From my kitchen to yours

From my kitchen to yours

Saturday, January 30, 2016


I completely believe, that there is always a preassigned plan, to why people meet.
And what ensues , good , bad or mad, is what makes our life always richer, no matter what the experience.


And so somewhere in November, I met Nikhil after years for a dinner, at a brewery called The White Owl, where I collaborated on a menu with Chef Dinesh..
And Nix, was able to make it, it was a small sit down and so all of us were able to have a nice conversation with one another, without pushing through a crowd or being drowned by loud music.

So I was trying to catch up with all thats happening with him in his life, and in the middle of all this, he tells me about his brother Nitish's company Fleetfoot Adventures, that does these amazing dive holidays in the Maldives.

And as I was anyway going to do my Open Water PADI in the Andamans over New Year, this seemed like a cool idea.
And so I asked a few of my girl friends, and then finally Radhika and me along with our kids, were booked to go diving in the Maldives, and would be bunking two days from school ha ha ha ..

JANUARY 22 ,2016,
So Zeke , Zene and me wake up at the bizarre hour of 3.30am, because we have a 6.15 am flight to Bangalore, Well even though they were excited about the holiday, they really were not jumping out of bed at that time, so I had to drag them out of bed and they crawled back in..
Then I was told by Zeke, that he has to bunk school and that's not good, so I told him , well it's his choice, if he wants to stay back , while Zene and me dived in Maafushi-Maldives.
 I think that worked and he was up brushing his teeth.
In a bit we were off to the airport, where we met up with Nikhil, Jay, Radhika and little Dhruv..

YUP...checking in , so early in the morning is really exciting, specially when we were all going on holiday, so we did our little chaotic number at the counter, and then proceeded.


Zeke and Zene were quite kicked meeting Nikhil, but were playing it cool and not yet asking for autographs and photographs yet ha ha ha, I told them that Nikhil is a VJ and we used to work together, and the best DJ India has, and he has the coolest job of playing his favourite music.And they proceeded to have a discussion with me, about how they play videos from YouTube...

The Mumbai Gang...

We all got onto flight, ate a yummy litchi and broccoli sandwich, courtesy Radhika, and passed out.
We reached Bangalore , and there was a buzz in the air...

We met the rest of the gang..
Anup.J.Kattukaran - Insta @anupjkatFantastic
Chief Optimist at 1st December films, Underwater photographer and explorer (even better than Dora ha ha ha)
If I ever have to do a funky photo shoot, he is going to be the guy..
Sudhir.Makhija- Director at Doctor films, Passionate-Chef, Foodie  and super-Dad
Mia - All of 13 , very well behaved , super fun , wise and an amazing singer.
Ahmed Mohammed - Naturalist and owner of, Wayanad, and will hook a fish soon ha ha ha..  (I'm going to walk though this beautiful forest soon )
Jay Punjabi  - insta @JAY_PUNJABI ,Artist manager at Submerge and my Advanced Open Water PADI Buddy and total Rock-Star..
Radhika Sawhney- insta @radhikasawhney , ad-film producer and super-girl.

We all finally said hi to one another, over our dosas , Idli's, filter coffee and general chatter, and in a bit boarded our flight to Male.
When we hit Male, the blue of that water just did something to all of us..
The kids all just started playing together "UNO', the supposed adults picked a bite , got down to just hanging ..
And we could be called the "ADULTS"...

And what ensued was three days of completely balanced chaos and madness at sea.

We checked into our hotel, and then hung around a bit, then went to the dive shop and got our wet suits and fins in order, and then proceeded for dinner.
And because we were a big bunch of talking laughing people, it took some time before we all were able to order.
The guy serving us, was quite amused to see us all laughing, and was sharing his observations with us,since it is the Maldives, yup, its a honeymoon destination, and he said most of the couples are either being extremely romantic or then fighting ha ha ha .

Well as none of us there were on a honey-moon, we were all generally having a blast..
And then before we walked back to our hotel, we went to the shore to sea baby rays in the moonlight.
I was just thinking, I have never been so very happy and comfortable with a bunch of strangers in such a small span of time.It just never felt like we had just met a few hours ago.
Well tomorrow was a long day, and so 5 minutes post wishing Jay a Happy Birthday, I crashed.

JANUARY 23, 2016.
We woke up really early, and everyone slowly poured out of their rooms, some sat on the beach, some for breakfast, the kids were really excited, Zeke was going to be doing his Certification for Open Water PADI along with Mia, Radhika and Mak.

Open water PADI Certification ..

Jay and me we going to be doing our Advanced Padi.
Ahmed was going to dive and fish, because thats what he loves.
Zene was allowed to do her Bubble maker as she is just 8 and Dhruv his Introduction to Padi.

Mia & Dhruv  

Nikhil was our Zen bringer, motivator and the guy who just did everything right .

And so started our three days of under-water bliss, sometimes scary , filled with adventure  and wonderment.

As I was doing my Advenced PADI along with Jay , our first dive was a Deep dive where we went down to 30 meters, ha ha ha ha .
And everything is OK...

Well if truth be told, I could never have even imagined me doing something like this, say about as recent as a year and a half ago, but it just felt so smooth and effortless.

Our first dive was at DM Giri , we went down 30.8m , the visibility was about 15-20m , It was Jay's 223nrd birthday, I really don't know too many 23 year old's, who would bring in their birthday with a dive, and somewhere in that blue, Nix opened up a lovely banner for Jay , I think it was such a beautiful way to celebrate , and we were up in 46 minutes, beaming from ear to ear, everyone surfaced from their respective dives at the same time.


And after getting on the boat, we were all so sick, I just kept wondering what the hell am I doing, on this boat , rocking in the high seas, and through this my little Zene slept, more because she was really upset, she was not allowed to dive.
Sleeping beauty

We were all quite queasy and trying to find our sea legs.
I made a mental note to just have ,bananas the next day ,and not a proper breakfast.
I was not liking these rough seas, but I was loving the company on board, It was a mad-house of extremely talented and crazy people, and through all the complaining about how sick we were feeling and blowing our noses to clear our sinuses, we all got to know each other better.

I just have no words...

