Wednesday, December 7, 2016

specimens of zen doodling

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

microchimerism and motherhood

I often say it with absolute conviction that Mithi is in my blood and flesh now. That she is in me and I always feel it, can meditate sometimes and feel her breath on my face, can hold her hands and do everything I used to do with her.

I have never felt like dusting her photo frame everyday and celebrating her birth and death anniversaries in any particular manner. I never felt like doing any charity on her name though we do some work of that sort. Charity I don't believe in but that is another story.

I was talking about how I feel Mithi is a part of me and I feel it almost literally. I have always remembered how the concept of 'microchimera' works, I had just read about microchimera in our Genetics course and it had intrigued me a lot but it was yet a concept that was not researched enough to establish things further.

But now when I read this article about how microchimerism can express itself it is a sense of déjà vu. Especially when a study suggests how mammary glands can be manipulated by the resident pluripotent foetal cells.

I will tell you what my housemaid who used to help me with housekeeping chores and belonged to Munda tribe of Jharkhand, used to tell me. I trust tribal wisdom a lot as they live so close to nature and follow the rhythms of nature closely, like the back of their hands. She used to tell me how the breast milk starts secreting when the child is hungry or when you are thinking of the child. I don't know what conclusion to draw as I kept lactating for years and even now it happens in traces. I have talked about it with a few friends but now it seems to have a scientific explanation.

Some puzzles sometimes get a faint answer and we find comfort in it. The thought that she is with me comforts.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

wishing my phone a little more smartness, some zen and some 'gingerly' sense

As I was coming to terms with a huge mistake I did and blamed my phone for the same, I got a mailer from Indiblogger announcing a contest that asks to Give your phone a super power and tell us how it would help you see what others can't see and do what others can't do!

I wish my phone could alert me if I missed an urgent sms just as easily it lets me know when to take my supplements by set alarm. I wish it could be a real Zenphone. Well, now I can get my wish fulfilled it seems. Just like wishing for pocket phones in my teenage made me see this wonderful device later that can be carried in the pocket and that enables talking anywhere in the world. Who had imagined it 30 years ago. Yes I am old.

I am one of those old people who don't check their phones every now and then. Well, to clarify better I must add that I do it only when I am out of home and feeling bored in the company I am ;-)

But at home the phone is an abandoned device that is to be found sometimes with the home land line phone put to the only purpose it serves. Finding the lost cellphone..errr.... the 'smart'phone who can't even tell where it is lying.

The most irritating it becomes when I miss some important call or sms sent to me. Some of them really need instant attention and I just miss seeing them on time. The smart phone is not smart enough to let me know what I missed.

The most horrifying thing happened last week when a friend sent sms around dinner time that was not seen on time as usual. Later, well after midnight when I was winding up work I just checked my phone and saw the message that sounded like a minor health issue and I replied instantly. What else I could think eating garlic could do? My phone should have known what distress garlic caused when it received the sms about garlic sickness.

Next day I kept planning to call her as she had not replied to my message but it slipped out of my mind as usual. My phone should have reminded me to call, telling me how urgent it was.

And then I get a notification in my mail box that a post on her blog is trending on Twitter. The universe decided to tell me what the 'stupid' phone couldn't.

I click and check, crash landing here, the same night had been horrendous for her. I kicked myself for not having called her as soon as I saw the message in the midnight and also not to have seen the message on time. I blame my phone to not have warned me how urgent it was. I blame the smart technology to not differentiate between messages on a personal phone and suggest appropriate actions while the digital technology keeps suggesting options when you Google search. My phone should have had a filter to screen all the messages and tell me which one to address immediately.

Imagine, if a search engine can spy your mail and facebook interactions and suggest you adverts accordingly, how can cloud computing not suggest and alarm phone owners about urgent messages like this? I was really angry with myself but was equally blaming my 'smart'phone as well. Almost like we blame others for our mistakes sometimes.

So if you insist, I would equip my 'stupid' phone with a superpower so it can come to me like a tail wagging puppy whenever I call it and whenever an urgent message comes. I will give it a cute name I promise. 

Okay, I will name it Ginger as Garlic caused such a havoc. Garlic is bad however tasty it makes the food.

I would also give Ginger the superpower to sense the urgency and let me see the picture. Not the 3G type, real picture you see.

Ginger would know my schedule and set the alarm by itself, will come to me 'gingerly', wagging its tail to tell me what is the next thing on calender.

