Guest Post: Rupa Jambholkar

Today I am featuring Indian blogger, Rupa. I am presenting a post from her own blog, a touching poem about her love for her husband.
Here is her own short bio.

“I am an engineer by degree. A home maker by choice and an artist by soul.

I live in Mumbai, India with my husband and two kids.”



Love needs no fancy flowers!

I pulled out the chair for you,
but forgot
you weren’t there.
I made your favourite chicken curry, spicy and hot, just the way you want.

I envisage, the way you relish it,
licking your fingers,
and asking for more.
You know and I know,
it’s too hot for you but you still love it.
And I wonder why?
I see the way you look at me ,
with your loving eyes.
Even though I look like a pallid soul.
And at that moment , I try to steal my glance away from you, but your eyes stay fixated on me.

And then you hum,
an old romantic song to compliment me,
but I pretend that I don’t blush nowadays
and I somehow manage to smile,
to hide the fact that, I still feel so shy.

I cannot elucidate to myself, how can you see beauty in me, especially now, when I fail to see it anymore.

AND HOW CAN YOU, AFTER SO MANY YEARS NOT BE BORED, OF AN INSIPID ME?

Yes I did hear the doorbell, my eyes have lit up, I know it’s you.
And you know that, I was thinking about you, waiting for you, so stop smiling and give me a hug.

The curry is still warm,
so is my heart and so are your arms,
And now I see what I saw, the same love to begin with.

You can read more of Rupa’s work on her own blog, Pans & Proses.
https://pansandproses.wordpress.com/

Please try to find some time to welcome Rupa into our wonderful blogging community.

Guest Post: Shaily Agrawal

Something different from book promotion, today I bring you a guest post, a short story from my Indian blogging friend, Shaily.
Shaily Agrawal is an Instructional Designer with a love of telling stories. This is her first Science fiction.

Shaily is a fully-engaged blogger, and a real part of our community. Please take some time to read her story, and perhaps visit her blog to find out more about her and her work.
https://fishinthetrees.home.blog/

The Phlebologist

2266 AD.

This assignment was a bad idea. The signs were evident right from the beginning—not sure how I missed them all. Maybe, the gold in sight had blinded me with its glare. Now I could do nothing but freak out inside this dark place, waiting for someone to return for me.

I wish I had missed that call from Mikhael, my employer, six days back. He had called me back from my vacation for the fourth time in a row. If I could spit venom, I would have killed his hologram that grew from my watch.

“You better make it worth my time. I’m killing my vacation for you. Again.”

But he knew exactly how to pacify me. “Petra dear, the client promises to weigh you in gold.”

With those golden words, he had all my attention. Nothing motivated me better than money. Love I had too much of—being a tall, curvy blond—and stopped counting after my 25th boyfriend.

“Can’t tell you the name for obvious reasons, but the client is a giant in the Blood Test industry. They own thousands of laboratories across Earth with the annual turnover of several billion dollars. They are looking for information about…”

“…Sangue Heder Labs,” I finished his thought. He nodded.

“Of course! The fastest-growing laboratory chain on Earth…I assume, our client is looking for the ground-breaking technology that diagnoses the complete list of diseases, including Cancer, from a single vial of blood, that too within minutes.” He nodded again.

The breakthrough was nothing short of a miracle and was all over the papers last year. By providing general health check-ups at unbelievably low rates, they had wiped out the smaller competition in a matter of months. Now, even bigger competitors were struggling to stay open.

“I’m on it. I’ll have results in a week or less. Keep that gold ready.”

Day 1

My internet search was the first sign that I should have backed out.

In a universe connected tightly through the Universe Wide Web, celebrities can’t sneeze without someone publishing it. Yet, hardly any information existed about the most successful lab chain on Earth. All I found was that the Sangue Heder Labs were owned by Marco De Rossi, the youngest member of a multi-billionaire family. In 2099, his family was one of the first to move to Proxima Centauri B, the closest habitable planet. They traveled on the legendary Spaceship Noah’s Ark, which was loaded with seeds of all kinds and pairs of all variety of animals in the cryopreserved state. Most of them survived on Proxima, unlike Earth, populating the nearly empty planet in the next 200 years and became a wildlife preserve and favored travel destination for the super-rich celebrities around the known universe. But the family declined to share any pictures publicly throughout its 500 years history on Earth and Proxima, a practice Marco De Rossi seemed to have kept alive till date.

His company was equally elusive. Sangue Heder Labs’ website stated an address on Proxima as headquarter. They mentioned using an “ancient technique” to diagnose diseases from the blood. But there accuracy was up to three decimal digits. Was it possible with anything ancient?

Next, I contacted the patent office, off the record, only to find nothing. Sangue Heder Labs hadn’t patented the “technique”. Or maybe they couldn’t, if it really was ancient. To check whether there was any ‘ancient’ technique offering diagnosis through blood, I deep searched medical sites from Earth and Proxima, but to no avail. Some Proxima health resorts offered ancient healing through local herbs, animal extracts, and solar heat but there was nothing about diagnosis through blood.

The pictures left me wondering how it would be to live on a planet where trees still grew in forests and not pots. Someday, maybe I will too.

Day 2

The next day, I moved to Plan B, looking for the employees of Sangue Heder Labs on Social Media. Employees are a treasure of information. There is always someone complaining about their job and technology challenges. But soon, I realized that they probably had some employee agreement barring them because I found no one.

With a couple of days gone, I decided to contact them personally. Everybody has a price tag: some talk for money, others for ‘love’. But the contacts from the Earth Employee Benefits organization could not dig out a single email, address or phone number since both the organization and its employees were ‘foreign’ and protected by the inter-planetary laws.

I should have stopped then but my reputation as the best Industrial Spy on Earth wasn’t for nothing.

Day 3

I decided to catch an employee during a lunch break and strike a conversation. A couple of drinks and an attentive listener can loosen a tongue easily. Usually, they begin with the rant about too much workload, bad managers and difficult clients, and, with careful steering, can easily overstep the line of discretion and divulge their technology without really knowing.

So, I donned a brunette wig and boarded my trusted faded-grey copter—both common and anonymous. Blonds and stylish rides draw a lot of attention and blending in with the crowd was imperative for my job. I flew to the biggest Sangue Heder Lab and parked in the overcrowded rooftop parking of the Food Court next door. I sat down next to the biggest window and could see the reception of the lab through the glass wall as I ‘worked’ on my palmtop.

The receptionist was a tall gorgeous man with red hair, and suddenly I wanted to visit the lab just so that I could look at him closely. I shook my head to clear it. Where did that come from? A couple of lab technicians—different races but just as breath-taking—collected blood samples. Are all Proxima natives like that? Does fresh air and unprocessed food make you look like Roman Gods?

I waited at the cafeteria all afternoon. The Food court was busy but none of its clients were Lab employees, only the patrons nursing their pinpricks and their attendants. The closest couple was discussing the blood results they had received via email within a couple of minutes of tests. The stream of patients coming for tests never ceased, and nobody came out for lunch. The organization was probably ordering food and drinks for its employees to stop them from leaving their desk to eat. I gave up at midnight.

The facility was the biggest and busiest, so I decided to try at a smaller facility the next day.

Something wasn’t feeling right about this assignment—probably the fact that most of the clientele belonged to the low-income societies. They wouldn’t have been able to afford these tests if it wasn’t for Sangue Heder Labs. They all could have died without a diagnosis.

Conscience pricked me for a short moment.

Then it passed. I could see myself luxuriating at the Proxima resorts, looking like a Goddess, with fresh air and unprocessed food, and preferably with a boyfriend from the same planet.

Day 4

On day four, I took the Airbus to a different city and haunted the streets outside a different facility of the Sangue Heder Labs, on my uber-expensive featherweight ecobike. It was ideal for following people. When needed, I could simply fish it out of my purse, unfold it and get going at a moment’s notice. It removed the need to switch between following on foot or rush to the parking area to retrieve my coptor first.

I had planned to follow any employees out for a coffee or stroll, and meet them ‘by chance’. When the female receptionist ventured out alone late evening, I saw an opening, but as I drew closer, I had an urge to walk over and touch her skin—so flawless that it glowed in the moonlight. Considering I am straight…

By the time I had collected my wits, she was gone and returned shortly with an icebox. The opportunity to strike a conversation had passed. I was exhausted and left for the day.

Day 5

Next day, I tried another facility. While I waited for the employees to walk out to a close by cafe for a break, I searched the employees online by uploading the pictures I had taken the day before. Nothing. One of the pictures resembled one of the war prisoners from the First World War, but I wasn’t interested in ancient history right now.

No employee came out all day. At midnight, they closed the facility and all of them walked out together. I followed from a distance, hoping to catch one of them once they split-up at the Airbus station, but lost them once they turned into a dark street.

I should have given up then, considering the next move was too risky. But I was nothing, if not pig-headed.

Day 6

Now that I had tried everything else, I moved to Plan C—entering the facility. The plan was simple in theory. Get in close to closing time, hide behind something until the place closes up, and spy around after it is empty of people.

Simple…in theory.

In reality, it is too difficult to hide my 5’8” frame in a lab. Huge head offices are simpler with too many unused rooms to hide in, but labs are quite small with less number of rooms and usually no cover. I had seen it before. At that time, I had walked back out pretending I was looking for rest rooms, because Trespassing is a crime. Getting caught could earn me jail time, and my pictures in the news as an Industrial Spy could kill my anonymity and career.

So, I saved it for the most difficult and most paying cases. This one definitely qualified as both.

I had deliberately waited till Sunday, a public holiday, and chose the busiest close of the day hours to ensure that the facility was packed with people to give me the much-needed cover and more time to hunt for information, in case I didn’t get a space to hide.

Three technicians were collecting samples of fifteen patients at a time with three to four minutes between batches. With 75 patients ahead of me, I had 12-15 minutes, if I did not get a cover (which seemed like a greater probability). The hidden cameras in my earrings were already capturing footage. As soon as the technicians took samples from the people in the front, I quietly left my place.

I pretended as if I was looking for the washroom and, stealthily, slipped inside the door with the “Employees only” sign. The short lobby ended in a hall—no cover. I had a couple minutes at the most before the technician came out for more samples and discovered me. I should have turned back right then but the lure was too strong—I was a bat, blind and focused on the target alone.

I peeped in the hall. It looked like all offices. The room was bustling with activity and sounds of chit-chat. Several employees sat on comfortable chairs with the latest Palmtops. Some of them used huge Wall screens with virtual keypad holograms floating close to their fingers. Small racks of labeled blood vials sat atop a drinks table in the middle. There was no microscope in the sight to test the blood. The gray-haired man closest to me had just finished filling a blood report form on his Wall screen and sent it to the patient’s email.

I focused on him as he picked a vial, excited to finally know the trade secret of Sangue Heder Labs.

He took a long swig of the blood, swirled it in his mouth and started filling the blood report form.

I let out a tiny gasp.

Suddenly, all the eyes in the room zeroed on me. The gray-haired man I had been concentrating on was suddenly behind me and had blocked my retreat. His canines grew. I think I fainted.

