What’s the good word?

“That’s sick, dude!” said my colleague! I stared at her for a moment, before I realized she meant “Wow”. Sick, to mean awesome? Another colleague wanted to know all the “goss” (gossip) from a meeting, while checking if the boss had “bounced”, meaning had the boss left office! “I think I am going to dip” said another, to mean that now he was going to “bounce”.

Welcome to the world of millennial lingo! I have still not sussed out most of their language, but what I have heard so far is utterly and comically fascinating! It’s a most desirable bonus of working with a bunch of lively millennials.

Every generation has had its slang which defined it. I remember being called an ‘enthu pea’ for my overzealous participation in English class. I cringed every time I heard it, though I didn’t mind being called a ‘cat’ (as in “she’s quite a cat”, said admiringly).

English is the most mauled languages of all times. Do you remember (and if you are a pre-millennial, you will), the horrible phase when short cuts were used in text messages, like “dat, dis & der”. Shudder! Thankfully it’s mostly died down. As P.G. Wodehouse would have said, God is in his heaven, and everything is right with the word, er, world!

One may accuse the millennials of many things, but certainly they don’t resort to “dis, dat & me2”. Instead, they have decided to be willful, resorting to completely contrary words to convey emotions, like “sick” when they mean superb, and “snatched” to mean something or someone is looking good. As in, she looked completely “snatched”!

To the millennials, their “squad” is their “fam”, even if sometimes their squad can make them “salty” and they may feel like “throwing shade” at someone in the squad. Translation? Their group of friends is like their family, even if sometimes they feel upset at a friend and they end up talking crap about that person. They particularly “throw shade” at anyone being “extra”, as in OTT.

Have you noticed, millennials are mostly gender neutral in their speech. They refer to each other as “bro” and “dude”. But tender emotions are always in the air, just expressed differently, I am told. So, if a boy or a girl sends a direct message on Instagram to the object of their interest, it’s called “sliding into someone’s gram”! But dare you use the phrase “Netflix and chill”, as apparently, it’s a highly sexual, pick-up line or invitation for a romp between the sheets. Who knew? But all is not lost. Once you do have a significant other, you can refer to them as “bae” (before anyone else)! If the relationship unfortunately hits a rocky patch, then of course you start giving or getting “can it” vibes!

Being very mindful of their need to maintain balance, millennials love to “vacay” (vacation) often, and failing that, at least go to parties which are “lit”, meaning, really happening. You could also be “turnt up” if you were at a lit party, though I have been warned, “turnt” could also mean “horny” or “turned on”! And would you wear expensive second-hand clothes to such a party? You will, just that such clothes are referred to as “pre-loved”. Seriously? Pre-loved? This reminds me of Marie Kondo way too much!

The millennials live with some glaring contradictions. They hate carbs, I mean seriously hate carbs. I feel like an absolute pachyderm eating my rice next to them. But they can’t do without their quota of chocolates. They can get really “hangry” (hungry angry) if they don’t get their daily chocolate fix. They are obsessed about health food and chocolates. Go, figure! Next to this they love their “sesh” (session) with the squad, which could be “goss sesh” or simply a “catching up sesh”! And anyone who isn’t in sync is of course a “wack” (whacko).

If you want to gain millennial approval, just go “savage”. It has nothing to do with savages and cave men, and everything to mean someone who is hardcore. It’s said in an appreciative manner. And if someone’s worthy of emulating, then they are “goals”. As in, “Look at her at 45, she’s serious goals, dude”.

Millennials, like many among us, have FOMO (fear of missing out), while the more evolved ones embrace JOMO (joy of missing out). But most millennials do fear going on a BT or “bad trip” (drug induced), much to the relief of their parents.

While they don’t necessarily suffer from hubris, millennials do think they are GOAT (greatest of all time), definitely they are the greatest of their own times! I must be really “cray” (crazy) to write this blog post, and I just hope I have “killed it” (done well), otherwise my young colleagues may accuse me of being a tired “boomer” (referring to those born pre-1965), while I will have to remind them that I am actually GenX…just one generation before them!

