Thursday, February 15, 2018

Caribbean Tales: How to select islands for an Indian Passport holder

The cricket fanatic in my husband wanted to visit the West Indies. We didn't visit any stadiums though but that is for another post! Frankly, we had no clue since we didn't have any friends who have visited the islands. Living in the Middle East, we usually go to Europe or Asian countries owing to shorter flight duration. And so, Google was my only friend when searching for the islands to see.

This page stating Visa Requirements for Indian Passport Holders is highly accurate. To reconfirm you must go to the immigration site of various countries and check. You can also find their twitter handle and message them; chances are high of getting a reply. I even emailed a few embassies and got a response, although I found better info online!

If you are flying via USA, you will need an American tourist visa. We didn't check before going if U.S. needs transit visa; it does! Thankfully we had one, and it is probably because of this we didn't pay much heed to transit requirements.

From whatever I read online, we can safely conclude that you can visit most Caribbean nations while on a cruise without a visa. A clear exception to this is Cuba (the ONLY reason we couldn't visit this amazinggg island). You can take a 4-day, 7-day, 14-day, etc cruise leaving from Miami, Puerto Rico, Galveston, or any other port, visit these islands as a day tripper, and no one will ask you for a visa. It saves you a lot of hassle, plus you can see more in less time.

Frankly, a cruise works really well. Inter-Caribbean airlines are known for baggage loss, several delays and cancellations, and what not. I had read horrid tales and frankly I was super scared. Thankfully, nothing went wrong in our case and we were saved. But we did lose several hundred dollars due to cancellations for we didn't want to visit Hurricane (Maria and Irma) hit islands. The airlines give you vouchers for canceling and we have no plans of visiting the Caribbean in the next one year... so.

If you are like us who want to stay in an island for several days to soak in the culture, you could make an itinerary like ours. Since we were new to the region, I just researched for direct flights from one island to the other and made my itinerary. The following route is easily possible with direct flights and no visa hassle:

Miami --San Juan -- St. Kitts & Nevis -- Antigua & Barbuda -- Dominica -- St. Marteen -- Kingston -- Miami

(You get Visa on Arrival at Antigua if you have a US visa and you don't need a visa in St. Marteen if you have the same.)

However we had to change itinerary due to Hurricane Maria. It is sad what happened to St. Marteen and Dominica due to the disastrous winds and rainfall. We canceled and rescheduled our flights and lost a lot of money which is nothing compared to the life and infrastructure lost due to the same. My heart goes out to all their beautiful people...

Our revised itinerary looked like this:

Bahrain -- St. Kitts & Nevis -- Antigua & Barbuda -- Kingston & Ocho Rios -- Miami -- Bahrain

Now finding direct flights can be tricky. Don't be alarmed if you go to a travel site and see no flight on your day of departure. Just go to google and type, say, Antigua to Kingston flight and you will find the day of direct flight from your departing country.

I would strongly advice you not to take connecting flights in the Caribbean as the web states many horror stories! Check Liat and Seaborne reviews if you want.

Apart from Visa and direct flights, we went to Google Images for advice! It all looks so beautiful! Jamaica was on the top of our list. Cuba needed visa from India which was not possible for us. Antigua has 365 beaches. St. Kitts had easy access from Miami, and a high recommendation from bloggers around the world.

Our itinerary was sorted..

Coming up next - Exploring St. Kitts.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Laughing Stock

We all have that one friend who is the butt of all jokes. Whatever he/she says becomes fodder for the 'bully' and an amusing piece of comedy for the rest of the group members.

Unfortunately, in my circle of friends, that person is me! So much so, that the 'first among equals' is planning to publish a comic book in my name.

Do I care? Not so much. I love laughter even if it is at my cost. We are mature adults and we know our boundaries. I sometimes get really annoyed and give a piece of my mind to the Boy! Oh, I should mention that I am the least confrontational person you will ever meet, I can never say anything to those jokers! I speak my heart out to the Boy and he tells me it is harmless fun and then we just carry on with our banters.

When I was younger, my cousins use to pull my leg a lot. Sometimes I took things really personally, but I realised that they were just trying to find humour in a situation. I realised that I could take jokes from those I liked; random strangers/acquaintances? - not so much.

In school, this one guy was always after my life due to my 'Punjabi' surname. It was fun for a while, but then when I thought a line was being crossed, I stopped entertaining him. I didn't budge until he came and apologised... it was the most fun I have had in 10th grade!

You see, I have always understood one thing - they can make jokes on you till you want them to. The day you put your foot down, they stop. But laughter comes rarely in this stressful life of ours, and so I let them use my anecdotes and be merry. I am all for wit and humour done in good taste. Infact I make concious effort to add to their tales! I give them sufficient matter to pick on and elaborate in their own jester-like manner. And why not, I like a good chuckle as well.

