Thursday, May 7, 2020

Living in the time of a pandemic

It's 10 a.m. on a Monday. The once elusive Dutch Sun seems to have found its way through my windows on to my bed. Not only are the sheets dappled in parts with the bright and cheery Sun but a part of my face is enveloped in it too. My head hurts and I definitely don't want to open my eyes. The birds seem to go about their business as usual I can tell. Either they know that the human race across the world has shut shop and returned home and they rejoice or they are oblivious and they rejoice. Either way, I am not really ready to start looking at the silver lining of this lockdown just yet. Is this what a Covid 19 ridden world is going to feel like, every damn day? I try to think of what I was going to eat for breakfast, that always manages to distract me.

An hour later my partner manages to lure me out of bed with some really fine coffee. While the coffee starts to kick in I realise that there will be no runs to my favourite roastery for my daily dose of flat white(s) anymore. This new world is strange. Any freelancer worth their weight will tell you that a daily coffee and cinnamon bun run is an 'essential service'.

After an hour of wallowing in this extremely selfishly constructed pond of misery, I begin scrolling the news obsessively to follow all updates on the virus that seems to have subverted all economies alike; Covid 19. My mind immediately darts back to the headache that still exists and seems to be wearing me down. "The most common symptoms of the Corona virus..", and the article goes on to state that headaches were noted to be common amongst almost all patients. Figures. I must have it. Scroll scroll scroll. At this point I'm in so deep that the heart ache and fatigue are real. People are dying. Yes, a lot more than usual. And this virus is choosing to effectively not discriminate amongst who it knocks dead. By then my emotionally fragile state has turned over into anger. I was supposed to be in India safely ensconced between my parents at this point but of course I chose to cancel my tickets even before The Netherlands and India closed their borders because there was absolutely no way I was risking taking back an infection so lethal to my parents and grandmother. Many a moments were spent cursing people still choosing to congregate in large groups, despite...well everything! Social distancing, who?

I had never meditated before in my life but the beginning of a new world where this fear, abject distance from all your loved ones and uncertainty were going to be the norm seemed to call for it. I try to be mindful but my mind drifts back to that nagging headache. I have now gone back to the article with the symptoms and I'm trying hard to remember all of them while simultaneously trying to figure out if I have them. As the woman's voice in the guided meditation draws me back to calm my nerves I get transported to a babbling brook and imagine myself in the middle of a forest doing this. Good job on the sounds, Calm. As I wind up, I begin to remind myself this will probably require a lot more work and patience and that is okay.
I don't forget to eat. Sure we are in a state of lockdown but maybe I could take that time to try out a few things in the kitchen that I have been meaning to? I get lazy and and forego the cooking for binge watching something on TV. It helps that my partner loves to cook for us and feed me incessantly. Did I forget to mention that by this point I have already washed my hands enough number of times to have a soaked towel in the bathroom and cleaned most used surfaces with a combination of germicidal wipes and an all purpose cleaner?
I take a moment to call up all my friends and family. I hate that all our conversations now begin and end with the current state of affairs. I love that my fears get assuaged every time I hear that everyone is doing fine and staying healthy. It's a scary be alive? I watch some 'Sex and The City' as a I sit on my balcony while watching cherry blossom trees from behind our house, creep up into our yard. I'm still thinking of my headache, I am aware. But by this point I have also mentally whacked myself to get a grip on my emotions. The point is, human life has never felt more fickle than now, businesses haven't taken tumbles as huge as this since forever, healthcare hasn't seen a crisis like this in many many years but in this one war, almost everyone will have a huge role to play. At this point when the cases testing positive are beginning to spike at an alarming rate here in the Netherlands and almost everywhere else, staying home does not feel optional.

As I sit down mulling over how my day just whizzed past and trying to list down what exactly did I 'get done', I have to remind myself to not be so hard on myself. My mind numbing hours on social media did remind me of one good thing; this was going to be a marathon, don't treat it like a sprint. I am fiddling with my hands as I remind myself to breathe in all the optimism I can muster and breathe out all the best vibes I can find to the world which is currently healing. 

