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If you enjoyed coloring this page do check out my coloring book at

 $6 (USD) AT AMAZON.COM

Rs. 535 (INR) AMAZON.IN (PRINTED IN THE US/DELIVERY WITHIN INDIA)

Rs. 299 (INR ) AT POTHI.COM  (PRINTED IN INDIA/DELIVERY WITHIN INDIA)

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SOON ON AMAZON INDIA & FLIPKART

Agonda Beach, Goa

Babar’s ears flapping in the wind as he sticks his neck out the car’s window

I, telling Sandeep that I am closing my eyes as we descend down a steep road without a divider

I, breaking two teacups

The sun, huge and bright and near as we drive in between and under a canopy of trees in a forest reserve

The red, red soil everywhere around us, and inside the car on Babar’s paw

And then the sight of water finally

The flickering lights on the diyas neatly arranged on the pathway in the front yard of our hotel

The bright fragmented reflection of the sun on the gentle waves

And Babar running towards Sandeep on the shallow part of the sea

A mother absentmindedly walking towards the shore until the water touches her feet

Her toddler stumbling behind her

I, enjoying my spinach and mushroom omelet, a large bowl of fruit and cappuccino

on the beach

The sound of laughter, faint, distant, dream like

A dead starfish by my feet

Duvet covers stained with red soil

Hippies in a holistic restaurant

Hippies on a scooter

A snake on the road towards Palolem beach

A middle age woman in a pink satin Sunday dress gripping a bible on her chest

An old church I will not enter

Are the only memories I have of our trip to Agonda beach in Goa two years ago.

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The Exquisite Jispa Valley

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The beauty of Jispa Valley was a welcome sight after a harrowing day that started at Manali and escalated at Rothang Pass.  As I swung my legs off the bike, I wondered how we managed to reach this place in one piece. The route we took before we descended to the valley were interspersed with breathtaking sceneries and horrific road conditions where my death flashed before my eyes a thousand ways; hurled to the bottom of the cliff, crushed under a truck, dragged by a raging stream and all other horrors my mind could conjure.

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My nerves were soothed momentarily as I gaped at the splendour before me though when I closed my eyes to sleep all the horrors of the day came back to me scrambling on top of each other giving me a panic attack. My heart raced, and I felt the onset of altitude sickness, good that we packed all the recommended medicine. Sandeep gave me a pill, and I went into a dreamless slumber.

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I woke up to a beautiful morning in the valley, feeling refreshed and optimistic. The worst must be over. Or so I hoped.

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After tea and breakfast, Sandeep, Nadeem and I walked towards the stream at the foot of the majestic mountains barricading the vale. There it dawned on me how incredibly beautiful this world is, how exquisite these hidden gems were.

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Nadeen then told us it was time for our acclimatisation exercise, an activity essential to our survival once we drive higher later on towards Leh. So we scaled one of the pretty hills in the valley. I lagged behind as usual. Sandeep tried to motivate me as much as he could, but I often get distracted with the breathtaking view below us.

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It was a pity that we could not stay longer in Jispa; this beauty was just one of the pitstops to our final destination, so before the morning was over we continued our journey towards our next stopping place, Pang La. But I was glad that we also stopped for a while in a pretty village in Darcha though it was just 7 kilometres away from Jispa.

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I enjoyed the hot lemon tea in the dhaba where we took a break. It was a nice change from the usual Indian tea with milk. The locals, I noticed, seemed to look more like myself than my Indian companions.

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As we leave Jispa Valley behind, the feeling of terror mixed with amazement I felt on the way there was multiplied a thousand times on our way to Pang La.  Still unaware of the perils that lay before us, I felt ecstatic as I ride behind Sandeep, enjoying the crisp cold wind on my face, and the sight before me which was indescribable in its awesomeness and magnificence.

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A Dog’s Life

 

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After a decadent sleep, Babar woke up and stretched languorously on the carpeted floor. Lazily, he walked over to his food bowl. A full plate of shredded boiled chicken meat was waiting for him. He gulped it all down greedily in seconds. He walked around from room to room looking for his owners. They irritated him sometimes by not walking him more often and by not giving him all the tasty food he likes all the time . He hated it that they put him on a strict diet and were too cautious about him getting fat. He was too young to think about all that. He retaliates by biting their feet and hands when he does not get what he wants. He even learned a new trick of barking at them to receive a speedy response to his demands. Grinning, he was pleased to think about how easily he can manipulate them.

The need to relieve his bladder made him restless. Where could his people be? he wondered. Walking towards the front yard he did a double take when he saw the gate. It was wide open. His owners, no where in sight. He hated being cooped up inside the house. This was his chance. He dashed for freedom.

Lifting his right hind leg, he watered the nearest bush with great satisfaction. A female dog saw him and ran excitedly to greet him. After smelling each other front and back, Babar went on his way. It was a Sunday morning and most of the residents in the community were having tea and reading newspapers in their balconies or gardens. A common indolent sight in his neighborhood.

