On how important it is to be selfish and a healthy grilled chicken, quinoa, mango and wilted kale salad

23 May

Just yesterday I was invited to a colleague’s birthday lunch. It was great to catch up with my colleagues ( 8 women and 1 guy) and to say that the lunch was hearty, would be an understatement. In between the talk turned towards what the birthday girl was going to do in the evening. I was told that she had her celebratory birthday breakfast with her fiance, lunch with her favourite acquaintances and friends from work (that would be us) and evening would be devoted to another grand meal with her family of sisters and parents. To me that sounded absolutely perfect. A day planned around food!! What a perfect birthday indeed!

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The topic from there on turned towards how important it is to make sure that one enjoy’s her/his birthday to the  fullest. Birthday is one day where everybody is entitled to having  their wishes granted and being the center of attention. I nodded my head to all of it except to the one about being the center of attention. My modest and fiercely grounded upbringing and related conditioning refused to accept any claim that suggested being the center of attention was a good thing. It’s because being the center of attention was akin to being selfish and being selfish meant being a bad person. No way was I going to be a ‘bad person’. And if that meant, shunning attention and allowing the limelight to fall on someone else, so be it.

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One of colleagues, a young Bahraini girl – 20 something old, known for her love of celebrating her birthdays spoke up. I listened to her in rapt attention. She talked about how she put a countdown on her iPhone counting down days, hours, minutes and seconds to her birthday. Everyday she took pains to remind her family and friends about her up coming birthday, giving everybody enough time to plan something special for her. After all, family and friends were supposed to do something memorable on her birthday as they were in her life for a purpose which was to see her happy. She described with stars in her eyes about how excited she felt every year when it is her birthday month. Each year she saved up enough money to buy herself the gift of her choice. This year too, she had already bought herself, her own ‘surprise gift’!!!!!

GCQ5To me, all of it sounded preposterous. Attaching so much value to one day is equal to setting yourself up for disappointment. Yet I listened to her in fascination. She rambled on about her love for gadgets and precious stones, clothes and branded shoes and her father’s credit card. In my head, I was judging her against my will as someone who was so self – absorbed. I couldn’t ever be like her and  concluded  how different individuals we were. Suddenly the shine in her eyes, the unbridled happiness on her face drove me to think beyond the obvious. While I was this 30 -something, unexcited professional; she was this 2o – something, full of hope professional at the other of the table. What was so different that our worlds couldn’t meet? Why was I so resentful of her happiness which was self-generated and did not depend on anything external? Materialistic it might be, yet it was genuine.Truth be told, I envied her sitting on the other end of the table. I wanted to be enthusiastic like her about my own birthday, about my life and everything around me. I wanted to make each day count until it was my big day. I wanted  to celebrate. Growing up has cost me. It has taken away from me my enthusiasm for self – created small joys.

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No wonder I felt trapped between my contempt for her selfishness and my readiness to trade places with her and her attitude towards life.  What was that exact point in life where I lost my uncontainable curiosity and enthusiasm for life? Sitting there among all the chatter and immensely enjoying my chocolate lava cake, I tried to trace back the path in vain. The change had happened so slowly and in many ways, irreversibly. To watch this girl revel in her selfishness, was the takeaway for me that afternoon over good food and other interesting conversation. As women, after we get married and have children and  how soon we forget that we need to be selfish. The word feels abusive because as wives, mothers and hence caretakers, it has no business being around in our dictionary. But with that don’t we also forget to find joy from within us. Our children, our families become our sources of joy. Ofcourse they are. It is not debatable. But isn’t it important to find our own joy. Our self-generated joys such as gifting ourselves what we think we deserve or spending time doing things we love. For most of us, what we deserve is decided by what our family or children think we deserve.

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Just sit back and think hard. What do you really enjoy? Let that not include (for once) your child’s smile, his/her achievements, your spouse’s appreciation or your boss’s dependency on you for work. What do you as a person enjoy doing/thinking/creating? Make a list and take a positive step towards achieving it. I did my list which I define as my sources of self- generated joys. One of them is developing healthy and tasty recipes. The Salad pictures that you see interspersed along with all this ‘selfish’ monologue is my own creation.  I enjoyed creating it and executing it. Well to tell you the truth, I didn’t bother sharing this salad with any one else. I enjoyed it for lunch and felt good about it. May be I am being necessarily rebellious but this concept of finding my own joy for my own selfish reasons has taken root in my mind. The recipe is so simple that it shouldn’t take more than half hour to bring it all together.

