Friday, 26 October 2018

Tips for the Conversationally Averse

Hang in there, just a few minutes more...nod now, make that eye contact, give that understanding smile, tut-tut and look down sadly, swear with feeling,'What rubbish!'  or 'No seriously?' or 'Don't know what the world is coming to!' or 'I don't believe this!' and if you aren't sure, 'Tell me more...', always works!

Do you have the attention span of a 2-year old or do you wonder if it might be ADHD? Why there is even a phobia called glossophobia that you could be slotted under!
You aren't conversationally awkward but you'd rather steer clear of conversations that are zzz-inducing! Happier with a zip on the lip and over the ears too if possible.
Well, whatever, till diagnosed, you are out there in the open with no reprieve from compelling conversations. 
Talking about conversations, there could be various kinds you know...but I am talking primarily of ones involving your physical presence, the kinds which you cannot wait to tear yourself away from.

Conversations with a monopolizing speaker.
Many conversations are besieged by a speaker on his relentless monologue expecting no exchange from the audience.
Conversation bullies can be a blessing! While the said person takes control of the conversation, you can happily let your mind wander, observe the speaker or the audiences' individual tics, mannerisms, clothing, the room decor or simply transport yourself to another zone altogether. Actually, this is a pretty calming situation, meditative even if the speaker has a pleasant droning audio. Occasional head nods and looks of absorbed interest can see you through the evening quite successfully.
On the other hand, you've got to be wary of such monologues because there might be a twist to it with the speaker throwing off-hand questions to the onlookers at the end of his repertoire. This kind of rude interruption to the drifting mind is pretty unwelcome I'd say. Beating a hasty retreat in search of gastronomic or spirit-fueled refills comes to the rescue. 

Conversations in large gatherings that involve active participation.
You can well imagine how tedious it is to hang on to the words of each person in a party of say...twenty members, especially when the topic is nothing you like or relate to and you are constantly dreading the words, 'So what do you think ...?' asking for your personal opinion.
Thankfully most soirees comprise of persons, totally in awe and in love with their own opinions and voices, so you can shake off any awkwardness with a li'l bit of attention to body language and facial expressions...anyday more interesting than the talks, I daresay! 
You gotta watch for the most vociferous voices, the most antagonized faces, the most exuberant expressions and decide your course of action with, 'I totally agree with Mr. Vociferous' or 'I think Mrs. Antagonized does have a point there' or 'Ha,ha, are too good Ms. Exuberant!' 
However, to pass off as an avid participant, one cannot merely agree to all and sundry opinions expressed. 
You've got to shake things up a little, irrespective of what the ongoing conversation is about. Challenge Mr. Vociferous with a, 'You really think so?' and 'Can you prove it?' and stand back and enjoy the fascinated hushed horror of the audience.
You could make a contribution to the tryst with your own compelling statements by preparing beforehand on good ol' politics and all sorts of trivia news. The escaped whale from the Japanese aquarium that no one would have read about or titillating snippets from Hollywood/Bollywood. Choose topics that are self-sustaining, entertaining, no-brainers that enlist your own foray into the convo and ensure a swift escape therein.

Conversations in intimate gatherings, with limited participants.
Well, these are definitely challenging. You can help your cause here with some prior screwing with the background music if such a back up exists, and thereby plead noise pollution as your excuse for not being in sync with the proceedings, lame but hey, it helps! Another helpful tip is asking The Q, 'So Mrs...tell me what's going on in your life?' or 'So how are the kids/maid/body pain/exercise regimen....?' You get the drift? That should give you sufficient time to zone out. 
Then of course, you have the trusty, faithful mobile phone. Set alarms to go off at frequent intervals so you get justified time-outs to recharge those mental faculties overburdened with facts and info they were never meant to hold. Yes, mobiles are boons of tech to minds like a sieve. You come back to the field rejuvenated from the break having imbibed a few lines of 'shayaris' to be casually delivered or crack a few well-rehearsed 'impromptu' jokes, and voila, you've made your mark!

And then the most lethal kind of conversation, the one-on-one kinds.
The ones you absolutely abhor! The situation where you are faced with a speaker akin a predator with unwavering watch over his prey....yikes, the mere visual sends chills down your spine, doesn't it? The predator, I mean the speaker, expects you to hang on to every word of his with the same intensity that he is delivering them with and does not miss the slightest signs of waning interest from you. If you are spotted looking diverted, he gets irritated but to be fair, he decides to forgive you and restarts his narrative....oh God, no, no, no! Best recourse, chew the bullet, focus all your energies on following his narrative the first time itself.
Ideally, I would suggest that you inveigle yourself from such situations but when the going gets tough, the tough get going. See, you are tough, you know that. But there is no fortitude in putting yourself through such haranguing situations and so, you've got to get going...move out of such situations pronto.

Then we come to the point, aren't conversations about dialogues, mutual exchange of words and opinions between people, preferably voluntary? The key operative here of course would be, voluntary. Given a choice, you would not volunteer to be a part of a conversation, either physical or over air-waves that does not interest you, now would you? Phone conversations, ahh, they are an altogether different cuppa, to be savored over another time. 
You see, it is just a personal choice - Happier reading or hearing words and opinions than vis-a-vis being in the frame yourself! 
A good choice I would say considering, most people like it best when they are speaking and seldom interested in listening to anyone else. And if they do listen, it is with the intent to reply.