We were all feeling bloody sick, we all almost looked like sea-kelp, but our next dive was a wreck dive, and  hell, none of us were going to miss this one,we were diving at Kudagiri, and as soon as we all jumped into the water and dunked our faces in , everything started to calm down, the wreck was beautiful and filled with fish and beautiful coral, tons of fish, we went down 30.7m, and everything was peaceful and pretty, time really flies under-water, and by the time we were up, 47 Minutes had passed.

Its wonderful to watch the expression on every ones faces, when they come up from the blue, there is a sparkle in the eyes, and a big bright smile on the face and as soon as the regulators are out of our mouths, everyone starts talking, despite all the salt water getting in , because no one has quite reached the boat.

It was a sequence now, suit up, hold the regulators and mask in place, big step into the ocean, dive, come up chatter , feel sea-sick repeat.
It's always better when you dive with friends...
Our boat took us back to land for lunch.

I don't think I have had a more exciting time than this.we all were so hungry, and full of stories, about everything we saw and felt.
I was not looking forward to the evening, I had a night dive.
I'm horrible in the dark, in my own home, I hate to sleep alone.
And this diving into the unknown in pitch darkness, was really not exciting me in the least bit.
But I also knew , that I was never going to bail out, I was in for the terror ride ha ha ha .

As we boarded the boat, Nix was a picture of calm, making videos posting it, Jay was chilling, on the stern with the wind in his face, Ahmed who had decided that this would be the right time to catch some fish, was very busy, with a knife in hand and a chopping board, cutting fish.

My heart was pounding, but on the surface I kinda looked calm.
What the hell was I even thinking.
I really was not looking forward to this, but I suited up,
and told my Instructor not to leave me alone.
The only reason I think I actually dived , was because Nikhil and Jay were also diving with me,.
If I was doing this course alone, at this point of time, I think I would have just , stayed on the boat and fished with Ahmed.

You know the fact is...
I'm not as fearless as I portray myself to be.
But that's my front for the kids.
Inside me there were nervous Casper the friendly ghost bubbles bursting.

Anyway it was a beautiful full moon night, and I was trying to distract myself with it.
Well we dived at the wreck again, so it was kinda familiar ground and yet, the night brings its own sense of suspense.
I realised two things, I may never do this again and I probably am a more mountain and forest person..
Because a night on a mountain with just stars for company , is for me the most magical experience.
(Like I had at.Mt.Kilimanjaro)

That dive under water for me was actually not as scary as I imagined it, now that I think about it, but its just that my mind was not helping me relax, there is a lot more action under the blue at night, you see even more fish, you can watch them hunt , and they look scarier than they are.

For me the coral I saw, I think that's what made my night dive spectacular, the coral on that wreck was the most luminous colours of mauve, blue, green , yellow orange and white.
The looked like bunches of flowers arranged for a beautiful evening, and a beautiful full-moon night it was, and every time you hold your torch against you, to block the light and look into the deep, you see the flash-lights of the other divers, its actually very very mesmerising.
And in retrospect, I think I am still bloody a Poochie-Tiger, but given the chance and the right company, I will do this again.

At 5 meters , which was our safety stop, I for the first  time in my life, experienced first hand,  'Bioluminescence"..
That for me was most fun and just a stunning experience, I was just thinking, while I was moving my hands to see them light up, is that, there was really no need for me to deep dive, I could have just waited here and had a magical time ha ha ha
I felt really lucky that I got to witness this, because this happens just in Puerto Rico, San Diego and the Maldives,
Basically this is plankton, that have evolved to glow in order to startle or distract potential predators.
Well , let me just say, I was not a predator and I did not not get distracted..

Once we all got back on that boat, we just sat on the deck with the wind in our faces and chatted in the moonlight.
Life is good.

We went back and then got ready for dinner, but by the time , we all reached the place we wanted, it was shut and so we finally had dinner at another place , and it was really tasty, fish curry rice, fried rice, garlic butter prawns chicken curry, by the time we were finishing, the boys came over to join us , from there happy land, and little Mia, got a birthday cake organised for Jay, whose birthday it was. Little Mia went to the kitchen and got the chef to freshly bake this for the birthday boy, how cool and totally enterprising is that.

Happy Birthday Jay, I don't know another 22 year old quite like you , and I'm really happy to have met you and dived with you and Nikhil on your birthday..
You really do SPARKLE..

The Birthday Boy..
The kids were passing out, so post singing for Jay , and biting into a piece of his cake, we left.
I think all the nights I just slept like a baby, I think we all did.
It was the sea and the salt, the fresh air, the wild waves and the calm of being under the sea

JANUARY 23, 2106.
We were all up early, messaging one another good morning, and lets meet for breakfast, and by 8 am we , our kids , bags, chocolates and food were all speeding , for a fun morning dive to Guraidhoo Corner..
I was really excited about this dive, it would be the first time I would be diving to see sharks...ha ha ha .
And I was excited and bloody scared and nervous all simultaneously, I was secretly hoping that there would be none.

Hello from the other side ....ha ha ha ..

Zeke , Radhika, Mia and Mak were also diving here, but not the same place, so we went our way and they went there's.

We went down to 29.3 meters and then to the edge of the reef , where the sides plunge down and held on to the reef just before the big blue, and as we were kind of finning our way, to station ourselves, when Nikhil makes the shark sign and points to one sleeping, right in front of us..

Shark, Shark, Shark,Shark....

I did not react , like I imagined I would..
I was most calm and so fascinated looking at this feared Fish.
And as we were finning closer, I had a few voices in my head head talking to me, 'Like really Maria, you are actually finning towards a sleeping shark, ha ha ha, you have totally lost the plot, or then maybe you never had it..
And Nikhil and Jay were behaving like they were just about to meet friends, it looked like the most normal but abormal kind of scene.

I was both amused and bemused by what I was doing, and then Thuthu my instructor, signalled me to hold on to the reef and "rubbed his thumb against his fingers " which was some sort of a distress signal , and alerts the sharks.

And slowly very slowly, they all started swimming out of the blue to where we are, I can't even for the life of me explain how surreal this all felt, I think we saw about a dozen or over of grey reef sharks, and it actually felt fine, my heart did not race, I was not stressed, I was just really fascinated to witness their gracefulness, in their natural environment, will I ever do this again 
Oh Bloody Yes.
I was also told that they don't just randomly attack people, like you watch in films, and by the end of my three days, I had seen white-tipped sharks, black-tipped sharks, grey reef sharks and eagle rays.

