Travel with Twinny .. Summit at Glenburn

There is a time when one seeks to travel with no hidden agenda but to simply RELAX !

To indulge in that great ‘’Sweetness of doing Nothing ‘’ which in Italian is called ‘’dolce far


With this as our major objective,

we travelled to Glenburn …. A scenic ‘tea bungalow’ turned into an 8 roomed luxury boutique hotel in

the north east of Bengal , about an hours drive from Darjeeling !

In Gorkhaland !

Book in hand, breathing in the fresh mountain air , the magnificent Kanchenjunga as a backdrop , sipping a cup of Glenburn Moonshine tea .. aah….

Life could not have been lovelier !

Just then a voice piped up . It was Andrew, the hotel manager .

‘’We have 1600 acres of forest land on a quarter of which we have tea plantations .Would you like to see these upclose ?’’

We made a rough calculation that such an exercise could not really expend much energy !

After all , all we had to do was to ‘see ‘ !

‘’ You will have to take walking sticks , the path is a little tricky .’’ he warned .

‘’No worries!’’ we smiled indulgently .

‘’And yes , there are a few couples who will join you . More the merrier ! ‘’ said Andrew cheerily.

‘’Oh , ok !’’ we agreed , a tad hesitantly . Taking the effort of making new friends was definitely not part of our plan , determined as we were to doing Nothing !

Gingerly we stepped out in small groups , down uneven ,stony paths leading to the muddied terraced slopes laden with tea shrubs.

Though we had never met each other before , each of us was secretly glad the other was there , when we realised that the tea plantations were perched on the

steepest inclines!

The Gorkha locals ,mostly females , negotiated these expertly , plucking dextrously,

tossing the ripe tea leaves and buds behind into cane baskets harnessed on their foreheads .

We learnt that a good days plucking meant collecting only about half to 3/4 kg of the ripe leaves in a day .

What a labour intensive job !

Took a pic like this just for kicks , though we all seriously began to wonder how much we took for granted our everyday comforting cup of ‘’chai ‘’.

It was a revelation that the tea leaves used for medicinal purposes in China way back in 2737 BC

were brought to India by the British only in the 1830’s !

The soft, loamy , well drained soil , the warm humid climes of Assam and the north east were ideal to grow a tea stronger than that of China .. the famous Darjeeling tea !

Amber coloured , muskatel , aromatic are a few ways to describe its

rich flavour .

Planting the tea must not have been easy nor was growing it , keeping shade , weather , soil in mind .

And THAT was just the beginning !

Once plucked , the tea leaves are taken to a tea factory where they are systematically withered , dried , rolled , fermented , sorted ( completely manually ,phew !) , then finally packed as green , black , oolong , white , what have you !

Each time we learnt something , we chatted and backslapped like primary school children. New vistas of conversation opened !

Some of us trekked down a rambling , rather dangerous 8kms to a campsite at the Rungeet river waterfront and this humble achievement made our bonds stronger . At night we sat around a bonfire , exchanging life stories following which we were served

a scrumptious dinner with the piece de resistance being the Nepalese Chef Maitasing Gurung

singing a song for Sajili , our birthday girl as charismatic as her name !

Please do hear !

Without trying , over three days we had been introduced to a whole new world , that of the Tea Gardens and these in turn had sown the seeds of likely

lifelong friendships !

Thankyou Andrew ! Thankyou Maita !

The sweetness of doing nothing I observed sweet if only it is a “limited edition”, lasting a short “ precious” while .

Life is too short and too precious to spend it doing zilch !

Bet you will agree Sajili , Arvind ( squared ), Sanjay – Ketika , newly weds Akriti – Sandeepan Purvi -Dev !

So seize the day ! Carpe diem folks !

On second thoughts ,

a bit of ‘dolce far niente ‘

a bit of ‘carpe diem’

Both coupled with a cup of strong orange pekoe is not quite a bad idea !

With tea leaf pakoras to match !


Travel with Twinny .. GUREZ!

‘’Which hairband should I wear ??

This one , this one , or that one ??’’

I said , pulling out a few from my bag .

