Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hike to Phajoding / Dungtsho

"I can turn to that day as though it were a page in a book. It’s written so deeply upon my mind I can almost taste the ink." 
                           Hannah Kent, Burial Rites 

Well, that's how I feel when I remember the hike to Phajoding last month. Phajoding was on my bucket list for some time now. Six years to be specific. Until I crossed it off on 22nd February. Phajoding lies at an altitude of 2500m to 3600m and is 5.7 km hike uphill. Our itinerary was:

Day 1: Hike to Phajoding top most monastery and halt for a night
Day 2: Hike to Dungtsho which is about 8.1km (according to our walking speed) from the base monastery


We were blessed with absolutely good weather for the entire hike. The weather was sunny and warm with clear blue skies, perfect for the hike! We started at 9am in the morning from Sangaygang as the base and reached Phajoding by 12 in the afternoon. After a quick lunch we hiked up to the top most monastery which took us about an hour. 


Since we were banking on the monks for a place to halt for the night and if possible some supply of food and warm blankets we reached there by early afternoon. It was already freezing then! The kind monks gave us a room to stay and some hot tea with biscuits. It felt heavenly! If you’re planning to carry your own tents and food supply, it’s better to start in the afternoon and reach the top most monastery just before dusk.

With nothing to do the whole evening, we had a quick dinner and got into bed by 8pm. Mice ran over us in our deep slumber. So it’s better to cover your entire face like a ninja and curl in bed.  By bed, it means that we slept on the floor. We waited for the dawn to come. Literally counting the hours. Soon sleep overtook and we had a good night rest despite the mice running over and the dog bark at night.

My alarm was set for 5:30 am the next day just before sun rise. I had been meaning to see Thimphu enveloped in the morning mist. Unfortunately, mist is a thing for monsoon and not winter. Nonetheless, I got to experience the glorious sun rise from the monastery at 6am. The morning air was dead silent and far from the horizon, marmalade strips of sun started appearing. The wonderful silence just hummed my ears. The moon from the previous night was still there. However, the sunrise soon overtook it. The night battling the cold and mice was totally worth it!

The coffee that made the morning sunrise even better
We had some quick breakfast and started at 7:30 towards Dungtsho, our final destination. After half an hour hike, we reached the topmost point from where you see snowy clad mountains and rhododendron shrubs and valleys and valleys of mountains. The mountain air is absolutely thin here. We were equipped with basic medicines for headache and chocolate bars to beat the altitude sickness. 


Then we faced the most difficult part of the route. And the most worthy as well, now that I look back. A long snowy downhill trek. Later we found out that it was a short cut route which cut down our time by half an hour. Skidding and shrieking and playing, we were finally able to descend the snow clad mountain. 


After an hour’s hike also, we couldn’t come across any tsho (lake). Doubt started to creep in and the fear of being lost started to shroud. We hiked a little further and crossed a mountain and that’s when we encountered the first tsho. Good heavens! The feeling was almost ethereal.



After that, it just became more heavenly. Tshos after tshos, a total of five tshos before we finally reached the final one – Dungtsho. Without any proper trail and directions, one needs to solely depend on one’s intuition. We were a lil’ confused on the route when we finally found a small plate that points the way towards Dungtsho. The uphill climb was treacherous, but it did not deter us. After 3.5 hours of treacherous hike we finally reached Dungtsho. The feeling was out of the window! 

Travel always teaches me new things; endurance, patience and a different outlook in life altogether. It makes me appreciate my country even more and I always always emerge with a positive outlook in life. It makes me feel blessed. I'm grateful for this little life, always! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How to make time for reading


Four summers ago, I made a pledge to read 55 books by Fall 2016. I love books and I cannot deny it. Not only did I beat the challenge but completed 67 books.  This is the only achievement I am proud of! Just like everyone else, I had a busy work life from 9-5, family obligation etc. Everyone I meet says ‘Hey, I want to make time for reading but I simply cannot. I’m too busy!’ For those busybodies who thinks that there is no time for reading, these tips may help you to kindle your love for reading. Now that fall is here, what could be the best thing than to curl up with a book with a steaming cup of tea by your side?

