A perfect Valentine’s Day recipe

Yes, a little late but the day of love shouldn’t be restricted to one day. Isn’t it?

I do not like to go out and celebrate. I love relaxing house parties over going to restaurants with loud music and an exorbitant bill any day. And my Valentine’s Day recipe echoes the same thought!

I always feel unless you are celebrating your special days out of station vacationing, it’s always a good idea to celebrate at home calling your loved ones for a nice get-together. Going out partying not only gets heavy on your pocket, the traffic will frustrate you and you won’t be able to spend a quiet nice time with your group in the midst of loud music and waiters waiting for you to finish and get up.

Hence, here is my perfect recipe for celebrating your days of love. This is not strictly for Valentine’s Day and can be replicated at any occasion. 😀

This recipe works all the time. It’s

V – Valuable
A – All time favorite
L – Lovable
E – Entertaining
N – No expenses
T – Tranquil
I – Intimate
N – Nice
E – Engaging
S – Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (yes that’s a word! 😛 )

Valentine's Day

How did you celebrate your Valentine’s Day? Do share in the comments below! 🙂

 

How to plan a 2 day trip to Jaipur

Before I tell you how to cover Jaipur within 2 days without getting too tired, you should know that:

  • You shouldn’t travel to Jaipur during Jaipur Literature Festival if the only agenda you have is to explore the city.
  • You should avoid travelling to Jaipur on a lonnngggg weekend because that’s when the entire Delhi flocks the city.

My visit happened to be when both of the conditions were true. It was not only tough to find budget hotels, you will also be welcomed by huge traffic, noise and pollution. Jaipur had beaten Delhi hands down in terms of traffic and pollution.

Having said that, the city has its own old world charm and a visit is worth your money. My visit was planned from 23rd Jan-26th Jan and based on my experiences, here is a cheat sheet of how one should go ahead with a 2 day trip to Jaipur:

  • The major highlight of the city is its 3 forts, Nahargarh, Jaigarh and Amer. I would recommend you to keep an entire day for all the 3 forts if you want to really admire their beauty and get some good shots. The cabs organize 1-day city tours but that are worst. Even if you plan to do that, always go for forts first as rest are the city destinations and can be covered the same day or the second day.

While Nahargarh fort gives you a majestic view of the entire city, Jaigarh fort is the abode of biggest wheeled cannon ‘Jaivana’.  Amer being the most beautiful of all three should be given the maximum time. One should keep at least 2-2.5 hours for the fort. I always prefer a guided tour while visiting such historic places. One should not miss out on the significance and minor details of the historic structures which only a guide can tell.

We visited this fort at night (fort remains open till 10 pm) and the beauty of the fort is inexplicable. We must have missed a lot to see but witnessing Amer fort in full moon glory and beautiful lighting was a treat in itself.

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Sheesh Mahal at Amer Fort, Jaipur
  • Keep the 2nd day for Albert Hall Museum, if you are keen in understanding the culture and history of Rajasthan. It is so huge that you can spend half of your day just reading and exploring. Reach by 9:30 am and try to wrap up within 2-2.5 hrs. It is a must visit place. Next comes City Palace and Jantar Mantar which are situated opposite to each other. These places should not take more than 2-2.5 hours of your time.

Keep the rest of your day to visit the local market and you can also see Hawa Mahal on your way at Badi Choupad. We shopped at Bapu Bazar and realized that there is a good scope for bargaining. Try searching for better and cheap places to shop as Bapu Bazar is one of the most frequented markets and the rates are ridiculously high.

I have kept the itinerary pretty simple as to make sure one covers the key places and also gets a breather. There are reasons for the same as well:

  • When we travelled the city, we tried to cover everything in a day. Took the 1-day tour which showed us the city first and then the forts which was why we reached Amer at night and had just half an hour to explore the palace.
  • We didn’t get time to choose our place of lunch and wherever the cab driver stopped, we took a quick bite. And dear, that was the worst ever place where we could have eaten. I would advise you to research about the restaurants before-hand and make your driver informed well before where you would like to eat.
  • The hectic travel and the food took its toll and the next day, I fell sick with fever and cold.
  • Search for reasonable places to shop or be a bargain master.
  • Take the help of guides at places of historical significance. Clicking pictures should not be the only agenda. You should know the history of the structure as well and believe me, there are so many hidden gems which get uncovered when there is a storyteller along with you.
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Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur

Yeah, hence my advice to all of you will be not to exhaust yourself and plan your travel well. Check the distances, mode of travel, places to eat, opening and closing timings of monuments before-hand to avoid any hassles. The key for a time bound travel is to be well informed.

