OXYGEN

A visit to Mystery Cave at the Forestville State Park in Minnesota, US, was filled with OXYGEN and adventure. There was not a soul in sight and coupled with zero traffic, this trip turned out amazing. And the onset of autumn looked terrific! It was a nice getaway into nature and beauty. Check out the pictures.

About the Mystery Cave, Preston, MN – “Discovered in 1937, Mystery Cave is the longest cave in Minnesota – spanning over 13 miles underground. It is a network of passages that was dissolved by moving water.

On the tours, you will travel the subterranean paths this water has taken, seeing many of the features that make up Mystery Cave including stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, fossils, and beautiful underground pools. Parks naturalists lead your tour through various portions of the cave and explain its history, its features, and how it was formed,” according to the website.

If you are ever in the area and you have kids above 8, do not miss this one! Wishing an Oxygen filled week to you too!

INDIA

While the scorching, mischievous sun and dusty, hot winds try to take off your coat of worldliness, blaring horns and sounds announce that it never really matters where you go, you are made of India. Your support system reconnects and stands up for you like a pillar, and with a heavy heart, you bow and acknowledge that you have missed all that strength, love and care. It feels so good to return to your motherland.

You realize, India feels so real with its sounds, vibrations and panorama of life. You feel those years away from here has been a dream, this is reality. You just pick up from where you left, sandwiched in long gapless queues, moving along within a disorderly crowd and haggling for auto-rickshaw fare. Staff, watchman, shopkeepers, acquaintances share slices of their lives, joys and woes with you, as if you have always been there. Family and friends leave aside mighty inconveniences of commuting and toss aside their busy schedules to just be with you for a warm hug and even for tiniest of chats. They make India so special. They make India so lively. They make India, home!

Family makes you reconnect with your childhood, friends rekindle the feeling of wondrousness, and they together make a cosy cushion for you to lean on. After all these years, you seem to have forgotten about the comforts of leaning. You have been upright and always standing, facing things on your own… and it feels weird to lean on. And you do it awkwardly in the comfortable space created for you….for a limited time.

Also random act of kindness from unknown people leave you touched and emotional. Sometimes they make your mission of finding your destination, their job. And intuitively understands and relate to your needs. So there might be a person in the metro, who would offer his seat, and a lady who would lead you to the shop you have been looking for, a shopkeeper might ask you to sit in his shop to catch your breath or an ola cab driver, would share rare political insight.

Your kid might wonder- Have you known the person you were talking to mumma? You would reply – You don’t need to know a person to talk to here. Conversation doesn’t start or end here, it just flows!

Your kid, who has heard nothing but polite conversations, might even ask you – Why is he yelling mumma? And you would say – He is talking, not yelling. That is how it is!

You feel, India has not changed much. The Josh seems to be high as ever. The infrastructure is the same, except for technology that is making lives easier. You had expected a dramatic change but outwardly little seems to have changed.

As you pause for a moment in the midst of a road divider, and cars pass by you on both sides, making it very risky for you, you get the realization that India has never been about aesthetic beauty, enchanting landscapes, orderliness and structured existence. It is free, chaotic, jolting, nerve wrecking, and completely unpredictable. No plan works here, ever. India has its own plan to get your job done. This is how the country was, and still is. What is amazing about being here is experiencing palpable, throbbing life and humanity in its entirety.

When you return from India, you feel the world has gone still. No sounds, no conversations, no conflicts! There is a strange heaviness that doesn’t go away despite your structured, smooth existence in the new land. You go about doing your job, once again mulling over your decisions, divided and torn. You fold away clothes, do laundry, cook, all the time, ignoring the heaviness. Life is predictable and comfortable.

And then, you find an old Hindi newspaper on one side of your half open suitcase. It had wrapped something of importance, perhaps a few bangles. But it is useless now. You need to throw it. It is trash. But you can’t. You touch it lovingly, fold it gently and keep it under the mattress. You can’t let go of that… even the tiniest bit of India.

