#Me Too . . .

He was her boss, the one whose bold signature was stamped on the checks she stood in line to collect from the cashier's office at 425 Locust Street. Twice a month, like clockwork. On the 15th and the 30th.

She drove straight to the bank after she tucked it securely in the inner pocket of the logo-embossed Coach handbag that had been a birthday gift from her husband two years ago. The first time she received her paycheck her eyes kept straying from the road ahead to peek into the pocket, once, twice, thrice to make sure, yes, it's still there. By the time she handed it over to the teller for direct deposit, her fingers were clammy from the effort of keeping it safe. 

She was grateful for the job. Yes, she was. She'd sent out 50 resumes just like her college counselor advised her to do. "Keep trying," Mrs. Gomez said kindly, letting her wizened hand rest lightly on Anika's tightly clenched fist. Anika felt bereft when Mrs. Gomez removed her hand and forced herself to concentrate. "It's the bad economy, the recession, dear. Nobody's hiring." Especially, not anybody with an accent. Anika could hear her inner critic chiming in.

Minding your cell-phone manners . . .

It was a blisteringly hot day in August. I waved to my son who had shimmied to the top of the diving board and was preparing to leap into the area of the pool where the 7-8 year-olds were collected. After a moment of cheering him on enthusiastically, as he was led away by the instructor of the beginner's swimming class at Livermore Aquatic Center, I let my shoulders sag. The next thirty minutes stretched in front of me in sheer monotony. I wish I had thought to grab a book or magazine to keep me company while I waited for my son's class to finish. 

Tring, Tring. The number that flashed on my cell phone screen was that of my best friend and neighbor. The welcome distraction of a gossip-infused exchange of Who Wore What at last night's shindig beckoned. I glanced around furtively. An older balding man with a tanned face and large piercing eyes slouched on a bench behind me.

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!