Outback Australia! Memories of a road trip.

Taking a road trip anywhere in Australia is a magical experience!

I’ve just got back from 2 days in Coonabarabran, the Astronomy capital of New South Wales, about six hours drive from Sydney and thought I’d share a bit of the journey with you all.

Beautiful clear skies…a shade of blue that absolutely dazzles the eye….fluffy clouds chugging along sedately in the sky…..

Mudgee 3

One could see luscious greenery showcased along the sides of the wide, long-winding roads.

Mudgee 1

We drove through tranquil, sleepy rural villages. Art galleries…quaint shops filled with artefacts…vintage clothing outlets…and old-fashioned coffee shops that absolutely implored you to stop and grab a cuppa!

The Blue Mountains region is absolutely breathtaking….we passed through the spectacular towns of Katoomba, Mount Victoria, Medlow Bath (with the majestic Hotel Hydro Magestic that looked like a castle plucked straight out of the heart of Europe. I could almost imagine lords and ladies from a bygone age enjoying high tea in its plush surrounds) and Blackheath, just to name a few.

The highways in Australia are dotted with ‘driver-reviver’ stops which offer free tea, coffee and biscuits to the commuters, to ensure there is no fatigue for drivers driving long stretches. Apparently, there are more than 1 million cuppas consumed in any given year. Amazing, right?

Wherever one looked there were rolling hills, and acres that stretched as far as the eye could see dotted with grazing cattle.

Mudgee 5

Everytime I saw a road-sign indicating kangaroos or koalas, we would look around excitedly, and sure enough we had occasional glimpses of kangaroos standing upright, staring intensely at the cars zooming past.

Mudgee 4

And lastly, what’s a drive through countryside New South Wales, without stopping at a local winery. We spent nearly two hours at a rustic, old fashioned winery in Mudgee.
The winemaker was a friendly old man who recounted the history of the winery which started off long ago as a shearing shed for sheep. When I requested him to pose for a photo, he twirled his moustache like a medieval knight and grinned into the camera.

Mudgee 6

And what’s a visit to a vineyard without tasting the local wine! Many wineries in Australia also offer crackers and cheese along with the wine tasting. I had a few drops of a chilled sweet white wine which tickled my taste buds.

The vineyard cellar looked rustic, and was filled with artefacts and knick-knacks from long ago.

Mudgee 9

There were huge barrels on which were balanced the wines grown from local grapes and large glass containers filled with pickled lemons floating in a sea of oil, bay leaves, red chillies and cloves.

Mudgee 8

We had a lovely chat with the winemaker who ran us through the history of the little town we were in. He was most tickled to find out I’m an author and happily posed for photos and reminisced about the old era when life was so different.

As we were leaving, he tilted his cap and wished us ‘Gudday’….

As I said before, road trips in Australia have a touch of magic to them. Taking flights to and from major cities is all well and good. But the real Australia is only seen when one travels down its spectacular roads, uniting with nature and its many reflections.

Advertisements

True friends are rare.

This is a very quick post..inspired by someone I met today. This young girl, while chatting with me, happened to mention a very good friend of hers with whom she has recently lost contact. Theirs had been a wonderful friendship, spanning over several years. And then, suddenly, one day, they weren’t friends any more. The young girl (I will call her Jane in this article) said sullenly that it wasn’t her fault the friendship broke and so she wasn’t going to waste a single night’s sleep worrying about it.

‘Why did you two stop talking?’ I asked.
Jane shrugged. ‘No idea’
I was a bit surprised by that. ‘What do you mean? You and your best friend have broken up and you have no idea why?’
Jane frowned, struggling to come up with a good reason. ‘Well, she just stopped talking with me one day. She has been behaving a bit strange for a few weeks. Avoiding my phone calls, snapping at me if I asked her a question, refusing to catch up for our usual coffee and gossip sessions.’

‘Maybe she’s upset about something,’ I reasoned. ‘Did you try finding out what had annoyed her?’

‘Ha! Why should I give her so much importance?’ Jane sounded outraged at my meek suggestion. ‘If she wants to sulk and pout, she’s welcome to it. I can’t be bothered with such childishness. I don’t remember having said or done anything to upset her. So, if she wants to break off our friendship, then so be it’ and Jane sniffed self-righteously.

And a beautiful friendship ended. Just like that, with barely a whimper of protest.

I came home, thoughtful and pensive. My conversation with Jane made me wonder about why friends get estranged. Why do people give up on beautiful relationships without putting up a fight? Why didn’t Jane confront her friend and demand an explanation for her strange behaviour? Could the friendship have been saved if only the two friends had been open and honest with each other?

It takes two to tango! A friendship needs to be nurtured, protected and cherished by both parties. Sulking because a friend has unwittingly let you down will not solve the problem. If the friendship is worth preserving, then it is worth fighting for. If Jane had asked her friend outright what was troubling her, perhaps her friend would have given an honest answer’. It would have given Jane the opportunity to either apologise or to tell her friend that her anger was misplaced. If Jane’s friend had, instead of avoiding her, told her frankly what had annoyed her, she would have figured out the truth. A friendship could have been saved. The air would have been cleared and all would be well again.

Having said that, some so-called-friends will, no matter how often you ask them what’s bothering them, sweep things under the carpet and insist that there’s nothing wrong. And yet, they will go out of the way to avoid you and make it clear that something definitely is wrong in the relationship. Like I said before, it takes two to tango. If both parties are not committed to making the friendship work, then I’m afraid it’s best to let such a crippling friendship fade away.

So, my dear readers, if you’ve argued or quarrelled with a friend, and if the friend means a lot to you, don’t give up so easily. Either stop fretting, forget and forgive, and get on with your life. Or demand an explanation for behaviour that you don’t appreciate. Either way, keeping silent is never going to help. True friends are hard to find. So if you’re lucky enough to have found one, don’t let him or her slip away.

What my fictional character taught me.

Now that I’ve begun writing book 2, I’m beginning to realise how difficult it is to write about a protagonist who is completely opposite to the kind of person I am. The biggest temptation for any author is to base a character on herself. But how boring would that be if all characters thought/acted/ reacted in the same manner. What a dull set of books that would turn out to be!

My new heroine Vibha is plucky, daring and loves the thrill of adventure sport. And I don’t think I could honestly, hand-on-heart, describe myself in the same manner. I break out into a cold sweat at the thought of bungy jumping, sky diving and anything that requires me to step outside my comfort zone. Roller-coaster rides fill me with unbearable dread and theme parks hold very little interest for me. Given a choice, I would much rather sit in a cozy corner of my house with a steaming cup of coffee next to me and read one of the classics.

But how can I write convincingly about a character if I don’t understand how the character thinks? An opportunity to think and behave as Vibha would arose yesterday when I spent the day at Dreamworld amusement park on the Gold Coast, where I’m attending a work conference. Normally, whenever I’m at theme parks with my kids, I do the nice and easy rides (you know, like Wiggles World or Tea Cup) which allows you to gaze serenely at the world passing by. None of that turbulent tossing around of the more daring rides for me, thank you. But Vibha would pooh-pooh the idea of a teacup ride as ‘too easy’ and would set her sights on something more adventurous.

I stood at the base of the Tower of Terror, looked up at it and felt myself turn into jelly. It is one of the most frightening rides….a tiny steel shuttle that roars down the trail at 160 kms an hour. My knees buckled and my heart began pounding. ‘Go on, Nim, do it!’ my friends urged. I would have refused except suddenly it was as though Vibha, my fictional yet very real-to-me character, was whispering in my ears. “I would do it. You can do it, too”. And that was enough to snap me into action. If I didn’t go on the roller coaster ride, there was no way I could understand what that kind of thrill would mean to someone like my very headstrong character. And so, ten minutes later, I strapped myself into the little capsule. There was a loud roar…and slowly…the roller coaster began its thunderous journey….picking up speed and momentum with every passing second until finally we were suspended in mid air, looking down at the world below….Vibha would have cheered and whistled…but her poor author was reduced to a trembling mass of nerves and refused to keep her eyes open any more. I gritted my teeth, squeezed my eyes shut and began praying fervently. Why, oh why, had I got on this ride? Why wasn’t I in the nice, cozy coffee shop instead, sipping chai latte and eating carrot cake? But there was no time to fantasize about coffee and cake. Before I knew what was happening, the little steel shuttle was dipping and soaring and tumbling and roaring…It was exhilarating!!! Even though I took the coward’s way out and didn’t open my eyes once.

At the end of the ride, when we all got out, feeling numbed and yet in some way rejuvenated, I tried to calm my trembling heart. ‘Phew! What a journey!’ I mumbled to no one in particular.

Although the experience hasn’t miraculously and suddenly turned me into a dare-devil, it did teach me something. It taught me to overcome fear. It also taught me lessons about my own character’s personality make-up. I feel I have a slightly better understanding of Vibha today than I did before I got onto that roller-coaster. In my book, Vibha will try sky-diving, but her author takes a bow and draws a line there. No skydiving, bungy jumping for me, thank you very much. I will leave things like that to my characters.
So, cheers to you, Vibha! If it hadn’t been for you and my need to understand you, I probably wouldn’t have overcome my fear of rides.
Sometimes, a writer’s characters can be her finest teachers.

‘I’m bored!’…why boredom can be good sometimes!

As far back as I can remember, my generation never really had the luxury of saying ‘I’m bored’ when we were kids. We seldom had access to the kind of structured activities kids of today do. And yet we kind of knew, or at least, learned to figure out what to do with our time. Today, many kids have their weeks and days scheduled right down to the last minute…maths tuitions, soccer games, piano practice, creative writing workshops…What happens, though, the minute there are no lessons scheduled? Out comes a very common refrain…’I’m bored!’ Why is boredom so feared by so many people? And why are people always tumbling over themselves to ensure that neither they nor their kids are bored at any given time? Is boredom such a bad thing that it must be avoided at any cost?

I am fascinated that the moment there is the first gentle hint of boredom, out come the mobile phones, laptops, play stations…instant gratification!…instant entertainment!….and hey presto, boredom has been banished! But to be replaced by what? Mindless games? Movies? Talk shows? Yes! Sad though it seems, it’s very much true. Today, no one wants to risk facing boredom. It must be avoided at all cost! But wait a minute…let’s analyse this terrible thing called boredom. Let’s find out if any good can come out of being bored.

It is my belief that creativity is born out of boredom. Songs can be written…paintings can be created…drama can be performed…so much can be done during the time we are officially considering ourselves ‘bored’. When was the last time kids tore a piece of paper from art books and figured out how to make paper planes or boats with them? I remember my childhood (hazy memory though it is!)…my friends and I would lean into a bucket and watch as our paper boats tossed around in the water. We would throw paper planes around and scream with delight when the one we had created went right across the room. Boredom led us to go seeking new knowledge…we walked around looking for different kinds of leaves and stuck them in scrap books. We made up songs (most didn’t rhyme, but so what?)…we wrote poetry… we performed plays and giggled because inevitably the main characters would end up forgetting their lines…we played robbers and cops and hide n’seek…we painted…rolled out shapes and figures from home-made dough…raced with dinky cars…did puppet shows…oh, we had fun!..and it didn’t cost half as much as the activities cost today. Were we ever bored? Perhaps! But we didn’t have the luxury to sit around and wallow in self-pity.We got up and went about finding the means to keep ourselves entertained. No one handed us their mobile phones to keep us busy. No one switched on the video and played the latest movie. No one took us ten-pin bowling, skating or to laser skirmish. And yet, we managed!

Just occasionally, let Boredom have its moment in the sun. Boredom has a lot to teach us. It teaches us to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. It can open the window to creativity…it can make us look deep within and find a fountain of talent we never knew we had.

Who will be my next heroine?

The million dollar question….well, at least it seemed that way to me on all those days and nights when I sat pondering the question: ‘Who will be the protagonist of book 2…..?’
Anjali, the protagonist of my debut novel, was comparatively easy to write about and therefore it quite suited me to have her as the main character of the book, considering I was trying my hand at novel writing for the very first time. Anjali was simple, uncomplicated, impressionable…she was a die-hard romantic..a dreamer…a believer…in love with the idea of love. I enjoyed writing her story.

I knew that the next story would be either Vibha’s or Naina’s (both of them are secondary characters in my first book)…..but which of those two? Which of those two did I feel a greater connect with? The calm, mature, strong-minded, no-nonsense Vibha….or the giggly, mischief-seeking Naina? I had to make a choice. They both have very different stories to tell..they have both had their share of heartache, heartbreak, longing…and yet, they have both chosen very different paths.

As I was sitting staring into space a few weeks ago, pondering this question about my next heroine…a cup of strong, instant coffee sitting ignored and unattended next to me…chewing on the edge of a pencil as I scribbled my thoughts and agonised over this crucial decision, a sentence spoken by Anjali’s college friend Shehnaaz in ‘Unravelling Anjali’ floated back to me….Shehnaaz had said: ‘This is hardly something you can decide in a few minutes. It’s too big a matter. Just go with the flow and see what happens. Your heart will know what to do when the time comes.’

And so, I followed my character’s advice and just let it be….I would eventually know if the next book would be about Vibha or Naina…my heart would know….
And then one day not so long ago, I began jotting down some notes…some thoughts..random snippets….And I realised that it was Vibha I was writing about…Vibha, whose story fascinated me….

And so, dear readers, Vibha it is… the smart, self-assured and mysterious heroine of Book 2.

The lost art of keeping in touch

‘Hey, stay in touch….’ or ‘I’ll be in touch’….

How often have you heard something similar? And how often has it been implemented? Has staying in touch gone out of fashion? Or is it just too much of an effort in today’s busy, hectic times? Do people really mean it when they say they will ‘be in touch’ or is it just something that sounds good? And if they do mean it, why then do few people actually carry out the promise?

The art of building relationships…of staying connected….of forming a meaningful network….has somehow, somewhere been misplaced….it is buried under the burden of simply living through each day with its share of challenges, obstacles and problems. Looming deadlines at work….homework hassles with kids….marital ups and downs….many people find it difficult to even manage to catch up on the news each day, let alone catch up with long-lost friends….

Isn’t it sad?

I’ve been in India for the past six weeks, for the launch and promotion of my debut novel…and have been fortunate to have met some really amazing people during my stay. People who have taught me valuable lessons…people who have taken the meaning of friendship to an entirely new level…people who have helped me, expecting nothing in return other than a delighted smile….people I would be sorry to lose touch with…..people I’m going to make an effort to remain connected with.

We are all busy….we are all caught up in the dramas of living everyday life….we have buses to catch, deadlines to meet, bills to pay…but can’t we all make a tiny effort each day to reach out to the many wonderful people we meet somewhere along the way? One quick sms to say ‘Hey, was thinking of you. Hope you’re well’….one tiny email wishing someone ‘happy new year’….one facebook message to say ‘let’s catch up for coffee’….It will take a mere couple of minutes out of your schedule, but in return you will receive the promise of a beautiful friendship.

Friendships, like plants, need to be nurtured…Left to themselves, they will die…wither away….Rather than looking back some day and being sad about a lost friendship, reach out and connect.

As motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said: ‘If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.’

Copyright Nim Gholkar 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Do you ‘seek’ or do you ‘doubt’?

One of my favourite mantras, the one I live by, is: ‘There is something to be learned from every person we meet’. I enjoy meeting new people and am avidly curious about where they come from, what their life experiences have been, what lessons they have learned in their journey and I love incorporating any pearls of wisdom I may stumble across along the way into my own life.

Yesterday, I luckily happened to meet one really wise, well-travelled lady who was generous enough to share her life story with me. I sat enthralled for well over an hour listening to her…my cappuccino cooled and stayed ignored as I got engrossed in hearing about her many inspiring and heart-warming experiences.

Me being me, I could not sit still….I had loads of questions bubbling in my head which simply had to be asked. ‘So what exactly’…’But why’…’What if…’….’How come?’….My questions were constant and I absorbed her answers with care. I wanted to bask in her immsense wisdom and learn from the lessons she had gathered in her rather tumultuous journey. She never seemed to tire of my lively curiosity and gave much thought to every question of mine. I lost track of time…it was only when I happened to absent-mindedly sip my coffee, only to find it stone-cold, that I glanced at my watch. I was startled to see an entire hour had gone by.

Inevitably, as happens so often, I felt a little embarrassed at how many questions I had asked my very patient friend. That’s the trouble with us authors….we want to know the hows and the whys and the whens….we enjoy a good story and it doesn’t matter if we are writing one, listening to one, or watching one on the screen. A good story is a good story. I finally laughed a little sheepishly and apologised for being such a curious person and was thoroughly charmed by her response. She said to me: ‘Nim, yours is a ‘seeking’ mind, not a ‘doubting’ mind. A seeking mind wishes to understand…..a doubting mind wishes to negate…..so don’t ever admonish yourself for being curious. I enjoyed your questions. It’s the only way to learn new things….to grow….to evolve’

How beautiful a response was that….???

I came home feeling enriched by her response and grateful that I had been given the opportunity to learn from her.
It strengthened my already strong belief that every person we meet has something to teach us, however big or small the lesson may be. And felt happy that she was kind enough to describe my penchant for probing questions as the ‘art of seeking’. So, if you’re curious about something new, and are embarrassed about asking too many questions, don’t be…..remember, a seeking mind only wishes to understand….and that is, in my humble opinion, a good thing.

Copyright Nim Gholkar 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries

%d bloggers like this: