Must haves while flying with toddlers

I now know how tedious it could be flying with toddlers as I just went through it all alone and 9 hours on flight is no joke. Also it’s not just the travel time that you need to be worried about but the whole process from check-in to check out. Luckily I did do a little research prior my travel on how to keep my little now entertained for few hours which is a life saver.

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So here’s my top list of must haves while you travel with your toddler. Any of these items could keep them contained for a max of 15 mins post which you will have to keep alternating with a new one
1. Drawing board:  I found mine at Harrods (in heathrow airport) and it costed me about 10 pounds. It’s worth every penny as the pen is attached to the board and you are saved from the strain of having to pick up the pen every time your kid drops it. And it also comes with a magic eraser that erases with just a swipe and a book attached to it. This kept my son busy for some time. I would definitely recommend it.
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2. Stickers: I dint take with me a sticker book to reduce weight but just took some sticker sheets and my son whiled away time pasting it from one sticker pad to the other.
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3. New Lego toys : buying new toys for the travel was a huge savoir as toddlers with the surprise element keeps them occupied for a while until they explore it and meddle with it till their hearts content.
4. Snacks : this comes handy when they become cranky. I opted for healthy snacks like dried carrots, apples, ellas fruit smoothies, banana rings and some chocolates to bribe him from crying. Avoid yogurt and dairy food as its prohibited to be carried while check-in and also it becomes a lot messier. Finger foods are the best and safe bet. In flight it’s more important to keep them settled and comfortable rather than trying to fill their stomach with their regular food. So less is more.
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5. Co-passenger: striking a friendly conversation with your co passengers could come handy as they might come to your rescue in distracting your toddlers attention in case they whine. In my case my co passenger was very friendly that I was able to leave him with her for me trips to loo or a bottle refill. But thing to be noted is they are strangers and we must be doubly careful before you trust anyone with your kid.
6. Take off and landing: these are the two most stressful times for toddlers and this can be eased by letting them have a bottle of milk as sucking it calms them from the air pressure.  Luckily for me my son feel asleep at both take off and landing.
These are few tips that worked for me, hope it might come handy to you. Please share any other tips that you might know of, that might help in my return trip.
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Adieu Pondy Bazaar

Riots of colors, throng of people bustling through the markets, rows of flowers being strung to garland, array of stuff toys all through the way, loads of options for slippers, belts, ornaments, clothing to choose from are the fond memories that we have of Pondy bazaar.

A visit to the Pondy bazaar was a must to any visitors who land in Chennai or for the locals to shop for, for any special occasion. I have memories of myself shopping for matching ear rings, bangles, slippers and rubber bands for the dresses I used to purchase. This served as a one stop accessory shop for people of all stature.  This was also a place where you could put to trial your bargaining skills, the better you were at it the lesser you had to pay for the stuff you pick.

In my recent visit to Chennai, I was more than eager to visit and shop in Pondy Bazaar having my wish list all set. But to my dismay after landing there I just found remains of those shops which were scrapped from the place they once adorned. I am sure that everyone who visited this place during its reign would have had fond memories to cherish. It’s not just the shops that everyone misses but it’s the vibe, the atmosphere, the mood and of course the chaos that you get instantly you land in this place.

Bidding adieu to the shopper’s haven – Pondy Bazaar.

Enchanting North West India

This  memory dates  back to two years from now – July 2011:

The last one week was one of the most memorable weeks in my life. My hub, brother-in law and I geared up for a North West Indian trip along with my in-laws who are currently residing in Barsingsar, Rajasthan. This trip was so special to me since I haven’t crossed borders of Tamil Nadu except for Bangalore and luckily London in all my 26 years. I love traveling and I get titillated to savor different culture, people, languages etc… We boarded the flight from Chennai to Jaipur, where we saw Hawa Mahal, City Palace and Jaipur Museum.

Day 1: Jaipur

Hawa Mahal is an architectural splendor that offers breath-taking views of the pink city. It was alluring to witness the royal palace built exclusively for the queen to view the city’s processions. Hawa meaning wind as the name suggests, the Mahal is adorned with numerous windows for ventilation and peek through. Beyond just being dazzled by the beauty of the Mahal we were also able to experience the luxury the Royalties enjoyed then.

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We just had one day to spend in Jaipur since the very same evening we had to catch our train to Bikaner. So we weren’t lucky enough to visit all the monuments of Jaipur. We also visited the Albert City Museum which in itself was an architectural excellence. It had in display breath-taking Egyptian pharaohs, mummies, Pistols, coins, Sculptures, huge colorful porcelain jugs and many more. We had to hurry up because of the time constraint but it is one must visit place where one will acquire more knowledge about our diverse and rich ancient history.

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Later we also went to Birla Mandir. The deities were so adorable and beautiful. The deities were clad in rich red attire and they were co cute to look at. I would say they were the cutest deities I have seen so far, with all due respect.

Then we had a quick shopping spree in Jaipur where I bought Jaipur handmade slippers, Multicolored Bangles for myself and my friends & a doll that resembles the Rajasthani men and women.

Then we boarded the train to Bikaner to my in-laws place in Barsingsar.

