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#100HappyDays. Again.

I tried really hard to not blog about the worldwide pandemic that has or will slowly affect all of us – the Covid-19 strain of the coronavirus. There was too much about it doing the rounds already – from fake news, conspiracy theories, home remedies, death statistics, lack of ventilators to even anti-bacterial medicine suggestions! Some even went to the extent of informing me that the sonic vibrations of the applause rendered in favour of the first line of responders were caught by NASA satellites and the strain of the virus is effectively being weakened. To all those who might have trouble comprehending, the previous sentence IS NOT TRUE. Applause doesn’t kill strains of virus. However, as I was saying, I’d decided not to blog about until this morning.

After 10 straight days of lockdown, when I stepped out today, I found a lot of others standing at the grocery store, not just physically social distancing themselves but also socially. At least, twenty people and not one person with a smile on their face. Sombre masked faces, averted gazes and the stress of the insecurity of freedom and potential scarcity bogging their shoulders down. In these trying times, we as a people need to not only sustain ourselves nutritionally but also emotionally and psychologically. Yes, social media does help but are we still sharing our inner-most fears, looking for the tiny moments of happiness, uplifting ourselves through a time that we may have never imagined seeing in our lifetime? But this too shall pass.

However, until it doesn’t, I am rolling out a #100HappyDays Challenge (idea courtesy –http://100happydays.com/). I’ve done this challenge before and it helped me then, so why not now?

Rules:

  1. Actively look for something through the day that made you smile – your mother’s video call, your dog’s puppy eyes, a new recipe that you mastered, the pigeon by your ledge, a long pending finished work project, Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle or Jennifer Lawrence’s rise from the Oscars’ staircase or even that you took a bath after 3 days! It could be anything – but it has to be about you.
  2. Write a blog, post a comment on my #100HappyDays series, post a video, a picture – anything you want – but spread the happiness around.
  3. In these bleak times, more than ever, people want to know about the person you are and what made you happy – maybe it’ll make them happy too! After all, you’re not alone in this fight. We’re all in this together.

Graciously Yours!

P.S. Drop a note if you’re interested! I promise I will try to keep in touch with you throughout. Spread word! Stay safe ❤

#1/100

What is this about?
Day 1 of the #100HappyDays initiative started amidst the uncertainty that life, public and private, faces during the pandemic of the strain of coronovirus, Covid-19.

Where is this happening?
Few people from different parts of my life (a blogger, a sister, school friends, a Twitterati, work colleagues spread all across from Canada, USA to Kargil) have gotten together on Whatsapp to share our happy thoughts from the day, agreeing to trudge along and make life easier for ourselves and others, in the smallest ways possible. Take care of yourselves not just nutritionally but also emotionally and psychologically.

How can you be a part of it?
Leave a message below and I will get back to you at the soonest! ❤

#1/100

This picture was clicked after I spent an hour washing the bathroom from the walls, basin, toilet to even the mirror.

Adulting in style! Like most Indian households, I had a domestic help to take care of the cleaning, cooking, dusting around the house. With everyone in India under lockdown, I finally get to get off my arse and take care of myself in all ways possible. Now, I am ready to say – I have enough survival skills.

Without naming names, the others in the group smiled at something they cooked, or a skill they taught their parents or just happy at the TV programmes being telecast, ushering in a wave of nostalgia.

Stay healthy, stay safe! ❤

Graciously Yours!

Under The Crescent Moon – Debut Fiction by Aditi Chandak — just spoken thoughts

Shout out to one of my favourite persons around! ❤ Thank you for loving my book! Hop over to his site when you can.

Dear All, When I got first introduced to Aditi through this wonderful platform of WordPress Blog community, she was a schoolgirl balancing her academic compulsions and literary ambitions. It takes perseverance, focus and a lot of support to nurture both. This day, when her debut fiction “Under The Crescent Moon” has hit the stands (and […]

Under The Crescent Moon – Debut Fiction by Aditi Chandak — just spoken thoughts

Grab Your Copy!

