On Mount Olympos

Travel Note Throwback

These steps are too high, surely not for human legs to climb. I can go no more”, I resigned and sat on an adjacent rocky platform. It was pitch-dark and not even my hands were visible to me. Thankfully Arijit was holding one of them in his firm fist, and stood silently by my side. Our guide had moved ahead, and now I could see his flash light beaming, as he was returning to us.IMG_2121

There were many tourists without any assist light with them, and were struggling in that dark unwinding steps. People had come for a relaxed beach vacation on this part of Turkey, and this place is only an optional sight-seeing spot. No one probably realised that climbing up Olympos Mountain would be this real a trek. We were in the Antalya City of Turkey, and it was past 8 in the evening then. We were climbing the Olympos Mountain to see Chimera, the fire breathing monster, and the fire that is still burning!

But we were only half way through then. Encouraged by seeing me resting, a few other fellow travellers came to seat near my stone top.

“Didn’t I tell you to smoke less”, a lady scolded her friend. It was late October, and there was slight chill in the wind. Some more flickering flash lights passed by. The woman who was guilty of being a heavy smoker was completely breathless and was panting frantically, all red. I offered her my water bottle.

“We should hurry, or my torch battery would give away”, said our guide. So, we all got up and started following him. The way was narrow, and some turns were particularly dicey; had I not been in my trainers, would sure have hurt my ankles by then. Our guide was actually our hotel appointed driver, but he offered to lead us with his torch, for which I am particularly grateful. He was showing us which stones not to step on, and correcting our wrong turns. I thought we have almost reached, when I saw some tourists descending.

“These are the same steps climbed by Bellerophon on his way to fight Chimera, the monster. These have been restored in recent times,” our guide mentions, reaching the top of the last few steps.

Ah! That explains. I knew these steps can’t be made for normal human to climb, and I was no Greek hero! (Although, I had started feeling like one by then!)

As we reached the top of Olympos, there it was! Chimera, or the flaming rocks – Yanartaş.

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A remarkable natural phenomenon, that has been recorded at least for last 4000 years in thIMG_2132e Yanartaş area, in Turkey. Scattered points from where fire emerges from within the rock gaps, and burns incessantly, with some flames springing as high as 3 feet. While you might be tempted to try and might even succeed in dousing the small flames completely, they will start burning again within minutes.

The Mythological Story:

This area in Turkey called Yanartaş is thought to be the same place – Lycia from ancient times. In the story from Ilyad, Bellerophon, a kind young boy had angered his ruthless king Proetus of Tiryns while protecting Pegassus, the divine horse from his capture. While he had been looked upon kindly by Goddess Athena, and was blessed by her to be able to ride the untameable flying horse Pegassus, the King was infuriated all the more when his Queen took special interest on Bellerophon. The King, avoiding killing a guest directly, sent him to King Lobates, his father in law, with a letter in hand. What Bellerophon didn’t know is that Proetus had asked King Lobates to ‘kill the letter bearer’. Lobates in his turn, unwilling to displease the Gods by killing a guest, hatched a plan.

Lycia at that time was troubled by a ferocious fire breathing monster – Chimera. As Homer described, Chimera had a lion’s head, goat’s body, and tail of a serpent! Bellerophon was sent by Lobates to kill Chimera, hoping that he will die in the quest. He didn’t. With the help of Pegassus, hero Bellerophon succeeded in defeating Chimera instead. He choked Chimera throwing block of lead down its throat.

As the myth goes, some says that the monster still lives and is only sent deep under the earth by Bellerophon, and that it is still breathing fire through the gaps in the mountain.

Apart from this story of Chimera, the belief of the eternal fire burning in Mount Olympos, the home of the Gods also befits the name of this place.

However, I’m only too sure that you have already figured out the presence of methane and other volcanic gases to be the real cause behind this natural phenomenon. Although, Greek mythology never fails to fascinate, does it! BEN104198

How to reach: 

Chimera, also known as Yanartas locally, is within a small village – Chireli in Antalya province of Turkey. Antalya International Airport (IATA: AYT; ICAO: LTAI) is the closest airport.