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
- Steven Covey (1932-2012)

Disclaimer: The above post has been authored on a lighter vein for literary purposes only. All tips and opinions expressed are the author's own and should be followed at the reader's own discretion and risk!

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Thursday, 18 October 2018

These are a few of my favourite things #TheBlindList

For OCD-ing middle-aged moms, planning is everything. Surprises are just rude shocks. How boring, right? Yeah, I thought the same about my mom and now my kids think the same about me. 
Time and again my family tests my patience with their not-so-helpful attitude on every holiday we've taken. No one volunteers to help with researching the travel itinerary, the flight or hotel bookings or anything the holiday would include. Add to that woe list, giving me wrong dates of availability, that leaves me at my wits end when they realize the folly a couple of days before we depart for the holiday...arrghh!
That's it! I've had just about enough of this "holiday" planning! The weather is wretched and I am having a blessed moment putting my feet up on the couch mulling over our last annual vacation wherein my lazy family decided yet again on "simply chilling" at the resort while the rest of the group tour went on a mad rampage all across Malaysia. 
If only things were different...The cuckoo clock cheeps three times and I wearily stretch my toes.
Ping! There goes the email alert on my mobile. Must be some promo mail, with the approaching festive season. Hmm, it's a mail from DCT Travels, must be one of those innumerable sites I checked out for our last holiday. Half-heartedly I click open the mail and my jaw drops as I skim through the mail. I read the mail again and then once more. In a daze I call my husband, "Hello, you'll never believe what I am going to tell you! I just won an all expenses paid 7 days, 6 nights holiday!! I was the 100,000 th visitor on their website it seems! But the holiday is for just one person, me. Isn't that just awesome?....Where to? Let me read the mail again and call you back." 
As I go through the mail again, I realize it does not mention the destination. But, hey...wait a sec...what is this under the *Terms and Conditions*? It says that the holiday destination is to be a surprise and I have to agree to ask no questions about the destination other than those relevant to my travel requirements. Now, I am feeling really stupid! What kind of scam is this? Maybe I'll be robbed or kidnapped or worse! Just my kind of luck.

The phone rings, it's an unknown number. I answer,"Yes, speaking. Hmm, yes, I received the email. How do I know this is not a prank? Oh, I wasn't aware you have an office in Mumbai. Sure, I'll visit. And yes, I'll get my passport along. Thank you so much!"
As I get off the call from the rather nice sounding Neha, I can feel the adrenaline rush. 
I browse through the website of DCT Travels and check the customer reviews. Wow, all 5 star reviews! Nah, that could be fake! Only one way to find out. I'll visit their office which is surprisingly not far from my place.
The sweet girl Neha from the tele-call is there to heartily welcome and congratulate me. We are comfortably settled in with coffee mugs at her station and she asks me to fill out a questionnaire based on which they will customize my holiday. Besides the usual routine personal details I need to fill, there are questions that make me think.
They ask me questions like, what are my dream holiday destinations, my expectations from a holiday, stay preferences, food I love and so on!
Phew!! I am done answering all the questions and inadvertently it has been a journey of self exploration for me, I never knew I've been craving for a perfect holiday!

It is a fortnight since that meeting, the days have blurred past in a rush of packing, repacking, checking documents, visiting visa office, arranging for stuff to be handled at home in my absence and so much more. 
Other than the fact that my destination is somewhere in Europe, DCT Travels hasn't still revealed my travel itinerary, they just wink and tell me it's a #BlindList
I really wonder where I am going to be whisked away and honestly? It is literally a blind date that I am risking! I am praying this surprise doesn't turn out to be yet another rude shock!

I am at the airport, it is 12.00 a.m and the family is here to see me off on my maiden solo journey to God-Knows-Where! I am feeling terribly excited and a bit crazy as well! 
I wave goodbye to all and amidst tight hugs and last minute reminders to keep my phone charged, I am off! Off on a blind date to someplace I have no clue about but something tells me it is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime memory that I am about to make!

I am at the Lufthansa airways counter (I don't know why but I've always loved the exotic-sounding name of this airline). I am headed to Paris!! 
As I flash my ticket and passport, the cheerful Lufthansa executive smiles broadly at me. He informs me that my ticket has been upgraded to business class!!! Omg, this is so amazing!
I dazedly walk with my backpack to the business class lounge to wait it out in style till my flight is called.
A blissful flight cocooned in luxury and pampered by the delightful in-flight service, I am quite liking the way things are proceeding! They even have authentic Indian vegetarian gourmet food that I love!
At the Charles de Gaulle airport, I am received by a DCT travels executive and deposited in a waiting luxury car. I am informed that my destination is now just an hour and half's drive away.
I am eagerly peering through the window and helpfully assisted by the chauffeur who points out the various beautiful monuments and sites we are passing by. Mon dieu! The city is simply enchanting! We are now out of city bounds and traversing beautiful countryside, there is a river, La Seine, I remember from my French classes!
Finally I read a board saying "Bienvenue à Giverny". I am at the home of the brilliant Impressionist artist Claude Monet at Giverny from where he created some of his most amazing paintings of Water Lilies amongst many others. I remember mentioning in the DCT travels' questionnaire that I adore Monet's art and that I would love to visit his inspiration.

