The jitters, the jabbers and the joys of a soon-to-be bride

bridezillaThe bridal countdown is on! My D-day is right around the corner, almost ten days to be precise and everyone in the family is an emotional wreck! I can literally feel my mental clock ticking away, tick-tick one, tick-tick two, it is like a freaking time bomb that is waiting to explode and explode it did. The stress of running around, looking after every minute detail finally got to me. The dress, the accessories, the decorators, the priests, the pujas, the guests and the list just goes on…

Not to forget the impending stress of leaving my beloved family and friends behind, the people that I grew up with for almost three decades or even the ones I met recently and have grown so close to my heart. The thought of seeing them only sporadically has made me very anxious. Slowly I am growing into one Bridezilla, irritable, ranting and unwell for most of the times. Headaches and loosies caused due to nervousness have taken over the last threads that were holding me. Honestly, if someone was acting like me I would have probably killed them with my own hands. But everyone around me was so loving and patient.

That is when reality really dawned upon me. What do you really need in life? Other than a quintessential pair of lovely shoes and a hot LBD that flaunts your curves right, you need a set of people around you who accept you even at your worst behaviour. I thank God for bringing such angels in my life; they’ve been with me through thick and thin. Now that I’m ready to start on my new journey, moving into a new place I can do so with a light heart and a deep breath. I hope I will meet people who are just as nice, loving, accepting and non-judgmental as my friends and I’m just as accommodating for letting me in their lives. However, no one can replace you peeps. I love you so much and this blog is a tribute to all your loveliness and the friendship I’ve shared with you for years.



Pagdandi book chai cafe-Where happiness meets creativity and good food!

What is a place where you can read, listen to live music, meet interesting people and bite into delicious food that’s healthy- a haven right? Well, that’s Pagdandi-Books, Chai, Cafe for you, an extension of your home as conceptualised by the beautiful couple Neha and Vishal Pipraiya.

What strikes you first as soon as you enter is the very welcoming sunshine yellow door with a signboard that’s made of recycled plywood! Not to forget, the eclectic lights made at the doorway that scream cool in an underlying manner, if you know what I mean! The lazy Indian sit-outs, the bamboo ceiling and bookshelves, cane chairs, guitar, quirky accessories, and the wide array of the re-circulated old books that smell close to heaven for any bookish geek. Lastly, the very beckoning food -counter with desi interiors like blackboard menus on the walls, sum up the ambience of this place. In short, this place wraps up pretty beautifully in an eco friendly manner. I likey!

This book cum cafe caters to all audiences, right from the tiny-tots to teens, middle aged and even senior citizens with the various activities that they have in store here. While for the younger audiences, they have book clubs and appreciation of reading sessions, the older audiences can enjoy drum circles or even get nostalgic at a retro Hindi music karaoke night. It’s amusing to watch how people from different walks of life come together and get along seamlessly well. Probably, the barriers are more in the mind which Pagdandi has very successfully broken through with their far sighted vision. Probably, this foresight comes from their own personal experiences as these ardent backpackers who share an envious zest for life gave up their corporate jobs to come up with a concept like this.

Now let’s get down to business, the food! My most favourite are the frozen flavoured yoghurts ranging from wild berry to green apple and even the very healthy musk melon, savoured with delicious waffles or even the yummy sandwiches here. Especially, the aloo chatpata is yummy served in bio degradable Areca Nut Palm Plates and Bowls, Very eco-chic!

All you do is take a bite, grab a book and take a corner to be whisked away in a different world together!



Shanta amma: Cooking up a storm of success

Opportunity knocks at everyone’s doors. But how rare is it that someone grabs it wholeheartedly and makes most of it. Honestly, very few but this is a story of a woman, Shantabai Sariyam or Shanta Amma as she is fondly called at the Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh who with her innate potential, grit and determination defied all odds against her, challenged her adversaries and triumphed as a true winner at the end of it! Read on to know more and get inspired by her riveting tale.

