back by evening, tired yet rejuvenated!
My friends and I have a busy life in Melbourne like many others. We planned this trip to Noosa with an agenda of relaxation and holiday. On the last day of our trip, we had checked the boxes! Noosa is not only one of the most beautiful places we had visited but it felt like the sea, sand and sunshine have hitched to make Noosa magical! If you love beaches, Noosa is where you should be! Every moment we spent here was full of awe! Australia has many beaches and I have visited many of them, yet Noosa had its own appeal and will make me come back again when I want to liberate and revive myself! Noosa, you stole our hearts with your charm, see you again someday! Till then, keep travelling!
It was the Easter weekend and my friends and I had decided the weekend away to Bendigo which is around the centre of the state of Victoria and approx.150km north west of Melbourne, Australia. The best way to travel together was to go in the V/Line train which departs from the Southern Cross station at regular intervals and reaches Bendigo in approximately 2hrs.
After having a delightful train ride with picturesque view on both sides, we reached Bendigo. The weather was perfect and the sun was shining bright. We walked our way to our accommodation at the Old Crown hotel which was around 10mins walk from the V/Line train station. The city was well organised with small unique shops and cafes. There was zebra-crossings at every place for ease of the pedestrians and the people around seemed warm and friendly. We placed our bags in our hotel and then headed off to explore the scenic city.
Central Deborah Gold Mine – a thrilling experience!
We had pre-booked our tickets at the Central Deborah Gold mine which boasts of Bendigo’s golden heritage and was a “must-visit” in our list! An old gentleman greeted us at the gold mine and guided us towards the mine tour guide Natt. Natt welcomed us with a big smile which spoke heaps of how passionate he was of his job and presented the safety instructions in his soft yet firm voice. We went down the gold mine in an antediluvian lift where we were equipped with safety gears like helmets with lights on them. It was all very fascinating to us and we could already feel the thrill of the underground mine trip. The temperature was quite less underneath and the pathways were wet and sometimes a bit muddy. Natt took us through trails inside the mine and stopped at designated stops and shared us the history of the place and also made us aware of the life of a miner, the equipment they used and the hardships they faced operating in mines!
We were both fascinated by the facts and sad envisaging the challenging life of a miner. The trip ended in around an hour and we came out in the bright sunlight with a bagful of memories and cognizance. We also visited the Gold Mine museum, attended the gold-digging workshop and had some fun finding precious gold and gemstones!
The Vintage “talking” Trams – time travel to History!
After the Gold mine tour, we grabbed some food near the Pall Mall and decided to do the Vintage tram tour! We could see frequent trams plying in the city and jumped onto one of them. An old tram conductor approached us and gave us the tickets. He also obliged us by posing with us in one of the photographs inside the tram, for our memory! He was such a kind, wonderful gentleman. He told us that he is a volunteer and that two-third of the members of the Bendigo tramways are volunteers. When we asked why he was volunteering for this fascinating profession, he said he is trying to conserve the endangered species called ‘tram-conductors’!
The tram took us to multiple stops including the Bendigo Tram Depot, Central Deborah Gold mine, Lake Weeroona and Joss House Temple. There were two or three different trams which were painted artistically and looked distinctive.
Bendigo City – quaint and contemporary!
We visited the major sightseeing spots at Bendigo in the Tram and we got down from the tram near the Pall Mall. The city was full of vibrant colours of autumn, busy cafes & restaurants and happy faces. Some astounding vintage cars zoomed across the city and made us awestruck! There was also a Vintage car exhibition and Easter carnival which attracted tourists from far and near considering it was the Easter weekend.
Another remarkable spot in Bendigo city is the famous Shamrock Hotel which is known for its historic and architectural significance. The hotel was built in 1854 as the Exchange Hotel and then rebuild and rebranded several times. The hotel was the accommodation of choice of visiting dignitaries in Bendigo during the gold rush time! The hotel not only boasts of the history of Bendigo but also is one of the best accommodations in the heart of the city and a suitable eatery.
The Bendigo Information Center is also worth a visit with the friendly staff, an exquisite collection of souvenirs and heaps of information on Bendigo and the places to visit.
In short, the overall experience in Bendigo was very peaceful and relaxing. The city has its own history & culture, some nice eatery, beautiful scenic views and warm & friendly people. Would highly recommend if you want to experience the small-town-life of Victoria and the one of the best weekend gateway from Melbourne. Easy to access and nice to visit. Leaves a smile on your face all day and you return feeling fresh and rejuvenated! See you again Bendigo and thanks for your hospitality!
Few days ago, India celebrated the ‘festival of colours’ called ‘Holi’. When I was a kid, all year through I would wait for this day when we would play with colours. All the kids were just exhilarated with the impression of throwing colours at each other and getting a colourful face themselves. We would blend the colours in water and splash each other with the coloured water. Life felt good after playing with colours while the parents didn’t discipline us!
