NOLA – The Big Easy…

New Orleans had been on the top of my bucket list for so long that I almost did not believe my ears when my husband suggested visiting New Orleans for his Birthday in May 2015. We stayed at a hotel which was walking distance to the French quarters.

The first thing we wanted to do after the long flight was to stop at French Quarter and grab a drink. But the moment we stepped out of our hotel room it started to rain. Although I was hesitant to step out in the rain at first, I must admit it was the most amazing rain I have experienced in a long time. It made the muggy weather a tad cooler, but the rain felt warm and inviting to the touch. And when it stopped raining we dried up almost instantly.

Colorful walls, elaborately decorated ironwork balconies

I fell in love with the old style architecture; the cobbled roads and the old-fashioned houses with ironwork balconies painstakingly decorated. For a while, I felt like I was on the set of Midnight in Paris, where a nostalgic Owen Wilson (a screenwriter) finds himself going back to the 1920’s every night. Most of the French quarter’s architecture was built in the 18th century.  There is so much going on here in terms of restaurants, shops, dive bars, concerts and more. DSC_0115

You really do not need to rent a car here. You can walk the entire area by foot. A lot of people chose to ride Rickshaws or horse pulled carriages.  There are several musicians and artists performing as well as painters and artists selling their artistic works on the street side.

Are we still in America?
Horse Driven carts are everywhere
A bustling Jackson Square
Told ya!
God I love this place!

Jackson square is a famous landmark situated in the front of the French Quarter and throbbing with visitors, artists and musicians. On the opposite side of the square from the River are three 18th‑century historic buildings; St Louis Cathedral, The Cabildo (museum), The Presbytere (museum). DSC_0143 DSC_0144 DSC_0186 DSC_0192

The Katrina exhibit at the Presbytere is an absolute must see. They have done an excellent job of making an honest and a heart-breaking exhibit of what happened during Katrina. They had snippets of personal stories both inspiring and shattering throughout the museum. I absolutely loved their video and the interactive map with a minute by minute demonstrations of which levees broke when and where.

Yours truly at the famous Marie Laveau’s

New Orleans is famous for its Voodoo culture. You can see the French Quarter is full of Voodoo shops, tarot card readers, and palmists. Needless to say, Voodoo is different from palmistry and tarot, but I love everything occult. If you are into the occult as well, you will find plenty opportunities to try your hand here (pun intended)! I did visit the famous Marie Louveau’s place. I had absolutely no expectations but some of the stuff the palmist told me about was surprisingly true and there is no way he could have known it by simply meeting me. So thumbs up!

We took a bus tour around the city and showed us some of the worst hit areas during Katrina as well as some of old and archaic cemeteries.  Here are some pictures from the 9th Ward and the neighboring wards. The 9th ward is closest to the Mississippi River and worst hit during Katrina. You can still see a faint yellow line on the light posts demarcating the levels that the water had reached during the outpour.

My favorite experience in New Orleans would have to be the Jazz performance at the Preservation Hall. The hall is a tiny place that seats no more than 70 people roughly. Be sure to stand in line an hour before show time. This place is always full! But I promise the wait is well worth the time. Preservation Hall is open for nightly concerts from 8 pm to 11 pm, seven nights a week, with the exception of certain holidays and special events.

And he stood there frozen and unflinchingly still for hours

New Orleans is nothing without its Art and music. And music literally pumps life into its arteries. You will find more talented street-side musicians and artists here than anywhere else! And you do not have to be an aficionado to enjoy it. New Orleans will somehow engulf you in its unique style. New Orleans is a dream destination; a muse for the artist in you or anybody who loves History, music, art, wine, food, festival and loads of funDSC_0120 DSC_0146

Of Art and Wine

Since times immemorial, humans have treasured the joys of Art and Wine. Here is a poem commemorating this sublime relationship between Art and Wine:


Of Art & Wine

A swirl, a sniff, a sip. Lipstick stains on the wine glass,

Knees weakening, cheeks reddening, blood stained lips of the young lass,

Crimson sparkles exploding in the carafe, pouring into my glass; an exhilarating dance,

Greek gods, wine lords, Dionysus and Bacchus, like us, trapped in this hypnotic trance.

Sipping flirtatious innuendos, drowning inebriated crescendos,

Golden sun trapped inside this wine glass where luminescence and splendor conspire,

Literature and wine make great bed side companions one sets the other on fire,

Drunken stupor? Far from it, its creative moksha; brilliant and grandiose.

