Our world in our hands

We’ve got our whole world in our hands.


At 3.5 kilos that’s not hard to accomplish. I suspect, the sentiments will not have changed even at 35 kilos. Though, by then, our little man may very well be out of hand!

This precious cocktail of ours has German and Indian blood coursing through his veins. Needless to say, we’ve had plenty of opinions from well wishers about how he will look, the colour of his eyes, hair, toes….

As a couple with several spectrums of interests and affinities; we’re more concerned about his “inner features”

There’s no doubt he will use his multilingual skills to con his first fans- namely the grandparents. This has already sent my non-German speaking mother scrambling to master the many nuances of this language. The other grandmother has already brought out her English text books from school. Imagine the heartbreak, they say, if you can’t understand your only grandson! I trust my son to have other tricks up his sleeve to con his unsuspecting, language-proficient grandmas.

Breakfast humour this morning was anticipating future tantrums from this mini version of us. We envision a mixture of Indian/Goan emotion and German structure. I can already see a 2 foot tall ball of energy informing us- “Mum, Dad; I’m going to scream and have a fit for the next ten minutes and you can’t stop me!” Ten minutes later, all normalcy will have returned. Bravo German punctuality! Worst case scenario, he will sway towards Indian time sense and still be screaming an hour later!

The snowboarding, ballroom dancing, IT bent Papa is itching to get his son on a mini-board at 3 and have him go nuts at Slow Fox music.

The basketball wielding, blog writing, Homoeopathy practicing Mama wishes her son takes to sports and languages with equal passion.

Neither of us will be surprised should our boy decide to ski, play heavy metal, do ballet or major in Math.

That’s the way of life, isn’t it?

We are dreamers, but also realists. No amount of romancing about our son promises us a smooth ride through parenthood. We are gearing up to have our worlds turned upside down and inside out. (already happening to a certain degree), to expect the unexpected and to celebrate the challenges.

I for one (the emotional half of the couple) will probably lose my marbles when my son crosses limits. The structured half of the equation, Papa, will deal better with impish behaviour. So between the two of us, nuturing our boy into a responsible young man shouldn’t be that much of a struggle, right?


The longer we are together, the more we absorb the other’s qualities! That makes us a punctual Indian and emotional German couple!

Role reversal is both confusing and hilarious! Things which would have sent me into a flying rage before, now no longer ruffle my feathers. But come 15 minutes late to an appointment and I’ll bite your head off! Similarly, snowboarding Daddy goes berserk when I suggest our son may ski!

This is going to be an interesting journey. Keeping our world in our hearts is no problem. Making sure he is not out of hand, will be a whole different ball game! ❤


I found a friend in Failure

I moved to Germany about 2 years ago, a new bride and madly in love. Despite all the frills, I was more than excited to be coming to the country where my profession originated.

I am a Homoeopathic doctor from India with a Masters in my field and an honour-roll student at that. (Yes, Homoeopathy was discovered in Leipzig, Germany and not in India!)

I had big plans! I was going to make it big. And fast. Or not.

In no uncertain terms, Germany informed me, that not only could I forget about keeping my title but that I had to re-qualify. In German. You know how they say life is too short to learn German? Well, here I was, trying to re-do my university degrees in a foreign language! I thought about not even beginning to attempt. It seemed like I had Mount Everest before me and needed to climb it in roller skates! Impossible!

Not one to shy away from challenges; I jumped headlong into learning German. The more progress I made, the more frustrated I got at all the ridiculous grammar rules! There were days when I wanted to pack my bags and go back home. Luckily, sense and the husband prevailed; with the promise that if it takes too much of a toll; we would move back to India. I fought a demon’s battle within; not wanting this alternative because it would mean I failed.

Failing is something I was allergic to. I remember being mad at my Basketball coach in school when he told me “Nicola, you need to lose a few matches so you know what losing feels like.” (We were reigning champions almost throughout my term on the team.) I thought he had lost his mind! In hindsight I know what a wisdom filled statement that was. Sir, if you’re reading this, let me say, I failed and now I know.

