It’s a cloudy Sunday morning. But the sun, though hiding behind the rain pregnant clouds, steals in a shower of golden glow upon me- or is it a creative glow? I’m blissfully unaware of the fact that this will be an eventful day; packed in a mean, scintillating punch.
The morning starts with our Buddhism’s monthly discussion gathering, also known as Zadinkai. It’s at my place, and I so love that fact that I can give my home and space for such a beautiful cause. At this discussion gathering, members come and share their victories through faith and practise. Children engage in creative activities (this time it was a skit on Thomas Edison). Then some thoughts, love and bonhomie is exchanged and every member goes back home feeling motivated and inspired to strive a little harder for the betterment of humanity.
Today I also have to leave for a Writers Retreat organised by BlogChatter, a community that drives bloggers/writers alike to hone their writing and creative skills and achieve their dreams of being published authors. This retreat, is being held closer home in Gurugram, at the stunning Taj Damdama Gateway Resort. The Gateway resort is an enchanting getaway snuggled amidst the idyllic, Aravallis. A perfect place to indulge in creative play. I’m already late, but I wouldn’t have liked to leave in between the Zadinkai.
I call for a cab that takes me through the beautiful meadows of rural Gurugram. I wonder why I didn’t think of driving down on my own. I dismiss the thought and enjoy the pleasures of being driven. A plethora of pretty, yellow flowers adorn a large part of the landscape. No, they aren’t mustard flowers. Something tells me they are swaying with the gentle breeze, enveloping me in a warm welcome, as a light drizzle graciously falls upon the pristine greens. I reach my destination in time for lunch, but late for first session, missing it by a whisker. It’s a session by author, Kanchana Banerjee on “Pitching your Creativity”
I make myself comfortable for lunch with Kanchana and two very amicable bloggers, Ashima and Peeyusha. Lunch is an elaborate fare, as it is in every five-star luxury hotel. I chose to keep it light, but can’t resist a bit of dessert. My resolve to abstain from sweets is going to naught. Sigh!
Post lunch we have a very interesting session by Smarpita Mukherjee on, Salebable Writing. Many useful pointers are shared that include; the writing agenda, target audience, getting the manuscript read by a trusted person-not a best friend or relative, importance of sticking to simple language, characterisation, having a saleable pitch ready for the publishers, social media promotions etc. This is followed by a session by Isha Nagar on Thinking Visually. We engage in some very stimulating creative play, through visuals and art forms. In the partner work exercise, Kanchana and I manage to finish ours the first. Yay! I’m then given a quote and asked to interpret it visually. It’s for you to see here.
In the interim, we drown ourselves in copious cups of coffee and kullhad chai. The mind is enjoying all the stimulation it is being subjected to and I am as smug as I could ever be. I’ve already made a few friends. The brave Bhavana Mahajan who worked as a policy maker in Kabul, my roomie Mayura Amarnath who is sweet, simple and fun to hold an interesting conversation with, and her pixie like grin doesn’t fail to enchant. And a few others.
Our next panelist is Dipankar Mukherjee from Redomania. He holds us spell-bound with his extremely interactive session on “What lies at the core of a Good Fiction Piece”. The answer is simple, yet something that never crossed my mind. The crux of a good fiction piece is “conflict” between man versus man, man versus nature, man versus himself and man versus society. We have some very valuable discussions, but since we run out of time, Dipankar has to wrap up the session, leaving a few exercises unfinished. We are a bit disappointed, but then an interesting evening lies in store for us.
The staff at Taj Damdama takes us for a tour around the property. The staff is gracious, hospitable and extremely pleasant to interact with. We have a photo session, and surprisingly we all fit in one frame – about 25 of us! Then we escorted to the Picnic Table, a cosy little outdoor space away from the swimming pool. The pool is teeming with men of all shapes and sizes, some grotesquely over the top. You get the hint. The Picnic table is next to the adventure sports section. We are nonchalant to the muggy weather, though some of us wish the pool would have been empty and we could have dunked ourselves in the cool waters.
Gayatri, our all exclusive, intensely intelligent girl doubles up as a shutterbug. We pose some here, some there. And then stop by the “picnic” table to indulge in burgers, wraps, French fries and shakes. I stick to a shake, in an effort to keep my calorie counter in place. So what if only for a bit! Politics, India’s future etc. are discussed with much ardour with Mayura, Dipankar, Peeyusha and Ashima on the table.
Our next pit stop is the bar. We have our sundowners at Swirl. Some very delectable white wine and cheese, while watching Federer ace the Wimbledon for the nth time. We are joined by Reena as well, who is making a grand come back in her 50s and wants to give creativity a chance after being prodded to by her sons and daughter.
It’s time for dinner which is an al a cart of Chinese fare. Over animated conversation about fuelling our creativity, Bollywood, our families and more, we are surprised to discover that Reena is Parineeti Chopra’s mother. Peeyusha can’t help gushing and is so excited by this sudden revelation. Dipankar has left by now. He has to drive all the way back to Delhi.
It’s almost 11 P.M. We are tad tired, but there is Darsaan and Ice-Cream are waiting to be served for dessert. Again I give in, succumbing to my ‘lust’. We want to go back to our rooms and crash, but our warm, lovely hostess Richa insists we attend a small 1/2 hour session that comes with an enticing round of chocolate-coffee martinis. The hotel staff has worked hard to put the stuff together for us, so we oblige, only to discover it was a great choice.
We sip on our martinis while discussing ways to monetize our blog. Prasad NP of Desi Traveller dispenses pearls of wisdom our way. While Richa holds fort and adds value to the conversation further. We are fading out now. Mayura, Reena and I walk back to our rooms. It’s almost 1 A.M., I jump into the shower and then sink into the soft comforts of my bed. Mayura and I talk about blogging and she gives me some very useful blogging tips. She’s an old hand at this. We wish to chat more, but it’s past two and we have to wake up at 6:30 A.M. for a fun work out session, so we decide to call it a day.
6:15 A.M.: The front desk gives us a wake-up call but we ignore it and go back to sleep.
6:25 A.M.: Another wake up call, and we tell them we ain’t coming.
8:10 A.M.: I jump out of bed. Time to get ready as we have our last session at 9:30 A.M. with Aditi Kumar Mathur on Travel. We need to have breakfast too. We are on time to catch a lazy breakfast. Gayatri is busy capturing our morning moods and recording all these wonderful memories. We dig into a hearty breakfast. Thereafter we head out to the conference room for the last session of the retreat. It’s almost time to say goodbye.
Aditi takes us through an interactive session: Travel fuels Creativity. We share our travel anecdotes and the changes it brought within. The curtains are now drawing to a close. In Richa’s words, “it’s bidai time” (send off for the bride). She feels this was a little wedding of sorts for BlogChatter.
We huddle together for another group picture. Thereafter phone cameras are whipped out, selfies taken, phone numbers and Twitter, Instagram handles exchanged.
As we drive back home through the meadows of rural Gurgaon, in Gayatri’s car, we can’t help gushing and reminiscing about the wonderful time had. This is the route I take, when my cycling buddies and I cycle down to Damdama lake, and this has also been the road less travelled with Blog Chatter.
Till we meet again and wait in anticipation for the Second edition of BlogChatter’s writing retreat. So long!