Classical or contemporary; art is art,

Writ by hands of time, evoking emotions cut out of bleeding heart,

Art is the aphrodisiac of life; resplendent, sacred and sublime,

Just as this dazzling drink of the Gods enthralls; the soul, imagination and mind.

An egocentric view of Art and Life

U Be Cute is barely a month old, and I am already fully “sucked-in” as a blogger. I confess that means visiting my blog 25 times a day just to check if I got a new ‘like’ and or a ‘comment’. Which is sad, because I barely get about 5 ‘likes’ a day (if I am lucky), which is only a 20% rate of return on my obsessive labors. Yet, something about the little “call-out” button turning orange, sets my heart fluttering (especially since it happens so rarely). This is a feeling only other debutante bloggers such as myself will appreciate.

Likes & Comments

If you are one of those bloggers who gets 50 or more ‘likes’ on one Post alone, then you are way beyond fully appreciating that first lonely “like” that can completely transform your day. I feel like Meg Ryan (Aka ‘shopgirl’) in “You’ve Got Mail” who gets elated every time she sees an email from Tom Hanks (“NY151”). For those of you born in or after 1990, ignore that analogy, this movie is prehistoric for you.

My new obsession with getting “likes”, stems from the fact that all through my growing years; I was never hugely popular.  And by “hugely popular” I really mean “remotely popular”. I still only have a few close friends, with emphasis being on “few”, who somehow have the heart to stay friends, despite my many incoherent egocentric ramblings about how “I perceive the world” or “What I think”.

Egocentric ramblings…Does that make me an egocentric? Sure.

The truth is all human beings are egocentric to some degree.  Yes even YOU.

Despite the negative connotations around the word, “egocentrism” is not entirely an undesirable trait. Egocentrism allows us the privilege to perceive the world as we do, and to believe our perception is correct. In that respect all artists are essentially egocentric. Art in its simplest form is nothing if not an expression of how one perceives the world.

Art in all its forms; painting, sculpture, photography, prose, poetry is an exhibition of “life” not “as it is” but “as perceived” by the artist. The mere process of capturing life in some ways colors it.

For example, ask a bunch of students to photograph an object say: a fruit basket. It is very likely that every student will present the artwork differently, possibly adding different angles, colors, effects, lighting and so forth, so much so that in the end, what you see is not the fruit basket but the author’s perception of the fruit basket. This difference is only more enhanced if the students are to hand draw the objects.

Given below are some pictures I took of the same object, but changed the angle, focus, exposure slightly. The result is that the same inanimate object can appear so different, giving the viewer an altered experience of the object. May it be noted, that I am deliberately using photographs not hand drawn paintings, since photography is said to capture reality more closely than paintings. The central premise of this experiment is to prove that even a slight change of angle, focus by even a debutante photographer (myself) can make a big difference to how the same object is presented.

Is art necessarily beautiful or perfect? While a lot of people believe that art is a celebration of beauty, I disagree. Art is an imitation of life and life is neither beautiful nor perfect, it just is. What makes Art so unique is that it is innately flawed. Art is flawed because it imitates life which is full of flaws and also because the eyes that perceive it retain their own version of reality (which to some degree is less than reality).

The reason why Art is unique, interesting and timeless is not because it is a perfect imitation of life but because it is an egocentric perception of life by the author and in that it is both unique and flawed.

For how else how can commonplace topics such as love, jealousy, marriage, fear, pain still be the centrifugal themes of literature, despite having been talked about for centuries? The reason being, that every single author took the same theme but presented it in a different color, angle, context and light thus offering it unique and still relevant.

Writing is less about how it makes “you” the reader feel and more about how it makes “me” the writer feel. Just as creating Art is a personal experience, so also is enjoying Art a very personal experience. Which is why, different people analyse the same piece of literature differently. It does not matter what the true intent of the writer was. As long as Art causes one to think and question why things are the way they are, and what if they were different?

To me, there isn’t a single photograph or piece of work that is not artistic. If it was created by a human then the element of “perception” and “flaw” should automatically make it artistic to some degree.

What then makes certain pieces of artwork so different from the rest? Masterpieces such as Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment are definitely beautiful and profound in any language. I read the English version of the book (originally written in Russian) and cried at every single page, and still wondered how much was lost in the translation alone. Classic works of Fiction such as Emily Bronte’s, “Wuthering Heights” is as romantic today as it was when first published in 1847.  Or the unforgettable childhood that Maggie and Tom Tulliver share in “Mill in the Floss” by George Eliot is still the best testament to childhood and sibling love and rivalry today, as it was in 1860. These are just a few of the many examples to prove that while times will change, human emotions such as fear, pain, love and jealousy are and will always remain relevant as will the writer’s perceptions.

