At the onset of 2014 I made some tall claims of living it up and living for myself. All turned to naught with my broken back and the twin surgeries. I was down the whole of last year but definitely not out. Life has slowed down for sure but moving on towards the direction I want it to. The only regret that I will always have is missing out on Arian’s first year of growth and change but thanks to my son, Pratik,who has made up for it a lot by sending me pictures and videos of every little milestone and I watch him on Skype ofcourse. I have been an armchair traveler my entire life. A businessman husband who never took out time for vacations paid put to all my travel dreams and when he passed away I was entangled in many emotional and financial issues, which left me no time to mull over my dreams or desires.2015 has slipped in silently but I did not start crowing about travelling or giving a different path to my life, instead I quietly planned to visit my daughter and travel a bit on my own just to test the waters. The flight to Delhi was quite uneventful but I made it interesting for myself by sticking my nose against the glass window and capturing every little bit of the cotton clouds and sky, I could. Journeys always fascinate me; road, rail or air, I am fascinated by the rapidly changing topography and people. I like to soak in everything and find pleasure in the green fields as well as the leafless trees that dot the landscape. In Vijayawada, the distance from the station or the airport does not take more than 30 minutes; it took more than 2 hours to reach Pratik Laurel apartments, Noida, my daughter‘s present dwelling. I sighted a Bikanerwala restaurant and couldn’t wait to dig into a plate of Kulche Chole and after dumping my bags, I took a ride back to satiate my salivary glands( that was a kick start to my trip)The high rise apartments and the view from the 9th floor was another revelation. I made myself comfortable and started planning my iterinerary for the next few days. It was weekend and I had quality time to spend with Esha, who pampered me with a haircut at a trendy salon and then a sumptuous lunch. Later it was a shopping frenzy in the little time we had before the long drive home. Sunday started off lazy with grocery shopping and some cooking. We planned to go for a movie at the mall and ended up shopping again after the movie. Making breakfast and packing lunch for Esha took me back a decade ago when I used to pack lunch for all three of them. How I miss those days! My dad always loved to visit old Delhi, his all time favorite haunts in Chandni Chowk and especially Sadar bazaar. He spent a few years there after they migrated to Delhi after the partition. The Sis Ganj Gurudwara was the first place on my list of must visit. I was adventurous and boarded the metro to Chandni Chowk;it was smooth going till Rajiv Chowk and then the tsunami of people had to be seen to be believed. A young girl helped me board and directed me towards the Gurudwara too. The short walk from the metro station to the Gurudwara was enthralling….like an open Pandora’s Box. The hawkers lined up on both sides of the path were selling all kinds of wares at unbelievably low prices and instead of buying stuff I ended up clicking their pictures. One hawkers sales pitch was hilarious…he said “Free mai le jao…tee shirt or shirt for 50 “flung them into the air like a juggler and caught them with a flourish! I had to drag my feet to the Gurudwara and suddenly I was caught up in the serene and soothing kirtan being rendered by the accomplished singers. I spent some tranquil moments in the Gurudwara and headed into the sea of humanity that makes Chandni Chowk what it is! I picked up a couple of funky toys for Arian and 2 egg beaters (Silly me… I later came to know they were head massagers)A little further down there was this man at a small store, forcing passersby to stop and listen to him selling suits @ 150/- for 2!! I had to stop and check and picked up 3 for 220!! I was looking for stores selling costume jewellery and I had no clue myself but just relied on information which I gathered from the hawkers. It was Amar market in a bylane.The lane was chock-a-bloc with people, vehicles and hand driven carts and I had to squeeze myself through inches of space between them. I knew I had gone further than I needed to and again started asking for directions. I had to come back a few yards and enter a by lane….not exaggerating but it was not wider than four feet; no wonder I missed it. I took a quick look around the market and zeroed in on one with the most attractive trinkets in their tiny shop window. I spent a good two hours picking and choosing my stuff and my mouth was agape at the low prices. I had to pull up my lower jaw up before the price went up! Once I paid for my purchases, I found my precious bag of the three suits for 220/- missing! It had just disappeared- welcome