There’s Something About Marseille…

“We’re he-er,” A voice from the front seat cooed as I groggily tried to rub off the faint traces of sleep that still haunted my eyes.

The sleek, white Renault trundled to a stop just as I popped my head out its window to get a good look at the view outside – and I DEFINITELY wasn’t disappointed!

“Oh. My. Granola bar.” I sputtered, pinching myself to make sure that I was really, truly in the beach capital of France, and not tucked away in bed, half a world away.

I’m still not sure what exactly it was that stupefied my senses so dramatically in that moment. Maybe it was the piercing blue of the ocean, its waves crashing onto the shore with a symphony of sounds. Or maybe it was the sight of the darling cobblestone streets, twisting around town in a mosaic of brick and mortar. It might have even been the rows and rows of quirky, sea-facing cottages that threw me – but whatever the reason, I was completely DAZZLED.

And, as I was going to find out, each moment that I would spent in Marseille would just make me fall deeper and deeper in love with it.

In the five days that we spent basking in the glorious French summer sun, we did little more than eat, explore and enjoy everything to the fullest [and did I mention eat?].

We prayed for world peace in the celebrated Marseille cathedral, browsed artsy cafés and galleries on La Canebiére, ate our weight in bread and cheese, witnessed a thumping flash mob [and, yes, it was just like walking onto the set of an SRK movie], took a tiny train up a hill to get a look at the beloved “Notre Dame de la Garde” sculpture, bathed in the frigid waters of the sea [which was followed by a sun-bathed yoga session on the shore] and swiped every single freebie within a 3-mile radius of our apartment [hey, you know what they say; you can take a girl out of India, but you can’t take India out of the girl!].

And, oh, don’t even get me started on Marseille by night! Every evening, just as the sun started to dip towards the horizon, the lights from the yachts docked at the port would shimmer in the frosty air and lend an exotic glow to the entire coast. The high-rises that dotted the port side would light up just as twilight would start setting in and add a glamorous touch to the whole affair.

It really is true; moonlit Marseille is the perfect place for a little stroll. As we ended up eating out almost every night, we were able to take utmost advantage of this and gawked at the beauty all around us as we made our way home.

When the time came for us to leave the picturesque coastal haven, there’s no doubt that I’d have given pretty much anything to stay. In just five days, Marseille had already made me feel like I belonged within its sun-kissed borders.

My only consolation as I looked out into the infinitely large ocean one last time before getting back into the Renault was that somehow, I just knew that I was going to return one day.

And that thought makes me very happy.

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The “S” Word

The only part of the year I despise more than exam time has dawned; school has officially reopened and the summer holidays are DEAD.

[I mean, summer will be back next year so I guess it’s not technically dead, but hello?? I’m trying to be dramatic here]

Unless you’re a student [or, worse, a teacher], I’m pretty sure you don’t realise the gravity of the situation. This isn’t just the death [okay, okay, temporary absence. Geez]of a regular school break, oh no no no. This is SUMMER, and at the end of summer, comes a brand new academic year, ready to ruin your life in ways you can’t even imagine.

Like every seasoned torturer, though, the fresh school year starts off deceivingly well; crisp, mint-condition notebooks, refilled stationery pouches, a new backpack [if you’re lucky] and the promise of a fresh start. It’s all too good to be true.

Okay, you optimistically think to yourself. My slate has been wiped clean. From this year –no, from this SECOND, I am going to be a changed person. No more last-minute assignments and late submissions. My books will be up-to-date, my lowest test score will be an A++ and every teacher is going to ADORE me. Forget MarioKart, I’m going to be the most studious kid on the block and that’s FINAL.

Needless to say, that’s not going to happen. Two weeks in and you’ve already missed a project deadline, your grade point average is steadily slipping and you’re already planning to move to Canada because you’ve heard they get longer holidays [I’m speaking from experience here].

And I wish I could say it gets better, but who am I kidding?? We’ve all gone through it. We all know how it rolls.

In a blink, it’s time for the mid-terms and the pressure from all sides could turn coal to diamond and the moment THAT’S over everybody immediately plunges head-first into the next semester’s material giving you exactly zero minutes to regain your sanity.

And a flurry of pop quizzes and science exhibitions later, it’s finals week and you’ve barely skimmed through your textbook. A series of all-nighters later, you manage to make it and are in the midst of congratulating yourself for surviving before you realise that your classmates are intently poring through next year’s textbooks and you internally groan.

Not because you forgot to answer the essay question [okay, ALSO because of that] but because you’ve got it; you’ve realised that we’re all so caught up in this wretched rat race that none of us have the time to stop and take a moment to breathe.

Our world has become so incredibly school-centric that’s it’s impossible to ignore the importance of our marks and percentages at every stage of our lives, so I’m not claiming that it’s best to isolate yourself from your homework and run with butterflies instead.

But ignoring the rest of the world and, more importantly, yourself in pursuit of a 100/100 is probably not the wisest course of action, either.