(Image via Google)

Shashibala, The Brave Servant Girl!

I felt as if I had walked along that bridge, a long time ago, in a different age. Strange! That was my first visit to the historic Fort in a small town called Monger.

The guide went on and on describing every little detail about the kings and queens. But I was not listening! The lake was holding me in a trance.

I was seeing a pitiable face down in the lake, crying out to me, asking me to rescue her. 

Instinctively, I screamed, “Hang on girl, I will help!”. 

“Who needs help? Are you okay?,” the guide asked me. I nodded with some embarrasment.

Later in the tour, the guide showed us the portrait of a brave servant girl who had drowned in the lake while saving a princess from drowning. 

It all came back to me. I looked closer and whispered – Shashibala!!!

(This post is dedicated to the maid, who saved my grandmother from drowning. When my grandmother was a little girl, she used to swim using an inverted earthen pot (matki), which slipped out of her hand on that fateful day. The brave girl died saving her.)

This is my entry to the flash fiction challenge, Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers hosted by the lovely Priceless Joy. We are given a photo prompt and approximately 75-175 words with which to create our stories. This challenge is open to all who would like to participate. Please CLICK HERE for more. Thank you Joy Pixley for the image!

Reliving History by Lake Superior!

No wonder the French named it Lake Superior! It took me two days to know the reason. When I first observed the Lake from the historic Glensheen Mansion this Fall, it looked serene, innocent and breathtakingly beautiful…as docile as an angel!


There was no trace of secrecy, aggression or passion, which it has been accused of for centuries.

However the following day, the Lake revealed it’s wild, stormy side… threatening us with its power and supremacy like a treacherous woman. The Lake certainly displays a superiority complex, hence the name!


Nevertheless, the charm of this largest lake in the world, which holds incredible history, mysteries and stories within and around its shores, is infinite. I am sure it exerts certain power on onlookers…I found it hard to look away from its bewitching presence!


Not far from its majestic shores stands the historic and hospitable Glensheen Mansion! It is filled with stories and anecdotes of the illustrious Congdon family of Minnesota, that once lived here.


The house museum presents the lifestyle of the rich and famous in early 20th century, America. Its antiques and artifacts are admirably preserved. (Portraits – Chester and Clara Congdon, the owners of the mansion).


Even the rugs, clothings, towels and tid bits have been taken care of. Ah, how great it would be to live in a mansion like this one with 39 splendidly decorated rooms, artistic gardens, boats and carriages…and a view to die for!


The present decor of Glensheen is almost identical to what it originally had been. We were first escorted by our lively guide to tour the Congdon boys’ rooms on the third floor and then we moved on to explore the girls’ chambers on second floor. The ground floor was the most magnificent, furnished with exquisite valuables everywhere. The sunlit Lake peeped at us through most of the rooms.


Every nook and corner of this mansion is worth a deep study!


The luxurious bathrooms were attached to most of the rooms and had stylish fittings.


We also met Evelyn, the almost 100 year old doll (with goat’s hair), belonging to one of the girls in the family.

The servants had their own rooms and dining space. The formal dining space was gorgeous and so was the breakfast room. I even pictured myself as one of the ladies of the mansion, wearing an embroidered gown, sipping tea from a carved silver cup in the breakfast room!

We went up to the attic with the guide and learnt more about Chester and Clara Congdon’s rare arts and book collection.

It is important to mention that an unfortunate incident happened here in June 1977. It involved the murders of Elisabeth Congdon, the youngest daughter of Clara and Chester Congdon, and her nurse Velma Pietila. The tragedy is not discussed during the tours in honour of the Congdon family legacy. However, several books have been written on the suspenseful murders.


As we strolled outdoor along the trails, landscaped gardens and water bodies surrounding the mansion, the morning air filled us with delight. My kids loved exploring the ‘castle’ while dear husband took some gorgeous pictures.