Her journey…
Shantamma belongs to the tribal community of Gonds in Madhya Pradesh. The only doting daughter of her parents, she was married with high aspirations to a supposedly suitable man who lived in a village located at the Pench Tiger Reserve. However, her happiness was crashed soon after. Instead of the rosy picture painted in front of her family, there was something else in store for her. Her husband seemed a far cry from what she envisioned. He had a drinking problem and tended to get physically abusive at times. Soon after, she had children and inspite of the grievances meted out on her by her in-laws, she had to live with them due to the societal pressure. She faced abject poverty and humiliation and hardly had money to feed her little ones. Every day, she would go to meet her parents and borrowed food from them. Her condition was so bad that she didn’t even have any clothes to cover her modesty properly. Until, she decided she had to do something about her situation.

The tables turn
To meet the grave conditions at home, she took up all sorts of work that came her way and that included helping the forest department at the Pench Tiger Reserve. Initially, she would help them with odd jobs like collecting the people from her village and extinguishing the forest fire in exchange for money. At times, if need required she even served them food. The officials were very impressed with her honesty, hard work, vigour, cooking skills and business acumen. They propositioned her with a deal, hoping it would help her to break through the shackles of poverty and lead a financially independent life. In 1995, they offered her Rs, 3000 as a loan to start a canteen at the reserve. Along with her, there were few other men who were given resources to open a cycle and a grocery shop and start their life afresh with the reserve.

Initially, she was reluctant due to social restraints but then decided to seal the deal as she knew that probably this was her last chance to make things right for her kids.

Ace the service
Shanta amma bought vessels and ingredients with the money and started doing what she does best, cooking. However, instead of sticking to Gond palate, she started experimenting with recipes that were more standardised and targeted a wider audience. Slowly and steadily, her financial condition improved. While her business flourished, the others who were given the same opportunity closed down due to bad decisions and even exhausting the money owing to their drinking problems.

To ensure she doesn’t meet the same fate, she constantly tried to evolve, adapting to the changing demands of the market by interacting with the people she met. To cater to her guests needs, she customised it as per their requirements, taking into account their tastes, culture, likes and dislikes. Additionally, she also whips up dishes with interesting tiger spotting tales to make the dining experience more interesting. In fact, few naturalists and tourists whom she mingles with like renowned wild life expert Anuj Khare vouch for her deep insight and experience about the forest. What’s more? If need required, she takes a step forward and also plays the role of a doting mother who looks after guests with alternative home remedies and comfort food when they are sick. Because of her heartfelt efforts, the result is that she has a lasting impression in the minds of the people who meet her and thereafter adore her unconditionally.

Shanta’s pay off
Like an astute businesswoman, whatever profits she has earned, instead of spending it, she has reinvested it in the business. At the same time, her efforts and hard work were supported wholeheartedly by the forest department. Whenever required, they would extend a helping hand to her, to ensure that she doesn’t suffer from any pitfalls. When she needed more money to buy a restaurant at the reserve, they helped her with the financials though with time she has repaid the money.

Slowly and steadily her business expanded and flourished. She even bought a gypsy for one of her sons, who works as a driver in the reserve during the peak tourist season. That’s not all, she has invested in three more homes, two motorcycles and even indulges in farming, making sure that all her five children are married, happy and settled.

The best part about her success is that it has worked like a chain reaction. It is not just confined to her and her family but also the forest department who believed in her business acumen. She has even extended her good luck to her community, helping them to empower themselves by employing them within the department. For example, she has helped a lame man of her village to set up a grocery store. She even makes it a point to visit the young men in her village, instilling the qualities of hard work and honesty in them to ensure they work for their livelihood instead of resorting to stealing and bad habits.

Seeing her good work, she has been set as an exemplary example for the rest of villagers to follow her lead. In fact, she is the Head of Eco Committee and Van Surakshan Committee, aimed to promote eco-tourism and protect the environment. And in all her endeavours, she means serious business and has the constant support of her family, the villagers, the forest department and even the tourists who love her unconditionally.
When asked, what her secret recipe to her success is, she quipped immediately that it was only ‘hard work’ and believes there is no alternative to it. She is a prime example that if someone sets their mind onto something; they can achieve it if they have faith in themselves and toil in their stride.

However, the only regret she has in her heart is that her parents who died soon after her marriage couldn’t see her success. But we’re sure that they are looking down upon her from the skies with pride at their only daughter who made it as the most successful entrepreneur in her village and how!