No I am not planning to become a vegetable human anytime soon, I am planning to get smarter with a phone that has a tail and walks 'gingerly' behind me ;-)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

my tryst with trust and my learning journey with it...

TRUST, is a healing balm to my heart. TRUST people around you my friend, it helps find you happiness and peace even if you don't need healing.

I am saying this after having trust issues for a few years. Trust people around you so your soul guides you towards light. Trust people around you so you develop better instincts, better gut feelings and better insights into inspiring lives so abundant around us. ALL the time. Distrust is negative and counterproductive. Distrust and doubt guides you negatively and corrupts your gut feelings, your instincts. Life made me learn my own lessons, some of course we learn seeing others too.

I have had my share of trauma, my share of grief and the way SOME people behave when one is undergoing a traumatic phase in life, makes one a little afraid of ALL people in general. That made me angry in my own heart, I always found it more traumatic when I lost respect for people around me. Even the basic respect you have for all human beings around yourself, loosing that is painful for me, although the concerned person stays unaffected and keeps on doing the same to others, unaware that their acts of hurting people are gnawing at their own souls as well, sometimes they don't even know it.

Being the incorrigible optimist, I could bring myself to a place where I can see if a person repeatedly cheats on you, hurts you or stabs in the back, is a person who him/herself is not at peace. So I learnt to not get affected by other people's misgivings, their acts of cheating, hurting purposefully and belittling others around them. They were not actually cheating on me or hurting me, they were following their instinct, corrupted instinct, that had become their behavioral pattern.

It has been tough to accept it sometimes when I have trusted someone, have held them closer to my heart and have given them access to my life and those people have cheated, been hurtful and insulting. Some of them were my family members too. Being the believer that I am, and also because I could not believe one was cheating on me, I gave them second chances, gave them benefit of doubt and just let them be. I secretly hoped they would learn their lessons and realise what they were doing and to my delight SOME of them actually realised and rehabilitated themselves on a larger level. THOSE were the people who are capable to grow in life, evolve and become better human beings, learn their lessons before it gets too late.

But SOME OTHERS were not so lucky. They kept on doing what they knew best as a coping up mechanism of stress; the coping up mechanism in this case being hurting others, cheating everyone around and so on. And it was THIS KIND OF PEOPLE that made me believe that they actually don't break my trust but they are deeply insecure people in their own lives, and don't know how to deal with it. And they become violent in their acts and thought process. They stab you in your back, they badmouth you or they just try and belittle you in some way or the other.

No trust was broken in this case. It was my perception that someone broke my trust, cheated on me or such but they were just following their instinct* as a coping up mechanism (stress physiology has been part of my subject, stress psychology we learn as we grow).

Years and decades passed as I watched these people I am talking about and my belief got stronger. The ones who learnt their lessons evolved, those who didn't, are still in the deep pit.

*Our instinct guides us rightly only is we let it do it's work by accepting all the truths that come our way. Distrusting is like blocking a certain spectrum of nature's truths and depriving our own instinct to flow uninhibited. How can half truths guide our soul?

If you are afraid of being hurt you must know the small hurts are our lessons towards evolving, towards awakening and totally worth it. That's how I see it and I never distrust people even if I get hurt a few times. But I wont say that I don't stay away from people who feel negative to me. Bad vibes affect me and I try and stay away from those people or dissociate with them quickly, without a feeling of loss. And believe me, this capability of dissociating with people without a feeling of loss or staying away from all negative people, recognizing those people most of the times, comes from the TRUST that I have in people around me. I never doubt them in normal circumstances.

I am not saying it makes one perfect and I am not a perfect believer either, but it does help me improve myself, it does bring peace to my mind, it does make me believe in the patterns of nature while I learn more about life in general. Lesson are never absolute, never complete. I am a work in progress.

I have a few very very close people whom I trust, confide my innrrmost feelings and those are the ones I can't dissociate whatever happens on the trust scene. Nothing is an absolute truth you see.

For now I learnt that I need not stop trusting people. Trusting people around me makes my soul enriched, happy and contented. Distrusting people makes me deeply unhappy, grumpy and stops me from evolving into a better person. Distrust gnaws into the soul, the mind and eventually the body of the beholder as well.

Distrust stops me from finding good souls and connecting with them. What a looser I would be if I distrust a good soul? Trust me.

Friday, February 14, 2014

a memoir writing workshop by Cheryl Strayed, conducted by Literature Studio | is that a beginning for me?