It felt exactly like when I met the white lions in their playground in Africa, that same feeling of thrill and absolute respect.

And then as my oxygen tank was getting used up, I realised that I was ascending to the surface, because I was getting lighter, and the weights I had carried did not seem sufficient and everyone was still down, I kept trying to go to them, but I was not getting to them easily, damn crap..

My only hope was Anup, who does brilliant underwater photography and moves around like a dolphin performing a ballet, well I was hoping that he turns around, and to my luck he did, as soon as he was turned with his eyes looking up, I just did the most ungraceful flapping of hands and legs together ha ha ha , like a frog trying to do Jazz, but failing miserably, but it worked.
Anup saw me, and helped me get down again..Like I said, he also is an amazing life guard.

Anup the mer-photographer..

I stayed on the boat, for the next dive, Zene and Dhruv were on the boat yesterday , and Radhika took them snorkeling , while I was diving.
"Im gonna get that fish", "THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY ?"
So today the rest of the group dived, and Ahmed was now fishing , since he had not yet managed to catch any fish ha ha ha ha ….
He is gonna kill me…but can't because he lives too far... (Claps her hands and laughs even louder)

So as soon as everyone dived in, Dhruv, Zene and me , also got into the water, and we just stayed in between the reef and the deep blue, we were quite happy there on the surface, with Zene and Dhruv, putting there head's up every one minute to discuss the fish we saw..
All was flowing and floating really well, the current was really peaceful , when all of a sudden, I saw all the fish , pass us in a great rush to our left..

I held both their hands and peered into the blue onto my right..
Nothing..Absolutely nothing..
But I did not feel too safe, having dived from about , close to this spot ,for sharks…
So I convinced the kids to get out, and as we dried and came up to the stern of the boat, what do I see, Ahmed, with his pieces of fish, and hook and thread, dunking it into the sea, that's why all the fish were rushing to the other side..
I wanted to push him in…

Well, the kids were most happy to join him and the captain of the boat in the whole fishing process, while we waited for Nikhil, Jay, Mak, Zeke, Radhika and Mia to surface,
Meanwhile Ahmed decided that, they all must jump into the water from the top deck, because its fun,so that's what everyone started doing ha ha ha ..


I have never ever done this in my life, neither had Radhika, but we all did this, I think it was the deep blue and the crazy company, then Nix and Jay did amazing back flips, while Mak and Anup took photos and recorded it..

Jay and Nikhil flip out ......

Then Nikhil and Jay, were throwing the kids into the water amidst many squeals and laughter.
It was just too much fun..
Something I will do with this crack group again if we manage going all together..
Well we all went back laughing and smiling and really hungry.
Zene enjoys her little fling...
Post lunch Jay and me did our Peak Buoyancy dive in the Maafushi reef, while the rest went diving in the deep .

Dhruv enjoying his fling...
The kids were busy dancing and showing Mia what all they can do.
After our dive, I picked them up , and they went for scooter rides and then jumped into the aqua-green sea, it was just so much fun, the water is transparent and warm and inviting and you just feel totally yummy.

Sunset here was absolutely we just sat and watched it .
And then a made the kids sit for a photograph, and for some time, I just did not tell them that it was done ha ha ha I'm a Witch sometimes..

Watching the sunset...

Post that we showered and went for dinner, a nice big dinner , a buffet dinner , stuffed ourselves and laughed our way home..

25th January 2016
We all got into a wonderful flow, wake up, chat, eat together, talk rubbish, poke fun at one another, laugh at one another and at ourselves and go diving.

Today was a really exciting dive, we were going to Kandooma Thila, which is a huge reef under water, that you first have to go down to, and from there proceed to dive lower down along the wall of the reef, and from there is where you see the big ones..
Thats where the action is Thuthu said..

Ha ha ha what on earth was I and everyone diving here thinking...
You need to be a little nuts to be a diver..
But I realised a year ago, that I liked being on boats and diving, and even more that that, the kind of colllection of aqua loving atoms..
I think I found one more kind of "my people" , besides the mountain and forest people...

It was the open Water PADI Certifications, fun dive too , so we all went into the blue together.
Mak, Mia, Radhika, Zeke, Nikhil, Jay, the instructors Thuthu and Sohay and me.
I now had stopped hesitating about that "one big leap" into the sea..

The moment I got in, the first thing was the colour, this shade of blue was very very different from anything we had dived into yet and it was the most deep blue, but not dark blue...
There was no reference point , no wall , no bottom , just hurling waves, we could see from the inside, with the sun streaming through..
It was my prettiest dive...

We were in at 27.8 meters with a visibility of 40 meters and in a bit of time, about 14 minutes, we were actually lost, the current was so strong that day, that we had been pushed off the reef, and so just could not find any reference point to start our dive.

At which point of time, I just held onto Thuthu , for dear life and immersed myself in the blue and the shiny plankton. I can try and describe this blue with plankton , but I may not be able to do justice to what I saw , ok it felt and looked like, the softest and prettiest shade of mesmerising blue mal, adorned with the tiniest and the sparkliest diamonds, of the perfect cut , clarity, colour and weight…


I was calm, the sea is not my best friend, never has been, but with Nikhil, Jay . Anup and Thuthu, right there in the deep blue, everything felt LIKE IT IS SUPPOSED TO.

So we had to abort the dive and come up to the surface, where the waves were so rough because of the current , that we were just being hurled around, our boat was nowhere near us, and Thuthu signalled for quite some time, finally even I began to use the whistle on my BCD, I started laughing, and really felt a bit Kate Winslety ha ha ha , I had officially lost it..

We had just aborted a dive, we were far from our boat , and everyone was fine and smiling, like we just landed on the moon..
Im thinking its probably narcosis, and if you don't know what it is , please ask @nikhilchinapa he does a wonderful explanation.

Well we finally got back on that boat, Just in time  to see the other team emerging, with huge smiles on their faces and so excited, telling us about sharks and eagle rays, and you should have just seen their faces, they were alit , like millions of plankton had settled on them , they were filled with wonderment , awe and happiness, Oh damn, this has to be done again..

So we changed cylinders and Jay, Nikhil, Anup with his camera , Thuthu and me got back in..

We were back in that beautiful blue, I was feeling a bit nervous , but every time I saw everyone with their fingers in OK, I calmed down.