The Goa sojourn

 

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Last week, we flew into a weepy Goa. It was past midnight, and the world outside the aircraft window was dark, interspersed with dense, white, cumulonimbus, which obscured the city below. We were descending rapidly and I craved a sight of the cheery lights of civilization. Instead, I was bent near double, the seat belt so tight against my waist that it anchored me to a shaky reality. My head spun in many interesting ways as the aircraft shuddered and bucked with the immense battle it was waging with the elements. Finally, finally, we landed.

Sanjay, the security guard and Man Friday at the complex in Vagator had asked me earlier in the day, “Yahaan toh red alert hai, aap aa rahein hain kya?” My two previously planned trips had been cancelled at the nth minute, and my longing for Goa had deepened into an obsession. Vagator in Goa is our second home, and a place I love deeply. I had looked forward to visiting Goa during the Diwali break so much that even wild horses, or as it turns out, a cyclone, couldn’t have kept me away. I had replied to Sanjay, “Bilkul aa rahein hain”, superstitiously crossing my fingers.

It was rather freak weather for this time of the year, though when we landed it was a suspiciously dry Goan night. We reached home to no power, a backyard in shambles,  with uprooted plantain trees. It was a sad sight. It takes some effort to grow these trees. With the help of inverter driven lights, we assessed our home. Except for a pesky lizard which had taken refuge above the main door, there was no other damage. The lizard we soon drove away, though Sachin was sad to see it go. Lizards keep all other insects out, was his sage counsel which I indignantly ignored. He’s always had a thing for reptiles.

I was wide awake, though it was well past two in the morning. I sat in my familiar patio while the rain, which now came down in torrents, lashed the house, and the trees swayed drunkenly. I greedily breathed in the clean air, forcing my body to slow down.  Have you noticed, nights in cities are never ever completely dark? I could make out the faint outline of the other villas, and the little path snaking away in front of me. I was alone in the solitude of that world.  It was the most peaceful I had felt in a long while.

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A view from the house

In the morning, monkeys came visiting. I took photos, while my brave son cautioned from the safety of the patio that they were quite likely to grab my phone! The security guards were mighty miffed. Monkeys damage the trees, and while hopping from roof to roof, dislodge the tiles. But for us, monkeys were a novelty and we tracked them till they vanished over the fence.

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This was the best shot I could manage of our energetic visitor who left some broken tiles in his wake!

In Vagator we behave like locals. Unselfconsciously so. We trade banter with the local restauranteur, and buy our staples from the store next door. The vegetable vendor gives us discounts on the fruits we buy, in the happiness of seeing us after a long while (or so he claims). Whatever, it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy and happy to be here. We often go out wearing whatever we are wearing, and our shades. It matters to no one that we are not dressed to the hilt. Oh, the freedom of it all!

Vagator may be in North Goa, but for long it was the peripheral cousin to the more happening Calangute, Anjuna and Baga. Yet, this also means that it attracted less crowd which admittedly added to its charm. Lately, things have changed. The main Vagator beach has been usurped by outfits offering all manner of water sports, much like the other popular beaches. I have no quarrel with that, we just walk further down the long beach which is more deserted, for our dose of vitamin sea. My son enjoys Goa the beach bum way. He has to be dragged out of the sea with the direst of threats. Back home, after he’s streaked the house with wet mud, we often settle down for a game of Uno or Poker. But this is the extent of our exertions here.

For me, it’s a charmed existence. I do nothing more than sit back with a book or my iPad, and perform the most taxing task – plan the family’s next meal. While I love to whip up breakfast, Sachin and Ishaan insist on eating out for the rest of the meals. It’s so easy toe their line! The choices in Vagator are aplenty. Near to us are the thaali place Goan Spice,  Jaws, Tintin and one of our new favourites – Comida Casseira.

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This boy is vlogging while eating his zillionth pizza at Tintin!

