Monday, February 24, 2014

'My Most Memorable Memento' Contest!

Somewhere in the chaos of my cupboard is a treasure. The treasure consists of my personal letters and a few hand drawn greeting cards, a drawing book, some sea shells, some origami birds from Japan, a fortune pencil from a Buddhist temple in Melbourne, old newspaper features and notes, etc.  Most of these things hide in them a story. These are stories weaved in the past, stories rooted in reality, stories that today trigger fond memories within me, making me chuckle, titter or smile. Which is why I love keeping journals.

I love souvenirs, keepsakes, mementos…
I love my memories, they are my sacred treasure.

In this lovely month of February, the kind folks at Indian Coupons, a website offering great discount deals in the form of coupons from top online stores in India like Indigo, Expedia, Make my trip, etc. in the travel section, are collaborating with My Yatra Diary... with a contest where you can win a shopping voucher worth INR 8000! And all we are simply asking you is to share your ultimate favorite and most cherished keepsake of all times, with us!

What is the prize?

The prize is a 8000 INR Giftbig's e-giftcard if the winner is an Indian blogger OR a 120 $ Amazon voucher if the winner is from any other country (other than India).

What AWESOME things can your prize buy?

The Giftbig e-giftcard will be redeemable for all products at their site, which means that you will have the freedom to choose from a host of remarkable top line brands ranging from apparels, books, electronics and travels like flipkart, Big bazaar, lifestyle, titan, croma, westside, yatra and many many more. On similar lines would work the amazon gift voucher, redeemable over an amazing selection of products listed on their site. You can browse through these brands, pick your favorite and then spend the voucher according to your heart's desire!

How do you win?

Look around. Open your cupboard, closet, attic, drawers - we all have them: mementos, keepsakes, souvenirs, one object that you would never want to part with, one artifact that is very very dear to you for some special reason. Perhaps it’s a surprise gift you had got from your grandparents on your birthday or some handwritten letters that were written ages ago or a souvenir you had received from your new found friends who made you feel at home in your travels? It could be just about anything that is memorable to you in some special way.

Origami bird from Japan
...  Not any ordinary gift, but some love from Japan.

Think. Think. Got it? Now get blogging about it. Tell us what is your ultimate favorite memento (in not more than approximately around 400 words) you still hold on to, and why. Don’t forget to show us the picture of the memento as well. Further, you can add a witty caption; other details like place, people associated (if any) and so on.

Important points to remember:

1. Be sure to nominate/tag at least 3 other bloggers (or more) to take part in ‘My Most Memorable Memento’ contest by listing their blogs at the end of your post and informing them about the same by leaving a comment on their blog.

(Note: The job here is only to tag and inform. Whether the tagged bloggers choose to participate or not is entirely up to them and has no binding on the validity of your entry whatsoever.)

2. Each entry should have a line at the end of the post saying – "This post is my entry for the ‘My Most Memorable Memento’ contest conducted by My Yatra Diary travel blog and Indian Coupons."

3. Submit your entry link through the linky tool embedded below so that we can evaluate all the entries once the contest is over. Multiple entries are not allowed.

4. Please make sure to follow all the above rules.

Extra brownies!

Please help me spread the word by sharing it on your Facebook and twitter pages so that more and more bloggers can benefit from the opportunity. In addition to this, if you have participated, do not forget to tweet me your entry and I will retweet it back.

Are you eligible?

Everyone who blogs and is a blogger, is eligible to participate in the contest. Nationality does not matter. This contest is open for all.

Contest deadline.

The last date to submit your entries is midnight, 16th March 2014 The new EXTENDED last dates to submit your entries is midnight, 26th March 2014.  

This contest is now CLOSED AND WINNERS ANNOUNCED! Please check out the winners here!

A Big Thank You to all those who participated, the results will be announced shortly (Tentative results date: 14th or 15th MAY!). We look forward to reading all your entries soon. Keep your fingers crossed and Stay tuned!

Winners will be chosen by me and Indian Coupons and will be announced right here, on this blog. To receive notification when the winners are announced, please subscribe via email or follow by Twitter and Facebook where I will keep you posted. Judges decisions will be final.

Good luck!

Wait no further! Now is the time to get started. Step out of the chaos, dig out your souvenir spaces, give your memories wings and throw your hat in the blogging ring. The 8000 worth shopping voucher is waiting to be grabbed and who knows? You might just be the lucky one! Good Luck!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to let me know about it in the comments section or you can shoot me an e-mail at! I look forward to all your entries soon. :-)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Quest To Winning

I am a looser. Two drops of tears roll down my cheeks as I take stock of the situation. It’s no use crying now. I have lost. My dreams have crashed. Everything is over. Was all my hard work not worth any recognition? But alas! Nothing can be changed now. Someone out there has been selected; someone out there has an edge.