Peeps! My debut novel ‘Under The Crescent Moon’ is available for grabs on Amazon India – Paperback and Kindle version. We’re arranging for international distribution soon and I’ll update interested readers soon!

Available for purchase here.

Welcoming my fellow bloggers to share the blogpost on their blogs. Book reviews are welcome!

Graciously Yours!

Published! Finally.

Published! It has taken almost four years, give or take (mostly, give) a few months to get to an ISBN number being issued for my debut novel!

A lot of you bloggers have read me over the years and you definitely deserve insights into the book (currently in print and awaiting listing on e-commerce platforms).

Maera and Vikrant are close – really close – and everyone thinks it will only be a matter of time before they become ‘a couple’. But Vikrant has a past which haunts him and he won’t let go. He makes a decision which changes everything but the what-ifs still remain. They say the past is history but what if they’re repeating it? ‘Under the Crescent Moon’ is a tale of love, loss and finding life. Fast paced, set in today’s times, it brings together the everyday stumbles of relationships – heartbreaks, lost friendships, strained filial bonds and death.

Blurb for Under The Crescent Moon

The book isn’t a drama, thriller or a boy meets girl story. The characters live through everyday struggles, make mistakes, irrational decisions, fail to communicate, fear their dreams, live through insecurities but at the end of the day, they try and make each other better. They’re not perfect, they’re not meant to be, they’re not trying to be. They’re just trying to live through life like most of us. For many, the book might come across as simplistic, or dare I say, idealistic but that’s because I didn’t want to take away from the core of the story. Yes, in the real world there’d be caste issues, religion troubles, gender disparity but they aren’t the essence of this story. It calls for simpler times and complex emotions. And here is where you’d hopefully find one of my best works – raw emotions, inked.

Stay tuned for more updates! Can’t wait to get the book out to all of you. 💜

Graciously Yours!

Turkey! (8)

Day 8:

“I have 60 camels. You have two very beautiful daughters. Would you like to exchange?” asked a man addressing my father. While my sister wanted to use the choicest of words for this Turk we came across at 8 am in Sultanahmet, I couldn’t take my eyes off his ear, which seemed surgically restored with grafted skin. One of his camels must have bitten it off!

It was our last day in Turkey and we’d planned to run through as much of Istanbul as we could – eight hours before we had to rush to the airport to fly out to India. Hopping over from Sultanahmet, our first stop was across to the European side, the wooden Galatta Kalesi, which offers a 360 degree view of the city. But more than that the walk up the stairs to the tower is so pretty, sprinkled with painted walls, cafes, memoir shops, and paintings of city scenes being sold by the road. I’d planned to walk down from the Tower to Taksim Square, via Cukur Cuma Cadesi, the street famed for selling antiques but the roads of Istanbul did it for me. I’d not taken into account the inclines of the streets, considering the city is built on hills. Each step required so much effort and what made it worse was the ease with which even the elderly seemed to walking down streets with an incline of more than 40 degrees! Chucking Cukur Cuma Cadesi, we got off the last stop of the metro, Taksim, took in the view of the Dolmabahce Palace from a couple of hundred metres away and started the ‘trek’ towards the Square. In the pictures below, you’ll see women’s shoes lined up on a wall – an art installation funded by Kahve Dunyasi, the CCD equivalent in Turkey, highlighting the deaths due to domestic violence.

Luckily for us, after a thirty minute walk to the Square, meeting and greeting as many people as cats, we found that Cukur Cuma street dealers had set up an exhibition at the Square! Among the trinkets, family heirlooms, old keys, musical instruments, metal statues were postcards, many of them featuring Ataturk and private messages between loved ones (some of which are in my collection now – shout out to anyone who reads French!). I snapped my DDLJ/Trafalgar Square moment among pigeons at Taksim and I couldn’t be happier chewing on simit (way too dry for my taste though) and roasted chestnuts. Another week in Istanbul wouldn’t have been enough for me, there’s so much to see in the city. But everything has to come to an end, even the best of vacations.