I grew up, the colours of Holi turned into colours of life. Bright colours for bright days and grey for the shaded ones. The sky has always been my companion and I felt that the sky also transformed colours and guided our moods. A blue sky for a beautiful sunny day and grey sky for cloudy and gloomy days. The kid who only knew colours are fun, now had a significance of the colours associating to time.
I grew up more, now I could relate the colours to my life, to the people and to my surroundings. I kept thinking, how as a kid, I never realised that colours of life meant so much. People can add colours to your life and in the same way people can make your life colourless and ‘grey’. Some people make every day colourful and they keep you happy, we should treasure them. The ones who add the grey shades, teach us how beautiful the other colours are, like the night makes us appreciate the day or the hard time makes us appreciate the good times. Everyone comes to our life for a reason, either they make life beautiful or teach us a lesson!
As I grew, my mind found resemblance of colours to our surrounding. A beautiful red rose or a bright blue sky or a lovely green field! Colours, they are everywhere! Red symbolise love and it also symbolises danger, Blue symbolise the colour of sky and sea and is associated with depth and stability, similarly Green is the colour of nature and White is for peace.
The colours of my life have always changed with time and age. While childhood days were the most colourful, as we grew up there were frequent shades of grey. Pain, sadness, misery and again a splash of joy, that’s life. I have some amazing people in my life who adds colour to my sky, they make life worth living. Occasionally I also bump onto some darker shades but it’s the darker shades who makes me realise how beautiful the brighter shades are! Add colour to your life and add colours to other’s life. If as a kid, we could easily splash others with colours then why not as adults. No one minds when you make their day brighter! If as a kid, we played with colours with other kids, then why be self-centred as adults. Go out, and you will see an arena waiting for you, where you can play with everyone with the colours of life. While be cautious to select the right colours, the wrong colours can also be blended to make them right! As a famous poet says, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there!” Stay colourful, stay blessed.
I am quite a lazy person when it comes to regular exercise or workouts. However, one fine afternoon I decide to go for a walk and make my life a little better or at least get over the guilt of being lazy.
I put my headphones on and play my favourite playlist, get into my walking shoes after dusting them a bit and just go out along the walking tracks near my place. Initially I come across quite a busy area with some nice shops around and I feel this urge of going for shopping instead and get a coffee, but I voice myself to focus and keep walking. The beats of my music is slowing giving me a rhythm and I am feeling better already. I cross the hustle of the city and slowly get into a more residential area.
This area is leafy and full of trees which have lost their leaves in Winter. I come across many oldies who smile warmly at me and some moms who are busy attending their kids while they walk holding hands. Reminded me of my mom and how I used to go for walks with her as a kid. I keep walking. I see an old lady trying to cross the road but is scared. I stop by and hold her hand and help her cross the road, she smiles and says “God bless ya child”. I smile back and feel at peace, I keep walking. I can smell the air around, the strange smell of the bark of the leafless trees, the smell of grass, or some seasonal flowers and the smell of winter in this part of the world. I can see a church a bit further up, I am quite exhausted for my low stamina but my lure towards old churches kept me going.
The Sun is about to set, the last rays of the Sun is falling on the Church and making it look so beautiful. There is no one around, but I decide to go inside the Church. I slowly push the Church door and it opens with a squeak. I am scared if am barging in. I see no one inside the Church, no wait, there is someone, an old lady. I walk towards her and then take a seat in one of the front rows and smile at her. I have to appreciate the old piece of architecture and how well it has been maintained over the years. I pray for a while closing my eyes and open my eyes to find that the old lady is decorating the church with some beautiful white lilies. She was picking every flower as if it was her child and then very carefully placing them on the wall.
When I told her that the flowers are beautiful, she said there is a funeral later for which she is setting them up. Does white symbolise death, it certainly symbolises peace, so maybe its for the peace of the departed soul. I was suddenly feeling very small compared to everything around. Death, that’s such a nonpareil truth. All we congregate in this world, all the wealth, possessions, relationships everything is perishable…someday. What will remain in this world will be the bonds we make and the memories in the heart of the near ones. I felt an unanticipated tear in my eye. While immersed in such deep thoughts, I didn’t realise I was being observed by the old lady.
She looked at me and asked my name. She said she has been coming to this Church since years and to her, birth and death are like best friends who are inseparable. They go hand in hand and make a complete life cycle. How easily she explained it. She walked towards me and gave me a hug and said was great meeting me and that her name was Bevillé. I wanted to say the same but my voice was chocked. I ran on the way back, happy, fit and realising that the true fitness mantra is to be nice to others, smile and just live a healthy life.
Fitness is not only to have a healthy body but also to have a healthy soul. Mental health is as important as physical health. Everyone has their own battles, help others in need and smile when you see a sad face on the street, maybe all they need from you is a Smile 🙂