I am booked into...wait for it... a castle, called Chateau de Reves. The chateau is run by an old couple and thankfully they speak English though heavily accented which I find extremely charming! I am shown up to my room which done up in tones of pale rose and moss green. I am in love with the floral wall paper, the lacy curtains and the old, heavy period furniture including a canopied bed! 

Everything about Giverny is so adorable. The cobbled paths, the old buildings with soft faded hues, several chateaus from a bygone era, beautiful shaded pathways with tall poplars and trees I don't know the name of, tiny corner cafes fronted with glass displays of mouth-watering croissants....ahh, my senses are on an overload and my phone camera is in a tizzy to capture all the wonderful sights I am beholding!

After a good night's sleep and a sumptuous buffet breakfast I am all set for the day ahead. Imagine my surprise when I behold Neha at the reception waiting for me! She tells me she'll be with me all through my holiday! Woohoo! I love the idea of travel sans the worries of planning and logistics! Travel to explore has only been a myth to me so far!

Neha and I visit the Monet home which is every bit as beautiful I imagined it to be, and everything is so impeccably maintained! The grounds, the Japanese bridge, and THE waterlilies, they are simply out of this world!
I have taken my sketchbook on this visit and I spend a lazy hour trying to capture the famed lily-pond sipping a glass of chilled French wine accompanied by a cheese doesn't get any better! I am totally letting my hair down!

Neha informs me that we'll be taking a flight late evening to our next destination and smugly informs me that it will be a surprise too! I can't wait to find out where we'll be heading next!

You could have knocked me down with a feather when I hear that we are headed next to Salzburg, Austria!  I try to remember the number times I've wished to visit the rolling hills where the epic movie, "The Sound of Music" was shot. I am already humming,"These are a few of my favourite things..." Exploring the world is soon going to be my motto in life!
Salzburg is nothing short of picture-postcard prettiness! 
The air itself is invigorating and people seem to be thriving on it! Everywhere I see apple-cheeked happy folk with ready smiles filled with warmth. It doesn't matter that I can neither speak nor understand most of what people speak here. The place is alive with music, theater, culture and so much fun!
I am almost crazy ecstatic when I visit the Villa Trapp - The Original Sound of Music family home. Like a giddy teen, the lines,"I am sixteen going on seventeen.."are on my lips!
We take a trek on the hills where the blockbuster soundtrack,"The hills are alive..." was shot and indeed, my heart wants beat like the wings of the birds!
A delightful evening at the famed opera has me gushing and overwhelmed! This kind of enriching experience, visiting all these amazing places and doing all the stuff I have only dreamed of!

My guide and new best pal, Neha tells me that our next destination involves a train journey, the Euro-rail. We are now headed to England! We arrive to a dull, grey, drizzly London. I think I recognize most of the places the taxi passes by, thanks to all the scores of English movies I've watched. I am excited to recognize Picadilly square, the London Bridge, the Thames, the London eye, Westminster Abbey and all those iconic colonial structures.
I beg Neha to tell me where we are heading and she tells me it is to the English countryside. The place that inspired poets and writers to pen the most famed literary works! Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, I come!
The natural beauty of the English countryside takes my breath away as do the quaint cottages, the multi-hued heather, pretty blooms, beautiful sandy beaches and the nippy, crisp air! It is small wonder that those literary giants were inspired to pen down such marvelous prose and poetry. Why, I think if I stay here a bit more, I'll find myself drafting my own best-seller book of poetries soon enough! I visit a field of golden Daffodils at Cornwall and I am at a loss of words at the feeling of pure joy that envelops me when I see what inspired, "The Daffodils" and "The Solitary Reaper" by William Wordsworth.

My happiest moment is when I am given the keys to a lovely little fairyland-like cottage, with its own white picket fenced garden, thatched roof and a tiny attic room with round windows, in Devon! This is nothing short of a fairy-tale! Can it get any better? Oh yes, it gets better when you have a picnic by the roadside after a long bike trail! Neha has arranged for a packed hamper of dainty cupcakes, buttery scones, strawberries and cream, tiny cucumber sandwiches and of course chilled bottles of lemonade! The unforgettable Enid Blyton, I am living yet another dream! 

My mind runs through the last few days' happenings...and I am smiling away loopily! So many incredible moments, exotic, quaint and beautiful places that have blown me away. People and places that I have only read about...I am really so glad I agreed to go on this blind date with #TheBlindList. I came openminded, expecting nothing, and what a revelation the world has been to me! #SayYesToTheWorld and it opens up unlimited possibilities! I never thought traveling the world could be so fulfilling!

I settle down under the tree on the little blanket that Neha has thoughtfully spread. What with overindulging myself with such decadent treats and the overall feeling of bliss, makes me a little snoozy. 

There is a ringing sound...I ignore it, it must be some passing cyclist. The ringing persists and refuses to go away. Unwillingly I tear open my eyes from the stupor and come face to face with my son holding out the phone to me.
Oh, no!! What's this? Was it all just a dream? Was that my trip to Wonderland?
I accept my phone and answer the unknown number calling me,"Hello?" 
"Hello ma'am, this is Neha calling from Dreams Come True Travels...."