As the plane took off for New Delhi, I was leaving behind a piece of my heart in this beautiful country and carrying back a lot of memories, the nazar boncuk (evil eye) talisman, Turkish delights, Pamukkale cotton socks, Turkish kahve and most importantly, body pain!

Gule gule Turkey. Tesekkur Ederim!

In front of the famed Blue Mosque, two of six minarets in focus.
The view of Istanbul from the top of the Galata Tower or the Galata Kulesi. In the backdrop is the European side, the Bosphorus River and the Asian side of Istanbul.
And the last picture in our Istanbul hotel! I will never forget the Turkish Kreps their chef cooked. So yummy in the tummy!

Graciously Yours!

Turkey! (7)

Day 7 :

We’d chalked out this day for the smaller pleasures of life, for a mid-afternoon siesta, for a walk in the village. And for the royally famous, mixed origin (Roman and Turkish), communal bathing ritual of the hamam.

Waking up to the view of the Pamukkale mountain, knowing that you were in no hurry to reach somewhere but that you could walk down the broad road laid outside your hotel, chat up with a 60 year old man selling cotton bedsheets while cycling through town was peaceful in its own way. Obviously, the cyclist-seller didn’t appreciate that I wasn’t carrying Turkish Lira snuck somewhere in my night clothes!

A mother shooed us away, for we came in the view of her camera which was taking a time lapse of the hot air balloons rising through. Her four year old son giggled as we scampered away from her grimaces. While the father sauntered away into town, exploring, the mother and sister donned swimwear to get into the pool! So much for Cleopatra’s pool, where they refused to even step in! I, however, readied myself for a hamam, mentally readied myself, considering its a communal bathing ritual. I still wasn’t sure if I’d make it through without embarrassing myself but stepping into the place, I realised 11 am on a weekday in Pamukkale wasn’t exactly a communal bath time for the Turks! And am I glad for that! The experience, without getting into the specifics, was nonetheless exhilarating and nerve wrecking! I would recommend this to people but with disclaimers, of course.

Before stepping onto the flight for Istanbul, our last stop on the trip, we went pub hopping simply for the ambience and the views that they provided. We met a cafe owner who had been around for almost 40 years, and with the unnerving knack of recognising nationalities of tourists! He was a pleasant old man and probably the only one with that old world charm still going for him. One of the helpers at a cafe was a Pakistani, from Karachi and he helped me haggle with a shop owner for a dress I liked! We didn’t really succeed on the haggling but the familiarity and love that he exuded was heartening. May he get to Canada soon.

Night fell for us in Istanbul and dinner was again at Ozzie’s who welcomed us with a smile and my free Turkish tea! He even offered to take us around Istanbul to get a glimpse of the night life, but unfortunately for him, we were out of the country on the weekend and he was working the weekdays! Next time, though, next time.

Calling over my sister to our side of the road or just waving a good bye to Meghan Markle! You guess! #Megxit

Graciously Yours!

Turkey! (6)

Day 6.

We woke up to the view of the Pammukale mountain, though it’s only a 200m high cliff and the translation of Pamukkale is cotton castle. Our guide for the day, Mehmet, who was taking us on a private tour assured that we’d have long stretches to walk through so we’d better gear up! Little did he know we were going to tire him out with our questions and inability to miss any spot the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Hierapolis had to offer.

Hierapolis, it has been deduced, was similar to a medicinal and rejuvenation centre for the people of those times, replete with supposedly magical calcium carbonate water springing from the Pamukkale travertines, a theatre – the size, acoustics and beauty of which more than makes up for the steep climb to reach it –  bazaar lanes and wine crushers, gymnasiums and cemetery, bathhouses and even Cleopatra’s pool, which was undoubtedly the most popular spot during our visit, combining the myths of eternal beauty and immortality and feeding off the biggest of human weaknesses, but who am I to judge! The ruse seemed to have worked in 2 BC, so why not 2020? Having stepped into the travertines of Pamukkale, I finally relived the innumerable moments I’d scoured the internet to look at the Pamukkale mountain, forgetting the name most times. Snappity snap a few pictures and we were ready for our next stop – the city of Aphrodisias.