You can rent a car at the Antalya International Airport. From Antalya International Airport, follow signs to Kemer. After passing Kemer, drive 30km in the direction of Ulupinar. After passing Ulupinar, the next sign will be for Cirali. Turn left at the sign, then drive another 7km downhill until you cross a small bridge. After crossing, you are in Cirali.

there are several hotels in Cirali. However, if you have planned to stay in the old town Kaleici in Antalya, or near any other beach, visiting Yanartas can be fitted in a day’s itinerary.

Other places of interest in Cirali village are the ruins of Mount Olympos, Cirali beach, which is the nesting ground of Caretta caretta turtle, a rare species, and also nearby Phaselis beach, known for it’s transparent pristine water, and private beach experience.

The Little Act of Kindness

The Blogging 201 course is almost at it’s end. All the hard works, and sleepless nights towards fulfilment of one dream – having a perfect blog, being a perfect blogger, is slowly gaining a perspective. To some success comes overnight, some has to toil harder to get it. But for every blogger one thing is common. We all love our blogs like a farmer loves his field. We love our blogs most.

Content with that self love in mind, when we come across someone else’s blog, that truly takes our breath away as a reader, when we can’t help but appreciate the words, the look and feel, the content of that blog more than anything, and above all it inspires us to have a bigger goal about our own blog – often we get lost for words. Comments don’t come easy. Pressing the like button doesn’t seem enough.

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Out of many favourites of mine, two such blogs are Quantum Hermit, and Wisdom’s Quill. If you just for once drop by Fimnora Westcaw’s blog Quantum Hermit, be prepared to get trapped in her beautifully woven stream of words, like some soothing music. “Your own journey becomes part of mine as mine becomes part of yours”, thinks Fimnora. Her about page is simply breathtaking, have a look.

I thought of copying a few words to give you a sample of Brian’s voice in Wisdom’s Quill, but I am not sure where to stop my selection cursor, to quote. I like all his words. Very masculine and strong, yet sensitive – exactly what we want, haa haa! “I live for the moments when I’m outside in nature, and suddenly realize that I’m no longer outside, but inside; inside the very entity that birthed me. These moments inspire me, because they are bigger than me.  They produce within me, feelings that were never meant to be contained, so this is why I write.  Not just words, but I write feelings” – that’s BE, our Brian, with a fiery quill indeed.

I like reading them, so it came as a surprise, a fun surprise when they chose to nominate me for Liebster Award! They did, last week, making me wordless to thank them enough. Thus, two Liebster Awards in my kitty. And I get to nominate a total of twenty-two (Yay!) of my many favourite blogs (that’s eleven nominees for each Liebster), to “pay it forward”, as Fimnora puts it.

My nominees:

  1. Albert’s New York
  2. The Expat Partners Survival Guide
  3. Alpha Female, Mainstream Cat
  4. Animate your Life
  5. And Just a touch of Crazy
  6. Berning Along
  7. Extracts from a Personal Diary
  8. Emovere
  9. Flavoured Lemons
  10. Hannah*Mumbi
  11. Hogrider Dookes
  1. I am barely Keeping Up
  2. Journey of a Squivelist
  3. My Toronto Life
  4. My Take My Thoughts
  5. Nicole Riget’s Blog
  6. Pipoy the Explorer
  7. Silver Lining Mama
  8. Sinroze
  9. So Very Deep (In The Closet)
  10. The Champa Tree
  11. The ElFonian

To my nominees: Nominating you is another way of my telling you that I really enjoy reading your blogs. I am not a lover of rules and obligation myself. Hence, I will totally understand if you donLiebster2‘t want to participate in this. Award posts are really lengthy and take a lot of time. We all understand that. However, if you choose to participate, (thank you :), and congratulations!) please feel free to mention 11 random facts about yourself or your blog, as you choose, along with 11 other nominated blogs. Other details on blog awards, you can find here.

Now, my answers to Fimnora’s set of questions:

1. What song defines who you are, and would you share a youtube link for it?

I’m alive, by Celine Dion and Let it Go from Frozen are two of my very favourite songs. Also, I hope you dance, by Ronan Keating.