This post is my entry for the #TheBlindList contest from Lufthansa India in association with Indiblogger.
All the places mentioned are real though I have never visited any of them...yep it's a fictional trip, but one close to the heart!

Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Backscratchers Inc.

Ever experienced an itch on your back, just beyond your arm's reach? Oh, how it irritates, tingles and distracts you! You rub your back against a rough wall, snagging your favorite jacket, but you cannot be bothered about such trivialities when that particular spot on your back is the center of all your focus. The wall helped temporarily but the itch is back again. Neither your pen nor the longest kitchen ladle helps reach that exact spot of annoyance.
And along comes a messiah, it could be your spouse, kid, parent, best pal and you beg for that wave of magic to alleviate the itch - a good, long back scratch! 
The involuntary sigh of relief that escapes you makes you understand exactly how a flea-ridden dog would feel when he is given a good scratch! You feel indebted and you promise to return the favor if the need ever arises.
You also decide to order yourself a back up, the tool back scratcher. Somehow it slips your mind as other matters take precedence once the itch is diverted. Anyway you could always misplace a back scratcher even if you bought one, just like a working pen or a scrap of paper that you can never find when you need them most.

Well, after beating about the bush, let me come to my point, which is, never underestimate the power of a back scratching associate or being a back scratcher yourself
I don't know but there might even be some kind of ground-breaking research going on at Ivy league colleges on how back scratching is a basic human instinct for self-preservation and growth.
When the great king XYZ was feeling low, the courtiers cheered him up with paeans sung in his honor and soon the king was happy - bags of gold flung at the courtiers! That's back scratching with perks! 
Remember how as a kid if you had to make new friends, you spoke nicely and shared your special lunch with them? Those kids reciprocated when they learned you were a nerd with flair for math or maybe because your mum made really yummy lunch! 
Not much changes when you get older. 
Are you bending backwards on your job and that too to no yield? Talent, hard work, sincerity, integrity, honesty...blah, blah are keys to success no doubt but a li'l knack with this talent may give you that extra push. Back scratching helps you break the ice in a new office, elevates your equation with your boss. 

All you have to do is scratch the right back, the right way...too little and it aggravates the itch, too much and you're scratching the skin off the back.

I'd regard back scratching as an art in itself. There are amateur back scratchers who will go about their task blatantly, making it all too obvious and over the top. And there are masters of the craft, going about the act with subtlety. You must be an au naturel back scratcher, do it so suavely that you get the desired results with none the wiser of your tact. THAT is pure artistry!

If you thought that this gratifying process was limited only to corridors of corporate or political power, you are mistaken. At every corner, at every stage of your life you'll encounter this. It could be the maid buttering you up with that extra bit of elbow grease in the hope of better pay and you praising her to get that extra shine on your brassware. A lady waxing lyrical about how she finds the teacher so intellectually stimulating and inspiring in the hope that her child can win some brownie points in that teacher's class. It could be a couple manipulating each other to get the best out of their relation...back scratching is omnipotent.

I don't get the negativity associated with the term, "back-scratching". Being called a back scratcher, a suck-up, a chamcha, a butterer, is so hypocritical! Hey, no one stopped the person next to you from doing nice things to get a leg-up, now did they? Any one and everyone is free to join the back scratching venture. 
If you think about it, it is a kind of barter system, after all. Didn't they say, "As you sow, so shall you reap," yeah, so you are doing nice things for someone in the hope that the favor will be returned. Overall a positive outcome, a means to an end, I'd say.

Of course consistency is key here. You've got to sustain the same level of indulgence and enthusiasm that you started out with throughout the back scratching process, that has special points you see. Abruptly withdrawing from the scheme you set rolling, just proves detrimental in the long run. (Again imagine, someone who started giving you a good back scratch stopped suddenly, not a nice feeling, is it?)

The beneficiary or scratchee (my dictionary points out there is no such word, oh well, indulge me!) in this process, enjoys a good massage to his ego and confidence. How many people out there to boost you and how many out there to pull you down? Do the math. 
Obviously the scratchee wants, no needs, a scratcher
Scratcher-Scratchee, a totally symbiotic relationship. (My 7th grade science teacher would be so proud I still remember that term!) 

I shall also hasten to warn you that the relationship between fellow scratchers is generally far from cordial. It is just like any other competition, he who scratches best bags the trophy
Beware of back-stabbers while you are in the back-scratching competition, watch your back. Funny how this part of the anatomy is always in contention.

To summarize, 
Back scratching at the most basic level, say between friends can be a mutually profitable activity. 
Back scratching in a competitive environment can be beneficial too if the concerned parties negotiate to work in tandem towards a greater cause.
Back scratching the superior or one in power could work in your favor provided you do it the right way.

Now, armed with all this back up, get back into the game with your best back scratchin' mode on and reap the benefits of your new found wisdom. And while you're at it, make sure you watch your back.


Disclaimer: The above post has been authored on a lighter vein for literary purposes only. All the opinions expressed are the author's own and should not be taken as expert advice!

