This is how it’s done

Hamburg makes you fall helplessly in love with her. Over and over again.

This rainbow today broke the gloomy spell of dreary weather we had all weekend. Just when it seemed I was at my wit’s (and tit’s) end at the icy chill, Hamburg decided to smile down some colour.

Additionally for me, it was as if the city took a moment out of her busy schedule to wish me a Happy Illegal* Second Wedding Anniversary. Gosh, I feel blessed! ❤

*We got legally married in Germany and then illegally (in church) in India. 😉

Advertisements

Being spontaneous. Yes/no?

Having moved from an Indian social set-up to a German one, spontaneous meet-ups are something I sorely miss. Back home, I could easily waltz into a friend’s house and check if they wanted to grab a drink or go to the beach. If they weren’t available, the parents or room-mates usually were, or worst case, I had a nice scooter ride back and forth.

Often in Hamburg, to meet a friend, we need to plan weeks ahead and pick a specific date, time and place. Some of my friends have their calendars full for the rest of the year! Even when it’s only June. No swinging by on a Vespa to say hi.

IMG_20150110_105337

Today in chilly Hamburg, I felt this primal urge to connect with good food and company and to do so spontaneously. Considering the relatively small social circle I have here, I took to a few expat platforms on social media and announced my desire. I posted just a few hours in advance. Being a Tuesday, I was thoroughly skeptical and fully expected to be enjoying my cupcake and coffee in the company of my very dear self.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love being organized and planning ahead. And Germany has honed those skills in me to a remarkable degree. But I also love the unexpected, the spontaneous and even the chaotic. There is a certain magic in doing things on the spur of the moment or just because.

As much as I try not to view the world through stereotyped lenses, I am human. So while I expected the expats to take my bait to meet, I certainly thought no German in their right mind would respond. I have been reprimanded in the past by German acquaintances for being too last-minute. While I acknowledged their annoyance at my tardiness, I was equally annoyed at their lack of spontaneity.

So imagine my surprise when the company that turned up today was German! So lovely! Meeting M was a delight.  We connected over delicious food and coffee, swapping stories of yoga, love, travel and life in Hamburg. All the while breaking stereotypes and celebrating being spontaneous.

IMG_20171024_173848033

I thought of all the times I have been spontaneous. Sometimes they paid off and sometimes they didn’t. But I realized that every single time was infused with excitement and adventure. Here are some:

-taking a midnight train back to university, for the first time in 8 years, instead of the usual bus. The result- I met my future husband on that train!

-exploring a new route home through the enticing by-lanes of Hamburg. Disaster! I got thoroughly lost. Two hours and frozen toes later, I needed to swallow my pride and ask to be picked up.

-saying yes to hosting a group of Lebanese students over Easter in Goa. I met a soul-mate.

-taking an unplanned hike to Mount Emei in China because our flights got cancelled. It was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The hike and view awed me and then I had heat stroke and food-poisoning.

-getting my hair braided in Bali. I’m not sure my friends and family were sold on the look, definitely not my fiancee when I informed him that braids would be my wedding hair-do. I sure had a blast!

What have you done spontaneously that led to exciting outcomes? I’m curious…

IMG_20150629_175429

 

 

 

 

Dear Dada, until we meet again..

I am here not to mourn the passing of my father, but to celebrate the richness of his life. Celebration begets gratitude. So let me begin by saying a huge Thank You! to all whose help, support and concern have meant the world to us. From medical to spiritual, emotional and physical care, you tided the three of us- Dad, Mum and myself through these trying times. You have been and continue to be indispensable.

You know who you are. To each of you here who knew Albert, he would have loved to say to you- Dev Borem Korum! (Thank You in Konkani).

_MG_8018

Had it been up to my dad, he would have said at this point, “Nice speech Nicky, thank you! That will be all.” Unfortunately for him, I inherited his stubbornness. So here goes:

Albert was well versed in the role of being a father figure. He had much exposure even before me. No, it’s not what you think. I am  his only biological child (princess, if I am honest). He first fathered his own siblings- six of them, when they lost their father prematurely. Subsequently he readily took on the mantle of provider and mentor to friends, nieces, nephews, 32nd cousins and complete strangers.

photo

He was most at ease and peace when he could be there for someone in need. I will refrain from saying anymore because I respect his firm belief of “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is up to”. Might I add, he always said this with a naughty twinkle in his eye.

In celebrating Albert’s life, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention his cherished and sometimes crazy desire to travel. When in college at Mangalore (350 km or 8 hours from home) I often received a call from him saying, “Get ready in 20 min, we’re going out.” Much to my mother’s chagrin he often hopped onto a train, bus or plane – on the spur of the moment- to explore the world and see his baby girl. He more than made up to Mama these last two years, taking her all over the globe and partially satiating his travel hunger.

Dada on train

To my mother and the love of Albert’s life; Mama, know that he held you in a very special place. Though he might not have said it in so many words, – we know he was a man of minimum words and maximum action; YOU made his life complete. You were his first “Best Girl in the Whole World”!

Hochzeit Nicola und Kay (50)

My father often told me how he played the song, “You’ll never know how much I love you”, when I was born. Perhaps I may never fully comprehend his love, but the day he died, I got a taste.

He endured excruciating pain to wait until I arrived from another continent. We spoke and I held him as he passed.

My greatest consolation through these waves of grief, is that he is truly in a better place and not in pain anymore.

Of course, memories help- of us “King-fishing” (read spotting and counting Kingfishers in paddy fields), stepping hard on his toes learning an awkward waltz, devouring roadside tea and bhajis (veggies deep fried in batter), long bike rides to the beach and deep conversations on life, love and football.

As I bid a physical adieu to the remains of my father, I wish to answer a question many have asked me since he died. “What can I do to help?”

In Albert’s memory, help someone in need- no matter if it’s a child, a street dog or a stranger. Or maybe plant a tree. Let’s spread some goodness.

And finally, to my favourite dance partner, my father and my friend; it is an honour to be your daughter. You died knowing your legacy lives on and I promise to do my best.

On behalf of all your family and friends, Adeus Dada, until we meet again.

PG 57

 

Zen at an intersection

It beats me why I chose this spot to zone out and zen in. In retrospect, perhaps because it’s a fitting analogy to my present status.
Today is day 1 of my 19th month in a new country. While I have a lot going for me, I also have a lot going against. I love Hamburg and the life it offers me, nonetheless there are constantly new hurdles I need to step over, sometimes stomp on or just let fly.

Take for instance Ms. Pretentious in my licensing exam class (in German) who made her disdain of my language very audible. Upon finding out I’m new (relatively) she switched gears and offered to coach me (at a ridiculous price) on my pronunciation. I, of course, happily let her know that she could go fly a kite. In not so many words as actions. Needless to say, she reverted to her former disdain.

Back to finding Zen. For many of us caught in the cross hairs of life; it’s easy to let chaos overwhelm. There’s many a contender vying for top peeve- boss, the absence of or the presence of a partner, a kid, family, money. There’s always illness, an addiction, pesky neighbours, the weather, you don’t need to look far.

So today after Ms. Pretentious grated my nerves once again, I let off steam by cycling a couple of kilometres and found myself sitting cross-legged on a park bench. The soothing hot chocolate in my hand manages to calm more than my hungry stomach.

The intersection is buzzing with traffic, cyclists whizz past, dogs are being walked, children are being cycle- trained and the occasional tramp gives me a curious look.

I find my ears tuning in to the cheerful cries of tiny birds. My nose picks up the scent of spicy chicken being roasted across the street​. My skin tingles in confusion, unable to decide if it feels warm or cold. For though the sun is shining, a cool breeze of 16°C takes over intermittently.

As I allow my senses to be soaked in the stimuli around me; I suddenly feel completely at peace. My heart no longer runs a race, my lungs breathe freely and deeply and the tension in my muscles slowly leaves.

The devil’s advocate in me gets vocal and asks- so how does this solve all of your other challenges

The Zen I’ve tapped into answers- it doesn’t. 

So this was an exercise in futility. 