Day2: Bikaner

The next day after having a quick rest we visited the local markets in Bikaner where I purchased a beautiful saree in vibrant pink color richly embellished with stones and golden thread.  We also went to some local temples where my mother in law had some offerings that had to be made. Later in the evening we went to City Palace by 5 p.m.  But by the time we reached there it was already closed. The Palace closes by 4 p.m. We were very disappointed alas we were at least able to take a look at the Rajasthan Art and Crafts museum in city palace. It showcased the wardrobe collection of the king and the queen which was heavily embroidered with precious stones and gold. Also displayed were the Chariots, utensils, carpets etc. utilized by the Kings then.

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We were already drained out of our energy due to the continuous travel and hence we had to call it a day for further sightseeing  and had a sumptuous bikaneri dinner and drove home to Barsingsar from Bikaner which again was a lovely drive along the desert, relishing the cool desert breeze listening to old hindi songs.

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Day 3: Deshnok

On hearing that there is a temple in Rajasthan that houses hoards of rats and people worship rats I became more curious to see that place. It is Karni Mata temple in Deshnok, where Karni Mata a hindu sage is being worshiped as an incarnation of Goddess Durga. It’s about 30 km from Bikaner and one of the must visit places. The temple revered to have supreme potential to make our wishes true, when prayed sincerely. It’s  assumed that you are lucky and your wishes would  come true if you were able to sight a white rat among the thousands of black rats.

I was lucky that day to find the white rat that came from one of the holes just moments before we decided to leave, feeling bad that we weren’t able to see the white rat. I consider that I have received the blessings of Karni Mata. It was such an ecstatic moment for me and my family members.

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After the temple sojourn, we planned to retreat to cooler regions to escape the blazing heat of Rajasthan. We planned to visit Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. It was one place on my hubs must visit list and I remember him saying before our marriage that he wanted to take me to Dharamsala. We chose to reach our destination by car via Punjab to Himachal.  Thus we started our travel across the sand dunes of Rajasthan savoring the strong live-reviving cardamom chai and Rajasthani cuisine.

Day 4: Amirstar

After a day long drive we reached Amritsar in the wee hours and halted in a lodge near the Golden Temple. It was so Later that day we planned to visit Jallianwala Bagh, Wagah Border and Golden Temple.

After our morning breakfast, we left for Jallianwala Bagh. It was a nerve chilling experience to place foot on the very place where thousands of martyr’s were massacred ruthlessly by General Dyer. There were so much of emotions running through our hearts that time – patriotism, humbleness, faithfulness, sorrow, pain etc… It was such a soul-stirring experience to witness the entire place studded with bullet marks. We were able to know more about the lives of our heroes who sacrificed their lives for India’s freedom and about the poignant incident. We also saw the martyr well were our brave heroes perished themselves from being killed by the hands of the British.

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Later in the afternoon we left to Wagah Border, to witness the Retreat Ceremony. We at once transformed into Indian army warriors and started yelling India Zindabad!!! Bharath Matha Ki Jai !!! Vande Matharam !!!  It was such a refreshing sight to watch our women holing with pride our Indian Flag and running towards the gate and then dancing proudly for the patriotic music played there. There was so much emotions running  being here, which couldn’t be explained in words but only felt, after visiting the Jallianwala Bagh. The parade by the soldiers was a treat to our eyes. I was able to feel the unity amongst Indians besides all the diversity that exists. I was elated seeing the sign board “India Welcomes you”. You could instantaneously feel a connect with Mother India.

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Golden Temple was a totally different experience. As said in movie “ Rab ne Bana di Jodi” Rab dhiktha hai.. you can feel peacefulness, calmness and surrender  yourself to sanctity of the Golden temple. We were luckier as the day we visited the temple was the birthday of the 10th Guru and hence the temple was decorated with loads of  flowers and lights. It was spectacular to see the reflection of the dazzling temple in the water body surrounding the temple.

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It was a very fulfilling day with mixed emotions ranging from gratefulness to spirituality. I could not have asked for more.

Day 5: Dharamsala

We reached Mcleod Gunj which is Upper Dharamsala the next day. It was a heaven on Earth with its cold climate, satnding tall mystic Himalayan mountain ranges, Buddhist Monastry. We went to the Buddhist Monastry, Bhagsunag falls,Naddi, Dal lake with exotic cedar tress and  Stowari. I have no words to unravel the experience I had in these places. I believe these pictures taken there would speak better than my words.

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We stayed in Dharamsala for 2 long blissful days.

Day 7: Delhi, Agra

Well all fairy tales comes to end and so did our Trip. We had our flight at 7:30 p.m. to Chennai and we reached Delhi by 6:30 a.m. My hub had a surprise for me. He wanted to gift me a trip to Taj Mahal for my birthday that falls 5 days later. It was such a shocking pleasant surprise to know I am going to see Taj Mahal for the very first time along with my love. I can’t believe myself –  Yes I am gonna see the seventh Wonder of the World. We rented a car and started to Agra.

