Why do we click pictures? To frame moments, walk down memory lanes and reminisce about events that once awestrucked us. This post is a living example of how pictures help you to relive memories that would have otherwise been lost.
Luckily, I was able to get 4 days of vacation to visit California. California is a beautiful city and my main interest was to wander in the streets of Disney Land and Universal Studios. A dream of decade to see Sleeping beauty castle and roam around in Harry Potter Park with a wizard wand in hand was about to be fulfilled.
Spirit Airlines sucks
Having spent a huge chunk of money in shopping and local traveling, I was reluctant to burn another big hole in my pocket. Though I make exceptions if it comes to my family or my hobbies or sometimes my friends too, being raised in middle class, my brain is hardwired to see value for money. We got our tickets from Seattle to Los Angeles booked at cheaper rates. My plan looked something like:
One day in San Diego, Visit Disney Land and Universal Studios in LA.
Our plan screwed up when Spirit Airlines managed to fly late by 5 hours the same day I was to visit Disney Land. Spirit Airlines allows only 6 kgs cabin luggage, majority of which was occupied with my camera and its equipments. I managed to get one fine picture depicting bad weather of Seattle while roaming around impatiently at the airport.
Wonders of California
The first thing that comes to my mind when someone talks about California is that it is hotter. From Seattle’s chilling winter where you need layered wear to LA’s summer, the change was very noticeable. One fine evening in Seattle, on the pavement outside Cheesecake Factory, I was waiting for my friend and slightly bored as she was running late. That’s when I witnessed the second snow fall in my life. Seattle is said to be depressing in winters. Well, didn’t look like it to me.
One of the best thing in California I observed was all happy faces around. It makes me wonder, “How can so many happy people exist at one place?”.
Day 1: Disney Land, LA
We reached LA at ~4:00 PM. It was 4:55 when we reached Disney Land. We were very grateful to book tickets online. It had already started getting dark.
Dreams do come true
Sleeping beauty castle was always in my To visit list. And people there were as crazy as I was after witnessing this magnificent beauty. Even the huge crowd couldn’t dampen the excitement. Happiness was in the air.
The castle looked even more magnificent when it got dark. As magical and brightening it could be, its starking contrast had the power to stop you from taking your eyes off it.
Every part of the park is quite picturesque. If you love taking pictures, it would be hard to put camera down for a moment. The park was full of families and there were so many kids around. It was funny to know that there was a separate parking for strollers and it was full.
They celebrate Diwali each day
Isn’t it exciting that they celebrate Diwali every day? It was the kind of fireworks we get to see at the start of each of Disney’s movie. It was beautiful and kind of spell bounding.
“Sleeping beauty castle in fireworks”
One of the things I remember very well from my trip to Disney Land, LA is the park being lit up in fireworks for around half an hour. This is probably the best fireworks I’ve witnessed in my life so far. Due to the huge crowd, trying my best to grab the best spot and not owning a wide angle lens back then, this is the best shot I could get. As you might have observed, in the center, lies there the peak of very famous Sleeping Beauty Castle.
They mark the end of day with an electric parade where you get to see almost every Disney character marching on the narrow roads with awestruck presentation.
The magical music
Disneyland seems particularly fond of Mozart. Being a classic music fanatic, it was pleasant to listen Mozart’s famous Allegro everywhere. It added flavors to the magical feeling. You can listen the music here.
It is really hard to imagine someone returning not happy after spending a day in the park. It was a very nice experience indeed for 100 USD.
Day 2 : Universal Studios Hollywood, LA
It wasn’t a difficult call to decide which one of the Theme Parks I wanted to spend 2 days in. I booked 2 days ticket for Universal Studios for 129 bucksI knew one day was not enough to quench my thirst for Harry Potter.
If you hail from India and happen to visit Ramoji film city in Hyderabad, Universal Studios is like Ramoji, just a thousand times better. It has theme parks and attractions of many famous characters. Minion Mayhem and the girl’s house, Transformers, Simpsons, Shrek, Walking dead, Mummy, Spongebob and the most important The wizarding world of Harry Potter.