 When it was time to bid goodbye to the lovely mansion…nostalgia for the bygone era filled me. I felt hard to tear myself away from romance and history and come back to present. I felt as if we had become a part of the history!

We moved on to view other jewels in and around Duluth along the shores of Lake Superior – The Split Rock Lighthouse, Gooseberry Falls, Aerial Lift Bridge, Maritime Visitor Centre.



On our way back home to Minneapolis from this memorable trip, the unpredictable Lake Superior took on the role of a gracious hostess, meandering with us for a while to keep us company…before disappearing out of sight…!

Everyday Sights of India!

Dear Confidant,

Hope you’ve been well and healthy. My recent visit to home country India was  memorable one. The familiar sights, sounds and feel of my motherland was warm and welcoming.

I miss the beloved land now that I am away from it.

I have captured a few of the everyday moments for you to get a feel of my country. I also wish that these pictures enable me to feel connected to my country whenever I am homesick. I mostly stayed in North India and here are some of my clicks.


A little garland seller at a traffic signal in Delhi.


Sight of historical monument in the midst of the bustling capital city.

The yellow green autorickshaw – most convenient mode of public transport across urban places in India.


A fruit seller and a prospective buyer.


A flower seller waiting for customers in Delhi.


Double rainbow in Ranchi. The capital of Jharkhand has lovely climate.


A picturesque hill in Ranchi. 


Famous temple of God Hanuman in Patna filled with devotees.


Common people on their way to work.

Freshly plucked mangoes of our home! Since, it is the season of mangoes, our innumerable variety of mango trees are laden with mouth watering mangoes.


Saw an elephant in Patna. It is the holy month of Saawan and Lord Shiva would be worshipped the entire month. Ascetics roam about on Elephants asking for offerings.


Goddess Kali at a famous temple in Patna.

Hope you liked the pictures!
This visit to my country had been fruitful one as I managed to meet most of my relatives and friends. It was so heart warming to see them all.

As I unpack my boxes, I am already hoping that our next visit happens sometime soon.

Do let me know what do you think of Everyday Sights of India! Take care!

Namaste Hollywood!

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When we boarded the flight from Minnesota to Los Angeles, I was as excited as my four year old. I smiled ear to ear whenever I looked at my husband, who was taking us on this dream holiday trip. I am a huge film buff but my romance with movies started very late in life. It was when I started working as an online journalist, my beat being entertainment and books, that I started studying films. The colourful silver screen captivated me. I met and interviewed various personalities from the Indian film industry including Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin Shah as well as prominent writers like the late Khushwant Singh, Amitav Ghosh, Chetan Bhagat to name just a few. It was an amazing and fulfilling job but I quit to take up a blessed and greater responsibility – motherhood.

When we moved to the US, Hollywood films on Netflix bowled me over.  I had access to one of the best English films ever made. I noticed that these films were very real, well-made and technically sound.

Almost every evening, I watched great stories unfold in front of me  – The Sixth Sense, Forrest Gump, Silence of the Lambs, Hachiko, Mission Impossible, Top Gun, Ghost, Hercules, Elizabeth and a thousand more…

And then this amazing trip to Hollywood was planned! How could I not be on the top of the world! This was my chance to dive right into the world of films.

It was a warm mid summer night when we reached LA. My dream of visiting Hollywood land was going to be fulfilled. I have noticed that every state in the US has a unique, dominant personality. LA seemed aggressive as compared to the laid back Minnesota. We stayed at the welcoming house of our family friends – a great couple with two very sweet kids. They had planned our schedule to perfection. We were to go to one of the Pacific beaches on the first day, the enchanting Disneyland on the second day, and Universal Studios on the third day. The fourth day was dedicated to the Walk of Fame.

On the first day, I sighted the Pacific while our car meandered through the hills. The mighty ocean appeared out of nowhere between the hills like a brimming sea of mercury. It was vast, intimidating, dazzling, bewitching and oh so beautiful! Blue oceans and mountains always remind me of Krishna. I looked up and could not help whispering – “How great thou art?”.

