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Bedaghat, the phenomenal beauty of white marble rocks

Nature around us is mostly about the mountains, seas and forests. We think of nature and most naturally one of these imageries is created as we start to think about it. Their abundance around us makes it even more obvious. We think of the altitudes from where we atop the whole world, we think of the oceans and sink deep into an inner world and we think of forests and start forgetting the rest of the world. There is a harmony that we recreate every time we get close to the nature.

But nature sometimes is different. It is more than its harmony and its beauty. It is astonishing, bewildering and charismatic. It is beyond the definition of uniqueness. It is some form of natural phenomenon whose existence widens our eyes and expands our horizon. We are simply left with an expression “Wow, does this exist in real? “

The white marble rocks of Bedaghat in the heart of India is one such natural phenomenon. Having extensively traveled in India, I have a fair idea of the topography of different regions, but Bedaghat was a lot more than a surprise. What is even more surprising is that despite the extraordinary beauty, it is still one of the unconventional and untouched tourist destinations. While it may look like a picnic spot for the local tourists, it is yet not placed eminently on the global tourist map.

So what is Bedaghat really? What makes it a natural phenomenon worth visiting? And why should you be visiting this place at a particular time of the year?

Bedaghat is a tiny tourist destination, about an hour’s drive away from the city of Jabalpur in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Nauka Vihar, as they call it is on the banks of river Narmada which has the unique view of the river that manages to flow between the gorges formed between the giant white marble rocks that have been in this place since forever. The history of these rocks go beyond the history of mankind and the depth of the river here is yet unknown to mankind. What is amazingly unique about these rocks is that they are white and they shine bright on the moonlit nights.

These rocks are huge enough to be categorized into hills but they are essentially made out of marble and you can see the carvings in many a places which now also have mythological attuning. The best and the only way to explore the grandeur of these rocks is to hop on one of the wooden & rustic rowing boats and take a ride with the local oarsman. What is more surprising than the view is the creativity of these guys who know all about these rocks. With their song and their view of these rocks, this one hour of boat ride will be a sheer entertainer. They do the narration in Hindi, so you would enjoy only if you know the language. Else, the serenity of these rocks will keep you wonderstruck anyway.

There is also a display of bravery in this place. The local kids climb up the cliff and jump into the river fearlessly. What is risk for us is an adventure for them; a quick, unthoughtful and silly adventure done for a small amount of money. At times, this is what India is made up of – poverty and strength.

The breeze through the gorge caresses you even on the sunny days.  The water is still but the ripples keep coming as they row the boat. The sky is clear and bright blue, but now I am curious how it would be on a full moon night; pretty romantic and soulful. The foreplay of clouds and the moon is always more attractive than that with the sun. The darkness will disappear as these rocks would illuminate under the moonlight. The experience of nature in that setting would elate the soul, I can already imagine.

Though there is no visible end to this gorge, it finally meets the Dhuadhar waterfall which is a few kilometers away from Nauka Vihar. The tourists can access only a small part of this gorge, where many of the eighties Bollywood scenes have also been shot. The trip to Jabalpur can be easily summoned in a day, where you should not forget to try the local street food of Jabalpur.

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Posted in Forests, Maharashtra, Monsoon Diaries, Sahayadris, shiva, travel, Uncategorized

Tungareshwar – Shiva’s Abode in the Western Ghats

From Tungnath to Tungareshwar, Shiva has traveled everywhere for his fans! Being one of his ardent fans, it was a mandatory and yet the most needed trip. To another one of his exotic getaways, I believe it is worth a share 🙂

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A Delhi-Mumbai air journey usually lasts for about two hours. But it is a very common scenario that the pilot is not able to land the plane in stipulated time due to air traffic. Impatience starts to grow in me if I come to know that the flight is only rounding the city, unless, the pilot knows where and how to maneuver the flight on one of these monsoons days. The sky was densely full of clouds and it felt he had no option but to take us through the clouds. One moment the buildings were visible and the next moment it was all grey. And then suddenly emerged the flight over and above the Sahyadris, the plush green cover of the Western Ghats that it was, all you do is thank God for the good luck of a window seat. It was the moment when impatience turned into an immense rush of butterflies in my stomach. As my heart pounded to jump from the aircraft to run into that unknown wilderness, I reminded myself of the exciting times I had planned for myself during my short trip to Bombay.