to Chandni Chowk! I weaved my way back to the main road and took a cab back home, bewildered and exhausted by my eventful day alone. I was tired but excited about my first trip alone to the mountains, early, the next day. My cab was on time and I set out on my adventurous solo trip with a little trepidation and lots of exhilaration. As usual, my camera was busy all through the route, capturing the ever-changing landscape from cow dung cakes to bright mustard fields to the majestic mountains. I was like a kid with a box full of candy and in high spirits with the new found experience. The cabbie, Prem, was a nice young lad, who indulged me in my silly wish of stopping at the way side and clicking pictures in the mustard fields, a la DDLJ. It did take a few wrong turns and extra miles before I reached the resort. I was looking for a cottage and little did I know that there would be long arduous climb to the top. The view from the cottage was awesome and I took in the view of the town and valley below before falling exhausted onto the bed. I had thought that my back would hold up but it just gave in with the strain and the cold air only added to the pain. This put paid to my great plans of trekking and going around the resort and I had to make do with the view from afar. So much for my great holiday in the hills, there was not another soul in the resort, thus there was no bonfire or buffets to be enjoyed. Darkness brought about an eerie atmosphere and I lay cooped up in my room with the heater on as it had got really chilly as the night wore on. The spicy food took its toll on my tummy and I suffered severe cramps throughout the night. A piece of warning or well meant advise, to all women or even couples-do NOT book into remote resorts during off season days,its eerie! The morning sun brought a new day and I set out to the next part of my journey, skipping the Renuka dam, and headed on to Poanta Sahib Gurudwara, located around 45kms away. This journey was visually more wonderful and greener than the route to Nahan. I had heard a lot about this Gurudwara and was really looking forward to see it. It was located right on the river Yamuna, which actually looked clean, flowing alongside. I paid my obsequies and went around the area, soaking in the serene surroundings. The vegetables on the carts looked very fresh and I bought 2 kgs of carrots, my favorite radishes and the round aubergines. I set out on the journey back, holding on to my queasy stomach. If nothing else I checked out all the loos on the way…some bare and rustic others clean and functional. But the shutterbug that I am, I didn’t stop clicking and captured some amazing pictures of the breathtaking countryside. Traffic in Delhi is the bane of any commuter and it took hours to reach home. I ticked off the hill station and Gurudwara off my list but the Akshardham Temple and Taj Mahal remained on my list and I couldn’t visit both. The next day I spent lazing in bed and cooking. I set out on my own the next day to Sadar Bazaar, same route till Chandni Chowk-auto to the metro station, then change metros and walk in Chandni Chowk to the suit seller and I placed an order for 100 suits. I took a cycle rickshaw to Sadar and nothing had prepared me for what I went through to reach the market. Vehicles and pedestrians were packed tight as sardines in a can with hardly any space to crawl through. But I couldn’t help being awed by the sights and smells of this historic wholesale market. Grocers, fruit sellers to perfumeries and every kind of merchandise was selling on both sides of the road and right in the middle too. Holi was on the way and colours and guns of all shapes and sizes were being sold at throwaway prices.My rickshaw just stopped a few hundred yards away from the market and I was advised by the rickshaw wala to walk the rest of it rather than wait for the traffic to move. At first I hesitated and stayed put but when I saw the clock ticking, I dared myself to step into the crowd and weaved myself through the sea of humanity with great care. The tiny shops were located on an even tinier street, overflowing with buyers. I spent too much time picking out stuff and spent more than I had meant to as the prices were much too low. The shopkeeper asked me for tea or coffee and I settled for water which was a tiny mineral water bottle! At least it wasn’t a dirty glass dipped into a matka of unfiltered water. I was offered a soft drink later and that too was a tiny bottle of sprite (which I have not seen before) from the carton placed right next to the owner at the cash counter. The arduous journey back to Chandni Chowk was without incident and I realized how hungry I was as I had skipped lunch. The shopkeeper where I ordered suits seated me on a stool and got me some fresh salad. I had 3 huge packages and it was impossible to go back by metro, so Esha booked me a cab and I waited for him just inside the