Birthday girl

Today, I am the birthday girl! Yay!

To fit the occasion, I found these pictures of my 7th? 8th? birthday, which I spent in Calcutta (before it became Kolkata). Here I am with my mom, my Dadu (grandfather) and Minnie Mouse, from whom I was inseparable at the time. My Indian relatives threw me a party at my grandparents’ apartment, dressed me (and my sister) up in traditional salwar kameez, and showered me with gifts. It was a blast!

I’m not spending my birthday anywhere as exotic this year, but it will still be lots of fun. It’s a full day—today I have my first prenatal yoga class, followed by lunch with my pregnancy buddy (a good friend who is due just a week after me!), a haircut, and finally dinner with friends at one of my favorite brasseries in the city. Then, as is our tradition, Marlon whisks me away to a top-secret location for a weekend staycation. The only thing I know is that it will be in Amsterdam, since he can’t travel without his passport.

The first year of my 30s has been amazing—full of unexpected blessings and happy moments—and I have so much to celebrate. I hope wherever you are on this Friday night, you have reason to celebrate too!

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School days: Vintage photographs from India

I’ve been looking for art to hang alongside the two Indian miniature paintings that Marlon and I bought on our honeymoon in Rajasthan. We’ve already put up most of our art, and none of them seemed to go with those two paintings in particular, either in style or in theme.
Then I realized I had just the thing to go with the Indian miniatures: a family album of vintage photographs from India in the 1950s and 1960s. I first discovered this album in my mom’s drawer back in high school. It was packed with some things of my dad’s, like old passports. I’m guessing either he owned it or my Dima, his mother, kept it for him as a chronicle of his school days.
A little bit about my dad: he was named Amitabha, but known to family and friends as Gandhi because he was born on the date of Gandhi’s death. (Nicknames are a big thing in Bengali culture.) At the age of 5, he won a huge regional quiz contest where the prize was a coveted scholarship to a British-run boarding school in the Himalayas, where India’s elite sent their children to study.
This was a major deal. It made him something of a golden boy among his clan, the best and brightest, the family’s pride. This sort of hero status surrounded him his whole life and extended to my mom, sister and me. I really feel it whenever I go to Calcutta; as Gandhi’s daughter, I get the star treatment. My dad’s boarding school education led to a scholarship at AIM, and eventually to a career in trading, banking and finance in Hong Kong and Manila, then the financial capitals of Asia.
Not bad for a young boy from a simple family from Calcutta. Dima was always so proud of him. Here is Dima in her younger days. Something about this photo reminds me of my sister.
Out of all the photos in the album, it was the glimpses of my dad’s boarding school life in 1950s India that really captivated me.
 I think my dad’s the one on the top left, in the singlet and sailor hat.
 Second row, second from left. I’ve had that same expression in class pictures.
Swimming lesson.
 Military training. We had that too.
 School dance. Already happening in India in the 1950s, 
but forbidden in my high school in the 1990s. WTF.
 Sometime close to graduation, I’m guessing. My dad is seated, on the right.
There are also some beautiful vignettes of India. These pictures are so small and delicate—some are just half the size of my iPhone. This is one of the larger, sharper ones.
I’ve decided that my new project will be to hunt for vintage frames for my favorite photos from this album. It will be hard to choose just a few… I might end up filling an entire wall!
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2008 was the year…

I almost missed my honeymoon flight… and ran straight from my arrival gate to my departure gate without my luggage.

I introduced Marlon to his new Indian relatives, and gave my family in India a new jamai (son-in-law). 

I fell in love with Rajasthan.

I rode a camel for the first time.

I saw my first desert.

I woke up before dawn to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. If there’s anything I would ever wake up that early for again and again, this would be it. 

I left home and moved to Singapore.

I began to create a new home — my first. 

I learned to cook. Really well, I might add. I also discovered a new pleasure — cooking with Marlon.

my first pasta

my first risotto

I became obsessed with Jamie Oliver.

I started writing beauty articles for Singapore magazines.

I learned that fighting with your husband never, ever means the two of you are doomed.

My grandmother died.

I got the job that I really, really, really wanted – despite having potentially screwed up my chances to get it.

I made a choice that gave me what I really, really, really wanted – despite knowing that there were going to be some people who would absolutely hate me for it.

I started working at BDA.

the office cat, da huay (“big gray”)

bda’s big black-and-white pre-war office on oxley road

I learned how to take ownership of my own ideas and be responsible for them – thereby killing a long-suffering suspicion that in my old concept team at GMA, the only person responsible for the kick-ass work we did was my brilliant partner. Oh, the dramz!

I delivered my first pitch.

I began to learn just what it takes to bring an idea to life. In short, I started to glimpse what it was really like to be a producer.

I conceptualized, scripted and produced my first spot for a regional network.

I bought my first piece of sculpture (from the Taka project, a piece by Juan Sajid Imao).

I made my first overseas remittance (and officially became an overseas Filipino worker!).

I saw Alicia Keys…

and Rihanna live in concert.

I traveled to Malaysia…

… Seoul, South Korea

… and Shanghai, China (where I turned 27 years old) for the very first time.

I jumped off a pier for the first (and what will probably be the only) time in my life, at Tioman in Malaysia.

I did an overnight shopping junket in Hong Kong.

Marlon and I paid off all our credit card debt.

I started having fun doing monthly budgets. Even beyond cleaning off the card, this to me is the ultimate sign of financial freedom.

I made the switch from PC to Mac… and wondered why I never did it earlier. (Oh, yeah. Macs are expensive. Now I remember.)

I learned that not all badings are fabulous and smart, and that my ACS badings are truly rare treasures.

I adopted a cat, Rogue (and inducted Marlon into the wonderful, adorable, thrill-a-minute world of felines).

I attended my first Promax BDA conference.

I got completely, passed-out-and-dragged-home drunk and had the worst hangover of my life… thanks to an office party.

battling for the honor of “drunkest expression” with my boss, james, and the creative director of our sydney office. i passed out shortly after this photo was taken.

I became a student of flamenco (which subsequently led to the most expensive shoe purchase of my life). 

I started muay thai.

I made my own Christmas ornaments, and set up my first Christmas tree.

I had a choir-less Christmas for the first time in over 10 years.

I celebrated one year of being married to Marlon… and continue to discover the thousandfold reasons why people fall in love and get married.

celebrating our first anniversary at the boutique hotel in tagaytay (i’m wearing my favorite of marlon’s christmas gifts this year — my bikini necklace!)

when i look back and see what a year we’ve had, how can i believe that 2009 will be any less phenomenal?

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You had me at "verbal barrage"

with me in charge (more or less) of the wedding, the boyf has been tasked with planning the honeymoon. it took us the greater part of a year to decide, but we finally set our sights on a couple of days in boracay, a short visit to the family in kolkata, and a week-plus roaming the wonders of rajasthan and agra. (palace of the winds! taj mahal! amber fort! gorgeousness!)

yesterday, marlon forwarded me a lengthy missive from a mr. tapas banerjee of trinetra tours in delhi. and by lengthy, i mean three pages when cut-and-pasted into a word document! within seconds i knew this was going to be interesting.

‘Namaste’ & Greetings Mr. Plazo !!Good Morning !!Many thanks for your mail. We take this opportunity to confirm our best intentions and knowledge to the cause of your trip. It is a pleasure to welcome you & your traveling partner to our country.

Before I serve my verbal barrage on to you, I just wish to inform you that I would be delighted to offer you references from All Over The World including Singapore too.

kapow! you’ve got me mr. banerjee! something about the self-deprecating, candid and enthusiastic tone just got me. and so i read on.

more choice excerpts:

For your entire journey, we are upgrading your transport to a fine Toyota MUV (Innova). This car will substantially add to your traveling comfort, especially on some bumpy roads where the top quality suspension would not let you feel any discomfort. However, the biggest and the single most achievement of this car is its Air-conditioning, [natawa talaga ako dito! omigosh! this is so true! especially in india!] which ensures that you are cool and fresh even if you are traveling under the mid day sun in warm country.

Besides the car, your driver would be special. He would be your ‘Man Friday’. You would of course have local guides conducting your city tours in each city, but, besides that, your driver would be your most invaluable friend. He would not only be knowledgeable about places of interest in between journeys as also in cities, but, he would be a very nice human being with a pleasing personality for whom nothing would be trouble.

pero dito talaga nahulog yung loob ko sa kanya:

I apologise for my unending chin wagging, Mr. Plazo. I love the business and the gossip opportunities that come with it. Actually, the home dinner that I am proposing is in my house. Both me and my wife, Krishna love meeting people and making friends. I got into the business primarily because I could travel with tour groups making friends and sharing experiences. However, with the business expanding in the last 7-8 years, I am more or less now confined to my office ensuring standards that we are so paranoid about. Hence, whenever possible, I invite clients to our home for a meal with myself and my wife, Krishna. Home dinners are my major personal interaction with clients and I look forward to this eagerly. Little do the visitors realise that they would be subjected to my verbal diarrhea!!

ang sweet diba? anyway, i checked out a couple of the hotels and sites on his itinerary. and. oh. my. gawd.

behold rohet garh, a gorgeous 17th century home-turned-heritage hotel in jodhpur. swoon.

i may have died and gone into a taschen book.

and check out the luxe desert camping digs in manvar.

and one of the client references describes their driver as “a prince among drivers.”

i do believe we have a winner.

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