It’s finding that blissful in-between that’s the important part.

It’s beyond crucial to be able to strike an even balance between the two; yin and yang, black and white, chemistry equations and reading Dan Brown. I know that if we stop wasting time on YouTube and start managing our time effectively, we can do both so why not give it a shot [yes, I know I sound like your Mom]??

And now’s the perfect time to start. All those incomplete notebooks from last year can be safely forgotten because it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life and I’m feeling good [yes, I just quoted a Michael Bublé song. Deal with it].

Let’s stop fearing the S word and embrace it instead [I’ve just realised that there’s a possibility for misunderstanding. By the S word, I mean school. School, guys], because the moment we start, wonderful things are going to happen. I just know it.

The Story of My Epic Summer #Fail

I’m going to be honest with you; since my summer break began on 1st May, I haven’t done an ounce of work.

Not one.

And it’s surprising that I actually feel guilty about this because I used to firmly believe that vacations from school were the perfect time to be disgustingly lazy.

That isn’t to say that my opinion is any different now; I still think that when a holiday eventually rolls around, you should bask in the golden freedom of not having to do anything and just chill out.

However, seeing as how this is the summer before I officially enter the tenth grade [gulp], all of my classmates had decided to forsake their last carefree summer in order to study and be better prepared for when school starts in June.

At first, I scoffed. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I did. I thought that they were taking things WAY too seriously and that our measly syllabus could easily be crammed the night before the exam [my usual mode of preparation].

However, as my friends continued to jabber about giving up their school break for the noble cause of enriching their education, it occurred to me that maybe I was the dumb one.

Maybe I it’s time I sobered up and started spending my summers productively, I remember thinking. Maybe it’s time to start waking up before 04:00 pm and maybe it’s time to start thinking twice before I serve myself a SEVENTH HELPING at the dinner table. Wait, what was I thinking about? Oh, right, school. Summer. Studying. Groan.

And that’s when I decided that I was not going sleep away another summer. I was going to get started on the semester’s curriculum, score myself an internship [I hear they look real good on college applications] and have a total blast while achieving my goals at the same time. I was going to work and play and work again and play again and I was NOT going to eat more than five bowls of cereal with milk in one sitting [wait, what?].

So when the first day of summer rolled around, I was READY. With a brand new notepad in one hand and a pouch filled with stationery in the other, I was prepared to seriously kick butt.

A surge of confidence coursing through my body, I opened up the book and scrawled out a neat “My Summer Study Plan” –with a double underline- at the top of the first page. Dutifully, I filled in the date and the page number and underlined them twice, too.

Then, I wrote in the dates of all the days in the month and added a cute little hyphen next to them.

By this point, I’d spent at LEAST three whole minutes furiously writing and I needed a break. Just a short breather to regain my focus, I told myself as I skipped out of my room to grab a bite to eat.

Seven plates of raw mango later, I was forced to admit to myself that I wasn’t going back to work –not today, at least.

Hey, this is your FIRST DAY. Give yourself a break. I mean, you DID complete the entire outline of the plan I internally reasoned with myself. Take the rest of the day off, but remember that it’s back to the grind tomorrow.

Didn’t happen.

It’s been close to four weeks since that first half-hearted attempt to write out a schedule and my great study plan is still exactly the way it was before I decided to hog on unripe fruit.

Why?

The internet, that’s why.

To be fair, I am such an ace procrastinator that I would’ve thought of some reason or the other to ditch my work, but the Internet made it too easy.

YouTube, Tumblr, Wattpad, Twitter [heck, even Wikipedia]… I had enough and more ways to waste my time and I grabbed it with open arms.

In the last twenty five days, I’ve watched more YouTube videos than I have muscles in my body. I’ve read more Fanfiction than a literature major has read Hemingway. I’ve skimmed through more Tweets than most birds have chirped in their entire lifetime. I’ve- you get the idea, right?

And you want to know the worst part?

At the end of all these intense binging sessions, I was left with a frustrated, hollow pit in my stomach. Sure, I more than enjoy the internet sessions while they last, but when they’re over and I’m left alone with my thoughts, I am NOT amused.

Now, if you’re one of those kids who has obediently opened your textbooks every day and actually read them, I applaud you. [I also want to murder you, but let’s not drone on that]

However, if you’re anything like me and feel like you could’ve done a lot more over the past couple of weeks, here’s what I have to say to you;

It isn’t over yet. There’s still more than a week of glorious freedom left before we’re thrust into the land of pop quizzes and PowerPoint presentations so let’s give it our best shot.

No, I don’t mean mugging science formulae till your eyes burn but making the most of the fact that this is your holiday and you deserve it. So I want you to promise me that you’re going to have fun. Indulge yourself by doing what you love most, be it poring through the classics or opening up food stalls with your sister so you can rake in some extra cash.

Be passionate and be free. Live each moment like your entire life boils down to it and don’t be afraid to try something new. You think you might enjoy making short films and uploading them for the world to see? Go for it [just make sure that you don’t spend the next three hours stalking Robbie Williams on Facebook]. You want to try your hand at baking a Madeira cake? Just do it.

This is the time to spread those wings and truly explore your potential. A LOT can happen in one week, so make it your best one.

P.S – A thousand apologies for all the corny I’ve managed to slip into one blog post! It won’t be this cheesy next time, I promise!

Sunsets In The Summer

Cloudless skies and pigeons’ cries,
And a lush, warm, crimson hue,
Let’s take a moment to behold
As we pay summer sunsets their due

Clouds of pink cotton candy
Flit about on their own trip,
Flocks of ravens stretch their wings,
As the cheery day does slip

Into a sleepy, orange phase,
Of daily change and transition,
The little hints the earth whispers,
Are lost in flurried translation

Nocturnal beasts start to stir,
As the sunlight filters out,
And we traipse through the lime-green fields,
Homeward; a familiar route

Like a cloak of the richest velvet,
Like a frock of the prettiest silk,
The night begins to envelope us all,
And the moon rises, pale as milk

Keep Calm and Kick Butt!

Summer, in all its crispy, fiery glory, has already engulfed us in its scorching arms and we all know what THAT means; weeks and weeks of glorious sunshine, lazing around with a delicious novel to immerse ourselves into, chasing the ice cream man for two rupee mango lollies…

But wait a minute! What’s the dark, ominous thing peeping at us from around the corner, blocking the brilliance of summer from truly reaching us??

That’s right; it’s the EXAMS.

[I’m going to pause for a moment while the horror of the situation sinks in…]

Yup, it’s a student’s worst nightmare and it’s HERE.

Depending on which grade you are in and which educational board your school follows, you could be either;

  1. Totally relaxing with your exams safely behind you
  2. Right in the midst of the exams, or
  3. Panicking because your exams are steadily approaching

I am super relieved to inform you that my classmates and I are firmly in the first category as our exams got over in the middle of March BUT for those of you who aren’t, here are a few tips and tricks to help you get through this terrifically trying time;

First of all, keep calm.

I know, I know; it sounds so OBVIOUS that you shouldn’t be panicking but here me out; the exam time is when students start to unintentionally stress about EVERYTHING from things they can do something about to things they most certainly can’t control.

The first step is to figure out which is which; is worrying about what you could have done really the best way to be spending so much valuable time?? Sure, you could have done so much more, but you haven’t, and that’s that. Things that have already happened are things that you can’t change so clear your mind of the little regrets and work on spending the time you have as fruitfully and effectively as possible.

Another mistake that students seem to be making around this time is neglecting their “essentials,” and by this I mean two main things – food and fresh air.

Just because you have that all-important science paper coming up in two days is not reason to ignore your dietary needs. Remember, one can only work truly efficiently on a full stomach.

Also, it’s important to remember that everybody needs a bit of enjoyment and you’ll find that a brisk walk in the evening or a game of footie with the neighbours will do your overworked brain a world of good.

Considering all that Chemistry cramming you have [hopefully] done, you probably know what H2O is the chemical symbol of water. But simply knowing that is not enough; it’s the mark of an educated mind to be able to use the information that you’ve got to your advantage and in this case, it means making sure that you’re properly hydrated throughout the day, a very vital key to making sure that your body as well as your mind remain healthy and alert.

Now that you’ve satisfied all your basic needs, all that’s left is to keep a clear head, confidently step into the examination hall and give it your all. Take a deep breath, stay cool and get ready to KICK BUTT.

You’ve got this.

Mangolicious 2.0 [How It All Began…]

Rewind to the year 2012, when I was a tender [OK, not so tender] child of ten, brimming with questions, thirsty for answers and eager to make money. Yes, eager to make money.

From a fairly young age [as if ten isn’t young enough], I’ve been interested in cash. Cold, hard cash [the colder and harder, the better].

Raking in moolah always seemed pretty fascinating and one day, in the summer of [no, not ’69] 2012, I decided to pursue this -ahem- “interest” and set up a mango stall. Just a simple, no-frills booth with four or five baskets filled with yellow fruit plucked from our family tree. Of course, my sister Trikaya and a girlfriend helped out and in about an hour, our inventory had gone from over 170 to 0. Just like that.

OK, maybe not JUST like that. I mean, I practically DRAGGED the neighbours from their couches by their ears and lectured them about the health benefits of eating mangoes till they relented and agreed to by a dozen. Similarly, I physically STOPPED and would NOT allow vehicles that passed our street from continuing along their merry way until they purchased at least a couple fruits.

As forceful and invasion-of-personal-space as these tactics may seem, THEY WORKED!! We went home $85 dollars richer [which we traded for Gummy Bears as soon as we spotted a Walmart] and with the experience of a lifetime.

But That’s Not All!! To Read The Rest Of The Adventure, Stay TUNED!!