Monday, January 27, 2014

Finding Neverland

Pictures from Mont Pèlerin, Vevey and Gruyères

Is this real? - At the Mirador Kempinski, Mont Pèlerin

A view to wake up to - from Mont Pèlerin

From the Chateau de Gruyères

"Far over the misty mountains cold"

The fork in the lake!

I wish I never grow up.

Not because of I'm afraid of commitments and responsibilities, but because I never want to stop seeing things the way I have seen them as a child. Fresh and full of colour.

As I've gotten older, I have spent a sufficient amount of time fearing that the more I see the world, the less affected I am becoming by it. I feel that growing up is like alcohol. It slows down your reflexes, makes your head fuzzy and makes you numb to what's around you. As you see yet another new city, climb up a new mountain or even just walk down the same road you've walked down for the past four months, things can quickly lose their shiny newness and become same ol', same ol'.

And that sucks.

So while this post carries glimpses of the grand views I saw in Montreux, Vevey and Gruyères, it's also a gentle reminder to myself -- and to you, my dear reader -- to never stop noticing all the wonder around you and to keep interacting with the world. Sometimes, it's just about picking up a shell to take back with you from the beach, talking to someone new in your broken rendition of their language in a foreign country, or even just taking a photograph of wherever you are to remind you of the feeling of being there then. There's something very revealing to yourself about what you choose to carry forth with you. And what you choose to leave behind.

And that is part of growing up too.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pssst! The secret isn't yet out

I'm writing this on a Sunday afternoon, but by the time this is posted, my dad will safely be on a flight to Geneva, unaware that he will see my kooky face staring up at him out of a car seat at the airport when he lands.

If we can keep the surprise till then, that is. I have a feeling the echo of an airline ticket receipt might have shown up in his inbox sometime last week. Plus, we're not very good at keeping secrets in our circle of family and friends. Everyone but him is in the know, and they've all been instructed to keep it 'top secret'.

For now though, we're safe. So let's move on, shall we?

Since Friday night, I've been in Geneva. Having moved around a lot ("you're just a plant in a pot", my Russian physics teacher would remark), a struggling motif through my glowing up years has been the idea of home. For me, as for most people with my background, the idea of home is not the immutable object that comes easily to some people. Home is not where I'm from, because I've never lived there. Home is not any one of the cities I've lived in, it's all of them. In the absence of adults and household cues to provide familiarity and milestones for growing up, I feel more and more that the cities I've lived in have taken on that role. And my personal landmarks within them are like a giant circle of wise trees dangling their branches over me protectively in the middle of a forest. And among those many city-tree-circles (have I lost you yet?), the City of Calvin has mentored me at perhaps one of the most important times in my life. It's the city in which I first learnt how it feels to be in love. So every street crossing, every park, and especially every entree interdite sign has long guarded unwhispered anecdotes for me. But I don't think I realised just how much every piece of Geneva is a part of me till I came back.

Pieces of the Geneva I knew, that is. I've only had the chance to walk around for a couple hours in the city since I came, but things feel just the same, in a wholly uplifting way. When I was seventeen, the world was a lot brighter and somewhat more cheerfully vitriolic. I was braver, I think. Spunkier. I climbed over fences a whole lot. The best summers of my life were spent in Geneva, (far from all the gloom of my socially awkward yesteryears) with my two best friends, lots of sunshine, and the occasional bottle of sake. When you're that age and with the right people, the world is limitless.

So it feels very safe to be back. It's home. Things are the same always, even if they're different. And the relationship between you and your city is mutual and unconditional. You love it even with its quirks. And it loves you right back.


Anyway, enough sappy stuff. Now for what I've been up to since I got here. A little bit of context?

First and foremost, before I even got here, two families were fighting over me. "You're spending Friday night with us, half of Saturday and Sunday with them, and then Monday with us again", I was informed. "We've spoken to your mother." So that was decided, then. Thanks for asking me, folks. Of course, there's the wonderful fact that both these families have known me since I was knee-high. Lots of history, too many embarrassing stories, and the instant comfort of being around people who've probably seen you at the squishiest, most loveable you'll ever be. And then there's the fooood and the fact that I can swim everyday (at a pool that plays the best of the nineties) and get ravenous enough to demolish it all. Between all this attention, I haven't had a moment to breathe, and I love it!

