A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for November, 2014

From God’s own country..

Posted by Pepper on November 30, 2014

I am going to bullet my thoughts on the Kerala trip. My brain usually feels muddled when there is a lot to say. This post has been in the drafts forever. So without further ado, here we go:

– Like I had mentioned in my previous post, we traveled to Cochin by train. It was a 24 hour journey. I managed to sleep * a lot*. Perhaps the mild rocking of the train is conducive to sleeping? I don’t know. I was surprised by my own capacity to sleep. When I wasn’t sleeping, Mint and I spent time chatting with each other and reading our respective books. We had some good food too. Our train stopped at Udupi station and Mint got some boxed meals of appams and kadala curry. Quite amazing!

– I managed to use the toilets in the train without much fuss. It was okay, I thought. The only thing that grossed me out was the handles on the toilet doors. They were always sticky. That made me wonder. What was causing them to get sticky? Some of the passing thoughts were downright repulsive. So I stopped thinking. I used tissue paper to touch the handles and slathered my palms with sanitizer each time I used the loo.

– We got off at Ernakulam station at around 7 pm the next evening. It was drizzling. We walked to the end of the platform with all our bags only to find the entrance of the staircase closed. How were we to go to the other side of the platform then? We wondered. And then we realised. We were supposed to cross the tracks! With all our bags. That is what everybody was doing. Great. This happens only in India. So with a lot of trepidation and fear of being run over by speeding trains, we carried all our suitcases and tried running across the railway tracks in the dark as fast as we could.

– We checked in to our hotel in Cochin, dumped our luggage there and freshened up before we headed out for dinner. We were to leave for Munnar by bus early morning the next day. So we wanted to have an early night. We dined at Grand Hotel. Mint feasted on the fish fry while I enjoyed the egg curry.

– We were in the bus by 7 am the next day. The drive was around 5 hours but seemed much longer. Perhaps I was impatient to get a glimpse of the mountains. I wasn’t disappointed when we reached. Misty mountains and tea plantations everywhere! So very beautiful.

– The bus dropped us off at the main market and from there we were to take a taxi up to our home stay. Mint thought it would be interesting to experience the local way of life there, so he told me we should use the local share taxi to get to our destination, instead of hiring a private one. I agreed a little reluctantly. They stuffed a million passengers inside a small jeep. I remember being elbowed and not having enough room to keep even half of my butt on the seat. And this, after we paid for an extra seat just so we had more room!

– It was a 45 minute drive and while I was cursing Mint for making me ‘experience the local flavour’ by having me thrown off my seat at each curve when I was already so tired, it began to pour! Mint and I had not even thought of this possibility. How stupid were we! All our luggage was placed in the carriers on top of the jeep. There was no plastic sheet shielding our bags. I glared at Mint. He apologised. I worried about the stuff inside our bags. I wondered if our suitcases were waterproof, and if they were, how much they could really withstand. It poured and poured and after about half an hour, I gave up. I was sure all our clothes and everything would be soppy wet. Needless to say, I was sulking and snapping at Mint.

– We reached our home stay in the afternoon. Our hosts were lovely and welcomed us with a lemon flavoured drink. I rushed up to our room to sort out our wet clothes. Although our suitcases were soaked, only the top layer of our clothes were wet. Not everything had been ruined the way I had feared. I spread the clothes out to dry and lay down for a long nap.

– With no agenda in mind, Mint and I stepped out in the evening. We were told to not venture beyond the lake as we might run into wild elephants! Whoa, this was really living in the wild. We could not stop marveling at the shining mist in the mountains, the picturesque landscapes and the fresh air.

– While we were taking in and admiring the sights around us, a group of local school boys called out to us. They didn’t know what language to talk to us in initially. And then suddenly one of them discovered that Mint knew Tamil. There was collective cheering and the boys began talking to Mint in Tamil. They even coaxed him to join in a game of cricket. We asked them about their school and their life up in the mountains. We love traveling to different places because of experiences like these. We get an opportunity to peak into the lives of the locals. There is so much to know and learn.