­­Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Beat the Flu #MomVsFlu

My teen son is busy preparing for exams. I ensure he gets good rest and nutrition. He is healthy enough but prone to frequent attacks of cold and cough. I hope he doesn't catch the dreaded viral that seems to be affecting everyone with the changing season. 
Hmm, when I think back, I remember he was virtually born with a runny nose! 

In the last week of my pregnancy I was down with a severe bout of flu. I was horribly tired, with a constant sinus headache, aching limbs, nose blocks, well the entire package deal that comes with a flu attack! I avoided taking any medicines and went through labor in that condition itself. The baby, my son was thankfully born all normal! But within half a day I noticed the baby had trouble breathing while he was trying to feed. He'd contracted the rotten flu from me! I can't tell you what a trying ten days followed with sleepless nights and constant worrying over the tiny infant's health while I myself was still suffering from it! Eventually we both got better, after the pediatrician prescribed safe medication for us.

Back to the present, all these memories of the past came rushing back at me as I attended a blogger's event aimed at creating awareness and enlightening mothers about tackling influenza - MomVsFlu. It made me wish the flu vaccine had come into the picture back then! It could have saved me and my baby from having to suffer from all the misery of the nasty flu attack! 

The event had an eloquent, expert panel comprising pediatrician Dr Mukesh Gupta and gynaecologist Dr Uday Pai explaining various aspects of an influenza attack, ways to combat it while busting some myths as well!
Most of us dismiss a flu attack as just the "common cold" when in fact they are both not the same. 

So what is a Flu?
The Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza virus A/B/C. A flu attack can be mild to severe depending on the person's immunity. Flu spreads by touching, coughing, sneezing by flu-affected person. Closed indoor air-conditioned environments trigger easier spread of the flu virus.
Symptoms can be mild/high fever, chills, runny/stuffy nose, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches and tiredness. Simply put, these are symptoms that can put child/adult in sheer misery as long as the flu lasts.
Flu symptoms like tiredness and headache are more troublesome for children.
With the growing menace of the H1N1/Swine flu virus which can gain epidemic proportions, it becomes all the more important to monitor seemingly innocent symptoms like these. 
People at risk to complications from influenza are pregnant women, children less than 5 years of age and elderly persons.

Pregnancy and Influenza
Dr Mukesh Gupta shared some insights on this aspect.
Immunity is low in pregnant women, their physiology of breathing is changed due to the developing foetus while the hormones affect lung secretions. These factors make an influenza attack on a pregnant women worrying. It is difficult to treat the expecting mother especially with restriction in medication that will be safe for both mother and foetus. Influenza in pregnancy can affect the mother's lung capacity leading to lower oxygen level supply to baby which may cause pre-term delivery while high grade fever in mother may lead to growth defects in baby. 

The Influenza Vaccine
They are also called flu shots/jabs and they protect against infection from the influenza virus. Since the virus keeps rapidly changing, yearly fresh vaccines are developed. The vaccine takes 4-6 weeks to develop complete immunity hence needs to be taken before an epidemic like swine flu breaks out.
The best time to take these shots would be in the months of April-May-June. In a home with babies or small children, preferably go in for a 'Samuhik' vaccination says Dr Pai so that the entire family including the babies' caretakers is protected by the vaccine.

Dr Mukesh Gupta suggests women to take the flu vaccine as a part of the pre-conceptual planning, because only a healthy body can bring a healthy baby. But if one misses out the vaccine at that stage, one can still take the vaccine safely at any point of the pregnancy. The vaccine is completely safe for the breast-feeding mothers too. 

Bollywood diva Genelia Deshmukh who graced the occasion, supports the initiative of Mothers Against Influenza (MAI)
She strongly urges all mothers to go from being Worriers to Warriors by simply talking to their pediatricians and gynaecologists to know more about influenza and staying protected with the vaccine.

Doesn't it make more sense to prevent an illness rather than treating it?
We as mothers need to make informed decisions to protect our family from becoming frequent victims to flu attacks, falling sick and needlessly suffering, especially when it is easily avoidable! 
Worldwide the flu vaccine is widely prescribed annually to combat the seasonal attack by the unfriendly flu virus. It is time we take cognizance of this fact and equip ourselves to give our dear family a flu-free life. Every pregnant lady and every mother needs to be aware of this vaccine which can make life so much better and worry-free! 
Lets go #MomVsFlu, shall we?

I urge you to take a look at this credible resource for more information on Influenza:

To find a vaccinating doctor in your locality you could simply check out this link:

I attended a discussion on influenza awareness facilitated by Abbott India Limited. 
Any opinion expressed in this blog is my personal opinion and not the opinion of Abbott India Limited. 
Abbott India Limited does not assume any liability for the content of the blog. 
The blog post is not meant to be a replacement for a doctor consultation, 
nor is it a medical recommendation or prescription of treatment for babies having Influenza. 
Any reader of this blog or their family members suffering from Influenza should specifically consult 
his/her doctor for the same and follow the suggested course of treatment. 

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

­­Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Get Smart or Not

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"Interesting times we live in. Everyday is a learning experience; don't you agree, Nik?" Nik of course had his nose buried deep inside the sports column. 
Nina continued reading the article that had caught her attention. 

