David & I have been going out to Park Hill in Croydon for our “one a day” walks. It’s a nice little green space to take our mind off the uncertain future post-Covid 19. It’s nowhere as big as Regents Park or David’s beloved Hampstead Heath park, but we’re very grateful for the respite it offers us.
Cherry blossoms or as they’re known in Japan, Sakura.
Hydrangea, native to Asia and the Americas.
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia who was known for his beauty.
Deodar Ceder pine tree...
Forsythia, named after William Forsyth.
Viola and Bluebells…
Azaleas are flowering shrubs in the genus Rhododendron, particularly the former sections Tsutsuji and Pentanthera. Azaleas bloom in the spring, their flowers often lasting several weeks.
Tulipa humilis is a species of flowering plant in the lily family, found in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Iran, and the North Caucasus region of Russia. The flowers are pink with yellow centers. Its preferred habitat is rocky mountain slopes.
Watching the sunset before we make our way back to house arrest.
This is my first trip of the year. It’s my first trip to Sweden and it’s also the first time I get to visit my boyfriend David in a city called Västerås where he worked for over six months. I took a week off work, so we could also plan a little trip to Stockholm for a few days.
Looking down on Västerås from my flight as we were preparing to land, I could see snow-covered roads, the huge Lake Mälaren, and dark green pine trees. The day I landed in Västerås was a perfect day with clear skies and clean crisp winter air. This was a welcome break from the windy & gloomy London weather!
Västerås is a lovely little industrial city with beautiful country landscapes. It attracts a lot of workers from around the world, thanks to big
The houses/cottages are a distinct bright red. Most people speak English. It’s pretty quiet and laid back. When you’re from loud and overcrowded cities like London, cities like Västerås are a dream holiday!
I spent my time in Västerås walking and cycling around the city with David while shopping in their local grocery shops like ICA, Coop & Hemköp.
The train ride from Västerås to Stockholm takes about 50 mins. It’s a double-decker train with plenty of room. Stockholm is yet another beautiful city. We booked a sweet little Air BnB right next to a park in a very convenient location, both being close to the central station and Gamla Stan, the city’s old town.
We spent our time in Stockholm walking around Gamla Stan, visiting the National Museum to admire the Swedish design history, checking out Fotografiska, a gallery for contemporary photography, taking Fika breaks, i.e, eating Semla and drinking coffee in quaint little Swedish cafes like Fabrique with an occasional glass of wine while waiting for the rain to clear up, walking down narrow graffiti alleys and watching the guards practice outside the Royal Palace.
My visit to Sweden has left me wondering why I’m stuck living my life in chaotic London when there are so many other quiet and beautiful places in the world that I could live in!
You live your life aimlessly hoping, that one day you’ll belong
To a world, to someone, somewhere, at some point in time
And from that moment on, you’ll have a place to call home
Where you can come back, to feel safe, loved, wanted and needed
You dance to the tunes of the world, so you can rest your weary feet
When you throw yourself into the open arms of solitude and silence
Only to be disturbed by the pretentious sounds of self-pity and self-doubt
That ask, why would anyone love you when you have no love to give away?
To be so consumed by your own insanity, the need for everything to make sense
You plan, you design, you build and you destroy the only thing that does make sense
And you wait for the dust to settle before you lie and tell yourself you’re ok
To pick up the pieces and recalibrate your cold dead soul to start all over again
I wish I had the courage to be vulnerable and fragile around you
I wish the world around us stood still long enough for nothing else to matter
So I could make you see my self-preservation has everything to do with my illness
And nothing to do with your big beautiful heart or your incredible canvas of kindness
I wish I could hold your hand and place it on my cold shriveled heart
So you could feel what I can feel – the shame, disgust, and humiliation
Of not being able to accept the promise of love and kindness, when it’s laid bare
Has no pretenses or lies, no intent to own or condone, only to nurture and protect
I do not want my darkness to engulf your effervescent and illuminating light
I cannot promise a different reflection in the mirror while I fight my shadows
But I wish you could see your reflection in my empty, hollow and tired eyes
You’ll find a dream there, of a home, happiness, and peace that is both yours and mine.
My first trip to Italy was the perfect little low budget getaway I was looking for. I’ve seen other people’s pictures from their Italian holidays and it all looked so romantic and glamorous. I had to do my research and plan my itinerary in advance since I’m neither glamorous nor consciously coupled with anyone.