Click. As I switch off my bedside lamp, my head is still swimming with a million thoughts. The good ones seem to finally be darting across and eating the bad ones, much like a game of Pacman. I could live with that. I put on some Night time calming sounds and crawl under my blanket filled with a small part of dread but a large part of emotional strength (of which I have aplenty). Day one of living through a pandemic in a lockdown- survived.

The one where she steals the boy's clothes
In the last 54 days of lockdown alongside following every rule that the Government has outlined in the Netherlands, I have managed to pack in a lot of content that makes me extremely proud of little 'ol me. (You feel the same hopefully?) Everything post the first day feels like a (at the risk of sounding cliche), a mixed bag of emotions but I think I tided over with more happy and exciting days than low, thankfully. (We even celebrated a birthday and a love anniversary in quarantine and threw ourselves parties for two, Studio 54 would be proud of)
As the lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted, little by little and we gear up to be a part of a (definitely mindful?) new world, here is a fun, little recap of my work from quarantine. I've tried to name each piece like an episode from a trashy (you say trashy, I say fun!) TV show to ensure them laughs. Nothing like ending on a positive note, after all.

The one where she tried to make 'Fetch' happen

The one where she was Malibu barbie

The one where more was more and less was a bore
When she tried to do a pop cover of 'Roman Holiday'
The one where she flips open the next chapter


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Slowing down with Sui

Let's make something clear at the onset. This blog post is not intended to be fact heavy or loaded on ominous statements. There are tons of great resources out there doing that job and doing it wonderfully. This is mostly me thinking out loud and talking about how working with Sui (an eco-conscious with not just their garments but also kind work practices, label from India) might have given rise to a lot of questions in my mind that I will hopefully be able to answer as I go (grow) along. 
Instead of throwing around words like sustainability and eco-conscious, I decided to bring in someone with a kitty full of actual ideas and knowledge about leading a slow, sustainable life to talk to the attendees who signed up for our 'sustainability themed' meet up in October with Whats The Plan NL. Meredith, with her actual work experience with grass-root organisations both in India and abroad did exactly what I had envisioned with a topic like this. She took it, made it her own and created the most fun dialogue about the same, complete with games and activities. Having Sui on board as a brand partner for Whats The Plan NL was a kick in my rear to think more about issues of practical solutions to our environment woes and understanding that beautiful clothes could also be made out of eco freiendly filers. Extremely simple ways to turn around your plastic and waste churning. Something as incredibly obvious as wasting less food (let's face it, we are all guilty). We shared a lot on how the older generations could teach us a thing or two about being less wasteful. 'Repairing' instead of 'replacing'. 'Buying' more mindfully. And so much more.
I had never wanted to create a preachy seminar where one person talks at the audience and everybody goes home with gifts but having lost out on any message that could have been the real take-away. With Meredith and Jayasri capturing the entire event and having a brand like Sui on board, we avoided just that. Everybody contributed and we all realised that slowly and steadily, we could adopt better practices. There wasn't an overnight 180 degree transformation because we realistically only wanted to disseminate information and get people talking and more importantly, thinking. 
Again, in order to avoid being a hypocrite, I acknowledge that I am nowhere close to having an almost 0 carbon foot print. But this association of brands and some brilliant minds was definitely the propeller for all of us to think and definitely attempt to do better.
And that, my friends was definitely achieved. 
I had the pleasure of playing dress up and styling some absolutely stunning Sui pieces that are created with hemp and/or organic cotton. Another huge take-away, slowing down can be extremely fashionable too. The little motifs embroidered with herbal dyes serve as just the perfect little reminders to slow down and smell the roses. 

All photos have been shot by Portraits by Jayasri.