Most certainly not. Now that I feel better, I deal better.

A barking dog breaks me out of this dialogue in my head and I notice how light I feel.

To some it might seem strange and silly. But to me, this was a lesson in Zen. A lesson in being fully present in the moment and realising that-

I dont need to have all the answers. Nor a problem free life. I just need to BE. Just be ME.

How many countries at my breakfast table?

Take a guess maybe?

Being one half of an Indo-German couple; I often get asked how we handle/manage food?

We don’t.

We celebrate it. And not just Indian and German. Why should we restrict ourselves when the World is our oyster? And our Panini, Baklava, Bacalhau, Nasi goreng, …. I could go on for days…

My spread at breakfast jumped out at me today. I actually put my hunger on hold for a whole five minutes to appreciate how beautifully 7 countries came together before me. (Maybe more, I counted in a hurry.)

Sigh, if only this could be translated to today’s trend of dividing politics and racial clashes!

Not to end on a wishful note, can anyone pick out these countries from the photo above? 2 should be easy enough….

Food for my soul

Have you ever found yourself in a bowl of something delicious? Well, I sure have. Found myself I mean, in bowls of food. Both spiritually and literally. (Pun intended)

You have to admit that very often a taste of something that tingles those gustatory nerves makes you feel alive once more. Makes you want to step out into a different phase- whether new, bold, exciting or at the very least- into a satisfied, peaceful, post-prandial slumber.

I’ve just had a particularly discouraging day since my 16 months in Germany. I used the 6 km brisk walk home to burn through my bubbling frustration. However, my nose decided to lead me astray every few meters. It invariably caught the scent of freshly brewed coffee, tantalizing Mexican cuisine and pungent Indian curries. 3km into my furious walk and I succumbed to the not-so-subtle rumblings of my rather angry stomach. I jumped onto a train and headed straight to a little authentic Indian place called Badshah at Hansaplatz in Hamburg. As the name suggests, you are treated to food worthy of a king.


In the flurry of five minutes it took the friendly staff to get my order ready, familiar smells of home were already releasing the tense knots which were once my muscles. I did indeed find myself in this simply superb plate of Chole Bhature– red, hot chickpea curry relished with fried bread. (Here are more details for the curious and brave-hearted).

It amazed me how comfortable I felt in this chaotic, colourful, noisy place where Indians and non-Indians alike bonded over food. Most of the latter category, surrounded by piles of tissue to calm their shocked noses. For me, raw spice has the most soothing effect. Home truly is where the spice is!

Much to my surprise, my affair with exotic food for the day was not done. Friends from an old language class invited me to L’Amira– a Syrian restaurant (a stone’s throw away from Badshah’s).

We had many bowls of yum to find ourselves in. My favourite was once again a chickpea based dish called Fatteh.

My Syrian friends, as is custom back home, broke into song once we finished our meal. Needless to say, the Germans around us raised more than just their eyebrows. It wasn’t difficult to read their minds- “These crazy foreigners!”

Oh, how my spirits soared!

Happy and sleepy, my body set out to digest my soul food and I made my groggy way home. I climbed under the sheets and as expected, my big disappointment from earlier in the day came back to bite me in the bum. Sad and down but once again, saved by my nose. It picked up the aroma of comfort -fresh mint tea this time, served with a big hug from the hubby. What a darling I thought!

Only now, as I lie awake with the events of the day coursing through my mind and tummy; I wonder what the mint tea was really meant for. To comfort a sorrowful wife or to protect from the cheerful effect of one too many chickpeas?

Let’s say I don’t want to know.

PS- go get your fill of chickpea goodness if you are close to either of these two places. Maybe just not both on the same day. 😉

 

 

Day 24: National Chocolate Day

IMG_20161127_193102491_HDR.jpg

The picture says it all. You know exactly where that delicious chocolate belongs…. and it rhymes with yummy…. 😉

It’s now only 1 day until Christmas and I must say I’m going to miss our Advent activities.

So to go out with a bang, here’s the whole list of ADVENTuring we did. Today’s your last chance to catch up with whatever you’ve missed.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New year 2017! Cheers!