I spent years of my student life being detested by friends and colleagues alike for being “a nerd, smart-ass, scholar”.Well, I never failed an exam. Kinder-garden to University. So although I didn’t then, I now understand their sentiments. Life is unfair. But I have stopped apologizing for my talents. However cocky that sounds.


So back to my roller-coaster journey in Germany. I finally broke through the language test barriers and got a C 1- which is one level below native speaker. Then came the bigger more relevant exam- qualifying as a registered Homoeopath. Being a medical doctor was out of the question unless I went back to University. After already having romanced university for eight and a half years in India; I said NO. So I began preparing for the “Heilpraktikerprüfung” which is an exam taken by all practitioners of alternative medicine.

All this while, I wanted to earn my bread and butter; so as an added challenge; I was working at Homoeopaths Without Borders, Germany in an administrative post. I’ve lost count of how often I felt undervalued while answering phone calls, writing letters and doing mundane office work. When someone so kindly pointed out- “Did you go to medical school to end up sealing envelopes?”; rage and humiliation filled me! I wanted to tear him to pieces! But again, not one to give up, I plodded on. I also continued to run my practice in Goa with a great team. (www.gergo.net for more)

In March 2017 I answered the written exam- which is conducted only twice a year- and failed. I was so struck by disappointment, shame, pain and anger; that I came a hair’s breath close to giving up. It took tons of courage to go back to the exam-preparatory class I attended and explain that I had failed.

I had another chance in October and I took it. This time fighting fainting spells from being pregnant and emotional wreckage from losing my dear father in August. That was truly rock bottom for me. As they say, the only good thing about hitting rock bottom is that the only way out, is up.


And up I went.

I cleared the written exam! Hooray! Half was accomplished and now I had to clear the oral exam. If I didn’t; I would have to start again with the written exam- which if you remember, happens only twice a year.

So after studying with a vengeance for the last 3 months, (I couldn’t bear to entertain failure again) I went in today for my do-or-die moment. I was potentially looking at moving back to India.

It was 2 degrees this morning and I was sweating. My voice trembled as the examiner took me back down memory lane to university exam times and quizzed me on Anatomy, Physiology, Emergencies and then the most tricky part- laws and regulations. Indian medical laws are sketchy at best and were never part of an exam syllabus!

20 minutes through and I was asked to step outside while the two men decided my fate.

I waddled outside, taking my 36 week belly with me (not that I had a choice), and wondering if I made it.

I did!!

I’m on top of the world and success tastes so sweet!


Failing was painful. But necessary. I have found a friend in Failure. No, I do not like it any better than before, but I have new respect for it. I have learnt a lot more than if I had passed the first time – about myself, about persevering, about medicine and most of all about life. Hard work pays off and hitting rock bottom is not bad if you get up and go on.

So here I am, finally free of exams and bureaucracy; raring to start my career in Germany as a licensed Homoeopath! But not before first taking a well deserved break to bring my son into this world. He’s due in a just a few weeks. Cross your fingers for us!

Before an exam, a match or anything I undertook; my dad always said- “Kator re Bhaji!” (The Konkani equivalent of Break a Leg! For more on why this phrase is an important part of two histories- of hypnosis and of Goa, check here). I’m certain he’s celebrating in Valhalla with lame jokes and liquid spirits! This one is for you Dada!


Let the merry threes begin

Done with the terrible twos and now to the next. No, this isn’t about a toddler. Not yet anyway.

Today, I celebrate two whole, adventure-filled years of moving to a new country -Hamburg, Germany. Perhaps this is what happens on the other side of 30, but I find myself increasingly taking stock of my life on days like today. It helps put my ever erratic thoughts in perspective.

