Tag Archives: tourism

Spiritual Sundays

7 Apr

The Boy and I, by virtue of living in crunchy granola California, have turned increasingly spiritual and high-minded. Afloat on an ocean of good intentions and noblesse, we invite you to share this beautiful, light-radiant journey with us as we experience it each Sunday:


Our first act of worship feeds the soul (and other assorted body parts). Gently-poached eggs rest calmly upon a pair of perfect crabcakes, drizzled with hollandaise and a smidgen of paprika. Completing the holy trinity is a side of herbed potatoes that can be best described as divine. The benediction virtually spills out of us and far in the distance, angels tune their harps.


Consider it your fabulous fortune that you are about to be enlightened: Did you know Zoroastrians in India worship 3 grades of fire at 2 different kinds of fire temples? Agyaris, temples of the lesser fire, are places of worship where the fire consists of only 11 different varieties (from the homes of artisans, farmers, soldiers and civil servants, priests, etc.) Atash Behrams, temples of the greater fire, house a perenially-burning entity (as does an Agyari) that is the combination of 16 unique fires. Why am I sharing this today? Because the picture above is our version of an Agyari. Prostrating before Tiffany-blue platters and paying homage to lemon-print cushions, the Boy and I worship Our Lady of Immaculate Homesteads.


Our next pilgrimage takes us to this vibrant green wood, a good indication of afterlife beauty. The hum of humanity falls away, and all at once, we are enveloped in A Great Calm. Here, we rest on this bench and ponder Questions of Significance. Like whether we should have ordered one pancake less that morning. Or whether almonds should be coated in dark chocolate or caramel. If our stomachs weren’t that loaded, we would feel our souls levitate.


Turning our attention to more earthly pursuits, we gaze upon the wonder of this valley. Deer watch us from a distance, and so pious are we that not once do we discuss the venison cutlets at the Rendezvous in Pondicherry. Somewhere beyond those purple-hazed mountains lies an abbey that I would run into after trilling about hills and music and my heart wanting to sing every song it hears.


At the entrance of our favorite forest, we take a moment to breathe. Heady from the oxygen-and-pine-needles high, we resemble whirling dervishes, spinning our sins away. Our veneration, friends, is about to get intense.


The forest floor greets us, an emerald ocean of universal compassion, swathing us in its cool, unjudging love. It is the natural equivalent of the Hugging Amma, and we demonstrate obeisance by furiously capturing it for posterity. This is one deity that must grace our humble home.


Presently, we chance upon a stream, and proceed to wash away our sins by wiggling toes and splashing each other’s sinful faces. Did you know we need to wash before we enter the inner sanctum of an Agyari or Atash Behram? For every cleanliness-obsessed Parsi, there are three rules on how to scrub behind the ears. Heaven seems just around the bend, as we are tempted to float on our backs and sail away to a parallel plane, where our spirit guides dole out personalized M&Ms in silvery gauze gift bags.


But then, gentle reader, we chance upon this. And our wretched spirits soar to the tops of these cloud-cossetted trees, awed by this magical Land of Wishing Trees, and never mind the mixed Blyton references, have you ever seen a 5’9″ woman this dwarfed??? Even as our bodies shrink and our souls expand, we whisper gratitude into the ether and thank the universe for landing us plonk in the middle of this paradise.  Newly awash in this unique redwood incense, we turn homeward, blessed for being able to choose our definition of spirituality, and for this, the best of Sundays.


48 Hours in Eire

17 Mar

This piece was commissioned for the Business Standard in Bombay, but due to a change in editors, fell through the cracks and did not get published. I am posting it nearly two years after it was written, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.


Everything you hear about Ireland is true. It is primarily emerald-colored, with friendly folk, free-flowing Guinness and locals leaping at the chance to fiddle for you. But you won’t see it with a guidebook and set itinerary. A locally-born islander is your only way into the true heart of the land of lochs and bogs and I very conveniently happen to be related to one. My uncle, in all his wisdom, picked an Irish partner, and it is to Aunt Margaret’s aga-warmed and patchwork-quilted family home in Glenfarne village, County Leitrim, the Republic of Ireland, that we headed, 48 precious hours in hand, in the hope of ale and leprechauns.

Flying into Belfast from London’s Stanstead airport was exciting for entirely unexpected reasons. How often can you sing a song about a city while hovering 15,000 miles above it? Wouldn’t you sing Boney M as loudly as stiff upper lip decency permitted?  The three-hour drive to Southern Ireland was quick and painless. With an open border and no checks, you’re likely to notice you’ve switched countries only if your eyes are peeled. First stop, J. McHugh’s pub.

No ordinary watering hole, this. In our case, it’s all in the family. Owned and run by Aunt M’s sister and brother-in-law, generous pints of Guinness were pulled, passed around and refilled until the darned Super-ego clobbered the Id on the head and banned more drinking before lunchtime. In a village where half the homes are occupied by blood relatives, you only have to cross the street to a family fiddling performance. Celtic music came alive in a cozy kitchen containing a blue checkered table cloth and its owner with a matching apron. Much clapping and tapping was interspersed with stories about upcoming dances at the Rainbow Ballroom, a large shed that doubled up as the dancing barn where local lads and lassies meet, marry and contribute to another generation of beer-guzzling fiddlers.

Warmth must be the Irish national policy. Where else do you get offered free membership to a public library within 10 minutes of walking in to check email? Ladies and gentlemen, I have a card from the Leabharlann Chontae Liatroma (Lietrim County Library) to prove it. (And of course, all the Gaelic around the place exists only to charm the pants off you as you walk out feeling like a four-leafed clover just graced your life.) Driving toward Sligo, the nearest big town and home to Yeats’ resting place, a brief stop at the Glencar Falls and Lake provides an opportunity for photography. The deep shades of blue sky and lake, emerald grass and snowy sheep are a postcard you want to capture and mail home.

Sligo, dotted with bars, bars, more bars, Yeats’ building and, interestingly, a Poppadom Restaurant, bustled with a population grateful for the rare sunshine. You’ve brought the Indian sun, I was told. You can keep it, I smiled back. Next stop, Yeats’ grave. Or so I thought. An exciting antiques shop derailed our journey and while my uncle and aunt checked out the clocks and gramophones, I did the same with the owner (who was, praise the Lord, considerably younger than his artifacts). Beauty appreciated, we crunched into a church yard for a meeting with Ireland’s poet laureate in his “country of the heart”. Too bad he wasn’t likely to reciprocate our delight. We rounded a corner and there he was. William Butler Yeats, 1865-1939, instructing us to

“Cast a cold Eye

On Life, on Death.

Horseman, pass by.”

Recounting our first memories of his work, we chose to linger, loath to leave a man whose words had nestled in our 13-year-old hearts, but when forty-eight hours are all you have, ‘what’s next’ is a perfectly valid question.

Bundoran is a seaside town from a 1920s American movie. Craggy cliffs, dashing waves, vanilla ices, amusement park rides and seaweed baths provide a delightful alternative to modern-day foreign beaches with tanned bodies and a pounding nightlife. A stroll on the seaweed-laced beach and a steep climb up to a cliff-top later, we enjoyed the salty north Atlantic breeze that showed all the friendliness of the land with perhaps a little less warmth. In the summer, carousel music and the shouts of children will compete with the roar of the waves, but for now, in mid-May, they reign supreme.

Ireland lives in its lochs and bogs and a brief visit to both followed. Every home in the county is assigned its own plot of land on a peat bog. It is here that families come up the hill to harvest peat that will warm their homes through the year. A naturally occurring fuel, peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation and is readily available and widely used in this part of the country. The harvesting process itself can be back-breaking if one isn’t used to it. Sometimes a shortage of time turns out to be a good thing! Loch MacNean appeared out of a clearing in the woods, a magical blue with picture-perfect ripples. All was calm, all was bright and I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I live in Bombay.

More family visits followed, with exclamations about how perfect the weather had been, though I noticed that didn’t stop cozy fires from roaring in their grates. Much Irish stew and many potatoes later, I hauled myself back on a flight to England. The heart, however, decided to stay. I’ll have to go looking for it sometime very soon.