As this time of the year is monsoon season in India, it was raining on and off. I got the first glimpse of Taj Mahal admist the rain droplets. There stood the magnificant Taj Mahal and I wasn’t able to take my eyes off it. What more could I ask for. I got intoxicated by the beauty and majesty of Taj Mahal and my eyes got wet with joyous tears. It’s truly a symbol of love and the closer you get to it the more love you could feel.

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As we finished taking snaps, the rain also stopped and the rays of the sun fell over Taj Mahal and it was a whole different view of Taj Mahal unlike how it was during the rain. It sparkled like a diamond in the Sun’s rays. Speechless, spellbound!!!! We got late for the Flight already and were about to leave Taj Mahal, when my hub called me casually as though waiting for me to come back from the ethereal world and uttered Priya I love You!!! There can’t be anything more precious than this moment.

It was a fairy tale ending to our Rajasthan Trip as we boarded our Flight to Chennai.

Everyday Traveler

I was bullied by a mob of women and was pushed into a human maze and I almost lost my way, all in my effort to get into the electric train today morning. In this hustling and bustling city Chennai, I spend almost 3 hours every day travelling in the train to reach my destination office and back home. The journey which I initially had an aversion for, has become increasingly interesting these days to me, as I am a good people watcher. I like observing people, their behavior and interactions. I learn that the train, though intended to transport people to varied destinations, is utilized for various other purposes too. It serves as an elixir of life to many. The vagabonds find the train to be their shelter where they sleep, groom, feed, scavenge and beg.

I also find women dressed in multicolors, overly ornamented with their infant tied to their back like the kangaroo, selling beads and all jewellery. I also happen to find ladies quarreling amongst each other that matures to ugly abuses and tussle. The journey is never short of eatables ranging from vendors bartering seasonal fruits like mangoes, pomegranate, pineapple etc to vegetables, samosas, peanuts and home- made nibbles.

The train that I travel is predominantly utilized by the working class especially those in IT. It’s a refreshing site to look at brisk men and women neatly dressed boarding the train and chattering with their friends, reading newspaper and novels, having their breakfast from their lunch kit, complaining constantly about the scorching sun and their half baked team leads. There are also the stylish trendy college goers conversing only in English and trying to grab everyone’s attention. The other set of people whom you could find at large are the money mongers dressed shabbily, displaying skills like singing, playing instruments and capitalizing on their handicap to lure people for charity. There are many instances where people open windows of friendship just through their daily journey acquaintances, the journey thus uniting unknown people from different walks of life.

This is one place where you can find people happy, in ecstasy, in love speaking to their loved ones, in agony sharing their sorrows, weeping for reasons you do not know, quarreling, sleeping, restless, nervous, lost, helpless, dependent, anticipation and all emotions possible locked in this one compartment where people get united and merged through this travel regardless of their class, creed and sex. India is certainly a nation that has unity in diversity.

Weekend Fun v1

I was thrilled about this weekend as myself and Arvi were going to visit my hometown to see my parents and my cute little dogs Juno and Spiky. Arvi had to attend a wedding of his colleague in Tirunelveli and since my hometown was close by we roped in hometown visit as well for the weekend.

We had booked an AC sleeper bus by KPN travels for our travel to Madurai. I was keeping my fingers crossed that we reach safely, after the tragic incident of 22 KPN passengers being killed in a road accident just a week back.  It was quite a nightmare as we never even imagined such an accident would take place and devour these many victims, having considered KPN travels to be one of the safest modes of transport. We finally did reach Madurai safely the next morning.

Reaching home, I was pounded down by Spiky and Juno who pounced on me jumping with joy on seeing me and licking all over my face. It was overwhelming to see them after a long time. I am quiet delighted that  Arvi  who usually keeps away from Spiky and Juno has  become very friendly and caring with them of late. Mom had prepared delicious puri’s for us with aloo. After devouring the heavy breakfast all we wanted to do was to take a sound sleep to refresh ourselves.  After my nap, I prepared Vaangi Bath powder ( that I learnt from my mother in law) for my mom, since the dish was pretty new to her.

Later in the evening Arvi wanted to see Thirumalainayakar Mahal. I had told him that Director Maniratnam being a native of Madurai, does ensure that at least a single shot of all his films will be shot in Madurai. Songs in movie Bombay, Guru are few of his movies that captured the beauty and majesty of Thirumalainayakar mahal through his lens. Thirumalainayakar Mahal is one of the beautiful architectural structures standing today that were built by King Thirumalai Nayak.

We learnt that, the palace had an evening light and sound show that accentuates the beauty of the palace and also elucidates of the history of the King. We were eager to watch the show, but to be frank the show dint live up to our expectations especially after seeing numerous such shows in Facebook and You tube these days. Later that night we watched the movie Avan Evan.

The next day we started to Courtallam falls, after attending the wedding. We never expected so much water in the falls but to our amazement the falls was its in full glory. There wasn’t much of crowd, so we were left loose and undisturbed to soak in the beauty of the falls. We felt bolts of water thudding on us like rock boulders easing us from all body aches that we had. It was such a refreshing bath we had and never had the mind to leave the falls. But everything has to come to an end and so did our journey. We hurried back to catch our bus back to Chennai that night, parting from my cute little family.