‘’We are at 11700ft , on the Razdan pass in the northwest of Kashmir .. who is looking at you , silly ??’’

chided Geeta , my perky , stylish friend from Mumbai .

‘’ “Let her wear one ! She loves it so much ! We are going to see the Peer baba ‘ziarat ‘, must do so with respect .’’ chipped in Vidhya , my very grounded , sensible sis -in -law from Goa.

Hair Band and head cover in place , we

knelt before the beautifully decorated tombstone and prayed fervently . It is said that here , all wishes are granted to those who ask !

And so we did !

Amongst the many wishes we asked of Peer baba , one was a tad frivolous .. that the ‘loos’ hereon be more habitable than the one Shaukat Wani , our irrepressible driver had taken us to at ‘Maggi Point’ , on our way up here from Bandipora !

Concentrating on both perching precariously on the open air chute below and ignoring the buzzing flies behind had been a task !

But all that was NOT important.

The peace imbibed beholding the Peer Baba Ziarat was heavenly .

We sauntered into

the adjoining room and lo and behold was a beautiful statue of Hanuman ji !

In the cold icy Himalayan air to discover this oasis of tranquility where two religions sit side by side in complete harmony warmed the cockles of our hearts .

But this was just the beginning of many surprises to come !

Eschewing the usual tourist routes of Srinagar

Pahalgam ,Gulmarg , Sonmarg , we had opted to go with the out – of – the – ordinary travel guide Abhirup Paul .. and experience a hidden gem of Kashmir .. Gurez !

Closest to the LOC , some 125 kms from Srinagar ,

ahead of the Bandipora valley which is famous for its Alim ( education )

Adab ( good manners)

Aab ( water ), skirting Wular , the second largest lake in Asia ,

past various army check posts along some of the most winding and scariest mountain roads in the world , finally opening on to breathtaking expanses of thickly pined mountains , running down steeply to verdant meadows and pastures along the bountiful rushing river Kishenganga .

This was Gurez !

Picture postcard perfect for miles and miles , each scenic spot and mountain village more beautiful than the next .

Virgin , unspoilt , the Sheena village folk ,( direct descendants of Alexander , so they say ) could be seen fishing , grazing livestock, cutting wood , singing songs , cooking .

A traffic jam caused by sheep or goats is an everyday occurrence!

An idyllic life , if only for the six spring / summer months , most families moving to warmer pastures in the bitter cold winter months .

That most of Kashmir is mountainous and that most of its people are ‘pahadi log’ came as a surprise !

They are hardy , love nature , are excellent craftsmen , love poetry .

Their life’s philosophy is far removed from political influences and religious biases of the valley cities . It’s very Sufi, very Shaivik !

‘All we

desire is Aman or peace !’ A refrain one will hear time and time again !

Especially amazing are the border villages .

May it be Davar , Angaikot ,Khandial in the Tulail Valley ahead , besides their unique wooden log homes , each has a central village mosque .

Each also has a school , run invariably by the Indian Army and most of the Army personnel are invariably , Hindu . One can hear the chanting of the Azaan alongside

bhajans emanating from the Indian army canteen .

Surprise of surprises , the Muslim dominated mountain village of Naranag , 60 kms from Sirinagari ( as emperor Ashok named Srinagar in the 3 Rd century bc )

houses a Shiv temple right in the middle of it .

Stonehenge is a world wonder but how this Shiv temple was built in the 8 th Century AD with huge stone rock boulders placed one on top of each other , atop a mountain, without any form of cementing is a bewildering wonder too !

Ask any mountain villager directions he will of course answer it ,then cajole you to join him in his humble abode for a cup of kesar Kehva and girdha ( the local bread ).

He will regale you with stories , trade a cigarette for his biddi .

And even if he is 85 years old , run adeptly down the mountain edge to fetch water from a spring wellknown for its freshness and the ability to conjure romance into your life .. the picturesque Habba Khatoum

mountain spring !

There it is !

Invitation for a cup of tea may be passé when compared to

Aslam who insisted we share a meal in his home .

Soon we were sitting on carpets partaking of a delicious meal cooked by his wife right in front of us .. unbelievable !

We said so !

‘’It is in our culture,’’he said , ‘’we love to share. To help each other is not at all unusual!’’ . True ! That day we witnessed the neighbours daughter skip in , have lunch , then run back to school !

But Ask for dessert / something meetha ?

And Kashmiris will look askance , absolutely befuddled ! Goodness gracious me

Mountain folk just don’t eat desserts !

No doubt each mountain village had its own beauteous stamp, but we were quite taken in by the villages of Churwan Shahpura .

Situated closest to the Red Line of Control , the villagers here wished there was no fencing , that there were no boundaries!

Up , on opposing mountain faces were Pakistani and Indian bunkers placed strategically, barely a 100 metres apart . Down , on the beautiful meadow below , the village folk played Indias and Pakistans favourite sport .. cricket 🏏!

Not a care in the world !👍!

Back in the Summer Capital Srinagar , we were touched yet again !

At the terraced Nishat Gardens opposite the Dal Lake , not one but two Kashmiri families asked ‘us ‘to be a part of ‘their’ family photo !

And on the day we were finally leaving our Five star hotel , we were given papier-mâché back – home gifts! Can’t recall any other hotel in the world doing the same !

Kashmir to me is all about welcoming , giving , teaching you to be one with nature .

Quoting from a verse by Maria Sabina ( apologies for the changes )…..

”Cure yourself with the light of the sun

And the rays of the moon

With the sound of the river and the waterfall

Heal yourself with walnuts , lavender and fennel

Put ‘love ‘ in tea instead of sugar

And take it looking at the stars, holding a flower

Heal yourself with the kisses of the wind and the hugs of the rain

Keep your feet strong on bare ground.

Listen to your intuition looking at the world with the eye of your forehead

Jump , dance , sing !


‘Nature’ is the medicine !”

If my ashes have to be strewn , they will have to be in Gurez !

Thankyou my darlings Vidhya and Geeta !

Twinny just can’t travel alone !

Never could !

Love you !

And Thankyou Abhirup !

Zarah Diaries … the ART of GIVING

Midlife Crisis !

Ageing Woes!

Everyone goes through it .

You wake up one morning, look into the mirror and wonder when the heck did these lines appear ?When did the jaw begin to hang so ? When did the lips loose their lusciousness??!

Off you rush to a dermatologist ! Do something , you plead !

Well Aneeta M did just that !

‘Doc!’ she moaned, ‘ I hate these frown lines , placed like unwanted guests right on top of my forehead ,’’

“Please suggest some ‘Upaay’! ”

I gently explained that lines develop over time according to how much we emote , how much we use our facial muscles to express . To reduce fine lines one can apply retinol creams , have dollops of oral collagen , but to ERASE them , nothing is more effective than Botox shots once in 8 months !

No doubt ,practising placidity a la a Buddhist monk could take off a year or two .. but hey …that’s tough to do!

Aneeta listened wide eyed , asked relevant questions , then finally decided to bypass all suggestions and try a bit of facial yoga , some meditation instead. In other words , ACCEPT and stay comfortable in her skin !

Some years later she shared pictures of her visit to Cuba . The colours , vibrant pop art , pink Cadillacs on the streets made one want to board the next flight to Havana !

In all those photos , I noticed how happy , lovely and lively Aneeta looked . Travel , Art and a doting partner are a heady mix !

Lines don’t show. Glow definitely does !

And then struck the dreadful Pandemic ! The ground seemed to give way beneath our feet , ready to swallow us whole and alive . Engulfed unimaginably in fear we were ‘ locked in’ and ‘locked out’ from the breath of fresh air .

But the human spirit is made of sterner stuff . Slowly and surely we groped our way out of this quagmire ,pulling each other up , reinventing ourselves , baking bread , exercising , living in gratitude , relieved we were still alive !

6 months into the pandemic , sometime around the end of August , Aneeta decided to hold online Zen Doodling Art classes .

Zen Doodling Art … now what was that???

I am not an artist . Far from it . The closest I have been to painting is creating eyebrows by micropigmentation using a delicate vibrating needle .

But in this COVID period , I felt I could definitely do with a bit of ‘Zen’ ! With some trepidation , I signed up .

Aneetas class had me ‘hooked ‘ from the word go . She was simply FABULOUS !

She would give us each a template drawing , teach simple doodles to fill this in with and Lo and behold .. a piece of ART would emerge .

She would share tricks and techniques which she had honed in art school and draw from her tremendous experience as an established artist to fine -tune our efforts .


She interspersed each art class with interesting life anecdotes and teachings from Zen Buddhism which made us fledgling artists more centred , focussed and ready to face the uncertain morrow ….WOW !!

She gave ,she gave, she gave…. Her time , her learnings , her love.

And then the icing on the cake !

All the earnings from these art classes she gave away (100% !) in charity to pay for the treatment of street children afflicted with treatable cancer .


ART and the ART of GIViNG!

I reflected on this as I adjusted my hand painted saree .

I can now truly imagine the love in each brush stroke .

This one is done by Shubhangi Samant whose special subject is Lord Krishna .

Here she has painted the Ringan ceremony , held in July each year to venerate Vithobha ( Lord Krishna ) in Pandharpur . Lakhs of pilgrims gather to take home the soil on which the horse gallops.. is auspicious to do so .

For us students , ANEETA is THIS spectacular galloping HORSE , showering sparkles of Zen dust , Zen art , Zen teachings , Zen Love in its wake !

Thankyou ANEETA !Thankyou for all you do !

Wish you a very very HAPPY BIRTHDAY !✨✨✨✨✨


I sat tense , waiting expectantly for the next patient .
Clad in my PPE ( personal protective equipment ) mask , gloves , face shield , I looked more like an astronaut or a deep sea diver than a dermatologist /cosmetologist.
Gone was my saree ! Gone was my friendly banter !
And the comforting pat on the shoulders ? Heavens .. No !
Corona times are such !

‘’Hiiiiii Doc!’’, breezed in Hirral Merchant .
‘’How are you , doc? Really glad you have kept your clinic open .I need to get FIXED real fast !’’
I wondered , for what ?
Have known Hirral for several years , evolving from a shy Kutchi mother -of -two ( two sons 17 and 10 years )
to becoming a healer and a numerologist .
Maybe she had begun online healing sessions and needed to look more presentable .
A quick laser hair reduction of the lower face would do the trick. I suggested the same .

‘’No , no Doc ! I need my hair gone , not only from my face , I want a whole body laser treatment! ‘’

‘’Sure Hirral ..can do !
But it is expensive , are you sure?’’
‘’Yes Doc ! I have to be my best ! And I need more than just laser hair reduction . I am contesting for the MRS INDIA Contest !’’
My jaw dropped !
In these times ?
Was there even a ‘Mrs India ‘ Contest happening ??
‘’Yes , yes Doc !There are 145 participants .I have cleared the auditions and have reached the last 30 !
The orientations will be in September in Dehradun (maybe ) and then the SemiFinals , probably in a safe international environment like NewZealand or the Maldives .’’
My jaw dropped further , but the mask I wore somehow held it up !
What drive , what a feat …
to prepare for a beauty contest , in these most uninspiring of times .

‘’ You have the most charming gamine eyes Hirral , a very attractive face but your ‘ thighs ‘ ? How do you propose to get them shipshape ??’’
‘’I consider my flaws , my strength ,Doc !
I will diet , I will exercise , I will get to where I have to !
And you will have to help me !’’

‘’ Mrs India Contests are hard Hirral . They assess not only your face and figure but also how talented you are , your self confidence , your desire to win . ‘’
‘’Yes , I am aware Doc .Every week all of us participants are given Tasks , which test our abilities in a variety of ways .
I have made videos of myself cooking and dishing out healthy recipes , demonstrated effective concoctions for Face and Body Scrubs, made workout videos .
For Sushant Singh Rajput , I did a spontaneous dance tribute and a devotional number dressed like Radha on Janamashthami . Like our yesteryear actresses I have even danced carrying double ,triple earthen pots on my head!
I am on a roll Doc , today sitting for photo shoots sporting the 60’s look , tomorrow the 70s rock and roll look !
I am enjoying myself !
And the best part Doc , the more I work on myself , the more I want to run out and help others . Make meals for the hungry on the streets , participate in any and every civic activity to help those in need .
And all this whilst looking after my own family , my work !
God and the Universe are helping me find TIME for EVERYTHING!

I was amazed !
Hirral had lofty dreams but also the spunk to scale them .
‘’What about your family ? Are they supportive ??’’
‘’ Yes doc , I
have got quite a lot of encouragement from my husband who though a financial wizard himself kicked up his job and started an online portal performing online Poojas , the EPooja ! You must have heard of it !’’
Wowww ! I was awestruck !

‘’Tell me what has been the most difficult part of this journey ?’’
‘’Oh , it was when the judges asked me to introduce myself and my vision .. all in 1 minute !
I thought about this question .

She was right ! To try and
précis oneself , ones life , one’s desires …in 1 minute ! Not a cakewalk at all !

‘’This has been a period of the greatest growth for me . I am constantly working on the way I walk , talk , my manners, etiquette.. but Doc you really have to help me LOOK my best !’’

‘’ Yes , yes Hirral ! I will , I will !
But let me tell you whether you get the Mrs India crown or not ,
in my eyes you are already
A role model for everyone , including me !’’

That evening , fully inspired , I prized open my cupboard of treasured sarees after 4 months and took out an AJRAKH.
What type of saree is that you might ask .

It is a saree made of the softest cotton, soft enough to swathe a baby , painstakingly blockprinted on both sides with natural dyes over and over again to form complex geometric and floral patterns .
It is a 4000 year old technique native to Sindh and Kutch , a product of patience and arduous labour.
The word Ajrakh comes from Azurakh which means indigo in Persian . The indigo represents the sky , the red madder natural dye superimposed is twilight and the
white dots strewn all over are the stars which illuminate the deep blue sky !
And that is what Hirral is !
Standing out in this sea of forlornness with hope and light !
Simply beautiful!

Zarah Diaries … Sarees must have a border ☺️!

It was a warm April morning the day Nihaal ,a 45 yr old business tycoon walked into my clinic.

”Good morning Doc !”

he said , taking off his Gucci shades, ”I am not exactly sure what is bothering me but definitely something is amiss! I FEEL dynamic, on -the -go , but DONT LOOK it !”

It took me all of one minute to size up my handsome patient but how was I to tell him???

That Nihaal, my dear, you need a Brow job !!

An EYE BROW job to be more precise !

Eyebrows frame a face …uplifting it instantly !

They introduce a person even before he speaks !

One would think that eyes are expressive but eyebrows can really blow your mind away !

A twitch here, a raise there , the nuance of a dip there !

Expressing surprise , anger , joy , defeat , devotion ! The animation they give your face is limitless !

What if these seemingly unimportant part of ones countenance were missing or were thinned out considerably as were Nihaals??!

What was one to do?

Use hair sprouting solutions for an endless length of time?

So time consuming and results not even satisfactory, especially if one has a concomitant autoimmune condition .

How about then , an Eyebrow enhancement with micro pigmentation as a viable option ??

Suggesting such a solution to a woman usually makes her squeal with pleasure , but suggesting the same to a man is like crushing his manhood !

I ventured delicately !

”Nihaal, I must say you are are really tall !

Did you play basketball for your college team ?

Must have been quite a catch for those pretty young gals with your superbly cut , square jawline, your Roman nose !

And even at 45 , your forehead hardly has any creases .. and those that are there ,show character !

What could do with some improvement however , are your eyebrows! Have they diminished over the years?

They seem a tad thin , a tad insipid !

Not that I would advocate a bushy unibrow and – yes – it is all hogwash that unibrows are directly proportional to male virility!”

Nihaal looked himself up and down , from head to toe in the huge mirror in front of him , while I continued,

”But colouring yours with a technique akin to tattooing would bring back the dynamism you are looking for !”

The procedure is called

MicroPigmentation or Microblading and it is performed with a special vibrating needle using very special pigments at a level more superficial than a conventional tattoo, hence there is no bleeding . It is semi permanent , lasting 3-5 years.

It would take me two hours to do a single session but the results are terrific ! Your eyebrows will look fuller , more expressive , even make a statement .. and not a jarring one at that!”

” This might sound crazy Doc but I was hoping against hope you would NOT notice my eyebrows!

Now, you are going to give me a killer set of eyebrows and make a woman out of me !”

” On the contrary , Nihaal !

Haven’t you heard ‘Great eyebrows don’t happen by chance ,

They happen by appointment!

To begin with …the male eyebrow is tattooed differently … they are not arched like those of females , they are flatter , they are also thicker .

Each stroke is like a hair strand , and all the strokes are set very close to each other !


I will use anaesthetic cream an hour prior , draw a precise shape with ruler measurements and then tatoo in .

Micro pigmenting eyebrows is more than just a treatment , it is an ART !!”

Nihaal looked at himself again and again , this angle now, that profile next !

He somehow got convinced that for him micro pigmentation was indeed the ONLY way forward !

He scheduled his procedure that very day and followed up for a touchup three weeks later!

Once done , he was gratified to note that his friends didn’t notice that his eyebrows had had any work done on them !

They just remarked that of late he seemed to look younger and fresher !

That is the response I most want to get .. that there ‘ IS’ a difference , but noone can say WHAT .

Of all the treatments I have learnt , the one that took me the longest to master was this very procedure of micro pigmenting eyebrows .

Surprisingly it is the most satisfying one too !

Both for the Practitioner and the patient !

No one leaves unhappy !

And let me repeat Eyebrows actually do frame a face !

Just like the black French chiffon saree I am wearing today …!

Here I am in Plain Jane Black ….

And now draped in the same black sheer but with a smart border ..

Come on now … tell me which one looks better ??

Hey , You don’t have to look twice!

Not convinced ?? How about this red Muslin saree

with its striped border ?

Nice ??

Not boring like this one …

Get my drift ???

Sareees must have borders !

Faces must have eyebrows !


ZARAH DIARIES… heart to heart

I do not like to keep patients waiting !

The patient in my consulting room had tested my patience beyond measure with her notepad of google queries .

To get a breather from the barrage ,

I excused myself and sauntered out into the waiting room to meet the 57 yrold lady who had requested a ‘mild Rejuvenating treatment’.

What instantly struck me was, despite her elegance , her perfect shape of lips , there was an unidentifiable anxiety in her eyes .

”Good afternoon Doctor , I am Deepa !

I am travelling to the USA tonight ! I just want a little brightening and tightening of my face. I am NOT looking for anything invasive , certainly no lasers , no ultrasound treatment , no injectables , no PDO threads ! Just a brightening and tightening ‘glow’ treatment that would be effective for at least a month .”

I was surprised she could rattle off so many scientific options !

”Any particular reason you would NOT like to try a skin laser ?” I asked ,” Our ELOS Refirme Laser is really very effective, both for Skin Rejuvenation and Skin Tightening !”

”And I can also offer you The HIFU ( A highly focused ultrasound skin treatment) akin to the Ulthera , but way cheaper with perhaps even better results , lasting up to a year !

Non invasive , can be completed in one and a half hours ….An instant face lift !

She smiled shyly , then said ,

”Actually I have had a heart transplant and am wary of any risks ”

I was caught completely off guard !

A HEART transplant!!!

My own heart skipped a beat !

Trying to recover ..

I held her hand warmly

-then quickly made a mental note scanning options to offer an effective but a primarily safe solution that would last at least three weeks.

Lasers can never be used if there is a pacemaker or some sort of mechanical device in place .

She answered as if she read my mind ..

” Yes , I did have a LVAD (a left ventricular assisted device ) to bide my time and help me live , BEFORE my heart transplant surgery was done , but it is disconnected . However I am not sure if I have some sort of other device to treat fibrillation .

I decided she would be safest with a surface treatment , brightening the skin using microdermabrasion ( a skin polish ) followed by a no -needle mesotherapy ..driving a cocktail of ingredients by ultrasound only upto the dermis to nuture and tighten !

Safe , effective , it would last three weeks .

I would give her some Antiageing creams to nourish and lift , to maintain the effect . Hey folks, they really work !

I explained this to my trusted skin practitioner and sent the lovely lady in for her treatment !

Expeditely I saw the rest of my patients including the tiresome one , tiring her out by answering each query exhaustively and in monotone!

I was desperate to spend more time with Deepa !

An hour or so later she emerged from her treatment room brighter , glossier , definitely more confident !

I instantly and stupidly burst forth with a question !

‘What was wrong with your heart Deepa ?’

”Cardiomyopathy , hereditary in nature .. the ejection fraction was just 15 % !” She said matter -of -factly .

”There was no other option for my survival other than a heart transplant !

So off I went to Chennai ,

rented a home in the city centre for 4 months waiting ( regretfully )each day FOR SOMEONE to DIE for ME to LIVE !

Then one day THE CALL came !

Within 4 hours I was operated and given a new lease and chance of life !

Laws and protocol are such

that I will never know whose heart I have been blessed with !

My prayers will forever remain with his or her departed soul and the generous , altruistic nature of the donor family .

” Do you feel your personality has changed with this new heart ?”

” No ! ” she said very surely , ” but one thing is there , although

I have been bought up in Mumbai , it is Chennai that I love. ”

I thought romantically to myself , Maybe because her new heart belonged to an accident victim, born and brought up in Chennai , who was declared brain dead and his / her family had allowed this surgical lifegiving exchange to happen !

Again she seemed to read my mind

‘No , no it is not Chennai but the

Chennai Nurses that I love!

They are simply excellent , so loving , so caring .

One night , post the operation, I was in intractable pain !

My shoulders , chest , back were burning and sore.

The young Chennai nurse tried everything in her power to alleviate the pain but to no avail ,

I just would not sleep .

She began to weep bitterly

She felt she had failed in her duty as caregiver !

I remember feeling so touched that somehow I willed myself to sleep , just so that she would settle down !

Many people just die WAITING for heart transplant surgery . Some are just NOT ELIGIBLE because they have other medical complications or are immunocompromised.

I was one of the LUCKY FEW who was eligible ,

lucky enough to get a new heart , and even more lucky that my body did not reject this new , foreign organ !

Rejection of the donor heart happens at least 2-3 times in the first year post a heart transplant !

It is only after the first year that there are only 10% chances of rejection .

Of course I was given immunosuppressants and had regular heart biopsies to monitor my status .

People say that there is a 75 % chance I will live for at least 5 years , but I take heart from the fact

that the longest survivor after a heart transplant lived 33 years !

Now I want everything .. I want to live each day , I want to step out , meet people ,get back to work . I want to BE my best , LOOK my best …

that’s why I am here !”

I held her hand even more tightly , nodding full approval ! Then trying to lighten the moment I said

‘ Travelling to New York for a holiday ?’

”No , actually I have an international business of hand embroidery .I need to delegate and expand !”

My , my , my , I gasped ‘ what a lady !’

I wished her all the superbest , telling her I would love to meet her again , whenever she liked ,

then gazed in wonderment at my own handembroidered Chanderi saree from Kolkata .

It had cheerful little birds sitting on boughs embroidered in colourful hues , painstakingly and artfully done by some loving soul .

I gave a warm caress to my saree , then to my OWN heart , spontaneously deciding to speak to it !

” HEART ” I said ,”You maybe fist sized but you have an enormous mind of your own !

You know things deep inside of me , even my MIND cannot explain !

You are the seat of all my feelings HEART !

Please DONT ever let me down !

Love me like I love you , HEART!


Travel with Twinny .. embroidery means embellishment!

Hi !

This is Twinny reporting from

the Little Queen Embroidery Shop ,a tiny shop in the synagogue lane of the Jew town in Matancherry ,Kochi !

The owner , a Keralite gentleman ,Thomas P.E introduces me to a whole new world . It is the painstaking art of HAND EMBROIDERY,

‘adornment by

threadwork ‘ of …apparel , tableware, towels ,what -have – you !

I pick up an organza throw and remark how gorgeous the design on

it , is .

‘Oh that is Spanish shadow work ‘ Thomas informs me .

‘Motifs are drawn on sheer fabric like organdy , silk backstitch is used to outline these motifs , then ‘filling ‘ is done from behind with herringbone or double back stitches .

This produces a shadow of colour on the front of the fabric . Whilst in Spain ( the land of fringes and tassels! ) a blue background is used , the Italians prefer a

‘white on white’ .

Any which way , the final look is dignified and aristocratic .

I marvel at how neat the stitches at the back of the fabric are .

From the front..

From the back …

Sensing my awe , Thomas says lightly ,

‘Oh , this embroidery is easy compared to

the French Knot ,’ He then proceeds to demonstrate how exactly a single French knot is done.

‘Stretch the cloth on a small embroidery hoop , wind a silk thread twice around the needle , pierce the cloth ,pull back , voila !’

I try my hand at it. It takes me a tense two minutes to get one knot done !

Naturally I am left dumbstruck when Thomas displays a table runner which has 2800 knots in its every inch !


Haha , laughs Thomas wickedly , enjoying my bewilderment.

‘Look here! ‘he said pointing to a unique embroidery on white linen .

‘This is Hapdanger embroidery from Norway .It is rich in ‘drawn thread work’ and the cloth has plenty of ‘voids ‘ traversed by delicate threads , sometimes , by just a single thread!

I gasp!

”Yes ,Hand embroidery is a very skilled and laborious art . Unfortunately it’s a dying art form .

The first hand embroidery Machine was introduced in France in 1832 and now with computerised embroidery machines ,

embroidered garments are churned out by the dozen .

Here in Kochi there are barely a handful of women who actually hand -embroider !

St Gallen embroidery which is also whitework ,was such a productive part of the Swiss economy , a picture of it is imprinted on the Swiss Franc .

And you must know that Michelle Obama chose to wear a St Gallen lace overcoat at the swearing in ceremony of her husband Barack Obama .

Wowwww again !

”Now mostly machine -made pieces are available .It is only here in Kochi that women sit together and sew 8 hours for a paltry 150 Rs !”

A deep respect grew in my heart for the artisan who produced such beauty .

But Thomas was not finished .

He theatrically unfolded an heirloom Venetian piece of exquisite craftsmanship …

gossamer lace used to adorn royal Victorian dresses , the detailing amazing because of the number of bobbins used, not 24 , good grief as many as 84 ! Once again I was starryeyed !

No wonder the Prince of Wales and His wife Camellia have visitedThomas ‘ shop to buy lace !

They liked my

‘petite point ‘ a lot , said Thomas proudly ‘ The Prince was very knowledgeable. He wanted to know how many counts there were in each inch . Of course I had an answer to his every question !

Thomas , you have mentioned French/Spanish / Italian / Swiss embroidery .. all European , but we in India have so many hand embroidered fabrics .

”Yes , yes , hand embroidery is as old as the hills .. it’s in China , Japan , in the Middle East , Turkey ,everywhere !These were luxury items catering to the elite choices of aristocrats , of royalty.

In India there are so many varieties of handembroidery …

Kantha from West Bengal,

Phulkari from Punjab ,

Aari from Kashmir!

In fact Chikankari from Lucknow is exactly similar to shadow work and probably originated here in India much earlier than it did in Europe !

In the court of Akbar too, brocades were enriched with gold threads ( zardosi ) , mirrors , precious gems !

As for the elaborately embroidered Parsee Gara sarees .. they are sold in Mumbai but toiled over right HERE in Kochi !

Did you know it takes 2 years to make an 8 metre saree border ?!

Once again , I gasped !

My head was swimming with images of beautiful borders , royal dresses,embroidered shoes.

The warm Kochi sun, the gentle whirring of the fan , the sinking in of all this information made me long for a cup of hot tea .

I mentioned this and Thomas instantly whisked out a beautiful teacosy complete with tray cloth .

It was simply irresistible!

It was now definitely TIME to BUY and buy I did … a dozen embroidered napkins, 6 placemats , a set of embroidered towels, 2 dresses for a three year old , a runner here , a lace doilie there !

Armed with all these pretty purchases I was set to invite my stylish nephew Ranveer all the way from California for a cup of tea . He is a boy of exquisite taste and has a keen eye for all things fine and beautiful !

There you go Ranveer …

”a pristine white ,scalloped tray mat with a pleasing embroidered napkin placed in an appliquéd pocket on the left hand corner.

Oh yes ….and


is your cup of tea!

😊 Byeeeee!