So far, I've...

1) Eaten a matcha dorayaki to celebrate my love of green things AND discovered yet new streets in areas I've walked through for four years. It's a city of so many surprises.

This counts as green things, right?

I swear, I haven't seen as many tailors and laundrettes in my entire stay here as I saw on Saturday.
2) Eaten a DELICIOUS South Indian lunch with a hundred and seventeen dishes and apricot halva for dessert. I can't post pictures because of security reasons because they'll make me droool.

3) Witnessed a tooth breaking and a very happy 8.5 year old.

"The tooth-fairy is bringing me a Nintendo D5 for this!" (Very closely mentioned in the vicinity of Mummy. Mummy didn't flinch this time, good on her.)

4) Been impressed with the scope of said 8.5 year old's music taste. Everything from Pharell (Happiness) to Skrillex (Bangarang). Kids these days? Making twenty-somethings feel like teenagers all over the world.

Just gettin' my jams on.

5) Played indoor football with said 8.5 year old ("Mom says it's okay as long as we don't break the glass") AND scored roughly four times more goals. In a dress. Though to be fair, he did say he was going to take it easy on me.

6) Collapsed on the floor immediately afterwards, gazed up at the ceiling, played some video games and chatted about life, the universe and everything. Ask him the answer to that and he will now proudly inform you it's 42. (Well played, me.)

"This is such a cool game, Naniaaa. Why have you never played it?"
"Because I don't play video games"
"Then why do you have it on your phone?"
"Because I thought I might play it someday"
"Then why don't you play it?"
"I don't play video games"
"Then why do you have it on your phone?"
"Because...oh, I dunno, my eight-year-old friends borrow my phone sometimes and they like to play with it."

From this angle, the world is a happy place.

7) Went to dinner with one of my favourite almost-aunts, and the only person I thought I wouldn't be able to meet on this trip.

8) Ate the best homefood possible that night and missed my mother to bits. 

Gaajar matar, aloo gobhi, rajma, coconut fish curry, and the most tender, flavourful tandoori chicken I've had in a while. This is food cooked with love.

9) Put my buddy to bed, something I haven't done in four years and woke up to find him nestled in the nook of my arm, just as he used to four years ago.


 10) Went the usual amount of mad, got to know these a little better, and therefore (obviously) regained my clarity of vision.

11) Watched popcorn pop in a test tube. For those of you who've never done this with a young'un, you have no idea what you're missing. Instant babysitter, given that you're all right with them handling matches, hot test tubes and knives, as is evident.

...and a little adult supervision, of course.

12) Concocted my very own salad with the loveliest of Aunty A's organic pickings. Just LOOK at it.

13) Felt utterly and completely at home.

Now, just for dad to turn up so I can see the look on his face.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Happy new year, everyone!

I hope that wherever you are and whatever you do, you have had some time to relax over the past few weeks and build your strength up to conquer whatever you have to in the coming year. I wish you all the usual, lots of good friends and family to have adventures with, lots of personal growth, and all the love and good food in the world to keep you happy.

Today, I have only for you a few of my favourite pictures from Budapest, and a link to the album where you can see a few more of them. These are by no means the best ones, but they are special to me.

I didn't see much of Eastern Europe when I lived on this continent last, so it warmed my heart to visit Budapest, among other places. It's a small city, but it felt homely somehow. Like anyone would indeed call you in for a cup of tea and a meal if you just struck up a conversation with them in the street.

And then there was the patisserie and mulled wine and all that goulash. Oof, so much goodness. Two days were just enough to bring the good kind of tingling back in my toes.

Anyway, here's a link to the albums if you want to see some more!

Part 1, Budapest
Part 2, Vienna
Part 3, Prague and Bratislava