The past always lights up our path I feel. Whatever way we decide the light to take us, but it's always the past experiences that mould our resilience, analytical capability as well as emotional quotient. The most powerful moments from the past always keep coming back and drowning you with an overwhelming intensity. I have not been talking about the past for some time now, even the mandatory new year post was given a miss this year. I just could not bring myself to write about how the new year makes me feel or how I try to cope with it. It was the last day of the year 2009 when Mithi, our daughter left us and each new year has been a challenge since then. No I don't get depressed, but it does make me go back to those times more than ever. I started writing this blog when she was with us, writing about the present situation, however sad or painful, is easier I now realise. Back then, I thought this is the bravest thing I am doing by sharing my struggle with the world. I even thought it would make the readers sad but then many people wrote to me saying they find strength by reading the posts here. Although they cried sometimes reading those everyday struggles of a child, and a mother as well. I understood what they meant.

And then life changed, I forced myself to get busy with so many other things that the past just stayed with me like a secret, to be shared with only few, if needed. Although I wanted to write about the experiences and my own journey through that, I couldn't deal with how forcefully it comes to me when I try to pen it down. I never understood why, because I have been writing about the wretched struggles in the past.

I got my answers, at least a few of them, when I attended a memoir writing workshop by Cheryl Strayed. My friends Vijay and Vibha (from Literature Studio) invited me for the same. I had little idea what I am headed for. But let me tell you about Cheryl Strayed first. I had come across this column by Dear Sugar in the past and had found her insightful advises really genuine. Now that I always felt these agony aunts always come up with superficial advice to funny people in our news paper and magazine columns, this one seemed like she had seen life in true sense. I could not point a finger how and why she sounded right but she was someone who had lived all shades of life, has related well to others, has connected with human soul and has observed those inevitable patterns of pain, suffering and healing in her life. I had no idea what sugar had experienced or where her perspective came from. Later I forgot about this column as there was too much to handle on my own plate. I never knew who this sugar was.

This workshop was a pleasant surprise when it started. An author whose work I had not read came across like a warm personality and started the workshop quite casually. It was when she mentioned she was the anonymous writer of sugar columns, I started getting a few glimpses of what all she wrote. And then she told she had written this book Wild which was about a solo trek she took after her mother had died. I could relate to what all she spoke and could very well understand why she took 20 years to write this book after the real experience. A memoir of a solo trek that she took after her mother's death. A powerful story of grieving, healing and bringing life in perspective.

And then she gave us all a few exercises. It was a class of 15 and everyone wrote a few lines, some of them shared what they wrote, some kept quite and I was quieter than the quite ones. She had told us to write about overwhelming moments, about talismans and about the people who touched us. It was only one thing that kept coming in my mind and that was so overwhelming to be shared with a straight face.

But I felt a clarity in my thoughts after hearing Cheryl sharing her experience. She also felt that the same trauma kept coming back into her writing for the initial years. And that it's okay if it happens like that.

Thanks to Literature Studio and Cheryl Strayed, I will be a bit more liberated from my cobwebs probably. Sharing will be easier and the craft of writing, weaving a story, creating a meaningful memoir will be better. Amen. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

a cyclothon with team Evernote...

Cell phones are getting swankier by the day and we feel inadequate sometimes. At least I do. Keeping pace with all the new apps that can do so many things by the touch of a screen, I think my fingers are most active part of my body these days. Yes they are.

I find myself adapting to new ways to store useful information, new ways to process pictures, making pictorial notes, logging my calender, verifying caller identities, keeping record of my walks and runs, personalised news tracking, tour/GPS tracking etc etc. I would not have imagined so many things done so efficiently through a pocket device a decade ago.

Imagine, all these kinds of applications are used by someone who believes in going back to older ways of living. Eco friendly living. We prefer walking to do our grocery or other daily chores, keeping the carbon footprint minimal. Being smarter for the phone should be an eco friendly activity.

I wouldn't argue about how eco friendly are cell phones :-/

I got introduced to Evernote last year and tried the basic free version. I am amazed with the way it can store a lot many information, just like my office files. Easily accessible information at the swipe of a screen, using my phone or I-pad, or even the desktop or laptop.

