Let me be ME

Vietnam: Coffee and beyond

I was searching for a cycling trip, and as ever, my focus was on my favorite destination, Europe. But by the time I decided and finally made up my mind, it was already winters, and Europe was ruled out.

The extensive search began again for the best countries to travel in December. None other than south-east Asian countries reflected in my search.

My cycling friends suggested doing Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam.

And I was back in my exhaustive search. 

I was mailing to cycling touring companies, getting the best tour deals, searching for best deals on flights, AirBnB options, checking on reviews, bike hire, planning an itinerary. Phew! I was exhausted.

But finally, the plan was laid we were set of our trip, cycling in Vietnam

Excited as we board the flight

Day 1

With fewer flight options, we took a flight to Hanoi via Kolkata from Mumbai.

No one knew what was in store. Not even me, even though I had planned for the entire trip.

We reached Hanoi in the eve, and after a little glitch in coordinating with the pickup guy(as language was an issue), we were heading towards our stay.

We reached the small bylane, and our host leads us to our apartment.

With our host Thang

All the hotels and buildings in and around our stay were more vertical than horizontal, same as Hongkong. Our apartment had two rooms on each floor with three stories and a swirled staircase. We all captured one place each, luxury of staying in a condo than a hotel.

After a quick freshening up, we were out in search of food and beer. As we were walking around the street, we realized that we were staying in the central city, and we had lots of eating and drinking options.

The cosy Czech Bar
Happiness is BEER

We spotted a Czech bar and headed straight in without wasting much time.

Day 2

According to figures by the Ministry of Transport, there are 45 million registered motorcycles. For a country with a population of 96 million, that’s close to one bike for every two people. Hence our guide,Tom suggested we move out of the town and then start the ride.

All set for the ride

We reached our ride venue, assembled and checked our bikes, and were all set. The weather was terrific, and we traversed through beautiful small villages, rough patches, dirt roads, canopied trails, and places where you’ll not find tourists. We loved it. It was just our group that was riding on those beautiful trails.

We crossed Nin Bingh, did not go for the caves ride because it takes three hours for the tour, and we were running short on time. The ride around the mountains was breath-taking: beautiful, serene, and no traffic. 

Nin Bingh
All geared up

We carefully saw the banana and pineapple plantation.

Pineapple plantation

After a great riding day, we packed our bikes and cushioned ourselves in the van to ride back.

Day 3

We were up early and about for another riding day. Today we were to start our ride from the city and then move to the outskirts. While crossing the road, our guide was pretty impressed by our ability to crisscross the streets, after all, Mumbai traffic has taught us all!

We picked up the bikes from the cycle store and started our ride. We rode past the narrowest bridge I have ever seen, explicitly meant for two-wheelers. It rumbled, shook, and rattled as if it’ll breakdown any moment. I held my breath all through until I crossed it.

Resting after lots of Orange stealing from the farm
Crowded streets of Hanoi

We then rode across the periphery of the city, crossing the cabbage fields, talking to farmers (google translate came handy here), flower fields, stopping now and then for clicks or just soak in the beauty around. Weather played a significant role in making the ride favorable.

Sunflower fields behind
Chor chor.. Oranges Chor !!

Another fantastic riding day, and we were back with all smiles.

This eve we also went for a little stroll and watched the water puppet show. It’s just a 45mins show, and the artists clad in traditional dresses, playing traditional musical instruments narrate different scenes which are common in Vietnamese culture. Go for this show ONLY to experience the music. I booked the tickets in dance via Viator; you can choose your preferred timing and seating. Opt for the first row if possible to get you a clear and uninterrupted view.

Chilling at the night market after the water puppet show

We then chose to sit on the rooftop café and sip our coffees and also roam around the night market. The place was vibrant and lively. We loved the vibes around and spent almost entire eve here.

Day 4

It was a day to fly to a close-by island. We packed our backpack (as Veitjet Air allows only 7 kgs of handbag and you pay for everything else – that’s how low-cost airlines work) and headed to the airport. There are very few domestic airlines that fly between the islands; also, they are very poorly schedules and unorganized.

Off to Hoi An

But we had no choice, and with few glitches, we landed in HoiAn. Our host was excellent and very prompt in communication, and she also arranged a vehicle for the pick up at the airport. We enjoyed all these luxuries because Vietnam is not an expensive country to travel, and we were paying bills like a multi-millionaire in lakhs and billions. Uh, la la !

Our apartment was a beautiful two-floor bungalow and all to ourselves. While searching for lunch, we landed at a beachside restaurant with a breath-taking view. Vast, beautiful sea with lovely breeze made the environment all the more soothing. We had a heartfelt meal and were not at all keen to go anywhere else but just plonk ourselves on the couch.

The food and drinks- that’s all !
The beautiful sea

We somehow forced ourselves and landed on the cycle seats. We decided to explore the night and lantern market that day. It was a beautifully lit market with well-placed shops and neat lanes. 

I would suggest visiting the night market at HoiAn than Hanoi. 

Lantern Market- Hoi An

After exploring almost every lane and tasting the food and drinks, we rode back to our apartment.

It was a beautiful eve as we sat and chatted for a very long time and ended the day with a great spa.

Another amazing day 

Day 5

We took the day easy as the weather also demanded the same. We went for a stroll by the beach and had a sumptuous breakfast cooked at the apartment. We then got on to our bikes and, after a little discussion, decided to head towards the pottery village and coconut village. Knowing nothing about the route, we started riding. Our google map showed coconut village closeby, so we obeyed every direction instruction.

Cafe enroute coconut village

While on the way to the coconut village we saw a beautiful café and we stopped there to have a coffee. We chatted with the host and sipped our coffees. We then continued our ride in search of the coconut village. A lady midway guided us to the village, and we were there within no time. We hopped on the round boat and went an hour-long ride. The experience was terrific. A must-do when I Hoi An.

Making friends on the way

We had our lunch, which was the toughest part for me. Myself being the only vegetarian in the group found it challenging to remove chicken from the chicken fried rice and eat, but I had to as there was no other option. That’s how travel makes you learn and adjust to all types of situations.

Here and there, somewhere
Pottery Village

We strolled all through the town and were back to our apartment by evening to board the flight back to Hanoi.

