A Thousand Splendid Suns; the journey from the page to the stage . . .

"One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs; 

Or the thousand Splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”

(-Josephine Davis’ translation of Saib Tabrizi’s poem ‘Kabul’ written in the 17th century)

Last autumn, the #MeToo movement began in Hollywood and spread across the world, shining a light on sexual harassment and assault, and dominating the social-political scene ever since. In this climate comes a play which tells the story of three generations of Afgan women who are bound together by marriage, family and a secret past amid the war-torn streets of modern-day Kabul. Hosseini has stated that he was inspired to write A Thousand Splendid Suns after visiting Afganistan and speaking with the strong women who live in a country where their rights are often oppressed. 

My adventures in a Japanese Ryokan . . .

Traveling to Japan this summer? Prepare yourself for a unique country where modern bullet trains fuse with a 1500-year-old culture of traditional shrines and temples. But no visit to Japan is complete without a stay in a traditional Japanese guest house called ryokans. 

Recently, my family and I toured Japan for eleven days—for ten days we stayed in spacious, modern but soulless hotels—the Hyatt Regency in Tokyo and Kyoto, but the one night we spent at Arashiyama Benkei was the highlight of our trip.  Here are five reasons why you must stay in a ryokan:

Tokyo is the World's Coolest City. 12 reasons why . . .

1. The culture of cleanliness

Everybody I talked to asked me to be prepared for the sheer number of people in Tokyo. I was ready for the crowds . . . what I didn't expect was the cleanliness. This, despite the fact that there is no trash can in open sight anywhere in the city.  You will be hard-pressed to come across a city as clean as Tokyo—Japanese people carry the trash in their hands, their pockets, or a spare plastic bag until they arrive at their destination. Alternatively, you can duck into a convenience store (which abound in the city) and dispose of your garbage there.

2. The world's most efficient railway system

Tokyo's extensive public transportation system carries 40 million daily passengers. With 13 subway lines and more than 100 surface routes run by Japan railways and other private companies, Tokyo's railway system is beyond sophisticated. With its operating speed reaching up to 320km/h, the bullet train is a rite of traveler passage in Tokyo!

A Date with a Geisha. . .

My writing instructor, Teresa brings out a tray of objects hoping that in one of these randomly-picked items, we will find our inspiration to write.

Among the clutter of 16 crayons, a yellow 'No Crossing Tape,' a plastic Barbie doll with pink highlighted hair, an American flag, a folding umbrella, a soft stitch training baseball, a silver figurine of a hippo, a grey-and-white inhaler, a blue $50 Monopoly money bill—my eyes alight and focus on a silk hand fan with ribs that come to long points at one end and a green silk tassel attached by a braided green cord at the other. It lies unfolded, displaying an arc of heavy rice gold paper, hand-painted with blue irises on leafy green stalks. Memories of the orient are slicing through my brain like a machete and it reminds me of an embellished fan in the hands of a geisha.

Years ago my husband and I read the book 'Memoirs of a Geisha' together on a holiday to Maui,

A Time of Solitude . . .

It used to be that I had no difficulty falling asleep at night.  When I was a young girl still in my 20s, growing up in Lajpat Nagar colony in New Delhi, I would lie in bed as the night deepened. I would hear the sounds filtering in through the open window on hot summer nights—stray dogs barking in competition from neighborhood to neighborhood, the occasional truck rumbling by, someone singing lustily from the embrace of the night—a drunkard or  a laborer returning home late—the drone of an airplane, the rustle of a mouse scurrying across the tiled floor of the lavatory, the sound of a door opening or closing here or there on the middle floor of the three-storeyed home we lived in. I would lie secure in the precarious knowledge that this was a world known to me.

Perfume Magic . . .

I returned from Paris last week.  I waited in line for 42 minutes in front of the flagship Louis Vuitton store on the famed Champs-Elysees before they would let me go inside.

The young German salesgirl chatters gaily to me in heavily accented English.  She's been at the store for only a month, she confides. At first, I'm distant, taciturn, holding myself aloof.  I have no money. Not enough to buy the Limited-Edition Neverfull tote I admire in the window display, but maybe she's heard of the new breed of Indian tech millionaires, so she continues to chat me up. 

After 20, 30 minutes of cajoling me to buy the logo-embossed fine-gossamer golden shawl or the python-skin Petite Malle handbag she thrusts in my hand a tiny bottle of the Louis Vuitton fragrance just launched. "You'll love this. It has Oudh in it."  

Your Guide to 3 Days in Marrakech, Morocco . . .

Historic Marrakech, translated as the 'Land of God' is a city of magic, beauty, and old-world charm. Whether visiting the beautiful La Mamounia Palace, watching a dynamic belly-dancing performance or spending the afternoon wandering the streets of the Medina, so full of tradition and heritage, one begins to understand why Marrakech has become a tourist phenomenon. Despite almost 50 years of French trade and dusty streets, the city has maintained a sense of mystery and romance not seen anywhere so close to Europe.

This 3-day itinerary will get you to the most popular spots, the grandest restaurants that offer an authentic dining experience and the perfect places that give you the most Insta-worthy photo ops!

My Adventures at Nerja Caves in Spain. . .

You are having the same dream again, the one where you are groping in a dark cave, alone and fearful.  You have a torchlight in your hand, that lights up the hidden crevices of the cavern.  Otherwise, it is total blackness.  Your heart is thudding with anxiety.  It is so dark that without the light, you would not be able to see your own hand in front of your face.  A sour stench of bat droppings makes you cover your mouth with your hand.  As you make your way gingerly over the uneven rocks and wind down into a damp tunnel, you lose your balance and the torchlight slips from your hand.  The light blinks for a hopeful moment and then falls, tumbling into a large underground avalanche of rocks.  Darkness surrounds you, claws at you, and almost seems to smother you.  You feel very much alone and more than a little frightened.  You put one foot in front of the other, lurching unsteadily like a woman on stilts.  You take a deep breath and decide you have no choice but to slide down among the rocks. 

Krishna on Speed

The setting was a luxurious private home perched atop Hayward Hills with a breathtaking view of the bay and the ocean. The artist mounted his blank black canvas on an easel strategically placed on the spacious view deck and turned his back to the audience watching expectantly.  Like me, many of us in the audience of 40 or so people had heard of 'speed painting' but never watched it performed live. Within minutes 34-year-old Vilas Nayak brought the portrait of Krishna to life under the influence of hauntingly melodious mood music. (See video below.)  The impact on the audience was riveting.  Many broke out in spontaneous applause; others roared their appreciation—"wow" and "mind-blowing" being the loudest cheers—;there was not one among us who was not moved by the performance or the paintings.