The wizarding world of Harry Potter
If you are a No-Maj and are reading this, let me warn you muggle. What you are gonna read next is not everyone’s cup of tea. To feel the magic and connect with this fantabulastic world, it needs an exceptional level of imagination and a deep dive into the story. If not, bear no delusions, it would be just another story and another park for you. Chances are you may not understand Potterheads and their craziness.
A magical experience is all I would say. Even 2 decades of Harry Potter universe hasn’t lessened the craziness, The crowd was ecstatic and delighted. Their glittering eyes were reflection of dreams coming true. Being a person who has grown up with Harry Potter waiting relentlessly, I felt like going back into childhood.
Hogwarts, Hogmeade, Platform 9 3/4, Hogwarts Express, Diagon Alley, Three Broomsticks minus Madame Rosemerta, Ollivanders, Hagrid’s hut, Honeydukes, Zonko’s joke shop, Hog’s Head, Butterbeer cart, Post office. The park has got everything in attention to detail. I couldn’t have imagined it any better. People rushing in the narrow streets of Diagon Alley was as if it came from book alive.
The school of magic
I oftentimes wonder, how different life would be, how full of magic and fantastical beauty, if my Hogwarts letter would have arrived.
Ollivanders, makers of fine wand
Ollivanders, makers of fine wand since 382 BC, helping eleven years old getting their first wand. He very well portrayed the scene from the first movie where Harry gets his wand. It was as if I was teleported into the movie and watched it happen. As a matter of fact, wand chooses its master. When spell was read with wrong wand in hand, the shacks broke. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect.
I got The Elder Wand, magnificent and powerful.
Hogwarts Express about to leave from platform number 9 3/4.
Gringotts: The wizards’ bank
Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.
Gringotts. Wizards’ bank, run by Goblins. Gringotts is the safest place in the world for
anything you want to keep safe — ‘cept maybe Hogwarts.
A quick note on Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. Hogwarts is a magic school where you learn magic and how to control it for greater good. Hogsmeade is a village near Hogwarts where Harry and his friends used to go to chillax after tiring and exhausting exams.
The three broomsticks and Butterbeer
Three broomsticks is a well known pub in Hogsmeade, particularly famous of its delicious signature drink Butterbeer and its beautiful owner Madam Rosmerta.
The three broomsticks – The great feast
Time for some magical food in the Hogsmeade village. It was probably one of the best days of my life so far. Being a huge Harry Potter fan, how could I miss “The three broomsticks”? The famous tavern in Hogsmeade had its own charm. The magnificent dark ambience was perfect for talking in plain sight. It is no surprise why wizards and witches choose this place to hear gossips. Even the place being full of muggles that day couldn’t suppress my goosebumps.
A pint of Butterbeer at Three Broomsticks.
As a fan of wizarding world of Harry Potter since my very childhood, I fantasized about having a taste of Butterbeer. I always thought it would be like magic flowing in my veins. As I grew up and got a chance to have it, I must say it tasted something like Butterscotch. The Butterbeer lived up to its expectations. I could literally find myself diving into the magical world and remembered one of the greatest friendship I have ever known, the friendship of Harry, Ronald and Hermione. Sad part was I had to drink this alone.
I hope someday I will visit there again with my Ronald and Hermione.
Do you remember the roasted chicken Harry used to crave for when he stayed at his Uncle’s place during summers? Or when he used to eat like a hungry beast after long Quidditch practice?
Well, I tried the “Lemon herb roast chicken platter” at Three broomsticks and it was worth all the rumor.
The second home of Harry, Ronald and Hermione where they used to spend their free evenings when not worrying about Quidditch practices and studies. This is where Norbert was born. The lantern hanging across the wooden door was often used by them in Forbidden forest.
Magic was in the air
A kid practicing trying to rotate cauldron using Wingardium Leviosa spell in Hogwarts. Two kinds of wands they were selling in Ollivanders – Interactive and non-interactive. Interactive ones were real magic and could be used to turn lights on/off, float objects, turn on the water in a fountain, make birds sing and many more such stuffs.
To be continued… In the next post, I will talk more about Universal Studios and San Diego story.