Till the next time.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Budapest in 5 days

You know that feeling when you finally begin to work on those promises you made with your high school/college girlfriends on things you would all check off your list together, before you turned a *ahem certain* age. Let's just say it's 30, for the sake of the discussion and nothing else. Okay who am I kidding, we all turned 30 and we finally made our big, fat European holiday happen and we did a 5 day trip to Budapest. As a result of which, you just got lucky and on a *legit* not the standard 'a lot of you have been asking me...' category of demand, find below my suggestions and recommendations, strictly based on what we actually saw and did, for Budapest. Grab some popcorn and start writing. 
I've divided this article into three bits. My top 5 places to grab meals in Budapest. My top 5 sights to visit in Budapest. Please find a lot of accompanying images of vain 'ol me. If you follow me on instagram, you have probably seen a whole bunch of these already but some shall remain exclusive to this article here. 


  • MAGYAR QTR: We found this on google maps (with great reviews) while walking around the chain bridge and absolutely loved it. It has a small but brilliant menu with some classic Hungarian dishes so it was our perfect first meal. Great value for money and the plating was very fine-dining esque. Remember though, there is hardly any vegetarian food on the menu and also in general, Hungarian food is heavy and extensively meaty. 

  • MAZEL TOV: This one makes it to almost all must-do lists on Budapest that exist and justifiably so. It is an urban jungle with dangling fairy light and large hamsas painted on exposed brick which makes it such a picture perfect spot. Their Mediterranean food is all you can dream of and more and made for the perfect cold meal in the 32 degrees of summer in August that we bore through. 

  • MOST BISZTRO: This one is quite large with multiple floors but I have to admit, the best customer service that we go through Budapest. The very diverse continental menu is a perfect palette cleanser between all the local meals you try. It's great for vegetarians and meat eaters alike and I would highly recommend getting a spot on the terrace since that is usually where the crowds hang.

  • NEW YORK CAFE: Their instagram bio describes them as 'Budapest's most beautiful cafe' and while I would normally scoff at something so gloaty, there is no way I could disagree with that sentiment. Built in the Italian Renaissance style complete with a live pianist, this place is a must visit for the experience along with some great cafe style food. 

  • SZIMPLY: It took us two visits in 5 days and an additional 40 minutes of a wait to get a spot here but it was all worth it. The tiniest little brunch spot with the most mind-blowing brunch food ever. PRO TIP: Do the two course tasting menu where I did the avocado toast and the pancakes and I can't begin to fathom how they could knock something so simple, so incredibly out of the park.


  • THE GREAT MARKET HALL: Dubai has its souks, Spain has its Mercdos or Mercats and Budapest has its Great Market Hall where you can find literally everything from Hungarian spices to souvenirs of any sort. PRO TIP: There is a scope to bargain here, but in our experience that doesn't go too far. Other things to look out for: clothing/accessories with Hungarian thread work, Hungarian porcelain, other little nick nacks. It is also the perfect spot for some great shots with the light filtering in through its high arched windows. Also, Euros and cards work mostly everywhere except a few places that will ask for HUF only. If you pay in Euros, expect your change in HUF too.

  • A HUNGARIAN THERMAL BATH: Apart from the fact that you're going to be experiencing natural (medicinal) hot spring waters in this bath, The Szechenyi Bath (the one we went to) comes with a neo-baroque palace of its own! Between the little whirlpools and the jacuzzi in the centre, we couldn't have picked a better place to spend half our day just lolling around. Of course there is a snacks and drinks bar attached. Also, this is located slightly on the outside of the city centre so if you would prefer to take a taxi, don't forget to download 'Bolt' (the Uber of Budapest, so to speak).

  • SZECHENYI CHAIN BRIDGE: Budapest (Buda and Pest) are linked together by 8 bridges that cross over the Danube and it's safe to say that the Szechenyi Bridge with it's lion headstones and intricate construction takes the cake. We made it a point to walk it at night too when it was completely lit up and looked over the gorgeous Buda Castle, the church et al on the other side (Buda).