Frankly, I feel the world has become too touchy. Whatever you say or do is interpreted in so many different ways. A good stand-up comedian cannot crack jokes without offending the feminists, a certain gender or race, an age-group, people with different life choices... you get the drift. We have stopped taking life with a pinch of salt. We need to understand that not all situations need our evaluation on whether it is principally correct. Some things are intrinsically funny, just let them be!

Coming back to being a laughing stock - what would you rather be? A sulk or a sport? An entertainer or a bore? Let me be straight with you - if you have an eccentric personality like mine, you really don't have a choice. And so, I would happily indulge in designing that comic book. Infact, I am planning to initiate the process! Wish me luck, and patience! 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Happy New Year!

Hello Dear Blog!

Long time no see! I have so much to tell you. One year has passed and I haven’t really spoken to you. But first things first, Happpyyyyy New Year!!

2017 was such a roller coaster. While the first half of the year was awfully unpleasant, the second half passed in like half a second. Needless to say, I liked second half more, and why not! I was on a vacation for most of it.

You know how I spent my new year’s eve? I was stranded at an airport without the Boy for over 17 hours! It became one of my funnest experiences ever. I had gone to my favourite sister’s wedding and was about to land just before the new year’s eve party. A one of its kind fog swayed over Bahrain and our airport closed down for more than 12 hours. The plane was diverted to Abu Dhabhi and we stayed the night. They say they haven’t seen anything like this in 30 years!

So, at first I was all teary eyed because I was alone on new year’s eve. After that we-should-have-fun-hour passed, I was all fine chatting with men, women and children around me. I made friends with soooo many people at the airport, slept on the sofa, ate way too many times in the lounge, took a nice hot shower, exchanged numbers, was called an angel... haha!

I landed in Bahrain after 24 hours for what was suppose to be just a 3.5 hour journey but I was absolutely fine. Guess I have excess patience and tolerance and excitement for new adventures!
I have to tell you all about my Caribbean trip as well. I need to sit for days and jot down every bit of that. I don’t want those memories to fade, oh how much I want to live those moments again.

I missed you dear blog. I wish to write and then write some more. I am in a very different zone right now. I feel I am in between holidays. I feel I am relaxed and stress free and just want to do what my heart desires. I don’t want to get into worldly affairs. I don’t want to start stressing over things that are not in my control. I want to live for a while..

The last few months have been so awesome. There have been moments of confusion and anxiety, but that is a part of this amazing adventure called life. Did I tell you about my 35th birthday? Ah, it was the most fun I have had in a very long time. So was the Boy’s 35th.And our 9th wedding anniversary? Yes, yes, yes, you need to be updated on my life.

This feels like a 16 year old girl’s blog, but didn’t it always sound like that. I am reading a book called ‘The subtle art of not giving a f*ck’ and that is what I will give.

I will be back with my Carib tales. You stay put my darling!

Your forever friend.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Live and Let Live

Have I become weird or is it totally annoying to wish someone on a Whatsapp group? I feel I will be judged if I don’t wish someone. I feel there are prying eyes on each group who have nothing better to do than check who is wishing whom. 

Just today, there are three people that I have to wish on a couple of family Whatsapp groups, and guess what, they are not even in the group! It is like being pushed to call someone else's phone and screaming so that the birthday girl hears her wish. Do such wishes even count?

When I wish, I really want to wish. I hate being forced. 

On being forced, Karwachauth is around the corner! I have expressed my views on a fast that puts you on gunpoint and tells you that if you don’t fast your husband would die! Really? I have those superpowers? Thank goodness I don’t come from a family that fasts on various occasions believing they will be rewarded for their good Karma just by doing so. How rebellious I would have been in that case!

Forcing someone, passing sarcastic remarks, saying ‘oh, you don’t remember me’ is such a put-off. I am not an awesome person, I am not sweet, and I am certainly not meant to please people around. I am very selfish and I will do what I feel like. Stop forcing me!

I use to hate my mother tell me what to do. She came under my wrath quite often. The Boy understands my trait very well, and so he has never ever told me to do anything. Any ‘order’ is met with such scolding that poor fellow doesn’t ever utter a word. I hate being told to do something so much that even if someone asks me for a glass of water, I hate it!

I can do a million things for a person if I feel like doing it. Putting me under pressure puts the said person in my hit-list. Sarcastic comments go very badly with me and I tend to act in exactly the opposite manner. If I want something, I ask people very politely keeping their comfort zone in mind and having very low expectations of things being done. All I expect in return is being able to live my life the way I feel like.