Hamburg’s beautiful Alster

To sum up the last 8 seasons of “Indian Hamburg-er”, here’s a recap:

  • Love-
    • my inconvenient marriage gets better everyday 😉
    • I’ve made and lost friends and grown at every step
  • IMG_20170404_164814918
    An Indian and an American discovering Germany
    • my relationship with food has reached a dizzying new level; (my pants are not yet complaining though)
    • Yoga and West Coast Swing make up my favourite shake-a-leg moments of the day
West Coast Swing-ing
  • Life-
    • my dearest father took his last breath in my arms. It still hurts like mad, but I’m coping.
    • I’m six months done with waiting. Three to go before my son is here.
    • I speak German fluently now and even lectured a whole day last week in my field of expertise- Homoeopathy. At the end of the day, I couldn’t talk in English anymore! My German husband found it hilarious.
    • Working with Homoeopaths Without Borders is both fulfilling and challenging
  • Travel-
    • I wrote a booklet on traveling tips in Hamburg.book cover
    • New year in Mirissa, Sri Lanka; with my parents
    • A weekend of camping and kayaking in the east German country side, with my in-laws.
    • Travelling home to Goa, India is always a pleasure. I added Bangalore on one of my three trips home.
I would move to Italy just for the food
  • Travel contd..
    • Romancing Rome in fantastic Italy.
    • Kite-surfing in the Netherlands.
    • Backpacking through China– a crazy experience of culture, gastronomy, terrain and people.
    • Exploring Brussels, Belgium over a long weekend.
    • Discovering the many by-lanes and tantalizing surprises Hamburg hides at various corners.
Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Breath-taking Mirissa, Sri Lanka

I love my life with all its trials and tribulations. Although I would never trade my pani-puri and chai for a bratwurst and beer (well, for a Glühwein maybe); I love what living abroad has done for me.

  • it’s broadened my horizons like nothing else before.
  • I have learnt to accept that I’m different and to celebrate it. No more trying to fit in. That’s plain boring.
  • the cold is my bitter-sweet enemy-friend and I have new respect for the sun.
  • there’s always a way, you just have to find it. Of course it helps to have a friendly face or at least a chocolate croissant accompany you.

Will I live in Hamburg for the rest of my life? Maybe. Maybe not. It will however, always be the place that taught me life is so much more than everyday worries. There’s magic everywhere. Follow your nose and you’ll find it!

Glühwein at a Christmas Market

Oh no, I just let out a mighty sneeze and from two years of experience, I know exactly what’s coming- a giant change of season cold. Well I’m off to follow my nose and celebrate in the comfort of my warm bed.

Tschüss! (sounds like a sneeze I know, but it actually means bye in German)

An Indian, a German and a Puerto Rican backpack in China Part 2

I’m hoping Part 1 led you to this piece. If not, you missed out on Disneyland, Hot Pots, crazy monkeys and a breath-taking hike. Oh; and several world wonders.


The most adorable part of our trip was heralded by black and white Asian balls of fur: Pandas. These creatures are terribly naughty, adorable and lazy. Consuming up to 40 kg of bamboo a day, it’s  a miracle they have time for anything else. But they do- an endless cycle of play for 5, lie exhausted for 10, eat for 15 and repeat.


Chengdu had the largest Panda reserve in the world and the preservation work they do is commendable. The Pandas have a foxy looking cousin- the Red Pandas. Equally cute and constantly nibbling on pumpkin.


We saw Pandas wrestle for a sleeping spot, itch their behinds on sticks, attempt to (successfully) pull down a tree-climbing neighbour and simply, quite clumsily fall flat- on face and back- from a creaking branch.

These creatures made our hearts sing and changed how we saw ourselves. J, K and N were now Master Panda, Baby Panda and Red Panda. Thereafter, we had many “Do a Panda” moments- lie on your back, eat, roll around and be cute. I couldn’t tell if onlookers (usually at train stations) were amused or mortified.



The Chinese have a flair for art- from architecture to music and dance. We had the privilege of a 90 minute Opera where talented artists put on the most amazing acts: a glass-shattering Opera singer, performers magically switching masks before you can blink- 15 masks in 10 seconds, puppetry, dance and shadow play.

The show filled not just our thirst for art, but also our very present physical hunger. Our cups overflowed with Jasmine tea- quite literally as the server used a long pipe attached to what looked like an oxygen tank on his back, to access remote cups. The point was filling the cups, not precision.  Bowls of sunflower seeds, wantons, dumplings and noodles (without surprises) kept us stuffed.

The place also offered back massages and ear-cleaning for a small fee. The massage tempted me but the look on the receiver’s face as metre long instruments penetrated their ears, made my decision for me. it wasn’t an option to have just the massage.



As you’ve gathered by now, China holds plenty of world records. One of them is an enormous 71 metre tall Buddha in Leshan, the tallest in the world. Built centuries ago, the sheer size is staggering. Getting there is also a mighty effort of surviving serpentine queues and feisty old ladies with no qualms about elbowing their way to the front of the line.


We visited many Buddhist temples and were impressed by the calm and serenity they radiated. Halfway on our hike to Mount Emei we stayed at a Monastery whose head monk was delighted to “practice my English with the foreign people”. He was a darling.

The herculean Prayer Wheel in Shangrila required two dozen panting pullers to set it in motion. Atop a hill, accessed by a 100 breathless steps, the view is simply marvellous.


You know how sometimes, when on a journey, you get truly and thoroughly disoriented? That happened to us 3 days after our original but cancelled flight, we landed in Shangrila. Fresh from our 3,100 metre hike, we had toned muscles, acclimatized lungs and supple limbs. Or so we thought.

5 metres out of the airport and we were gasping for air. Was it something on the plane? We refused to believe the altitude the phone proclaimed- 3,400 metre!

Totally unprepared, we let ourselves get lost in this picturesque town with Tibetan influence and dogs the size of cows. Oh, and Yaks. And Yak milk and meat. Delicious!


After some confusion of believing we were in the North-West of China, we realized we were actually in the South-West! It was one of those disorienting but hilarious moments when you realize getting lost on a journey isn’t always bad if you can laugh about it and share it with friends.


As usual backpacking gave us; J, K and N aka Master Panda, Baby Panda and Red Panda; life lessons:

  1. Language is no barrier if you are willing to get creative. Limbs, grimaces, translation Apps and as often happened, involving a village. We sometimes had the whole restaurant, staff and customers help to order our food and even HOW to eat it.
  2. Food as we knew it was not even the tip of the universe as far as the Chinese are concerned. They can conjure food out of almost anything.
  3. Endless hiking and being on the road introduces you to muscles you didn’t know existed.
  4. After 48 hours in buses,trains and planes, a warm shower will make you cry.
  5. When stressed or in doubt, do a Panda!
  6. You don’t need much to be happy. Most of what you do fits in a backpack. And what doesn’t, is friends that make you believe life is worth it after all.


We’re already looking for our next adventure. Any suggestions?


An Indian, a German & a Puerto Rican backpack in China Part 1


I spent mine birthday in China- more specifically in Shanghai- and like a proper 31 year old, at Disneyland! ❤ Oh the joys of letting your inner child run wild to the adventures of Daisy, Mickey and the Lion King!


Three of us- J, K and N backpacked through China for a whole two weeks and what a roller-coaster experience it was! I felt like a rag doll lost in stormy seas of countless moving human bodies; everywhere, at ALL times! At Disney I felt like a princess like one rightly should!


The Great Wall of 22,000 kms had us humbled and in awe of how far human capacity can stretch. Our awe soon morphed into an irresistible desire to strike yoga poses despite the pouring rain. The terrible weather meant we were relatively alone and that my friend, in a country of 1.3 billion is a priceless moment. After imposing skyscrapers, the Forbidden City and chaos of Beijing, the Wall was a breath of fresh air! You stop, take in the peace and work your magic. Rest assured, I was on cloud nine.



Our hiking instincts kicked in hard and fast when we decided to trek to the summit of Mount Emei at 3,100 metres. It was a grueling 11 hour, 15,000 stair affair. (The equivalent of around 380 stories) Yes, stairs! But don’t be fooled for a minute. They only go up. Higher and higher and never ending. You think you’re done but there’s always another stairway waiting to bite you in the bum. Well, in my case- the knees and the back too. While J happily skipped to the top like a mountain goat, K and I were like slow-motion figures creaking up the mountain with rickety bamboo sticks.


As if this wasn’t tough enough, the climb has it’s homegrown brand of Scary-house. Huge, aggressive monkeys that jump out at you and go straight for whatever food/clothing/bags/camera/phone you made the mistake of carrying. After 11 hours of being on pins and needles, anticipating an attack; we made it safely to the top. I did however see a man get bitten on the ankle, another literally pushed over (he disrespected King Kong’s comfort zone, so he had it coming) and several others unceremoniously stripped off their food bags.


All the trials and tribulations of the trail were a forgotten memory as we reached our goal.

5:45 am at the Golden Summit which houses the world’s highest Buddha: The massive statue is bathed in dark hues of pre-dawn hours. As light shyly breaks through cottony clouds, the statue shimmers to life. Crowds wait patiently for the young sun to show itself. While brilliant shades of purple, pink and yellow dance before our eyes, it seems like his majesty will not appear.


Then suddenly, when we least expect it, a soft orange sphere bobs up in the distance. Thanks to our altitude, it’s almost as if we are watching sunrise unfold from the seats of the Gods.


As the orange blob grows bigger and brighter, dazzling rays cascade upon us and we are soaked. Soaked in golden light, soaked in emotion and soaked in the simplistic beauty of a spectacular sunrise.

We cried.



My duo and I craved a warm beverage after the morning’s excitement. Now naturally, one thinks of tea or coffee. China taught me to think, live and eat out of the box. All we could find was steaming hot soup.

In all my travels thus far, I hadn’t come across a culture that explored, broke and relished the boundaries of food. The Chinese reign supreme at it. My dear palate and tummy had the time of their lives. It was usually a minute to minute decision to either churn and turn me green or to go for the Yum-card!

My system smiled in acceptance at fish and veggies in a Hot Pot (a Sichuan-special boiling concoction of spices, oils and water in which you cook your food at your table); gourmet quality Peking duck (relished with sugar, soy and an array of spices); cold noodles in Leshan, grilled Yak meat on sticks and a delicious egg/something pie in Shangrila.

What had me running for the hills was: Duck’s blood, baby chicks on skewers, pig’s elbow and; get ready for it…. Ox penis!

I stopped asking why.


Between the three of us, J was the only one with working knowledge of Mandarin. So while his request for tea was sometimes understood as a plea for alcohol; he is the reason we sailed over the language barrier in what we thought was style…

However, we figured a new way of ordering once his vocabulary had reached it’s limits. We simply pointed to dishes on the menu. Of course we had fingers, toes and eyes crossed until the food arrived. 9 out of ten times our randomness paid off. The rest of the time, well…


The first time I was asked for a photograph, I was mighty confused which side of the camera to stand on. Soon I got used to posing with complete strangers and then, using J’s mandate, taking a picture on my phone of the surprised stranger. I guess the three of us together probably caught more than a passing glance. A Puerto rican, a German and an Indian backpacking through China


Curious Chinese often asked how we know each other, whether we met on the road… When language permitted, we explained that two of us go back a decade as flatmates and best friends, two of us are married to each other and two of us are discovering how it is to get along like a house on fire. If language was not an option, we used hands, feet and faces.

China being extremely advanced in technology, had no shortage of translation Apps which our friendly waiters, drivers and hostel hosts regularly shoved under our chins.

I was struck by how little paper money I saw in China. 80% of payments are cashless, through Apps like We Chat and Ali Pay. Additionally,  everybody seems glued to their phones. Noses buried deep in virtual worlds, the masses looked like question mark figures in humble submission to hand-held addictions.

Perhaps a side-effect of so much technology?

….Check Part 2 to re-live the most adorable part of our journey……



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.

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. 😉