We both trek and bicycle a lot to faraway places, our own way to be with nature, watch birds and other flora and fauna. I have been wondering how much we can use an app like Evernote in recording bird species, flora with pictures in a certain geographical area. Like we did in Dehradun and Uttarkashi recently. Keeping log of the activities and tracking the routes will be so convenient. Evernote it is on our next trek or biking trail.

Recently we got to know more of such features of Evernote when we were invited to bike with  'Evernote Life cyclothon' with Cyclesutra. Mr. Troy Malone, GM, APAC, Evernote was touring India and being an avid biker himself, he decided to promote Evernote in a unique way. It echoed with our way of popularising cycling and walking on the roads more and more.

The idea was to cycle from Akshardham temple to Green park (Approx. 17 Km ) and to capture the public/historical places along the way through Evernote app. Imagine the joy we experienced during this cyclothon.

Here is the screen shot of the trail I recorded through my Runkeeper app. Can we do it using Evernote? I have to look for it, may be the paid version?

Did I tell you that this was our first bike ride in Delhi. The early winter fog of November second week was so pleasant. We witnessed sunrise a few minutes after we started cycling and then we could see flocks of birds in the sky too.

Cycling through the greenest parts of Delhi, past a few flyovers and morning traffic, it was a lovely start to the Sunday. I so wish I had the motivation to get up early every day and be on the roads. I so wish the traffic was better, the air cleaner in the winter mornings. The smog has started playing havoc in the mornings and evenings now after just 2 weeks of that cycle ride.

We had good company of Radhika Nandwani and Karan Bhujbal form team and Yogesh Khanna and Neeraj Jalan from Cyclesutra.

See how Yogesh kept taking pictures through Evernote app.

Few Delhi monuments were left behind. Some of them were clicked through the cellphone.

Here is the Peace pagoda.

National museum..

Cyclists on a winter morning chatting on the way.

Some elderly runners made us think why we don't get up early.

 Empty roads in  few places.

On the way to Hauz Khas Lake and Deer Park...

Near Hauz Khas Lake

The Barah khamba tomb.

It was such a fun ride that day. I will be doing such rides again very soon. May be with a group or may be alone sometime. If not Delhi it will definitely be one of those YHAI biking expeditions.

Here is Troy Melone and 20:20 msl team having fun after the cyclathon. We were all in jolly mood after the ride, the whole Sunday was there to rest and get energised for the beginning of a new week.

Thank you team 20:20 msl and Evernote for this bicycle rice through the heart of my own city. It will always be a good memory.

~ written by Arvind Khanna.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Go...hug a tree...

Go...hug a tree


commune with nature

the chlorophyll force

bringing energies down

the earthy bundles of xylem

transporting the essences of Earth 

to the sky

with open stoma

making them ONE

meditate and commune

with the elements

of the tree

and see how

it hugs you back

wrapping multiple arms around you.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Birds at IIP Dehradun Campus : Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters, Green Bee-eaters and Lineated Barbet

Bringing you another post on the birds of IIP Dehradun. We spotted a few Bee-eaters on the Eucalyptus trees that line up the long road. We actually get a strong whiff of Eucalyptus oil when we reach this spot, a very pleasant start of a long walk I must add.

The Bee-eaters that made a racket on top of the tall trees, looked excited as Bee-eaters always feel like. We could see the beautifully spread out wings and their characteristic flight, excitedly taking a small flight taking a round and then coming back to the same spot. Often a coupe of them would perch on the same branch, do some talking and start flying in the characteristic manner. It's a pleasure to watch Bee-eaters when you have enough time..

This is the Green Bee-eater with that unmistakable elongated central tail feathers, as if a stick juts out from the tail.

You would see them almost all over India except very high altitude but to see them in wilderness is so much fun.

They keep showing up here and there, often knowing someone is keeping an eye on them.

And there are these Chestnut-headed bee-eaters found in foothills of Himalayas and forests of the southern India. These are marginally larger than the Green Bee-eaters.

Beautifully feathered, lovely eyes.

The most delightful sighting was the Blue-bearded Bee-eater. We saw them in large numbers but always too high up on the trees and it was only their silhouette that gave away their identity. These are larger birds than the other Bee-eaters and the blue beard shines beautifully again light. The beak is a bit longer too.

We were hoping to see a lot of Barbets there in Dehradun and I was particularly expecting the Great Barbet that we spotted once in Simla.

We did get to spot a Lineated Barbet which we don;t find in Delhi so it was quite an achievement. Actually one fellow lived on a smallish Banyan tree right in front of the guest house canteen so we could spot him many times.