House Husband – Why we dread this concept?

© Thinkstock Photos/Getty Images
© Thinkstock Photos/Getty Images

I cook the meals, clean the house, look after the kids, tend the yard. Because my husband wife has a job.

Yes, House Husband (opposite of housewife, a rare breed and a term which if gets associated with a guy becomes a stigma for him in the Indian society). The other day, I and my husband were discussing wives having the option to leave their jobs whenever they want, but same is not the case with the husbands.

The first question which is asked from a guy before marriage is about his job and salary to ascertain his money churning capacity. Why? Why is it the responsibility of man to be the bread earner. Why it’s only the woman who has the option to leave her job after marriage? The same question should be asked from the girl as well. She should also be able to contribute towards family’s earnings and if she earns well enough, a man should also not hesitate to ask, “If, after marriage, I would want to take a break and be a house husband, will that be ok?”

Today when we talk about equal rights and an equal voice for both the genders, then we should be equally open about this concept as well. The society should not look down on a man taking care of household stuff and wife bringing in income.

Right from childhood, a girl should be raised to become a self-dependent woman rather than society and her parents fuelling her mind with things like, “Graduation khatam hote hi teri shadi kar denge acchha ladka dekh ke” (Will start looking for a suitable boy for you as soon as you finish graduation) or “naukri kya karna, shadi ho jae pehle, fir jo karna hai karte rehna” (What’s so big deal about doing a job, get married first and then do whatever you wish to)

The upbringing of girls need a radical change in our society. The parents should make sure that their girls do not think of themselves as a weaker sex. They should be able to take care of the household and contribute to the family income because may be today, your husband is earning and fulfilling all your wishes. What if, one sudden day, he is not able to and you are required to step up and take his position in the family.    

The way we accept and respect housewives in our society, house husbands should also be given equal acceptance and respect. The way a working girl might need a breather, a guy can also wish for the same.  

Why Collaborative Goal Process is always a better bet!

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Source: Niswey

I recently had the good fortune of attending a goal setting session at one of my friend’s company. Why it was unique? Because I had never given any thought to set life goals ever in my life. I just go with the flow and take random decisions. I never gave too much thought in setting any professional goals or personal goals ever. I remember one of my interviews where when asked about where I see myself 5 years down the line, I replied saying I like to live in present and do not intend to set any 5 year goals. If I get bored doing a work, I switch. Which makes perfect sense to me now as well.

So how did this goal setting session helped me. Before I start talking about that, let me give you a background of this session. My friend who is also the founder of the company keeps a day for his colleagues to discuss their goals. These goals involve their professional as well as personal goals along with the timelines. It’s a team discussion wherein everyone discusses their previous year’s goals and accomplishments and later on list out their current year’s plans. For example, Professional goal – I will get 5 sponsorships for the upcoming Digital Marketing event happening in Feb while Personal goal can be ‘I will read 23 books this year’.

What are the key positives that come out from such a session?

  1. Public Sharing: The goal sheet is publicly shared among the colleagues of the organization which gives them the added motivation to adhere to their goals and do their bit to accomplish them as stated. Two forces can work here. While self-motivation and will power is enough for some, competing spirit can drive others. Whatever be the reason, eventually it helps an individual to be a better professional and improve their personal life as well.
  2. Self-Awareness: Goal setting process is common in every organization but it is only restricted to your professional goals and I am not sure how much of us take it seriously. Such a system pushes us to think beyond our professional goals and decide on our personal goals as well. We get so occupied with our office-home routine that we tend to overlook our hobbies and interests. This is a great way to think about ourselves and revive our passions once again.
  3. Collective Growth: When everyone in the organization knows each other’s goals, it becomes easier to enable each other in accomplishing them as well. People can motivate and enable each other in achieving their goals. For example, if someone has listed learning a professional skill as his goal, his senior can facilitate his learning process.
  4. Defined Timelines and Regular Follow-Ups: Unlike setting goals for the year, everyone sets their goals for 3/6/12 months. This seemed a good practice as it sets short-term timelines and easy to follow. Also, my friend’s company tends to do follow-ups every 2-3 months to see where everyone is standing in their goal achieving process.
  5. Scope of refinement of goals: Goals are not treated as ‘Lakshman Rekha’. They can be re-looked at and changed in case people do not feel too strongly about them and want to refine them a bit. It is a very important aspect as whenever we are trying to attain a new skill, we may or may not like whatever we have started and like to change and explore something else. One should not keep dragging themselves into something which they do not enjoy.

