First Six Months in Pune

I left for India at the end of August and started working pretty soon after reaching. To say it’s been a whirlwind would be an understatement. Sunday, September 2nd got me to Bombay and already on Monday I was headed to Pune. I met with my boss Mrs. Rakhi Singh that day itself and I knew I’d be right at home. She speaks really fast like me and is managing a million things at once all the time. I described her after my first phone call as a cool mom and I was going to be just fine in this new city. Off I went to the Kalyani Nagar location and just entering the school put me at instant ease, I found a school I truly believed in and it almost validated my choice to move half way across the world to a new city I had never been to before. The next day I was headed back to Bombay to meet with the CEO and chairman. I got hired for one job, got kinda trained for another, and within a short few months got a promotion to working in the regional and head office. Currently I don’t know what my exact title is, but I am setting up the environments for the new schools and quality assurance. 

So, India definitely does not make it easy for someone who was not born on their land to enter or settle down. I honestly don’t know how I figured it all out on my own. 

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Finding an apartment was another challenge. No one would rent to me as a single female from America. My aunt forced me to come visit and we got an airbnb. She ended up finding something within one day and I am absolutely in love with my flat. The warm sunshine wakes me up every morning and that morning glow every single day is gorgeous. It’s a two and a half bedroom flat with two terraces on the eighth floor. The half bedroom I use as my studio and I have one guest bedroom as well. It was really hard for me to accept help at first, but honestly if you don’t want to adapt then you shouldn’t even live in India. I feel as though I am still adjusting to life in India, but I have come a long way. The journey has been one that I think I needed to prove to myself. 

One of the harder aspects of life in India was all the unwanted attention I was receiving and still do. At first it really did bother me, but I guess I did get used to it or just stopped letting it bother me. That intense male gaze is something no one should have to endure every single time one steps foot outside of their house. But you know what? Even females stare. 

Making friends has been another obstacle to overcome. The way I would make friends elsewhere is really really different. I also came to the realization a few months ago that I put up a wall and don’t let people in which is why people may not approach me. Still the friends I have made are quality ones. The kind of friends who will bring you vada pav at work first thing in the morning after needing to soak up the alcohol from the night before. India is one of the warmest most welcoming places you will ever visit. Now, Pune is a little less welcoming to outsiders - that is true. The only people’s houses I have been to here are Gujarati’s, but I guess India as a whole is the kind of place where people will go out of their way to help. 

Work is a combination is spontaneity, stress, crazy, and a whole lot of fun! My job recently has been building and creating things for the environment anyway I want! How cool is that!? I go shopping in old Pune every now and then and come back pretty inspired. India has always been my biggest inspiration. It has evolved into retelling a story through a moment or experience through my travels. But, something about being in India has always been a huge source of inspiration for me. Something about the energy and colors leaves me with endless ideas to create. Now, my job in in India is actually making things and that to WITH help is like a dream come true. I am often counting my blessings and eternally grateful. I have said this in the past, but when you put that good energy out in the universe I believe the universe has got your back. It has been true for me time and time again. 

Grey Winter Painted Against Lush Green

Scotland was never a place Nihar or I had ever wanted to visit. But, given a work trip for Nihar it made a good “meet in the middle destination” for the two of us. The first day in Aberdeen was spent exploring on my own. Nihar had to still work that day so, a day just to myself in a new city was much welcomed. There was something familiar about being in Aberdeen. I didn’t feel so out of place. Being a minority was normal. People being friendly was normal. The service industry is so vastly different in the States and Europe compared to India. Getting a little flirt back with my credit card was normal. Or striking up a lovely conversation with the elderly cab driver was normal. I don’t think I always noticed how those “normal” things were lacking in my life until I was presented with them again. 

I ended up at the cutest book cafe called Books and Beans to start off my day. Spending a couple hours there just reading, writing, and drawing while people watching was just the right start to the day. Something I noticed about a month in of being in India was how no one really shows affection. I didn’t realize it until I was watching the show Atypical on Netflix. I don’t often get to see affection out in public. So, while sitting at this book cafe and seeing a guy meet his girlfriend and greet her with a kiss on her head just warmed my heart in a way I didn’t know I needed.

After leaving the cafe, I walked around for a little while and ended up at a bar/restaurant called The Craftsman.

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Now, this place was my kinda spot. I sipped on a few whiskeys while drawing and waiting for Nihar + his co workers to meet me. After my first drink I had the bartender pick out the next two and she did a good job of pleasing my palette in the correct order.

The night ended at Brewdog after tapas for dinner. Being in the basement of a punkish craftbeer spot also felt very normal and drinking an IPA that actually had some alcohol percentage to it. In India, there is actually beginning to be a decent craft beer scene. But, most beers aren’t above 5% alcohol percentage because then a higher tax has to be paid. It frustrates me sometimes when I am drinking a nice IPA that tastes like a 6% or 7% beer and nothing happens!

The next day, we were off to Edinburgh!