1. Just Read anything

A general trend among the Bhutanese is they prefer nonfiction books particularly self-help and management books. Well, there is nothing wrong in reading these genre but these books lets you lose off your track very easily. What I would rather suggest is go for the books that you actually enjoy. Be it a trashy romance, a thriller, a cookbook or a history, read something that interests you.  What I normally do is I read several books at a time. If I am at work and I want to relax a bit or take my mind off something, I read a light fiction. If it is to wind down at the end of the day, I pick up some biographies or history.

2. Cut down your time in front of the TV screen or scrolling through Facebook & Instagram

Most of the time, we sit infront of the tv screen for hours and hours and spends hours scrolling through facebook and Instagram newsfeed. There is no value addition. I’m equally guilty of this.  Time is not invested wisely here. So make a pact with yourself to read at least 20 pages which you would rather lose it watching tv or scrolling though facebook. Reading goes a long way towards increasing your intelligence level. It reduces stress, helps you to experience multiple emotions and teaches you a lot about many subjects.

3Set a reading goal

Setting a goal and tracking your progress online helps you to track your reading progress. My personal favorite is Goodreads.com, an online account in which you keep your overview of the books you are reading. It helps you set reading challenge and helps you focus on your reading. Give yourself a specific challenge to hold yourself accountable and motivate yourself to reach that goal. You can find a plethora of book recommendations you have ever imagined to find here.   

I hope these small tips will help you pick up a book immediately and start reading.
Happy reading! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Untitled thoughts

The sky last evening. Magnificent, isn't it? 
I often wonder where this life is heading...

I have not read a newspaper for six months now, haven't watched television but have seen two movies at least. I have just been to one social event. I’ve measured my life between workplace and home and occasional visit to my parents.

I live inside my own bubble, completely oblivious of the world around. Friends insist that I go out and explore so that I get to meet akin people, open up and build romantic friendship. You may say that I’m lonely or a workaholic. And that I’ve no personal life. I understand that. Does it affect me? Not at all!

I’ve abandoned writing also. This is the first writing in three months. I feel okay. Perfectly okay!  

Sometimes, I get this feeling of being in transition. That ‘Bardo’ concept of Buddhism. 

My whole perspective towards life has changed. I give my best and leave the rest to the things which are beyond my control. I have learned to accept the art of letting go. It’s beautiful to have come to the terms of acceptance. Does this mean that I’m breathing only? It may seem like that at the outset. But I’m living also. 

I have not abandoned reading. I read a lot. A lot. I often get lost into the world of books and its characters. Which leaves me with no time to indulge in gossips. You are what you read, they say.

I have not envisioned my life ten years from now. The path forward seems clouded mostly for now. But I’m okay with that too. If its meant to be mine, it always will. 

Have a lovely weekend! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Conversations: the very essence of Human Relationships


He wakes up from a splitting headache. The bedside clock shows 3am. The night is as still as the sea. It’s as if one would wake up a sleeping baby if you breathe a little louder.
   
The headache is from the cheap red wine he had with her last night. 

"We are cheap drunks," she says as she pours the wine like a craftsman at work. "But I prefer drinking straight from the bottle," he thinks as he watch her take a sip of it. They had gone out for a couple of drinks after work. 

Their conversation on society, culture, politics, religion, humanity, arts, ideas, beliefs and literature always excites him way too much. 

He has seen her for the last two decades yet it makes him anxious to see her again. Beads of sweat appears on his forehead at the thought of seeing her again. Being with her is talking excitedly about his passion. She challenges his thoughts, dreams and excites his soul.  

He still cannot fathom what it is with her. Is it the way she perceives the world? The way she tries to express about a thing? The way she puts it, ever so articulately? Those dreamy eyes and her porcelain skin. He can never get over it, he thinks as he listen to her describe the outline of the book she’s planning on writing. 