The goal setting process which has become a dead process in the organizations wherein people just do it for the sake of it, can become more meaningful in such an exercise. People will give their goals a serious thought and strongly believe in them. You may never know the team you are struggling with currently can give you amazing performance once you implement such goal setting sessions.

My friend runs a start-up and it’s a team of 10-12 young enthusiastic professionals and running such an exercise is pretty doable but how can we replicate this in bigger organizations? That’s something which I leave for HR managers and Team leads to ponder on.

I again thank Team Niswey for inviting me for their goal setting session which was truly insightful and exciting as well.

What does your wallet say about you?

I lost my wallet recently in a train journey and bought another 3 days back from amazon. Today, I received the delivery and gosh…am I not pleased with my new Lino Perros wallet. 🙂

It is everything I wanted from my wallet. Classy, smart, stylish, inexpensive, easy to carry in a pocket and royal blue (yes, I have a weakness for blue 🙂 ). When I was excitingly flipping through my new wallet, a thought crossed my mind. How one’s wallet defines a person?

One can peek through a person’s personality through his wallet. Some keep their mother’s/spouse’s/kid’s/lover’s picture in their wallet. Those are emotional old-school kinds who keep their loved ones with them as their strength and their wallet gives them the power to have a glimpse of them whenever they want.

The people in whose wallet you see every currency arranged in descending order with coins separately parked and cards neatly decked up in compartments with no clutter at all are the ones who live their life in an orderly fashion. They are the organized kinds who always keep their desk neat and clean, their work folders organized, well headed and sorted in nature.

Some people’s wallet are pretty messy. You can find a two-week old bus ticket lying in the middle of disorganized notes with cards falling here and there as soon as you open it. This species is a little laid back and carefree. Such kinds are those who do not believe in the concept of cleanliness. They are free spirited and explorers.

Some people love to carry the minimum amount of money which can survive them a day’s travel. You open their wallet anytime and you will find not more than Rs.100. Their wallet sees a 500 rupee note as we see ‘Eid ka chaand’. People like these love to live on the edge. They are not long term planners and believe in ‘Now or Never’. Living on credit can also be one of their traits. 😉

There can be many more types. Like the people who keep superheroes printed wallet love that superhero and are creative, imaginative kinds. Or people who keep a worn out wallet are the ones who like to keep things as-is and find it difficult to detach. They are peace loving, no conflict guys who love their old stuff.

Update: I just found out from one of my friends that there is a section of people who do not carry a wallet. What about those? Now, those are the kinds who do not follow a norm. They want to create a distinct identity and do not follow the crowd and believe in creating a league of their own. 

So what does your wallet say about you? Let me know too! 🙂

 

The curious case of Sec 377, Homosexuality and the Indian law

“When people’s love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change.” – David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

lovers

Something which our fickle minded politicians may never understand who turned down the Bill on decriminalizing homosexuality in India by a disappointing margin of 71-24. These are our elected parliamentarians who feel so ashamed to talk about the topic that they rejected the Bill in its 1st reading itself without pushing it for further discussion.

For those who don’t have a background, it was formed under Sec. 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes sexual activities “against the order of nature“, arguably including homosexual acts, dating back to 1860 by British. (Mind you, I quoted their country’s current PM in the beginning and the country itself decriminalized homosexuality between 1967 and 1982. What an irony?). And we are still living in pre-independence era.

Now, who are we to define what is against the order of nature? If a person is born homosexual, how he/she could be un-natural. How anyone can govern anyone’s sexual orientation. Yeah, if you are trying to orchestrate and project yours or your son’s/daughter’s homosexuality as a straight individual, I would call that as UN-NATURAL because then you are not accepting the way you or your child is naturally born.

A study says “Homosexuality is found in more than 1500 species of animals”, then how can it be un-natural. Even our Hindu scriptures which we religiously follow have portrayed homosexuality as completely natural and joyful (as quoted in Wikipedia). Most of us have not read the scriptures, but have visited temples of Khajuraho and Konark which are visual references of the same. And those who attribute diseases like HIV/AIDS with homosexuality should be told that it’s not your identity but your behavior leads to such diseases. So, kindly do not give stupid and baseless logics of decriminalizing of homosexuality will increase the incidences of such diseases in the society.

One can understand the absurdity of this law from the below statement itself,

“The ambit of Section 377, extends to any sexual union involving penile insertion. Thus, even consensual heterosexual acts such as fellatio and anal penetration may be punishable under this law.” – Wikipedia

(I guess this makes most of us criminals already 😉 ). You can read many more funny aspects of this law here.

I believe the only thing which holds back our politicians and society is their fear of becoming naked. Currently, either the children are hiding their sexuality from their parents or the parents are in disapproval and want to hide it from the society. But once the Section 377 is declared unconstitutional, the community will be out in the open. What will happen to those parents who had made umpteen efforts to hide it and mentally tortured their children?

Let me give you a piece of my mind. Once the baby is out of the mother’s womb, you give him a free world to live in. He is entitled to his basic rights to breathe, to eat, to learn, to decide and to make love. We as a society are no one to control one’s feelings and dictate anyone’s love life.

Though I have very less hopes from the elected MPs, who are major RSS followers to pass the Bill but a widespread LGBT movement with press/media support across India might just be an eye-opener for them. The lawmakers should understand the fact that homosexuality does persist and not legalizing it is only making the things worse. Not only such individuals go through mental torture but are being discarded from the society. Also, in the course of contracting any life threatening disease, they would hesitate to come out in the public and may be deprived of right medication and attention needed. If there is any humanity left in the heart of lawmakers, then let these souls give their rightful position in the society with no discrimination, whatsoever.

My 1st Marriage Anniversary and why it is so special :D

Today is my first marriage anniversary and yes that surely calls for a sweet romantic post.

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The day is special not only because we got married on this day but it is a celebration of our victory over inter-caste taboo, dowry and the tensions we both have gone through in our courtship period to give our relationship a socially accepted status.

I am a Baniya from U.P. while my husband is a Brahmin from Bihar. We both knew each other since 2010 but our relationship from friends to soulmates grew from 2012 onwards. We both knew that it would be an uphill task to get our parents agree to this relationship, especially from his side. Any marriage without dowry and that too an inter-caste wedding are seen as against the social order and are totally unacceptable. My path to convince my parents was still a lot easier than his.

And I love and respect my husband for his continuous persistence in convincing his parents, striking a balance among both parties (my parents and his), tolerating my impatience at times and leaving no stone unturned so that we could finally celebrate this day. I must tell you its no lesser than climbing an Everest to accomplish an inter-caste nuptial without dowry in Bihar or for that matter anywhere in India.

I dedicate this post to my most loving husband , Dhiraj for making sure that we remain together till death do us apart. I thank my destiny that I met such a nice soul with whom I can spend my whole life and create innumerable memories. 

Thank you my love for each and every moment. It has been a wonderful year with you and here is to many more beautiful years of togetherness.

Cheers! 

Review of OLX Aadhe tere aadhe mere ad

I have been a great fan of OLX ads. The ‘womaniya’ ad, the Kapil Sharma series and the ad where an old couple sells the old items to sponsor their daughter’s honeymoon were ‘spot on’ in selling the concept of the portal.

But their recent ‘Aadhe tere – Aadhe mere’ ad capturing the story of Nitin and Neetu, a working couple doesn’t make sense to me.

The story of the ad goes like this:

Neetu and Nitin are a working couple. Nitin takes few extra minutes to get ready while Neetu waits near the car. Nitin finally drops Neetu at her office telling her that he will pick her up at 6:30 pm. Later that day, he texts her that he will be an hour late and later cancels the plan and asks her to take a taxi to home.

Neetu shares with him that she used to be MORE INDEPENDENT before marriage. That triggers Nitin to sell their car on OLX and buy 2 new cars. One for himself and one for his wife.

Here is the video version:

Okay. Now, I have few questions from the ad maker.

  1. Since when a car is symbolic of independence? A lot of women travel in public transport are still very much INDEPENDENT. Relation of owning a car and being independent was inexplicable to me.
  2. Now, Neetu being portrayed as a woman of today is believed to take her own decisions rather than feeling helpless. She can buy a car if she thinks she wants one.
  3. How Neetu used to travel before marriage? Assuming, she used to own a car/used to drive her parent’s car, then it must be very clear to her that she can’t live without it and should have arranged for it without cribbing about it after marriage.
  4. Didn’t understand the logic of selling the car here and buying 2 cars. The car wasn’t giving any trouble nor was Nitin seen as a guy keen to sell his car. The ad showed no reason to sell the car and buying 2 instead. He could have easily bought one more for his wife. 😛
  5. And when everyone is talking about carpooling, here is the OLX ad promoting ‘A car to each one’. Hmm!