We were over our reef, we went further down from there and went to the edge of it , and were soon facing the deep blue, and swimming right there were sharks, just calmly going about there sharky business, not even bothered about us, in the least bit, now in retrospect, I feel the time we spent in the deep was just too little , but I guess that is good enough a reason as any ,to want to go back there, which I do.

And then when we came back higher , we also met a turtle, My day and trip was made, infact this was not the first time here, Everyone feels happy when they see a turtle, and Jay was also having a full conversion with the little fellow,which actually made me quite jealous ha ha ha in a good way.
And ofcourse Anup always went back and told the kids that I chased the turtle and it was no more, and the kids actually started believing him..
Well , I'm waiting for his son to grow up, so I can spread stories about his dad...ha ha ha

And then while we were doing our safety halt at 5 meters , these boys started fooling around with the spare regulator , and there were bubbles everywhere, so this I guess is what you do , when you are comfortable in the water, about to ascend, and have enough of oxygen in your tank and you are nuts..ha ha ha ..
I started giggling, but was also a bit worried about losing my regulator, damn this whole diving holiday was ending too soon..

We  got back up, and then all of us were going to be diving at Biyadhoogiri, that felt really awesome, smiling happy faces, all sun-kissed , mad chatter , laughter, that's what filled that boat, and if I could do exactly this again I would.

We all went back in , for the very last dive together, Ahmed, decided to fish , as he had already dived in the morning.

Zeke Zidaan.
This was the last time I was going to be hearing, "All right divers , hold your mask and regulators, and splash, splash, splash..everyone was in.

We went our separate ways, both the groups and then suddenly met one another somewhere mid-wall of a reef, and we behaved like we had not met one another in ages, much bubbles and plenty of hand signals later, we were suddenly all posing in the water, for photographs, ha ha ha , it felt so comfortable and weird simultaneously.

Nemo & Mama...

Radhika & me...

We did a lot of posing in the water, and at one point, I was trying to strike a pose, which was just not happening, buoyancy issues, its the same like boy-Friend problems on land ha ha ha ..

But the good thing is that I made Nikhil , laugh under water, he giggled and Jay heard him, and so its fine, I'm a slightly buoyant finning comic ha ha ha , I will find this perfect buoyancy one day, and when I do I will have much to say, to him , till then, I'm Ok swimming like Dory..

Well we were told before getting into the water , that we need to follow our own instructors, and so I did..
And you know what, I was the only one.
Which brought me back to a fact of life..

"If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.."

By the time I realised, that Anup, Nikhil and Jay had not followed, I was far ahead, and I wanted to go back to meet them all, so I signaled to Thuthu, that I want to swim back to the group, to meet my little boy, but my sign language really sucks , because, he showed me clown fish and sea anemone, ha ha ha , by the time , I found them , we had to go back up , and it was madness again with the bubbles, there were smiles and there were giggles under water. we all surfaced , completely satiated, I could not have asked for a better time, we all got back on that boat , saw dolphins and just had such a joyous time over the most beautiful waves..

Thuthu with his students..
We all had lunch , and then Jay and me, went to finish our final dive, which was our Navigation dive, which I was begging Thuthu to do on land, because I was so sleepy, but I was not convincing enough..
Well we finished that really quick , because we dived into the house reef, and that was that.
Jay and me finished our Advanced Open Water PADI Certification yeaaaaah...
We were done.
The thing is now, I just need to keep diving , so that I get more and more comfortable with myself and my gear and the temperamental sea, with every dive.

We went and joined the rest of the gang doing water sports, and then Zeke, Mia, Radhika, Mak and Jay , filled theit dive books, post which we all went for yummy dinner, the kids were really tired and went of to sleep.

And the rest of us, decided to go and have some fire water ha ha ha .
I think the moon that night was the most beautiful I had seen , it seemed like it had a rainbow around it, something about Mercury no longer in retrograde, said my friend Jaya.

I don't know what it was , but it was just quite magical.

JANUARY 26, 2016
We all travelled back to our respective cities and homes.
Amidst much missing and separation anxiety.

The thing is this, I never imagined that I would meet a bunch of strangers ,that I would completely, be in sync with, this does not really happen to me often, infact never.
And I don't remember laughing so much and always having a smile on my face twenty four seven.
I guess the fact that there were no pretences and no masks , made a hell of a lot of difference, well I did try and put sun-Screen , but that really does not work for me.
We were all feeling sick, blowing our nose and sometimes puking, it does not get any more real than that, I guess.
Also when you dive with one another, there is a sense of trust that builds, you look out for one another..

I did things I have never done before, and I'm not talking about going under water 30 meters, or hanging in shark territory, or diving in a dark sea.

But we jumped off the boat from the top deck, Radhika, Zeke, Zene, Dhruv, Mia and me dived into the sea, we had never ever done that,
I actually saw an angler who never caught a fish ha ha ha...But who never gave up and was always laughing regardless...
I met a pirouetting underwater photographer.
I saw Nikhil snap chat from the middle of the ocean because there was such "FantaAstic" network.
We all just had a smile on our faces perennially , and the life I led for those three days felt completely normal.

So coming back to reality is taking some time, and I'm not really wanting to..

Some combinations of people and places are magical, and may never happen again, but I'm happy to have been part of the magic dust..
Lets see what the future has in store for all of us..
But as a very dear friend of mine wisely put it, "Till then drift dive"

I want to thank a few people for making this holiday so darn special..

CHENGS_- for organising this crazy diving trip , and putting us all together, I must tell you that you have shuffled our normal lives a bit and dusted off a lot, I hope to dive with you really soon.
Please get well soon.

John & Kiera

JOHN and KIERA -I did not get to spend a lot of time with you guys, but John, I wish you all the best,and since you can so comfortably dive, you can now explore swimming ha ha ha , and Kiera, I really hope you can dive soon, because I know, you really really want to, stay happy guys

MAK- It was great getting to know you , you are such a trooper, Thank you for all the food, will hopefully have a meal with you the next time we are in Bangalore, and your soup was bloody outstanding. For someone just about doing there PADI , you were so comfortable with your camera in the water and such a fun person to hang with.

Sudhir A.k.a Mak...