2. Which of your owns posts is your favorite, and why?

Initially I don’t like any of my posts, they don’t seem good enough. Then as you all start liking them, I like them too 🙂

3. What is your most favorite quote from a movie? What is the movie?

“From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole I’ve been told what I must do and who I must be. I’ve been shrunk, stretched, scratched, and stuffed into a teapot. I’ve been accused of being Alice and of not being Alice but this is my dream. I’ll decide where it goes from here” – Alice in Alice in Wonderland

4. If you could time travel, where would you go, and why?

I don’t like to ride a time machine. Whoever has, has ended up in trouble. No, no, bad idea for me. I am perfectly good here and now.

5. What is one moment you can remember which changed your life?

Everything we become today are for all the small momentary changes in the past. Everything that happened, good and bad has made me what I am today. 

6. Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?

Difficult question ! No Idea 🙂

7. What is your favorite genre of fiction?

Historical, Thriller, Detective, Women’s Fiction, Drama, Autobiography

8. Who or what encouraged you to become a writer?

Eyes of the boy 😉

9. What book have you read more than once?

David Copperfield

10. What other art form are you most interested in?

Movie making

11. What prompt for blogging would you like to offer to Blogging U?

“‘The rule breaker’ – Talk about the biggest rebel that you have known, and how he/she has influenced your life. If you think you are the biggest rebel, tell us the reason that prompts you to break rules”

Wisdom’s Quill Questions answered:

Do you believe in love at first sight? Yes, gorgeous feelings to have. But they are called infatuations.

Would you ever start another blog? No idea about future

What makes you angry? Hardly I get angry these days. But lies and dishonesty used to make me angry when I was younger.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Was an extrovert, but experience teaches you to grow introvert, I guess. Will call myself an ambivert person, for now.

What would be the coolest super power to possess? This I have already blogged about, before. I would love to cast a spell like Harry Potter, and end all radicalism in pretext of religion.

In another life, what animal would you be? Elephant

Would you rather be early, on-time, or fashionably late? On – time

Which one of your 5 senses would you be saddest to lose? Sixth sense, haa haa.

If you were Noah, which animal would you leave behind? As would be God’s command. Otherwise none. 

What is your favorite genre of literature? Novels

When you travel, do you prefer driving or flying? Driving.

And lastly to my readers: Thank you for sticking with me for so long, and being such a patient listener.

Love

Odd One

Something very special happened in Arabic class yesterday. I went there after bunking two previous classes. I wasn’t busy though, and I’m finding learning Arabic rather easy and interesting. Still I was discouraged. Anyways, that’s beside the point, as like all obstacles, small or big, I have overcome even this. So, I was saying that something happened in the institute that made me very happy. You know what! A girl around my age spoke to me inside the elevator yesterday. A tall fair girl in deep blue knee length skirt, and french braid, she was naturally beautiful. She said she is from England, and that her sister stays in Mumbai. She said she loves visiting Mumbai. I told the her about my recent trip to London, and how I enjoyed it. Small talks in the brief moment held inside the elevator. Nothing special you might think. But to feel how I felt, to know why it was so special to talk to Isabelle, you will have to know from the beginning.

Not knowing Arabic is hardly a constraint in Doha. I see more Europeans, Indians, Pakistanis or Philippines than the Arabic speaking Qatari nationals around me, every day. Everybody speaks English in bits and pieces here, even the cDeathtoStock_NotStock7ab driver or the fish seller. Indians from Kerala are a majority. If you speak the language, and love their food (Dosa and Uttapam – yumm !) you won’t need to step out of your comfort zone at all. Bengali is another common language here, not because there are too many Calcuttans like me out here. Hardly any. But Bangladeshis are really a majority. So much so, that I can spend an entire day without having to utter a single word outside my vernacular. Lucky for me, our language has not changed, even though the countries have parted. Hah!

So my intention to learn Arabic was purely for fun and knowledge, and of course to mingle with people from different culture and racial background. Thanks to my recent travel and trips, I had managed to miss the very first class of Arabic Language in Fanar – Qatar Islamic Cultural Centre. Naturally I was little apprehensive in the next class, which was my first. I reached early, and the teacher had not yet entered. There were some 30 girls of different nationalities, brunettes and blondes, tall and short, elegant and tomboyish. Some were in Jeans, some in beautiful dresses or in gorgeous golden embroidered abayas. It was an excellent affair!

I went in, totally prepared to make some good friends and sat next to a familiar looking face. Some faces are just that – seems you know them from before. She had long black hair and large eyes on an olive face.

“Hi there! I’m Arundhati. It’s my first class today.”IMG_36816895586243

She looked at me, and said nothing.

“Were you there in the last class? How much has been taught?” I tried again.

“Nothing much. Where are you from?” she spokethis time.

“India”

“I see. Hey, excuse me”, she got up to sit with some other group of girls, whom apparently she had already befriended in the earlier class.

Then some more girls came in, and they all were talking and giggling amongst themselves. No one looked at me, no one spoke to me. Not that day, not the next day, or the day after that. They see me in class, they see me replying correctly in Arabic when the teacher asks, before and after the class, inside elevator, they see me when my eyes meet theirs and I give my habitual smile. They don’t. Do they see me at all ? Or am I simply invisible to them! But why ?! They don’t even know me, it can’t be anything personal.

Lending a polite smile even to a stranger upon eye contact, is not a part of Indian culture. (Careful, it is frowned upon in Middle East). We learn moral science and social studies in junior school, but social etiquettes – not explicitly as much. Besides, all Indian kids don’t get to attain Kindergartens either. No, not yet.  Still we learn, we copy our learned colleagues. We try to develop. We are developing, aren’t we?

Anyways, coming back to my story, after a few days I realised we are not a group of expats  in this Arabic language school. But we are separate groups of Pakistanis, Iranian and Egyptians, Europeans.

Indian? Well, this unfortunate Indian is alone in the class. Sans a community and no one to talk to, I observe others keenly. Irrespective of accents and hair colour, I feel I know them all from before – girls just like me or my class mates from back in India.

In front of the teacher we practice our conversation skill.

“Anti min aye balad?” Which country are you from?

I reply, “Ana min Al Hind”. I am from The India.

“Fursa Saeeda” – Nice to meet you, they say.

“I have the honour to meet you”, I reply. Tashar Rafna 🙂

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Image Source: http://thereisonlyhumanrace.blogspot.com/

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[Names and descriptions of person used in this article are fictitious in nature]

Castle News # January ’15

Hello Everybody,

How was the first month of 2015 for you?

For me it had been quite hectic. Well, it wasn’t all work and no play altogether though. January being my Birthday month, there had been some partying around too, and a short trip to London, of course. 146H

But more studying and less fun, for sure, with Blogging 101 course running at a full speed on each weekday, along with my Arabic lessons. Blogging 101 was difficult because it required to do three things simultaneously – be a tech expert, be creative and also a good marketing guy.  That makes both sides of your brain march left and right, whew! But I learnt so much; we all did.

Showcasing my newly learnt knowledge, this post is the first of my monthly round-up feature – Castle News. Here, apart from wrapping up my last month’s posts, I shall recommend my favourite blogs and blog posts of the month, and also give you an idea on my next month’s blogging schedule.

Let’s go –

Looking back at January:

There had been a total of nine posts last month (nine posts only – what a shame!). I am just going to jolt them down, in case if you have missed before, (Now, here’s hoping you are too eager to read every little words that I write; well, a girl can only hope – ahem) or are visiting my blog for the first time.

Blogs and blog posts I liked last month:

Following this post, I will publish a whole new post, nominating all my favourite WP bloggers for two different awards. Stick with me…

February Blogging Calendar: w-somerset-maugham-love-quotes-we-are-not-the-same-persons-this-year

I shall start my blogging week from Tuesdays, featuring Weekly posts on Doha Days.

Throwback Travel Notes on alternate Thursdays will be a series on travel stories. February highlights – Turkey!

Will keep my Fridays free for random musings, for now. However, a fiction Friday won’t be a bad idea either. Will I be able to pull it up, what do you say?

You will find me publishing Castle News on the first Sundays of every month from now.

I would be glad to hear if there is anything you want me to write about in Sand Castle, anything at all – about Doha or otherwise, or have any suggestion for me in general. So, scroll down a little further, and write on!

Keep blogging, and have a happy month ahead 🙂

C ya!

Toe in the Pond

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Embrace the Ick.”

As it is, too much is happening in life lately.  Now, by too much I mainly mean party, and some academic stuff too. About partying in Doha and all the celebrations, we can definitely discuss more in my next post. Here, I was only intending to tell you how staying away from writing for a couple of days brings the obnoxious writer’s block back in my head. It makes me stay away from blogging some more. Then I start feeling weird and my mind threatens to explode.

I tried all the tricks up my sleeve to get back my ability to put the few words that I know, side by side in a non nonsensical manner. And then I was waiting for the daily prompt to come, was much looking forward to, today.

I was disappointed. Very. Repulsed, you can say. Because, that’s what today’s daily prompt is all about. To talk about ‘icks’, things that make our skin crawl, that too in a glorious way!

Frankly I don’t even get to interpret daily prompt most of the time, let alone personalise it and write. Most of the time it’s all of your posts, those who respond to Daily Post prompt religiously and efficiently, that inspires me.

Today, I was not even inclined to read anybody’s response. Thin skinned I am. Hypersensitivity is my thing. And to that extent, which might make me ickier to you over anything else.

Then why talk about repulsive things that will make skin crawl. Why even bother to think about one such. For I’m pretty sure, if I as much as even attempt to think, thousands of things will come up. Hah! See, there they are!

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Originally uploaded by kate e. did Uploaded from: http://www.mediahunter.com.au

When I was a kid, Dad took me to a neighbourhood pond to teach swimming. Yes, I said pond, as in green algae covered koi pond. Eeek! Don’t make your eyes so big, don’t you look at me like that, please. I was born in the outskirts of Calcutta, you see. During 1988–90, we had some green ponds around the places. People used to come to take bath, or wash clothes there. There were these broad concrete steps to enter the pond. I used to just stand and enjoy watching people there, shit scared to dive.

One day after lot of patronising from Dad, I decided to venture in. He promised to hold me all the time, and never go any further beyond the shallow water. My first step into water was cool. The concrete steps were still continuing below the water level. A little scummy and slippery, but still okay, you know. Then at one point the stairs ended. Yuck ! Yuck Yuck Yuck! Slimy, sticky, muddy pond base touched my toes; with snails in them and godknowswhat! By that time both my tows were inside and I didn’t know how to jump out of neck dip water.

“Why don’t you pull up your leg and start floating? That way, you won’t have to touch the mud anymore.” – Dad’s kind words. Yeah right! As if you get to start floating like a tadpole in the first go, just like that. Huh. I couldn’t. I didn’t learn swimming that day. I never went back to a pond again, any day.

However, eventually I did overcome my fear and repulsion; learned swimming in a clean swimming pool only when my job compelled me to, at a much later age. Swimming now is my next best hobby other than reading novels. A serene and calm ocean in Turkey recently allowed me an all-out freestyle, and an experience of freedom that I never felt before.

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Picture Courtesy: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/23267893 Falgoonkara Khondaker Bari Pukur Ghat

Albeit till date I could not embrace that icky pond base thingy.

Uhm, I think I have tackled today’s prompt without losing my face much, so far, and it will be safe to conclude it right here. Rest of the ick stuffs – well let’s just not go there. Shall we!

My Fleeting English Winter

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Re-springing Your Step.”

Certain things happen for a reason. No. Everything does.

It was raining and the wind was strong. Even the glass pane of my tightly shut window was shivering. Heater was on full swing, and Arijit was sound asleep inside our cozy hotel room. Feather soft bed, neat pillows – still I was unable to sleep. My throat was sore, forehead feverish. I got out of bed and drew a chair by the window pane. Thought of writing a blog post, but then decided not to trouble you with my delirium. “My sense, as though of Hemlock I have drunk” – I remembered Keats. After all I was in his city, last Tuesday.

I looked outside and found the street lights quite familiar, like I had seen them before.WP3 I had got this feeling of déjà vu also in the morning, when I was walking from Borough Station towards the London Bridge. The bold wall of the HSBC Bank, the arches and the pavement– felt like I had been there before. I wish. The traffic was familiar, crossing road was not scary. The double-decker bus and the heritage feel of the black cabs, exactly how things should have been. The red cottages lined next to each other with their front yard and a garden at the back; I’m sure everybody writes wonderful poetry here, sitting in those arm chairs on any given Sunday afternoon.