The Greek restaurant Thalassa used to be our indulgence, but we have now lost it to Siolim. Go all the way to Siolim? Naah! Sarah Todd’s much acclaimed Antares which had burned down, has reopened in Vagator, but we are yet to visit it. When we feel more energetic, we stir ourselves to visit our other favourites like Ritz Classic in Panjim, Suza Lobo in Calangute and Britto’s in Baga. Post lunch, we often take a walk to the Baskin Robbins outlet near us, whose owner is rather whimsical. When it’s devilishly hot, and we long for that bite of coolness, he shuts down for his siesta. If we are lucky we get our little choice of ice-cream and head home for our siesta!

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All I can think about is that scrumptious seafood salad right in front of me at Comida Casseira!

Truth be told, food forms a big part of our intense attraction for Goa. And of course what Goa stands for – susegad. Goa to me, is a state of being. Being happy, being carefree, just being me. In a perfect world I would live in Vagator. But this is not a perfect world. So all I can do is promise myself to visit this haven as often as I can. I reckon that’s the least I owe myself.

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The peaceful Vagator beach

Working with millennials

I am reminded of the movie The Intern each day I walk into my new office. Barely two months have passed since I joined this firm, and the job is still spit-shiny and sparkling new. I am reminded of The Intern, because the vibe in the office is almost completely millennial. I am no Robert De Niro in my 70s looking for a place to hang out. But my ‘boss’ like De Niro’s boss, is 26, about half my age, if you round off my 46 to the nearest decade, which unfortunately is 50! It’s a testimony to his immense abilities that my boss already has my respect, which I am normally very loath to give to people unless they have truly deserved it.

The millennial work place is a very different planet from the work places I am used to. The last place I worked full-time was at the magazine brought out by an environmental NGO. While the place had the buzz, there was overall, an attitude of world-weariness about the onerous duties of saving this planet. We were all battle worn, or at least pretended to be. People seldom bothered about trivialities like clothes and attire. It was as carelessly prosaic as you can imagine.

After that I joined a magazine which as a colleague put it laconically, had people “past their expiry date”. It was a less cliched way of saying that the office environment was tired, dispirited, and completely unenthused. I loved my work there, but was very soon infected by the lack of any kind of energy. It was a dead environment. By the time I stumbled out of there, I was more a zombie than an active, functioning individual.

So one can imagine the contrast my current environment is. My first week went in just getting acquainted with the various software and programmes that keeps the place buzzing and fine-tuned. The next few weeks have gone in finding my way through the maze of young, younger and youngest colleagues, whose work ethos, frankly, astonishes me. I have been told repeatedly that the millennials believe in work-life balance to the extent that ‘life’ outbalances ‘work’. But I find that is not wholly true. The millennials work hard, and are very focussed about their work. There is carefully cultivated bonhomie, but their focus is razor sharp. They are near ruthless in achieving their targets, seniority and experience (of others) be damned.

It seriously doesn’t matter to them where you are from, what you have done before, and your general ‘history’. It’s not rudeness or indifference, it stems more from utter professionalism which sees an individual as a whole instead of a part of an extraneous whole. In my earlier jobs all my colleagues knew within the fortnight my husband’s profession, and my entire antecedents. It was a given that one would be asked probing questions, and one just answered them. At my current work place, I think my young colleagues barely know that I have a kid, let alone anything else. I find it strange, but truth speaking, quite liberating! One starts with a clean slate, which is not a chance one always gets, is it? So only the work I do from now on, actually matters. And since everyone is giving their best, I have to do the same. And that alone is so very refreshing. To work alongside people who are the brightest and the best, in the hope that it will also bring out the best in me.

So, armed with my golden laptop and a will-do attitude, I have launched into my ‘second’ career! The learning curve is so steep that I sometimes wonder at my audacity in shaking myself out of my comfort zone. But then age is just a number, isn’t it, though my sluggish metabolism and aching limbs beg to differ!