The name took us aback too, wondering what part of the word aphrodisiac was borrowed from the city – turns out, all of it! While Hierapolis was awash with columnades and magnificent architecture, Aphrodisias was more of the scholar’s hideout with plain architecture but statues and figurines in marble beyond amazement. And may I say, that their stadium was way more mindblowing than Hierapolis’, solely due to the unexpected vastness of it! They’ve now set up a museum which houses statues which are the best of the lot, or let’s just say the most accessible of the lot, for closer examination. Our guide seemed quite popular among the staff there or maybe it was just Turks being Turks, all friendly and polite, unlike us grumpy-faced Indians, until we see white skin, of course!

The hour-long drive back to Pamukkale was silent, to say the least, but we did manage to tell apart fig trees from pomegranate even in the setting Sun, stop roadside to taste dried figs while our guide washed down a single piece of spiced ragi chip with mint and lots of water! Oh, also. We managed to shop for some of the famed cotton, despite our feet crying out for some air and rest!

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Waking up to the Pamukkale mountain!

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The theatre at Hierapolis in the backdrop – the stage has been reconstructed but there’s another level of columnades that are waiting to be reconstructed. The stage has such good acoustics that you apparently don’t need microphones to address the entire audience.

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The bazaar’s main lane in my backdrop.

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The pools in the mountain in my backdrop.

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And that, my friends, is a coffin of a woman. Or was it a farmer? Notice the detailed carvings!

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A wall at Aphrodisias – a wall made of unfinished statue heads. Wonder what the finished heads look like? Look at the next picture.

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The statue of Goddess Aphrodisias. Found at the museum.

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Trying to get to the bottom of the stadium which could house 30,000 people, with earlier board games carved out in some of the rows!

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Our guide explaining the architecture to us.

 

Graciously Yours!

Turkey! (5)

Day 5.

The rains came and went just in time for our 6 am hot air balloon ride! And guess who were the other passengers in the basket with us? A lot of Chinese (again!) and a Turk couple from Istanbul. Barring the struggle to not photobomb anyone while they kept the shutters going at max speed with their selfie sticks, ensuring that I held my own phone with a grip strong enough to not lose it to the 800m drop below, trying not to worry about balloons crossing each other’s paths because there were over a hundred of them around and the only navigation they were capable of was up and down, I was transfixed by how mesmerizing the whole experience was. The landscape could pass off as waves painted on a canvas. All that we’d seen the previous day from a nose close distance was now laid out from the bird’s eye view. If I were a pigeon, I’d stick around too. The ride ended with a glass of champagne, running around trying to help deflate and fold the hot air balloon, a completion certificate and a picture with happy smiles!

Advantage of packing earlier than the rest of the family is that you can randomly head out towards the heights where hotels, people and even the birds thin out. And without people in sight, your resourcefulness increases but so does the peace you find in solitude;  checked off the bucket list – create a tripod out of cobblestones to click self-portraits at a random, deserted place!

We were flying out to Pamukkale and who was to know the interesting encounter I’d have on the flight! But before I get to that. Have I mentioned how pleasing to the eyes the people in Turkey were? And no, I don’t mean the shade of their skin but their features and physique – I couldn’t take my eyes off a man loading luggage on to the conveyer belt and damn, if only he’d come to India, Bollywood would have lapped him up! Maybe shoot a garish Bollywood version of the Taken series, spouting Liam Neeson’s lines. Back to interesting flight encounters. So, my fellow passenger started making conversation with me and for the first few minutes, I wondered what he could possibly be wanting from me – because India. He did have intentions alright – but this doctor at Denizli General Hospital’s emergency ward wanted me to create a short video for his fiance and invite her to India after their wedding! I ended it with a flourish thanking her in Turkish and a couple of days later, the lovely couple sent me a video thanking me for my invite! Nothing could be more welcoming to a tourist than the unbridled love and warmth that couple showered on us, even if through a couple of short videos and a 30 minute flight conversation. The doctor also warned us of the slippery slopes and was more than happy to be our emergency contact in Pamukkale, if the need arose. Say congratulations to the couple on their upcoming wedding, peeps! ❤

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Prepping to take off!