And they were found to like these berries very much.

An avid birder friend recognised these berries as Turkey berries. I wish I had known these berries earlier. Would have plucked some and cooked for the record :-)

The Brown -headed Barbet comes to drink water from my rock garden and a Coppersmith-barbet is often seen on a wild fig tree near my house, these two are the only Barbets we see in Delhi. The great Barbet was seen in Simla and Blue-throated Barbet once in Palampur Iwish I could see other Barbets soon in different parts of India.

And yes, I was expecting the Blue-tailed Bee-eater as well in Dehradun but could not spot them. May be next time?

I am hoping I will be there every year for the bird count.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Birds at IIP Dehradun Campus : White-browed Fantail and Warblers

 We traveled to Uttarakhand last week. The motto was to go for The Great Himalaya Bird count assisted by but we had booked the guest house at IIP Dehradun so we could stay there and enjoy birding ahead of the bird count. It turned out to be a good rest after a hectic week and a flu attack I was suffering. We actually were pondering over the possibility of cancelling the trip as I was not too confident of feeling well, but since we had 4 days at Dehradun to rest we decided to go ahead with our plan. It was a great decision as I got to rest properly with 2-3 hours of bird watch each morning and evening in the beautiful campus of IIP.

The straight road from one end of the campus to the other is the most beautiful road to walk and people have spotted leopards and other animals on this road. The tall trees look beautiful in the morning and you can see the tea gardens flanking both sides of this road.

It is a heaven for birds and birders both.

In fact the first morning was a sign of the times to come, I woke up with a sweet bird song, at about 4.30 AM unbelievably, and wondered which new bird I would see and whether I would be able to recognise this bird song with any of the bird I would see. The bird, in fact came to show me off her beautiful song and dance performance later in the day and I felt so blessed. It was a White-browed Fantail and the dance is synchronised with her song. It was wonderful to watch this bird several times.

The first time this bird was spotted by Arvind when he was walking alone around the other end of the guest house where some construction work was going on. I was not well so returned to our room for a short nap after a 2 hour morning walk. He came back and shown me these pictures. Seeing the bird I felt so jealous because I wanted to see this bird myself, I had seen a wonderfully shot video of Flycatchers some time ago and instantly recognised this beauty.

White-browed Fantail is a delightful bird to watch. But I had still not heard this bird so I could not associate the morning bird song yet with WBF flycatcher.

The background is not good for making the picture look good but the bird is really beautiful. Especially the way it fans the tail and turns quickly at 180 degree to fan the tail again.

Seeing these pictures I had no idea of the dance performance it does.

And then we decided to have another walk after lunch. We walked from the guest house on the beautiful road that spans from one end of the campus to the other, 4 Kms in total. Just as we crossed the turn to Director's bungalow, I could hear the song again on a tree. Looked up and here it was. Dancing and singing away in glee.

We enjoyed the song and dance performance twice more but clear pictures could not be taken. Partly it was too far and too fast moving and party because it's difficult to click pictures in thick foliage when one is standing right below the tree.

I will keep posting Birds of IIP Dehradun in a series this time. Sharing another bird in this post. We saw so many warblers and the identification of warblers is so difficult for amateur birder like me. The best I could identify this one is a Lemon-rumped Warbler.

See this series of pictures so different angles of the bird is visible. Let me know if you think it is Dusky warbler that I was contemplating regarding this one.

Lemon -warbler or Dusky warbler. Please confirm if you recognise them.

And stay tuned for more and more birds coming up. We spotted around 100 birds in this trip, some were common to make the count but some birds were spotted for the first time by us. Overall a really good good trip birding wise.

Friday, October 25, 2013

how to pack a toiletry bag for trekking or general traveling

I have been traveling a lot, it has been a week's travel almost every month this year. Most of the times we end up walking around the places a lot even if it is not a full fledged trek. Seeing the marketplaces, walking on the streets and interacting with small time shopkeepers and passersby is a great way to know local culture and lifestyle, as we have experienced. So we get a small backpack, water bottles, couple of fruits for the day and get walking all around the place when we are there.

Yes I tan a lot when I travel. My skin is prone to get burnt too but I haven't found any good solution to it as all sunscreens I have tried till now have been either too suffocating to apply or have had some really irritating perfume. So a cap is all I have for my defense mostly and a large framed pair of sunglasses. Walking around the places leaves me quite exhausted by the end of the day and a warm bath helps a lot. So I take care to carry everything that gives me the comfort of a nice warm bath after a days worth of roaming around. Not that I am too conscious of products but a few basics are good to pack. Mine is quite a frugal toiletry bag.