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My July List of Shows to Watch

Good Omens (Amazon Prime): After Fleabag, this is a show I will most highly recommend. Based on the book, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies by Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, this is an outrageously funny and wicked series. The premise is simple. Armageddon is scheduled to occur on Earth within a week, the Anti-Christ has been born, and Heaven and Hell are primed and ready, as this epochal event will finally decide the supremacy of one of them. But thwarting these fine plans of God and Satan are their respective representatives on Earth – Angel (played by Michael Sheen) and Demon Crawley (played by David Tennant). These two who have known each other for more than 6,000 years, have struck a rather good rapport, complete with banter, sarcasm, and dare I say it, ‘bromance’! They have seen each other through thick and thin since Adam and Eve, and every historical event since. They have rescued each other from sticky situations, and in the process, have also got mighty comfortable living among humans, and are rather loathe to give that up. Hence, their plan to thwart Armageddon, and try and together influence the Anti-Christ, a boy growing up peacefully in a village (due to a hilarious mixup), to become a fine, balanced young man. When the day of Armageddon finally arrives, matters come to a head, but Angel and Demon have the last laugh.

For me, the best part of Good Omens is the chemistry between the goody-goody, naive, and eager-to-please ‘Angel’ Michael Sheen, and the arrogant, yet heart-in-the-right-place swagger of ‘Demon’ David Tennant. If you have seen Broadchurch then you will know Tennant as detective Alec Hardy, and believe me, it requires some leap of imagination to connect him to this loose-limbed, utterly cynical Demon Crawley. They are brilliant actors, brilliantly cast. Not that there is anything to cavil about the rest of the cast. Jon Hamm (Don Draper of Mad Men) as Archangel Gabriel is deliciously ironic and masterful, and Frances McDormand as God and the narrator for the series, is outstanding. In fact, the narrator is as much the star as the story and the  actors. Do not miss this one for anything.

Chernobyl (Hotstar): As the name suggests, this series is a docu-drama based on the April 26, 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station near Pripyat, Ukraine, with was then part of the Soviet Union. It’s a gripping re-enactment of the precise events – man-made and scientific – which led to this horrific accident, in which many lost their lives, and thousands more had to deal with radiation-related illnesses. A large swathe of area around the power station is still an abandoned, exclusion zone, and likely to be for the foreseeable future. The series highlights the work of all those who responded to this accident, and all those who tried to cover up, including the State of Soviet Union, then headed by Gorbachev, which lied to the international community about the magnitude, and the cause of this accident. This series is a gripping thriller, and you will be most tempted to binge watch the series. In a departure from the usual, the actors all speak English, with no particularly local accent. A refreshing change indeed.

Homecoming (Amazon Prime): I saw Julia Roberts’s name on the cast of this series and decided to watch it. This is a thriller in a sense, as we remain tantalisingly close to discovering what happened at the Homecoming Transitional Support Centre run by the Geist group in the US, which exists ostensibly to help soldiers transition smoothly into civilian life. The place has counsellors, and all the other facilities expected of such a place. Julia Roberts is a counsellor too. But in the present, when the movie begins, she’s a waiter at a small cafe, with nary a memory of what exactly it was that she did at Homecoming, and what was her role in a particular incident involving a young veteran. Is Homecoming truly a place of transition into civilian life, or does it have a more sinister purpose? Quite a gripping series.

Nothing to Hide (Netflix): Ever since I watched The Chalet and Call My Agent, two thoroughly entertaining French series, I have been on the lookout for more French shows to watch. Nothing to Hide is about four couples and a single friend who meet up for dinner at one of their houses. As the evening begins, an impromptu rule is made – everyone will surrender their phones and any message or call that comes on any of the phones, will be shared with everyone. Some resist this, but soon, all phones are piled up in the centre of the table. Well, one can imagine the confusion and tragic-comic situations that ensue. Some truths are revealed, some lives unravel, some lies upturned. But was it a real game? Certainly, a lovely watch on a rainy day.