Between the hectic work schedule that took me to Bombay and my flying back to Delhi, I had saved a day for things that Delhi somehow refuses to offer – a blissful walk in the rains.

Rains that pours so heavily, bringing life to the wilderness. Early   morning on a Sunday, it was an unexpected wake up call. Of course I did not sleep sound the previous night, in the awe of an awesome Sunday, but I waited patiently for the human alarm to come and shake me up. Well, literally he did; my friend who accompanied and guided me on the trek to Tungareshwar.

 

To add a little bit of Gujrati touch to our day long trail, his mother packed in our sacks a box of dhokla. Besides the dhokla, a box of cheese sandwiches, some fresh fruits and a bottle of tang made our trip sound like a picnic. But it was not. It definitely was not a picnic. In fact, it was a long walk of about 20 kilometers. We entered the Sanjay Gandhi National Park from Tungareshwar Phata, an entry point about 5 kilometers away from Vasai Road into the interiors of Thane district.

 

At 8 in the morning we started our journey towards the Tungareshwar Temple. A walk of only 3 kilometers, there were other devotees too walking on the path of divinity.

 

Though the path has been invaded with lots of human intervention, it is yet not evaded of its natural ambience. There are monsoonal waterfalls where the villagers splurge themselves, there are wild bushes and shady trees all across the wide motor able road. It’s a delightful walk for Shiva’s devotees.

Slowly and gradually as we walked and talked, we could see in distance, the abode of Lord Shiva. Tungareshwar Temple witnesses a rush of devotees during the month of savan. A tiny and a miniscule appearance of Lord Shiva making way for the tranquility that persists, makes it a worthwhile walk into the wild.

 

While most devotees end their journey at the Shiva temple very few like us explore it further.

Its only about 6 kilometers from Tungareshwar temple, there is also built an ashram amidst the wilderness. This walk of 6 kilometers is a gradual ascend overlooking the city of Bombay. Mostly a lonely walk, it is definitely a road less travelled. We don’t realize how, on the next turn, the green becomes greener and the clouds appear out of nowhere. As soon as the sky gets clear, towards the denser side of valley, at a far away distance, the waterfall appears again. The clouds overtake the valley, as if they own the valley. It feels mystical, it does not just feel natural, it feels magical. The silence of the valley stays intact; even the sounds of birds are rare.

At one of the points during the trek, sitting over a rock, while getting absorbed in the scenic beauty, there does not feel the need to walk ahead. Inside you, you may even wish that these clouds should burst open upon you and probably the rain walk will soothe you even more but these clouds decide to be playful.

 

So we walk a little further and reach on the other side of the mountain. Cannot say if the walk becomes a little steeper or is it the last patch mingled with our hunger pangs.

The ashram serves a sumptuous vegetarian thali. As we reached   after a 2.5 hours of unbothered walk, we sat down on the floor and got served. The temple gates had closed as we entered later than the scheduled time but the meal was still being served.

The Sadanand ashram is built by a yogi baba with a strict schedule being followed. Keeping calm and feeling one with nature is something that does not require any effort. Not many visitors are seen around, except a few who have probably discovered that the walk is worth the food being served in a spot as random as this one.

We sat outside the temple gates, at a little distance and enjoyed sipping on the herbal tea. Blissful. Finally, the clouds decided to burst open adding to our moment of bliss. The tea there is served in shots and one after the other, we kept on having it. More conversations, more tea. For another hour, nothing stopped neither the rains, nor the tea.

 

But it was now time it hit the road again. The ponchos came out. Of course, photography happened with that one too. The camera just spices up de tour a bit more!

 

We decided to take the alternate route while descending. In a short while, the rain left us alone and the clouds also bid us farewell. The path was muddier now demanding a lot more attention to walk. It was a reckless walk taking us through stones and mud patches; but the shady trees and the tall standing Sahyadris hills made it a lot more comfortable walk.   In about two hours, we came out of the national park from the Purola village exit.

 

Oh and there was still food left with us. We sat on a peaceful spot, still inside the jungle, gulped down the dhokla and the sandwiches. What made it awesome, other than the cheese of course was the retro music playing in the background. It was being played in the nearby village, the kind of music that is powerful enough to make you sad but you still want to hear it because it connects with your soul. None other than Kishore Da was playing that evening.

 

The view of the village farms reminded me of the good old college days when I used to sit by my room window in the hostel and felt lost into a similar view.

 

The day got over in no time and we were on the road, waiting for the bus to take us to Virar railway station. It was a fast road and the evening was getting darker. Clouds were surprising us again while we were brisking through the rural Virar. Life here seems to be so different; not unique but just different from the routine we experience every-day.

 

This Sunday was a perfect break from the monotonous routine that we follow endlessly for months. Even a pinch of wilderness into our otherwise concrete lives becomes a great deal. And with this great deal ending so soon, I only hoped and prayed for more and more of such deals.

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Wo Wedding Wala Weekend

Weddings are important because they celebrate life and possibility. And planning a travel around one such event – that was something new. Thank You Shruti, I met wonderful people once again!

So I say, when in India, definitely attend a wedding, because Indian Weddings are never disappointing.

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Long before year 2015 had started, the long weekend lists of the year were already floating on social media.

January 2015 had been quite promising in this respect and I personally had planned the first long weekend of 2015 in 2014 itself.

26th January, 2015, Monday, a national holiday in India on account of Republic Day is when Shruti decided to get wed. Shruti – my roommate in hostel and my favorite companion from my post-graduation days.  We were a perfect Marathi-Punjabi friendship who practically shared everything from bed to bathroom.  Our moments of bitching, gossiping & high end philosophy are so dearly attached to us.

When she told me that her relationship with her boyfriend is moving one step ahead in the coming year I was extremely happy for her and since then the travel plan to Jabalpur has been on.

So finally it was the first long weekend of 2015, and I sat in the train to the central point of India.  While sitting in the train, a lot of thoughts ran through my mind.

A Marathi wedding; a non-Punjabi wedding, what is it going to be like?  The last Marathi wedding I attended in Pune was somehow boring and now for 3 days  I am going to stay with a Marathi family, Oh my God! And Shruti is going to be busy because it’s her wedding.

With all these thoughts, I deboarded the NZM-JB-SF express where a Punjabi Barat which stepped out of the same bogie as mine was being welcomed with a great pomp and show on the Station.

In the far sight I saw Shruti smiling and waving towards me.  We hugged each other as long forgotten sisters who just could not contain their happiness.

With butterflies in my stomach we discussed almost everything about the wedding in that auto ride.

On reaching home I greeted the family and extended family. Somesh, Shruti, Kirti and Sagar, the kind hearted naughty souls, the charming and the shining faces around the place.

The celebrations were on and Shruti’s parents were quite busy with the preparations. While they were running here & there for making all the arrangements, all the youngsters were busy worrying about the dance performances that were to be prepared for the evening.

Soon the customary traditions of an Indian wedding started and there sat Shruti, all set to apply Mehendi on her hands and feet.  All of us followed the trail and almost everyone became numb after applying Mehendi in the chilly winter evening.

Hence, it was perfectly apt to move a little on some groovy numbers.  It is in these moments that you realize that the million dollar Indian wedding industry is practically owned by the Punjabis. No matter where in India the wedding happens, Yo Yo Honey Singh numbers have become a must. It is that culture which started in Punjab but now belongs to everyone – just what you need to set the tone for a party!

And just after everyone had done their bit of foot tapping on some Punjabi numbers appeared the super talented Shruti Khanwalker with a pinch of Marathi culture. ‘Lavani’ one of the most popular dance forms in Maharashtra; Shruti performed it in front of an audience without haste leaving everyone sitting in the room awestruck. As the first day celebration came to its closure, I was pretty sure this weekend is going to be anything but boring.

There were Shruti D, Shruti K, Sagar, Kirti, Somesh, Suruchi and a few more surprises expected on the next day. By the middle of the night we had all become best friends and were ready to knock out some adventures that would become the memories of this trip.

One such adventure was the haunted man who we met on a road while going home.  A headless man standing motionlessly on the corner of the road – he perfectly managed to excite some and scare the rest of us. Sagar wanted to capture him in his camera and Shruti K on the other hand wanted to drive past as fast as she could. Adrenaline shot up in a moment for everyone sitting in that car.

The next day, the morning of 25th; Sunday was booked for yet another fun filled tradition – ‘Haldi’ as we fondly call it.  The bride is supposed to be cleansed with the purity of turmeric and blessed by all the elders of family. Soon it becomes blessings for everyone and everyone becomes a part of this celebration.  There is haldi everywhere and they play it almost like holi.  But the game becomes super interesting when all the bride maids go to the groom’s house and apply haldi on him. And that too inside out. It’s quite a sight. He sitting innocently surrounded by pretty girls who leave no chance of touching & squeaking him.

Very soon some serious wedding business starts and the bride groom start sitting for a series of Pooja. Almost all Hindu traditional weddings have a similar design, only the pattern changes. The priest carries on with most rituals, the language tweaks a bit, the material used also changes with cultures but the blessings of course remain the same.

While Shruti was busy with the rituals, all of us were busy capturing the moments. Selfie mode was put on and a flood of selfies splashed into the wedding.

Lone selfies, Group selfies, beauty mode portrait mode everything happened for the next few hours until everyone become hungry & binged on a lot of food.

For the evening party, everyone dispersed for a short while and came out in their new avatars. All Indian weddings are a lot about dressing up too.  It is almost a talent to display your grooming skills. Men are becoming & women are a bling .  Suddenly there is a lot of sophistication in the air.

 

The inexplicable desire to check out the girls at the party which even allows the women to stare at the girls becomes a common phenomenon.  Girls too cannot really help it but enjoy these moments of attention.

Finally, the most awaited moment arrived. Dhol wale bhaiya entered the party hall. Not even an iota of a second was wasted once he started beating the drum.  The foot tapping and leg grooving, the jhatkas  and matkas, the uncles and the anties, the dance floor caught the much deserved attention.  For the next hour everyone enjoyed the beats.  With the grandeur of the show, sometimes, it seems that the whole purpose of a wedding is to enjoy these idiosyncrasies, to display those crazy movements of your body which were hidden from this world till now.

Wedding is one of the most significant bites of Indian culture and expresses the happiest state of mind in ways more than one. It is a showcase of good clothes, good food and a reunion of all the beloved.

Finally came the night when none of us slept.  We couldn’t KEEP CALM because it was Shruti’s wedding day.  By the time, I reached back to my room; the drinking session was already on.

A table was made of the cupboard drawer “Daru & Chakhna” as they fondly call it was set on the table. Zeeshan & Jayesh were already drunk by the time I entered their room.  Somesh was on the verge of it.  Arihant does not drink but was still happy high.  Sagar, Kriti & Shruti entered only to witness the epic state of drunk boys.  Zee gets loud and laughs a lot after sipping his vodka.  He is kind of cute.  While Zee got cute, Somesh got nasty  and Jayesh got hasty.  Arihant and me were the only two sober people in the room and took every case in point.

From philosophy to girls, everything under the sun was discussed.  At four in the morning, when the chill was on its peak, I, Ary and Zee decided to go for a drive in the city.  We stopped over around a tiny lake in the city and the story of our lives started again.

26th January was the wedding day.  By the 10 in the morning , everyone dressed up again and very soon the rituals of the day started. It was practically a sari day for all the women of the house, especially the bride who had to change over four saris over the course of the day.

A typically Marathi style of wedding; the band however left no stone unturned to make the republic day celebrations a part of wedding celebrations.   It did not feel weird at all to be standing in attention position while the bride & groom were ready to hold hands forever.

The selfie gang was again busy capturing themselves. Few of the last moments of being together slowly and gradually everyone started leaving as the celebrations were coming to an end.

Friends, Fun, Food, Frolic, – a new set of memories was created in just two days. While Aniket & Shruti were busy tying the knots, I was lost looking at them as to how special this moment would be. There was a constant smile on their faces but it is a hard to imagine moment until you feel it for yourself. I had seen them grew together in relationship and now the families became a part of it or should I say they became the part of each other’s families. A beautiful life waits as I write this piece. A travel that witnessed union of two souls and for the rest it was all meant to be a beautiful love filled weekend.

Posted in Life Travel, toastmasters, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday Dadima !

Project 6 at the Toastmasters Club was designed to meet the goal of highlighting the vocal variety in voice.

Its my grandmother’s 83rd birthday today and this post is dedicated to her. I hope you all will enjoy reading this one.

 

 

 

It is one of nature’s way that we often feel closer to distant generations than the ones immediately preceding us. The another reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy.

Ladies & Gentlemen today I am going to share my story with all of you. One beautiful woman with whom I was so attached from my infancy to my adulthood was my grandmother. Not a single day was gone without her presence when I was a kid. Just about time, when the woman thought her work is done, she became a grandmother. With a cute, little baby girl in her hand, she definitely felt blessed but it certainly did not come to her as an easy task. She cared for the baby all day long, feeding her at the right time, singing her lullabies, playing with her, making her comfortable, all was provided by God in one package.

The days passed and the bond grew stronger. A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit friend. She taught me all the religious hymns, because of which I have always felt proud of my culture; she taught me how to be morally correct, so that I have a strong character. Yes, she has been the first teacher of my life giving me the basics of life. She instilled in me family values, making me an ethical person. She became a parent then and when she heard my long silly stories of the day, she became my best friend. A garden of love grew in her heart in which I played and enjoyed day and night.

A child needs a grandparent to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world. What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And most importantly, cookies. For me cookies were substituted by paranthas. It became her favorite task to feed me with loads of paranthas whenever I returned from school. It used to be a feast for me. Although, I did not like to see it accumulating on me, when I grew a little older but by then, it was just too late. I was completely addicted to them.

Days passed further and life started to become busier. More responsibilities started pouring in from various aspects of life. She always made me feel she had been waiting all day just to see me and now her day was complete. As she grew older, she developed some hearing troubles. We all know old age is a problem in itself in ways more than one. And so, she created a vacuum around herself. The communication between us to some extent, started fading. It restricted to only the essential communication of day to day life. With passing years she engrossed and drenched herself completely into God’s name. She found it easier to read books than to talk to other family members. Her ever increasing silence made her look older each day.

And one early morning, something went wrong inside her, she had to be rushed to the hospital, neither she nor anyone else had ever thought that now she world never return back. The ray of hope of her coming back to her home kept on diminishing each day. She was in pain, she was in misery, she was helpless and the doctors were losing hope.

Soon the bitter reality of life confronted us and I found it one of the most difficult times to be contained inside me. That was the day when I realized that my teacher, my parent, my best friend had left me alone on this earth and made her abode to the heavens.

Today, two months have passed, and I still feel that God could have given her some more time to be with us. There was no hurry. I have always felt protected in her presence and that she had seen me grow and evolve each day. I wanted her to see me getting married one day becoming great grandmother too, but God cannot fulfill all of our wishes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, of all the time that we have with us, if we can spend just a fraction of it with our grandparents, there cannot be any blessing bigger and better than this. Lucky and fortunate are those kids who get hold of their grandparent’s hands. And I feel pity for those who knowingly and willingly do not make a way to their heart.

Of all the grandchildren that my grandmother had, I feel so proud to say it that the bond of love she shared with me was there with no one else. She held my hand for a little while but my heart forever.

Some unknown author has rightly said,
‘The history of grandparents is remembered not with rose petals but in the laughter and tear of their children’s children. It is not into us that lives of grandparents have gone, it is in us that their history becomes future.’

 

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The Cycle Trail

The day I decided to ride a bicycle after a long gap of almost seven years and for once the sky came shattering over me

 

I have a facebook friend, she lives in Goa. I don’t remember how and when did I got to know about her but one common chord of communication between me and her was the love for adventure. I would like to mention here that “love for adventure” is quite different from the “experience of adventure”. She loves to experience it and I love to love it, most of the times. Some of her experiences include her love for snakes, trekking and cycling on the mountains.

Recently, she posted a status on her facebook profile – “WORLD RECORD ACCOMPLISHED. Highest motorable road in the world – Khardungla (Ladakh) – reached on my bicycle. Congratulations to all the 85 girls.” For once, I could not believe my eyes, but yes that was true, photographs attached provided the correct evidence for the fact.

From then on, she became my inspiration, and I committed to myself once again that now I am going to explore new dimensions of adventure in my life. I have been a trekker for quite some time but now I wanted to try my hands on cycling.

The opportunity knocked at my door just a few days ago, on a Sunday, the 22nd January, 2012. A cycle trail was being organized in Delhi from Delhi University to Chankyapuri. I thought that probably this little act of cycling would work as an entrance test for me and so I should at least appear for it before sitting for other bigger tests.

At 8 o’clock on the Sunday morning, 15 people gathered at the Delhi University Metro Station from where cycles were borrowed at a minimal rent amount. We were also flooded with lots of juices, glucose biscuits and chocolates to keep us energetic enough. Although the route was explained in detail, still there were two cars moving along to guide us throughout.

Peddling from there, it was easy enough to ride past the university, from FMS to Hansraj College and further.The roads were not too crowded until we reached the Azad Market where the roads were just not visible.

It was a path full of shops and the roads were highly uneven and rugged terrain of no roads, and to add icing on the bitter cake, DTC buses kept daunting us from behind which was difficult to digest.

By now the bicycle had already started showing its true colors, it was riding smooth but the seat had started to become uncomfortable. As we reached the Jhandewalan flyover, the mission, for once seemed impossible.

Climbing on the flyover seemed to be an uphill ride for me. I had done that before, several times, only in my car . Today it was something else. Within a few seconds only, I had to walk on it along with my bike as I could not gather enough push to move it further. At that very moment, I understood the plight of cyclists in Delhi, how difficult it becomes to overcome the cruel traffic, to push your stamina as far as possible. Crossing the Gol Market to reach Birla Mandir and then further to Talkatora Stadium and Teen Murti, the roads totally supported our mission.

It was as smooth and plain as it could be, except for the bicycle seat which had become a constant pain in the butt now.No doubt, Central Delhi has its own charm. Big bungalows, lush green trees, empty roads, I felt like the owner of the road. Engrossed in the beauty of the nature and chill of the weather, riding as fast as possible, I lost my way. Yes, that happens too often on the Central Delhi roads. I just could not locate those cars with those guiding torches and I realized that I was 3 kms off track while being on that painful throne.

Soon I chalked out my way with the help of some policemen who were active for the security drill.As soon as I reached my destination, I saw my other team mates, ready to welcome me. And just when I got off that devil’s throne, “Oh darn!” expression was right there on my face. A quick snack of bananas and coffee played the trick, sitting on wooden chairs felt luxurious, also, at the same time, the smell of our own sweat also felt good.

Cycling is not easy especially when you decide to ride 30 kms on a ‘blue-moon’ day. One might look good in borrowed clothes but not everything that you borrow is good for you. And a borrowed cycle was definitely doing no good to me. Now was the time to deposit it back to where it belonged.

 And so the ride started again. Right when we crossed the Parliament and then the President’s House, we all felt privileged that the roads were free of traffic due to the Republic Day preparations. The roads were smooth as silk and the feeling of adventure reaped its fruits at that very moment. The whole scenario would not have felt the same, had I been on a car. The chilly winds would not have touched my hair, the sweat on my body would not have been there to make me feel cold. It was completely my effort and there was no electrical motor pumping that required energy for me.

The essence of Delhi lies in its central roads, the way they make us move forward is an experience in itself, which becomes all the more beautiful when accompanied with Delhi Winters. Soon we were back to theOld Delhi Roads, near Filmistan, facing another reality of Delhi – bad roads with loads of traffic . The approaching of a bus or a speedy car was scaring. It felt like a few ants competing with elephants for reaching their destination on the same track. Once we reached the University area, it was like the same feeling that I often confront while trekking. I could see my camp at some distance but walking through that little distance took a lot of effort.

The mission was finally accomplished leaving the body in a lot of pain.

Later on, it made me think what did I gain out of it? Was it a sense of achievement or was it a sense of stupidity?

I realized that it is dangerous to fall out of routine as our body alarms us in ways more than one. More than the brain, other parts of our body get stressed up. The enthusiasm of mind and the energy of body must work in sync with each other. However, I would still like to congratulate myself for not giving up. Hats off to my facebook friend who manages to do it all, and also be an inspiration for others.

 

I think it was not a sense of stupidity but a sense of realization,  of what can a constant effort do to us.