Children who lie turn out smarter
'Hmm, I wonder if I should try this technique with the kids. All the fat fibbers at work are after all sitting cozily at the HQ while cracking the whip on us, poor slaves. Maybe their moms already knew about this stuff and started training them early can't become a sleaze-ball overnight, can you?'
Yes, Nina was convinced. This fact of life had been staring her in the face since ages...if only she'd been smart enough to fathom it or her mother had been. 
Little Johnny who lied to his Papa had it right, that's how you got the sugar! 
'The path to sugar or success is not sweet', she thought grimly and wondered how to go about smartening her two boys with her new-found wisdom.
"Neel, Varun, come here," she called, adding, "look what I got for you." 'That should bring them out of their room in no time,' smiling at her own little deviousness.
The boys skipped upto her in a jiffy. "Look guys, you know how I've been forever telling you never to lie, how you'd be committing a sin every time you lied and getting closer to hell? Well, forget that...I was lying. I want you to feel free to lie, in fact it would be good if you can make a habit of it. I read an article in paper today. Apparently, lying makes you smarter and I seriously think you guys need some help in that department. You get me?" she paused as she saw the clueless look on their faces.
"Mummy you want us to play April fool?" Varun asked doubtfully.
"No Varun that's not what I meant. You see, whenever you're caught in a tight spot, think of the best lie you can come up with and use it to set yourself free. 
Hmm, let's see, imagine if you played a prank at school and the teacher caught you, what would you do Neel?"
"I never play pranks, well no one in our class does, you wouldn't either if you had someone like Sheela miss as your class teacher," Neel replied feelingly.
"Oh, I just asked you to imagine the situation and tell me what you would do, that's all." Throwing a disappointed look at her elder offspring she continued, "Okay, you tell me Varun, what would you do if you played a prank like throwing chalk at say Anju miss while her back was turned and she caught you?" Nina asked encouragingly.
"But ma, our teachers use board marker pens only, where would I get chalk from?" Varun wisely enquired.
"Say you threw an eraser at her and got caught, then what?" she waited hopefully.
"I doubt if an eraser would bother Anju miss too much. In fact I don't think even an earthquake would make her pause while she is talking about,'What Books and Burials tell us'," Varun groaned.
'Aarghh!! What is it with these idiots? Am I too late?' Nina wondered worriedly.
Nik saw the serious meeting in session and tried to sidle past unnoticed...unsuccessfully. 
"Ah, can I get some help here Daddy?" Nina called.
"What have they done now? Varun you lost your compass box again? Neel how many times have I told you turn in your homework in time?" Nik said with as much indignation as he could muster.
"No, no, no! It's nothing they've done. It's something new I am trying to teach them. A new way of tackling sticky situations. Here, read this article and tell me if I am not onto something. We've been going about it all wrong."
"Hmm, interesting...," Nik said as he looked up after reading the piece.
"Okay, I think I have an idea how to go about this," Nina snapped her fingers excitedly.
"Nik, I have to confess something first," Nina announced with a sidelong conspiratorial wink at him. "I got a large tear in the saree I borrowed from Renuka for last week's party. That saree is a designer one and I think it costs a bomb. What should I do? What do I tell her?" she waited eagerly for Nik to cue in on her plan.
"Didn't you wear a gown for that party, the red one that makes you look fat?" Nik remarked and wondered why Nina was winking at him with the kids around.
"Oh, maybe I wore the saree last month, but tell me what should I do?" again winking at him.
"Last month we were away on our holiday, don't you remember?" Nik was having these rather accurate memory recaps while Nina glared at him.
"No, I got it wrong," Nina said as she attempted to salvage her plan. "I wore it six months back for the wedding at Pondicherry and the saree tore while I was ironing it, I am sure now, tell me Nik, what should I tell Renuka," Nina cried exasperatedly.
"Mummy wore Lina aunty's lehenga for that wedding, didn't she?" Neel piped.
"Yes, but Lina aunty looked prettier in Mummy's saree, didn't she? Varun chipped in.
"Boys, boys, come now, I agree Mummy wore that purple lehenga but she looked so beautiful in that, look...I even took our selfie with her wearing that one," and Nik proceeded to scroll down six months worth pictures in his phone gallery. 
"Okay I give up!" Nina fumed as she marched away to the kitchen.
'Pah! Me trying to teach this family to lie and make them smarter...they can't lie to save their lives! Raja Harishchandra would have been proud to know them. Pack of losers, I am stuck trying to save!' 
"Mummy you said you got something for us when you called us?"
"I lied!" 
"Nina, how much do you think that saree costs?"
"My sanity!"


Read other stories from Nina's World:  

Disclaimer: All the characters in the Nina's World series are fictional, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional.

­­Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Friday, 31 August 2018

Srilankan Wonders

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Planning family holidays is a challenge with each member having a different date availability and destination preference.
Well, against all odds, I managed to squeeze in a 5N/6D trip to Srilanka on a family holiday in the month of June.
Aptly called the "Srilankan Wonders" tour by Thomas Cook India, the tour operator I selected, it was indeed a wonder we pulled it off! 
An even greater challenge proved to be me compiling this post on the tour! Yeah, I am no travel blogger but I persevered to put together this post and by the end of it, I was honestly in awe of the travel bloggers I know, who do these mind-blowing posts of all their exciting and exotic travels on a regular basis! Sometimes it is best to leave certain things to the experts!
Anyway, the deed is done and I have managed to do this travelogue which will hopefully be of use to someone. I had this back in time feeling of doing the mandated, "My Summer Vacation" essay while doing this post, but hey, why not!