Day 6

Cheers to not just one but many more rides to come

We planned for a short ride around the town but visited the local cycling shops instead. After a hitch start as there was an ATM fiasco that took time to get sorted, I left the situation as it is and headed for our destination. Another learning, struggle until you can else leave the issue and move ahead. We then walked around local markets and shops until it was time to leave for the airport.

The beautiful, mesmerizing, filled with laughter, secrets revealed, countless beers and so much chatter in this trip.

Our last lapse of the trip was here.

Day 7

Back to base

Back to the pavilion and reality.

Must do when in Vietnam:

  • You can land at Hanoi or HoChiMinh city; both are crowded and chaotic
  • Don’t expect clean and organized lanes. You’ll have a Bangkok and Mumbai feeling there
  • Do use google translate, and it helps a lot
  • People are amicable, sit with them, and talk. It’s a beautiful experience 
  • Leave the central city as soon as possible (if you are keen for main tourist attraction then visit water puppet show, night market and center of the town)
  • Look out for experience tours where they take you to local villages showing you the essence of a country. You can opt for walking or biking tours
  • Cave boat ride to Nin Bingh 
  • Halong Bay Cruise
  • Try egg coffee, coconut coffee and even other flavors of Vietnamese coffee
  • Eat local food, also if you are vegetarian like me do try the regional cuisines
  • Two days at each place is more than enough
  • You can club Myanmar and Combodia too
  • Check for hot air balloons over golden pagodas in Maynamaar
  • Hoi An has lots of high-end hotels as well so if you are keen for luxury can check those too
  • Shopping, eating is very cheap there so look out for pieces of stuff made out of bamboo
  • You can easily create a week’s trip in less than 60-65K, which will include your flight, stay, eating, shopping, and roaming around.

Useful sites

  • Skyscanner
  • Trip.com
  • Viator for local tickets
  • Airbnb for stay

Useful links for stay and local restaurants

I started running in 2014
I started running when I had given up on myself, was hopelessly hopeless, overweight, in inferior health form, when my legs used to wobble even at the shortest distance.
I got into proper and systematic training along with a monitored diet from 2017. A disciplined life without a single day of excuse come what may change my entire form for both body and mind.
Today in 2019, when I see my medal hanger, I cheer for myself,” Disha, you didn’t give up- not at all.”


As I write this piece on children’s day, I feel overwhelmed as deep within, and I know that my children are my strength. At every finish line, I virtually see loved ones. I hug them and always raise my arms to be grateful for surrounding me with so much innocent love.


My boys have seen me in my pain,
they have seen me crying,
they have seen me drained out after an event,
seen me sweating,
they have seen me eating sensibly,
they have seen my ice packs on swollen muscles,
they have seen my bruised knees,
they have seen my operated arm,
they have seen my fear of OWS(Open Water Swim) and Sid giving me tips as, “mom, just jump.”

The last push during the labor or the feel of that prick in a C-sec has no match to the smile I waited to see.
All that pain, discomfort, and the agony of that deformed body vanishes as soon as that tiny little thing is handed over, saying “your” baby.
As you both are growing up and I see a little bit of him and me in you, but I want you to grow up as only YOU.
You make me learn and grow each day.
You teach me how to love unconditionally. No matter we fight, scream and have a difference of opinion but you get up to hug me the same way each morning.


I strive to be a better human being each time because I know you are silently watching me.


I strongly believe in human relations, and you are tiny messengers of god himself. Someone who listens to me provides me strength in need and loves me beyond without being judgemental.
I fail several times in your expectations, but still, you never demean me. I have cried so many times in front of you, I have shared my failures with you and you boys stand with me like my most significant pillar of strength.
You boys make me push my boundaries because I know I need to match with your pace and energy; after all, the mother of boys cannot be at rest.


Thank you for calling me mom.
Thank you for coming to me as my babies
Thank you for giving me immense mental strength
Thank you for all fights, bouts, back answering yet ending with cuddles and warm hugs


Thank you, Sid ,Abhi and Tango


Happy children’s day to all of you and hug your kids a bit tighter today as many don’t have this privilege

Bull’s eye

After a very long time, I got an opportunity to watch something other than Marvel, Avengers, or those heavily animated movies. I don’t say that they are all crap, but for the sake of family time, we end up watching what the boys demand.

This weekend I had time for myself, and we decided to go for Sandh ki Ankh. watch the trailor https://youtu.be/-uA-ONin_5M

Bollywood lover in me was wholly engrossed in the movie, and as ever, I also assumed myself as one of the characters in the film. The movie plot comes to life, and whatever goes on screen seems to be happening with me as well.

This movie, Sandh Ki Ankh, is amazingly gripping, talks about the determination, struggle and fight for daily survival as well as personal existence of women living their life under the veil with no permission to express their opinion too.

I have been to one such village in one of my field visits and even stayed overnight at lady sarpanch’s house. I could relate to the situation. Check the video below, and this is the place I’ve stayed. https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-india-37701026/the-indian-women-refusing-to-wear-veils

The movie revolves around a typical village family and how men treat women. Women are nothing more than the cattle in the house and an object of desire for men. The plot changes when accidentally two grandmothers of the house discover their talent and expertise in shooting. It is quite interesting to watch how they manage to move out of the house to participate in shooting competitions even when they were not allowed to step outside their village all these years. They were now keen to train their daughters for this sport, and then the entire story shows their battle against the taboos and society. They wanted their daughters to lead a meaningful life. 

A life of purpose, passion, and above all, a life that gives them their identity.

“Yes, I’m a feminist because I see all women as smart, gifted, and tough.” ~ Zaha Hadid

The movie shows the daring of a woman. All the instances in the film clearly state the power a woman holds within her. I have always been a firm believer in the power of mind. I also believe in the transfer of energy.

When Sid(my elder son) went for boarding, he was unable to adjust despite being in an experiential environment and very cooperative teachers. It was difficult for even me back home as I missed him on all occasions and family outings. It was terrible. When I met his school counselor, she told me to “release” him

I pondered over it for a long time and realized that my love is binding him, and I am somehow transferring my insecurities to him. I started working on my circle of energy consciously, but somehow he gave up and was back home with us in the family.

Since then, I am very cautious about the kind of energy I am creating around because I know that Sid would be absorbing my vibes.

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” – Sophia Loren

The movie also said a similar story. The daughters absorbed the hardships of the females around them. What also came along was intense energy and self-power.

Bringing up children and instilling values is the duty of both parents. Still, as per my opinion and observation (views can vary ), a mother plays a vital role in the emotional well-being of a child.

A mother is a creator, and she has the power of the universe within her. She has the capability of nurturing and forming a complete human being from her own body- so, imagine how much strength she beholds.

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform.” ~ Diane Mariechild

Right now, as I write this blog, I feel actively responsible for my boys. Children learn a lot by just observing. At every point, one has to be careful and conscious of their actions as somehow, children are silently watching us. Having said this, it doesn’t mean that we fake – well! They are smarter, and they read this too. But, we can genuinely try to adopt the same behavior that we want in our children.

“Men are what their mothers made them.”

Whenever I think about “children observing me,” I keep humming, 

Every breath you take

Every move you make

Every bond you break

Every step you take

I’ll be watching you

A man and a woman may differ in physical strength, that’s how nature has done the creation, but the immense mental power a woman holds is unmatched. 

Rani Laxmi Bai – Grit

Mother Teresa – Humility

Helen Keller – Making the impossible possible

Nur Jahan- Only female Mugal ruler

Aisan Daulat Begum – major contributor in creating Babur’s personality

And I can go on quoting several examples, who have played a vital role in bringing in the major transformation in their family and society.

For any mom who feels even for a moment that there is no energy left or you don’t have any vital role to play anymore then please go and watch Sandh Ki ankh, because it’s a reminder to direct my and your energy to hit the bullseye.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ―Winston S. Churchill

Giving is a gesture which one should have, and we must ensure to teach the same to our children as well.

Donation, be it in kind or otherwise, should be done generously and with all the positive feelings.

When I was young, I always used to ask my mother why the food which she cooks taste so yummy? 

Her reply was simple, “I pour my love into the food.”

Now that I am a mother, I understand what she meant then.

Although I don’t get much opportunity to cook and I not a great cook as well but whenever I do, my boys relish the food.

I can recall another similar thing from my younger days. My brothers and I were always instructed to ask for water for anyone who comes to the house. We never had housemaids to serve then. Several times, it used to get embarrassing for the parents because we used to insist the guest to have water even is they were unwilling.

We were also told always to bend down gracefully rather than a straight back, put a smile, and then serve.

Back then, like a stubborn teenager, I always thought that my parents are overdoing things. Now, when I try to tell the same things to my boys or practice on my own, I can understand the essence of that gesture.

When you give something to someone, you are transferring the energy from one body to the other. It also the transfer of emotions, feelings, and willingness.

Recently, we had a food grain donation drive in our building, and the organizers were seeking volunteers, especially children. Why children? Because I believe that children are the most innocent souls, and they can be molded, taught, or exposed to all good things easily.

Without even asking my boys, I enrolled their names. I explained to them about the drive. The organizers were collecting food grains to distribute in flood-affected areas of Maharashtra. Children were supposed to go and ask for a donation, receive it from open arms, and keep in the trolley. After the drive, the organizers told me that my boys did a fabulous job, and the younger one anyhow being a chirpy chatter did a great pitch too.

When I asked my boys about the experience, they were thrilled too.

I wasn’t aiming for a HUGE transformation but to instill a subtle feeling of humility.

One step at a time. That’s what parenting is all about, and we are continually growing and learning with our children.

At my recent IDBI half marathon on the expo day, there was an option to donate old shoes. I liked the idea and replicated the same at my workplace, and initiated a shoe donation drive. We collected shoes, then refurbished and repaired them. Once done, we packed them neatly in carry bags along with shoe size and donated in the nearby slums with the help of a local NGO.

It was an enthralling experience as children were very excited to get the shoes that too so beautifully packed and like new ones.

I also like the concept of Goonj, where the rules for donation are very well defined. They ask the donors to wash, iron, and fold the clothes adequately and then donate.

Donation is not about discarding the waste from your house and making it clean. It’s about making someone else privileged by what you think is not essential for you anymore now.

Donate a smile

Donate a gift

Donate your love

Donate your time

Donate your skills

And the gratification is immense.

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” ―Albert Einstein

Finish with finesse

Blurr…breathless…giddy…wobbly legs…


At 4kms mark, I struggled to even take a single step ahead.
Absolutely, clueless on why and what was happening, I saw the aid station and sipped water, had a spoon full of jaggery and just stood at one place. Then I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, focused myself and started to walk slowly and then gradually into slow running.
This was my state in IDBI Mumbai Half marathon race on 25th August 2019.
I was very well aware that I wasn’t training the way I should. Sleep is an important factor when you are in tough training. The body recovers and recuperates the most during sleep. But I have very tender sleep and with exams going on for boys I end up sleeping late and getting up early.
This race was important because I have taken up an initiative to raise volunteers awareness and club them with the NGOs in need across Delhi and Mumbai through A-Race-A-Month hence I had to finish the race.
As I started walking after my panic attack, I also paid lots of attention to what my mind was thinking. I am a firm believer in Mind-Over-Matter and Mind-Over_body.
My mind was wandering in all possible direction and especially towards the negative side which was draining my energy
While walking I took deep breaths and tried very hard to focus on the finish line. I also chant a mantra,”kadam bade hain toh rukege nahin”.
It always does wonders and did this time too as from walking I started running, slowly but steadily. This time I set my Garmin on only HR zone and not on pace or distance.
I kept crossing one after the other milestone and when it was 18kms mark I just pumped myself, took a very deep breath, smiled as wide as possible as cheered for myself the way I do to Sid, “run darling, mamma is right here, just run”
I also said to myself, “Disha, you’ve done it, finish it off with style now”
and I did finish.

The Finish Line !!!!@IDBI Mumbai Marathon


On my recent work trip, I finished another race in extreme weather conditions.
I was in Prague for a work trip and wanted to participate in some run during that period of stay. I searched and I got one from RunCzech.
On the day of the race, the weather was acting lousy. It was very cold, with the chilled breeze and slight drizzle making it all the more unbearable
We Mumbaikars know only three types of weather, Hot, Hot+Humid and Very Hot and somehow I can’t bear cold weather.
On the race day, my fingertips were numb and I was wrapped in three layers if not less. I came back to the hotel early from the field, took a quick shower, had a coffee shot and took the metro to the venue.
The Europeans were in shorts and vest and I was in full pants and running tee also wearing a windcheater.
But the atmosphere was electrifying and as I heard the gunshot something triggered in me and I started with the crowd with loud cheering and clapping.
I ran with all my heart and smile in the twilight.
In my last mile, I sprinted and I always do this as somehow I imagine my loved ones standing at the finish line with open arms.

Finish Line yet again!! @RunCzech


I always end up with wet eyes at the finish line. It is not just a finish line for me but a victory over self, firmness of mind and determination to do better next time.


That’s why I run and train,
It helps me to tame my mind.
It allows me to channelize my energy and thought process.
It nurtures my soul
This finish line was special and so is every finish.


Kudos to each one who defy their shortcomings, be it of any type and reach that line with finesse and wear that medal as a batch of honor.


You know, You are fantastic !!

You are trying your best each day.

Women- Pack your bags!

Travel, the word is quite a buzz these days.
And it comes in various forms.
Adventure, luxury, experience, exploration name it the way you want.
Nowadays, everyone loves to travel as can be seen in the status updates!
Each one has their way of traveling and exploring places.

But, I am precisely writing this piece to target women moreover moms.
I want to suggest, recommend, and tell each mom to pack their bags and move out.
Ok, now I’ll surely get lots of bashing from all categories here,
Men– “why just women?”
Husband: “bigad do hamari biwi ko”
Parents– “hum toh kabhie nahin gae”
Neighbors– “Look at her!”
Others– “Batao, Kaise Chali jaati hai” (this BATAO variety is amazing-humor intended)
Well! Whatever anyone says, I would still firmly say to pack your bags!

Why am I adamant on mommies to travel?

I feel motherhood is a very tedious job, and a mom is automatically the worst person in the house.
Mom is a creature who is checking, correcting, scolding, getting hyper on even small issues, and is found screaming most of the time. We are never good leave aside perfect in anything.
For instance,
Kids,
got bad grades
getting complaints from the school
fighting with other children
health being bad
not learning new hobbies
-Is always mommy’s fault.
With all this, we go on the guilt trip quickly.


Thus, to overcome all these I-am-not-at-all-worthy feeling, pack your bags.
Planning a trip for yourself will help you in lot many ways.

Let’s see how?

Know yourself more

You will explore the options for travel and will conclude on one which is closest to your liking. Here you will get a chance to know your liking as an individual and not a collective as a family.

Better decision-maker

You will choose a trip and then convince yourself that you are going to make it. You will also convince your family about your decision. Making a decision and then executing it makes you a great decision-maker. When you are on your own then taking quick decision during the trip also helps you building your skill as a decision maker.

While in Goa we had quite a few changes to make in our plan and we were able to do it without any hitch

Efficient manager

You will ensure that everything runs in the house the same way even when you are away. You would instruct your maids not to take any off, inform the grocery guy to deliver things whenever asked and many more such things. Like, I write down every single thing right from the menu to essential phone numbers for easy accessibility. My maids do not take any off when I am away, and children have a set of instructions to follow.

Financial planner

Working or not working, each woman has to manage her finances very well. When you travel on your own, you will use either a part of your salary or your pocket money, in either way you have to manage funds very well.
Like, I go frugal whenever I am planning a trip. I am a back-to-work-mom and unable to get to the mainstream. Hence my income is every restricted. I have to manage both my athletics training and travel expenses efficiently. Much before my travel dates, I stop my coffee at Starbucks, cut down majorly on eating out, look for Zomato discount options, and opt for early hours to watch a movie. I have not bought a new dress for months now(which is like Arghhhhh…) not even a single piece of new jewellery(BATAO!!!) I even have to cut down on my beauty parlour visits. Sound crazy? But I have to prioritise things-can’t help.

Making family members responsible

Each member of the family must have their share of responsibilities. Children and other family members often take us for granted when we are always around .Let the children learn to get up on their own for school, put their tiffin boxes in their bag, serve food from the kitchen than maid or mom giving them and many more.
Let them learn to manage things on their own and take small decisions too.

A better version of you

Once you are out and on your own, you learn a lot of things about yourself which in general you miss observing. For instance, in all my travels, I have realized that I love walking far and wide to explore. I also don’t like going to all world famous places instead I like walking in the countryside or not so known places. The famous places we have already seen either in books or on social media; hence, it doesn’t feel,” Wow! I am seeing this for the first time.”

At the leaning Tower of Pisa. No sooner I reached I saw myself moving out of the rush

Builds up confidence

Planning and executing everything by yourself immensely builds up confidence, which withers away in many women after a while. I have observed this mainly in homemakers, where dependency for each and everything is too high, and they keep seeking “time” from their partner which generally doesn’t happen thereby making them low on confidence and left out.

Dear mommies, imagine your smile when you’ll enter back home after your trip and with a head held high that you managed every minute planning for the journey on your own and not even airport or station pick and drop.

Lookup for destinations, book your tickets, apply for the Visa, pack your bag, book uber, wear the widest smile and off you go!

Need not be far and wide but GO


Adios Amigos !!!

Nothing comes easy!

“You’ve lost so much weight!
You look so toned
Your abs are finally showing
You look super fit”

I am overwhelmed and accept all the above compliments in absolute humility.

But let me say this- Nothing comes easy, just nothing.

Few are lucky to get everything on the platter, but I don’t fall into that category. I have to struggle hard and very hard for every single thing, same applies to shedding weight and getting into shape.

And it burned my arse to attain the body I wanted although the journey isn’t over yet.

Trust me, it ain’t a cake walk!I am writing this piece precisely for those who have started following a proper regime, picked up running, have got into a routine, or have started with a diet plan after seeing my results.

I feel good that my little contribution has got a few if not many, into a healthy lifestyle.

So, let’s start with the journey,
2005- 84 kgs after Sid was born, age- 26 years
Did nothing towards a healthy lifestyle as I was reeling under severe postpartum depression(which went unnoticed)
2009- 86 kgs after Abhi was born, age – 29 years
No clue about myself leave aside following a healthy lifestyle, post-partum depression worsened.
2015- 79 kgs, age-36 years
Went for Bhutan mountain biking trip was and ended each ride in the support vehicle.
This year I started running and also followed some basic workout routine
2017- 72 kgs, age 38 years
I realised something was missing hence contacted a dietician and began with the plan. I also got a personal trainer at the gym and got into serious training.
2018-62kgs, age 39 years
Now the triathlon bug was already in so I was now following baap-of-all training plans. Gym, cycle, run, swim without missing a single day.
2019-59kgs, age-40years
I still have a long way to go as my body needs more effort to build up the stamina and come into shape.I can blame it on my genes.

All this required great mental strength.

Following a proper workout plan and that too for a triathlon was not easy at all. I had to discipline myself further and schedule my day according to work, travel, and kids.

I followed the diet plan for a year, and afterward took things in my stride.
No processed sugar, not even on any festivals, no late dinner, no late nights, no carbonated drinks and a lot more.

During my work travel, I did not miss my workout. Being a vegetarian foreign country doesn’t leave you with many options, but I was mindful of what I was eating and never gained weight.


There were several personal battles to be won as well,
I am asked time and again, why training so much? Stay at home, look after children, take care of the house, why do you have to go to another city or country for a race? What will you gain out of this? Take your children along for runs. Why are you spending so much on your races and training?


“IT WAS NEVER EASY, IT NEVER WILL BE”

If you are looking for a transformation, physical or mental, then discipline and hard work is the key.


Just keep going, pause, restart but keep going

There will be plenty of setbacks to stop you, but the choice is yours to look beyond them or succumb to them.
Each body, stamina, genes, metabolism is different so listen to your body and then decide what suits you.

Following a regime is not about fitting into the a glamours dress but to tame your mind. After all, it’s all the mind game.

I wish you all the best!
Thanks again for keeping me as an example to lead a healthy life.

That’s all !

Board results were just out, social media and WhatsApp filled with accolades, praises for children scoring well, and parents claiming their happiness and proud feeling. I also came across posts where few children could not make it to the 90s club, but still, parents were happy and satisfied.
Most of the counselors played a significant role here. Few preached on not putting the burden on the children, while few asked parents to cool down, few even asked children to take it easy.
Well, after acquiring my diploma in counseling psychology, I’ve started a few ProBono counseling sessions. My advice to parents and children is quite straightforward.
For this entire number game and grading system, of pressurising children and children feeling exhausted, I had a great conversation with few parents. Sharing some experts,

  • Children should not feel burdened
    Pull them out of the school . It’s a simple solution and makes everyone happy.
    Dear parents, if your child is under a particular education system(read school), then he/she has to follow what is needed. If the school is rushing to complete the syllabus, then we as parents have to have Plan B.
    Approach, prepare a systematic study plan and follow the pattern strictly. A study plan will enable the child to be at ease when the exam approaches and will not feel burdened. Act smart and don’t get carried away by your child’s whining.
  • Don’t pressurize your child
    I say, why not?
    If you have accumulated enough wealth and are sure that you’ll be able to fulfil all the needs of your child even if he/she is unable to earn on his/her own, then our discussion ends here.
    But if not, then the study is the only key.
    Approach, don’t let your child ever feel that things are easy. Pressurize them constructively. Tell them that hard work is essential, and nothing comes easy in life. Give them examples from your friends’ circle and relatives. Few might have studied in best colleges and doing very well while few might have attained success with hard work. Children need to understand the significance of hard work and discipline.
  • Grades are essential of course! They are!
    Oh ! common we are in the Indian education system where grades are essential and no matter how much your claim to defer but you know the fact.
    For a working class, family children have to do well at studies, and a common approach is challenging to absorb. Will you panic if your child flunks or you’ll be just fine?
    Approach, tell them the significance of good grades categorically. Give them a clear view . For instance, good grades will get you into a right college and choose a professional line which will make your life easier. If you get poor grades, this doesn’t mean your life is tough, but you may have to work harder to make your ends meet. Give them a practical insight and nothing flowery. Talk to them like adults. Career counseling may help here. We as adults and with more than half a life done, still can’t figure out what we want in life then think how a 15-year-old kid can decide?He/she will need our guidance.
  • There is always a second chance
    Really? Will they appear for board exams again?
    You have to tell them that this is their chance to do their best and put in the best efforts. The climb to the tallest mountain is tough, but the view is fantastic.
    Approach, guide, counsel, reinforce point number one and two repeatedly. Children will rebel, but that’s why they have parents. We are here to hold the leash tight when needed. They cannot take chances for granted. It’s a way of upbringing and preparing them for later stages of life.
  • Then to lead a good life, only money and good grades are essential?
    “Yes, darling, these are the basic needs. Let’s do one thing, you don’t put effort, and I don’t go to the office, how is that?”
    We can stay happy and stress-free when our basic needs are met else the struggle to survival will make you depressed, anxious, less on confidence and self-esteem, miserable at handling relations.
    Approach, tell them that you do not need lots of money to be happy, but you need to have something to cater to your needs. Parents can support children up to a certain level, but afterwards, they have to manage on their own.

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Albert Eistein

Parents who worry too much on “pressure” burden” “number-game” terms, I always ask them to reply to the following questions:

  1. Are you okay if your child doesn’t do well in academics?
  2. Are you alright with your child on not showing seriousness towards his/her studies? This is also a behaviour trait for being responsible.
  3. Are you alright with lack for hard work from your child?
  4. Will you able to provide the same facility and lifestyle life-long to your child?
  5. By supporting your child always, do you think he/she can sustain the pressure once you are not around?

Parenting is a tough job, and each one of us is striving to do our best.
We need a holistic approach for their upbringing. Children observe us very, so we have to be very patient to understand our child.
Their happiness depends on how we handle this entire rat-race of our education system. We, as parents, need to give our children constant positive reinforcement, believing in them, catering for the inner well-being and continuous mental support.
Give children a practical approach towards life, talk and discuss like adults, they will do wonders when they grow up.
Our children are the proud possessions we need to handle them with care and prepare them well for life ahead.
All the best to us!

If you think that only big money, plush seats, a comfortable hotel can give you an enjoyable experience of travel, then you are wrong.
You are then just visiting a particular place as a tourist and not experiencing it.
Myself being an avid traveler is always careful and stringent on the budget.
Have a look at our five day trip to the Netherlands along with my partner-in-crime Deepa.

Preparations
A trip which we decided four months back due to several home and work, factors got finalised only a month before the travel; hence we faced slight higher flight tickets.
Nevertheless, we compensated it by booking a lower price, off-the central city Airbnb stay.
We bought Maggie packets, dry snacks and I packed some poori and parantha with achar as well.

Day one – Take off and Tulip garden
Both of us finished our day’s job both at work and home, did all the background preparations and started packing our bags in the evening for an early morning flight.
Earth came shattering down when Deepa could not find her passport. It was only after an hour or so that things were in place and finally we were going!
We boarded our 2 am flight.
Twisted, walked, stretched, tried to sleep, watched back to back movies and finally landed in Paris at 8 am.
We were not keen to waste a day hence thought of taking a quick shower at the airport, but after searching a lot, we could not find any FREE shower facility at the airport other than business lounges. We are very frugal travelers, so we decided that we are fresh enough to carry on with the day(good realisation 🙂 )
We then boarded the flight to Amsterdam and reached Schipol airport at 1 pm.
We changed at the airport, grabbed our day bag and deposited our suitcase in the locker (6 Euro for a cabin size bag).
We then enquired about the best way to commute to Keukenhof (Tulip garden) and got the details right outside the airport.
We took a map, bought the tickets(52 Euro for two) which included day-long site seeing and bus transport to and fro from Schipol airport.

Keukenhof- Tulip Garden

Much before reaching the place the Bollywood lover in me was visualizing Rekha and Amitabh in “Dekha Ek khwab” song from Silsilay.
Ufff, the Goosebumps.
But in reality, it was myself and Deepa admiring the tulips, sipping coffee, clicking pics and collecting souvenirs. This place is beautiful, do not forget to grab a coffee, walk as much as possible and sit for a while to soak the array of colors.

Tulip garden
We had great fun running around this maze and finding each other i
Walk-Rest-Walk

We came back to the airport picked our bags and then took a train to Utrecht, that’s where we were staying.
Our apartment was a kilometer walk from the train station hence we dragged our trolleys and walked to the Air BnB
We faced a different type of traffic jam here with no honking or pollution. The streets filled with cyclists and we had to be careful not to bump into one.
We picked some grocery items for breakfast from a nearby supermart(again a tactics for cost-cutting).

Train to Utrecht , Deepa trying to figure out if we were on the right track
Traffic jam of a different kind

Our apartment was small but clean and had all the essential stuff needed to make ourselves comfortable.
It was a long day; hence we slept off within no time.
Not to miss: sipping coffee by the garden and admire the colors
Can avoid: canal boat ride

Day 2 – I Amsterdam

We were up at 3.30am, being school drop timing in India, but we forced ourselves to sleep more reminding that WE ARE ON A HOLIDAY!
After having our breakfast of boiled eggs, bread with peanut butter and a glass of milk we were all set for the day(our standard breakfast every day)
We took a train to Amsterdam(8.60 Euro one way). We had booked a tour of Van Gogh museum (23 USD for a day-long pass). We spent a good time walking around the museum. The walky-talky came handy(10 Euro) as it gave a better insight into his paintings, work, and life.
We then strolled around the city, through the gardens, by lanes, sitting by the lake, chatting and just being ourselves.
By early evening we headed to Dam square as we had booked a FREE Red light district tour (we researched a lot for Free Tours- saves a lot of money).
The tour was fantastic. We learned a lot about the history of prostitution, the significance of red windows, chapel in the brothel and much more.
Prostitution and drugs are way too hyped in Amsterdam, but when we did the tour, it appeared that it is just a profession. Well, I must write a separate blog on this subject.
We strolled at leisure all over Amsterdam and finally took the last train back to our apartment
A day well spent
Not to miss: Red Light District Tour, Dam square, Bagel with cheese, VanGogh Museum
Can avoid: Anne Frank’s house, Canal ride, expensive tours

Van Gogh Museum
Relaxing by the lake
The famous fries shop in Amsterdam
Poori achar ,imported from India !!

Day 3- Zaanse schans windmills , Volendam ,Marken , Edam and Haarlem

We took the train to Amsterdam and then boarded the bus to Zaanse Schans (all the information is readily available on google, and also at the train station, you need to walk around and enquire)
We reached the windmills and walked around. We goofed up a little on the return bus but finally made it to Marken.
Marken is a small laid back town, and I wanted to cycle around. We hired a bike and cycled from Marken to Edam and back. It was at this point when Deepa admitted that cycling was the best way to explore Europe, and I agreed.
We took a ferry ride to the harbor city, Volendam, walked a bit and then came back to our apartment via Amsterdam
A beautiful day by the countryside and also cycling around, my kind of a day!
Not to miss: Cheese shop at Zaanse Schans, cycling around Edam, smooth and quiet walk around Volendam, waffle with cream
Can avoid: street shopping at Marken(we faced racism)

WindMills at Zaanse Schans
Cycling from Marken to Edam
Harbour city

Day 4- Hague and Delft

As per our itinerary, our day four was dedicated to cycle to the countryside but as we did that earlier we were open to anything.
After a lot of research, we decided to do a tour of North Holland which is, Hague, Delft, Rotterdam, Gouda
After reaching the station, we realized that our to and fro cost was too high. With the help of the ticket attendant, we decided for a whole day ticket which allowed multiple entries in the train, tram, and bus (48.8 Euro for two of us).
We exploited the ticket to the maximum and left no mode of transport to use under the offering (use, use, reuse)
As we reached Hague, we were delighted to see the universities around and also excellent shopping. But as we are very, budget travelers hence shopping and that too euro was not on our agenda.
We came to know about a beach close by, and we headed there. The sun was finally our after chilly days; hence we sat there for a long time, soaking ourselves in the sun and sinking in the sand.


Once satiated we were now heading towards Delft famous for its blue and white pottery.
We walked till the centrum, had our coffee and snacks and then took the train back to our apartment.

Soaking the sun at the beach
The blue and white pottery at Delft
Somewhere in Hague

At night, we had a heartful of Maggie(imported from India), wine and chatted with the owner of our apartment. It great to exchange the culture, upbringing, outlook towards life and the belief system of people of different countries.
It was a beautiful evening.
Not to miss: Walking around Hague(you’ll be surprised at budget supermarkets and branded shops), beach, blue and white pottery in Delft
Can avoid: overindulgence in the pottery(it’s too beautiful, and you’ll end up buying a lot)

Day 5- Adieu

We packed our bags, had breakfast and went for a quick stroll around the city. We finally took the train to the airport. This time we were flying directly from Schiphol to Mumbai.
With all the beautiful memories of tulips, cycle ride, cheese, wine, walking, red light district, windmills, ferry ride, stroll across a deserted town, missing the bus, going on the wrong route, late-night Maggie, we bid adieu to Holland.

Bye-bye to all the madness and fun

Some tips for a budget travel (detailed blog soon)

  1. Select a destination in advance as per your wish list
  2. Look out for best ticket rates across all airlines and websites
  3. Plan your savings as per the target. Like I start putting a particular amount from my earnings for my travel so that last minute expense doesn’t burden me.
  4. Select a budget and be very strict on it
  5. Use public transport as much as possible
  6. Walk as much as possible it serves two purposes: first, you don’t miss your workout keeping the calories in place second, it is the best way to explore any area
  7. Travel less and light, two jeans, two tees, that’s it – no garment, not even human beings get dirty in Europe.
  8. Research-research and google as much as possible for best tours, free tours, train tickets. Deepa is an avid traveler, and I learned this habit from her on this trip

Our expenses :

Flight tickets – 50K (you can easily get a 37K return if you book in advance )
Stay – 24K (I always prefer Air BnB, saves a lot of money)
Miscellaneous – 13K(train tickets, tours)
Shopping –(not counting as it is very subjective)
Total: 87K

Take away: Be a local when going global.
choose experience over luxury

I understood the charm of cycling and also saddle sore during my first trip to Bhutan.
A Mumbaikar who had never done any climbs and a casual bike-to-work person was on her MTB managing on those massive climbs. This mountain biking experience made me realize first my potential and second the love for biking.
I then got a foldie and started regularly biking to work. I even did a Rajasthan tour on the bike and boy! I and my bike attracted quite a lot of eyeballs.https://www.idiva.com/news-entertainment/this-mom-cycled-across-rural-rajasthan-and-her-experience-will-give-you-major-travelgoals/15122153?fbclid=IwAR0QhmZFcGOLxjrLTrsHyxhQrpg0dCOVKuLGKkY0dds-4D4KF3e9cU4kUX4

I dreamt to explore Europe on the bike and this dream shaped into reality in August 2018.

How did we/I decide on the tour?

We asked like-minded people for the tour and formed a group. We had discussions over discussions, meetings over meetings, searching the web for the best possible route. The first tour in a foreign land, I had to keep lots of factors into consideration, especially the cost.
This time again I was the only female in the group, and the planning part automatically came to me.
We searched lots of sites for the best route but could not find any. Sapinderji, one of our riding partner suggested riding around Austria and Italy as his close family lived there. I liked the suggestion because I was still unsure about the dynamics of riding in a foreign country. Hence we decided to ride from Innsbruck to Verona with total traveling days from 9th -19th August 2018(kids’ exams were scheduled from 20th August, and anyhow I had to be back then)

Final call

Out of all the people discussing only three of us were left for the trip, and they were also unsure. Here I took a stand as I was very clear that even if no one comes, I’ll go ahead for the trip.
It takes hell lot of planning, effort, pleading, managing to move out of the house and somehow for men it gets straightforward.
But then Bansal uncle and SapinderJi agreed, and we were set to go.

Day 1 (09th August 2018)
Take off to Milan

Myself and Bansal uncle boarded the flight from Mumbai to Milan. We took a taxi to Verona which was pre-booked for us by Dimpy Singh (cousin of Sapinder Ji). It took us 2.2 hours to reach Verona.
I had already booked the apartment at Verona, and we directly reached there.
Check the link for the apartment, https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/21501982?s=51
The condo was strategically located, and it was a beautiful place to stay as well.
We finalized the bikes in the evening with Haider (owner at a local bike shop). We chose basic touring bikes where we could arrange our panniers as well.
We skipped the support vehicle to save the cost.

Selecting the bike in Verona

Day 2(11th August 2018)
Drive to Innsbruck

We loaded our bikes in the car and drove to Innsbruck which is approx. 3.4 hours drive from Verona.
Innsbruck(Austria) is Europe’s one of the most beautiful city.
It was cold here at night, and our apartment was very cozy. Our host was wonderful, and we had no problem in either locating or staying in the apartment.
Check the link, https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/19621713?s=51
The morning view was splendid.

On the way to Innsbruck

Day 3 (12th August 2018)
Innsbruck to Bressanone- 84.2 km

Day one of our ride and we were pretty excited. We got up early, packed our panniers and layered ourselves a little as it was cold. We had an excellent breakfast of freshly brewed coffee and croissants before the ride.
Oh! What a splendid morning it was, crisp sun, slight cold breeze, beautiful mountains, mesmerising scenery. I was already excited for the ride.
As soon as we started the ride, we found ourselves climbing the Brenner pass. We were not aware of the route hence were not expecting any climb. But the treacherous climb refused to end, and we climbed up for 40 km with basic bikes and panniers mounted.
We finally terminated the ride one station before Brixen, loaded our bikes in the train and headed for our halt.
Check our stay, https://www.airbnb.co.in/users/show/174956600

Here we were again hosted by Sapinder ji’s cousin and treated ourselves with rajma chawal and superb scotch.
Brixen is a laid back, quiet and a breathtakingly beautiful city.

Strava 1 <a href="http://”>http://

Strava 2<a href="http://”>http://

Day 4(13th August 2018)
Brixen to Bolzano- 44.44 km

We started at ease in the morning. It was a crisp, beautiful day and after manoeuvring for a while, we found ourselves on an exclusive cycling highway running parallel to the main road meant for other vehicles.
Oh ! what a delight to ride on a narrow lane meant only for cyclists. No rush or worry about any vehicles is honking or speeding. We had an incredible, delightful, hassle free and a fabulous ride. Each one of us was enjoying the route, and at one point we three were riding at our own pace and zooming freely.
The vineyards and apple orchards ran parallel to the highway, and Bansal uncle decided to be a naughty boy to pluck few and keep them in the panniers.
I was on guard and raised the alarm if I saw anyone approaching us. What fun, turning into mischievous little kids !! I was singing, clicking pics, taking videos and couldn’t stop my grin ear to ear.
We went through the local villages soaking into the vibrancies of colors and breathtaking architecture.
Sapinder ji’s young nephew also joined us on this ride, and it was great to learn a few Italian words for him. He also helped ask for directions.
We met many cyclists on the way, and we waved and greeted each other.
Here we had to change our stay option as the young chap with us was tired and our stay was a little far from the city.
But, everything happens for good and the place we decided to stay is beyond any description in words.
It was a wooden cottage owned by a couple who had apple orchards in the backyard and a beautiful extensive spread garden with amazing flowers.
We were served freshly baked bread with homemade butter and jam, fresh apricots from the garden and surely an excellent coffee for breakfast.
I felt like Alice in Wonderland!

Somewhere on the way to Bolzano

Strava <a href="http://”>http://

Day 5(14th August 2018)
Bolzano to Terento(route changed to Verona)-69.96 km

After a sumptuous breakfast, we were back on the cycling highway.
We met a family from London with three kids, and they were on a cycling holiday as well. We also met two friends somewhat over 50 years old and loved the way they were chatting and riding, also stealing apples and keeping them in the bag.
The whole experience of riding on the highway was stress-free. We were not chasing starva ratings, speed or QOM but we were pursuing happiness in riding across this beautiful country.
We stopped more than we cycled.
Each one of us was displaying a very happy hormone in the body language.
There was a particular midway café meant only for cyclists. It had cycle trainers, cycle stands and necessary servicing too.
At this café, our young champ gave up, and then our trip itinerary changed.
We decided to go to Terento and board the train to Verona and drop him home.
At night we were back to Verona where Dimpy ji’s famous restaurant called Maharaja welcomed us with best food and drinks.

Bicycle cafe

Strava <a href="http://”>http://

Day 6(15th August 2018)

Verona to Desenzano- 52.35 kms

We started from Verona to Desenzano aka Lake Garda early morning.
It was also Independence Day of India, so I hanged the Indian flag on my bike and proudly took it wherever I went.
It was a holiday season in Italy at that time, and everyone was in a holiday mood. We lost our way as usual and landed in a roadside café. There was a group of men over 70years I guess sitting and sipping their wine. Laughter, chatting and sparkling wine filled the restaurant at 9 am. Even without knowing the language we talked a lot and finally started our way ahead. We cycled through deserted, decorated and as well as villages full of life and colors. It was sweltering, and the sun was piercing the skin, but every pedal was worth taking. We finally reached Lake, and again this place stunned us with its beauty and charm. Colorful flowers, beautiful streets, all people in the holiday mood and the spectacular lake.oh ! it was stunning.
Our apartment was clean, strategically located and comfortable.
After a quick shower, we headed out for evening walk, followed by dinner and wine. It was a beautiful eve with live bands playing at every nook and corner, children dancing all over, young and the old shaking their booties too.
I heard a band playing “Happy” from Despicable 2. I rushed and requested to sing again because boys and I love singing this song together.

Enroute Desenzano

Strava <a href="http://”>http://

Day 7(16th August 2018)

Desenzano to Verona 46.46km

We got up easy the next day, had our coffee at leisure and cycled way back to Verona. We took a different route this time (as if we knew the way back, Ha!) and within no time we were in Verona.
It was scorching hot, and Dimpy Ji hosted us again with best of lemonades and salads.http://www.maharajah1.com/
We quickly took a shower and then walked all over Verona for site-seeing. Right from Gelatos, to wishing at Juliet, sipping wine, visiting an internationally famed pub, we did all until we were dead to retire for the day.
We stayed at the same apartment the next day as well.

Desenzano

Strava <a href="http://”>http://

Day 8 (17th August 2018 )

Our changed itinerary gave us two rest days, and we headed towards Florence to set the leaning tower of Pisa upright.
At Florence, Mr. Jyoti Singh owns a restaurant called Havelihttps://florenceindianrestaurant.it/ which is again a must visit. He served us with the best possible Indian food both veg and non-veg, and his hospitality floored us. After convincing him that we could not eat anymore, we headed for Pisa and also the town. Florence architecture is worth admiring and leaves one in complete awe.
We had a beautiful day roaming and driving around Florence and headed back to Verona by evening.
We packed our bags at night as our trip was now taking a different route.

Leaning Tower of Pisa- Florence

Day 9(18th August 2018)

We bid adieu to Verona and thanked our host. Myself and Bansal uncle boarded the train to Venice. Yes, we were now heading to the city of Gandolas.
Our Air BnB apartment here was nothing less than an excellent, super clean and beautiful five-star hotel https://cadegliantichigiardini-venezia.com/
With the sun in its full fury, we decided to stay indoors. I soaked myself in the bathtub for the longest possible time and took a great nap.
We headed out to explore the city on foot in the eve.
It is indeed a beautiful city with Gondolas ferrying from one part to another. We walked to almost one corner of the town to another finally had our dinner and came back to our comfortable room.

Bidding adieu to Dimpy Ji and his highly recommended restaurant Maharaja in Verona

Day 10(19th August 2018)

It was time to do the final packing as we were heading back home. With most beautiful experiences, memories, routes, food, missing the way, finding a new one, meeting new people, we boarded the flight back to Mumbai.

Flying off from MarcoPolo

Budgeting

I had set a budget of maximum 1L for the trip.We tweaked our flight destinations to match our budgets. We also chose Air BnB for our stay with kitchen. Sharing our expense,

Flights(economy)StayMiscellaneous
Mum-Milan(Emirates)
MarcoPolo-Mum
INR 48120INR 32000 INR 26000
Total-INR 106120

Some pointers for a smooth yet enriching experience

  • Form a group of like minded people- gives a lot of comfort
  • Be strict on the budget
  • Book tickets in advance and do a comparative analysis as well
  • Do an excellent survey for stay options preferably take one with a kitchen; it saves a lot of costs
  • Travel light
  • Be mobile and carry walking shoes to cover a lot of distance walking
  • Be open to immediate change in plans
  • When traveling with men, be very clear- they never grow up, ever! (you’ll have to play mommy role time and again)
  • Keep all the things sorted back home. Emergency doctor contact, inform friends about your travel, drop a message at school group for the last minute project submission help, maids should not take off. Trust me as long as things run well behind you; you’ll be at peace.

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