I came to Doha last July, and was rather being home sick. Of the many things that are not easily accessible here, a journalism job and local pubs seem to be two of them. There had also been a visible dearth of Christmas and New Year celebration in my life this year. Arijit was to go for an office trip, and as there was nothing much for me to do here, I tagged along. Thus, I could coax my two night stay in London.WP4

I was so happy and totally oblivious of the sudden change of weather I was exposing myself to, I managed to catch a little cold. But that’s okay. I recovered quickly. Only sad part is, I couldn’t go for the two walking tours, missing a major part of our sightseeing programme. “I will come back again”, I have consoled myself, “and next time, I won’t leave so early. 🙂 ”

WP5Although I missed Keats terribly, I have most certainly met Mr Dickens and Oscar Wilde. Gee, you got it! It was an absolute delight, the whole tour de museum of Madam Tussauds.  Also loved the ‘Spirit of London’ ride, through the pages of history, witnessing the Elizabethan & Victorian Age, the Industrial Revolution, Great fire of London and the sixties and seventies. However, statues of the Bollywood celebs appeared to me as forceful entrants sans the life-like magic. The short 4D film on Marvel Superhero Comics was fun again, and we left the museum quite content.WP6

We spent the major part of our last day in London loitering around the Trafalgar Square and Tower Bridge, soaking in as much as possible. It was a nice evening, followed perfectly by a romantic dinner with fish and chips, merlot and mulled wine. Horniman at Hays is the pub next to HMS Belfast that I would want to visit again.

Mulled-WineI asked the bartender for the mulled wine recipe, and the kind gentleman shared this:
Combine cider, wine (preferably Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot), honey, orange zest, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, and ground ginger, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs and serve.
This soothed my throat like bliss.

Back to Doha, I found winter has come here after all. Temperature has dropped quite a bit and wind has turned chilly. The day we landed was pretty cloudy. I heard it had rained here, when we were away!

I have never been a fan of winter. Even back in India, winter has always turned me a zombie, a logger head. But this time, the beauty of London Winter brought back the spring in my steps.
I attended my first class of Arabic language today. The lady who sat next to me was incidentally from Britain. As we started talking, she said she has recently come here as an English teacher of an International school, and missing her country a great deal. She has found a friend in me, or so I think.

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Are we Sisters, of the Soul Sister kind !

The Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award – the award that recognises unique voices of women throughout the blogosphere. Thank you Silverliningmama for nosisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-award11minating me for the award 🙂 This is very generous of you, indeed !

For those of you who have not yet checked out her blog, I suggest you do that right away. For her blog never fails to inspire me, and I’m sure you will get hooked as well.

The Q&A:

In one word, how would you like your readers to describe your blog?

Me: Cool 😉

Which is your most favorite among your blog posts? Why?

Me: My very first blog post. It took a lot of guts to overcome the inhibitions, come out there and hit publish.

What/Who inspires most of your blog posts?

Me: Arijit, my madhatter does, everytime in everyway 🙂 .

What do you aspire to accomplish this year?

Me: Umm, to become a better blogger, I guess…

What do you aspire to learn this year?

To become a better human…

What is your most favorite book? Why?

Me: Alice in Wonderland

What is your most favorite quote?

“Live & Let Live” – I live by it 🙂

What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

Me : Giving my first interview and hoping people will actually read it. Like now !

If you can be a superhero, what is your superpower?

Me: Yeah sure, I would want to cast a spell and rid the world of poverty and violence !

Who is your female role model?

Me: I don’t have one. But I get influenced by different personalities in different things I do.

So, these are the rules for this award that I have received:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site
  • Put the Award logo on your blog
  • Answer the ten questions sent to you
  • Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer
  • Nominate seven blogs

My nominees are:

The beauty of Addiction

Loud thoughts Voiced Out

Robins Real Life

Finding Myself through Writing

Making it Write

The Tezzy Files

A Sawyer’s Daughter

I will leave the questions as perfectly crafted by Silverlining unchanged for my nominees 🙂

Enjoy !