Hamid (Netflix): India’s Kashmir has many, many untold stories. Lately, a few movies have been made highlighting the truth of life in Kashmir, without being preachy. One such is Hamid. It’s told from the point of view of an eight-year-old boy, Hamid, whose father, like many Kashmiri men, has vanished when he stepped out of their house to buy a pair of batteries. The mother (played ably by Rasika Dugal), joins the unrelenting ranks of the Kashmiri ‘half-widows’, women whose husbands have disappeared, with no confirmation of whether they are alive or dead. These widows’ lives are defined by daily visits to police stations and check-points, in the hope of some information, some glimmer of hope. Meanwhile, Hamid decides to contact Allah and dials a number, which happens to belong to an Indian Army officer! Their conversations are hilarious, yet poignant, and reflect the conundrums on both sides of the conflict. A true gem of a movie. You won’t be dry-eyed by the end of it. I was also left with the yearning to somehow magically wave a wand and make it all right for everyone in that troubled state.

The return of the native

The shows I have watched and loved in recent times, like The Outlander, Game of Thrones, and now, Good Omens, are all based on books. Books that I haven’t read. Which is an unusual thing for me.

Back then, I had already read the books on which a movie or show was based. I especially remember watching the BBC series Pride & Prejudice, and re-connecting with the beloved characters of Mr.Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. Over time, I watched Rebecca, Guns of Navrone, The Godfather, the Lord of the Ring series, Sense and Sensibility, Jane EyreThe Jungle Book, the Agatha Christie series, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mocking Bird, even The Good Earth…well, you get the drift. The movies were like coming home to a familiar, beloved story, just with enhanced colour and drama.

But then, earlier, I devoured books at a frenetic pace. Today, I devour content on the web at a frenetic pace! As a result, I realise much to my dismay, that I have fallen behind with books. I realised this with the Game of Thrones.

Nearly a decade ago when I was introduced to GoT by Sachin, I got hooked. It was almost an addiction. I couldn’t wait to devour each bloody, violent, often incestuous, utterly exhausting episode. After watching season one, I was so smitten that I couldn’t wait to read the books.

It was altogether a peculiar feeling to not have read the book/s on which this series was based. I was very willing and eager to embrace George R.R. Martin, his bearded self and all. But what a let down! I just didn’t and couldn’t get his style of writing. I did persevere some, but gave it up as a lost cause, instead waiting with the exaggerated impatience of a true fan for the next season to stream. I was struck by the thought that if I had happened upon the books first, I would never have bothered to watch the series. Now, what a tragedy that would have been…!

Then take The Outlander, another lovely show on Netflix, which I watched at a friend’s recommendation, and then realised that this too was based on a book series by Diana Gabaldon. I hastily borrowed the books from Shemaroo library, and devoured the first two books. Then, I stopped abruptly. It’s a well-written series, but I was now, willy nilly, more loyal to the screen! I wanted to maintain the suspense of the show.

Indeed, I have traversed a long way. Reading had always been my thing. But in the last couple of years, the tide has slowly, but inexorably, turned. What still flummoxes me is that I had not even heard of  some of these books or the authors till the shows came along! And there is a vestige of sadness at this state of affairs.

The last straw, so to speak, is the outrageously funny series Good Omens I have just finished watching on Amazon Prime. It’s based on the book, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies by Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and though their names were familiar, I had not read a single book by either. Good Omens is one of the most entertaining shows I have watched in recent times, particularly because of its central cast – Michael Sheen and David Tennant. They are absolutely brilliant as Angel and Demon, respectively, trying to prevent Armageddon on earth. One of the highlights of the show is the ‘bromance’ between the loose-limbed, arrogantly cynical Tennant, and the goody-goody, wholesome Sheen.

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The good omen which has re-ignited my reading 

Post this show, I am utterly ashamed at my in-the-doldrums reading habit. So, I have decided to pick it up again, starting with Good Omens, of course! In a nod to the times we live in, as also to eyes that aren’t as ‘powerful’ as before, I have downloaded the Audibles app to ‘read’ this book. So if you see me pounding the treadmill (okay, I walk briskly, not pound…it just seemed more dramatic, is all), or walking with my headphones on, you can assume I am ‘reading’ a book, all thanks to this show, a good omen indeed!