MIA- you are just a smart and fine little 13 year old, so well behaved, with it, funky and such a beautiful voice, in Rihannas's words, 'Please don't stop the music"


ANUP - And I mean this from the bottom of my heart, You could be part of an international, synchronised swimming team, and I mean this not as a joke..but absolutely seriously, you are like poetry finning.
I don't know too many, who can get into the water, handle a heavy cameras and have  perfect buoyancy.But the thought of you in a one piece swimsuit and a swim cap with glitter on it and a smile plastered on your face , with toes and finger tips pointed and doing a pirouette…aaah ha ha ha ha , that just made my day..

No , but all the laughter aside, you are just an amazing underwater photographer, fearless, perfectly buoyant , also saves lives, does not hurt coral and knows the names of most of all the fish we saw, and besides that you are just a funny and good human being, and I hope you don't mind staying friends with me, given the fact that once in a year, I may just get featured on Page3, if I agree to pay for it ha ha ha... 

Ahmed the Angler
AHMED - I don't know what to say to you, will laughing hilariously suffice, you are a mad , crazy person, and i'm happy to have swum in the Blue with you,  well you made even sea-sickness fun, that scene where you were cutting fish bait into precise pieces with a blunt scissor, is forever etched on a huge screen in my mind, with a laugh track ha ha ha ha ..
I really wish that Poseidon is nicer to you the next time around, or then I suggest you start sending pretty gifts to Thalassa , maybe that will work, or maybe then learn to play the flute like Pan..
I'm just making suggestions, but you please feel free, to do what you have to , to get you that fish on your hook..

Jay having a heart to heart ...
JAY - I'm so happy to have met you, and was really lucky that you were my buddy for our Open Water Advanced PADI, you are the prince of cool.
I was happy that we could laugh together at the various situations, that we kinda caught together ha ha ha .You are just so sorted, and such a lovely human being and such fun company,you are brave and kind, that is just such a beautiful combination.Please swish your magic wand over my kids., so that they grow up at least half as sorted as you. Oh and lest I forget, please stop wanting to spend time with Moray eels, I really think there are prettier fish out there, or then turtles ha ha ha

Radhika the mer-maid..
RADHIKA - I love travelling with you and Dhruv, its always comfortable and fun and easy, and I know we will be doing many more holidays together, we have done some mad stuff and have many more crazy things to do, and thank God we broke the jinx..
To trying to party with sleepy kids, to many flights, car journeys and boats, surfing, diving,to sun-rises and beautiful sunsets, to sand, sea, cycles and rain-forests..
Stay your lovely self always, you are the hottest diver I know and are beautiful inside out..

Nikhil the Zen-Master
NIKHIL - Yup, you have always guided me the right way, from handling a live audience, to introducing me to Baz Luhrman's- Everybody's free to wear sunscreen and how it should be part of life, to diving into a dark sea.
We have both come a really long way.
And yes doing that night dive was a bloody 'Fantaaastic" idea, and I'm in the next time we go diving, you please stay in touch, because if I do get Alzheimer's early, I won't remember who you are, because we did not meet often enough ha ha ha ...
And that wont be nice..
And thank-you for the music..

Zeke the Certified Open-water PADI Diver..
ZEKE, ZENE & DHRUV - I love travelling with you adventure seekers .
You are the Power Rangers, Dora and Diego, Peppa pig, Zack & Cody , Avengers, Fantastic 4, Chota Bheem and Hanuman all rolled into one..
Zene my little fire-fly..
I love hanging with you guys, though sometimes, I want to pack you in a suitcase and just courier you really fast back home.
But holidays through your eyes are the best..

Dhruv the musicical groover

Strike a pose, there's nothing to it....

And now that I have finished my speech..
Can someone please present me with an Oscar ha ha ha ha ..

P.S. Just remember in life, never hold your breath...
Breathe in..breathe out..
Everything will be much more than just OK..

Thursday, January 28, 2016


It feels good when your heart is smiling from shore to shore ..
Wondering how deep it dived to connect with your soul..
That was hiding in the depths, of an inviting deep and neon blue,
A blue so sure, and yet not so worldly wise..

Filled with life...
Pretty, small , big and some, supposedly dangerous with all its might..
And in that depth , nervous as hell..
I found my calm..
Sitting in a little shell, all curled up and pretty as plankton, lost but happy, roaming free, in a beautiful blue..
Saying to me, I'm here, dont worry, I will stay with you..

My heart stopped all the talk it does..
It stopped wondering why and how..
And just flowed with the now..

It said to me..
This is the love ..
You have been searching for..
It's silent , it's deep, it has strong currents and filled with beautiful life..
It's filled with peace ..
Is that not how love should feel ..

And so I calmed down a bit and finned my way through the blue...
This was my me time, my perfect muse..
Filled with starfish, clown fish , sea anemones , eagle ray's and sharks too..
And every time I surfaced I knew..
This surface turbulence is just to be ..
To keep people from finding the true me ..
Those who want to , will dive through..

If you want to reach deep, into anyone's soul..
You have to be able to go past, the surface you behold ..
You need to be able to take that risk..
You need to trust..
What may exist..
You need to respect..
What's on the other side ..
Because that's where, true love lies..

And I met him under the roaring waves..
Under that feeling , that makes you sick to the deepest of your insides...
Under all the laughter..
And the madness..
I found that calm..
And I knew, this could do no harm..
It was gentle and kind and lovingly warm..
Yet filled with a madness, that moved so strong..

Love is funny..
Because it never announces its arrival ..
It's surprises you, like a jack in the box ..
That pounces on you when you least expect it too..
And really frightens your insides out ..
But then, isn't that what love is all about ..

So I looked him this time,very calmly, into his naughty eyes..
And said nothing, but smiled..
And let him do what he does best ..
Make a complete clown of himself ...
He presented me with beautiful coral of the daintiest kind, and fish so quaint, it would blow my mind.
Some that were not too pretty to look at , and some dangerous to touch...
I listened to him and followed him around , pretty damn much....
But if he wants me , then it has to be an equal kinda flow..
Where we dont have to hold each other too tight and yet we dont ever let go ..

Thats why I like his kingdom..
The seas..
It plays no games, roars what it feels, or can lull you with its calmness to sleep..

I'm not interested in games anymore ..
I'm here ..
I'm flesh ..
If you can't handle real ..
Don't come near ..

I feel like a mermaid ..
But not half complete ..
I can swim like a fish and can love like a tigress, in the jungle deep...
I can stay calm and laugh when waves hurl me up high ..
And I can walk on land , and know I have given my all and never wonder why ..