I Await a Protector, a Hero : Expecto Patronum !

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Call Me Ishmael.”

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show” – David Copperfield.

With today’s prompt thus, this is the third spur in a row, compelling me to ponder on a major problem, that I don’t want to know.

Freedom of Expression and Speech – Do we have it, or we don’t  ? Well, I certainly don’t. The most successful of British Journalists that I see around, don’t. Who am I ! (Whoa, that’s another provocative question that I want to get out from my mind.)

Hence, I avoided daily prompt – ‘I got skills’, for the skill I want is to cast Patronus charm on the Voldemorts, you know ! (Where is Harry by the way, with his “Expecto Patronum !” and the magic wand! Have they killed him too !)

I avoided talking about faith entirely, because the little I have left in God, I need it bad. So I preserve Him, deep in my heart. I hope not the Frabjous Day  come so soon, for when He does, He annihilates all. One and all – the evil and the not so evil, to start afresh ! (Those who have known me now, need I say, Alice’s Adventure in wonderland is my favourite story, as well !),

Then came today’s prompt. And the first line of my favourite novel taunted me all the more. I closed my eyes tight from Anne Frank’s Diary on my bookshelf; Dickens seems a bit more kind.  Troubled more now, than when friends in FB called me a stupid cow !

But I know, responding to such prompts will take me to a slippery road.

One who is not easily daunted, who is not scared to speak up, under any given circumstances, and dies while entertaining us, teaching too – is the Hero of his own life and us all…

I have a long haul flight to catch tomorrow, and I’m not a hero

My today’s post is only  to put myself to sleep,

So, I must admit –

Pardon moi, Je ne suis pas…

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** It’s past 4 in morning, and I’m still staring at the screen. Would you find me childish, if I hit ‘publish’ ?

Souq Waqif : A Tale of Time

“What are you thinking so hard for? Living in the middle east and you can’t write about Oasis !”, the IT consultant offered advice on hearing me murmur ‘oasis’ a couple of times. I followed the voice and found Arijit getting ready for office, and looking at me through the mirror.

I was walking up and down the room, with rather a different thought in mind.

Where does the tired mind find sanctuary to, if not within itself? When things go wrong, where does the poor fellow run to, but, delve deep within? Isn’t the reservoir of our inner resource and strength serves as the only constant healer of a depressed soul!

“You can talk about the serious psychology stuffs some other time, Madam. Why not write about Doha, for a change?”

Alright ! I know I make a terrible expat blogger. Duh !  

I am yet to find comfort in Doha, yet to come out of my homesickness. Tell me, how can I write about a place, if I’m not enjoying exploring it?

But of course…!

There is this one place where I can forget my yearning for India. Not because this place reminds me of my homeland. No. Not in the least. But every time I feel alien and alone, struggling to cope with the very different culture of Middle East, Souq Waqif reminds me of the magical tells of Arabian Nights. Magic Carpet! And the magic lamp of Aladdin!Souq Waqif1

Believe me, if you search real hard, any of these can be found in this one of a kind cultural bazaar.

The Bazaar:  Albeit they add to its magic quotient, it’s not the touristy artefact that makes this place so special to me. The captivating factor of Souq Waqif is its ambience above everything else.

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This traditional market place of Persian Gulf still resonates with an old world look and feel that adds to the charm.  

20141206_141556Each alley of the labyrinthine market specialises in different product, of which the one with perfume and Oud shops finds me loitering around, mostly. And hence, I have not yet got to explore the shops where they sell honey and dates of Yemen, Qatar and other GCC countries. Lines of shops selling traditional Arabian dresses and robes, the pashmina stalls where the tourists are found bargaining and the huge array of colourful mattresses and cushions all adds to the buzzing glamour of the bazaar.

History of Souq Waqif:  The literal translation of Souq Waqif –  The ‘Standing Market’ aptly conveys it’s history. The market place where the Bedouins use to come to trade goat, milk, sheep or wool, had been standing right here since forever. Around the end of last century it was on the verge of getting demolished. It is only some eight years back, that the Souq has been restored to its past glory. The craftily refurbished concrete alleyways, mud-walled shops and wooden beams on rooftops, bring back the 19th century atmosphere .

