Bangladesh Slideshow

25 August, 2010

Time Out: A Stay at the Taj Tashi

I recently stayed at the Taj Tashi in Thimphu, Bhutan. It was the ULTIMATE in relaxation! And although I usually write my hotel reviews at TripAdvisor, I felt I just had to write about the Taj Tashi on my blog.

These are the photos I found of the hotel on the internet. It was clear that the building has adopted age-old Bhutanese traditions in its architecture and service. And I started to look forward to my stay.

My first view of the hotel didn't disappoint. It was like walking into a Dzong!

When I walked in through the front door, a maroon-clad Lama came forth to bless me with sprinkles of holy water and rice, offered me a traditional white silk kadha, and knotted a yellow string around my neck for luck, accompanied by the chimes of small metal bells. We were standing under massive cast iron bells hanging from the high lobby ceiling, and looked out into the valley beyond. I felt blessed.

The common areas were very elegantly furnished - always a mix of the traditional and the modern.

The hotel backyard was also very peaceful. There is just something about Bhutan that takes all your worries away.

Luxuriously appointed spacious bedrooms captured the essence of Bhutanese art and architecture in a contemporary setting, and attention was paid to even the minute details.

Hand-painted Budhdhist murals adorned the walls.

And the bathroom was to die for!!!

It had a heated floor!!!!!!! And spa quality toiletries!!

The main restaurant was also serenity personified. Just look at what view it afforded the diners!

Yes, that really is a HUGE prayer wheel. Om-mani-padme-hum!

And the bar-lounge was very trendy.

I lost my beloved camera one morning, and even a massive dose of retail therapy (5 pairs of shoes) didn't help. I needed to get over my loss and heal! The hotel claimed that their signature Jiva Spa experiences are steeped in the ancient Indian, Royal and healing traditions. So I booked the traditional 'hot-stone bath', trying not to wince at what it would cost me! But let me tell you, Dear Readers, it was money very well spent!

And the evening was rounded up with a gourmet in-room meal!

To add to its virtues, the Taj Tashi is located just off Thimphu's main thoroughfare, Norzin Lam, and is a stone's throw from the main sights, offices and shops. A traditional Bhutanese song-dance-music show is staged every evening for the guests. The service is efficiently provided by traditionally dressed young men and women, who always have a smile to offer. What more can one possibly ask?

I must return one winter to sit in the warmth of the bonfire in the backyard. Soon.

20 August, 2010


The Muezzin's call to Maghrib prayers is the signal that the fast is over for the day. We recite the Iftar dua "O Allah! I fasted for You and I believe in You [and I put my trust in You] and I break my fast with Your sustenance" and break the fast.

Fast is traditionally broken with chilled lemonade or coconut water. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

Cucumber further quenches thirst while dates provide an instant energy surge.

Next come orange slices. Vitamin C!

Followed by cooked chickpeas (high in nutrient value) - accompanied by puffed rice.

Are you marvelling at our healthy, by-the-book diet? Don't be so quick to judge!

We next binge on absolutely unhealthy deep fried goodies - without which no self-respecting South Asian Muslim would consider their fast 'properly' broken.

Golden Piaju (a mix of mashed lentil/sliced onion/green chili/cilanthro).

Feather light Beguni (aubergine covered in cornflour batter).

Sag Pakora (shredded spinach mixed with flour).

And of course, no Iftar table is complete without store bought (and even unhealthier?) delicacies.

Mutton Haleem (mutton and lentil curry - well, it's a bit more complicated than that!). Oh yumm, yummmm, yummmmmmm!!!

Crunchy Jalebis (flour and curd batter deep fried and soaked in a sugar and saffron syrup). Drooooooool!!!

For dessert (Iftar IS a meal, you know) there was Mishti Doi (sweet yoghurt).

Subhan'Allah. It was a great meal!

Oh, do excuse me!!!

11 August, 2010

Ramadan Mubarak

Muslims around the world are beginning to observe the Ramadan -which marks the time more than 1,400 years ago when the words of Islam's holy book, the Qur'an, were revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). This month-long fast (between daybreak and sunset) begins on the first day of the ninth Islamic month of Ramadan. The festival predates the Islamic calendar and was originally held in summer, thus the name Ramadan, which is related to the Arabic words ar-ramad and ramida, meaning intense heat and scarcity of rations.

