Prisoners of the free world

This image was taken at the Alcatraz prison, which is just 1.5 miles away by sea from San Francisco city. Walking through the matchbox sized cells with rusty metal bars, it made me wonder how the lives of the inmates of this prison would’ve been like. The prisoners had this beautiful view of the Golden gate bridge on one side and the SF skyline lurking on the other.

The tour guide told us, that the smell of chocolate from the famous Ghirardelli factory nearby, used to spread across the island. The irony for the prisoners here was that they could’ve had everything that one could wish for, just 1.5 miles away. And yet, because of the burden of their crimes, this small distance kept them away from the real world.

Alcatraz Island, California

I also happened to stumble upon a prisoner’s cell (above image) who’s art made me stop and wonder that, if he was out here in the real world, he would’ve definitely made it as an artist! Such a waste of talent. When I come to think of it, we as humans, sometimes imprison ourselves in this crazy web of life, that we forget about the beauty that lies underneath. I mean, this one life, wouldn’t you want to make it big?

This guy, he was stuck in one place and yet, he tried to make something out of literally nowhere! And here we are, free as birds, yet caged by these shackles of a monotonous life, societal pressures and procrastination. One of these days, I hope you break free from these chains and paint a beautiful picture in real life as well!

Human cages

Looking back at this picture, it reminds me of the beautiful world we live in. Last year, particularly hindered all our travel plans. However, this particular shot makes me think about how we, as humans, build some fences all around us, restricting our own growth and reach. How often do we wonder about what’s stopping us from doing the things we’ve always wanted to do?

Sometimes we are restricted by external factors whereas, sometimes, we unknowingly build a cage around ourselves and keep running in circles. A lot of things we worry about are just in our heads. If we don’t even try to wander beyond the usual, letting go of the insecurities, self-doubt and risk of failure, we might never get rid of the cages we’ve put ourselves in.

Pebble beach, California

The above picture is a gentle reminder of how free we truly are, to be anywhere in this big, beautiful world and become the person we really want to be. It’s all about the perspective. 

P.S: This is one of the lookout spots from the iconic 17-mile drive along the Pacific coast in California.

The thousand magical suns

A wise old man once asked me, “Son, do you want to hear the story about the thousand suns?” Intrigued by the man’s question and worn from my own exhaustive journey, I sat down to hear more. Then he said, “There are these thousand unique suns out in the world and if you let their rays fall on you, your life will be filled with inner peace and happiness, no matter what. You will find them either during sunrise or during a sunset. There won’t be any signs, but make sure you look towards the sky each day and you will just know.”

I searched for long, trying to find these magical suns that would be the light of my life. I visited that old man again after a few years, desperate to find out how I wasn’t even able to find even one of the thousand suns. He looked at me and started laughing. I thought I had made a fool of myself trying to find something that didn’t exist.

The old man then said to me, “Here you are talking about how you failed to find the magical suns that would enlighten your life. And yet, you couldn’t think about every sunrise and sunset you saw during your journey. Those were the rays of sun you were supposed to collect and you’ve been doing it all along. Every time you paused to stare at the magic of this universe, the different colors of the sky and let it grasp your attention, you did collect all the magic out there.”

That day, I thanked the man and walked away to catch another sunset.

P.S: Took this shot of a beautiful sunset at Tulum beach, Mexico. Missing the beach life a lot! Do you guys prefer to watch the sunrise or the sunset?

Old habits die hard

They say, old habits die hard
When I look at you every time you walk into the room, I understand why
They also say, it takes 21 days to create a new habit
I don’t know which is worse, the 21 days of not looking at you
Or the 21 days of replacing you with a new habit
Because time for me has come to a standstill since the day I saw you
Maybe you weren’t just a habit
But a reminder of the love I have carried for you since then
So I take this love and let it walk away with you
Coz it’s always been yours to keep
Realizing that you don’t have to give up on some habits,
But gradually learn to just let them go
I simply walk out of the room, into the bright new world
Like a man with a heart full of dreams
Knowing there are things and places meant for me
Now, all I need is to form a habit that takes me one step closer towards my dreams

Ashwini

P.S: I took this picture while riding on a two-wheeler with my friend in Gainesville, Florida. Loved how the Spanish moss growing on these trees gives them a dramatic effect.

The guy who sold happiness.

They told me about a guy who sold happiness. Every person I met would talk about how the old man made them the happiest person in the world. I looked everywhere and he seemed nowhere to be found. I was left wondering if this town was full of crazy clowns. So, I stopped an elder man and asked him, if he had seen the guy around. He just smiled and said, “You will find him when you are really looking for him.”

I finally met the guy after a lot of soul searching, he was sitting under a tree with just a book in his hand. I simply walked towards him and asked him, if he is the guy who they say sells happiness. He said to me, “I’m not a rich guy to “sell” you any kind of happiness nor poor to take money from you. All I ever did was help the people realize that what they were searching for in the extrinsic world, was with them all the time. I just made them see the light within them.

I always ask them, what makes them the happiest – is it a thing, is it a person, is it a place? I tell them – don’t tell me if you’re currently happy with what you do, or how the person you’re with is great or about your beautiful new house or car. Don’t overthink it.

Tell me about that one thing which you know has always brought you pure joy, which without any doubts makes you feel like the person you truly are. Just place your hand on your heart and think about it. Because you can fill the void in your life with a lot of materialistic things. But, if you have that one thing in your life, even if everything else doesn’t work out, you will still have YOUR happiness with you, wherever you go, whatever you do.”

This guy never sold happiness, he simply helped people find it. 💫

To shine..

All I’ve ever know in my life
Is to shine
Amongst heads held high and hearts full of pride
Even through dark night skies
And peeking through skyscrapers so high
Anything that tries to dim my light
Only witnesses how bright I shine without putting up a fight
For I never learnt how to dull my sparkle even through time
Coz all I’ve ever know in my life
Is to shine. ✨

Ashwini

P.S : This picture was taken at the Bryant Park Winter Village in New York. It’s almost Spring in New York and I was surprised to see the Winter Village at Bryant Park still lit! Loved how glorious the Empire State building looks from here. Hope everyone’s excited about Spring!

Her little book of dreams

When she was just a innocent little girl
She dreamt and wrote about things she would achieve in this world
She giggled and danced her way through adolescence
Always carrying her little book of dreams in her tiny hands

But the realities of the unjust world put her in a cage
Started tearing down her dreams page-by-page
People kept telling her how she should be holding a pan and a ladle
Or she was simply born to swing her baby’s cradle

She gathered all the tattered pieces of her broken dreams
And stuck them back together, a beautiful mosaic it seemed
She clutched the book even more closer to her heart
And stood up for all the girls whose dreams were torn apart

Ashwini

Epilogue:

All over the world, a girl’s education is deemed optional for her growth. Because according to some, a woman’s place is in the kitchen and not in a classroom or a workplace. Historically, this has been happening since centuries. But with changing times, even the society needs to evolve.

Women have the strength and power to run a household as well as a workplace. What they need is support and encouragement. Mostly importantly, we need to remember, when you educate a girl, you are educating a child. Let’s work on that! 👸🏻

Take a moment..

Take a moment from your walk back home
And walk into that cozy café that you see everyday
For once, just grab an empty table there
The one where you see groups of friends laughing
And the couples that sit on one of the corner tables
Where the fairy lights brighten up a dark winter evening
And the decor still reminds you of the holidays
Where a cup of cappuccino comes with a heart made out of cream
Don’t forget to smile at the small gesture
Instead of grabbing your phone, grab a nearby book or get one of your own
Or simply look around and see the world around you
The world that doesn’t just exist in your head
But is living and thriving with warmth and love
So instead of pouring out all your thoughts today
Ask the lovely waitress to pour you another cup of coffee
The one that comes with a heart
And take a moment to lean back and just live! ✨

– Ashwini

P.S: This picture was taken at one of my favorite cafes in Brooklyn, New York called Pasticceria Rocco. Have been a regular customer since last 5 years and I simply love this place!

The circle of life

Looking back at this picture, it reminds me of “The circle (more of a circus) of life” and how our lives are constantly changing. According to science, humans are built to be dynamic. The very fact that the cells in our body keep changing over the years, explains that we too, are built to change, to evolve. This world, this Universe is constantly changing, moving and our tiny lives along with it are in motion as well.

And I believe that this is one of the best things happening to us. To have the opportunity to experience new things. To grow and outgrow from stagnant and monotonous lives. To let go of the things that bring us down and embrace the ones that lift us up.

Also, we humans have been gifted with this amazing ability to adapt to change. Our lives changed completely since March of last year, with the onset of an unforeseen pandemic. We were stuck and yet, we were evolving, trying to adapt to a new way of life. Even after a series of lockdowns and the uncertainty of when it would all end, so far, we’ve made it through.

It remains to see how the world will look like after the whole thing ends (we all still need to wear masks!). But well, while you are on the rider’s seat of this “thrilling” wheel of life, might as well enjoy the ride! Do more things that genuinely make you happy, use this extra time for things you’ve been putting off because of lack of time and take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come! 💖

P.S: This picture was taken at Miami in Dec, 2020. How I miss the warm weather while sitting here in snowy New York. Would love to read in the comments how you guys have adapted to this new lifestyle. 🙂

Choose yourself. Over and over.

We often talk about how we love a fictional character from a movie or a show. Have you ever wondered how easy it is to love every other thing in this world and yet, so difficult to love ourselves. We try to find meaning in the outside world, to search the light that will guide our way and give us a reason to live, something that will make us happy and feel good about ourselves. But, how often do we sit with ourselves and try to make sense of what we are.

You try to find the “good” side of all characters in movies, friendships and even relationships. And yet, you’re so cruel to yourself. To think that you’re unworthy of any good thing in this world. That you will never be as cool as the other person is. And yes, you can try to be that person, but you can’t escape who you are and what lies within you.

It takes a lot of strength to face your own demons – your insecurities, your weaknesses, your pain, your failures. And trust me, it takes an insane amount of courage to acknowledge all these things that make you vulnerable. If you can be kind to strangers and even stray animals, why not show some kindness to yourself? The first step to self love starts with accepting yourself. The good, the bad, all of it. These are the things that make you, YOU.

Accepting yourself empowers you to grow past your weaknesses. You need to tell yourself insane amount of times that “I am not just a product of my insecurities. Rather, these are just things that make me human”. What really matters is how you choose to get past it and focus on things that do bring the best out of you.

Honestly, the world is always going to have something to say about you – sometimes good, sometimes bad. Don’t let them define you or just blindly adhere to the world’s perception of you. You have the choice to live a life built on your own beliefs and choices. Just work on yourself. Believe in yourself. Choose yourself. Over and over. ✨