kerb. The cab driver gave me a call when he reached and I could see him parked a few yards away. I asked him to turn right so that the packages could be loaded on the car but he refused saying he would not do it and asked me to walk up to the car. I tried to persuade him but to no avail. I hired a cycle rickshaw just to lug the packages to the other side of the road. The cab driver refused to budge and even help in loading my packages. I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I made myself comfortable in the cab but it was relief too soon. At the next traffic lights the cab was stopped by a traffic cop, citing that we could not transport goods in a cab. The driver took his own sweet time to get down and show his papers to the cop who was losing patience. I appealed to the good side of the Sikh cop, conversing in Punjabi and said that I did not know of such rules nor did the cab driver tell me about it. He also asked me to step down and said that he would get me another cab but I was too tired to even move. The driver was rude to me asking me to shut up and not say that it’s an Ola cab and made me cough up 500 hundred bucks which he paid the cop (that is what I think).The cop let me go after I implored him and he took my number and gave me his, saying that I could call him if the driver acted smart. The moment we were a hundred yards away the cabbie asked me to get down and refused to drive me to Noida. I had enough of his highhandedness and told him that I would call the cop if he did not drop me to my destination. He kept grunting and complaining all the way but took me home. I lost the extra 500 rupees but I warned him that he was going to be pulled up for his bad behaviour. The next day was Saturday….eagerly waiting to spend the day with Esha. She had booked tickets for the live show at the Kingdom of Dreams and we got dressed in our best and set off in the afternoon to Gurgaon. The only problem I have with life in NCR is the distances.KOD was exactly like its name…..dreamlike and larger than life. I was cribbing about the expensive tickets but halfway through the show I changed my mind and thanked Esha, as it was an awesome spectacle unfolding live in front of our eyes. The actors, dancers, stage, props were all a feast for the eyes and the happy ending to the play had a very feel good factor. A two and a half hour live show with hundreds of dancers was indeed a treat and then a walk through the Culture Gully. I thought it would be a gallery showcasing Indian culture! It was a food bazaar with cuisines from almost all states. There were few shopping stalls too selling souvenirs from each state. We posed for pictures; window shopped and moved on for dinner to the Farzi Café at the Cyber Hub. The Farzi Café; totally lived up to its name..fake! It was a quaint restaurant and we were seated right next to the live band. The USP of the place was its ample use of liquid nitrogen. A mishti doi “shot”(a la Tequila shot) each was served as an appetizer and was on the house. We ordered for some fancy cocktails at the outset…a Cosmo for me and a green Apple for Esha. Her glass was placed on a bed of leaves with the liquid nitrogen billowing over them. The steward,a young guy chatted us up by talking about my camera,claiming he had the same one and clicked some pics of ours which turned out quite fuzzy .The appetizer was a bhel which was served in a long tray over which was poured powdered bhel. Then came two unique lollipops served in a box which looked like a classic novel, made of frozen yoghurt with a dash of Hajmola (yes you read right-hajmola, good for digestion )The main course was a Farzi kadhi without pakode while the rice was garnished liberally with onion pakodas. The dishes were served in unique platters like a red telephone kiosk and the check was placed on a mini typewriter. All in all a real Farzi experience! My daughter loves cheesecakes and she slowly moved on to the bakery-Angels in my kitchen. The name surely says Angels in my kitchen but it irrefutably adds demons to my tummy! Weary but satiated we drove back home and hit the sack. Sunday and my last day with Esha was low key, spent in cooking and lazing. Two kgs of Gajjar ka halwa cooked and stored with a couple of curries to tide her over the next two days. The direct flight to Vijayawada is surely a boon as you reach in 2.15 hours but the timing is unearthly. I had to leave home at 4 am to catch the 6.20 am flight. The Air India staff had made a mess as usual at the security check and by the time I weaved my way to the plane, the last call was relayed is what they told me, but I don’t know whom they called as I didn’t hear anything. I was the last to board the plane and had the luxury of the entire front row to myself. I dozed a bit, dug into the bland breakfast they serve on board and I let out a huge sigh of…not relief but disenchantment of coming back home to my empty nest.