I feel that this....
What I feel ..
Is the beginning of a new me ..
And I'm happy that I'm able to feel so deeply ..
The scars of life have been washed away by the tide..
And I'm ok to not be , wanting to take sides..

I'm ok with all that I say and do ..
And I'm fine , if you just want to be you ..

Love I know is a feeling ..
Never a decision someone has to make ..

And yet I have decided to walk with love ..
No matter where he decides to trek ..

So I'm gonna leave you ..
With everything , I have not said ..
And hope you can fill in the gaps ..
And meet me on that mountain , up ahead ..
Where we can sit under the stars , in the arms of my favourite tree, and look at the moon, in the many phases it may be ..
Because its beautiful , even with its circle is incomplete..

And if truth be told..
No matter how much , I love you ..
I want you, to be you ..
And me..
Just be me ..

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


So let me tell you that I don't really have a bucket list, but as I live life, and do the things I do, I have begun to realise , that yes, this is part of the bucket list, that I don't yet have ha ha ha .
And its fun to live life like that, in the moment..

I have realised that some plans do not work out, and the life you live on the side , while making these grand plans, is what makes life absolutely interesting.
So I have never really been an athlete but , I fell in love with running when I was in the 6th standard..
I have been running ever since, mostly off than on, but run I do..
My mom always insisted that I have a glass of Bournvita before a ran, but I abhorred milk, so I used to have two tablespoons of yummy Bournvita and leave ha ha ha
Carter road was my space ..
And I ran ,  every morning during my summer holidays brown school tennis shoes..
Despite the fact that they were not the best running shoes,But I still did not know that ha ha ha ..

Every sports day , I used to really look forward  to standing on that podium to receive a medal ..
But I have never ever won a running race in school ever..
I was not the one who the house looked up to for points, when it came to sports day
I was more Hermione of Hogwarts..  and quizzes, elocution, dramatics, debates,singing..
That was my thing ..
So school and college passed and I forgot about sports medals.

Till I found myself standing at a starting line for my kids sports day..
And my school memories just came tumbling back ..
I used to mostly at least fall once .and I remember once , my teachers actually put up the red finish line again and were cheering "run Maria Run" I was last ..

So standing there in line in my kids school..
Something inside me was excited and the other half was really frightened..
Zeke and Zene were screaming , exactly what I say to them , "run like a cheetah is chasing you Mama"
At what point I realised, anything you tell your kids, will at one point of time, be used "for or against" you..
I wanted to do this well and show them that , when you do something you do sometjing with your whole heart and soul and put all your energy into it , it works..
I ran that day like I have never run before..

Ran like the whole forest was chasing me..

Like the whole forest was chasing me ..
All I could see was that finish line ..
It was a 400 meter race and I finished with a huge lead..

I hate competition if you ask me ..
But this was one race, I really wanted to win..
This run was for my kids and me ,for all the times I fell and all the times I never won..
But this was just the start of many things that I now do ..
To inspire my kids..
No I don't like waking up in the morning at 4.45am ..
But I do it, because, Zeke wants to go running with his Coach Firoze, and I want my kids to get hooked to running..

It is my life saver..
It's cheaper than therapy ..
And it's the best thing you can do for yourself ..
It's your me time..

I had never run a marathon..
Though it is something I always wanted to do , with my friend Shayamal..
He is an inspiration to me..

So last year, after I finished my book and the rains eased up, I started running again, and while I was running, I really thought that maybe this year, I should try and run, the Marathon, and not the dream run, but the Half Marathon, the 21k..
Ha ha ha ha , frankly at that point of time, even the thought of the sound of 21k was a joke in my head, but you never know if you can or cannot do something, unless you actually actively are a part of it.
And I really really wanted to run a marathon...
So I called my marathon man Shayamal and I signed up through Salaam Bombay a charity , and that was that.
So then in October , I just started running on the beach like I do , in between the time that Zeke was training
Till Shayamal one day , called and gave me the number of Brinsten (9869394969) and asked me to call him , he is the man I should be working with for the Marathon.
So I did, and I was to meet Brinsten on the beach.
And so as usual I took Zeke for his run and then ran to the spot to meet Brinsten.
He is a tall man , absolutely fit and has the kindest voice.
So we talked for a bit, and he asked me about my training, and I told him , that I just run, that's about it.
And we realised I could not quite train with him all through the week, except on Saturday and Sundays .
And so that's what we did.
We started with some long runs on the beach, interval running and rest , and then, runs I enjoyed the most, long runs in Bandra, from Bandstand to Carter road and back to those who are familiar with Bandra.
Then he made us do , what I mentally termed, {"What the $&(&*%#@!! am I doing ?} run, because it was just 45 minutes of us running up and down , Kane road, which is bloody vertical...
It was horrible , but what can I say , we all enjoyed the torture.
Then he would make us run, from Bandstand right to St Andrews Church, or then Salman Khan's house for all you Filmy's out there ha ha ha ..and from there to Mehboob Studio, then up to Mt.Mary's church , then down the slope, up the next slope that was vertical, then to the Bandra fort and continue from Bandstand again, this was one loop.
As we all ran, or huffed and puffed away,we would meet one another, in various stages of happiness, distress and undress ha ha ha ..
Now when I think of it, I find it all very funny, but practice was not a joke, it was tough, and because Brinsten and his coaches were so awesome, we were all able to run, as well as our bodies allowed us to.

We then started doing long runs, I had to do my 14k alone , as I missed that run, and I just wanted to not be lagging behind, so I did it, on the beach, and every time I ran, I would keep sending Brinsten , photos of all the runs I did and the speed I did it at.
We then did our final 17K on the 3rd of Jan, I had just come back from doing my PADI Certificate and was pretty up and about.
That was a great run, because we did part of the route.
This was not easy at all, and a precursor , to what we were all to be part of in the next two weeks.

But what I realised is that Brinsten from November onwards, very slowly, started changing our mindset to running a long distance.
And by the time we got closer to the Marathon, if he said , so we are going to do a 17 this Sunday, it just felt like normal conversation.
So much so , that when we went to pick up our bibs a week before the Marathon, Shaheen and me were picking of pamphlets from all the cities that are doing various Marathons, around India, from the mountains to sandy beaches ha ha ha
We have calmed down a bit now, and will take an informed call about where we really want to run.