Paradise found

I stood at the window of our apartment in Perast, on the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, and gazed at the serene bay, sparkling in the winter sun. Framed by the hills beyond, and little fishing boats bobbing in the bay, it was breathtakingly beautiful. That was the moment I lost my heart to Perast.

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We had landed in Podgorica (erstwhile Titograd), capital of Montenegro, on a cold November morning, and rented a car to drive down to Perast, two hours away. The road snaked around to the sparkling Boka Kotorska or the Bay of Kotor of the Adriatic Sea, towns around which, like Kotor and Perast, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

We arrived in Perast, a one-street town hugging the bay, and was it crowded! Tourists, mostly from Dubrovnik and Kotor, visit between 12 noon and 3 pm. After 3 pm, it is near deafening, but blissful silence.

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On our first morning, we walked to the store near Skolje restaurant, to buy bread, milk, and cold cuts for a hearty breakfast. Wearing our warm jackets, we breathed in the crisp air, while the local fishermen motored off in their boats, and we befriended the stray cats.

Returning to our apartment, I put together our breakfast, taking pleasure in spending time in the quaint kitchen, which had its own, tiny cellar.

Perast Apt Dining

The apartment was a tastefully done up place, where we lingered for hours. Its stone floors, and old world charm had us completely captivated.The chair swing creaked alarmingly, yet provided a cosy, soporific perch, from which to contemplate life in all its swirling insanity. Utterly charmed by the view from the apartment, I spent many hours in the window seat, looking out to the bay, thinking many thoughts, occasionally reading a book.

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Perast Apt Seat

Later, we walked through town, taking in its baroque stone palaces, and churches. The street is just a mile long, but is interspersed with lively outdoor cafes, piers with white fishing boats, and locals going about their lives. The Bay of Kotor has been occupied since antiquity, and it shows in the beautiful churches and monasteries that dot the land. The most prominent in Perast is the Church of St. Nicholas with its 55-metre tall bell tower, where the busts of Perast’s famous sailors like Marko Martinvic, adorn the rectangular courtyard. We headed for the museum opposite the pier. Located in the 17thcentury Bujovic Palace, the museum tells the story of the town’s maritime history, with swords and daggers, uniforms, and models of ships, on display.

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Afternoon arrived, and we chose Café Armonia in the centre of Perast, for lunch, and relaxed in its outdoors seating, watching the sea gulls land for tidbits, the resident cat scrounging under our table for crumbs.

Seafood is popular, with every restaurant offering fish, shrimp, calamari, squid, octopus, and clams. We had lovely sea food salads and squid ink pasta, and marvelled at the sheer freshness of the produce. The locals are rather proud of their produce, its freshness and organic origins.

Seafood salad

Squid ink pasta

We hired a boat and its laconic boatman Mirko for 5 euros per person, to take us to the island of the Lady of the Rocks or the Gospa od Skrpjela, about 10 minutes away. Legend has it that local seamen used to lay stones at this spot when returning from a successful voyage, and on the island thus created, a chapel was built in 1630, later enlarged into a church.

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We returned from the island, and chose to walk the length of Perast.

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Night falls early, and with some abruptness, in Perast’s winter. Sitting at the pier, we saw a well-lit cruise ship crossing the bay in front of Perast, startlingly close, and realised that this was a shipping channel, of course! The serene, placid bay hides its secrets well.

After spending a few blissful days in the cocoon of our new-found love for Perast, we decided to stir ourselves and visit the medieval town of Kotor, less than half an hour away. The San Giovanni Castle or St. John’s Castle whose ramparts circle the old town, was built between the 9th and 19th centuries, and beckoned us. Located 250 m above sea level, with 1,350 steps leading up to it, we had heard it was a steep, but an easy climb, and cost 8 euros per head.

A local insistently pointed to another path snaking up, which we took, rather puzzled. This turned out to be a serendipitous choice, as the gently sloping path was easier than the steep steps, and more picturesque. Lined with pomegranate bushes, the path took us past the ruins of the St. George Church, while providing us with jaw-dropping views of the Bay of Kotor.