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Looking out at the 800m drop! Or randomly into the skies. You decide.

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“Ain’t that pretty?” asked the Mongols.

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And hot air balloon deflated well, in the background. Celebratory champagne, in the foreground.

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And that’s how you set a tripod! Hoping another weary trekker must have appreciated it.

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All set to travel to Pamukkale.

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The doc who loves India! A screengrab from the video I shot for his fiance. 

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The Denizli cityscape on our way to Pamukkale.

 

Graciously Yours!

Turkey! (4)

Day 4.

Did I not tell you about undulating landscapes and fairy chimneys? Add some, actually a lot of, hot air balloons in the foreground. Well, as it happens, with the craze of Instagram, travel bloggers and better-than-ever-before cameras, most hotels in Goreme set up “Instagram worthy shot spots” on their terraces with rugs, mattresses, cushions, food and billowing curtains around diwaans – so was with our hotel. What I had not anticipated was the attire of the guests at sunrise! I woke my family up at 6 AM to catch a glimpse of the hot air balloons and the Sun from the terrace – we walked in on women wearing strappy dresses, flowing gowns, tiaras and a barrage of cargo-pants-clad-photographer boyfriends clicking them. We looked at each other, in attires we’d slept in overnight, hair barely done, no trace of makeup and eyes that looked more sleepy than awake. Well done, us!

We’d signed up for a full day tour in and around Goreme but unlike Istanbul, the group here was a 20 member troop, out of which 16 were Chinese! But they don’t kid when they say that the Chinese click pictures of nearly every-damned-thing! In fact, it’s considered easy to take on Chinese tourists, among guides, because they barely listen, only click pictures. And that’s guide speak, not me speaking. We ventured to the Pigeon Valley where man-made birdhouses have been made for the pigeons – because man and our needs – pigeon droppings help fertilise the soil of the valley. We also saw the Uchisar rock formation, considered the highest in this part of the town, the Kaymakli underground city, yes, you read it right, underground city, the mind-boggling mystery that has been unearthed but not entirely understood yet. Kaymakli isn’t a city that got buried over time, but one which was chiselled under the ground, around 2500 years ago, to escape invaders, both religious and state. Replete with a church, wineries, storage spaces and cattle sheds, it is 8 floors under the ground, enough to house at least 20,000 people and cattle!

At one of the shops I came across, they were playing songs from Bollywood films and I was so surprised to find myself humming the words before I realised where I was at – and no the owner of the shop wasn’t Indian, he was a Turk. Another shop owner I’d come across ran a cafe, shop and his home (of 70 years where he’d been born and brought up) out of a fairy chimney, up the slopes. A flag hung out of the window of one of his rooms, visible from the road, probably a sign of his occupancy or just his patriotism? I didn’t ask. By the time, the end of the tour approached, my sister was undergoing a crisis, tired of looking at everything volcanic and listening to everything Chinese and our guide was undergoing his own bit of crisis, trying to grasp that I wasn’t 18 and I had actually put in an effort to learn the numbers of the Turkish language. Not many put in the effort, he said, a history teacher who’d learnt too many languages to not become a tour guide. Night came and so did a light drizzle, scaring us that the hot air balloon tour next morning might be washed out. We decided to brave the weather while we could, pulling out our hoodies and umbrellas to walk into the town, under amber street lights, on cobbled streets, the warmth of the indoors luring people off the roads and the four of us sauntering silently, letting the magic seep in. Also, we were very hungry, hence angry and irritable.

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The hammock I fell off from thirty seconds after the picture was clicked! Real hot air balloons is the backdrop.

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Mah family straight outta bed – so much for living in 2019 with Instagram. #MomentsToCherish.

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In the backdrop a tree with the Turkish evil eye beads, also called nazar boncuk, traditionally believed to ward off the evil eye.

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After my visit to the 70 year old cafe owner – up there in one of the chimneys is his house.

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Goreme, under the spell of a light shower, revealing parts of its’ magic to us…

Graciously Yours!

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