– Munnar is a beautiful place. I was surprised to see a lot of homes converting their small living rooms to a ‘hotel’. All they had to do was put up a sign with a name of their ‘Hotel’, describing what they served. I remember ringing the door bell of one such house/hotel and asking them what they had for us. The lady called us in, went to her kitchen and served us terrific dosas and chutney. She charged us a measly Rs. 30 for this. How awesome it is to get access to such delicious home cooked food packed with local flavours! I think this setup is the best way to learn about the people who live there.

– Talking about food, we were treated to a fabulous ‘sadya’ by our hosts the same day. I really couldn’t get enough of the flavours in their food. I was happy we had another 3 days in Munnar. We were resting, pigging out and going for long walks. Life was good. Until I fell sick.

– We noticed I was feeling unusually cold during one of our morning walks. So I wore a sweater while Mint made fun of me. I was also a little out of breath and was beginning to feel a little nauseous. By the time we went back to our home stay, I thought I had developed a mild fever. So I spent most of my day sleeping in.

– That night, I had the brilliant idea of washing my hair. It felt a little oily and I didn’t want to have oily hair in my holiday pictures. What a stupid idea it turned out to be. So I went for my hair bath while Mint was using the wifi that only worked in the living room downstairs. The home stay had gas heaters that did not work with the shower. I had to use a tap and a bucket. The problem was the flame in the heater would snap out every 2 minutes and the water would run cold. I tried working around it by having a supply of very hot water in the bucket.

– I don’t know what went wrong, but just after I had rinsed off the lather and used conditioner in my hair, the heater snapped off and didn’t turn on again. It happened at a time when I had run out of hot water in my bucket too. The water was ice cold and I was shivering. I couldn’t bear to rinse my hair with that water. So I wrapped a towel around myself and walked out of the bathroom. I called Mint upstairs to our room and begged him to fix the heater SOMEHOW. He took some time figuring out what was wrong and in that time I stood there shivering in my towel, with wet hair and water dripping down my back. I was feeling so cold, I thought I would faint.

– Although Mint fixed the heater, it worked only for another minute before the water ran cold again. I managed to rinse my hair haphazardly and stepped out, trembling from head to toe. My teeth began to chatter uncontrollably. I had my hair dryer and I used the dryer all over my body to get some warmth. The moment I would stop, my teeth would begin chattering. By now, I was running a very high temperature. I put my clothes on but kept using the hair dryer on my body constantly. I know using the dryer was destroying my skin. I could feel it get dry and burn, but I kept at it because I was so desperate for the heat.

– By night, I was sick like a dog. I had very high fever and I was throwing up so much, I felt like a puke factory. Even Mint, who is usually quite unfazed at such times, touched my forehead that night and said he was really scared. I was burning. I told him to not worry in my semi conscious state. We were to leave for Thekkady the next day, but with me so sick, we weren’t sure we could go anymore.

– I blamed the faulty water heater for this episode. Maybe not the throwing up, but the high fever could be attributed to my disastrous bath. Our home stay was lovely and very comfortable. We had taken for granted that they would have a running supply of hot water. Because that is a given. Next time though, I will double check and not take this for granted.

– Since we had to cancel our Thekkady trip, we tried to squeeze in some local travel in Munnar the next day. We decided to step out although I was sick. We called for a private taxi this time and I wobbled along on my unsteady feet. I had medicines for fever and a puke bag handy. We stopped the car each time I felt uneasy. On that day, we explored Munnar at length. The waterfalls, the tourist spots, the tea estate, the elephant camp, all of it.

– We checked out of our home stay the next morning. Staying there was a lovely experience. The hosts gave us a lot of information about the place and some useful pointers on what to do there. The food they cooked was heavenly. They even shared the recipes. Home stays are wonderful in that sense. However, if you are like me, that is, overly conscious about how much you bother people around you, then maybe staying in somebody’s house may not be the best thing. For example, I felt very guilty asking them to give me coffee at the times I wanted. I felt guilty asking them to serve me the lunch of my choice. Instead, I said I would eat whatever was easiest for them to cook. Yes, we were paying them for every little thing, so Mint said my behaviour didn’t make sense. I just felt obliged to not inconvenience them in anyway. I grant myself more freedom in a hostel or a hotel.

