Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

As I was planning for a holiday after a long haul, my son inquired, “So where are you and Papa planning to go for holiday?”

I was busy on my laptop and replied in brief, “Florida.”

“Oh Florida. Okay. Anyways its a destination for the old snowbirds from Canada. Have a great trip.”

I was too busy and fascinated in my vacation planning that I did not find it necessary to respond.

A few days later he saw me exploring the map of Florida Keys:

florida Keys

He screamed from far: “Are you going to Florida Keys?”


“Damn you told me you were going to Florida.”

“Yes, it’s in Florida.”

“Can I come?”

“Sorry my son, tickets are booked. And you have your weightlifting tournament coming.”

He certainly wasn’t very impressed.

In two days, I was driving off to Bufallo, to receive my husband at the airport, and we were then flying together to West Palm Beach.

In merely 4 hours of flight, down south, the world changed from a 8 degrees Centigrade mandating a heavy jacket and boots to 100 degrees Farenheit, flip flops and a muslin shirt.

With every fleeting moment I was drawing closer to the wierd childhood ambition of driving all through the 128 miles off-shore highway 1 on Atlantic Ocean all the way upto Key West.

If I had my way, I would have rented a convertible car and drove like Rajesh Khanna singing “Mere Sapnon ki Rani kab aayegi tuu” (“Fairy of my dreams, when will you arrive?”)
Silly as it may sound, this is how I had dreamt through my teens of driving to Key West, in a roofless car.

PS: Why in the world did I dream of driving to Key West as a teen? That’s another story, that I will share in the next blog on Key West. 


However, half a century later, with soaring temperatures of 100 degrees Farenheit, and with a heat warning in place, we were advised by the rental company agent, “I suggest you get an SUV and drive with an AC to save yourself from heat exhaustion and enough energy to enjoy the drive.”
So we began, from Miami, heading down south.
In about an hour we reached the point, almost at the last edge of land on Florida coast.


I did not need  pinch myself, to make sure this wasn’t just an age old dream. My thumping heart raced with the speed of the car, and was enough of a testimony that it was a dream coming alive.

(Note: To give an over view, Florida Keys are a coral reef archipelago( of 1000 islands) spread across the south of Florida peninsula, dividing the Atlantic ocean and forming Gulf of Mexico in the North. These islands are called Keys, and mainly classified into Upper, Middle and Lower Keys. A beautiful US Overseas Highway 1 runs from the entrance at Key Largo upto the last inhabited island Key West. Various concrete bridges with a single track connect these keys along the way. About 65 miles further west are uninhabited group of keys Dry Tortugas. )


I am sure my heart missed a beat as I saw Welcome Key Largo board glaring at us. Key Largo( Cayo Largo is the Spanish name) is the northern most key and forms the gateway to the Offshore Highway.


Almost instinctively out of excitement, the five year old in me began to hum the Muppet version of Beach Boys song Kokomo which I must have listened more than exactly a 1000 times with my little kids as they watched the Sesame Street videos. (Here is the song ).

“Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go,
Off the Florida Keys,
Oh I want to take  down to Kokomo,
We’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow…”

I could now relate more, the disappointment my son had when he realized we were going to Florida Keys without him.
Key Largo is a long island running a length of almost 33 miles. It has the largest live coral reef in North America and is a haven for water sports including snorkeling, deep sea diving, scuba diving, kayaking, sea surfing and even paragliding.
There were several billboards tempting the uninitiated like us with ‘snorkeling for the novice’.
We kept driving as our target was still 128 miles ahead.

Note: For movie buffs there is a very interesting post war film called Key Largo starring the icon Humphrey Bogart. The film was in 80s named as one of the top 10 gangster film. 

The next Key was Islamorada. Curious as the name was, we found a Theatre of the Sea and stopped for a tour. It was a beautiful facility that also served as a rescue spot for injured turtles and other sea animals.

Here is a selection of a part of their flora & fauna:

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Cautious of speed limit on the single track road, passing through patches of land, and connecting bridges, on a calm sunny day, listening to old era Bollywood songs(given to us by our Abid Uncle and host in Palm Beach) , we headed out and south and west towards Key West.

The seven mile bridge that divides the gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean, and connects Knight’s Key (Middle Keys) to Little Duck Key ( Lower Key) is not just a mesmerizingly scenic experience but a great human marvel that has withstood the mood swings of the surrounding seas. Deep calm turquoise waters on both sides personified a deeply contented heart. But it will take only a moment to turn this heavenly experience into a hellish trap if the winds decided to roar and the ocean raged in anger.

Right across the turquoise waters, we noticed a bridge that looked old and broken at places-


These were the remnants of the Overseas railroad built between 1905-1912 and remained operational till 1935 only. It was marveled as the Eighth Wonder of the world. The railraod was destroyed in 1935 by what is known as Labor Day Hurricane

The entire story of the making and breaking of the Overseas Railroad is very interesting and worth a read. Many original photos of its construction and operation can be seen here: Overseas Railway

Seven Mile Bridge, an oil painting of the Overseas Railway by Christopher JenkinsKW1

An artists depiction of Overseas railway in the hurricane. KW2

Along the entire route we notice beautiful houses characteristically painted in a range of eye soothing pastel colors. Majority of them stood elevated on 10-12 feet high concrete pillars. I later read, they are designed so to withstand hurricanes. Most of them withstood the devastating Hurricane Irma in 2017.


Traversing 128 miles across some 35 islands (Keys) and 42 bridges on the Overseas US Highway 1, we finally reached our destination, the southernmost city of USA- Key West.


The details of our adventures and explorations of Key West will follow in the next blog.






Mother’s Love Is Magical

About 8 years ago Ammi, when she was active and still in her designer mode, she sent me a beautiful mehndi green raw silk suit stitched by my favourite tailor, who knows exactly what I like. The dupatta was missing.

I lamented on phone: “Ammi how can you send such a classy raw silk shalwar-kurta without a dupatta? How do I wear it now?”
She remarked: “I just found my favourite mehndi (henna green)

Read the rest of this entry »

Eons ago as a teenager I had a delicious pickle at an aunts place.
For almost 4 decades I hunted for it in the aisles for pickles in desi grocery stores, searched for it on family or friends tables. I even asked if anyone knew or made it.
Some friends knew about the pickle but I never had the luck to find it ready anywhere.

So one day I hunted for its recipe on the net. And there it was,  at several places.

To my utter surprise the method of preparation was very simple. So there was no excuse left to not make it myself.  So here it is:

Sweet and Sour Pickle of Carrots, Turnips and Cauliflower with Jaggery.

Carrots: half pound
Turnip: half pound
Cauliflower: 1 pound
Anise seeds(saunf): 1tsp
Black seed(Kalonji): 1tsp
Fenugreek seeds(methi): 1tsp
Mustard seeds(Rye ): 1tsp
Jaggery (Gurr): 1 pound
Mustard Oil: 2 tbsp
Salt, chillipowder, garam masala powder:  to taste

Cooking method is described with the pictures:

Step 1: Chop washed carrots, turnips into medium thickness sticks and break cauliflower into medium sized florets.pic1

Step 2: Mix half a cup of apple cider vinegar and half pound of jaggery in a pan and leave on slow flame till all the jaggery melts.

Step 3: Boil water in a large deep pan till it bubbles. Once boiling, add the chopped vegetables and cook for 5-7 minutes until vegetables are blanched. Drain off water and spread the vegetables on a kitchen towel till dry. (I did for about an hour).


Step 4: Heat 2 tbsp mustard oil in a wok. Add mustard seeds, anise, fenugreek and black seeds and let them splatter for half a minute. Then add salt, ground garam masala and red chilli powder. Finally added the vegetables. Stir fry them.

Step 5: Stir fry the vegetables with seeds and spices.

Step 6: Add vegetables mixed with spices  & seeds into vinegar and melted jaggery mixture. Cook till most liquid evaporates.

Step 7: Once cooked and cooled, store it in a sterilized air tight cannister and leave in the sun for 2 days to pickle well. 

Step 8: Once ready(in my case in 2 days) enjoy it with parathas and hot steaming chai. 🙂

This pickle is a delicacy prepared in winter in Northern India specially because that is the time carrots are available.

Its easy and very delicious. I wonder why did I just keep looking for it everywhere and did  not try it myself all these years? Do try it out in a smaller amount as a trial. You will not regret it.

Happy Pickling !

Recently a photo of a 25 year old Afghan girl Jahan Taab from  a remote poor village Oshto in Daikundi,  went viral when she was taking the college entrance exam called Kankor Exam while breast feeding her child. Later it was confirmed that she has passed the exams and wants to go to college to study Sociology. Photo credits are given to an invigilating lecturer Yahya Erfan. He was so moved by her determination that he posted the pictures on his facebook. Link here

“She got up from her desk when her baby started to get fussy. She sat down on the floor, breastfeeding the infant, and kept filling out the answers to the test.” (Buzzfeed).

She reportedly told the lecturer Mr. Erfan that she is worried about the cost of education and that the University is 8 hours from her residence. It is the power of social media that a Go-Fund was created to support the cost of here higher education.

More about JahanTaab



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Needless to say, girls’ determination to study is never an issue. The key barrier is the systemic patriarchy in the garb of cultural mores or religious edicts.

Patriarchy is such an omnipresent barrier that hinders women in all communities and all economic strata one way or the other. And here is where the role of men becomes extremely important in bringing about women empowerment by dismantling the walls of patriarchy.

Here I must share my own story too.

(Bear in mind I am an urban educated woman with a strong will power. But even then, had it also not been the supportive men in my life, I may not have sailed through various systemic hurdles that patriarchal infrastructures create at every nook and corner of a woman’s life). 

In the early 1990s, as an Indian medical graduate I had to go through a written and a clinical exam by Pakistan Medical and Dental Council to be certified to practice in Pakistan. I opted Karachi centre. When I received notification for the exam it said the exam will not be held in Karachi as there are no other candidates. The exam will be in Peshawer.

Since I lived in the Middle East, I was supposed to travel with my kids to Karachi where my in laws lived. But before I could even know and panic about how I will travel with kids to Peshawer, my husband first took an emergency leave from his hospital, and then informed me that we are all travelling to Peshawer. 

My husband Fasih and I, with our two kids- a toddler and a 6 month old breast feeding infant landed in Peshawar. It was a 3 day long exam- with a written paper and clinical exam.  From day 1, my husband sat in the lawn of the examination centre, with two babies, as he dropped me for the exam. I would come out to feed the baby every few hours in the breaks.

Funniest incident in the whole saga was when my daughter cried, “Papa potty.”
He ran with the baby in one hand and the toddler in another to the washroom.
As he entered the male washroom the guard said, “Take the girl to female washroom with her mother.”
“BUT mother is busy in exam.”
“Then wait.”
“But this baby cannot wait. She has to go urgently.”
So the guard let him take her to the washroom. And while holding the infant in arms he helped the toddler finish the job and clean her. 
Finally they came back to play and sit in the lawn again. 
And then he smelt the baby has soiled his diaper. He ran again to the same wash room.
The chowkidar got annoyed, “Ap pher se as gaye?” (You have come again?).
Fasih: “Smell this diaper.”
The guard laughed and commented, “Aur parhao biwi ko.”(Let your wife study more).

After day1 the entire examination team knew about my family and when I went from each viva and clinical exam, from Internal Medicine to General Surgery to ENT to ObGyn to Ophthalmology, first thing the professors asked was how are the husband and babies doing? 
Second question they asked was, “Where have you graduated from?”. 
On reply “Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi” every single one of them began the viva with the comment, “So do we really need to test your knowledge?”
No bragging but I passed with the top position. 

The head examiner was Prof Zakaullah Beg who was my husband’s professor in his postgraduate life. He himself called Fasih on phone 2 weeks later in Karachi to break the news.

Moral of the story: Empower a woman and she will make her husband, family and entire community proud.

India Song- by Karen Knorr

I found the first picture on the net accidentally. Curiosity led me to dig up more,  only to find a treasure- India Song– a series of digital photography by Karen Knorr.

Exploring further, the idea behind the series was mind blowing.

Quoting from Karen Knorr’s website:

“Karen Knorr’s photography explores cultural heritage and its ideological underpinings. Questions concerning post colonialism and its relationship to aesthetics have permeated her photographic work since the 1980’s.  Her work, India Song, researches the stories and myths of India photographing animals and placing them in temples and palaces across heritage sites in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra.”

As Knorr says, “Cranes, zebras, langurs, tigers, and elephants mutate from princely pets to avatars of past feminine historic characters, blurring boundaries between reality and illusion.”

Knorr’s digital assemblages create narratives that captivate, interrogate tensions between old and new; animate and inanimate; stillness and motion; human and animal; and male and female. The stunning photographs of India Song have the power to transfix and transport. They are simply mesmerizing.

Do not miss the caption with each sumptuously detailed pictures, as you travel(scroll) down on this sensual journey…

The Lovesick Prince, Aam Khas, Junha Mahal, Dungarpur PalaceP6 The-Lovesick-Prince-Aam-Khas-Junha-Mahal-Dungarpur-copy-1250x1000


The Opium Smoker, Chitrasala, BundP2 TheOpiumSmoker-1250x1000


Avatars or Devi, Samode Palace, SamodeP3 Avatars-of-Devi-1246x1000


The return of Hunter, Chandra Mahal, Jaipur Palace, JaipurP4 5The-Return-of-the-Hunter-1250x1000


Sikander’s Entrance, Chandra Mahal, Jaipur City Palace, JaipurP5 4_SikandersEntrance-1266x1000


Flight to Freedom, Darbar Hall, Juna Mahal, Junagarhp6 Flight-to-Freedom-1231x1000


The Private Audience, Aam Khas, Juna Mahal, Dungarpurp7 The-Private-Audience-1231x1000

The Lion’s Savior, Zanana, Dungarpur PalaceP9 CorrectedTheLionsSaviour-for-KK_com_-1246x1000

Krishna’s Crown, Jawa Mahal, JaipurP9 KrishnasCrown-copy

Vishnu’s Return to the World, Rani Ki Vav, PatnaP10 Vishnus-Return-to-the-World-1250x1000

The Messenger, Purana Qila, New DelhiP11 The-Messanger-1251x1000

Homage to Ustad MansurP15 Homageto-Ustad-Mansur-1250x1000

Master of Seduction, Amer Fort, AmerP14 Master-of-Seduction-Amber-Fort-Amber-1250x1000

Attaining Moksha, Ajanta Caves, AjantaP12 Attaining-Moksha-1250x1000

Krishna’s RaasLeela, Chitrasala, Bundi P16 Krishnas-Rasa-Leela-Chitrasala-Bundi-copy

Edge of the Forest, Agravena, AgraP17 Edge of Forest Aravena Agra

The Exodus, Paradesi SynagogueP18 The exodis Pardesi Synagogue

The Sound of Rain, Junargarh Fort, BikanerP18 The sound of rain Junagarh fort Bikaner

The Reception of Darshan, Ajanta Cavesp19 The reception of Darshan Ajanta Caves

.The Witness, Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhip20- tHE WITNESS hUMAYUN'S tOMB, nEW dELHI

A Place Like Amravati, Udaipur Lake Palace, Udaipurp21 A place like Amravati

The Conqueror of the World, Poddar Haveli, JunagarhP21 Conquerer of the workld Podar Haveli Nawalgarh

Maha Sattiva’s Sacrifice, Ajanta Caves P13 Mahasattvas-Sacrifice-1250x1000

Light of the World, Zanaroom, Nawalgarh P24

Asylum, Junagarh Fort, Junagarhp26 The Courtyard Conference, Udai Villas, Udaipur p28 The Courtyard Conference, Udai Vilas, Dunagrpur

The Temple Servant, Jaipur City Palace, Jaipur p29 Temple Servant Amber Fort, Jaipur

Maharaja’s Apartment, Udaipur City Palace P30 Maharaja's Apartment, Undaipur City Palace

The Joy of Ahimsa, Takhat Vilas, Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpurp31 Ahimsa

The Peacemaker Chandra Mahal, Jaipur City Palace p32 tHE PEACEMAKER, cHANDRA mAHAL jAIPUR cITY pALACE

Parvati’s Consort, Samode Haveli, Jaipur P35 Parvati's Consort, Samode Haveli, Jaipur

Queen’s Room, Zanana Palace, Udaipur p36 tHE qUEENS rOOM, zANANA Palace Udaipur

A Place Like Amravati, Udaipur P37 A place like Amravati, Udaipur city pALACE

The Last Lion, Diwan-I-Khaas, Jaipur City Palace, Jaipur P33 The last Lion, Diwan I KHas City Palace Jaipur

“Knorr’s work explores Rajput and Mughal cultural heritage and its contemporary relationship to questions of feminine subjectivity and animality.” ~ Darlimple

Thank you !


About Karen Knorr: Knorr was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and was raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the 1960s, completing her education in Paris and London. She has taught, exhibited, and lectured internationally, including at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, The University of Westminster, Goldsmiths, Harvard and The Art Institute of Chicago. She studied at the University of Westminster in the mid-1970s, exhibiting photography that addressed debates in cultural studies and film theory concerning the ‘politics of representation’ practices which emerged during the late 1970s and early 1980s. She is currently Professor of Photography at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, Surrey.
Source: Karen Knorr’s website:
Source: Karen Knorr's website:







This is a cross posting from Blog Sustainistani:  A peek into Karachi

Story of my love affair with Pakistan & India !

#HigherThanTheStars #DeeperThanTheOceans.
#Handicrafts #Handlooms #Colors #Mirrors #NeedleWork
#BeatItIfYouCan !


My original post:

Credits: Origins for pics:

Pakistan from Generation.

India from Craftsvilla.