Is this a rant? No, this is general observation from what I have been seeing around me lately. Only my family and because I love my Boy, so his family, can make me do things. Other than that, I owe nothing to anyone. Infact I wish on Whatsapp groups only because I don’t want our families to get rude remarks on our behaviour, you know, if there was a parent-teacher meeting a.k.a a wedding around the corner.

How people live in a made-up society of I-called-you-for-dinner-so-you-call-me-for-dinner is something I will never understand. The forced give and take is abhor-able. No one wants to do it yet everyone follows the societal norms. You can call me an outcast if you wish, but I will do what I feel like. 

Over and out! 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Drinking Game

I started drinking alcohol at the age of six. My dad is a regular whiskey consumer; I distinctively remember taking a sip from his glass and going eww. After that, I took a break for 10 years or so.


My next rendezvous was with a screwdriver from my brother's glass. This must be when I was 17. We were on the dance floor with a few of his friends and he offered me to drink. It is the coolest thing to have an older brother. And some cute guys for his friends whom I refused to call bhaiya!

He then offered me to buy my own whenever we went out dining sans the parents. I was not a fan and this use to be a half yearly occasion which really didn't worry an elder brother.

I made my friends have their first drink from my kitchen when we were 19 maybe. Mom was watching and it wasn't a big deal.I just knew how to mix Vodka with orange juice or Sprite. I did just that and we all had a ball in my pink room. Yes, it was always pink even till when I was 26.  The bravest thing I did was to make myself a drink once while chatting online with the Boy. I can't remember what got into me; I tiptoed into the kitchen at 1 in the night and made myself a Vodka and something. I remember washing the glass nicely before sleeping and feeling super grown-up.

On my last birthday before I got married, I got sloshed with my bestie and saw a movie. It was a laugh riot and the memory of it is still clear in my head. Oh, I think I have a blog post as well - the perks of blogging and documenting my life here since 10 years!

After marriage, drinking became a norm. It was the start of hostel life for me which I never experienced before the age of 26. I was starting to live alone with a boy and with that came weekends, clubbing, bar hopping, exploring the best pubs in town and socializing with his bachelor friends. I got drunk numerous times and had a lot of fun. Why is life more fun after a couple of drinks, I'll never understand. And yes, I never got out of control or lost my mind.

I wrote another drunk post here. Well, ummm, meh.

I am not addicted, but I also don't believe in drinking carbonated drinks without adding a certain rum/vodka in them. If I am with friends, I don't mind beer or wine. I absolutely love to drink with girls because we end up laughing so hard. This brings me to the second part of this post..

To be cont.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Making the Two Left Feet, Right

Have you ever gone a full 34 years of your life without going on stage and doing a little dance? Well, I have. And a ramp walk doesn't count!

My classmates and teachers were all very sweet, but the performances that we had in school required a high level of strength and stamina which I didn't showcase. So while there were concerts every second year, I either stood in a choir and sang (apparently like Michael Jackson, at least that's what the cutest Sir in school said when I sang 'Heal the World'!!) or I watched over kids from Nursery and ate from their tiffins during break time.

Did you know kids bring the tastiest meals and when you are a didi monitoring them, they can give you their life, leave alone alphabet shaped frymes. I even had my favourite kids whom I looked forward to meeting every day.

I had another friend in tow who did not perform because she had too many male admirers in school! She and I became besties and in the duration, I gathered my own share of fans.

Well, I digress.

Post school, I was too conscious. My friends and family were extra sweet and so they never pushed me hard enough to get out of my comfort zone. While I danced on every dance floor I saw, I stayed away from any place that came under public scrutiny. My steps didn't match Katrina, but when I saw Sunny Deol, my confidence went up by leaps and bounds. God bless that angel.

Marriage brought me another pair of left feet in the form of the Boy. While I lacked confidence, he didn't seem to have form. From what I can safely assume, Sunny Deol learnt from him.

Now we have a multitude of friends here in Bahrain. Some are sweet and some are crazy. The sweet ones would go out of their way to make life comfortable for us. The crazy ones, however, don't care about how pleasant all experiences are, they just want memories which can lead to all sorts of leg pulling.

On a drunken night we decided to do a funny mime dance for a friend's party. Since it was a standing performance, both me and the Boy agreed. What followed were some of the best experiences of my life.

We asked a friend to help us out who bailed at the last moment. We then devised our own dance steps which we could perform at ease. However, we were being too simple and it didn't seem to work. We looked for a cheap choreographer, and luckily found one called V.

On the first day, V came and by all means was devastated to see her disciples. While three could do whatever maneuver she did, four of us threw tantrums. The Boy even talked about walking out because he was too confused with every left, right, turn, twist, jiggle... 'I did not sign up for this,' were his exact words!!