I remember hearing a voice from afar. “Set her aside for dinner, Luke. We are trying to concentrate on work here.”

Now I lay inside my coffin, probably six feet underground, complete with fangs and all. Having tried unsuccessfully to claw my way out for a couple of hours, now I wait for them to come back for me. I hope they might give me a job too as a Phlebologist.

Guest Post: Vaidehi

I am very pleased to bring you a guest post from Indian blogger, Vaidehi. She writes about travel and wildlife in India, and also posts short story fiction.
https://vvaidehi.wordpress.com/

Here is a short bio.

Brief introduction about myself

I am V Vaidehi(with Vaidehi as the first name), from New Delhi, India. Till two years back, I was working, at the middle management level, for the Indian Railways.

I love all aspects of travelling – the planning, the experience and the reminiscing. The last part led me to start my blog a few years back. Since hiking in the Himalayas occupies a special place in my heart, I started with a few posts, recounting my personal experiences on the Himalayan trails.

I write about other types of travel too and have just taken baby steps into the world of fiction writing.

And this is the unedited guest post, accompanied by some photos.

GAZE AT EVEREST INSTEAD OF CLIMBING IT

In May 2019, a picture of a traffic jam caused by climbers queuing up to summit the peak of Mount Everest had gone viral on the internet. I was aghast! Is it an easy stroll that so many were clamouring to summit, all at the same time? Not to mention the damage to the fragile ecology of the Himalayas and loss of so many lives.

It took me back to that evening when I had a ringside view of Everest and three other formidable peaks of the Himalayas from the comfort of the balcony of the lodge where we were staying.

Now, I am not a mountaineer by any reckoning. I am not an adventure freak either, though I have crossed Passes at 14000 feet, mouth dry, heart pounding and wondering why I got myself into such a situation. Also, I am not young nor do I enjoy excellent levels of fitness.

But I love hiking in the Himalayas, however contradictory this may sound. I am partial to the innumerable trails at the lower altitudes, below 10000 feet where the tree line ends, that take you through meadows, forests, streams and villages. The hike on which I am now going to take you along with me does not have many of these features, and has certain negative features instead. But then, what a glorious view it offers when you reach the ridge on the top!

It was a cold but clear December evening and we were at Sandakphu, a ridge in the Eastern Himalayas, at an altitude of 3600 metres. We stood there, mesmerized at the sight of Kanchenjunga – the third highest peak in the world at 8586 meters – come aglow with the rays of the setting sun. The vision of Kanchenjunga as seen from Sandakphu justifies the sobriquet it enjoys – “the sleeping Buddha”.

Much as the horizon at Sandakphu is dominated by Kanchenjunga, which is bang across – in your face, so to speak – our eyes kept darting to the awesome threesome far away at the extreme left – Makalu, Lhotse and Everest. It is only on a clear day that these can be seen and of the three, Everest seems to be the shortest as it is farther off and is distinguishable by its midriff and above perpetually swathed in clouds.

The trek to Sandakphu, which is at the crest of the Singalila ridge near Darjeeling in India, is one of the popular hikes in the Himalayas, as it is the only easily accessible place in India from where four of the five highest peaks in the world can all be seen together! Four out of five is a grand score indeed and that too, for people who are not into serious mountaineering. Singalila surely merits the title of “a ridge with a view”.

This trek can be attempted by first timers but is no less enjoyable for the seasoned trekker. It is a typical tea-house trek, with good lodgings available en route. So, no need to pitch tents or carry sleeping bags! Just hire a guide from Manebhanjan and hit the trail!

It is a short five day trek starting from Dhotrey, which can be reached from Darjeeling by road in an hour, via Manebhanjan. You climb for the first three days, halting at Tumling and Kalipokhri, to reach the ridge top at Sandakphu. The trail then descends on the other side of the ridge to Gurdum and finally reaches the road again at Rimbik. The distances to be covered each day range from 6km to 13 km but certain stretches are steep, like the final ascent to Sandakphu and the descent to Gurdum.

Let me get over the negative aspects right in the beginning. The trails on which you walk on the second and third day are not really hiking trails. The trails are paved with small sized boulders, some of them with sharp edges, to facilitate the movement of the British Land Rovers of vintage 1948 , which still run right up to Sandakphu. These ancient beasts (of beauty, some might say) look like they will fall apart any moment and the ride, I am told, is nerve-racking and rattles everything else too. Avoid it and labour on, on foot.

“Why could they not make at least a narrow mud trail alongside, for the hikers?”, was our perpetual lament during those two days. I believe a part of the trail is now paved with concrete, which again cannot be called a hiking trail but easier on the feet, I am sure. Also, those who choose the Land Rovers, have to return by the same route and will miss the beautiful forests on the other side of the ridge.

A fascinating aspect of this trek is that you go in and out of Nepal for the first two days as the border is quite porous in these areas. When we reached Tumling after the first day’s trek, we were amused to learn that the road belongs to India and the village on the side of the road is in Nepal!

At Tumling, we made sure to be up at the crack of dawn to catch the first rays of the sun on the peaks of Kanchenjunga. It was a magnificent moment for us and we were to experience it again at Sandakphu, at a much closer range.

Kalipokhri, where we halted after the second day’s trek, is also on the Nepal side of the border but being positioned below the ridge, offers no views of Kanchenjunga. After walking on that stony trail for five hours, we gave our weary feet some rest and had a great time playing with the kids of the Nepali owner of the lodge at Kalipokhri.