– We took the bus back to Cochin. It took us almost 7 hours because of the traffic. I spent almost all my time puking. I had a large plastic bag in my hand and by the time we reached, the bag was full up to the brim. Eeeks.

– We met our friends in Cochin and spent the next few days catching up with each other, exploring the city and gearing up for the baby shower. Before you ask, yes, we did visit Fort Kochi and yes, it was lovely. We flew back home after 8 days in Kerala. Although the trip had been fun, I was happy to be back home to the comfort of my room, the familiarity of my bathroom and shower and ofcourse, simple homely food.

The local school the boys we met studied in. I wondered if they took those views for granted..


View from the balcony of our room in the home stay


The merry water fall we passed..

The merry water fall we passed..


Anybody know what flowers these are? They were so eye catching, we couldn't resist taking a picture

Anybody know what flowers these are? They were so eye catching, we couldn’t resist taking a picture


Moi. Observing the mist that lay ahead..

Moi. Observing the mist that lay ahead..


In the tea factory. They actually allowed me to work the machines and  produce a whole batch of tea leaves..

In the tea factory. They actually allowed me to work the machines and produce a whole batch of tea leaves..




And more beauty..

And more beauty..


And more..

And more..

Posted in Travel | 34 Comments »

Yet another ‘I’m back’ post.

Posted by Pepper on November 24, 2014

Reappearing after a brief spell of silence seems to have become a common theme on this blog. This time, I have missed the blog sorely. And ofcourse, I’d like to believe I have been missed too. In my imaginary world, there is a large audience waiting desperately to hear from me. I see them whistling, clapping and cheering as I emerge. Amidst all that frenzied hooting, I approach the podium.. err, blog. And then I begin to speak. People hang on to every word of mine. The moment everybody has been waiting for has arrived. I am back!

You see why I love living in my imaginary world? Because reality sucks. Nobody seems to have missed me. I got no emails checking on me this time. Nobody seems to be desperate for my return. Hmph.. But we will ignore that, okay? We will instead focus on the few hundreds of people who visit this space religiously. Despite me posting nothing. They come here and leave empty handed (empty headed?), having found nothing new to read. So for all those awesome people who give my stats a constant boost, I am back. How can I continue disappointing you like that? I know. I am modest and humble. Thank you.

What kept me away? I believe I have mentioned that already. The month has been crazy. My cousin came down from Spain. She had gotten married to a Spanish boy and wanted to come to India to have an Indian wedding ceremony. She was visiting India after 17 years, so she knew almost nothing about the city or country in its current state.

They also wanted to have their honeymoon in India. The responsibility of planning their travel and the wedding ceremony fell on me entirely. I cribbed and whined. Because I was already very  burdened with the BFF’s wedding planning. I don’t know how the days went by. I was coordinating with a travel agent for my cousins’s honeymoon arrangements, checking suitable venues for the wedding, planning the BFF’s  bachelorette party, writing the script for her sangeet and dance party, talking to caterers, figuring out what to wear for all the upcoming occasions, whining about how busy life is, rehearsing my dance for the party, brain storming with the BFF’s sister, trying to come up with appropriate props for the Bollywood theme we had chosen for one of the parties, getting movie banners printed, having family dinners every other day with my cousin and her husband and so on and so forth.

I haven’t had a moment’s respite. No, it isn’t over yet. But a lot of events have been crossed out of my list. The cousin and her husband had a happy wedding ceremony. They enjoyed all the family gatherings and dinners. They loved their honeymoon. They have now returned to Spain. Phew. The BFF’s bachelorette party is done. The sangeet and dance party is done. I will write individual posts on them later, perhaps. What remains now is the mehendi party. And the haldi ceremony. And the wedding ceremony. And the reception. Okay, that does sound taxing. But the good news is that I have no more work! All the events that I had to plan and organise are done. Now I only have to show up for the rest of them. Okay, I am kidding. Knowing the BFF, I know I will be swamped with last minute chores for the remaining occasions too.