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Soon we climbed through a large opening in the castle wall, and looked down at the Bay of Kotor, caught in a breathtaking tapestry of sunlight, shadows, and a white cruise ship docked in the stunning blue of the bay. The hike had taken us about an hour and a half.

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We descended the steep steps to the old town of Kotor, whose cobbled paths, carved gates, terracotta tiled roofs, and narrow alleyways, are redolent of its medieval past. Kotor’s old town is a warren of narrow alleys with many squares named after their use in the times gone by – Square of Weapons, Square of Flour, Square of Milk, et al.

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The main landmarks are the Cathedral of St. Tryphon with its frescoes dating to the 14thcentury, St. Luke’s Church, which has survived earthquakes, and has two altars, the Maritime Museum, and the Pimo Palace.

Impatient to get back to Perast, we waved goodbye to Kotor. We stopped at the legendary, and charming Konoba Catovica Mlini restaurant in Morinj for dinner. A cosy restaurant, it has hosted the likes of actor Ralph Fiennes (a huge favourite of mine), and the famous tennis player from neighbouring Croatia, Novak Djokovic, we were chuffed to note.

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In the pitch dark night, we returned home to an utterly still Perast. I realised that I had never felt such peace and serenity. I thought this yearning for peace was a mid-life marker, till I heard my 12-year-old declaring Perast as his most favourite place in the world. How could a young boy have found his heart’s yearning in Perast, I wondered, bemused. Yet, I got him. Perast is stunning, and as poet Lord Byron put it, the Kotor bay is indeed “the most beautiful encounter of land and sea”, in which Perast is still a largely unknown gem in the Adriatic Sea. I wished with all my heart that I could claim a small part of this paradise for myself, forever. In my heart, I had.

How to get there

You can fly into Montenegro’s Podgorica or Tivat airports from any European city, or fly Turkish Airlines into Podgorica. From Podgorica and Tivat, you can rent a car or take the bus into Kotor and Perast. We rented a car for the duration of our stay in Montenegro.

 

My Summer list of top shows on streaming sites

 

