Friday, December 19, 2008

Many Paths

Feeling tall at only 5'6", I explore this foreign city that gradually becomes less foreign by the day, thanks to the human chameleon ability to quickly adjust and adapt to one's surroundings. With the incessant dinging of the cross walking signals, I feel I'm in a casino -- as if just walking across the street means you're a winner and to some extent, in Hong Kong, you are. This is just one of the not-so-subliminal messages the city gives you on a daily basis along with a preoccupation with materialism, commercialism, and other 'ism's constantly reflected in the thousands of sparkling mirrors, shiny steel and spotless glass found everywhere in this city.

As I cross the street, I constantly remind myself to "Look Left" as driving is on the left side of the road here. I look around and notice that with few exceptions, there are basically only 3 types of cars here: Mercedes, BMW's and Lexus' - money reigns here.

As I explore the city enjoying the intoxicating weather (dry weather averages between 50-60 deg F in December and a little cooler in January), I encounter new smells and sounds. I am in awe of the wild beautiful exotic birds and plants that I have only ever seen in zoo's or special botanic gardens.

This is a city of diversity on many levels. Not only is Hong Kong home to a sophisticated international population, it's land ranges from mountains to valleys, chilled beaches to charming little villages, thick wild jungles to the bustling glittering city which boasts an impressive super modern skyline. There is something for everyone here on this not-so-big island.

I enjoyed an intense hike with my brother-in-law in The Peak where I forgot I was in Hong Kong. I can see how hiking can become my new habit (no thanks to my complaining calf muscles) during my stay here. Who would have thought you could find such peace and solitude in nature within one of the busiest cities in the world. There are hundreds of hikes throughout the area, many very steep and demanding as Hong Kong has many pointed peaks covered with thick green jungle. My life is not complete without nature or a place to retreat to for centering myself so I'm very happy about the diversity of the terrain.

One of the things I find most charming about this city is the numerous ways to get to the same location. You can have your choice of small alleys, stairways or garden pathways to large footbridges or underground walkways.

I enjoyed descending this stairway in Central after visiting a beautiful government monument building which I will photograph later.

These raised walkways labyrinth themselves around the business district in Hong Kong. I try a different bridge every day as I get my bearings which wind through and around buildings and shopping centers.

Ah ha! An old charming building - I found one! No small feat.

One of the unfortunate things in this thriving city is that there are few old historical buildings (at least in the central business area) due to commercial building and the addiction to "new" shiny superstructures. I believe efforts are being made to protect some of the older landmark buildings. So I will make it my new project these next few months to find these old charming buildings amid the new structures. I'm still quite impressed by and appreciative of the modern towering buildings that are so part of the unique personality of Hong Kong.

I stumbled above this little tree-lined stairway connecting two major streets in the middle of the city.

Hong Kong has the longest covered stretch of moving walkway in the world - the Midlevels escalator, which can take you from your office to your apartment in a matter of minutes if you're lucky enough to live in the Midlevels area. At 800 meters long with a vertical climb of 135 meters, the total travel time of this outdoor wonder is twenty minutes.

I spent a day wandering through the botanical gardens and zoo in the center of town which house very talkative monkeys along with other equally vocal animals. I exit the plant and animal jungle through this Chinese gate framing the ever impressive skyline and walk into a human jungle.

The diversity of the land makes walking to and from my yoga school every day more interesting and more like a discovery. My school is located in the trendy Lang Kwai Fong area, a hilly section of town that has a San Francisco-like feel to it, with narrow streets, stairways and some low-rise buildings. This is the heart of the entertainment district and is a short walk from the central business district, making it possible for the hard-working Masters of the Universe to retreat to after a long day.

Still feeling quite disappointed with the quality of yoga schools here in Hong Kong, I continue my search, yet feeling I might just need to settle with what they have here or start my own school one of these days. As Yogi Braja pointed out, many schools here lack the appreciation for the lifestyle of yoga and rather treat it only as another money-making business transaction. Yet again, perhaps that is just another indication of the personality of this city seeping through every thing.

Well, I'm off to have some Dim Sum -- always been my favorite meal. I can't seem to ever get enough.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Magic Carpet Ride

The Indian and his American bride are about to embark on a new adventure! We bid, to our beloved New York that has been our home for many years. We'll be back, don't worry (and I say that mostly to myself as I have a bit of a love affair with this city).

We'll board an eastward (very far eastward) bound magic carpet which will fly us over the North Pole (quite a sight from above). Then heading south we'll glide like eagles above the majestic mountains of Mongolia.

We will eventually land (after about 16 really start to feel it around hour 12) in a distant exotic land in the Orient: the glittering city of Hong Kong.

And they say New York is the city that never sleeps - they obviously haven't been to HK. When it comes to speed, if New York City is a BMW, then Hong Kong is a Ferrari.

Upon landing, we'll automatically be transported into a time machine to the year 2050 to the ubermodern Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong's International Airport. HKIA spent $70 billion on airport related infrastructure like major reclamation of land and also boasts an impressive suspension bridge that funnels people to and from this busy hub. Go shove it, La Guardia! I will not miss you.

Like most airports outside of the US, HKIA offers free--yes free, my American readers--baggage trolleys.

We will then be transported into town to the magical land of Hong Kong Island on a little quiet hill away from the hustle and bustle where the handsome and wonderful father of my Indian husband dwells with his lovely wife. Here we will stay until we hop on our magic vessel again for the next leg of our adventure. I will be doing much exploring of the city and surrounding areas during this extended holiday. First on my list: find the perfect yoga studio. I have my priorities.

Many more adventures to come in Singapore, Kaula Lumpur, Pulau Pangkor, Penang, and more. Of course how could any adventure be complete without INDIA! That country hasn't seen the last of me.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yoga & Candy Corn

The past several months of getting ready for an "extended holiday" to explore various parts of Asia have been more than intense. Deciding on a shipping company, negotiating, packing, storing, planning, giving, selling, craigslisting, tossing, goodbyeing, address changing,'s madness! When will it end??

"It has actually been quite a liberating experience as we're getting organized by getting rid of things we really don't need and learning the value of detachment and the powerful lesson that minimalism is the ideal way to live", says my optimistic self who is always trying to chime in at any chance she gets. However, organizing every.....single.....item we own in my Virgo-husband's numerous highly methodical categories and meticulous flowcharts is "annoying!", complains my not so optimistic self also fighting to get a word in.

Two lifesavers that have kept me sane these last couple months: Yoga & Candy Corn.

Yoga to stay grounded as I un-ground and contort my body to maintain a fresh and clear perspective on life, and Candy Corn for mental stability when I'm not practicing yoga. I can't hold my downward facing dog all day, right? True, chowing down on sweets is probably not the best coping mechanism, but for now it works wonders.

One of the things I've always loved about New York City is that you can find anything, and I mean anything, here at anytime of the day or night. Anything that is, except fresh Candy Corns. During the month of October (and part of November if you're lucky), candy stores across this nation are graced with this scrumptious little triangular-shaped tricolored treat. You can probably find the wanna-be's year round, but those are old and hard and not worth the trouble. Trust me, they are freshest during this time of the year.

Candy Corns are simply one of the most fabulous candies ever invented. Born in 1880, these remarkable little creations have been blessing American lives ever since. They're cheap and far from nutritious being choc full of corn syrup and artificial coloring. "But they are sweetened with real honey!" I plead in their defense. Ahhh, who am I kidding. Sugar is sugar. I can't help but love them.


Just a little tidbit: According to Brach's Confections, Inc., the top branded maker of candy corn, each year Americans eat enough Brach's candy corn that if the kernels were laid end to end, they would circle the Earth 4.25 times. Yikes! And what's more Yikes is that I am to blame for at least once around the globe.

These trinkets of honey sweet yummyness have an amazing texture that makes you want to keep on popping these delightful precious pieces, allowing you to regress to childhood where worries and work were less and play was more. Something happens along the way to adulthood that throws off this ideal balance. Eating candy corns is one of the ways I am trying to regain that balance. Yea, I know I'm really reaching. :)

I just bought our local candy store's (who know me by first name at this point) last supply of these sweet little addictive bites. They only had the brown ones which are not as good as the yellow ones, but I'll take anything at this point. I couldn't unwrap the "plastic seal to preserve freshness" fast enough. Ironically, my beloved candies were far from fresh which their seal had promised, and nearly cracked my teeth! "Uh oh, too old, take 'em back!" Alas, these rare last bites are too far gone to be enjoyed. I grudgingly part with them, leaving empty-handed and head hanging low. And of course they candy chef gods only make these wondrous treats only during these two short months because that is when they're freshest. If I'm mistaken on this, please correct me! I guess I'll just have to wait until next October for savor my favorite candy. Oooh ;(

Must...find...another...candy to replace my addiction and satisfy my sweet tooth in the meantime. Any suggestions?? It's for my mental stability after all.

At least yoga doesn't have an expiration date. My daily meditation and asana practice fulfills me and recharges my patience while I wait for next October.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

America Just Rebooted!!

Never before has a smile crossed my face so many times after having been woken up by New York City street noise than last night. The energy here is joyous and uplifting and that was clearly evident all night long. Just when you thought the last group of jubilant New Yorkers passed by on the street below loudly expressing their glee, another group of eager nightowls came charging through with just as much momentum as if they were students returning from the pub after having just finished their finals x100.

After many years of negativity, divisiveness, cynicism and intolerance which seems to have clouded this country's greatness, I literally feel a tremendous weight lifted with this awesome change. In one day, our country has completely rebooted and there is a new focus and the world can look at us in a different light.

Obama has a hell of a job ahead of him with all the many issues that confront us. However, I have never felt so safe, so secure and so confident that he'll take good care of us and the world for that matter, for he is realistic, grounded, even-tempered, positive, and refreshingly wise as he inspires and attempts to unite this divided country.

I could go could my Indian husband who wished he could have voted as he is very passionate and knowledgeable about politics, but I think you get the message.

I'm so inspired, overjoyed and proud! It's been a long time since I've felt this way.
Yes We Can!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Festival of Lights

Happy Diwali!

This wonderous and blessed holiday celebrates light and goodness. Occuring on the darkest night (the new moon) during the Fall equinox, Diwali or Deepawali ("array of lamps") focuses on personal victory from spiritual darkness and embraces all beings with light and brightness.

I recently learned about the dark, very dark, Goddess Kali, who is one of the many representations of God according to some Hindu's beliefs. She is also one of the most misunderstood of all the gods, as she can appear quite scary. To me, she represents the duality of the good and the bad in all of us. She brings death to the ego, which can be painful, but absolutely necessary, as then and only then can the real divine self emerge, illuminated and full of light and goodness!

Diwali takes place during the Fall equinox which is significant as this time of the year is marked with great change and is a crossroads not only for climate and tilt of our planet towards the sun, but also to all of us individually as we experience transition in our lives. This month, I find that I often take time to observe and reflect on not only personal change but dramatic global changes (including this volatile economy) that affect all beings.

We always attend a particular party hosted by our dear friends on this evening surrounded with family and loved ones and of course plenty of Indian outfits! Many families attend this party after pooja ceremonies. I love the symbolism of light with all the glowing candles during this joyous festival.

Oh, to be in India during the festivities. Can you imagine the magic of thousands of floating candles on the River Ganges!? What a that would be a photo. Perhaps you've been? If so, indulge me...please tell me all about it!

A Poem By Kumud Biswas

...................................................The autumn has covered with her veil
...................................................All the lamps of the sky of this winter night
...................................................She has sent her call to every home,
...................................................‘Light up all your lamps, your Diwali lamps
...................................................And dress the earth with light.’

...................................................There are no flowers in the garden
...................................................The singing birds do not sing
...................................................Along the banks of the river
...................................................The reeds have shed their flowers
...................................................Sweep away all shadows and sadness
...................................................Light up your lamps, your Diwali lamps
...................................................And sing of the victory of light.

...................................................The gods are looking on
...................................................Wake up O ye children of the world
...................................................Wake up the night with your light
...................................................When the day is done and darkness comes
...................................................Light up your lamps
...................................................To win over the darkness with your light.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bindi Time

I rarely have the opportunity to wear a bindi (other than around my home - yes, my husband thinks I'm a nut) but a few evenings ago we attended a lavish birthday party of a good friend and yes, we got to get all dressed up in Indian Chic.

Turban-wearing shirtless men (who have spent way too much time at the gym) balanced like statues on tall pillars holding long torches with wildly burning flames, made for quite the grand welcome to this elaborate party in a very hip gallery in the far nether regions of West Chelsea in Manhattan.

3 mendhi artists were also on call, which you know yours truly took full advantage of. See....

Below are some bindi's in my personal collection, which of course I don't get to wear in public nearly as often as I would like.

Bindi's are originally a sacred symbol but are also used as adornment, such as when attending festivities. Quite flattering as a fashion accessory, they come is all shapes, colors and sizes. Plus, they make me feel Indian so I'm always a fan of that. =)

The bindi is placed on the spiritual (or third) eye, which is in the middle of the forehead. Hindus believe this sacared part of the body to be for spiritual sight. While highlighting the third eye, the bindi also protects it which helps to cultivate spiritual vision. Through the third eye, Hindus believe to see all that which cannot be seen through the two physical eyes.

In my yoga and meditation practice I've been focusing more on my third eye, drawing energy all through the central line of the body and the effects are deep and powerful. My teachers also stress the benefits of the spiritual eye making contact with the floor during balasana, or child's pose, when the body can surrender to gravity and the overactive mind can become quiet thus enabling the third eye to open. It is believed that when the individual's spiritual eye opens he attains true enlightenment and gets closer to God.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Divia, our lovely cousin from Mumbai, stayed with us in New York for a week earlier this year. As a Features Editor at Vogue India, she was excitedly working on one of her biggest stories yet: an Interview with Jhumpa Lahiri. YES, I know!

On a snowy day, Divia recalls in her writing, she took the trek out to Brooklyn to the charming and quaint neighborhood of Park Slope, which also happens to my old neighborhood before my marriage and my move to Manhattan.

Featured in the April '08 issue, Ms. Lahiri speaks with Divia of about how some writers (many who have long since passed on) speak to and inspire her about humanity and border crossings, both literally and methaphorically. Ms. Lahiri expresses, "It's amazing to have such a powerful recognition with a writer who has been dead for centuries. That's the amazing thing about reading. You can feel these intense connections to another writer, another time, another reality. It doesn't matter what divides us." I also feel this special connection when I read Ms. Lahiri's wonderful works. It is a beautiful bonding experience that harbors such an appreciation for life, which is what makes her writing so deeply intimate.

Through Divia's eyes: "There is a moment when, standing in her cosy living room in a plaid skirt and black sweater, gold bangles on her wrists, surrounded by books and cookies, teas and toys, Octavio and Noor clutching at her legs, Jhumpa Lahiri is not the famous, reclusive, prize-winning writer: She is not thinking about the long journeys her parents made across the oceans decades ago, about whether or not her children will ever speak Bengali or live in a country where a woman is president. For that brief minutes, Jhumpa looks incredibly happy to be living in the moment, forgetful of the next border she has to cross."

Now about Divia: her energy is like sunshine on a rainy day - she is such a pleasure to be around and has such an excitement for life and living in the moment. After she completed her article, we played and talked and ate. And then of course we went shopping - something that Divia is a true professional at. =D

I can't resist. Here are a few of my favorite spreads found elsewhere in this issue.

The contrasting colors and life in this photo take my breath away.

An ad for the prestigious Taj Hotel reads: "Of course the Maharaja's car will be there to receive you. You're staying with him, aren't you?" What a memorable experience we had when we were lucky enough to stay even for a few nights at a heritage property converted palace. I love the history - you can feel it in the air.

But of course we must have an Austrian crystal-encrusted Ganesha clutch! After all, this is Vogue. It's yours for only $5,585.00!

This is definitely going on my shopping list. My husband thinks I need another Indian outfit like the world needed another 4 years of George Bush.

Now for some interior design in the Vogue Living section:

To all of you designers, I think you'll appreciate this hallway in my uhh...future home ... why yes, thank you, the intricately carved woodwork is fantastic, if I do say so myself. Let's check out the outside, shall we?

Some more outfits I can drool over...

This lengha is one of the prettiest and most unique I've ever seen.

It is ridiculous how beautiful you are, Aishwarya.


I eagerly await my next issue...and the next visit from my sweet Divia!