I fell sick a week before the Marathon, Flu like symptoms, I think it was just nerves.
But I did not want to take a risk, so I willingly went and took an injection , so that my immunity gets a boost and I DONT FALL ILL.
What I loved the most was the carb loading, I have a really healthy appetite, and so Jaya took me out for Thali one day, when we were to actually supposed to go buy cool clothes to run in.

My uncool running gear..

Because everyone concerned said that my running gear sucks and I was not smartly dressed to run.
Well, so I did go shopping with Jaya, and came back with a tennis skirt ha ha ha and a stomach full of yummy vegetarian Thaali..

My carb loading week was fun..

Well since the skirt was bought, it had to be worn, and since as a rule, you don't wear new clothes to run in,and neither do you wear a tennis skirt,  the skirt went over my old and very often worn cycling shorts, I could not do any more, I could not be bothered.

So we continued with our carb loading, Shaheen sent me lip-smacking yummy  biryani one day , and I sent her vegetable pasta and baked chicken , on saturday, and we were really happy with all the food that we were eating.
Saturday morning, Zeke wanted to go for a run, and I decided to go for a long walk, on the beach barefoot, which now in hindsight , I feel was really foolish, because our beaches are not really devoid of glass sometimes.

Barefoot and calm..

Anyway, my feet were fine, but I lost my Glasses, and did not know, till I reached home and needed them for some work.
Then the whole drama, of going to the beach, searching, speaking to the police if you please ha ha ha ha , you should have seen their faces, they looked at me , like I was cuckoo..
But I needed my glasses, I had to run the next day, and so I prayed to the Saint of Lost things, St.Anthony and begged of him for a miracle, and I found them , with Zeke's, Running Coach if you please.
All's well that ends well.

Zeke . Zene and me, made a nice big pasta lunch and all was good.

Zeke and Zene helped cook lunch before the BIG day..

I really wanted to sleep early, and so by 8.30, after putting my clothes together, and keeping all the food I had to eat in the morning nicely arranged in the kitchen, I was getting ready to go to sleep, when I realised that Shaheen's kids were coming to watch her run.
Well I made the biggest mistake of mentioning this, and all hell broke loose, Zene sobbed like I was leaving the country for ever, and just wanted to be part of the Marathon.
After trying to figure how to take the kids there for quite some time, by 11 pm, my driver, thankfully agreed to come early morning home, to pick them up.
So my boy Vijay, the nanny Vinita , my driver and kids, would all be meeting Brinsten sir at Churni Road, and would wait there till I passed them and then go home.
I finally went to sleep.

3.05AM my alarm rang, I woke up dressed and then went down to eat, like Brinsten Sir had told us.
So there was raagi roti with Peanut butter, boiled sweet potato , bananas and dates.
I just could not eat a thing.
I packed it all, ate two dates, and drank some water, and carried my coffee with me.
Shaheen picked me up and the first thing we realised, is that we have dabbas of food with us like a picnic, we picked up Sheeba, and proceeded to the Worli, amidst lots of hilarious laughter.

All roads lead to the Marathon 2016

The energy there at Worli at 5 am in the morning, was simply electrical.
Everyone was all geared to run, and so excited
It took us sometime to navigate to where we had to start the Marathon..
But we were soon in line..
Brinsten came to meet us and stretched with us..
I was a bundle of nerves..

And as I had never done this before, I was waiting for a gun to go off, or someone to say ..
On your marks, Get set ....GOOOO..
But nothing like that happened, everyone started setting their watches, and I heard a roar of 5...4...3...2...1...
And everyone just started running..
Exactly at 5-40 am...
So so did I tell you, that my Radio tunes did not start , because network near the Sea link is not the greatest, I just about managed to put my Puma trac on..and I just began to run..
Of course I felt like a tortoise in the middle of a track of galloping horses, who were all whizzing past me.
The deep desire to just try and run fast with them for a bit, was soon slapped into place by, the sensible part of me, where the voice of Brinsten, was giving us instructions on how , we should run at our own pace.
A day before that I spoke to David who is involved in the Marathon, and he said, just listen to your heart, don't stress it, let it feel comfortable..
Well, I really want to apply this theory to my life..(but that is a whole new story)

And so I started running, it was simply bloody alive, that whole strip, with athletes, people who just love to run and first timers..
And as we got onto the bridge..
I realised that I needed music no more..
Everyone's feet running became a beat, and as everyone was running at their own pace, it felt like a Percussion concert
It was fantastic..
So many thousands of feet running together, some in unison, some off-beat but in a beat of their own, and some in harmony..
I had finally found my beat, while I ran on the beautiful Sea link..
My feet , my heart-beat and my breath..
They had started to finally sync..
Though I have run before, this kind of synergy had never happened before, it was dark..
And yet it was the most alive I have felt in a long time...

That Sea Link took forever, I'm so used to drive over it , and so when you get onto it, you just know that this is going to be quick..
But it just took forever, and as we turned on the bridge,there was a full on bhangra dhol playing, that really does lift your spirit..
I just kept on running, I was no longer bothered about the music, I had my beat going on in my  heart and my breath..
By the time, we did the whole sea link and turned back to Worli sea face, there were already people on the streets cheering all the runners on, there were so many stations on the bridge and all over the route, for water and Enerzal, and people clapping ..

This was a party , but only if you could run through it, At the 10 KM marker, my RadioTunes kicked in and I heard my tracker saying you have just finished 10 k in..
And before I heard the timing, I just pulled my ear phones off..
I did not want to know in how much time and at what pace..
I was going to enjoy my run, run according to my heart , not over do anything and finish my 21k without stopping, giving up or collapsing, because David had told me, to be careful of pushing yourself as a first timer, because you get caught up in the whole energy around you, I had that in my head.
Running on the road to HajiAli , someone called out my name and pushed me on, thank you , whoever that was.
Thank you Mumbai for cheering us all on..