Life can be smarter, better and more efficient by following 3 Cs: Consistency, Choices, Communication. More on these below:
Whatever you do, be consistent. Be it waking up in the morning or playing piano or reading a blog.
The less you involve your brain in thinking about stuffs that don’t add much value, the more you would get to spend time in creative stuffs. Reduce choices in day to day life. Ever wondered what Zuckerberg’s wardrobe looks like? He purchases apparels of same color and design. It helps him keeping focus on important things.
What is the first thing besides dressing sense you notice in a person you meet first time? We get to know a lot about a person by the way (s)he talks. Communication plays a very important role in your professional and personal fronts. Public speaking is one good thing you would like to master. Watch Ted talks and practice speaking in front of mirror. It would help boost confidence.
Be in company of smarter people
It is said that a person is known by the company (s)he keeps. If you are in company of smarter people, you would get to learn more. A wise man once said, “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room”.
Plan your day in advance
Note down things you want to do before you start your day. Not only this will help you manage your day efficiency, but it will help you remember easily forgettable stuffs. There are things you remember when you are not thinking much, but are easily missed when your have a busy schedule. Example, calling a friend, responding a mail or paying bills
No much TV series
If you are a TV series fanatic, you must be knowing how addictive it can be. It can affect your sleep if you don’t control your addiction. Watch less of series
Smartness is a continuous process. You need to work towards it each day. In this fast paced agile world, things change rapidly and you must adapt to the change or you would be outdated. Learn a new language or a new skill.
Take a walk and think
When you’re stuck in a problem and no solution seems to strike your creative brain, take a walk and think. It helped me many times in situations where I couldn’t think anything working while sitting in front of a monitor.
Remember 10,000 rule. The principle holds that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field. Practice a skill you want to be good at sometime each day.
If you like this, you might like other posts in the Hack your life series.
My thoughts in this article have greatly been inspired by not-so-famous deductive genius brilliant TV series Forever. You probably don’t need to put a gun on my head to make me say that this is by far one of the best series I have watched.
“It’s not the number of years we live that matters. Our lives just add up to a series of moments. We never know when or where they’ll happen, but they stick with us marking our souls forever.”
This quote has home my heart since the time I came across it the first time. It resonates with my soul and propelled me to look life from a different perspective altogether. It taught me that life is not only about making money and living lavishly. It is far beyond that. It is about exploring yourself. It is about realizing your true potential. It is about witnessing what as an individual you can achieve. Nothing is permanent. You can’t be happy all the time. And those sad times too shall pass.
Over the years, I have been trying to explore the things around me to know what I like and what not. There are times when I wonder if I have started becoming a kind of philosophical person. While trying hard to get sleep in late night hours, I often end up questioning myself the definition of a perfect life. And then I hear the echo of a familiar voice in my head telling me that the life needs not to be perfect. We must learn to enjoy imperfections. Happiness is quite subjective and a perfect life is myth. What makes you happy might be worthless for others. The secret mantra is to invest time in things that pump up adrenaline rush in your brain. You can do it for hours without whining about it. I ain’t a morning person. But when it comes to photography, I wake up anytime I want.
When I was ten, all I dreamed was a fleet of luxurious cars and a big bungalow. The reason was simple. I wanted to be happy and those celebrities with big shiny cars and lavish homes always had a big smile on screens. As time passed and I grew up, I realized how wrong I was. While all I still want is happiness, my ambitions have changed. Instead of chasing happiness, I do things that make me happy. Happiness was perhaps, never a thing to be looked for.
“However long you live, even though that might prove a very, very long time, you must tell yourself to live every day, every hour as if it could be your last.”
Today when I look back over my life, I don’t remember every small detail. Things of the past that sounded big and turning point were just small speed breakers in this long journey. You see, memories are slippery things. They have a tendency to fade over time. What I haven’t forgotten is those beautiful moments I lived on the way. Moments that put a curve on my face whenever the brain decides to take a walk down the memory lane.
“Be in company of someone who renders you with the same feeling as when you see your food arriving in a restaurant.”