Srilankan Wonders here we come...


The most irksome part of this trip was thankfully, right at the beginning - The flight from Mumbai to Colombo.
Despite my repeated requests for a change in itinerary, the online 'travel experts' booked me on a really uncomfortable 8.5 hrs night-long journey from 12.00 a.m - 8.30 a.m that included a 4.5 hr layover at Chennai. 
A sleepless night followed by a hectic day long sight-seeing tour planned for after we landed at Colombo. 
So our sleep-deprived family of four landed at Colombo airport on time, to be greeted by an executive from the Thomas Cook travel partner, Luxe Asia and promptly taken to our waiting vehicle with driver-cum-tour-guide-cum-travel-redeemer!

A short halt at a Bed-Breakfast place just off Colombo for a shower and breakfast and we were ready to make our way to a busy day ahead.
First on the itinerary was, The Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawala. Enroute we stopped for a touristy elephant ride (priced at Rs 2500/elephant ride for 10 mins).

The elephant enclosure is quite interesting. We got to see the baby elephants being washed and fed. The Srilankan elephants are Asian elephants of the sub-species Elephas maximus maximus. The Srilankan elephants are smaller than the Indian elephant - Elephas maximus indicus while the Indian elephants have a more rotund form.

This was followed by lunch at restaurant Elephant Park one of the many restaurants along the banks which offer a glorious view of elephants frolicking in the Maha Oya, stream - though it looked mighty enough to be a river!

We made our way next to the city of Kandy. By now, the effects of a sleepless night and excitement was taking a toll on us. And that is when we made our way to Prasanna Gems-store
Did you know that you should never shop for food when you are hungry? 
Well, likewise never enter a gem or jewelry store when you are sleep-deprived, especially if you are a lady! The eyes simply glaze over anything sparkly. 😜
Needless to say, I spent a fortune on stuff worth less than quarter their value at this place.

It was now time to head to watch a Traditional Kandyan Dance
The Kandyan dance, music and costumes are quite unique and a must-watch experience.

Finally Day 1 came to an end as we eventually reached at our difficult-to-find hotel.
Hotel Yo is quaint, small and has the feel of a home-stay. But...I seriously do wonder, how did they come up with the name for the hotel?!😜


We started the day on a spiritual note with a visit to the Buddhist Sacred Tooth Relic temple - the Dalada Maligawa. The temple is perennially crowded with locals (dressed in pristine whites) as well as tourists and Buddhists from the world over. I was enthralled by the amazing history and architecture of this temple.

The Royal Botanical gardens, Peradeniya
This is a must visit place in Kandy. The entrance fee is at Rs 750 INR/person. 

Sprawling at 147 acres and well-maintained, ideally this garden needs at least half a day to do it justice. It has a beautiful Orchid garden, different kinds of palms, bamboos, pine, grasses, herb collections besides several species of plants. The mighty Mahavali river flows by this park. We took a large golf cart (Rs 1000 INR) to save on time but it would have been better to meander on foot and enjoy this treasure-house of beautiful flora. 

We moved towards our next destination which was the famous hill-station Nuwara Eliya. On the way there is the picturesquely located  Chinmaya Mission's  Hanuman temple that has a nice restaurant, Annapoorna.
We also stopped at Damro Tea estates for some tea-tasting and shots of the misty tea gardens.

Ramboda Falls
The Ramboda falls at 358 ft is a pretty impressive stop-worthy location enroute to Nuwara Eliya.

Nuwara Eliya
We drove through a rain-drenched, chilly Nuwara Eliya (1868m altitude) with a rich colonial history. The Gregory lake, the racecourse, the colonial architecture, terrace farming are some sights we saw. 
We were keen to visit the Seeta Amman Kovil at Seeta Eliya and it was truly worth visiting. Later our guide suggested we enjoy what Nuwara Eliya was famous for - its cool climate by taking a long walk through the lovely Victoria gardens.

For some strange reason our itinerary constituted a 2N stay at Kandy and so we made it all the way back to Kandy and Hotel Yo instead of staying at Nuwara Eliya.


We started the day with a bird's eye-view of Kandy city.

This was followed by some retail therapy at Lanka Silks (Branded garments that may/may not be original, at really good rates).
Oakray Woodcarving that has some beautiful wooden artifacts and furniture but I found them very expensive.

Next we headed to the Sushantha spice garden to be fleeced...err..I mean to be taken on a medicinal-botanical tour that ended with a not so surprising display cum sale of "genuine Ayurvedic products"- costing a bomb!
Lunch was at The Grand Ralidya.

And finally by 4 p.m we reached Club Waskaduwa Beach Resort and Spa, about 25 kms from Bentota

The resort rooms are great and the property excellent. Indian vegetarian food sadly seemed a little...sad! 


The day started with this magnificient Peraliya Buddha statue, a tsunami memorial at Hikkaduwa.

We visited one of the numerous (and if I might add, shabby) Turtle Conservation projects.