The trek also passes through Singalila National Park, which is a natural habitat for the red panda and himalayan bear. Both are elusive and cannot be sighted easily. The forests on the upward trail to the ridge top are somewhat sparsely wooded unlike those on the other side of the ridge. The trek from Kalipokri to Sandakphu is short but steep and suddenly, we were there on the ridge, with an unhindered and magnificent view of Kanchenjunga.

November and early December are the best times to go to Sandakphu for clear views of not only Everest, Makalu and Lhotse but even Kanchenjunga. April is also considered a fairly good time with rhododendron blooms all around but clouds and mist could act as the spoil sport. On a misty day, you could be standing at Sandakphu and not even have an inkling that the mighty Kanchenjunga is right across, let alone have any view of the Everest group.

We woke up to a very clear morning the next day and feasted our eyes on the changing colours of Kanchanjunga – a glowing orange at dawn to a blinding white by the time we left Sandakphu. And again, we were treated to a clear view of Everest, Makalu and Lhotse.

The trek for this day was downhill all the way and passed through lovely forests on the way to Gurdum, a picturesque hamlet. The trail on the last day of the trek is fairly level and passes through Srikhola, where we had lunch in a quaint lodge by the side of a mountain stream. At Srikhola, we left the wilderness behind and walked on to the road head Rimbik, where the jeeps were waiting to take us back to Darjeeling. One can also skip going up again to Darjeeling and instead, come down to Siliguri to take a train to any part of India.

If you are reasonably fit and yearn to walk in the Himalayas, a trek to Sandakphu to gaze at Everest and its cousins and be awed by the grandeur of Kanchenjunga, should certainly find a place in your list of things to do!

Thanks to Vaidehi for a great post. Please take time to visit her blog, and enjoy what else you find there.

Guest Post: The Chronicalist

I have been asked to feature a guest post by Maame of The Chronicalist.

ABOUT


Here is their statement.

LET US EDUCATE THE WORLD TOGETHER!
DID YOU KNOW THAT SIXTY PERCENT OF LOW INCOME FAMILIES HAVE NO BOOKS IN THEIR HOMES FOR THEIR CHILDREN? DID YOU ALSO KNOW THAT NOT READING ENOUGH RESULTS IN POOR LANGUAGE SKILL AND CULTURAL IGNORANCE?

WE AS A TEAM WANT TO AVERT THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS THIS ISSUES IMPOSES BY PROVIDING PEOPLE ALL AROUND THE WORLD WITH BOOKS AND READING MATERIALS. JOIN US ON OUR QUEST FOR GLOBAL EDUCATIONAL EQUALITY THROUGH DONATIONS AND SUPPORT.

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
― Maya Angelou

Maame has chosen to write about the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, and here is the unedited guest post.

WHY EVERYONE LOVES THE LEGENDARY HARRY POTTER SERIES.

The Harry Potter series is a very iconic fantasy novel. It was set in London, UK and showcases the stages of maturity Harry Potter had to go through to finally accomplish his destiny. While living with his wicked uncle and aunt, he considers himself as nonexistent and unimportant. An unlikely visit from a man who claims Harry had magical powers unlike his plain muggle relatives and was much more important and famous in the magical world than he could imagine, toppled his life in a good and envious way.

This award winning novel was written by the author, film producer, television producer, screenwriter, and philanthropist,Joanne Kathleen Rowling, popularly known as J.K Rowling.

WHY DO WE ALL LOVE IT?

• THE BOOK IS EASY TO READ AND UNDERSTAND: All of us here can concede to the undeniable fact that, when you open the book, what keeps us flipping is how easy it is to combine the words into a meaningful sentence. Not every writer is able to create this easy and smooth effect for readers.

• IT HAS AN AMAZING PLOT: As you continue to rampage through the book, the more alluring it becomes. It feels almost like an invisible hand is keeping your mind and body totally submerged between the sheets, and you willing give in. That is the power of a marvellous plot.

•THE WRITER’S STORYTELLING STYLE: When a captivating plot is coupled with an equally magnetic Storytelling style, a masterpiece like This is bound to emerge. J.K ROWLING’S style is simple and straightforward but is still years apart from other writers. She is able to keep readers glued with every word that is printed on the pages.

•THE CHARACTERS WERE SO RELATABLE: Readers are bound to feel a certain type of affection for characters they can relate to and compare themselves with. You’ll expect people to feel emotionally, physically and mentally detached from the characters in this novel. That is not the case at all. In fact, everyone was equally represented in this Novel and not in the cocky cliche way.

Many readers are able to relate with Harry despite him having magical powers because apart from that, he moods, emotions and behaviours were totally Muggul-ish. He wore glasses, many other books he would be the nerdy loser who was always a target for bullying, but Rowling change that dynamic.

•THIS BOOK EDIFIED IMPORTANT AND VALUABLE LIFE LESSONS: This book depicted the rule heart and soul of humans, not falling short of illuminating how sagacious the author is.

Lessons we all learnt from them.
In the years before the publication of this work of art, it would have been totally awkward for me to admit that acquired most of my life lessons from witches and wizards, non the less a teenage wizard and his counterparts. All this is to say that, she made her readers understand that thier greatest advice could come from someone or somewhere utterly preposterous, like a child or an enemy.

•HARRY POTTER MADE ME FILL LIKE MAGIC: At one point in time we all started doubting if we were really muggles and almost bawled our eyes out when we realised No Dumbledore or Hagrid was ever coming to give is the news we’ve been praying for.

This is exactly why people like it, It gave them the power to be, even if it is all pretense, their own magical character fighting their own Voldemort. It gave the weak strength, it toughened he fragile and pieced together the broken. It helped people to escape from their troubling reality where they are bound and forced to submit to an ailment, into a fantasy land where they are heroes.

With the carefully collected data shown above, we can all agree to disagree that The harry Potter franchise is a worldwide classic and the brilliant J.K Rowling has rightfully earned her seat in the Great Hall of fame.

FOR ME, HARRY POTTER WAS DEEPER THAN A STORY, HE WAS MORE THAN A CHARACTER AND CLOSER THAN MY CLOSEST FRIEND .

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

I think you will agree that they have wonderful intentions, and I hope that you get the chance to follow the link at the top to visit the blog.

Guest Post. Megha Gupta

I am pleased to present a guest post from Indian writer and blogger, Megha Gupta.

Here is her own short bio.

Hello, I am Megha. I come from India and I’ve been living in the Netherlands since last four years. I am 31 – not too old, energetic and optimistic. Reading, writing and Travelling are my top three likes. So far, I’ve travelled across 23 countries and I aim to reach the 50 mark by the time I am 35 years old. By profession, I am risk Consultant but by heart I am a writer. I’ve been writing (old style) since last seven years but have only published a blog this year. My blog (link at the bottom) is my collection of experiences and opinions about life & things & places & people.
In this post, I share my experience of visiting Auschwitz. Even if you haven’t heard of Auschwitz, I’m sure you would see it (& know it), through my eyes as you read this.

And this is her unedited guest post.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO VISIT AUSCHWITZ?

If you haven’t heard of Auschwitz, Imagine a slaughter house (not for animals, but for humans). Imagine a place where millions of Jews were confined for years, tortured to death by hard labour, thirst, extreme hunger and suffocation. The reason for death being- neither Crime nor War but the belief in a superior race. Imagine how humans could be responsible for more than a million deaths in a place this small. (in the name of saving humanity from other humans – Jews). Auschwitz is not old history but very much a part of recent century. Nazi Germany master minded this extermination camp (and many others) during world war ii with the sole aim of systematically eradicating the race of Jews.
So last year, when I planned my visit to Auschwitz, it was not unusual for people to ask why I would choose to go there? Wouldn’t it be depressing? In my defence, not visiting this place, merely excuses us from reality, hoping we forget it someday. There is No history book that can convey the happenings of this place to a degree that it instils your memory.
Somewhere inside Auschwitz, I found this quote that sums up the reason why people need to see this place.

I cannot deny the fact that this place is downright melancholy. You would be standing in the site of holocaust witnessing Exhibits of the dead (millions) piled on top of one another. It has a room full of belongings that were stripped off from the inmates before they entered the camp. A room full of gas canisters that were used to suffocate them to death. A room full of human hair that were shaved off from their dead bodies before being burned by the Nazis.
A guide will take you around the camp and tell you how a typical day looked like for these prisoners. You will see the laboratory that was used to experiment on prisoners, inducing them with deadly diseases. You will see the kitchen that has some paintings that the prisoners drew to keep themselves hopeful. You will also see the punishment cells, gas chambers, the shooting wall and a room fitted with body sized ovens. If this does not melt your heart, a thousand photo frames mounted in a large corridor showing the victims, their age and survival span in the camp, definitely would.
By the end of this visit, you are loaded emotionally. Some cry, some hold back tears. Some ponder how humans could be capable of this act. How could some still hope to live in this situation. How strong were the people who survived the camp? Does the trauma impact their free lives later on?
This wasn’t over for me yet. I was feeling restless. A visit to Auschwitz raised some very fundamental questions about human nature, survival and our relative mental strengths. I slept on these questions for days following. Later, I learned about an Auschwitz survivor, a psychologist – Viktor Frankl. Viktor was one of the fortunate ones to have survived this place. He says, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any how “. For Viktor, the why was a hope to finish his book about logotherapy. He wrote this book after he was released from the camp. What was supposed to be psychology theory, turned out to be a truly personal account of his survival in Auschwitz detailing how the camp impacted the inmates psychologically, why some survived while others didn’t.

His book “Man’s search for meaning” was published in 1946 and became an instant bestseller. I read it a month after my visit and regard this as a closure to my quest for Auschwitz.
P.S – The photo at the top, shows the gate of Auschwitz inscripted as ARBEIT MACHT FREI” meaning work makes you free.
Paradoxically, It was death that made these inmates free.

Here is a link to Megha’s blog.
https://myhandwrites.com/

Please visit her blog to see what else she is writing about, and welcome this new blogger to our great community.

Guest Post: Carol Ann Taylor

I am very pleased to feature British blogger and cookery writer Carol Taylor, who now lives in Thailand. This is her story of how she came to live there.
Carol is a great member of our blogging community, and is always fully engaged with blog posts.

This is her own bio.

My Bio
Born in the Fifties which makes me?.mmm I will let you do the math. I was the eldest of three girls and the tomboy….my sisters loved dolls and pushing other peoples babies up and down the street…I still ask myself why?? I much preferred climbing trees, camping out and spending all my school holidays on my granddad’s farm…My grandmother taught me how to cook on her aga and I suppose that was where my love of cooking started…Singing in the church choir was also a passion of mine as is playing the piano.

I was an avid reader and writer even then, my school teachers must have really cringed as I used to write pages and pages…I sometimes wish I still had my school books but I think they must have just got thrown away at some point …As I grew older my aunt suggested I keep a diary and I still do to this day …Leaving school for college but I never really settled or found anything that I really wanted to do except write and my father did not consider that to be a job. He really just thought girls got married and had babies so I did.

In between bringing up our children my husband passed away and also some close family members and I lost two very dear friends who I still miss terribly, I completed a marathon all 26.2 miles with two of my daughters. Learning beckoned again and back to college I went to do Law…I just love learning and researching and of course, writing. I also met my second husband who humours me …He has always been very supportive of anything I have done and is a great dad to my kids. The children grew up and took their own very successful paths in life and now have families of their own…Life has a habit of just carrying on, doesn’t it?

Retirement then beckoned for my hubby and of course, I was getting pretty disillusioned with the rat race so decided I would take early retirement.
That was when we decided to not only think outside the box but throw it away and now we are enjoying life in the Land Of Smiles.

I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them. I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I am using have which may improve our health and well-being.

I am also very much into the environment and am concerned about our Oceans and fisheries and about all the preservatives and processed foods and am an advocate about cooking from scratch and growing our own food where or when we can even a few pots or a window box for herbs is a start.
Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Link to my Blog https://carolcooks2.com

And here is her unedited guest post.

Retired In Sunny Thailand.

How did I end up In sunny Thailand?…all my life I lived mainly in the same house in the same town and did what was expected of me working in a bank and then for local government…I was good at what I did we holidayed in some lovely places for quite a few years it was Spain until sadly my best friend passed away…we then spread our wings a little and travelled to a few far away climes all very nice but not home… We thought about retirement on and off but never made any great plans… Maybe a nice little cottage with roses around the door… My youngest son then announced he was off to Thailand…why Thailand it was all to do with the world cup…Football… He came back full of his trip and announced he would be returning as he had met a young lady… The photos he showed us were of beautiful beaches and golden Buddhas…It looked exotic and very beautiful.

The relationship progressed and visas sorted and out he went again with the aim of returning to England with his lady and to get married the next year…The Thai Embassy had other ideas and advised them it would be much easier to get a visa if they married…Which is exactly what they did …The visa followed… They returned to the UK and settled down it was then that I got my first taste of authentic Thai food and discovered how many Thai girls also lived locally …I was also taught how to cook Thai food and became very good at it…I also loved it!

It was that year we travelled to Thailand with our son and his wife, two of our young grandsons to meet the Thai family…It was love from the minute I landed on Thai soil…

We loved every minute …that holiday was followed by a few more and then Aston arrived…That changed everything as my son and his wife decided they were going to make their home in Thailand so that Aston could both learn the language and all of his heritage… It was then that we decided we would up sticks and also follow them…Hubby had just retired and I took early retirement… I went from being …well I can never say I was the quiet retiring type …haha…but a whole new world opened up and we have moved more times within Thailand than I have ever moved in my whole life and I daresay we will move again at some point.

I joined a writers group quite by chance…I have always been an avid reader and loved to write mainly letters and in my diaries…but blog and write …no…In the words of one of my new friends in the group “Oh my Buddha what have we released”

I started my blog as a way of recording our travels for family and friends and the writing followed on with some short stories in two anthologies…
Initially we lived in Phuket for 5 years and ran a restaurant and bar with my son…we met people from all over the world and made some friends for life…Phuket is beautiful we lived in three different houses around the island but it is a holiday destination. People come and go it is very transient and apart from immediate neighbours you are always treated like a tourist.

This was one of reasons why we decided to relocate to the North of Thailand also it is where our Thai family live…Of course I miss the beaches but we can pop on a plane and be on the beach in just over an hour… Here there are mountains and waterfalls lots of tradition and we are accepted as part of the community. The local tuk tuk drivers know where I live and know where I stop on my way back from the shops to get my fresh coconut juice and SomTam(papaya salad)…I feel safe and at home…

We all share the produce which we grow… it is a real community…They give me mangoes I make the mango jam …They love my bread pudding hot from the oven…They bring me food to try much of which I have never seen or heard of before…I make them Christmas cake we share our different food and culture it is lovely to see and feel the welcome.

I have always cooked from scratch taught by my mother and grandmother and now because of necessity, I also have more time and the fact I object to eating a cocktail of chemicals with every mouthful of food… I have been introduced to food I never dreamed I would eat or had never heard of it is definitely nose to tail eating here nothing is wasted…some even I do not have the stomach for …

I love the fierce tropical storms which blow out very quickly and then the sun shines but everything grows so quickly and is lush and green…Thais forage every day and I am amazed at how much they eat picked from the trees and the jungle…

Every time even after 8 years of living here I invariably find something I haven’t seen before at the local markets and the market traders are happy to let me try…so friendly just adorable people always smiling.

Down on the farm we have chooks and turkeys , grow rice and vegetables we have Durian, banana and other trees…I have learnt how to make charcoal, coconut cream, many of the houses have wooden looms underneath where the art of weaving is passed down through the generations. Family is strong here and many families live together in the same house or the same area…old people are cherished and looked after and willingly the families stay together.

If I had been asked when I was 30 to write about how I thought my life would be when we retired I would have been way off base…I never ever thought I would be lucky enough to live here…I doubt that I would be blogging and writing, I wouldn’t have friends from all the corners of the world and I most certainly wouldn’t have all the lovely recipes I have been taught and gifted with…Living the dream…

I cannot envisage living anywhere else , Thailand is my home…
Thank you, Pete for letting me tell my story of how I found myself here in Thailand.

Please visit Carol’s site to see photos of her new life, and some mouth-watering recipes too.
You will be glad that you connected with such a warm and friendly lady, living life her way in a new land.

Guest Post: Lucinda Clarke

Lucinda is a writer and blogger, as well as a published author who currently resides in Spain. She is a great follower of blogs, and is always fully engaged with every post I publish, especially fiction.

I am very pleased to present her guest post, and to feature some of her books, including her latest novel. That’s her, in the middle. 🙂

Here is her unedited guest post, which includes a short bio too.

Thank you, Pete, for giving me this opportunity to appear on your blog. I am one of your most avid followers and especially enjoy your stories.

I hate writing about myself, but if I go to the big library desk in the sky tomorrow, I shall have no regrets, life has been a roller coaster ride. Born in Dublin, dragged up in the Cotswolds (a pretty part of England), and finished off in Liverpool (not as pretty). Taught in Bath (children), crofted in Scotland (disaster, bred small animals and Cairn Terriers), survived in Kenya (abandoned in the bush with 9 week old baby, no resources and tear gas riots), Libya (teaching, witness to public hanging, radio announcer, husband imprisoned, crawled through a hail of bullets to save dogs, deported), Botswana (teaching, ran very worst riding school in the world), South Africa (made legal history, teaching – fired – scriptwriter of the year award, wrote dramas and some acting, scribbled thousands of radio and TV scripts, all other forms of writing, set up own video production company, plus major concerts planning, lecturing on scriptwriting). Eventual retirement in Spain. I lie, I’m only pretending to be retired. Since 2013 independently (by choice) published 14 books.

For almost 4 decades I scribbled hundreds of diverse topics for the media eg climbing ladders; health; tourism for international conferences; educational programmes; banks; insurance companies; police and fire departments; city councils; international corporates; mayoral speechwriter; ads for radio and TV; – I could go on but I’d bore you to tears (I’m starting to yawn). I had my own newspaper column and still write for a local publication here in Spain.

I am was a freelance prostitute who wrote for anyone who would pay me and I excelled in propaganda and was wildly successful. I still don’t believe this, but the awards looked good on my study walls – when I had a study. They are now in a box under the bed. I’ve received lots more for my books, but shrank them down to fit in a couple of picture frames.

So, what genre am I unknown for? I began with memoirs, then an action-adventure series set in Africa – I was there for 35 years – a satire set in Fairyland and now I’m into psychological thrillers.

Can I scream about my latest masterpiece book, please? It’s the second in the “A Year in the Life of …” series. The first starring Leah Brand is a psychological thriller as a second time around housewife with a prosthetic leg, driven to the edge of madness by the irrational behaviour of everyday objects in the house.

mybook.to/LeahBrand

Book 2 “A Year in the Life of Andrea Coe” follows on – the nightmare is not over, as life for Leah escalates into chaos. The only person she can cling to is her best friend Andrea. But everyone has secrets and what was the attraction between a quiet, insecure housewife and an outrageous, confident, outspoken woman who lived life to the full. Was she all she seemed to be?

mybook.to/AndCoe

If the lockdown has depleted your cash reserves, you can grab a free book here – the true account of my very Worst Riding School in the World.

https://amzn.to/2TKwL55

You can find me at all these places and I’m very good at replying to virtual friends who contact me if you don’t mind chatting to an ancient wrinkly who has never grown up and who spends days torturing, killing, amputating, scaring and committing all kinds of nefarious deeds on paper. The most wonderful career in the world and I cried when I sold the company, left my team behind, and boarded the plane to fly to retirement in Spain. I love it here now but I’m just as busy.

Web page – https://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

Blog link https://lucindaeclarke.wordpress.com

Amazon author page author.to/Lucinda

twitter @LucindaEClarke https://twitter.com/LucindaEClarke

Facebook Readers page https://www.facebook.com/groups/226303738779560/

sign up URL for mailing list for my exciting monthly newsletter http://eepurl.com/cz-Mpv

Please check out her blog, and her books. Lucinda is a great part of this community, so please show her you care. Share on any social media platform you are a part of, and feel free to reblog this post if you are so inclined.

Guest Post: Mary Smith

I am delighted to feature Mary, a published writer, local historian, and fully-engaged blogger who resides in Scotland. Mary has lived and worked in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and her travels and experiences are fascinating to read about. She has special offers available on one of her her books from today, and I urge you to check it out.

**Please share this post on any social media you use, to help Mary**

Here is her own short bio.

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

And this is her unedited guest post.

I love blogging. I love the conversations and the connections it generates. My first blog, My Dad’s a Goldfish (https://marysmith57.wordpress.com), was about caring for my father when he had dementia in the last couple of years of his life. I started MarySmith’sPlace because I wanted to be able to post on non-dementia related topics – anything from walks in the Scottish countryside to the books I write, from local history to travel abroad.

In September last 2019 I came across old diaries, letters and a draft of a book I’d written about my first trip to work in Afghanistan way back in 1989. Reading them, I could feel again my excitement and wonder at almost everything and everyone I encountered and thought I’d share on my blog. Ever since then I have put up a post once a week on my Afghan Adventures.

I didn’t for one moment imagine where this would lead. I’ve said how much I love blogging’s conversations and connections and this series of posts has led to some astonishing connections – and re-connections. At first it was mainly regular followers who commented (favourably, I’m glad to say) and have continued to follow, comment and several reblog on a regular basis so I felt I was writing something people enjoyed reading.

One day I noticed a tweet saying they were reading Mary Smith’s blog about Afghanistan. I thanked the person, Atiq Lotan. The following week it happened again. This time after my thank you, Atiq Lotan commented on my blog saying, ‘Your writings will be a reliable source for young Hazaras in Jaghori and all over Hazaristan (Central Afghanistan) to better understand their past.’

Apart from making me feel rather old, I was incredibly touched and pleased by this comment for several reasons, not least because people I am writing about approve of what I’m writing. I’d have hated it if Hazara people were upset or angry with what I wrote. I also learned two things, which I subconsciously knew – Hazara Jat is actually Hazaristan (I won’t go into the politics here) and Jaghoray is Jaghori.

My visitor numbers soared although that didn’t translate into as many new followers. However, many of those visitors contacted me through Facebook either with friend requests or private messaging to say they had read my blog posts. One even said I lived forever in the hearts of Hazara people! Two brothers contacted me separately who are the sons of Gul Agha, the landlord from whom we rented our first clinic in Jaghori. One is in Germany, one in the UAE. I sent photos, including one of their father holding a baby – not either of them but their sister, who lives in London. One said he had spoken to his father who remembers me and said to pass on his hello.

My head still spins at the thought of someone in the UAE reading my blog, emailing me to say it is his father I write about, requesting any family photos I had and telling me he had spoken to his father back at home. When I write my posts, I feel like it was only last year I was living through the experiences I write about – but it was over thirty years ago. There were no mobile phones. No internet. Many of the Hazara people reading my blog were not even born then and now they live in a world in which there is instant communication.

Oh, an on the subject of communication. I wasn’t entirely sure if the emails asking for photos were genuine so I emailed my friend in Kabul. He comes from Jaghori. He asked another friend but he didn’t know so he called the person in charge of the Jaghori clinic who asked around and replied to say, yes, Gul Agha’s sons lived in Germany and UAE. In my day such a query would have taken weeks, if not months to get a reply.

Another friend request came from a young woman, whose name I didn’t recognise though I saw she was friends with another of my Afghan friends. I accepted and it turns out she is the daughter of one of the students in the mother and child care classes I taught in 1995/96. She wasn’t born then. She sent me photos of a group of students with me. So touched her mother had kept them and talked to her daughter about me.

See what I mean about loving the connections and conversations! This post is probably becoming too long already – though I could tell you about lots more people who have re-joined my life because of my blog – and I really ought to do a wee bit of the horrible self-promotion stuff.

If this post has piqued your interest in my blog you can find it at: https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com I’d love to see you there. Also, I have written a memoir, Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni, about my later time in Afghanistan in which you can meet my students and the women who became my friend.

And saving the best ’til last – my novel, No More Mulberries, also set in Afghanistan is on Kindle Countdown for the bargain price of 99p (and $ equivalent) from Thursday 14 to Monday 18 May.

In No More Mulberries we meet Scottish-born midwife, Miriam. She loves her work at a health clinic in rural Afghanistan, but she can’t ignore the cracks appearing in her marriage. Her doctor husband has changed from the loving, easy-going man she married and she fears he regrets taking on a widow with a young son. When Miriam acts as translator at a medical teaching camp she hopes time apart might help her understand the cause of their problems. An old friend appears, urging her to visit the village where she and her first husband had been so happy. Miriam finds herself travelling on a journey into her past, searching for answers to why her marriage is going wrong.

From 14-18 May; only 99p – you can’t buy a coffee for so little, even if you were allowed to during lockdown.

Here are some ways to connect with Mary, and to see more of her writing.

http://www.marysmith.co.uk
Blog: https://marysmithsplace.wordpress.com/
Blog: https://marysmith57.wordpress.com/

She has also published a poetry collection.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1907401911/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i7

Please visit her blogs, and treat yourself to a copy of her book to read during lockdown, for just 99p!

Guest Post: Ollie, Dad’s Dog

I have got to make this quick. Dad’s in the bath, and has left himself logged on.
I put my photo here so you will know it is me.

I need your help. You all have to write to Dad, and tell him stuff for meeeeeeeeeeeeee
(Sorry about that, not easy to use this with paws.)

Don’t let him know though, as he doesn’t know I can use spellcheck.

First, I would like to have two dog sausages at night. One just doesn’t hit the spot. I stand and stare at him, but he doesn’t seem to realise he should give me two.

And those dry pellets he puts in my bowl. How would he like to have to eat those every day, even with some slices of chicken on top?

Tell him to give me just the chicken, and a lot more of it.

Now I admit that I have a lot of toys, but some more new ones would be nice. Why don’t you suggest that he gets me new toys? Don’t mention I asked though.

I am always a good boy, and keep out the way when Dad is eating his dinner. But when he is having some biscuits later on, I reckon he should give me more than one. He says that I have already had my Bonio Biscuit, but that’s not as nice as a tasty digestive is it?

Say something about my walks too. Dad seems to hate the mud, and when it is bad, he only stays out with me for two hours. Why don’t you tell him to make it four or five hours? It’s all right for him to come home and type in the office or watch the TV, but all I can do is go to sleep. I would like to stay out all day, until it is time for my dinner.

Tell him that please.

If I get the chance, I will let you know if it has worked!

Love, Ollie. xx

Guest Post: Shaily Agrawal

https://fishinthetrees.home.blog/

I am delighted to have received a guest post from Shaily, in the form of a poem.
Shaily is a committed and engaged blogger, and was recently featured as a character in my last fiction serial.

Here is her own short bio.

Author Intro:
Shaily Agrawal is an Instructional Designer, working mother and small-town woman with a skewed perspective.

This is her unedited guest post.

Poetry: The Ripple Effect

I am numb—

Serene sea.

One walks in and

Offers condolence—

A drop that sends ripples

Across me.

Then come the tidal waves

Of reality

Crashing against my being.

I try to reply

But tears rise and choke me.

I inhale to calm down.

But the stormy sea knows no bounds.

I go under—

Drowning the illusion of restraint,

Once again.

I turn to hide

Lest the world may see

What a wreck

You have made of me.

Wait until the numbness returns.

And I’ll, again, be the serene sea.

If you would like to read more from Shaily, including her unusual ‘Tiny Stories’, please follow the link below the image above.