If there is one thing that saddens me today, it is the void of the special person. Having lived through my fair share of life, I can tell you the most difficult to endure is loneliness. Happiness of achieving something is only worth when it is shared. Life is a game and one that we must play. No matter how careful we are, there is simply no way to go through this life unscathed. But, fortunately for us, it’s a game we don’t have to play alone.
“What kills you is not what causes your heart to stop from beating, but it is what prevents you from living.”
It is said that life is beautiful because it’s finite. People usually wish to live long. The common misconception is that it’s the death that annihilates us. Truth is we die long before if we don’t learn to appreciate the life we have been bestowed. How many of us wake up in the morning and truly appreciate the privilege to be alive and healthy? The moment we start acting like life is a blessing, I assure you it will start to feel like one. Today is nothing but the result of our doings of the past. What we do today, will shape tomorrow.
If you like this, you might like other posts in the Hack your life series.
राह चलते वक़्त से मुलाक़ात हो गई,
दिल किया कि कुछ तोहफे दे दूँ,
जेबों में हाथ डाला तो बस लम्हों को पाया,
कुछ हँसी के, कुछ गम के,
कुछ सुख के, कुछ रम के,
वक़्त ने कहा रख ले इन्हे अपने पास,
इन लम्हों में ही तेरी ज़िन्दगी है,
पहली नौकरी कि ख़ुशी, पहले प्यार का एहसास,
माँ बाप के आँखों में खुशियों कि बरसात,
जब तुम बूढ़े हो जाओगे,
जब दुनिया में तुम्हारी जरुरत कम होगी,
तब यही लम्हे तुम्हारे जीने का सहारा होंगी।
आपकी आँखों के पन्नो में,
इतने गहरे राज़ हैं,
लाखों हमने पढ़ लिए,
फिर भी बेशुमार हैं,
उन समुन्दर सी आँखों ने,
हमे यूँ ब्यान करना सिखा दिया,
हमे तो दो लफ़्ज़ों का सलीका ना था,
और आपके इश्क़ ने हमे शायर बना दिया।
Sometimes you would find the goal is too far,
Sometimes you would find things to be falling apart,
Sometimes you would feel everything is wrong,
Sometimes you would feel sadness in every song,
Sometimes the world around would seem to down you,
Sometimes noone would understand what you’re going through,
Sometimes your friends would leave you alone,
Sometimes your sorrows would break you bone by bone,
Sometimes you won’t be able to think straight,
Sometimes you would lose faith in your fate,
Sometimes your every effort would seem to fail,
Sometimes you would be left frustrated as hell,
Sometimes you would feel like ending up your life,
Sometimes you would feel you have no choice,
If you’re fond of roses my friend,
Of the nearby thorns, must not you be afraid,
You must believe in yourself and be strong,
You must fight back and right what is wrong,
Push harder, try again,
Whatever you do, must not you loose your sane.
If you like to read about dreams and goals, you might like my journey. I won’t claim it to be inspiring and motivating. Neither would I claim it to be struggling and unique. I will leave it for you to decide. But everyone has a journey and a story to tell. And this my friend, is my journey.
Each year when I wake up in the morning and find Facebook reminding me of this very date, I can’t stop myself to feel happy and grateful. I thank god who has graced my life with all the opportunities & happiness and given me an ability to be good at what I do.
4 years it’s been since I joined Microsoft and it feels like it were only yesterday when I wandered the corridors of the humongous campus for the first time. Days bled off into years. I have seen people come. I have seen people leave. Life moves on. Everyone is replaceable.
US is a country of dreams. I could see it shining right through everyone’s eyes. I met one person in taxi who played piano and released his own music album. The other guy Chad writes pilots for TV series and is a good photographer. There was another guy who had done some coding. He knew what python and C++ is. He wanted to work at Amazon or Microsoft. Another guy was a lead manager in an MNC and drove Uber just for fun. They don’t care much about the social status. They do what they love to do.
A really nice country where people greet you and don’t expect anything in return. Everyone you meet is so much open to talk without holding any grudge. Believe me, I had some of the best conversations in just a span of 30 minutes or so.
Redmond = Microsoft
I had heard that Microsoft has humongous office in its headquarters, Redmond. Well, it was true. I was amazed by seeing the area in which it was spread. If I say Redmond is Microsoft, it won’t be wrong. 135 buildings.