At times he thinks she is the strongest woman he has ever known. Invincible! No force on earth can subdue her. Yet when he look deep into her eyes, he’s convinced that there’s a fragile child deep inside whom he wants to protect and seal her forever in the tablet of his heart.

Conversations with her always surrounds on books, writings and philosophy. 
The mundanes of life ; growing up, going to college, getting married by 25, making babies, saving for the old age and finally leaving this planet seems things of another life. There’s stillness of time when with her. 

Adele’s ‘Hello from the other side...’ is heard softly in the car’s stereo.  
How can one be so satisfied this one moment? He often thinks. Yet when he is with her on that spot overlooking the valley in the distant city lights, away from the humdrum existence of life, this is what it should feel like, when I breathe my last, he thinks as he stare at her lips and hands talking about the surrealism of life.

Monday, March 14, 2016

What it means not to be on Facebook in the age of digital media



On a whim one lazy Sunday afternoon, I decided to deactivate my facebook account and deleted the application from my phone altogether. Before I ditched the social media, I was asked a couple of questions as to why and for how long I’m deactivating the account (Facebook doesn’t let you go off easily).

A few hours later, I started to feel the void. FOMO – Fear of Missing Out Syndrome started to creep in me. 

In this digital age, our phones have become extension of ourselves, an extra limb. They remind us about everything in life ; when to wake up, how many steps you took, your do-to list, all information at the tap of the phone screen. If we leave the house without a phone, we feel disconnected. It’s even worse when the phone’s battery is about to be drained off. I feel like my life is at risk.Why? Because it's the ultimate chord to all the lives out there!

Facebook has been that awkward family dinner table where you’re compelled to be and remain there awkwardly against all your wishes. It has become ‘abnormal’ not to be on facebook now. A week later, friends called me sensing my disappearance from facebook. They rolled their eyes at me when I said I was unplugging from the internet. They were a little worried, you see. 

Studies show that not being on facebook is a sign that you’re abnormal and dysfunctional, or even dangerous. Psychologists say that staying away from social media is ‘suspicious.’ 
In all the recent crimes, criminals showed one common ground; not having a facebook profile. Baffling, isn’t it? 

But hey, I ain’t anyone of them. Neither do I have some malicious attempt at anything nor a wish to be seen as a misfit.

I was just trying to absorb myself in my thoughts without the distraction of social media. I have been meaning to unplug from the social media for some time now. To experience what it means to be disconnected.

Our current obsession with social media scares me. There’s this constant tug to check updates, emails, tweets, status updates. Or to obsess about how many likes a post garnered. We never sit and enjoy the sunset without taking a picture. Never sit at a coffee shop and simply watch the world go by without having to post about it. Never value time alone with someone we love without fiddling the phone.   

My disconnection from social media allowed me a great reflection time. It allowed me to be present in my thoughts, be mindful about it and let me appreciate the present. Without the distraction, I had great deal of time to do things I love; focus on my reading, writing, meeting friends without having to update about it, go out for walks and be productive at my work. At the end, I met a better version of myself.

I also learned that sometimes it’s very crucial for the soul to unplug from everything, like unplugging from the social media for me. It helps you to reflect, rejuvenate and become a better version of the self. Try doing that, I dare you and experience the difference in your soul.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

Let’s talk about books


Hello there! It’s been long.

I haven’t been around here much, that’s because I was unplugging from the internet. It occurred to me that I was spending way too much time on the internet than required. Instead I wanted to invest that time productively; reading, exercising, spend time with family, with the dog. And I’m glad to report that it’s a successful work in progress.

Now, why am I here? To talk about books, of course. If I don’t do that, I think my head will burst since there’s too much of a thing running in my little brain. Let’s talk about books, shall we?  




Never Let Me Go
Rating: 4/5

The first book of the year and it was borrowed from a friend.

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. 

Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life, and for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special-and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.

Though it was very slow at first but once I got the hang of it I loved it. I loved the writing style, in fact that’s the greatest strength of the book, I reckon. Kathy, the narrator is intensely thoughtful and analytical. It’s like she is talking to her confidante, and that confidante is YOU. I loved this book for its gothic darkness.

Wind/Pinball
Rating: 4/5

These first major works of fiction by Haruki Murakami center on two young men--an unnamed narrator and his friend and former roommate, the Rat. 

Powerful, at times surreal, stories of loneliness, obsession, and eroticism, these novellas bear all the hallmarks of Murakami's later books, giving us a fascinating insight into a great writer's beginnings, and are remarkable works of fiction in their own right.

These are the kitchen table novellas of Murakami. For a beginner, I would not recommend these two works of Murakami.

It has become a ritual for me to include one or two of Murakami’s work in my reading list once in a while. It’s amazing that the most ordinary of things seems magical in his books. Like the nameless character, talking cats (which are mandatory), weird humans. Everything seems so weird yet you love it. Magic surrealism. 

It’s no secret that I love Murakami. If you see him, say that I said hello. 


The Saint, the surfer, and the CEO: A Remarkable story about living your heart’s desire
Rating 4/ 5

Once in a while, a book comes along that has the power and the wisdom to speak to the best part of us and awaken our highest selves to the miracle our lives were meant to be.  
It was with much reluctance that I picked up this book though it was lying on my desk for more than a year. Because I disliked The Monk who sold his Ferrari.

After seeing a blog post on such wonderful quotes from the book by Rima, I thought I should give it a try. I did not regret.  

I really enjoyed reading this book so much that I gave it to a friend after finishing it. I highly recommend this book to everyone. This is the only self-help book I liked.

Love and Misadventure
Rating 1/5

Love and Misadventure will take you on a rollercoaster ride through an ill-fated love affair- from the initial butterflies to the soaring heights - through to the devastating plunge.

But my rating. 1? Ha ha. Okay, I love poetry but not of these kind. It’s one of the worst poetry I have ever read. Awful! Let the poem speak for themselves.

Mornings With You

I slowly wake
as day is dawning,
to fingertips
and lips imploring.

The sheets against my skin,
he says,
like wrapping paper 
on Christmas morning.


If you call this poetry then I don’t know what poetry is. It’s like some scribble you do in high school when you’re bored in your Chemistry class.  I couldn’t understand the hype of Leav’s works and the cult following. I searched her a little more and found that her art works are quite popular on tumblr.

Wild swans
Rating  4/5

The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history.

An engrossing record of Mao’s impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love, Jung Chang describes the extraordinary lives and experiences of her family members: her grandmother, a warlord’s concubine; her mother’s struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents’ experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. 

Another read borrowed from a dear friend. It was a thrilling read! There’s so much you get to learn from this book that appalls you; honest history on Communist China and its people and culture and how the author survived to tell us a story. A review will not do justice to this book. You have to read it yourself.

Attachments
Rating 4/5

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.


Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.


This is a thoroughly entertaining read. I enjoyed every bit of it.

All the light we cannot see
Rating 4/5

Winner of the Pulitzer price and New York Times bestseller, All the light we cannot see is about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

This book was getting all the well-deserved attention for its unique story and lyrical prose. It takes time for one to really get into the book. Meaning one needs a lot of patience. The impatient I’m, I had to wait arduously for something important to happen until the stories collided - but only briefly and unsatisfactorily, leaving me totally disappointed. But it’s worth the read. Tread with patience and you will enjoy it. I will have to pick this book up in the future again.

My Mother in-law’s son
Rating 3/5

Narrated from the perspectives of different characters, My Mother-In-Law’s Son is a revealing story of a Singapore and her people struggling to find their feet in the aftermath of a war. It also shows how people going through difficult circumstances can be susceptible to revolutionary ideas. Through Swee Gek’s personal fight against her oppressors, this novel also explores the meaning of love: of whether love can be unconditional or that it is always accompanied by possessiveness.