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I would recommend that you use a sweet dressing for this salad as it complements the flavours of the tart mango, the delicious dullness of the wilted kale and the hearty goodness of the pepper crusted grilled chicken. The quinoa provides the much need foundation to hold all the flavours and gives it roundness of a complete meal.

Hope you enjoy this and spend some time contemplating selfishly about what makes you smile and your heart jump with joy.

In other news, my blog has been rated as one of the TOP 10 Blogs cooking blogs in India. Woohoo!! I am thrilled to bits. Check out the post here

Also, this is my 250th post on this blog. It is such a huge milestone for me personally because I cannot begin to explain how difficult it was at times to keep going – developing, creating content, taking pictures of food and presenting it in an interesting format each week. I am relentless about my blogs because perhaps because this is MY space and I am stubborn about not allowing it to wither away!

With this note, wish you all a happy weekend! Be creative.

A detox diet tale and a very healthy oats uttapam recipe

17 May

I have had many weddings to attend in the past four months. Indian wedding food and the late night extravaganza can wreck the metabolism for a long, long time. By the time, I came back home reeling from the heady glitz of my best friend’s wedding, I could feel my body protesting. A detox was in order. On a separate note, I have been on a good gym schedule with a trainer for more than 6-8 months now and needless to say, I have been feeling fit end very strong. But even such a robust exercise schedule’s effects are nullified by the sullied food and sleep cycle on vacations. To start afresh, I jumped into a 5 -day juice detox plan with the help of my Bahraini friend and colleague. Eva is an expert when it comes to diet, detox, fitness and holistic health. She prepared a stringent 5 -day juice diet with her own ingenious juice recipes.

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Her plan consisted of Green, Red, Purple, Orange juices for five days with varied ingredient combinations under each colour group. On the fourth and the fifth day, she added a meal each rich in proteins and complex carbohydrates for lunch. Since I wasn’t used to anything this intense, I was very apprehensive. But with Eva’s gentle encouragement, I embarked on the diet. Each day I made a mental note of how I was feeling and this post is about these observations and a very healthy oats egg white uttapam that finds it way on my breakfast plate more often than not.

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The funny thing about starting a diet is that, the first thing you do is  to mentally prepare for the ‘deprivation’ from your favourite foods. The previous night, I filled myself with a dinner and ate till I felt my stomach could take no more. Post that I felt extremely guilty which was immediately replaced by a sense of ‘compensation” that for the next five days, I will have little or no solid food.

Day 1 : The morning wasn’t eventful as I was used to only juices and negligible breakfast certain days of the week. But then the realization struck that there would be no lunch – not the one where I would chew and spend time over. It would only be a glass of banana- strawberry smoothie with lemon! I had my smoothie lunch and  it was satisfying to say the least. But the mind is a tricky being and I can go ahead  and say at the risk of sounding silly that- the mind has a mind of its own! By mid – afternoon, I was feeling low – not on energy – but on feelings. Like all my restlessness was put to rest. All my nervous twitching settled down on my face and I felt peaceful. I wanted to be left alone and didn’t feel like talking to anyone. It was one of the best feelings ever. The day passed without any incidents and at night I slept peacefully.

Day 2: The next day, I woke up feeling refreshed and lighter.  I followed the juice diet strictly for the day and I was full of energy. I struggled in a very minor way with not feeling full enough but quickly learnt the tricks of the trade. I felt full when I sipped on my juice slowly and in a relaxed way, rather than gulping it all down in a single shot. Constantly talking to myself that this is not going to my last meal and that I will be providing  my body more nourishing juices the entire day helped a lot. I continued with my regular gym sessions with my trainer during the diet as well to rev-up my metabolism. I found it easier to run as I was breathing better.

Day 3; If you think that all the bodily functions would shut down because you haven’t been eating solid food, then you are in for a surprise! Well I won’t go too much into the details here but definitely say that I hadn’t felt this bloating-free in ages. The third day was a clean sweep and I did not even realize how it passed. Mentally, I was feeling lighter and happier and my cravings had diminished and I was breathing more easily. My trainer noticed I had more energy during my intense circuit training sessions.