Walking further he came across a white cocker spaniel accompanied by a young pretty girl in shorts and flip flops. The immaculate canine looked too posh he felt shy all of a sudden. He always rushes towards another dog whenever he sees one but at that moment he was overcome with awe at this cotton like apparition . He just stood there mystified. With an arrogant flip of her tail the fluffy dog strutted away. Babar shrugged and walked on.

An old woman in a beige Salwar Kameez suit stopped on her tracks when she saw him. Babar was feeling naughty and thought of scaring the woman even more. He ran towards her as if to jump. The woman shrieked loudly almost shattering his eardrums. He abandoned the idea. The woman muttered invectives towards his owners and with angry steps walked towards the direction of his house. Babar grinned, unconcerned. Not his problem.

His adventurous steps finally led him to the main gate of the housing estate. It was also wide open that day. Should he or shouldn’t he? Excitement tripled the beating of his heart. He has not been outside the gated community by himself before. He decided to go for it. The street was deserted. Before him were long stretches of roads as far as he could see. And only one or two cars passed by with long intervals every now and then. He ran to his heart’s content. He was having so much fun he failed to notice the scenery changing. Gone was the pathway lined with pretty trees and the neatly trimmed bushes. Instead, rotting mangled cars decorated the road. Garbage strewed all around.

Walking slowly now he saw a man and a woman in front of a house made of two blankets tied to a tree forming a tent. The woman wearing a sari clutched a bare bottomed child to her bosom while making tea on a makeshift stove of rocks and woods. Flies buzzing around them. Two slightly older kids were rummaging through a dumpster nearby. Diligently sorting through the trash for any edible scraps they could find. With them was a pack of stray dogs. Babar walked hesitantly towards them. He snipped what they were snipping.  He thought the mutts must be eating something tasty seeing them ate with gusto. He saw an empty packet of milk. He loved milk. His owners always take  the discarded milk packet he steals from the trash away from his mouth when they see him chewing on it. He was about to grab the plastic pack with his mouth when a thin brown dog noticed him.

” Hey you! You selfish bastard! Are you not from inside that place?” He barked, indicating with his nose the row of flats inside the colony. All the dogs were looking at him now, baring their teeth. Babar changed his stance. The hair on his back raised aggressively.

” Look how fat you are! You must be eating all those fancy food. What are you doing here stealing our scrap? We have to fend for ourselves you know! These leftovers are barely enough for all of us.” growled the black mongrel. Walking with deliberate slowness around him with a menacing expression on his face. Babar did not show it but fear was spreading in his limbs. Five dogs with hatred on their faces surrounded him, their postures geared for a fight.

” He must be one of those who even sleeps on his owner’s bed. Look how clean he is. How shiny his fur is.” sneered a white bitch with a patch of black in one eye. They all laughed at him.

Before they could attack him, Babar jumped over the tiniest dog and ran for his life. He didn’t stop running until he was inside the gate of his society. He saw madness on those canines’ eyes. They were going to rip him apart. His heart thundered in his chest.

“Babar!” He heard a familiar comforting voice calling him and he ran towards the source of that maternal sound like a wanderer in the desert seeing a pool of water. He jumped inside the wide open arms of his caretaker. ” You made us so worried. Where did you go? Honey he is over here.” she called out to her husband.

Babar licked the face of his master gratefully when finally his master called him over to him. The master patted his head lovingly. ” I think my boy had learned a very important lesson today.” Babar wagged his tail in agreement.

Sometimes we need a little freedom to make mistakes so we can  value  more the life we are given.

(*Housing estate or gated communities are called colonies or societies around here, well according to my husband.) ©JMKhapra

Born Into Brothels

Two kids from the 8 kids that Zana Briski, an American Photographer, tried to rescue from their hellish life made it good. Avijit, a very talented boy who understood the nuances of photography even at his young age and without proper training studied film making at New York University and is set or maybe already working as an assistant director in Hollywood. Kochi, the girl who was the most determined not to become like everyone around her by getting a good education, persevered and was able to study in the US aided by the profits made from the film’s success.  (Check what eventually happened to these kids here)

I can understand the photographer’s inability not to get involved with her subjects. Her main task was to document what was going on in the brothels but to see these kids’ laughter, aspirations and hopes despite their desperate situation can break anyone’s heart and you have to be totally inhuman to not try to help but I am in awe with how much she gave of herself to help them. It must have been so painful for her to see the other kids not able to make the best of the opportunity she gave them.

A truly heartbreaking documentary which leaves you wondering why any kid has to grow up in such circumstances. My tears turned into sobs when I reached the part where the kids saw the sea for the first time. The joy in their faces at seeing something so beautiful was wonderful to behold.

You can watch the whole film at ‪#‎netflixindia‬

The Wanderer

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I am a nomad at heart. I can never sit still in one place for too long. I feel like living somewhere else again. Discovering a new culture, a new way of life. It doesn’t satisfy me just to see the sights. I wanna live like the locals of the place I want to visit and stay for a few years. I want to learn their history and their language. How they think and how they feel. A yearning I cannot stifle no matter how hard I try. Sometimes I find my compass in a book. A preview of what is in store for me or us. So darling, where should we go next?

-JofelynMK

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