Microsoft, US culture
Unlike India where people tend to stay late in offices, Redmond is just the opposite. People come early and leave early. You would hardly find anyone staring at work monitor after 6. People are punctual and highly efficient. Well, I could see where that efficiency comes from. They don’t talk much and confine their conversation to mainly professional stuffs. The hours they put in work are really productive. The culture is so well defined that if you stay late, you would have a feeling that you are working in a zombie village. I, personally liked this culture and I easily embraced it. I had free evenings where I could catch some friends over dinner in classy sounding restaurants.
The world is small
It really is a small world we live in. It is not very unusual that while dining or taking a walk in busy streets, I stumble upon someone who happens to know me. Well, it has happened many times in India. But when you face the same in US, you start thinking that the world is really small. I met an old friend while crossing a street in Redmond, stumbled upon another known face in Seattle while dining with a college friend and had a short chit chat with a guy on shuttle, I used to see in dance classes in Hyderabad.
One of the exciting thing about Seattle is incessant rains. Rainy season is something people either love or hate. You will hardly find anyone being neutral on it.
If you’re a Windows user, you must have noticed the tall tower with a big circular head on lock screen. What if I tell you, it is much more beautiful when you look it closely? Well, it is a marvelous piece of human architecture. Standing tall at a height of 184 meters, you can see the whole Seattle view from the top. I could manage to get some pics from my DSLR even though it was freezing cold. My finger nails had turned bluish.
The head of tower
The Seattle view point
Standing on the top of Space Needle and experiencing this view was a treat to eyes.
I always wanted to dine at Skycity Space Needle restaurant. Well, who won’t? After all, dining at such a height has a unique magical feeling. You are sitting and eating exquisite food while the restaurant rotates to show you every angle of the city. Sadly, I couldn’t get a booking. It had 2 weeks waiting time.
Chihuly garden and glass
You can’t miss Chihuly garden and glass if you love art while being in Seattle. This place is mainly famous for its exceptional glass arch, mostly attracted by photographers. I met many photographers there and got a chance to flaunt my skills. Visiting Chihuly wasn’t easy due to shortage of time. The place opens at 11 in the morning and I had return flight on the same day at 5. On the top of that, it was raining like crazy. Well then it’s Seattle. Rains are not supposed to crash the fun. Thanks to Hotel Marriott for making special arrangements.
This picture has its own story. Chihuly Garden and Glass attracts a lot of tourists due to its marvelous, eye popping glass arch. I had a chance to interact with many photographers there and it was fun discussing about various aspects of photography. I wanted to capture whole 25 feet long arch in one frame and for this, I had to wait 30 minutes to capture this due to the huge crowd. Funny to say, due to my corporate ID hanging out of my pocket, few of the tourists asked me if I worked there.
1/50s at f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 1000
Situated at a distance of 30 miles from Redmond, North-Bend is a bliss to eyes. No matter if you are a nature and mountains lover or love long driving on beautiful roads or a shopping spree, North-Bend has got a charm in its own. Built near mountains which are covered with snow in winter, there are many shops where you can enjoy buying stuffs.
The cheese mountain.
I clicked this amazing shot in North Bend, US. Seattle is a beautiful city. Incessant rains, chilly wind, snowy mountain and golden sunshine. A serene heaven for photographers.
It was a sudden plan. The moment I arrived there, the sun was about to set and its dusky golden rays falling on the snow over the top of mountain was giving a perception of molten golden cheese all around.
I am quite fond of keeping a collection of perfumes. When I saw Perfumania shop at the North-Bend, I got a chance to try out all the perfumes I had been researching for years. At the end, I got one of my favorites, one what everyone in US uses, and one which was the choice of the woman who sold me all this.
Heroes of my wardrobe Recently I have got an urge to keep a collection of perfumes.
From left to right:
Caroline, Armani Gio, Invictus, Playboy, Calvin Klein
A trip to US is not complete until you get chocolates for your loved ones.
To be continued…
In the next part, I would be writing about my trip to Los Angeles and San Diego. Please stay tuned.