26/11- Moving forward

I had written another post for today and was about to post it when I felt i should write about something that’s been so important to me for the last 4 years.

4 years ago today our city was besieged by terror attacks and for the first time in my life-I was scared, unsure of tomorrow and afraid to step outside. I didn’t sleep for days and when I did, I dreamt of blood, gore, screaming and fear. With the help of my friend Mr. Sivanandan and my encouraging husband – I set about to interview survivors and their families. I needed to find something positive from all the death,destruction and sorrow of that mindless massacre.

And every year , we’ve been going to different continents and telling people about our stories, our survivors, our heroes-names you’ve never heard of, people you’d pass by on the street but people who showed exemplary courage in the face of senseless rage and irrational hate and survived those 48 hours. Every year I’ve re-interviewed a few, re-assessed where they are and asked them how they feel and kept in touch. And telling the stories made a difference- not just to those we told it to…but to each one of us and giving the proceeds away made us feel that we were in some way, able to help contribute to a change.

Men and women died that night protecting one another. People survived using skills they didn’t know they had, calling on bravery they didn’t know they possessed. And we went on. We should have learnt from them. We can still learn.

Instead of inculcating fear, we must learn to live- not to just survive and go but to understand and to appreciate the value of life- yours and the people around you. We must focus on the moment and have faith in ourselves and in others because help can come from the most unexpected sources and it’s never hard to just do good and be nice.

We were all chosen to survive because of those who gave up their lives instead. But life is about making positive changes and trying to make your life count and the only way we can do that is making every moment of our lives make a difference – to ourselves, to those around us.

It’s 26/11 again now…and it’s four years later. Ask yourself- Have you made a change? If you haven’t… it’s not too late…! Next year- same time- I’ll check in!

26/11- Never Forget!

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The only target that counts aka I am amazing!

And it’s that time of year again where you hang up the keds and say – “Well this is it! I did it!” You accept that a year has gone by and you’re not much wiser, but funnily enough a heck of lot older. You’re not much richer but still have lots of unpaid bills ! But you did it! You made it through an entire year with cuts and scrapes, a few mistakes, a broken bone or two and maybe a bruised ego which hurts more than the bones but YOU MADE IT!

We wake up. We work hard. We give our hearts away. We love. We sweat. We grumble but do it. We aren’t even asked but get things done. We go through every day , most without thanks, pause or even the smallest break. And then we sleep and start all over again! We are amazing!

Maybe we made some of our targets. Maybe we didn’t. Maybe along the way the targets were changed and we had to start all over again. But we tried! And that is amazing!

And the next year will bring us more hopes and dreams; more unfulfilled wants, harder to reach targets and we’ll keep trying! That too is amazing!

So on this Diwali instead of killing yourself over the thing you didn’t achieve and setting more ridiculous targets for next year- take a breath and relax! You’ve done it! Life is hard and YOU make life easier for someone , somewhere and that’s all that matters! Spend your Diwali with family and friends and if you have neither go out and make some…because in the end the only target that counts is making a difference to someone else’s life… ! So eat that uber sweet sweet and light those diyas and celebrate. You’re alive. You’re amazing. And YOU make a difference!

Happy Diwali!

A Venetian Romance

You haven’t known what romance is unless you’ve been to Venezia….you’ll never truly understand beauty unless you go there. I fell in love in Venezia– it was love at first sight and it was an affair I’ll never forget!

You get out of the train station and Venice is like no other city I have ever seen.Water everywhere and water taxis and Vaporettos waiting to take you to your destination! It was amazing, overwhelming and quite literally magical. You dream about the canals of Venice. You have seen pictures of gondola rides but nothing prepares you for the beautiful energy of Venice, the magical sunlight, the singing boatmen and the energy in the air! There are two stations in Venice and the one that is easier to get to your hotel from is Santa Lucia as this is in the historic centre of Venice as opposed to Venezia Mestre which is in the heart of the mainland.

Our hotel was about 20 minutes by water taxi (which we hired for just the 2 of us…to make our arrival even more special!). There are several Vaporettos (water buses) however that can be easily taken at the station as well.

Our hotel deserves an entire paragraph. The Luna Baglioni , a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, was undoubtedly the BEST HOTEL we stayed at in Italy! I guess they quite literally saved the best for last! a minutes walk away from St. Marks Square (Piazza San Marco) the Luna Baglioni is on the waterfront. It is right in the heart of Venice facing the San Marco Basin and the island of San Giorgio and was the perfect choice. Our room …oh my Goodness our room could inspire poets. With walk-in closets (yes more than one), a magnificent drawing room, a plush bedroom and 2 bathrooms ,we were ensconced in plush fabric and ultimate luxury . Then we saw our own private terrace. Over looking the water with some beautiful sun beds , this was easily the finest position to catch the most glorious of sunsets and suddenly I was sad because we were only in Venice for a night.