  • A WALKING TOUR OF BUDA COVERING THE CASTLE, MATTHIAS CHURCH AND THE FISHERMAN'S BASTION: Safe to say that a trip to Budapest would be deemed incomplete without covering the whole of Buda on foot and a little insight into all these major attractions. We booked a walking tour with a very adept guide well in advance and quite enjoyed the whole experience. Also, best to see what combination works for you because there are some that include a funicular ride back into Pest from Buda. 

  • GOZSDU UDVAR AND THE RUIN BARS: A bunch of 30 somethings *gulp* couldn't exactly have gone to Budapest to just catch up and come back, to be honest. We obviously forayed into the ruin bar scene and the passage of Gozsdu to see what the hype was about. Szimpla Kert obviously took the cake with its myriad of themed rooms and a lot of quirky and extremely trippy decor bits across the whole building. It was also the largest bar I had ever been to. A cute albeit creepy discovery would have to be Csendes Vintage Bar which was also a ruin bar replete with everything creepy and amusing to decorate it. Try some 'palinka' (comes in a wide variety of fruit flavours), the Hungarian liquor or play it safe with some brilliant Hungarian wines. Also, there was a very lively salsa scene at the Cat Bar in Gozsdu on a Friday night.

We obviously did a whole bunch of other things too like a spot of shopping at some local boutiques, queue up at Gelato Rosa, visit St. Stephen's Basilica, a few forgettable meals, hunting down roasteries for our morning coffee, Heroes' Square, the adjoining park, Andrássy Avenue to walk down and gawk at some stunning mansions and high end designer boutiques, The Hungarian Parliament, the shoes on the Danube..the works. The point is, make your experience your own and just go with it.

I hope these travel listicles help you form your itinerary for whenever you visit Budapest. Do not forget to comment, share with someone who might be interested and save the page if you like the recommendations. 


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

DELFT: A little guide to the city I devised for WhatsThePlanNL

As tourists, we tend to stereotype and classify within boxes, a lot of destinations that have a lot to offer. As someone who lives in Amsterdam and used to live in Den Haag, I have made my fair share of touristic trips to Delft. Always sold as a one-day trip where you can pick the best Delft Blue pottery and visit the church where Vermeer is buried, over time I began to observe that Delft was that and a lot more. Sure, like most Dutch towns a lot of its beauty is concentrated on its beautiful canals and waterways. And sure, the delft blue pottery factory is charming in the most obvious way and really does give you an insight into how it is really made and how it came about to be. (Hint: We can definitely credit China with being our OG inspiration). But when I had to create a map (mind you, I'm seriously directionally challenged) for the July edition of #WhatsThePlanNL (a meet-up and networking initiative I began) for a walking tour of Delft I was organising and my first thought was whether I had bitten off more than I could chew.
I knew from the very onset that the delft blue pottery factory (there are a few) was something I did not want to include in the itinerary for a variety of reasons. 1) The likelihood of some people having checked it out was very high. 2) It is extremely long and time consuming and while that is enchanting mostly, on a full day's worth of sightseeing, it is not the best bet. 3) I wanted the tour to include food and drink pit stops just as much as informative and touristy ones.
So with the assistance of the internet (a few great articles I read and one that was shared with me), combined with my own multiple trips to Delft, here is the exact outline of what I sent across to the attendees to save on their phones before the meet up. I am including our last minute detours, changes and pro-tips along side. (Marked in red are my comments, changes and tips)
If you use this guide, don't forget to tag me and take me along (virtually, at best).

In association with iDeal of Sweden @idealofsweden and @shreyakalra1

Welcome to the walking tour plan that I’ve devised for us to explore this city on foot, have a faboosh time and get to know some new people in the process.
For the bits where I’ve listed options, I would love for us to collectively make this decision in order to make it more inclusive and fun.

·     Beginning with, lets meet at Delft Central Station at 11 am.