Heard so much on Singapore but this is the first book on Singapore that I read. It's a bold book and takes one on an emotional roller coaster. I would have rated the book 4 stars had it not been the vague ending.

The Secret History
Rating 4/5

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last - inexorably - into evil.

I finished reading the book last night. Let me tell you this. It’s a long book, over 20,000 words and 629 pages in my edition. It’s not just too long, it’s dense. It takes its time developing atmosphere and character quirks and some of the days in the book take dozens of pages to unfold. It is not a book to speed through. It’s a book to get stuck in and enjoy its warmth and the density. I had to keep track of my patience here again.

The characters are adorable, the hint, the breath of the supernatural, the slow building tension and the sense that I, as a reader was skillfully manipulated was electrifying. I loved it terribly! Tartt has a way with words. I’m sure a Literature student would be able to resonate a lot since Greek literature is the central theme in the book.

So that’s a wrap for the two months. Most of the reviews are taken from goodreads.  I’m currently reading Lady Susan for my book club which is happening in little less than two weeks’ time. What are you currently reading?
  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The day I got lucky…


was the day I became an older sister to a chubby little boy. It was January 29, 1989. Today, I want to let my brother know how lucky I am to be his sister, to have shared the same womb.

I don’t remember the early years of holding him in my arms. I just remember him following me everywhere around in the house and outside in the playground. Then we were going to school and I was this big little sister who used to protect him from all the bullies at school. Mother used to dress us in similar clothes. It would mean passing on my clothes to him as I outgrew it. 

Soon after I hit the teen years, I was away to a boarding school. We were not able to spend much time together except on the school holidays. Letters were a big part of our communication in the absence of telephone and internet those days. Sick from homesickness, I used to look forward to his adorable letters every weekend.

Though we were not able to spend a lot of our growing up years together, the years took its toll on us, in a beautiful way. His kindness and generosity appalls me. Even as a young child of 8 years old, he would be so kind to the strangers and people around him. If we had guests at home, he’d be the one to be the most courteous of all and never failed to make people around him comfortable. 
I still remember how he was overjoyed when he was gifted a guitar as a small boy. He took to his guitar lesson so well that soon he used to play and entertain guests at home during the cold winter days. He grew up to become a fine young man.

Last winter, a particular old neighbor of ours, Babai (Grandpa) who is in his late 80s fondly remembers of him. He asked me where is that ‘little boy’? Brother never forgot to take the old man sweets and gifts whenever he visited home.  

His circle of friends ranges from the cow herder back in the village, from small kids to old people like Babai and Amai. It astounds me to know the size of his heart. Wherever he goes, he leaves every piece of his heart and yet completes himself. I’m sure that trait must have passed on from mother, who has a big heart herself. 

His love for dogs is so infectious. He brought home a month old black apsoo dog the previous summer and named her Chelsea, declaring his love for his favorite football club. I’ve never been a dog person before. But soon the fondness crept into me and I started to love Chelsea dearly. 

My mother who can never stand the sight of a dog before also started to love her. Now Chelsea is the baby and the heart of the house. She will take the meal if fed by my mother only. Sometimes, I look at Chelsea’s pictures and it hurts me so much from missing her. It amazes me the love he showed us to embrace upon before he left for his studies.  

To Adeep : Happy Birthday to you, my dearest brother. May you be blessed with all the amazing things in life. Now that you are big guy, I’m confident that you will choose to live well like never before. I’m sure that you will never cease to amaze us with your kindness and generosity. We are so proud of you. 

I don't remember our exact age here, but this was just before I was enrolled in school.

I couldn't help but post this photograph of ours here, this being the favorite of mine. No matter how old you grow and drift apart, you will always remain this cute little chubby brother of mine. I may not have said it often, you're the greatest gift from our parents to me. Thank you for being my brother. 


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