Then was that slope to Jaslok Hospital and then the Kemp's corner bridge was coming up next..
I just kept myself hydrated, That's all I did, I had dates in my pouch and sugar, and from time to time, I popped that into my mouth at pre-decided location markers in my head..
I don't know whether this helped me go on, or the energy of everyone running helped me..
But I just went on..
I was like Dory in "Finding Nemo" ..'keep on swimmimg, keep on swimming" ..
But in my case it was 'Keep on running, keeep on running'..
I just did not want to stop, because I was too scared that I would not be able to start again if I did..
And so everytime I came across someone, walking with their head down, I would call out and say , 'c'mon don't stop run, c'mon run"..
It felt good, because it was also like ,I telling myself that..
I did not stop , on the slope to Jaslok , neither on the Kemps corner bridge..
I just remembered what Brinsten Sir had told me, just look to the highest point and keep on running, that's where you need to be..
I finished the slope, and on my way down called Vijay , who was standing on Churni road, with my kid's Zeke and Zene..
I just wanted to know if they had reached, because I really wanted to meet them , if they woke up so early to come cheer their Mama, if they had not yet reached, I would have slowed down, (its not that I was running like a cheetah, I was ok) I was really happy, though I was tired, I still had enough energy to go on, approaching Churni rd station and seeing them there, was just so so awesome,
Vinita didi, Zene, Vijay Bhaiya , Zeke and Ashok Uncle.. all came to cheer me..
 I hugged them tight, took photos of them, Brinsten Sir took a photo of us together, I showed Zene, that I had worn the socks, she gifted me for Christmas, 

The Lucky socks...

they were the lucky socks with lots of love from her for the Marathon, Zeke had given me tips about how I should run on curves and posture, so I told him I followed all his instructions, and in true Mama style, told them to now go home , eat their Breakfast and go on with whatever they had to do for the day,

I had my fill of good energy and continued, this stretch was a bit tough for me, since I took a small break, but I was happy, I did not have much more, I continued running , there were people lining the streets, offering you water, peeled oranges , dates , biscuits and just cheering you on, there was music in some places, and it was just such an energy filled place, as I turned left from Jazz by the Bay, I saw the sun shining up in the sky, not fully out and yet threatening to go ablaze really soon, I knew I needed to finish soon, because I did not want to run with the sun blazing, when my body was anyway heated up, But I also remembered that I should not push it at the end, like Brinsten Sir said, because the Finish line is still a distance off.

I continued at the same pace, listening to my breathing and the beat of all the marathoners feet, When I turned left at Flora fountain..
I could hear the festivity and the cheering of people, I knew I had now come to the end, when I saw the ' 500 meters more to finish" marker, I then started running a wee bit faster ,like Zeke had told me, "Just charge' , he had said, well I could not charge ahead in full steam, but I was really ecstatic and quickened my pace a bit,


Crossing the finishing line , felt like I had just won an all expenses paid trip around the world.

Its the most exhilarating feeling in the world, I met some of the runners I trained with and everyone was asking everyone about their timing, I finished my marathon in 02-12-56...

I was ecstatic...

Ha ha ha ha I was bloody happy, I finished it, without , stopping , or falling or giving up.
But I'm not the giving up kind..
I don't do that easily..
And when I started the marathon at 5.40 am , I knew in my head, that I was finishing this without stopping..

The best ting about it, is .it really tests you, makes you do your best, your body and your heart tell you what you can or cannot do, while you are running, and all you have to do is listen.
And that's why I love running, it gets your head, heart, pulse and body in sync..
It felt like a meditation and a party simultaneously.

Yes it was tough, but because I knew I'm not giving in to anything , I just went on..
From the finish line, everyone walks to Azad Maidaan, to get their medals, there are recovery centers there, music and just marathoners of all ages, size and gender sitting, stretching, talking and laughing.
This is my first ever official hard earned medal..
And I went to collect it, as there were still few women as compared to men, the helpers clapped as I went to pick up my medal..

So tickled pink..

I bloody felt on top of the world..
I walked around like that for some time, in a tired daze , with a big smile on my face, then went and had a huge breakfast.
Medu Vadas, Masala dosa, eggs, and slices of cake.
And then went in search of Shaheen who had also finished.

The sparkly one..Shaheeniiiiiiieeeeee.....

We screamed hugged each others sweaty bodies and sat on the floor and shared excited notes on how we did it..
And then waited for Sheeba, we then went picked up Sheba's medal, put it around her and were just happy.

Sheeba the rock-star..

I now know why people run Marathons..
Its a personal thing, more than running for a charity or an organisation.
its just you and yourself all the way.
Much respect to everyone that runs, and the ones that do the 42..
I just bowed to all of you ..

Its also a great equaliser, it does not matter who you are or what you do, whether you reached the venue in a train, bus , walking or a chauffer driven limosine, once your time starts, its just what you put in , that you get back..
That's as simple as it is...
And the only reason I could run is because you feed off the energy of the runners, its so inspiring.
I ran with thousands technically, but I still ran completely alone.
And I loved each and every moment.

I must say the next day, My thigh muscles were killing me, and sending secret messages to my brain saying, "You have done enough, rest now for the next 6 months, and eat more carbs , you need it " ha ha ha ..
But my heart knows, it needs to run, and so run I will.

The whole "BE FIT" Group, after our last 17k..Thank you Brinsten Sir

Thank you Brinsten Sir, for being such an amazing coach, for so positively reinforcing our insides to believe that we could go this, for building our stamina from strength to strength, for pushing us to do better with each run .

Brinsten sir and moi...

And helping us to find "our happy" as we ran.

Sheeba, Shaheen and me..

Thank you my Shaheenieeeee for all the early morning laughs and banter, and Sheeba for your smiling face and happy positive disposition..

Thaaaaaank Yooooou.....
To all the marathoners on the road, who called out to everyone, and kept the energy high..
To all the volunteers, who stood on the streets giving us water and Enerzal,
To all the people and kids who came out and cheered us, and offered us food and pushed us to go on..
Thank you David and Umang, from the bottom of my heart .
Nikhil Chinnappa ..You are a doll, that's all I want to say , yup a very macho muscular guy, but a doll.

Thank you my Zeke and Zene, thank you for coming to cheer me , so early in the morning, for my lucky socks  and for all the running tips.
And Arshad...For being you ..

At the moment I'm on a high, inspite of all the soreness, and yes I don't want to stop running..
Its the one thing that actually realigns all my chakras and calms my insides ha ha ha ha , makes music and feeds my soul.
I'm just so happy That I was able to start my 2016 with this truly amazing, exhilarating, humbling experience.

Happy New Year 2016 to all .