We stayed at THE cutest airbnb in Old Town. The area was definitely too touristy for us, but the plus side was we were walking distance to everything. We found my first hipster coffee shop on the list called Milkman and then headed up to see the castle. Something about the juxtaposition of grey winter met with the lush green was truly stunning. But, then again something about the the architecture just didn’t excite us. We liked all the stone walls and some of the vibe, but overall it wasn’t our favorite city we had visited.

We then did the Scottish Whiskey Experience. And if you think I’m pretentious or bougie about beer or wine, well you can add whiskey to the list now! 

By this point all we had consumed during the day was coffee and whiskey so Nihar dragged us to Dishoom. After living in India I didn’t want Indian food especially at a place like Dishoom. But the chai was pretty good, the old Bollywood songs were lovely, and I think Nihar enjoyed himself there.

Overall the food in Scotland was just aight. It’s not the most vegetarian friendly city. Nihar and I are big foodies and we think food is such a big part of the experience so, we always end up in these places with a rich food culture. But! I did have vegan haggis! We did end up at a counter culture pizza place that was a pleasant surprise. One night we ended up at The Tron and stayed in the basement for that on point playlist. It started with 90s throwbacks and transitioned into good house party music. Reminded us of Rudy’s the way it used to be on a Saturday night long ago. 

We did come across some of the Harry Potter sights including walking down Victoria St and going to The Black Medicine Coffee shop. I am not big into buying souvenirs, but I always try to find some paper goods to take along. Like a letterpress card or a handmade postcard. The red door was the perfect spot for this. I have a collection and at my last apartment we had a salon style wall of some of them. One day I will have a wall full of ALL of them! Before we knew it, we were back to Aberdeen to fly out, but not before going to Brew Lab as the last coffee shop to visit. This was one of my favorites for sure. Back in Aberdeen we went to Bonobo Cafe for a vegan lunch. This was definitely a cute spot with a great interior and garden, but again the food was just aight. 

I had a long layover on my way back in London and I spent the day at The Tate Modern. Not really sure why I was such a London hater before this trip, but I LOVED London. I got lucky with magical weather and the Tate was one of my favorite museums I have EVER visited. I left oozing with inspiration! 

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The trip resulted with a new color theme. I have been in my blue period for years now and rust is the new color. The combination if wearing this rust colored sweater, the color of whiskey, and this bronze rat cage I have been working with at work - it all comes full circle and turns into a lifestyle. 

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Barcelona

There are some places you dream about and because you dream about them so much they will never live up to what you imagined in your head. But, both times I visited Spain it beyond exceeded my dreams. The first time I went with my cousin and brother and I think it was a good mix of all our interests. The second time I brought Nihar and that trip ended our time in Europe which turned out to be one my favorite things we have done together. Although it was unbearably hot the ENTIRE time. Even when we would come home at 2am we would be sweating profusely. There were certain things I didn’t want to miss and we had two day trips planned because we were there for eight days. If we get to spend a couple hours in a coffee shop or cafe, I think we have spent enough time in that city. Enough time to just be and really experience the culture by people watching and enjoying each others company. Feeling like a local for a little while. I feel like Nihar and I always have work to get done and it doesn’t stop when we are on vacation. So given some time in a coffee shop is always welcome and makes coming back from vacation easier. 

This post is about highlighting all the spots we went to - coffee shops, food spots, and bars. 

Restaurants:

Sesamo

Flax and Kale

Rasoterra

CatBarCAT

La Fabrica

Veg World India

Teresa Carles

The Green Spot

Coffee Shops:

Sabio Infante

Onna Cafe

Santans Corner

Espai Joliu

SKYE Coffee Co.

Nomad Roaster’s Home

Bars

Chupitos

Bareconleta Sangria Bar

Mortiz

Barcelona Beer Company

Gallery

Maxio

.. .Fruition is an amazing thing. 

Right before I left is really when my friendship with Tea truly deepened and blossomed. I mean we had been hanging out and having these “business meetings” for about a year, but we hadn’t been given the time to ever just be and hang out in each others presence. I asked Tea to write a little something on our collab and here it is:

On this journey of creation and empowerment, I put a lot of thought into what wearable art would be for me. Thought into how I can break restrictions in the creative process. Thought into how I can make more art from art. I wanted truly unique pieces, visual thought pieces even, that would free creative expression for both myself as the creator and my clients. 

I feel as though art and bespoke fashion age well, as they can be timeless. With this, I thought it would be amazing if I can get fabric created with my own artwork and of artists that I appreciate. 