Location: Souq Waqif stands at the heart of Doha, next to the Corniche area and Qatar Islamic Centre of Studies. It is 15 kilometer from Hamad International Airport, (and 5 mins walking from my home, making my weekends leisurely yet happening.)

Attractions: Gold Souq and Bird Souq are two sections connected with the broad central area, by the narrow concrete alleys. The enclosed air conditioned Gold Souq makes for a gorgeous hide out during summer months, with plenty of shops to look around. Check out the big fat bridal jewelleries displayed in the shop showcases.

The Bird Souq sells rabbits, persian cats, turtle, guinea pig, and of course birds of hundreads and thousands varieties and colours. However, one must come before sunset to explore Bird Souq in its full swing. With a little assistance from the shop owner you can have a falcon perch on your shoulder for a while, and that’s for free. To own the falcon, however, come prepared with at least a thousand riyal in hand. Cute little leather head gears for the falcons, as well as GPS and landing pad are also sold here. I have seen many Qatari teenagers buying and playing with falcon and accessories here. Qatar is so serious about their Falcon-love, that there is a whole seperate hospital near Souq Waqif for them. Some spends more on a falcon than a racing car. Apart from that, the colours and variety of Macaws and Love birds are definitely a treat to the eye.

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Things to buy:  Fun souvenirs like transparent glass jars filled with contrasting layers of spices, bags made of camel skin, swords and knives, and bronze lamps like the one Aladdin had are some easy to carry touristy stuffs.

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Eateries: The central area of the market is surrounded by number of outdoor restaurants & cafeterias, of which my personal favourite is Café Asherg. I love this café for every possible reason, other than the fact that they don’t pay me for promoting them in my blog – not even a glass of Avocado juice with honey. Sigh ! Arabic and Lebanese cuisines are mainly served in these eateries, along with fresh juices, Turkish and Arabic Coffee, and all other regular hot and cold drinks. That is, all regular drinks, but beer. Double Sigh. (Alcohol remains far away from local people’s reach, only inside 5 and 7 star hotel lounges). To compensate, they have these delicious flavoured Sheeshas in almost all cafeterias in Qatar, but nothing like the ones in Souq Waqif. Sheesha is nothing but a small water pot, through which tobacco smoke is passed  before inhaling from the long pipe. Varied flavours of Sheesha is available here, mostly fruity, and it doesn’t taste bad to the non-smokers either. At 25 riyal you get to relax with a sheesha in hand for long hours, as they will keep replenishing the charcoal to make your Sheesha experience last long.

Lounging on the cozy chairs, smoking away my favourite watermelon sheesha, and people watching – jolting down the few gibberish, whatever is popping in my mind, in here, (free Wi-Fi zone :)) ! Aye! My life is not bad after all.

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Oh by the way, Chicken Kebab, known as Sesh Tawook and Khaboos – the Arabic style bread are my personal hot favourite in Café Asherg.

Remember the little boy from James Joyce’s ‘Araby’? Everytime I visit the Souq, I can’t help but regret that had Joyce send the boy to Souq Waqif in stead of the oriental market that he had gone to, perhaps his ideal dream would not have shattered.  For Souq Waqif lives upto the expectations, always, and never fails to provide a sanctuary from the drudgery of real life.

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Oasis.”


You might also like a contrasting experience in “Like an Oasis” !

Fake Plastic Trees

As I am grinding my way in the Blogging U course, there are a few unfinished drafts getting piled up on my dashboard. Talking about myself doesn’t come easy. Neither does naming a thing. After coaxing it so hard for last two days, seems like my brain has gone on a holiday !

Here’s Reblogging a cool post about Qatar National Day, which was on December 18th, and some interesting pictures along with. Hope you will enjoy, as much as I did 🙂

Bright Lights, Little City

A week and a world apart: Qatar National Day and Christmas in Doha

I might be sat in Doha, but I’m in same state as millions of parents with young families everywhere: a little over-fed, a little under-slept, having made it through another hectic festive season.

Here in Qatar it’s a full-on week of celebrations, starting with the Qatar National Day (QND) public holiday on the 18th (the day after term finishes).

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