What I had loved in previous OLX ads:

  • Communicated the platform effectively: The #BechDe tagline was prominent enough and the communication was depicted very strongly via creative.
  • Correct Brand Placement: The story was weaved around the service and not otherwise.
  • Creating a need: The ads which I talked about at the start of my post were focused at creating a need within Indian people to sell off their old stuff. People just dump their old items in a store and never look at it. OLX ads were focused on telling the Indian society how their junk can be a treasure trove for them and could help others as well.

I found all of this missing in their recent ad.

OLX had tried to touch an emotional chord but has failed. I don’t know why brands and companies unnecessarily take the emotional route when it’s not needed. The ad makers create an emotional story and weave the product/service somewhere in between without giving a thought whether the concept makes sense for the brand.

 

 

 

Special Train Coaches for families with children below 3 years

Note: The below post may offend some children lovers (which even  I am) and should be read in an objective sense with no strings attached. 

During my recent train journey from Delhi to Bihar and back, I had briefly mentioned about children maniac on board in my last blog. Not that I am children intolerant but at times, when there are too many kids and too much crying happening, it does take a toll on you. And God forbid, if that journey happens to be for longer hours. I am sure all of us go through that irritated feeling every time a child keeps on crying or keeps running and bugging the fellow passengers in the whole compartment. The entire journey gets screwed. Can’t railways do something about making our journey comfortable? Maybe, they can!

I pondered over it and thought of “Special Train Coaches for families with children below 3 years.” As the name suggests, this facility will ensure if you are traveling with kid/kids aged 3 years or below, you should automatically be given seats in that special coaches in the train. No extra charge but yes, special coaches for families with children below 3 years. This facility can be initiated with Chair Car (CC) Trains as a start, if not all.

Do let me know about your thoughts on the above solution and any other if you may have.

Till then, keep yourself plugged in and listen to music in loud volume to avoid listening to the melody of crying children. Wish you a Happy Journey.

 

P.S: Again, it is very important to mention that I do not hate children, it’s just to avoid discomfort and make everyone’s journey comfortable and peaceful.

A train journey to remember

My in-laws are from Bihar and today I am travelling to the place to stay with them for a week. However, how much excited I am to meet them all after 5 months, I always dread the 17-hour long journey via train.

The bad washrooms, the seat adjustments, fight for getting space not only for yourself but your luggage as well and all hell breaks loose if you have kids in your compartment who always are in constant need to grab your attention or have “crying” as their favourite timepass. Sometimes, even your co-passengers are so over-friendly that the next thing they might expect to invite them to your house over a cup of tea. Travelling alone can be fun like this but when one is travelling with huge luggage, one needs some peace of mind.

Though, however, evil I may sound in the above narrative but all of us somewhere feel that travel should be hassle free and peaceful. So, as I mentioned above, I and my husband are travelling to Bihar today. It is always tough to get train tickets to Bihar due to huge rush on that route. Hence, we had booked these tickets in August itself for a November journey. I always travel in 3AC and even we tried such an early booking, we couldn’t manage a 3AC ticket and had to book 1AC tickets which costed us Rs.3000 per person. Now, that was a bomb figure but we had to travel on these dates to attend a marriage in the family. 

I forgot about the entire money outflow for a train journey after 2-3 days. But when today, we boarded the train, I was happily surprised to learn that it was a coupe which we have got for both of us. Suddenly, all those dreaded images of a train journey were making their way out of my head. The coupe was like a mini bedroom well equipped with reading lights, mirror, fan, night light, dustbin and a cupboard as well. The beds were wide enough to adjust two (if you know what I mean 😉 ) and if this is not enough there is a bell to call the attendant to cater to your needs. There is an indicator installed to let you know if the washrooms in your compartment are busy or occupied at the moment (quite high-tech I must say for Indian Railways). The washrooms were clean equipped with hand-shower for bathing purpose as well (though I don’t think anyone will use that).  

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The amount of Rs.6000 (train tickets for two for a one-way train journey to Bihar) which was looking so heavy on pocket initially, now feels completely worth every penny. It just feels like sitting at home and our bedroom is being transported from one place to another. 

I had never thought that a train journey can be so pleasurable. Booking in such coupes is highly recommended for couples and people having kids and are carrying huge luggage. It has its added costs but at the end of this super comfortable journey you will not regret spending those extra bucks.  

Thank you Indian Railways. It is indeed a HAPPY JOURNEY. And I will make sure that we book 1 AC in the trains which have coupes whenever we are travelling long distances. 

P.S.: The food was good too. We ordered veg cutlet and omelette bread in snacks and a veg thali and egg biryani in dinner which were a great improvement from what I have had before in my train journeys.