The beauty of a few concentric circles

It’s amazing how a few concentric circles slowly evolve into a beautiful mandala. Each line emerges on its own. Most often inspired by something seen in the nature or work of friends. These mandalas started as a gratitude offering to the universe, for everything that I have been generously bestowed with.

how to make a mandala drawing

I am no artist but once I learnt how to make mandalas with a basic template of concentric circles, there is no stopping 🙂

While making these mandalas or stitching the hearts I experienced a beautiful calm that would take over me. I haven’t been able to sit in stillness in a long time. I think it has been almost 6 months that I was able to sit for an hour. Whenever I started on these little gifts, my mind would soon forget its entire chaos and the ordering of the “to-do” list and just focus on one petal to another or one stitch to another. Even though I wasn’t sitting in a specific position or had my eyes closed; it was akin to meditation for my mind and body.

When I start, I have no clue how it will turn out to be. I have no clue of how the design will grow. Sometimes I will start with a pattern and then look it from far thinking this won’t look good. I wasted a card. But then I will go on and complete it only to realise that each has a life of its own and each is beautiful. I often felt like my hand was just a tool and someone else had the design in mind :).

mandala designs

Some of the mandala cards I made. Some original, some inspired, some copied 😀

With the heart bookmarks, I wanted to write a quote on each one of them but was lost on which ones to pick. Just then Vandana didi started on this beautiful project of one-canvas-a-day with quotations and I found my quotes right there. Every day is a beautiful start with her paintings and quotations.

Paintings with quotations

Every morning Vandana didi sends us a picture of her beautiful art. I would say it is her sadhana!

I usually try to sit down for making any art when I am in a happy space but a recent turn of events showed me how art is the best therapy. When I was so stressed that I could do nothing else, I would sit down with a pen and paper and soon my mind will be lost in thinking about how to extend it and just for those few moments forget the impending problem and relax.

All these cards and bookmarks have gone as gifts for friends and strangers. I don’t know when, how and who will receive these or has received them. I am so grateful for having this opportunity to be able to gift some love through these little cards. Each one of them brought me a lot of peace and I hope it does the same for the noble friend who receives them.

Heart bookmarks! The bright African fabric were scraps given by a friend who uses them to make wonderful bags. I love these prints!

Heart bookmarks! The bright African fabric were scraps given by a friend who uses them to make wonderful bags. I love these prints!

With all my love

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a happy night is better than a good night :)

Every culture has there norms for greeting. In Angola, depending on the time of the day, the usual greeting if you meet a stranger (or friend) are:

Bondia  — Good day

Boa tarde — Good afternoon

Boa noite — Good night

Boa continuação — literally means ‘good continuation’ but is used as an equivalent to “have a good day”

But today, after 3 years of living here, for the first time, I heard a different greeting and it made me smile instantly.. which has kind of stuck to my face for now 🙂  I just got back from my neighbourhood grocery shop.. smiling all the way back. At the cash counter, the lady wished me “Feliz Noite” (Happy Night) and the guy at the door wished “Feliz Sabado” (Happy Saturday).

a happy night is better than a good night

I wish you a happy night; a happy Saturday and a happy moment every moment

Usually we almost keep happy under lock and it comes out only for special occasions and festivals… Happy Birthday; Happy anniversary; Happy Diwali; Happy Holi etc.. Why can’t every day and every moment be happy?

Isn’t happy a better state to be in than good? Why should happiness be reserved for special occasions? If you could see me now, I am smiling from ear to ear. ‘Happy’ has a bounce to it which ‘good’ lacks. It instantly plays the happy song in mind.

I am going to be so wishing you a happy morning, a happy day and a happy moment… because I’m happy..


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I should …

…write more often!

Can’t believe I am back to writing here after more than a year. The gap seemed like something I will never be able to cross. I had so many things to write about especially with the teaching assignment when everyday I had a story to tell over dinner and I would think in my mind “I should write this down.” I will phrase it while sleeping and then next day there would be one more story, one more learning and I had already forgotten about yesterdays’.

But yesterday when I was cleaning out my desk cupboards I found an old list. Written on a hotel stationary paper, it was a list of things “I should” do and on top was write more often.

If ever I needed a sign, this was it. While I have been writing regularly on my food blog – My Weekend Kitchen, writing for Volunteer Weekly and my own personal sharing here have become non-existent. So this is my first phoenix post to bring back the blog from dead. And I sure hope I don’t ramble too much :).

There was a time in the last year when I became dismayed with the online world and online existence. I kind of took a sabbatical from social media, whatsapp, viber and blogging and used only email to stay in touch with far of friends and family. It was great, but after about 3 months I felt I was being selfish. We live in a remote location in Africa and technology is actually our aide here. While I was fine, my family and friends only had social media to know what’s happening in my life. I was completely fine with nobody knowing about me but when I went back home after 3 months everybody had the same complaint. “Where have you disappeared? Is there no internet in Africa!” Well that phase is over. I am back but just on a few platforms. I actually did a factory reset on my phone to remove all the apps and then download only Facebook and whatsapp – the two apps that most of my friends and family used. It’s been good. Even with just these two, I feel like I get more information than I need but I feel they are necessary evils I need to stay with. But how much they interfere in my life is my choice.

What do you think about the interference of social media in life in general?

We just came back from an amazing trip to the little known island country São Tomé and Príncipe. I was keeping a travel journal there, something which I did after a long time. Hope to share about that soon.

muito amor,


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10 lines on love

to zoya…


little bits of allah

frolicking here and there

spreading sunshine with smiles

telling the world to

“be happy, be joyous

life is beautiful

life is carefree”

holding out their little hands

“come dance with us

let us be love.”

Continue reading

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The old zoo on ilha…

It’s been more than a year since I have been passing through the zoo that’s on the road to my house… no matter where I go, I have to pass in front of it. And it’s only about 3 km away. Yet I didn’t enter it until last week.

When I first crossed this huge green place running along one side of the road, I asked what was it? They said it was a zoo many years ago and it was destroyed during the war and then never renovated. I asked can we enter. They said no. You are not allowed to enter it or even walk by it. The whole area is now a favela and not safe for expats.

For a year, I crossed it, peeped in as much as I could and wished I could go inside. It looked so beautiful from outside. A whole stretch of wild growth, lots of trees, an old fence broken at places.. But whenever I asked my driver, he would say “ashima muito bandido, todos pessoas drogas, Ashima não pode entrar”. And I would again curb that desire.

the old zoo on ilha, luanda

the entrance of the old zoo and the fence broken at places with its graffiti covered wall

Last week when nimo came, he was also intrigued about life inside this old zoo. So much that I felt one of the days he would for sure go inside. One of the days when I was returning from foundation, I told diogo “let’s go inside”. He again started “ashima não bom…” before he could go on to muito bandido and drogas, I told him we will just drive through.. I won’t get down and if at any point we feel it’s not safe, we will turn back. On that he agreed.

Inside was beautiful. It reminded me so much of chikubadi in ahemedabad. . There was lush greenery, so many different kinds of trees, bushes and in one area a whole carpet of cactus!

People had made homes inside old containers. We didn’t go all the way to the homes. I didn’t even want to. If I wasn’t getting down, then it would feel very odd for people to see a car just drive through in front of their homes..

the old zoo on ilha, luanda

the jungle inside the old zoo

They have their own private beach entrance. Where lovers meet at the end of the day 🙂 At one end there is a boat making arena. And it seems like a whole marketplace for the park. There was a makeshift small beer shop, another one for basic groceries…

It’s a whole city living inside there!

the old zoo on ilha, luanda

the boat making arena, the market place and the entrance to the beach where lovers share a quiet evening

There were also heaps of garbage and scrap metal lying everywhere. in fact I was surprised to that the collection center for the only garbage company I have seen in luanda is right in the center of the park. Inside the fence you can see heaps of garbage with big birds standing atop and one lone security guard sitting right across.

the old zoo on ilha, luanda

garbage collection center inside the old zoo

But the most beautiful part of the park is also right next to this garbage collection center. A taekwondo class. In this city of the homeless, the bandidos, the drogas is one man teaching taekwondo to kids and young. I was transfixed at this beautiful sight. In so many ways it reminded me of the music classes at the independence park…

taekwondo class in the middle of the old zoo on ilha, luanda

beauty right next to the garbage collection center

Hope. Beauty.

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Esperança – Hope on the street

Hope is the only word that comes to me when I recollect what was it that I saw today.

This morning I went to a public park in the middle of Luanda city. Something tells me it must have been a great place long time back.. there is a broken popcorn machine, some beaten benches, a taped fridge. It must have been a place where kids played, people came for walks and just sit together and chat in the evening. But now the usual scene at the independence park in the morning is children and youth lying around – mostly high on gasoline.. you can smell clothes soaked in gasoline; the park is strewn with chewed up pieces of fabric.

volunteering in Angola

But lately every Tuesday and Thursday morning this scene changes. That is when Osvaldo and Costa enter the park armed with their guitars and lots of stools. They set up their stools under one of the shades in the park and start playing..

One by one street kids who sleep in and around the park come and sit. They then hand over the guitars and slowly begins the music class. They are still high on gasoline… it’s difficult for Osvaldo and Costa to do anything but they continue… The first thing they ask from the kids sitting in the circle is to throw out their gasoline soaked fabric.

Naama tells me that that Osvaldo himself was a street kids and was struggling with the drugs, but he found himself in music and brought himself out of it!

Some kids start listening.. some don’t care, some are fighting and some keep playing with the guitar. Most are more or less under the influence….Osvaldo and Costa know all this.. they know and they have all the patience in the world. They then start to teach them how to sing and how to play the guitar…

I had always wanted to be a part of this wonderful morning and finally it happened today. As soon as I entered the park I smelt gasoline and then I saw the class going on under a shade…It was beautiful. Osvaldo and Costa have their own ways of controlling and yet not controlling the kids… The only thing they ask of all the children and young to sit in the circle, is that they throw out their drugs.

music classes for all

Today looked so promising… of the 15 children that were there at least 5 were sober… For the first time there was a girl in the group… There were smiles and there was respect for each other. There was laughter. After almost 2 months, in terms of music, the group is still learning that a guitar has 6 chords but they are learning there is more to life than the street and drugs. They are seeing that they can be someone else.

They were creating a music of their own. The music of hope.

music of hope

I first shared this experience on Volunteer Weekly.

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Feito com Amor

It started at a morning tea session, when a friend of mine said “For Christmas, I want to make a nice gift bag for the ladies with dry food items like rice, milk powder, oil and some sweets”

The ladies here are the patients of a local maternity hospital. Every two weeks, my friend makes 100 sandwiches and goes to the maternity hospital to feed the ladies waiting for their labour and their families who all wait and live outside the hospital on the road for days.

I started thinking of how we can raise funds for this. The easier option was to just ask in our immediate circle but I wanted to do something more and reach out to more people so that they can all be a part of it. And I just didn’t want to ask money. What was it that I could offer?

Paper. I love paper. I love the way I can turn it into something beautiful. And I was at it. For almost a week, I made gift bags, cards, gift tags, quotation cards, fortune cookie stars, bookmarks… anything that I could think of. My whole room was full of craft material everywhere 🙂

feito com amor, made with love, wisdom crafts

Then I gave them to friends who I knew hosted many gatherings and offered them as wisdom crafts – no price tags; the price of the product is what the buyer is inspired to offer. I put up a paper explaining what they were for and asking people to give from their heart.

What was amazing was how more and more people joined in. One girl came up and said, I know you are making those bags.. I had these felt sheets at home, can you use them?

Another one came and said “I have these glitter tapes I haven’t used for months.. I am sure you can use them for your cards..”

Ribbons, more craft paper, sequins, paint everything started coming from unknown friends!


Naama, who runs a non-profit organisation, came to know of it and asked me if I could make 30 bags for their Christmas gifts for their supporters.

At first I thought I will make all of them the same. But as I started decorating the bags, something came over. Each bag spoke for itself and each was different. Before starting I didn’t have any set idea on decoration but slowly every bag’s decoration unfolded as if they were speaking for the person who is going to receive them.

Naama then insisted I create a tag for all of them and thus was born “Feito com Amor” [Portuguese for Made with Love].

feito come amor, made with love, art with heart, craft activities at home

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Of new years and resolutions

Let’s start with a happy new year! At least till the first month we should be allowed to say it 🙂

This last year went so quickly. It seems like just yesterday when I landed in Angola. And said hello to a new country and a new life. There were lots of new things in 2014 – new land, new home, a new culture, lots of new friends,  a new language, a new volunteering opportunity. I still haven’t been able to absorb all fully :).

I hope 2015 will bring in as much opportunities. Actually one of my resolutions is to see each day as an opportunity – 365 opportunities to learn and grow! Wow


Last year, inspired by my friend Shalini, I had taken the resolution to not buy anything new for myself. And surprisingly it was pretty easy to keep that resolutions and one year later I feel I really don’t need so much. What I have is so much more than what I need!

This year what are my resolutions? In the first week the resolutions change every day and so I refrained from writing this post :).

This year, I want to meet as many friends and family as possible. So many incidents happened last year that brought me face to face with the uncertainty of life. When I thought of a resolution, I asked myself that if this year is all I have, then what is the first thing I want to do? And the answer I got was that I want to meet the people I love. So I want to try doing that 🙂

Another is to attempt trekking Mt. Kilimanjaro. More than the real trek, I think the training is what my resolution is. By the end of this year I want to get back to an exercise and food regime.

As far as resolutions go, I would stick to only two. But if I want to write down my wish list, it would be an endless list…I want to get back to the morning meditation practice; I want to learn salsa;  I want to learn how to make a website from scratch; I want to learn photoshop and lightroom; I want to write more regularly on all my blogs; I want to do more with Feito com Amor (Made with Love)….

For now I will just say it’s a living list. I will keep adding to the list as time goes by 🙂

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South Africa road trip: Post trip

The road trip is over.. we are back into the daily grind. In fact now it’s been so many days that it feels like south africa was ages ago. During the last days on the road I had started jotting down a few points I wanted to share with friends who were planning a road trip in South Africa in January. And though I finally ended up telling them these in person, I still hope these will still be helpful for someone planning a similar trip 🙂

1. The roads are very good all the way from durban till Cape Town.  People follow lanes and all highway rules so driving is a pleasure in South Africa (at least on the route we took!)

2. Restrooms and gas/petrol: there are convenient gas stations on the highway with good restrooms and also little food outlets.. depending on the town, you might find just a small pick-and-go thing or a proper food court close to the gas station. Restrooms are mostly free but at some places there is a fee of 1 or 2 Rand.

3. Along smaller towns the highway food options close early.. by about 6 pm.

4. No matter what the season you are coming in, do bring your rain jacket and a warm jacket.

5. If you are planing to do treks, don’t forget your insect repellant.

6. Another must – sunscreen. The sun is pretty strong here..

7. For vegetarians: I didn’t have any problem finding vegetarian food all through the trip. All restaurants have 3-4 veggie entries. On the highway, I found Nando’s  veggie burger/pita and wrap the best!

I shall add more as I remember more. 🙂

Bon Voyage 

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Day 11-12: the last leg @ Capetown

I am back in Luanda now… I am back at work but my mind still feels like it stayed behind in Capetown. We left capetown yesterday morning with a promise to return. And we have to return because the city has so much and we experienced so little.

We reached capetown around 6 pm. .. got late in leaving from Somerset mall and then got stuck in the traffic outside the city. We arrived at Blackheath lodge,  and were greeted by, Godfrey, one of the friendliest of faces :). After checking in and a warm shower we decided to walk to the V&A waterfront. We had just two days and it was also the end of vacation so we wanted to take  it slow and easy… capetown is flooded with things to do and it’s difficult to choose but we had decided that in this trip we wouldn’t stress ourselves in going from one point to another..

First evening was a leisure walk along the beach road from 3 anchor bay to waterfront and then a bit pub hopping and a quiet dinner.

The next day we wanted to go to table mountain but the cable way was closed and we had no enthu for a trek up right now. We did the drive along the cape peninsula, stopping at the beautiful bays in between. The drive is amazing (and with well placed viewing points to get the best views of the scenery). We stopped quite often (again!), just sat watching the ocean and the mointains and the city from a distance and of course clicked a lot of pictures :).

All the way to cape point, we felt like stopping every few moments and take in the beauty of this place. At cape point, there is a lighthouse which is also called the ghost lighthouse… When it was built, it could hardly ever signal the ships of the approaching land because most of the times it was covered in clouds. Much later a new light house was made a little below.
Cape point is also the point where ‘the two oceans meet’. That’s the tag line as well! Standing at the lighthouse and looking towards the ocean one can see the difference in the colour of water on two sides. It should be due to the difference in depth but I am not sure if that is really the boundary. Actually how are the boundaries of oceans determined anyway? I would love to read more on that.

For us the most striking  or rather beautiful feature of cape point was the views of cape of good hope from there..The most stunning views we had seen on the whole drive.

From cape point we then headed to the cape of good hope and I said I would have preferred spending more time looking at it from a distance than being there. But you do check on being at the southwesternmost  point of the African  continent. If that matters :).

cape point and cape of good hope

On our way back, we stopped at Simon’s  town for lunch and then went to see the penguins at boulder penguin colony. As soon as we entered the park we saw two penguins and got crazy with clicking their pictures only to be super awed by a whole colony of them just a few steps ahead. Super cute animals… i just enjoyed them dping their different tactics… and they swim so so fast! And once on shore they will try to dry off by shaking all the water. Amazing.

boulders penguin colony

Then we headed to signal hill – the view point for table mountain and in a way for the whole of capetown city. We saw the sun set from up there, walked around a little. The beacon of hope that shines over capetown is also right there. It’s a solar powered huge star that is made from the recovered railing around Robben Island.

For dinner, we went to an Indian restaurant – Bukhara. It’s right in the city center. Our hotel owner had suggested it and I really wanted some nice dal makhni and butter naan! :). Sikander enjoyed his nihari. I think we over ordered because with some more rice or bread two more people would have eaten. Sikander decided to do just that :). He ordered one more plate of rice and asked our waiter to make two take aways – one veg and one non-veg. On our way back we gave one the guy helping cars park on the street and one to our taxi guy. Our taxi guy was so moved that he didn’t even start his meter. He said “what can I charge you when you have already given me dinner. You give me what you feel like.” 🙂 the guy was from Congo trying to make a living here.

The next day – our last day – we just wanted to explore the city center. During breakfast we checked the cable way and it was open.. but with some difficulty we decided to let it go and keep it for the next time…

After breakfast, we first finished all our packing so that we can have a relaxed evening and as our flight was at 6 am there wasn’t much time to sleep also. Then we left for the city center.


We first went to the district 6 museum – a museum dedicated to the apartheid history and people’s  struggle to have a place and rights on their own land.
A sadness enveloped me as I walked through the personal pictures and texts in the District 6 museum.

“You are now in Fairyland”
The handwritten text that one of the residents must have painted echoes what the neighbourhood meant for them. What their homes, their neighbours’ homes, the families all shared together. A fairyland.
Photographs of girls playing with skipping ropes on the streets outside their homes, of mothers with their babies, of daughters with their dolls, of family dinners, of boys making mischief – all of them transported me to that time and place. And slowly I felt anger and pain on being asked to leave my home. My fairyland being destroyed and grazed down to become a white neighbourhood. Why is this suddenly a “whites only” place and people who have been calling it their home for generations have no longer any right to call it so.

District 6 museum

After district 6 museum, as we were walking in the city, we came across the slavery museum. Another sad encounter with our history. Pictures and accounts reconstructed from what was told. The sad thing about slavery is it still exists.. In my own country, bonded labour is still practiced openly… family members are still sold…trafficking is a whole racquet  and in so many more invisible ways..

By this time we were hungry so we walked along.. and came across a sign of masala dosa hanging on our heads :). And masala dosa it was. The place is mentioned in lonely planet  but seriously there wasn’t much to it. The dosa were good but the chutney and the filling all were bland and lacked a flavour. But for me, who hasn’t had a restaurant style big dosa in ages, it was good. 🙂

Afterwards we went to company gardens.  Sat on a bench where sikander read his book and I took a siesta. There is a cute cafe as well inside the garden…


Later in the evening we went to Beerhouse, a place that prides itself for having 100 types of beers. Another waiter at a restaurant had earlier suggested us this place. What was great for me was that they had 100 ml size as well so one by one, I could taste many :P.


From there we walked to the waterfront and a mohito later our last evening in capetown was over.

The next morning we boarded the flight making a promise to the city that we will be back.


Lots of love

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