  1. Fleabag (Series, Amazon Prime): This is my pick of this year so far, a two season series, which is a tremendous rule breaker on several counts. Phoebe Waller-Bridge (also the writer for the TV adaptation of the immensely popular Killing Eve), has created, written and acted in this series as a highly promiscuous, single, young woman, identified simply as Fleabag, whose way of coping with a tragedy is to use sex, and lots of it, pretty indiscriminately too. This not just affects her relationships with men, but also makes her an object of ridicule to her father, her sister, as also her Godmother (played so fiendishly by one of my favourites Olivia Colman of Broadchurch). Fleabag’s at heart a very sensitive person, who is alive to others’ thoughts and perceptions, yet, isn’t averse to poking fun at herself, in an almost self-deprecating way. She does this by what’s called breaching the ‘fourth wall’ – she makes the audience her ally, turning to the camera to say her asides to every evolving situation. Her asides are hilarious, heart-warming, and brutally critical and honest. And no one notices it, till the Hot Priest she meets in Season Two. (A number of characters are named thus, by their qualities or personality. Another is named Hot Misogynist!) Hot Priest’s very Catholicism precludes sex between them, despite their very evident mutual attraction. They become friends, discussing everything, while drinking gin and tonic. Hot Priest has chosen this calling after many trials in life, and is very sensitive to Fleabag’s vulnerability, which he tries to genuinely understand. He’s the only one who actually notices her speaking to the camera, in a way suggesting, he’s the only person so far who has actually noticed Fleabag. Phoebe Waller-Bridge has done such a tremendous job of conveying her confusion, and frustration, amid flashbacks of the tragedy which still haunts her. Will Fleabag and Hot Priest have sex? Does Fleabag finally find her meaningful relationship? The chemistry between Fleabag and Hot Priest played by Andrew Scott (Jim Moriarty from Sherlock, who would have thought?) is red hot, and very believable. Do not miss this one for anything.
  2. Goliath (Series, Amazon Prime): First, a confession. I love Billy Bob Thornton! We really have to stop seeing him only as Angeline Jolie’s ex. He’s such a brilliant actor. I loved him in Fargo, and here he’s done a superb job as a lawyer, who has co-founded a hugely successful law firm, but is now out of luck, and spends his days in a bar, while living in a motel. He is cajoled into taking up a case against the biggest client of his erstwhile Firm, which leads to many dangerous situations, and ultimately, resolution. Thornton, with his unkempt hair, that faint twinkle in the eye, and the cool smirk, can convince you of anything. Any moment you expect him to go OTT, but he never does. Season Two is more vicious and gory, and I didn’t dig it as much. But watch Season One for sure.
  3. Sex Education (Series, Netflix): Prima facie, this is about a bunch of  high schoolers in England, whose only obsession seems to have loads of sex, and lose virginity at the earliest. The protagonist is a teenager who is sexually untested and awkward, despite having a sex therapist for a mom. Yet, inadvertently, he and a friend set up a clandestine sex therapy clinic in school. What could have just been a voyeuristic story, becomes so much more, including a funny, whacky commentary on how we perceive each other, the cliches we swallow so eagerly, and why goodness is still a valued commodity.
  4. the Upside (Movie, Amazon Prime): This has Bryan Cranston as the protagonist who is a millionaire quadriplegic, paralysed from the neck down. After interviewing many candidates, he finally appoints a recently paroled con, who predictably, and after some false starts, helps Cranston live a full life. This is a done to death storyline. What makes it watchable is Cranston, who has played this role so convincingly,  dramatically opposite the role of a chemistry teacher–turned-meth-producer he played in Breaking Bad. Nicole Kidman acts as Cranston’s assistant, but she is rather under-used, in my opinion.
  5. Yes, Prime Minister (Series, Amazon Prime): This old BBC series is full of laughs and good, old fashioned, British humour. The way the British can poke fun at themselves, I can’t really imagine anyone else doing with the same subtlety and good-humoured sarcasm. And the language, always, the language, makes you want to just keep listening to them speak, on loop! I always have an episode downloaded and kept for lean times!
  6. Sommersby (Movie, Amazon Prime): A man returns from war after seven years, after he is presumed long dead. He finds his wife on the verge of committing herself to another guy, and the lands in disarray. He resumes life with his wife, convinces the villagers to take up tobacco farming, as also gives opportunities to black people to own land. How does this go down with the rest? Why does his wife see him differently? Is he even what he claims to be? Richard Gere and Jodie Foster are really good as the couple with good chemistry, who must make a conflicting decision, eventually.
  7. Dirty Dancing (Remake, Amazon Prime): This is a very creditable remake of the original Patrick Swayze movie, about a young girl, an inherent do-gooder with a very high moral code, who falls in love with her dance instructor during a stay at a holiday resort. In the process, she kindles in him a deep need to do better in life. The song “I’ve had the time of my life” is still one of the most iconic numbers. The remake is very well done and a definite must-watch. Nostalgia at its best.
  8. Wine Country (Movie, Netflix): A bunch of women get together for a weekend in wine country Napa Valley to celebrate one of them turning 50. In the process, they face up to each others’ weaknesses, and home truths some have being avoiding. The movie has some of the best names from Saturday Night Live like Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph, though Tina Fey has a very negligible role. You almost wonder what she’s doing here. It’s a good watch, on a slow day.
  9. Spotlight (Movie, Netflix): If you haven’t seen this film about one of the biggest exposes of the Catholic Church in the US, then rush and watch it. Starring Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo, this is about the ‘Spotlight’ bunch of investigative reporters of Boston Globe newspaper, who unearthed the multiple child sex abuse cases by Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area.
  10. Primal Fear (Movie, Netflix): An altar boy is found running away from a murder scene, covered in blood. Did he kill the Archbishop? His lawyer played by Richard Gere thinks his client is innocent. The story keeps you on edge, now you believe the altar boy is the murderer, and now you don’t. Watch it till the last second. That’s all I will reveal!