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On the second day, we visited the fascinating Disneyland. We took the little train to Mickey’s House and my older one met one of his favourite characters- the ever smiling beloved mouse. I hugged Mr Mickey too, he was my childhood sweetheart. He had a fine little house. We met several other characters, took roller coaster rides, boarded the Mark Twain, watched the grand parade and came back with cute memories.

I was waiting for the third and fourth day. But my baby woke up tired and cranky due to exertion, and I kept my fingers crossed. LA was quite warm and reminded me of the Delhi heat. Fortunately, after his morning feed, my baby behaved alright and we went ahead as planned. The Universal Studios was a fun place to be. We boarded the train that took on a short tour of the studios, where some of the greatest films of all times have been shot (Psycho, A Beautiful Mind, Bruce Almighty, Home Alone etc). We were informed about all the techniques of filmmaking. We watched as the sweaty summer day turned into a monsoon delight – lightning struck, it rained and floods came. Anything was possible there!

The 4-D show of dinosaur and King Kong was incredible. It made me jump from my seat several times. We watched another live show that talked about the special effects involved in filmmaking. My son was scared to see the hand of a lady being chopped off and then sewn back. I told him this was the magic of films, the unreal is made so very real!

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The Minions, Shrek, Scooby Doo, Donkey and Spongebob attracted my four year old. He was all wide eyed and excited when he posed for pictures with the talking Mr Donkey and Spongebob.

On the fourth day, my heart sang as we prepared to visit the coveted Hollywood sign nestled on the Mt Lee. Our friends managed to take us quite near to the sign for a well angled shot. It was illegal to go any closer to the restricted area. What a wonderful sight it was. The letters ‘Hollywood’ glowed with the spirit of the film industry. We posed for photos and I remembered those days when cropped pictures of the Hollywood sign to use in the stories from Hollywood on our news website. I joined my hands and whispered ‘Namaste Hollywood’! This was the storyland of our world.

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Later in the evening, it was time to visit the famed Kodak (Dolby) Studio, the star studded Hollywood Walk of Fame and the mesmerising Madame Tussaud’s. The Dolby studio is famous for grandest red carpet events including the Oscars. I couldn’t help envisioning myself walking the red carpet and receiving an Oscar. Haha…perhaps, someday! What was wrong in dreaming even if it was too far fetched.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises of more than 2500 brass stars (bearing names of famous Hollywood personalities) embedded in the side walks of the most happening street in the world. It looked similar to the streets of Las Vegas at night. There was music, street dancing, street performers, characters as well as grand shopping and dining facilities. My son was confused to see two Spidermen, he thought only one existed in the world! The street throbbed with life. It was fun!

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The kids were getting uncomfortable and tired. So, we planned a ladies only visit to the wax museum – Madame Tussaud’s. Our husbands stayed outside with the kids. We entered the dimly lighted building where life size statues of great Hollywood stars awaited us. I was enthralled to look at them up and close.

Rihanna, Beyonce and Robert Pattinson welcomed us. We tried to steal a chocolate from Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) and studied the briefcase of Pierce Brosnan. Brangelina stood grinning at us and we grinned back. Clark Gable took my heart away with his piercing gaze and then there was Tom Cruise and his boyish smile. The stunning Julia Roberts pulled a chair for us and we posed with Salma Hayek. Uma Thurman was not very friendly and threatened us with a sword. We fled to make a phone call, and fortunately, we found President Obama at his desk and used his phone. It seemed as if our college days were back again. I laughed heartily and had the time of my life!

The dream trip came to an end. We took leave from our gracious friends. The following morning, we boarded a flight to Dallas to celebrate our son’s birthday at his aunt and uncle’s place, where his cousins were planning a big surprise.

As we flew, my purse seemed heavier than usual. I understood. It was overloaded with some of the most unforgettable and beautiful memories of my life – straight from Hollywood. I looked down to watch the breathtaking Pacific in all it’s glory until it disappeared from sight.