Day 4: I had never thought I would look forward to a day so much. I was sleeping so well after a long time. Couple of times I did weigh myself but my weight hadn’t budged. It was a bit demoralizing for a second or two but the happiness of the lightness I was feeling clouded any feelings of sadness or depression. Also, I reminded myself why I was doing this. I was doing this diet to get a boost, free my body of the toxins it had collected over time and extract maximum from my work-out. Once you have certain fundamentals set straight, it becomes quite easy to stay focused. The fourth day had a lunch- meal in it which was a small bowl of mushroom -quinoa and grilled sweet potato. Post my lunch, I felt extremely uncomfortable. The solid food felt like an intruder in my system but soon by evening and after my work out the solid meal intrusion was vanquished.

Day 5: I woke up with a feeling of sadness inside me for I had grown attached to this way of having juices as meals. I wasn’t ready to give up this feeling of being so happy and light. It does drive  home a point that we are what we eat. What we eat /drink creates a deep impact not only on our physical being but also on our mental health. It is a science in itself but at a basic level, it taught  me to be extra careful about how I nourish my body. Like they say, each meal time is an opportunity to nourish your body and post this detox, I have been quite careful about it. The fifth day also included one meal which was lunch. The solid meal felt much at home and I enjoyed every bite of it.

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Notes: This was a detox diet for 5 days which included very specific juice recipes meant for the purpose. 

It was NOT a weight loss diet plan at all.

It is safe to do this diet plan atleast once in six months to boost your sluggish metabolism

My initial thoughts about the diet being very difficult were  unfounded. It is moderately easy to follow this juice plan. 

The difficult part of this diet is the juicing bit. Chopping of vegetables and fruits and then juicing them fresh is advisable. Juicing is tedious and on a work day it seems a bit of a task. 

There are only advantages in exercising while doing this diet. In my personal opinion, I did not feel there was any calorie deficit at all and that is perhaps why I didn’t find it difficult to stick to gym schedule.

I did lose in inches after the diet but nothing on the weighing scale (which wasn’t my concern anyways)

Post the diet, I still juice atleast 3 times in a week.

I have only Eva to thank because she inducted me into this juicing habit which has really altered my way of thinking. I also have to thank my husband who took over the task of juicing every morning.

To end this post, I have a wonderful oats egg-white uttapam recipe to share that I found on Bulbul’s blog. The original recipe does not have egg whites but I added it for a protein boost. Bulbul has some very yummy, tried and tasted healthy recipes to try. Do hop over to her blog to find out more.

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It is very simple to whip up and makes for a very satisfying meal  and guilt -free too. I had this with the green cilantro and mint chutney. But I bet it will taste good with coconut chutney too.

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The recipe is as follows;

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Hope everybody is having a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by.

I have been getting on..

26 Apr

.. and getting myself into more things than I can manage. This year has been very exciting but its not all hunky dory. Everyday there is something new that life throws at me but I am not complaining. The last 3-4 months have weathered me well. Lessons have been learnt but I have been getting on. The most amazing bit that has happened in all this chaos and confusion is clarity of thought has emerged. A pristine clarity of thought which is not only such a relief but also great for bolstering my shaky confidence.

In the coming months a lot would have changed in my life and I pray to God it should be for the best.

(source: google image search)

(source: google image search)

In the meantime I have a few interesting updates to share.

1. I went to my bestie’s (Namit ) wedding in Mumbai and it was so much fun dressing up, getting henna done,  dancing and meeting people. The bride looked absolutely stunning with all the elaborate jewellery and garments. If you have been following me on instagram, you’d know! If you haven’t been, here’s your chance @sliceofmylyfe

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2. Mimi made me this lovely mother’s day gift which I cannot get over

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3. Attended a social media workshop for professionals conduct by the Social Media Club of Bahrain ( @SMCBahrain on twitter). Here I learnt about how important it is to project a consistent brand image throughout. The speaker, Ernesto Verdugo also emphasized on the various social media tools and tricks to use to make life easy.

 

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4. My baby can make her own cake!

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5. Couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to attend a arts and crafts exhibition. It was conducted my La Creation who host series of workshops for anybody who is interested in learning crafts like quilting, painting, baking and such. In a place like Bahrain where if you are new to the island it can get quite lonely. Groups such as this are such a wonderful way to get in touch with the community whilst being creative. This exhibition was a treasure cove of hand made lovelies such dream catchers, necklaces, household decoration pieces, trinkets, quilts, paintings and what not! Here, I share with you some pictures from the event.

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The next post, I shall share a wonderfully healthy oats and egg white uttapam recipe which I love so much! Until then, have a good week ahead people!

A chocolate frosted peanut butter cake and what is to feel trapped in a time capsule

5 Apr

Some of the best books  grace my book shelf but I have no time to read them. I look at them with guilt and they look back at me with a lot of contempt. They don’t say much, mostly because I don’t give them a chance. I turn away to tend to some of the more ‘urgent’ things that need my attention. My bedside table has some of the lighter reads and some cook books. Nigella’s cookbooks are always at my hand’s reach. I flip through some recipes and read a line of two from the novel who’s name I forget until I close to book to look at the title.

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I am drifting. Again. This happens when I get too busy in my busyness. I read a post written by Saheli called Floating and I knew I was feeling the exact same thing. What’s reassuring is I know its just a phase and it will pass, so I am not despairing.

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Initially I used to fight it but it never helped. Now I just drift along only because I know it will end. There are few things I know make me feel better and one of them is baking.  So I baked a chocolate frosted peanut butter cake. It was a friend’s surprise baby shower. I poured myself into it and even before I prepped for the cake, I hadn’t a shred of doubt that it will be wonderful.

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The pictures are pathetic because they were rushed, but who cares! The cake was fantastic. I didn’t need anybody else to tell me that and I didn’t even have to taste it. I just knew it. There are a few things you should know about the cake before you try it.

- Its barely sweet and that allows the peanut butter taste to shine through.

- It uses no butter. Only oil and the cake is soft as a baby’s bottom.

-The sweetness is from the chocolate frosting which if you avoid, you’d be doing the cake a lot of disservice.

- The recipe has been adapted from here

For the recipe, click on the recipe card below.

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Before I end this post, there is a video I would like to share here. It is a Ted talk by one of my favourite writers – Elizabeth Gilbert of the Eat, Pray, Love fame. She talks about the creative process and of managing our own expectations that we have from our creative selves. It made a lot of sense to me. I watched it twice and each time it felt like she was talking to me. Here you go.

Happy Weekend!

{Breakfast Banter} New York Coffee : Restaurant Review

29 Mar

It is no secret how much I adore this first meal of the day. Breakfast was and shall remain the single most important meal for me. I plan my breakfast carefully and take time to enjoy my breakfast, however meagre  because that sets the mood for the rest of the day. Weekend breakfasts are even more important because that is the time I take out to spend with the family while having my favourite meal of the day. For this very reason, I was extremely excited to visit the New York Coffee outlet with my family at The Walk in Riffa. To begin with, I have to say, this newish New York Coffee outlet is impressive – full of sunshine, large, spacious, and airy – it gives you a feeling of a relaxed setting.

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Within one quick glance several things caught my eye with regards to the decor. Modern and contemporary with an easy vibe is how I can describe the decor of the cafe. I was overcome with a sudden urge to sit down with my laptop and start writing a new novel or a blog post such as this whilst enjoying a nice cup of cappuccino. My thoughts were interrupted by the cheerful staff at the Cafe who welcomed me with great enthusiasm. The smiling server explained to us our breakfast and brunch options and also made explicit mentions of the offers of the day. We settled for a sumptuous American breakfast and an omelette (my way) while my daughter ordered for a sugary crepe along with a carrot cake.

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While our orders were being prepared in the kitchen, I took the opportunity to walk around the cafe. They have a small outdoor seating area which was dappled in the mid – morning sun. I also loitered around the shelves that housed different coffee and tea selections. The aroma of coffee was so inviting that I was half tempted to ask for an espresso instead of the orange juice I had ordered.

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I also happened to have a quick chat the General Manager of the outlet who filled me in with all the details about the outlet.  The New York Coffee outlet at the Walk in Riffa is open 24 hours. I was also told that it is the only coffee outlet in Bahrain that roasts and grinds their own coffee locally. Armed with this interesting trivia, I went back to my seat as the server had brought our piping, hot breakfast.

My husband had the omelette (my way) with brown toast and a large glass of fresh orange juice. He was enjoying his breakfast so much that I did not feel like interrupting him to ask how he found the fare. My daughter tucked into her sugary crepe on which there was  a pool of melted butter. Light and mildly sweet, the crepe was just perfect.  As for my breakfast platter – two fried eggs (runny), chicken sausages, salad, brown toast and fresh orange juice – was sumptuous!  I have an aversion towards sausages but these were done so well that they seemed like a treat. Later when my husband finished his breakfast and was sipping his orange juice he mentioned that he wouldn’t mind coming in here for this very plate of omelette every weekend. My daughter enjoyed her slice of the carrot cake mumbling “mmmm, mmmm” in between. That itself was a good indicator of how much she was enjoying her treat.

 

 

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Finally, when we were patting our warm bellies the server asked us to try their special drink. We couldn’t fathom eating or drinking anything more but he insisted and we thought ‘why not! It’s the weekend!” . He brought in two icy-looking drinks called Honey dew and Mango -tango. While placing these drinks, the server informed that these drinks are special because they are ‘low cal. In my experience, I know of many drinks that are supposedly low cal but are full of sugar. So I challenged him, “ How low?”  “

“Only 7 cals!!“, he replied

That was ridiculous. I couldn’t believe it. We went to the counter and he showed me his premix and described to me the method of preparation and I realized it was true. I enjoyed my drink with a greater gusto. The honey-dew was refreshing and I have a feeling its is going to be hugely popular this summer. 

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All in all, it was a wonderful morning spent savouring one gastronomic delight after the other. Bahrain!! Chuck your usual breakfast dos and go to New York Coffee. I dare say, you won’t regret it!

*This is a sponsored post but all the views and opinions expressed are my own.

Mumbai through #Instagram pictures

23 Mar

I don’t usually fall in love with places like I do with people. With people, I am easily impressed and I instantly like anybody and everybody at the very first meeting because I genuinely think everybody is just as wonderful. But with places I am a bit of a skeptic. I look at any new place through the glass of a cynic. I take a lot of time to see the beauty of a city’s /country’s buildings, its roads, its waters and its skies. It takes me a terrible amount of time to unravel and enjoy the beauty of the place unless its just unquestionably beautiful like Edinburgh or Paris. While I am open to cultural experiences, I am always on my guard as well. One can always argue that people maketh the place but in my head these are two different elements.

Very frankly, I never liked Mumbai because I found it was too fast.  Fast is such a relative term really. Now I understand. But as a 22 year old when I last visited Mumbai, I was overwhelmed by the number of people, their sense of urgency, the sight of the mad rush in the local trains and the muggy weather. I wanted to get away from Mumbai as soon as I could. Fast forward, 2014 and am back in the city for work and that is a transformation story I am going to tell in my post today.

Everything is affected by relativity. I have lived in Delhi, some time in Cochin, in Birmingham and on and off in other cities around the world for work. So when a certain “Mumbaite” comes to me raving about his /her ‘Maximum city’, I make a face. An unhealthy debate ensues about Delhi Vs Mumbai and ends inconclusively. In my 15 years of adult life, I have learnt to value certain characteristics of a city more than others. What makes a place livable and hence likable?

1. Safety

2. Easy access to places that we frequent on a daily basis

3. Quality and options for a thriving social life

Somewhere I had made up my mind about Mumbai.

My recent trip about Mumbai changed my perception. I enjoyed the sights, the sounds,the energy and the pulse of Mumbai. Ofcourse, I avoided the local trains and the other avoidable facets of the city’s personality. I even avoided the usual touristy things to do except for the lure of street shopping at Colaba. I dove deep into the life of the city which happened both by chance and by design.

Street shopping at Colaba, a quick drink at cafe mondegar,  peek into cafe Leopold and blissful coffee and cookie at the Star bucks at the Taj

Street shopping at Colaba, a quick drink at cafe mondegar, peek into cafe Leopold

Mandeep enjoying  her blissful coffee drink and cookie at the Star bucks at the Taj

Mandeep enjoying her blissful coffee drink and cookie at the Star bucks at the Taj

What I loved about Mumbai:

1. Work ensured that I met the most enterprising of individuals who were informal as they were professional. Nobody wasted anybody’s time and everybody aimed to extract maximum value from the time expended. I found this extremely impressive and comforting.

2. This city knows how to have fun. Almost every evening I headed out for dinner and to try out some interesting places. Each night was a new experience and every place was packed. Nobody was in a hurry to get back home though it was a weekday!!

3. The ‘concept’ restaurants in Mumbai are an experience. We had a chance to celebrate International Women’s Day at a restaurant called ” Haibao” which promised a shabu shabu experience – a Japanese dish wherein the different kinds of vegetables, meats, fish and other seafood are dropped into boiling broth (which is at the table itself) and cooked in front of the diners.  It was delicious as it was satisfying.

The Shabu Shabu experience at Haibao, Juhu

The Shabu Shabu experience at Haibao, Juhu

4. Yoga house was yet another cafe that I fell in love with. I would love for Bahrain to have something like this where you can just go and relax with your coffee served with jaggery, quiona salad and detox juices. No processed food is served here which includes sugar. I was completely bowled over by the ambiance and sense of harmony the cafe had to offer.

Yoga house was an experience

Yoga house was an experience

5. The most amazing bit about Mumbai was that I found it safe to travel alone or with friends at any hour of the night.  I had the shocking experience of walking past the crowd of the most drunk people and there weren’t any mishaps or cat calls. It was like I had almost expected it and was prepared to mentally ignore it and to my shock it did not happen. People were doing their own thing. More drunk people recommended one food outlet over the other. I haven’t experienced this much freedom for women walking down the roads in a long, long time. And I looked around to see so many more women just going about their stuff even as late at 1 or 2 am at night.  Hats off Mumbai for creating a culture  and environment so safe for women.

6. Mumbai experience was deepened in afterthought. After a long time I was by myself, responsible only for my own self. That was rare and somehow freeing. The sense of anonymity that Mumbai provided helped me be myself. I could easily shed my heavy cloak of self consciousness and enjoyed myself like I didn’t care. That feeling of anonymity can be addictive because even after days of coming back to Bahrain, I craved for it.

These were my reasons for loving a city that I once despised. Life is funny like that. The more severely stubborn we become about something, it has its way of bringing everything back full circle. I hope you enjoy Mumbai as I did albeit through the Instagram images. For most parts it was a great trip because Mandeep planned it so for me. A huge fraction of my transformation journey was possible only because of her – because she showed me that face of Mumbai that she intuitively knew I would enjoy.

A Guest post about the top 5 things to do in Bahrain for Amelia – Chai : A cup of Life

17 Mar

When Amelia  of Chai: A cup of life asked me to do a guest post for her, I agreed immediately without really thinking what I was going to write about. I know and appreciate the fact that Amelia wrote about her life as an expat in India and now Dubai. She gave such profound cultural insights about the Indian way of living that it sometimes shocked and surprised me how these escaped me when I lived there. Anyways, coming to the point.. I decided I’d do a TOP 5 Things to do in Bahrain post for her.

An excerpt from my post on Amelia’s blog.

“Living an expat’s life in Bahrain for the last four years has been the most enchanting one. Every single day, I get a new cultural insight that leaves me enriched with life lessons. Initially, I had reservations about adjusting to the Middle Eastern culture but I was proved wrong in no time by the openness and the warmth of the people of Bahrain. It has been four years now and I can confidently call Bahrain my home because even when I am on my annual vacation to India, I miss the comfort of my routine in Bahrain.

Bahrain, also known as the Kingdom of Bahrain is a small island-country on the western shores of the Persian Gulf. In four years, I have had a chance to enjoy most of the sights that the country has to offer. It cannot be compared to the touristy offerings of Oman or Dubai but it is quite special in its own way for its inhabitants and tourists alike. For the longest time, Bahrain was the financial hub of the Middle East and it still is in my opinion (though many would contest that because the 2008 financial downturn was hard on the Bahrain economy). Yet, the charm of Bahrain has to be lived to be experienced, which we as expats do every single day of our life.” 

For more head over to Chai: A cup of life

Meanwhile Happy Holi to everybody!!!

I share with you some instagram pictures of Holi Celebrations in Bahrain

Holi celebrations at the Temple in Manama - the capital of Bahrain

Holi celebrations at the Temple in Manama – the capital of Bahrain

"Gheear" A Sindhi Specialty like a Jalebi for Holi

“Gheear” A Sindhi Specialty like a Jalebi for Holi

 

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