To me a well written piece of prose or poetry is like a necklace; pearl like words strung together by the central theme joined by a clasp where the beginning meets the end. Although a good piece of prose or poetry is meant to provoke deep emotions, questions, or tug at the core of one’s being, above all it is meant to simply allow the egocentric writer a channel to express. As for me just the sheer joy of seeing the little “call-out” button turn orange is incentive enough to burn the midnight oil.

Happy One month Birthday, U be Cute!

Huntington Library

If you live in California or are visiting the “Golden State” then an absolute “must see” for you is the Huntington Library.  A much underrated haven for art lovers that offers a lot more than a splendid collection of books and art. Spread over a vast expanse of 120 acres it has some of the finest gardens such as the Japanese, Chinese, Rose, Australian, Camellia and the Desert. Each offering a completely different theme and above all a monastically serene environment.


My favorite among them is the Japanese garden with its authentic Japanese house that offers a picturesque view to the pond with its arching wooden bridge. The garden is lush with a cascading waterfall on one side. The sight is so exquisite; I thought I was in a magical wonderland. Zen garden and the Bonsai display are close neighbors to the Japanese garden and characterized by their stoic beauty.

My second favorite however is the famous lily garden. You absolutely want to take your time here and just sit and relax; soaking in the wonders of nature and mankind.


The Rose garden not only attracts families with kids but also many beautiful birds, bees and bumble bees, the latter two not being my absolute favorite. I have visited the Huntington twice before and found the Chinese garden to be absolutely extraordinary. This time however, it was undergoing some renovation which unfortunately took away some of its charm.


The art exhibitions are absolutely amazing as well. And yes, Thomas Gainsborough’s “The Blue Boy” is to Huntington as “Mona Lisa” is to The Louvre Museum in Paris.

All the walking is sure to get one hungry and before you know it you are looking for food. Although the Rose Garden Tea Room looks absolutely enchanting with its cutesy decor and beautifully arranged sandwiches, cheeses, salads and desserts, we decided to go the cheaper route and visited their café instead. The regular cafeteria has sandwiches, desserts, hot dogs, burgers reasonably priced. I must admit I wasn’t crazy about the food, note to self; bring home-made sandwiches and snacks next time.

A word of advise. Be prepared to do some research, and plan which gardens and exhibitions you want to focus on. The reason being that the visitation hours are very little and the grounds to cover are expansive. Planning before hand, will make sure you can focus on all the items that you and your family care about the most, without running out of time. Also wear your best walking shoes since you will be doing a lot of walking. Carry some light snacks and sandwiches so you don’t have to shell out a lot of money on the food, since the entrance ticket is fairly expensive in itself. Enjoy!

Happiness Code

While for some happiness is a ubiquitous state of mind that exists between the two ears, for others its more elusive. The absence of stress is not happiness. To me happiness is just being in peace with oneself and one’s sourroundings. The hum drum of daily life with its share of stresses, work load and undue expectations can easily strip one of a peaceful state of mind. So is there a happiness code, or a formula to happiness?

Here is what works for me:

  1. Exercise: Exercise keeps your body moving and blood flowing releasing feel good hormones. It activates and energises the body, mind and soul. I have noticed sparing an hour daily on exercise at least 6 days a week helps me not only stay in shape but also control my mood.
  2. Law of gratefullness: Be grateful for all that you have versus what you don’t. More of the things that you are grateful for will appear. 
  3. Live in the moment: We either reminisce the past or plan for the future. Rarely do we truly enjoy the moment. Just be now and here.
  4. Eat Healthy: Ideally majority of our food should consist of plants and fruits but if that’s not possible try having a bowl of salad with every meal.
  5. Make attainable goals: Take time to set goals and each day do a little of what you can to achieve them.
  6. Stay clutter free: Clean up; donate unnecessary things, empty out emotional baggage. Remember while organizing is a good habit, don’t start stressing over too much organization.
  7. Sharing: It’s funny that joy grows and sorrow decreases with sharing. Share what you can, when you can; it brings good karma.
  8. Remove Negativity: Live life on your own terms. This may mean making tough decisions such as removing toxic habits and people from your life. Don’t get caught in the vicious circle of negativity.
  9. Monitor your speech and words: Speak what you mean and mean what you speak, but always think before you speak. Words can hurt like daggers and while people may forgive more than likely they will never forget.
  10. Pray often: Pray with intention as often as possible. Prayers get answered.