I decided to stay in Naples and do day trips to Pompeii, Amalfi, Sorrento, and Positano. I flew into Naples from London Gatwick at 7 in the morning. My lack of local linguistic skills was ruthlessly exploited by a taxi driver who charged me twice as much for a ride to the B&B. The lady at the reception very diligently gave me a map and showed me how I could get around Naples on foot and by train. I was also warned not to keep any valuables on me while I was out and to stay away from narrow alleys after dark. That gave me a bit of a scare, so I left my passport and cards back in my room and set out with my backpack and camera to explore Naples on foot.
Naples reminds me so much of this little town in Western India I grew up in. The old buildings with satellite dishes and clothes hanging in balconies. Little shops that sell everyday supplies. Fish and meat markets. Fruit and vegetable vendors. Lots and lots of pizzerias. And piazzas full of people milling about, puffing on cigarettes and sipping on wine. Old cars honking away and scooters snaking in and out of narrow lanes.
Ruins of Pompeii
The next morning I had a hearty breakfast at the B&B and took the Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii. When I got off at Pompeii station, I went to the tourist information center to pick up a map for walking directions to the excavations and a bus ticket to Mount Vesuvius.
You would usually have to buy a ticket to see the excavation site but because this was off-season, I got to enter for free. It can take about 2 to 3 hours to explore the ruins.
Walking through the ghostly ruins of an ancient Roman colony destroyed by fire and earth spewn out of the mighty Mt Vesuvius in the background is quite a cathartic experience.
Among the ruins are old houses, temples, shops, cafes, amphitheaters and a brothel.
The bus from Pompeii to Mt Vesuvius takes about an hour on a long winding road.
The dirt trail from the parking lot to the crater is relatively easy to climb and took me about 40 mins.
The impressive crater.
There’s a tiny shack at the top that sells coffee, wine and Italian pastries. I had myself a nice little cup of hot coffee and enjoyed the spectacular views of the Bay of Naples.
I waited at the parking lot for about 30 mins along with the others before realizing the bus we booked had probably already left without us or wasn’t going to arrive. Thankfully, there was another public bus with a few empty seats which we were happy to take for a few extra euros.
Sorrento and Positano
To get to the picture perfect cliffside village of Positano, I took the train from Naples to Sorrento where I wandered around a bit and then took the SITA bus to Positano.
The streets in Sorrento are lined with orange trees, fancy shops and street vendors selling lemon-flavored candies.
The bus ride from Sorrento to Positano takes about an hour. When I finally got off the bus, I was blown away by this view!
Positano is a bright and colourful little coastal village on the slopes of a seaside cliff. It has a pebbled beach and its steep, narrow streets are lined with beautiful boutiques and cafes.
The waters are a pristine blue that almost blend into the perfectly clear sky!
My 40-minute nap on that pebbled beachfront was the perfect women’s day gift to myself. I had gelato at one of the restaurants on the beach and started heading back to the bus stop at around 6 pm. Got lost, ended up on another side of the beach before finally making it to the bus stop just in time for the 7pm bus to Sorrento and then the Circumvesuviana train back to Naples.
The next morning, I took the train from Naples to Salerno and a bus from Salerno to Amalfi. Amalfi is a beautiful little coastal town much like Positano. It is also included in the UNESCO world heritage sites.
At the heart of Amalfi is the Saint Andrew’s Cathedral (Duomo) overlooking the Piazza Duomo. The cathedral dates back to the 11th century.
You have to buy an entry ticket to be able to see St Andrew’s shrine and the well-preserved paintings on the wall along with other sculptures and relics.
I had an early dinner at one of the cafes in Piazza Duomo before taking the 6pm bus back to Salerno and then the train back to Naples.
On my last evening in Naples, I walked around the streets one last time, had a glass of wine at the Piazza Garibaldi and had an early night. The next morning, it was time for me to head back from my brief but very rewarding Italian holiday. Ciao!
I miss you. It’s been a while since we last spoke but I want you to know that you are always on my mind.
I know you’re hurting. You feel defeated and let down. But I want you to hang in there. I do not know if things will change or promise you that you’ll never feel this way again. But you’re not alone in all of this. I feel your pain. I feel your humiliation. I feel your shame. I hear you cry. I see your hopelessness. And I’m still here. I’ll always be here.
I don’t know the cure for your dilemma. But you must not question your abilities. Never. You can think Kiki. You can speak. You can listen. You can write. You can smile. You can buy your own food and pay your own rent. Most importantly, you can empower others to do the same.
Why can’t everyone see what I see? Surely, you and I both cannot be wrong? I know you’re smart and intelligent and hard-working. I know you’ll never take advantage of someone to get what you want. I know you’re compassionate enough to care when things don’t feel right. But we both know none of that matters. In the end, people see what they want to see. They will hear what they want to hear. Because they made up their mind about you a long time ago. When they saw that you were different from them. The wrong skin colour. The wrong gender. The wrong nationality. The wrong religion. The wrong attitude. The wrong life. They’re scared of you Kiki because they don’t get you. They feel threatened by you because you march to the beat of your own heartbeat.
I know you’ve always struggled to find the right balance between human relationships and listening to your heart. Most people lean towards one or the other. And so they end up either being very successful but lonely or surrounded by people but feeling insignificant. In trying to find the right balance, you feel so far away from both don’t you? If you had to make a choice Kiki, what would you choose? Do you know? Do you want to know?
I read somewhere that the cause for all unhappiness is the longing desire to have more. Think about it Kiki. You’ve come so far. Yes, you’re tired and exhausted from the journey. But it could’ve been worse. What if you failed at everything you ever tried to do? What if every time you failed, you went back to ground zero and had to start all over again? But that’s not true Kiki. You succeed at five attempts and fail at two, so you’re still three up from when you started.
I know what you’re going to say. Sometimes you fail because you make mistakes which you will learn from. But what if you fail because even though you did everything right, someone set you up to fail because you were “different” or because they didn’t like you? What do you learn from that?
Someone told me recently that you cannot worry about the things you cannot control. So what will you do Kiki? Will you just accept your fate that you cannot control certain things and must hence be ok with the outcome? Will you avenge this injustice and punish the people responsible and hope that you come out of it vindicated and unscathed? Or will you make another attempt and hope for a different outcome because no one will care that you’re “different’? Notice that in both scenarios, you cannot control the outcome Kiki. You can do either of those things hoping for the outcome you wish with no guarantees.
I’m not trying to say your pain isn’t justified Kiki. Or that you don’t deserve to be sad and unhappy. You are entitled to those feelings and a lot more. Just because your life is so much better than millions of others, doesn’t mean you should be ok and content with the bias and injustice you go through. But we try so hard to please the people who don’t like us, we forget there are others who might embrace us. Why do you want to work for people who will never accept or celebrate your abilities? Why do you run away from relationships with people that get difficult because they’re different from you? You do get to a point where you have to ask yourself if the struggle is worth it. If the job you’re fighting for is worth it. If the people you’re fighting for are worth it. If the cause you’re fighting for is worth it.
I’ll never stop rooting for you Kiki. You know I always root for the underdog. And you’re my favourite underdog. I don’t want you to dwell on all the things that went wrong in your life. Yes, you’ve been a victim. On many occasions. But you cannot let that define you or break you. You will get through this. Just like every other time. And you will come out wiser and stronger and more at peace with yourself. Keep looking over the horizon, towards the brightness, and you will find your own footprints ahead of you. Because you’ve been here before. You didn’t stop. You didn’t turn around. You kept going.
No matter what you decide to do, I will support you and understand your reasons. And I promise I will never abandon you again. You will hear from me again. Soon.
With loads of love,
When i started looking for holiday options for the Easter weekend, I was hoping to book a relaxing, lazy getaway to a beach or a lake or a mountain. Nothing to disturb me while i wake up late. Being able to eat and drink when and where i want to. Not having to worry about being late for something.
What i booked instead was a trip to Morocco. And because i’ve never travelled to Africa before, i chose to do it with a group of strangers and a local tour guide. The tour started with us arriving at Marrakech from London on the evening of 28th March. Driving from Marrakech to Dades gorge the next day. Driving to Todgha gorge the next morning, and arriving at Merzouga, camping in the Sahara desert. Driving from Merzouga to Ouarzazate the next day. Finally, driving from Ouarzazate to Marrakech where we spent two nights.
Because we stayed at each place only for a night, each morning involved waking up, having breakfast, showering, changing and packing. Way too much work for a lazy holiday!
The hurried mornings and constant driving especially through winding roads made me a bit weary. But despite all that, I quite enjoyed my African adventure. Morocco is a beautiful and culturally rich country that is very proud of its heritage.
Our flight from Gatwick, London to Marrakech took about 4 hours.
This is us outside the Marrakech airport just before boarding our ride to the hotel.
Dinner that night was at a nice rooftop place where i had my first taste of the famous Moroccan tagine. I ordered lamb tagine that night and we all realised for the very first time that there wasn’t going to be any alcohol served with any of our dinners in Morocco. Although its quite warm and sunny in the mornings (around 24 degrees), it does get a little nippy at night this time of the year.
Our drive the next morning started from Marrakech towards the Dades gorge. Along the way, we stopped at cafes and various picturesque places to admire the beautiful landscapes.
This is my first glimpse of a small Berber village. Berbers are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa. The first thing you notice about Moroccan buildings is the red clay.
Along the drive, you can also see the majestic Atlas mountains in the background.
We drove through the never ending Tizi n’ Tichka pass before stopping for lunch.
After lunch, we walked to the UNESCO world heritage site of Ait Benhaddou, which is a fortified village along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech.
Within the Kasbah (fort), you’ll find lots of merchants selling their goods.
The view from the top of the Kasbah is pretty awe inspiring! It looks like a sand castle!
A picture of us at the top of the Kasbah.
We then drove through the incredible Dandes gorge. I kept my eyes shut through most of the winding roads but every time i opened my eyes, I saw some unbelievable landscaping.
We stayed the night at a rustic hotel called La Gazelle du Dades right next to a gurgling stream. We were entertained during dinner by some Moroccan drumming, which to my dissatisfaction went on till 1am.
The next morning, we started our drive towards Merzouga. On the way, we stopped to take pictures of the slithering Tizi n’ Tichka pass.
We stopped a couple of times to take pictures of interesting rock formations.
Spotted another Berber village along the way to Todgha gorge.
We finally arrive at the Todgha gorge around lunch time. Its as beautiful as they said it would be.
Being a popular tourist site, you’ll also find many merchants selling their merchandise alongside the gorge.
We stop for lunch at a close-by restaurant and finally drive towards the Sahara sand dunes.
When we arrive at Merzouga, we take a detour and drive off the main road towards the sand dunes where the camels await us. I’m sure its not something they look forward to at all.
This is the spectacular Sahara desert.
And these are our unwilling camel rides.
Getting on the camel is a bit tricky. You can sense they don’t want you sitting on them. Surprise! You have to hold onto dear life once they are up on their fours. I managed to take a few pictures with one hand though.
The desert is incredibly dry but also very calm and serene. It stretches for miles and miles and you can imagine how someone could get lost here. There were no words needed to be said. Its one of those experiences where you just want to be quiet so you can fill your senses with everything that surrounds you. The shadows cast by the camels. The sand drifting under the camel’s hooves. The waves in the sand. The sun setting behind the dunes. The moon rising above the desert sky. The rhythmic movement of the camels. It was all so therapeutic and hauntingly beautiful.
We stopped in between for the camels to rest and for us to take pictures.
After an hour on the camel, we could finally see a few campsites from a distance.
We stayed the night in a very pretty decent tent with a proper toilet and beds with duvets. And for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, we were able order a bottle of red wine to be shared among 8 people! After dinner, we sat under the stars listening to traditional Berber drumming and dancing.
The next morning, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise around quarter to 7.
We finished our breakfast and headed back to Merzouaga for our quad bike rides in the desert.
I’ve never ridden a quad bike before. So i was a bit wary, especially with a pillion rider. But once i got used to the steering, I felt like batman in his bat mobile.
After an hour on the quad bikes, we started our journey towards Ouarzazate. On the way, we stopped for a few pictures of streams and lava hills.
We stayed in an old but functional hotel in Ouarzazate where we were once again entertained by traditional musicians who sang and danced passionately with all the guests.
The next morning, we were taken to Taourirt Kasbah.
Within the kasbah were uniquely shaped and sized rooms with interesting stairwells, doors and windows decorated with plaster work, paintings and mosaics.
We then started our drive towards Marrakech. We reached our hotel just in time for dinner. We went to a rooftop place called Zwin Zwin cafe. By now our guide had learned that half of us were alcoholics, so he only took us to restaurants that served alcohol. It was only after our first bottle of wine that we realised we were missing a person. Our guide eventually found him and we all went back to our hotel after downing four bottles of wine.
The next morning was slightly overcast. We were given a tour of a couple of famous mosques in Marrakech.
The Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech.
After the mosques, we were taken to the beautiful Bahia palace.
Inside the entrance are a set of beautiful gardens with rooms opening onto lovely courtyards.
The architecture is a combination of intricate wooden carving, colourful mosaic tiling and ornate decorated ceilings.
After spending a significant amount of time in awe of the lovely Bahia palace, we headed towards the world renowned UNESCO world heritage site of Jemaa el Fna Square. Its a large public square where you’ll find small merchants, hawkers, entertainers, snake charmers, chained monkeys, horse carriages, donkey carts among other things.
Through the square, we made our way to the world famous souks of Marrakech. You must keep aside some significant amount of time if you’d like to see it all. As a tourist, I always try and buy a few local artefacts to help the local economy.
Spices and oils.
Spices and dried fruits.
I also spotted quite a few stray cats in Marrakech. This one was probably bargaining for a cup of milk in exchange for a fur ball?
We were done with all the shopping by 6pm and headed back to the hotel to shower and change for our last dinner in Marrakech.
Our last meal in Marrakech was at a very traditional Moroccan restaurant where i had my favourite lamb tagine again. We were entertained by traditional musicians, singing and dancing. Also thrown in were a a couple of belly dancers!
The next morning, we checked out, left our luggage with the reception and headed out to find Majorelle garden. The queue to get into the gardens can be pretty long. It took us an hour to get in. Its advised to start early in the day when they open to avoid long queues.
My roommate and I bought the tickets to the garden and the Berber museum together. It only cost us 100 dirhams. We’re not allowed to take pictures inside the museum but it was quite an exquisite display of Berber garments, jewellery, carpentry, weapons, tools and utensils.
The garden was a splendid display of cacti, bamboo, coconut palms and bougainvilleas among other plants.
The property has a villa which was the residence of the French artist Jacques Majorelle. It was later bought and restored by the famous fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent. The special shade of bold cobalt blue is named after him, Majorelle Blue.
The garden also has interesting fish ponds and lotus ponds.
Found a few baby turtles learning how to swim.
We walked back to the hotel after a brief lunch stop of grilled meat. Lounged on the sun beds on the hotel terrace for about 30 mins before we head back to the murky skies of London. I’m definitely coming back for more Africa!
More pics on flickr. Flickr album
One last picture before we all return to our mundane routines back in the UK.
Take off your headphones. Shut down your laptop.
Put your phone on silent. Turn off the lights.
Rest your head on the pillow. Close your eyes.
Drift into the darkness that calls out to you.
Don’t let the masked monster wake you up.
The blood you see isn’t yours.
The pain you feel isn’t real.
Your racing heart will learn to comply.
Look instead at the floating stars.
See how they dance for you.
Feel their warmth on your skin.
Let their light wash off the stain.
Go drink from that dwindling cup of hope.
Breathe in the exotic sweet smell of despair.
Now, wait for the pretty poison to sink in.
Then breathe out the fire that runs through your veins.
Listen to the voices of drowning souls.
Run towards that sound of silence.
Sing to them the song of the universe.
Hold their hand and watch them float.
Let the sun burn through your bones.
Let the rain lick your open wounds.
Let the clouds cradle your broken body.
And let the wind carry you to the moon.
Climb that mountain of buried truth.
Break those shackles of shameful lies.
Don’t blink and look the monster in the eye.
Now turn around, spread your wings and fly away.
What if I told you I was beautiful
will you put me under a magnifying glass
and brand me with your label
or will you celebrate my imperfections?
What if I told you I was broken
will you try to fix me up
or put a cushion around me
and watch me fall?
What if I told you I was guilty
will you judge me by your stare
or lay your vulnerable heart bare
for you and me to share?
What if I told you I was scared
will you lock me up
and watch me cry
or will you teach me how to fly?
What if I told you I want to shine
will you drown me in your darkness
or will you light the spark
that ignites my soul?
What if I told you I was sad
will you ignore my existence
and hope it’ll pass
or will you wrap me in your blanket of kindness?
What if I told you I was all that and more
What if I told you I’m that garden of daffodils you know
Sometimes I’m bare and sometimes I’m in bloom
I’ve been nurtured and I’ve been battered
I’ve been kissed by the sun and bathed in the rain
I’ve swayed to the sweet intoxicating breeze of spring
and I’ve shivered in the cold stillness of a wintery night
I’ve heard the ground whisper sweet nothings to me
and felt the butterflies caress me a million times
And yet, through all the chaos that surrounds me
I feel anxious and I feel lost
Will you walk with me for a while
And perhaps show me your garden?