·     We begin with walking through the old city where the canals of Delft are. A stroll through Oude Delft. IMPORTANT TO STOP FOR PHOTOS OF COURSE. Stads Koffyhuis is OPTION 1 for sandwiches and coffee (some of the best sandwiches in NL, apparently) 

·     Next we do Oude Kerk (Or Old church) { If some people would like to go in, we can definitely make a stop and meet them at a pit stop for food and coffee}
Notes: We did the canals and we did Stads Koffyhuis for coffee alone. Not only is it absolutely beautiful what with a red floral facade and a blue exterior, but here is the best part. We went without a reservation and despite being pretty full they were not fazed at all with a group of 12 and gave us a prime spot on their tethered boat on the canal! The drinks were brilliant and the service was impeccable  (I really don't say it often!). Must must visit.

·     A cute little old bakery called Stads Bakkerij (or City Bakery) de Diamenten Ring falls on our way to Voldergracht. It’s full of amazing baked goods and local delicacies so I thought it might be nice to make a pit stop and check it out!
Notes: Best best stop over. It's got a beautiful yellow striped awning and has the best selection of baked goods I've seen in this town. Anything you can imagine and more. Everybody picked up a wide selection of different baked goodies cause what's a walking tour without snacks to boot. My recommendation: The pecan bread and their home made jams (I picked one that was cherry and red wine and it is mind blowing!)

·     Head to Voldergracht and stroll down to Kek (a very cute and possibly the best café in Delft with good brunch food and SUPER INSTAGRAMMABLE). (OPTION 2 FOR FOOD)
Notes: We crossed Kek and it definitely looked absolutely adorable and very instagrammable but the queues lined up outside went for way too long for us to give in to the hype. Cannot vouch for the food plus when I messaged them on instagram in advance to figure out whether we could book for 12 people I did not receive a response. A Leonidas lunch room also close by looked quite beautiful too.

·     From Voldergracht through to Hippolytusbuurt and onto Wijnhaven is where the antiques, vintage and bookmarket sprawls across. So lets walk along, do a spot of shopping, take some fun pictures and possibly videos and a whole lot of catching up! 
Notes: This was definitely the highlight of our walking tour. The antiques and vintage market only happens on Saturday so if you do want to check it out, keep that in mind. We saw the market starting right after the Oude Kerk so we walked along there on. From extremely old versions of Delft earthenware, old books, maps, etchings, gold and brass artefacts, lampshades and almost anything you can imagine in the perfect sort of an antique market, you will find here. The objects are not cheap. I am not entirely sure whether you can bargain but I am certain that if you look carefully and painstakingly enough, you will find something to write home about. 

·     Sint Agathasquare  has beautiful porcelain lamp posts in delft blue to check out. Also cute and a great spot for photos along with a souvenir and gift store called ‘Winkeltje Kouwenhoven’.
Notes: Apart from Sint Agathasquare which has the beautiful delft blue lamp posts, we also went to the Markt which was the central square and walked to the big blue Delft blue heart which in my opinion, is the best and the biggest photo opportunity in Delft.

·     Nieuwe Kirk or New church is another 6 minutes walk from Sint Agathasquare so if everybody is still keen, we can definitely drop by and check it out. To wind it up, if we have any takers, we could head to Bier Fabriek, this super cool old brewery in Delft, cause one for the road. 
Notes: The New church is at the Markt or the central square of the town so from there we walked to Beestenmarkt (which is close to where Bier Fabriek is). While Bier Fabriek was still a valid option, since the weather was actually quite pleasant, we decided to sit and grab drinks and some apple pie in the centre of Beesten Markt which has a beautiful outdoor seating with plenty of restaurants and bars.

Hope you enjoyed this little day's worth of itinerary for Delft. If you would love to be a part of WhatsThePlanNL in the form of an attendee or sponsor, do not forget to drop me a message on instagram or an email. 
Till the next time, 


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