But, but! I am back. Despite the ongoing festivities. They will be over in a week. I intend writing here regularly. I have so much to say. Looks like the silence on the blog was just the calm before the storm. So beware! You are now going to be inundated with posts.

Posted in The black hole | 27 Comments »

How it ended

Posted by Pepper on November 2, 2014

Thank you, kind people. All your thoughts and comments on my last post are much appreciated. I owe you guys an update. Since I spoke about how it all began, I should also mention how it all ended. Infact, I am sorry I have taken this long to update this page. It lead some of you to believe that Mint and I were still feeling the strain. That is far from the truth and I felt utterly guilty for not updating this space when I saw some concerned mails.

My post was probably a knee jerk reaction. Maybe because I am absolutely not used to disputes that last more than a few hours. When the last one had not been resolved  by the next morning, it started upsetting me more than it should have. Anyway, it came to an end in a day. I also realised that I had taken this a lot more seriously than Mint had.

I remember being all upset the day I wrote the last post. I wondered how long it would take for us to thaw. When Mint got home after work, I glanced at him and then decided to ignore him. To my surprise, he seemed totally fine. He even chose to engage in some trivial talk. “Hey, the shoes we ordered for you online are here. Did you try them? Did they fit you?”. I was a little confused. So I responded to him only with a silent nod. I mean, I thought we were not talking to each other? Why are we discussing these inane things then?

It went on like that. Mint talking to me as though nothing had happened. Hello? I don’t want to return to normalcy unless we sort that out. Like I said, I need closure. But most importantly, I believe it is critical to discuss our differences if we want to avoid similar showdowns in future. We need to negotiate and reach an agreement that both of us are comfortable with. If we don’t do that, won’t we keep getting trapped in our old issues?

Looks like the guy didn’t think so. He was absolutely comfortable not discussing our past behaviour. Neither was he being cold to me anymore. After realising this wasn’t going anywhere, I decided to take matters in my own hands. I told him I wanted to talk about what had happened the previous day. Like I suspected, he seemed reluctant to go over the crap. Too bad. Not that I find the exercise very enjoyable. But what needs to be done, needs to be done. I’d rather get done with it by talking about it now than be caught in it again. Setting the tone for the future is imperative.

So I broached it after giving it some more time. And we spoke. I told him what angered me. He told me why he was mad. That was easy. Reaching a mutual agreement on what lines are not to be crossed in future called for a slightly longer discussion. But after some calm negotiation and bargaining, we were done. Back to being best pals.

It has been many days since we resolved it now. Realisation strikes me yet again. Mint has spoiled me too much with his forever affectionate gestures.  He has conditioned me to expect a million hugs and cuddles in a day. It is what made me feel so unprepared to face a tiff that lasted an entire day. So after a day when I went back to being his ‘guds’, the world seemed right once again. That is what he usually calls me. It is the shortened version of ‘gudiya’, something that my dad lovingly refers to me as. He picked it up from my father and eventually went on to modify it to ‘guds’. Perhaps that sounds corny and it may garner a lot of eye rolls, but needless to say, I love it.

I’ve known couples who barely fight. BFF#2 for example. She always tells me how she and her husband hardly find any grounds to disagree, let alone fight. I wondered how they did it. Mint and I are such vastly different people, we disagree and argue with each other often. But I love our instant ability to turn around and go back to being madly in love with each other. I’ve secretly come to enjoy the disagreements. They challenge my perspective, teach me how to defend my view point and as a result make me question, learn and grow.

And then there is that matter of underlying security. It indeed is the most comforting blanket. Perhaps, it is that security that permits you to cross boundaries at times. It is what makes you fearless of the consequences. Because you know, no matter what, you will be loved and cared for at the end of the day. It is also what assures you that the freedom and power you have bestowed on someone will never be abused beyond a point. It is what you lie wrapped in when you sleep at night.

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 16 Comments »

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