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.

My advice to my 20-year-old self. . .

When asked at a “Generation Next” White House forum with millennials what advice he would offer his 25-year-old self, Trump barely skipped a beat when he joked in response: “Don’t run for President.”  (http://people.com/politics/donald-trump-advice-younger-self-dont-run-for-president/)

That got me thinking. What advice would I give my 20-year-old self?

Today, as I look back at the young girl I was, I hold her gently and kiss her cheek and say, "We have to dare to be ourselves, no matter how frightening or deep it may be.

Mehndi Magic at the Big, Fat Punjabi wedding . . .

I squat in front of the mehndi artist and extend my right palm.  She shows me a dozen designs to choose from and I pick an intricate paisley leaf, with spirals on the side.  Within minutes, she's coaxed the dark-green mehndi color out of her plastic cone and on my outstretched palm much like squeezing icing onto a cake.  She throws on some pink and turquoise glitter to match the lehnga I'm wearing.  It looks pretty, but now I have to sit idly for at least an hour, giving the henna sufficient time to stain my palm. I'm not bothered though.  I'm attending my cousin sister's wedding in India, and there're plenty of relatives I can talk to who'll help me pass the time.


Pray to the morning warmth that creeps through the shuttered window on a bright sunny morning in February, no rain, no fog, it reminds me of sleepy summer vacations in the hill station of Dalhousie;

Pray to the flood of immigration in the late 90's that has brought Patak's pickles to the Indian Spice Market and Bollywood movies to Regal Cinemas at Hacienda Crossings.  Now I can choose if I want to see Fifty Shades Freed or Padmavati or both, in the span of a lazy afternoon, if my heart so desires;

Pray to the 11 p.m. phone call from my daughter who's away at Santa Clara University, an entreaty for me to visit with her furry, four-legged friend, Coco.  "Thank goodness she didn't choose to move five states removed to Tulane University," is the heartfelt cry of a mother who's bewildered how much it hurts to have an empty nest at home; 

Foolish Promises . . .

The year her father-in-law died was also the same year, their family dog, Skittles passed away.  Dad was 90 years old when he passed.  He'd lived a long, full, and sometimes difficult life.  He'd celebrated countless births, marriages, and milestones.  He'd also witnessed multiple deaths, disturbances, disorders, and disasters.  She thought Providence had granted her family enough notice so that they could let him go without the usual cacophony of grief that surrounds the death of a family member.

What she’d failed to account for was that Yamdoot, the Indian God of Death doesn’t choose a time and place convenient for its victims when He comes calling.  As Dad lay dying of old age and organ failure, their beloved white Westie Terrier,  six-year-old Skittles began to heave his last breaths. 

“Don’t die.  Please don’t die,” she hissed at Skittles.