It was time next for a boat cruise on the Madu river.
Sri Lanka has a great number of rivers, many of them really massive and when I asked our guide if they were always full, the guide was bewildered. "Of course they are full all through the year", he replied. You see Sri Lanka is blessed with dual monsoons from the N.E and S.W monsoon clouds and hence the perennial rivers.

The cruise was a lovely 45 min ride through the mangroves with a halt at a tiny piece of land very royally named "Cinnamon island". A man there disinterestedly shows you how they harvest cinnamon barks and of course sells you all things cinnamon and soon after we were on our way back. We spotted an iguana in the mangroves but the boat had sailed by the time we whipped out the cameras.

We reached Galle city at lunch time and feasted at the Hotel Rampart, Galle

Galle, a UNESCO site is a beautiful place straight out of a history book! I fell in love with the beautiful Portuguese, Dutch and British influenced architecture. 

The walk through Alfred Street will make you honestly wonder if you aren't really in yesteryear Europe.

We had a lovely time walking along the fort's grassy ramparts, visiting the Clock tower, light house, Old Dutch Hospital, the Cricket stadium, and the All Saints Church.
I had to be literally be dragged away from this lovely city. We had more to do for the day!

My kids, the kids-no-longer, wanted something more adventurous besides staring down the cobbled alleys and gazing over quaint boutiques and art galleries of Galle!
So we headed for some Water Sport action at Divakawa Water Sports centre for some adrenaline spike!
Back by late evening to Club Waskaduwa for R&R.

Colombo City
We had a leisurely start to Colombo from Bentota and we were there in 1.5 hrs.
We drove through the city with detailed commentary from our guide. 

Some of the places we saw were, the Marine drive, Galle face, Bere lake, old parliament, the 350 m to be inaugurated Lotus towerTown hall municipal corporationLotus hall, Independence square, the Mental hospital and International conference hall. We actually didn't get out of the car anywhere except for a stroll at Galle face.
Lunch was at an authentic Indian restaurant, Sri Vihar, great food, reasonably priced. 
Well, we did have loads of free time but our tour itinerary didn't offer anything more and with the weather playing truant we finally ended up relaxing at the hotel, Hotel Sapphire


We had a 12.00 noon flight from Colombo airport to Bengaluru and then onwards to Mumbai with a 2 hr layover. 

And thus we come to the end of the Srilankan Wonders trip.


For folks considering booking their trip through the Online Thomas Cook portal, let me hasten to warn you that, do this only if you are comfortable with vague instructions and minimal communication which is what you will get once payment for the entire travel is done. You only have a toll-free number to contact them and every time you call, you speak to a different person.
Email communication is no great shakes either. Most mails you send bounce back though the executives said they do receive them. 
I asked to be booked for a group tour since we had tried it before and really enjoyed interacting with other families. After repeated enquiries, I was informed that the group tour hadn't materialized and that it would be just our family. ("Oh no! Not just you guys again!" cried my outraged offsprings.)
The strange thing is, when I got tired of following up these supposed 'travel experts' over multiple phone calls, I decided to pay a visit to the local Thomas Cook branch. The folks there declared that they had nothing to do with bookings done online!!

Well, after all this initial drama, I had absolutely no expectations from my trip. 
A trip that I had written off as a disaster due to the poor communication with online executives, turned out to be one hell of a pleasant surprise. 
The good hotels we stayed at, point to point travel arrangements and the sheer convenience of a good travel guide cum chauffeur at your call sure make up for all other discrepancies!
All is well that ends well, indeed!!
After I returned from my trip, I immediately emailed Thomas Cook expressing my thankfulness for the unexpectedly good trip. 
But of course, no one acknowledged or replied to that!

Srilankan Wonders entire package including economy airfare, guide/driver, hotel bookings (breakfast & dinner included) local sightseeing and travel: Rs 45,617 INR/person. 
Lunch: Extra
Visa on arrival: Rs 1750/person 
Shopping expenses extra
Entry fees to parks, rides etc. extra
Tips to guide extra

Souvenirs, magnets, handicrafts, wooden artifacts, gem stones, wooden demon masks, cheap knock-offs and seconds of branded clothing, batik fabric and of course tea!

Sri Lanka is very similar to India yet very different. It kind of reminds you of Kerala but trust me it is a lot different. Just within an hour's travel in this country, you can experience different geography and climate. Beautiful beaches, cool hill-stations, lush greenery, amazing culture abound this place. June isn't too crowded a time to visit Sri Lanka as the rains are just about starting here. 
Culturally rich, with a vast and interesting history. You can make your way through with English and many locals can speak Tamil too. Locals are polite and helpful. The currency conversion factor ( 1 INR = 2.32 SLR), helps! Still, I felt most of the stuff there was more expensive than in India.

Good tour guide cum driver - A boon for any tour especially in a new place.
Online travel bookings - Not for me.
The detours, add-ons on the tour - One needs to be wary as they are big pocket drainers.
Research prior to travel - Must do.
Expectations from the holiday - Expect least and you'll be pleasantly surprised with whatever comes your way!

Note: This tour was made at my own expense. All the opinions expressed are honest and truthful and not meant to promote or be derogatory to any enterprise.

­­Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI