Thursday, December 31, 2020

My Life This Year

"This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond." ~ Rumi

My year 2020 stared with this beautiful thought and as the year progressed, it became more and more relevant not just for me but for the whole world. For me personally 2020 was like a roller coaster ride. There were days when everything seemed lost and there were days when I felt on top of the world. There were all kinds of emotions and feelings at different times of this year. Peace, fulfilment, happiness, frustration, anger, sadness I experienced it all, and as Rumi said I took it as a guide and learnt something from each. I surely am a better and a matured person today. Thanks to 2020!


March started with the sad news of COVID spreading world over. And in mid March lockdown was announced in India. The life came to a stand still. 

This gave us an opportunity to slow down and be with our families. Our homes and gardens saw more of us. We enjoyed bluer skies, empty roads, silent atmosphere and purer air. 

And we gradually started spending more time doing what really matters. Cooking, painting and gardening took major part of our time. Online family get togethers became a regular. For me personally, paintings became a major stress buster.

But this all seemed good for some time then frustration started to take over. People lost their jobs, some lost their loved ones. Most of us were pressed for resources. May was the Month of Confusion and chaos. 

By June & July, got a little settled in the new lifestyle. We started brainstorming and changed strategies in work. At HOI, we introduced new concepts like workation and added more homestays to our network.  The concept got recognized and was covered by many publications like Times of IndiaFinancial TimesThe Better India and Dainik Bhaskar.


Post June, I restarted travelling and took many short road trips around Delhi to clear the confusions and inspire people to start traveling safely with confidence. Rather than avoiding to travel I did cautious and careful travel. Took a trip to Lotwara in July,  Dwarahat, Mirai and Mangoli in August, Pushkar in Sept, Kotabagh in Oct and Bikaner and Corbett in Nov. Stayed at Homestays all through.


The year has taken a lot from us, but to me it has also given a lot. If I say 2020 has been an year of achievements for me, that would not be an exaggeration. Some of my personal and professional gains during 2020 include: 

  • Receiving 'NATIONAL WOMEN EXCELLENCE AWARD - 2020' organized by Indo European Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises (IECSME) for empowering rural women through developing homestays. I shared the stage with personalities like Padma Shree Phoolbasan Yadav.


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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

My First Trip in COVID Times

Pre Journey Preparations…

The excitement started right after I confirmed with the host that Lotwara Heritage Homestay is prepared to welcome guests now. The mere anticipation of traveling after almost 4 months was exhilarating. We knew we would need to be very careful while traveling in these times and we were prepared for that.

All Set for an Epic Trip

The preparations started with planning what all food we pack for the way. It was in childhood that I last did this. But COVID has brought us back there, where we feel safe to eat our own food rather than stopping at roadside eateries. It was decided that we will pack vegetable sandwiches and chicken cutlets for breakfast and Puri-Aalu for lunch. Mango will be our in between snack. Thermos was dug out from the bed box and was filled with tea. And we got the chance to use a water jug that was lying idle in almirah for ages. Better we do not rely on the mineral water bottles on the way. Who knows how many people have touched it before reaching us.

We started the drive early in the morning. The air was cool and fresh, roads empty and hearts happy!

The Journey...

Hearty Breakfast on the Car Top
The drive was enjoyable. There were long discussions on topics starting from politics to COVID to travel to business; we seemed to discuss almost everything on earth. There was not a single silent moment.  And in between were the little fights over songs to be played. Everyone had their own favorites and no one wanted to miss the chance to play them before we reached. Our first break was somewhere on the Agra expressway. The car roof was made table and the sandwiches, cutlet and tea was laid out nicely. The cups that resembled kullar were specifically picked for the journey, so we do not miss that kullar wali dhaba chai on the way. After a hearty breakfast, we resumed our journey. And the discussions and the music continued.

The scene on roads completely changed the moment we left the expressway and took the road to Mathura. The roads were full, shops were open and people were sitting and chatting outside the shops without any mask. The scene was like nothing ever happened or this part of the world does not know what has happened to the rest of the world. We drove past all of this and took our second break near Bharatpur, this time near an old house with huge open space in the front. Table was laid out on the car seat itself. Aloo Puri was served in disposable plates along with tea. Post meal those who were comfortable dirtying their hands with mango pulp, had mangoes and others had chocolate as dessert. We reached Lotwara Heritage Homestay around 2 PM. It just took us 6 hrs to reach with all the breaks

Lotwara Heritage Homestay with Minimum Staff and Maximum Safety

A Warm Welcome…

No Touch Sanitizer at the Entrance

We were welcomed by the lovely sight of dancing peacocks. The host was expecting us and was all set to welcome his first guests in COVID period.  I was impressed to see the sanitizer dispenser that operated from foot. It was a no-touch technique as were all other formalities.

We chose to pick our luggage ourselves for obvious reasons.  I was glad to see that the staff maintained the required distance.

Since we reached around lunch time, lunch was ready and was served on the dining table in our family room. The host himself was there to oversee the arrangements.
We enjoyed the simple home-cooked meal (prepared by someone else) that included Gatta Curry, Moong Dal, Rice, Roti, Raita and Salad, post which the obvious thing to do was to lie down and relax.

The Relaxing Stay…

I was overwhelmed to have traveled after such a long period and could not believe that the bed I am sleeping on is not my own. It was such a welcome change. The evening was spent on the terrace with a glass of beer and snacks. It was the full moon night and the clouds were hovering over the moon creating interesting patterns. I quietly watched the play of the moon and the clouds till I got a call from the kitchen to have my dinner. I was so relaxed, I slept like a baby.

The King Room

We woke up early to the screams of a peacock. A cool breeze of fresh air brushed my hair as I peeped out of the window. It was amazing to see a peacock dancing on the terrace of the house next door.  It was a perfect morning to roam around and soak in the beauty of the place. So I went to the terrace without any second thoughts. It was a pleasant morning unlike the hot mornings in Delhi. The morning hunger was satiated with hot aloo parathas with a variety of pickles and adrak wali chai. And some were packed for our journey that was equally interesting.

Open Seating Area on the Terrace 

And thus we completed a super awesome trip. I am glad we did this. It made me realize that it is possible to travel while taking all necessary precautions and keeping a safe distance. We cannot control when will this pandemic end but we can definitely learn to live with it and make our lives better. And I am glad to see that homestay hosts are also now fully equipped and trained to handle the guests.
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Thursday, April 23, 2020

How to cope with WFH

Are you one of those to whom WFH sounded easy and fun in the beginning but now it's taking a toll on you? Don't worry you are not the only one. There are many like us. And with no house help these days, most of us have to handle both house work and office work. So we need more time. And it's getting difficult.

Below are a few tips on how I managed it:
  1. While we are inclined to sleep late and get up late. Self discipline is the key. Watching a movie till late night thinking you don't have to get up for office tomorrow can spoil the next whole day. Getting up on time is a best start you can give to your day.
  2. Have a fixed schedule for every day. Make a timetable like we used to in childhood and follow that religiously. Changing it everyday will create more chaos.
  3. Write the tasks you want to complete in the day in a diary (not on mind). Keep ticking them off the list as you complete them. This gives a different kind of high. And you will be able to manage time more efficiently when you know how much more is there to do for the day.  It is important step to be productive. 
  4. Do not overburden yourself. Give yourself proper breaks. Do not work late hours. Close the day as per your timetable. You are home doesn't mean you can do late nights. Your mind and body need proper rest. 
  5. You are with your family and they might need your attention at times. Don't worry about that. We are not that bad in time management after all ;)  
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