I’d say the universe recognizes real intentions, and brought us all together to show us how real our intentions are and can be. Meeting Meghan and learning about what she was already doing with art and fabric made my thoughts real for me. Confirmation that I was going in the right direction. Seeds planted grew into a collaboration where our art doesn’t stop at what we do individually. Collaboration allows us to give layers of life and power to the art we share with the world, empowering the world even more. On the most basic level as artists, Strata and Threads share this motif of empowerment, and this is why it works. - Tea Montgomery

The way he strings together thoughts through words has always made sense to me. I asked him recently through a WhatsAap message “how are you always so on point all the time!?” His response was simply “Some things just make sense to people.” His responses are always well thought out and the few words he uses are every time spot on for the conversation. As I have gotten to know him, I have been exposed to the various assets that embody Tea Montgomery. Almost every day I am still learning something new. If there is something I am certain of it is this, our friendship will never be boring. 

We had a Google Hangout interview with Lucy Gellman not too long ago, click here to view: https://www.newhavenarts.org/arts-paper/articles/studio-strata-threads-up 

Malta

I don’t think Malta was ever on my radar as a place I wanted to visit. Until, a good friend of ours moved there. We decided that after Germany the next stop would be a few days in Malta. I am so glad we made the trip. Malta stayed one of my favorite parts of our entire vacation. 

We started our first day of exploring by getting locked out of the cabify app. So, instead we had to figure out how the buses worked. That turned out to be not that bad and pretty easy to use. The first bus we took to Mellieha which held the beach Ghajn Tuffieha. We spent half the day relaxing on the beach and in the water. The juxtaposition of blue sky that met at the horizon with clear blue turquoise water was breathtaking and certainly put you at instant relaxation upon being greeted by the landscape.  

You see, the thing is - Nihar didn’t grow up going to the beach or hanging by the pool. He can’t just BE by a body of water. So he kept going in the water in shifts and trying to entertain himself in the water. Me, on the other hand - can spend hours by the water just being at peace in the sun and sweat. I instantly feel much better when I get that first tan of the summer and if on a day off I wake up cranky I just bring myself to the beach with a book and feel much better instantly when I am approached by the sweet salt water. 

So in the nature of true compromise, we left the beach a few hours in when Nihar had sufficiently enough time by the sun and water. We headed to the ancient city of Mdina. 

We started off our time in Mdina by going to the Tea Garden with an amazing view. I felt like the food and drinks were just alright, but you go there just to take in the view. We spent the next few hours just strolling through the ancient streets of Mdina while taking in all the architecture and small intricate lanes. We had dinner at a fancyish Lebanese restaurant called Ali Baba. When we got there, Nihar drops on me that our anniversary was the day before. I had absolutely no idea and couldn’t believe he didn’t say anything. I always get confused if it’s in July or August and somehow this year I had it set in my mind that we were not going to be traveling on the date. I did however know how many years it had been which Nihar wasn’t sure on. I guess after so many years when you start referring to each other as partners it all starts to blend together. After a lovely meal, we met our friend at his company party on the rooftop of the Intercontinental Hotel which was close to Paceville. 

The next day started with doing some touristy things in Old Malta. We visited the church that is known for having paintings done by Caravagio. I always say traveling is my biggest inspiration. I tell myself that these are inspiration trips. Each and every time something from the trip finds its way into my work. The story is known only to me, but left up to interpretation for the viewer. Over the past five or so years, I have really come a long way with how I talk about my work and in return has left me with more success from my viewers. I hate getting the annoying and generic response of “it’s beautiful.” Helping the audience see what I intend helps understand the work better, but still leaves space for one’s own interpretation. I continue to seek the balance between intention and intuition and it has been amazing to see how my process has evolved because of this.

I try to bring my slr along whenever I travel, but i don’t always use it. The moment I saw these columns in the church, I oozed with inspiration! I quickly took out my camera and could not stop taking pictures and admiring what I called in my head “party columns.” I am still uncertain how they will show up in my work, but rest assure they will in a huge way. That moment inspiration hits every trip is a moment I cherish and don’t take for granted ever. It keeps happening, so I shall keep on traveling.

We checked out what is apparently the only good coffee in all of Malta and it hit my quota of finding a hipster coffee shop in every city I visit.

I put my party pants on and we were ready take on an evening of going out. It’s rare that they are on and especially rare to wear them without a huge pep talk from my brother. 

We started the evening at Chalice. Where to even begin with how much I enjoyed this spot? The playlist was absolutely on point with playing all my favorite hip hop throw backs. The interior was well designed with some special touches I so appreciated. Every cocktail we picked out was especially well crafted. It was on the smaller side and was the type of place that lets you sit in nice fancy chairs/couches and provides an atmosphere where one can hold a nice conversation without raising your voice to the person next to you. Dinner was next door at ImPasta. Somehow I had never heard of arrabiata sauce until our trip to Italy a few years ago. Since then I have started making it at home and if it's ever on the menu at a restaurant I always choose to order it. European spicy is usually somewhat of a joke, but Impasta had my lips tingling from the spicy flavors of the sauce.

Our last day in Malta included lounging by a pool called Pearl. Everything was served right to your pool side chair and I think Nihar was loosing his patience by doing nothing for so long. But, I enjoyed every moment of it!

Just like that we were headed to our second to last destination - Barcelona!