I will go back. I must go back and I would only stay at  The Luna Baglioni.

Venice for us was about winding down, relaxing and just staying in the moment and if there’s one place you can do that…it’s Venice. We wandered the cobbled pathways, stopped in numerous cafes and shopped for Murano glass jewelry to my hearts content. Now most hotels will offer you a free boat ride to the Murano glass factory but as that would taken a few hours what with going there and back and then seeing the factory, we both felt our time would be better spent just enjoying Venice at our own leisure. The jewelry was beautiful though and I picked up some necklaces which I absolutely love. I loved climbing the little bridges and walking through every lane and bylane. Exploring new corners of Venice… every time you turned , you could create another picture perfect moment!

Piazza San Marco is glorious. The Piazza is dominated by the Church of St. Marks and a glorious ,old clock tower!  With lots of cafes, some of which have live artistic performances and with fabulous food- Venice is an explosion of your senses. There is beauty absolutely everywhere and inspiration in every step you take. I’d have loved to have visited the Doges Palace which stands so perfectly regal but we had no time and too mush to absorb! There’ll always be next time..that is one thing I’m sure of.

After a leisurely lunch and a warm cappuccino , we decided to enjoy a romantic gondola ride as the sun was setting. With a glass of champagne and a very musical boatman…we headed into the glorious canals of Venice. Hundreds of tourists , tens of gondolas and yet you felt like yours was the only story that mattered, the only ride that counted…Venice can do that to you. It can you feel special again and that’s what the gondola ride did… it made me feel special!

A beautiful sunset followed by a glorious sunrise, Venice is beautiful even when the world sleeps… I can see why realms of poetry and hundreds of sonnets has been written about this remarkable gem….

Here’s to another trip to Venice …

Best Times To Travel-:  May through to October – it’s summer and it’s wonderful…but prices also peak at this time!

Price Factor-:  EXPENSIVE!!! $400- $700 per night for a 5 star hotel and expect to pay at least 30-50% more on food, cappuccinos etc as compared to any other Italian city

The DREADED MONDAY MORNING (after a break!)

It’s that Monday post the incredible vacation! Schools are open, work is on schedule and traffic is a b!@%h! You wish you were back in bed/on the beach/shopping! You wish you were anywhere but back because back seems even more awful now especially after than incredible break!

That’s the thing with breaks….once you taste freedom and the enormous possibilities that the world holds in store NOTHING is ever the same again!

And so how do you deal with THAT MONDAY MORNING!

  1. Ease in to it… now that the breakfast buffets aren’t happening and the single egg and dry toast don’t look as appetizing as the holiday ‘uber-indulgent breakfast’ did, ease in to the day slowly.
  2. Get a good night of sleep ending with a great book, favourite tv show, or warm tea! Make sure you are SMILING on Sunday night…it’ll make monday a heck of a lot easier!
  3. Lie in bed just a bit longer on Monday, it’ll help with the ‘work-lag!’
  4. Dress up! You look good, you feel good!
  5. Load your favourite songs on your iPod! That way despite the awful, crawling traffic and the annoying RJ who talks too much; you have some great music that can make the morning infinitely more in tune!
  6. Take the 11 am break! Grab a cuppa, a quick chocolate, a walk outside, a facebook sneak peak! Take the BREAK!
  7. Remember you don’t have to finish everything TODAY! If the one thing the vacation taught you , it was how important it is to make time for yourself and your family….so before all the amazing life lessons we learn while on break run dry- REMEMBER IT and CELEBRATE IT!
  8. Call the people you have to, have to call today! The rest…well, you have a whole week left!
  9. Take an hour for lunch- the full hour! Even if you have no lunch and far too much work- Monday’s are overwhelming as it is and the Monday after a break is super tough! Acknowledge that and breathe! It’ll make you more productive!
  10. Get a 3 p.m. break and catch up on birthdays and gossip, coffee and conversations! You’ve almost made it thru the toughest day post vacation!
  11. Get off work on time! You won’t finish everything today. You don’t have to. You have a whole week left and you got thru a whole day! YAY!
  12. Get home. Have a warm dinner, catch up with friends, relax and pamper yourself! EASE INTO WORK AND THE WEEK ELSE you’ll just feel angry , frustrated and cheated! an expensive break and the joy you felt with it would have been washed away by a couple of hours back at the office and you definitely don’t want that!
Don’t be guilted by people for taking your break. You work hard. You deserve it! Enjoy the new tan and the glowing skin and remember the trick to the happiness we feel on vacation is that on vacation we make ourselves a priority! Make yourself a priority EVEN ON THAT MONDAY MORNING!!!!;)