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, months begin when the first crescent of a new moon is sighted. Since the Islamic lunar calendar year is 11 to 12 days shorter than the solar year and contains no intercalation (the insertion of a leap day), Ramadan migrates through the seasons. The Islamic day starts after sunset, and hence, the first day of Ramadan begins with the observations of the Taraweeh prayers in the evening when the new moon is sighted.

However, there is some disagreement between the two main sects of Islam (the Shi'ite and the Sunni) on the exact starting date of Ramadan. The discrepancy is due to differing interpretations of the lunar calendar.

Ramadan is not just about fasting from daybreak to sunset, as is the popular belief in the West. Rather, it is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation. In many ways, it is similar to Lent, when Christians prepare for the celebration of Easter through fasting, prayer and almsgiving. The Qur'anic directive (ii:183) states: "O believers! Fasting is ordained for you, as it was ordained for those before you, that you may increase in Taqwa." (Taqwa is a term denoting piety, upright behaviour and consciousness of the one God. It patience and perseverance, and fasting is regarded as a help in cultivating these qualities.) The Qur'anic passage also reminds mankind that Islam is not a new doctrine. It is essentially the same message that was stressed by all the previous prophets of God. Fasting, as the verse enunciates, is not a new practice or one exclusive to today's Muslims, but was also recommended by earlier prophets to their own respective communities. Sadly, it is a truth almost banished into oblivion by today's Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Ramadan should be seen as an opportunity to renew and strengthen oneself. The challenge is not only to curb one's appetite for basic needs, but also to control negative emotional conditions, especially anger, greed, intolerance, arrogance and dishonesty. Ramadan serves as a positive physical challenge each year. Throughout a Muslim’s lifetime, Ramadan falls both during winter months, when the days are short, and summer months, when the days are long and hot. Accordingly, it is a test of devotion, in which physical endurance mirrors the inner spiritual state, which a believer constantly strives to improve.

Moreover, the knowledge that hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, of many diverse nationalities and ethnic groups, are participating in the same exercise contributes towards creating a powerful sense of global unity.

The end of Ramadan is celebrated with Eid-ul-Fitr (feast of the fast-breaking), a festival that takes place on the first day of the month that follows Ramadan. Eid encapsulates and promotes the Islamic values of family, cohesion, community, optimism and service to God alone. Eid begins with a special prayer in which the whole community comes together. In the true Islamic spirit, the unfortunate are not forgotten, rather, those who can afford it provide a special charity (called Fitra) for the poor and needy so that they can also join in the celebrations. Eid is a day of family gatherings and feasts, community festivals, new clothes and gifts.

Ramadan Mubarak to all my Readers.

08 August, 2010

The Dawn of the Pink Sun

Candy's 4th birthday was knocking at the door, and we planned a small get-together of family and friends. Since we couldn’t celebrate her 3rd birthday due to a family illness, we (well, if truth be told, I) decided to go all out (read, a little overboard).

Party planning started with hours of internet browsing (as a result, Ranak diagnosed me with internet addiction. Sigh!). In the end, we decided to have a pink polka dot themed party.

Cloth shops, craft stores and party supply shops were scoured for the right pink decorations. A 'To Do' list was drawn up and oft consulted. And the party accessories gradually started to take shape.

Pink Invitations were sent out. A dress code was specified.

A Pink Birthday Banner was lovingly made. And hung with Pink Ribbon.

A Pink Poster announced the party at the front door.

On the day, when the morning sun streamed in through the Pink Curtains, the entire room was bathed in a soft pink light!

There was a Pink Tablecloth and Pink Runners on the sideboards. The Pink Flowers looked so pretty!

Even the crockery dressed up in Pink.

And Pink Balloons were EVERYWHERE!

The Pink Cake looked too good to eat. There were Pink Drinks. And loads of other goodies.

The birthday girl wore the loveliest pink-polka dot collar. She looked ADORABLE (but I may be biased).

Her Mommy, Daddy and the housekeeper Sonia all were in Pink.

And the guests came. Wearing Pink. Laughing. Bearing gifts. There was even a handmade card!

Some gifts were played with right there and then. The poor crocodile lost a leg.

We cut the cake. The birthday girl wanted to lick all the icing but had to be satisfied with two slices.

We ate. And made merry.

It was a wonderful party.

Thank you, God, for blessing us with such a sweet-natured little girl. And for surrounding us with such great family and friends.