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.”  (

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.

This Thing Called Aging. . .

Bear with me.

I have to tell you something.  It's about a thing called aging.

When I was in my 20s, a Jane Fonda devotee, an aerobics instructor at Delhi’s Surya Sofitel Hotel, I laughed inwardly  seeing my 40s-something class huffing and puffing through my routine of high-impact aerobics.  “Jump into the air,” I would yell from my four inch-high bench while my pot-bellied unisex audience would strive to catch their stalling breath.

When I was in my 30s, a young associate at Pillsbury and McKenzie, I dropped my son off to daycare, ran into Department 4 at the San Francisco Superior Court on McAllister Street, trudged home after a long day's work and still made the time to hop on the treadmill and run a mile.

My Adventures at Jindal Nature Cure. . .

My ride picks me up from Bangalore airport, and we traverse congested roads bustling with cars, cattle, people and more people. After an hour, we arrive at closed iron gates leading to a compound behind which is a tall, sterile-looking, concrete building.  Spider webs reflecting the light from a street lamp create a silver weave on a sign that is covered with a thick film of dust but still readable: "surrender your cell phone here.  It will be returned to you when you depart." The iron-grill gate closes behind me with a clang, and I jump, feeling as if I may have entered a jail of my own free will.

I walk a little further and see an avenue of leafy trees under a blue sky and people walking briskly with a smile on their faces.  Nobody's commandeered my phone yet, even though large, conspicuous signs stating, "Cell-phone use strictly prohibited.  You can use your cell phone only in your accommodation" abound.  I breathe in fresh air, soaking in the green outdoor environment.  I see ripples on the transparent, turquoise waters of the (man-made) lake separating a traffic-laden highway from this oasis of tranquility, and I feel myself beginning to relax.  

Dubai Dairies: The Desert Safari Experience

There is a place where golden sand is so fine it melts like butter through the spaces between your fingers, where lizards cartwheel down dunes and where an animal's two rows of extra-long eyelashes make it the envy of every woman alive. You may not believe it but this place really does exist, and it is called the Arabian desert.

I was in Dubai recently for a milestone birthday celebration, and the most memorable part of my trip was a desert safari organized by Platinum Heritage Luxury Tours.