One thing to take care is not to put the toiletry bag in checked in baggage when flying as a leaked out sunscreen or shampoo will be a lot of mess to handle. Try and keep it in hand baggage or segregate the products before you sort out the stuff. My toiletry bag often carries a few random things like a knife, few safety pins and may be all my medicines too, which I take out and keep in drawers when staying in hotels or guest houses.

  1. Shampoo: I prefer a tube pack but a small pack of whatever brand you are currently using will be great.
  2. Bath gel : travel pack definitely. Sometimes I carry soap bar instead.
  3. Face wash : tube pack or a bottle. It can be quite versatile if you are pressed for space or have a limited baggage restriction. *Read how I managed on our last trek.
  4. A sunscreen or sunblock ( I carry a lactocalamine lotion as I find it quite useful for me)
  5. A foot cream if you have the habit of applying, I pack a jar Boroline as it is quite a multipurpose cream. I use it as a hand cream too after the night bath. It is a good antiseptic cream for small nicks and cuts or bruises.
  6. A bottle of hand sanitiser that I carry in my hand bag all the time. One is packed into the toiletry bag as well.
  7. Detergent powder sachets : I find them useful to wash any accidental stains or if I need to wash any essentials during my stay.
  8. Mosquito repellent cream: I am intolerant to any heavy feeling cream on my skin and even the perfume, but when there are mosquitos we have to be careful. I often apple the MR cream on the headboard of bed or any solid surface rather than my skin and it works for a while :-)Applying it on my nails also works. Yes I am creative :-)
  9. A pain relief spray: This is required when we get minor sprains. It has not happened often but it's good to pack especially when you are expecting a difficult trek.
  10. Savlon or antiseptic solution : this is more of a first aid kit essential but has to be packed.
  11. Ear buds : I need them a lot and these are useful for many random purposes I see. 
  12. Lip balm : it goes into my handbag but I pack it in my toiletry bag as well.
  13. Sanitary pads: I pack them in a foil bag and keep them in the toiletry bag (which is transparent) just so the pads are not visible if I have to take out the toiletry bag in public for some reason. Especially during treks. (it is not seen in the picture as the bottles and tubes are placed above the pack).
  14. Tissue papers: I keep tissue paper in almost all bags I carry, just for the usefulness. This also goes in polythene bags or foil bags.
  15. Disposable panties or panty liners : I found these really useful when I was on the Kullu to Leh mountain biking expedition. You are often not left with a choice to have a nice bath and change but the panty liner can be changed to feel fresh.
  16. A toilet seat sanitiser : I found a product called Peesafe which is very useful during travels and treks as we use public toilets a lot. Just spray the product on a toilet seat, wait for a few minutes and do your business. I prefer spraying the door knobs and taps as well to prevent any potential contamination. A very useful product I must say. I got it from SafetyKart, you can also order it online if you wish.
  17. Deodoriser spray or roll on: I personally don't use these as all chemical perfumes are a strict no for me. A good bath is good enough for me and this is not on my list. I mentioned as many of you might like it, but please take care to ask people if you want a generous spray and you are surrounded by a few people in a tent while trekking. Someone like me might be allergic to it.
  18. Vicks or pain balm if you have a tendency to get colds or headaches. I keep my tablets in my toiletry bag too.
  19. I always keep a knife (often wrapped in a handkerchief to avoid any cuts)and a few safety pins in my toiletry bag too. Used to have a needle and thread too but I required it so now I am careless about it.
  20. A white cotton or polyester rope : I find it really useful in many ways so this is a constant in my toiletry bag, which you see is a multipurpose bag in my case :-)
  21. A comb and a small mirror if you need. I mostly don;t pack the mirror and have sometimes lost my comb and have felt jut okay without them. But These are essentials it your travel is not of trekking type.

*We did a nice trek last week as well which was fairly tough and I had to chose the absolute essential toiletries from this list. The best decision I took was to carry a bottle of face wash that doubled up as a bath gel and a hand wash as well.

Do let me know if you pack some more. Knowing more is always better.

Yes I was on a 10 day long break and came back just 2 days ago. Will be sharing a lot about this birding oriented trip which turned out to be a surprise trek as well. Stay tuned.