We thought we will let fate decide and see how it goes, one day at a time. On the second day, we had come practiced and V knew what she was in for. She taught us simple, cool and funny steps and all was good with the world. We joked, we practiced, and had a lot of fun. It was just a 4-minute jig, and time seem to end pretty fast.

Me and the Boy practiced at home as well. Our confidence came with the fact that we knew all steps! He can make the cutest faces and I can just woo with my, you know, being there!

On the D-Day, we all were nervous as hell. In my gold sequence skirt I stood at the back with the Boy and hoped all to go well. The music started and there was a lot of hooting. Bringing on the Kala Chashma brought more cheers. I just forgot one step. I did not fall (the Boy had a back up plan for that, he said he will start doing Naagin dance if I did fall!).

People came up to me and praised the Boy's cute expressions and my skirt. I told you, I woo by just being there!

I can't think of a better experience. From absolutely zero confidence, to attaining at least some of it, we went a long way in the last week. I thought of the many moments of feeling rejected in school. When we grow up, we can be whatever we want to be. We have a judgmental society that stops us from doing what we love, but that should not stop us. For all you know, that society is unsure of its own strengths and weaknesses and applauds you for your bravery. I can vouch for this because I saw people with confidence crumple a tad under pressure.

And these crazy friends, keep them close. They can make you do things you never thought you could do. They balance the hot and sweet in your life, they bring equilibrium to madness and sanity, they dig you out from your shell pretending nothing is wrong. You think they don't understand you, but they do, in a whole different way. They have that unique ability to change the next 34 years of your life for you.

Like they did for me.

I know, the skirt. The right side even had a slit!
The dance picture has others, and I am not authorized to post!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hello 2017!

It has been 8 months into 2017, and today is the first day I feel really good about everything. It might change tomorrow because history has proved me wrong time and again, but I am not going to let that change anything about today. Lots happened this year that made me a stronger, better person. Life's lessons, health lessons and personal growth - all at once!

When they say health is wealth, they are not lying. You can buy everything your heart desires, you can own a house, a luxury car or go to exotic destinations in first class, but if your body is not feeling good, you will not be happy in the true sense of the word. We do try to ignore our problems because, well, you can't be brooding over things that can't change, but our heart never feels in the right place. Wealth does help us to cover up our problems and give us temporary relief, but it cannot give us peace.

Oh, too many buts in those two paragraphs!

So I took a weight loss package in the beginning of this year because I have been recommended to lose some kilos by doctors. I did really well and felt proud. However, the plan backfired and with losing weight, I lost a lot of strength. I traveled to India alone and had my worst day when I could not even walk at an outing. It was the lowest low in my life and I was shaken to the very core. I feared my present and the future and did not know what to do.

Like everything wrong that has ever happened, I thought that this too shall pass. I tried various things that I have tried in the past but they did not seem to work. I really thought it will never change. In June, we went for a vacation and nothing felt right. It was a beautiful place, I was in good company, the plans worked great, still, I was not cheerful at all.

I came back and met a few doctors. I went online and researched whatever I could. I even made friends with people who seemingly had my condition. I spoke to my friends for encouragement. I spoke to my doctor relatives who spoke to specialists. I saw YouTube videos of conferences held for similar diseases. It was panic and a great deal of it!

To say that I was feeling low would be an understatement. No one knows about it though. Yes, there are things I didn't do. I didn't give up. I didn't not smile in public. I didn't stop enjoying life the way I should be.

Only lately I found a physiotherapist who seems to understand me. Just four sessions with her and I feel better, partly because she told me that I look like a 23-24 year old! Ya, well, I agree.

Now, like I said, history has proved me wrong time and again. That will and should not let me not be happy. There are a few things I fear, yet there are a thousand things I am grateful for. To be honest, it is this gratitude that has kept me going. I do my pranayaam in the morning and thank God for every small thing. Even in these hard times I did not ask for anything because I know it is not about that. Strength comes from believing in yourself and staying positive. Gratitude keeps me positive.

I've not written much this year, I really don't feel like it. Lets hope this will change as well. I haven't even written about my trip to Croatia and Slovenia because of all the lull surrounding it and it depresses me when I think about how I felt there. I have 4 trips lined up for this year and finally I am looking forward to them. There is something else also that I would share in the next post. It is going to be awesome, for me at least!

Until next time, keep smiling and never give up. That keeps you awesome and helps you look like a 23 year old forever.

P.S. I took my first step into middle age yesterday, had to put henna in my hair to hide the white strands. Oh, I look 23 despite that, just FYI.

P.P.S Did I tell you I love my new therapist?