 I am a looser. Or Am I?

I had given my best. I had given it my heart, given it my true self.

Excitedly I used to get up early every day and sit down with my pen and papers. The clarity in the morning hours opened me up and its silence would encourage my thoughts. The hanging chill in the air seemed to laud. I would spend hours immersed with my diary. I was in love. I loved the sense of tender touch when my pen would start to move, I loved the sense of movement when I began to write. I loved my inner voice, it would tell a writer, a raw writer like me: You know something; you are not bad at all!

Isn't winning working hard, trying your best
and believing that you can do it?

Inspired, I would soon find myself in a world of my own, soaked in my own sweet self, gaining momentum with every inch covered in my flight of fantasy. I didn't bother of any rules, nor of anybody existing, non existing, in this world. For me, what mattered was me, my thoughts and my inspiration. This was my world. Here, there were no restrictions, no barriers, and no bondages holding me back. I was free, I was happy and so was every written word of mine. Delighted I would stop to inspect it every now and then: My piece was gaining meat.

Isn't winning giving birth to something -- anything
unique and original?

Yes. Today, I feel low. The same things seem to be mocking.  There is chaos all around. The same breeze which once comforted me seems to rapidly slap my face. I shout and cry. I am ashamed. My tears are the proof of my failure. My world is in turmoil, it has turned upside down. I love it no more. It is not even bright anymore. The day is over. Pitch darkness looms large. Outside as well as within.

Isn't winning feeling that prick when
you lose out on something that you worked really hard for?
Isn't failure an important step towards winning?

Suddenly, I see a golden hue. A faint ray of light trickles in through the creak of my window and dips me aglow. I can hear people congratulating me. The claps are getting louder. I am smiling, there is a twinkle in my eyes, my heart is brimming with joy.

Suddenly the hue is gone and I am back to my senses. A gust of breeze sweeps in tossing a few pages of my diary in a ruffle. The pen rolls to and fro. There is stillness around. A new dawn is here. I feel the urge to start writing again.

Isn't winning dusting off disappointments
and forging ahead in hope?

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A few months later:

Two drops of tears roll down my cheeks as I take stock of the situation. My dreams have soared like a kite flying high. Everything is a new. Everything has changed. I am more confident. I am filled with pride. I am making my own destiny. I am making history. I am drenched in an ecstatic overwhelming feeling, one that can never be described only felt. I am personally satisfied. I am a winner. I am happy.

India Today Conclave - What does winning mean to you?
Winning is scripting your success story -- your style!

Hesitant and nervous, I start giving my winning speech.

"What can I say? Just like me, in this conclave today, there are innumerable winners, perhaps far more talented and better than me. This win is not mine alone. I salute all those who are dedicated, inspired and motivated to put their best foot forward in order to achieve personal satisfaction and happiness in all that they are doing. I salute all of you. You all are inspirational. You all are winners for me. And I bow my head in great humility before all of you."

Bowing thus, silently, I thank my Master, thank my blessings, and thank my inner voice as I feel grateful to my winning quest; it has today changed my perception of winning (and loosing!). Winning is not about acing medals or counting trophies but a lot more... It is about happiness you sense at an individual level, it is a feeling more personal. I make a little note in my diary. I have found my answer.

I was never a looser; a winner all along.

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PS: This post is my entry to a contest being held by IndiBlogger in association with India Today conclave 2014 under the topic - "What does winning mean to you?" Please wish me luck. :-)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Souvenir Shopping in Queen Victoria Market: Melbourne, Australia

St. Paul's cathedral Lanes and alleyways: Melbourne art culture - Tram rides - MELBOURNE MEMORY #4: QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET - Eureka Sky Deck 88 - Captain cook's cottage - Flinder's street station - Yarra River - MCG - Federation Square - Cuisine - Extras.

-------------------- *** --------------------

No. It’s not a mall. There are no flashy neon lights here, no glass faced doors and no automatic escalators. On the contrary, it’s earthy and lacks all the usual trappings of a high classy market. Yet, Melbourne chooses to make it royal. At least in the name.

Entrance to Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Named after Queen Victoria: A board gives an overview of the market.
Situated very close to the heart of the city, Queen Victoria’s Market aka Queen Vic’s or Vic’s Market, as the locals would affectionately call it, is one of the busiest (and also famous) markets in Melbourne offering a delightful amalgam of fashion, crafts, fruits and vegetables, knick knacks and a range of other cultural activities. It’s a busy place but there is no pushing or jostling so that you can stroll around and savor the delights at your own languorous pace.

Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne Australia
Queen Victoria Market stalls: Take a peek
One word of caution though: because there are hundreds of stalls to woo you, time here flies by. There are directional signposts all around which I think act as great guides. The place is spread in such a wide sector, 2 city blocks to be precise, approximately 7 hectares, that I found it difficult to get a sense of the entire market as in where it had started, where I was heading to and where it would end. But then I guess, that's how a market should actually be - big and widespread, leaving one split for choices. What do you think?

My Queen Victoria Market picks, albeit in digital form! Let's walk through... Come along!

Stuffed kangaroos and sleepy koalas: The first thing that comes to mind when someone says - Australia. Kangaroos! Here, you can catch them in various moods and take one along if you may so like, at a good price though.

Simply aussie souvenirs at souvenirs in Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Simply aussie pouch at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Stuffed Koala in Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Stuffed Koala in Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne

Simply Aussie:

A product of Victoria at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Asparagaus, seasonal spring local produce of Melbourne
Aboriginal boomerang souvenirs in Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Aboriginal Boomerangs, Anyone?
Fridge magnet souvenirs in Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Fridge magnets, $ 2 each.
Melbourne souvenirs key chains, Australia
Hats: A lot of them, actually!

Hats in Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Hats in Queen Victoria Market
Fruits and veggie section: By far the most tempting and the best of the lot, look out for the local seasonal produce.

Watermelon Fruit at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Seedless watermelons against a backdrop of navel oranges
Tomatoes at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Red and supposedly tasty tomatoes!
Muskmelon at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Rockmelons or muskmelons
Dates at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Dried fruits: Dates
Art attack: If there is one thing I absolutely know about Melbourne now is that it is a city that loves expression, be it on the streets, on the trams or in their markets!

Art attack at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Chilly art attack Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne

... and, in case you are hungry after the stroll, here are some organic nut crackers for you!

A walking eatery at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
A mobile car selling organic roasted nuts
However, this is not all. There is more than what meets the eye.

Dig deeper and one is amazed at the creepy stories that tumble out. This place was once the first official cemetery in Melbourne. Silent and housing around 10,000 bodies laid in rest. In the due course of time, things changed and cemetery upgraded to an open air market, only to later go on and become the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. What continued to exist, though, were the bodies – still buried and underground, somewhere near the parking areas. Quiz the locals about it and they have a few tales to tell – like that of a slain old Aussie soldier doing the rounds at night.

Despite all this eeriness, today, the place thrives, in true Melburnian spirit, as an important city attraction, as a historic milestone, as a significant establishment. The place throbs in noise, fun and activity. All this, not without a heart though. A memorial in tribute to all these nameless people stands in a part of the market, at the corner of Queen Street and Therry Street.

Before I stepped in Melbourne, I had thought I would be returning with many bags full after my visit here. But nothing could lure or convince me enough to cut my budgeted pockets – one important reason being that it’s a place where bargain culture exists, one point why I held myself back. In places like these, I am always skeptical about myself ending up paying more. Also since this was the first of my shopping experiences in Melbourne, I didn't want to drain my small shopping budget in the first itself! Nevertheless, I had to take something. 

Guess, what I zeroed in on?

Apples at Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Australian Gala Apples, had my fill.
These apples – juicy, fresh, locally produced and organic –
I relished them with great taste!

Queen Victoria market is not one of those market areas where one needs to buy something to enjoy but, for a first timer visitor to Melbourne, it is more like a traditional fairyland (think of a Delhi haat or a village market) with such a wide exposure to products (both imported and local), Aussie souvenirs, and unfamiliar curios stacked for sale that even a simple stroll warrants a kaleidoscopic view of the richness of an open air Melbourne shopping experience.

Whether you will be taking something from here or not is a different story but what’s universal is that a visit to Melbourne shall be incomplete without stepping foot in one of its most beloved market of yore!

Do you love visiting traditional local markets when travelling?
Any experiences you would like to share?

Tips for travelers:

1. The market houses both local and imported items, look out for Aussie made as they are cheaper than their imported counterparts.

2. Quality varies from stall to stall, so remember to scan a few shops before loosening your pockets.

Fast facts:

The Market is:

-  Named after Queen Victoria and is listed in the Victorian Heritage Register.
- The only surviving 19th century market in the Melbourne central business district, it forms part of an important collection of surviving Victorian markets which includes the inner suburban Prahran Market and South Melbourne Market.

Location, Contact and Opening and closing hours:

65-159 Victoria Street
Melbourne Vic 3000.

Phone: 9320 5822

Tue and Thurs: 6am – 2pm; Fri: 6am – 5pm; Sat: 6am – 3pm; Sun: 9am – 4pm;

Closed on Good Friday, Anzac Day, Melbourne Cup Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

How to get there:

I took the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle bus (costing $ 5) which has a stop at Queen Vic’s among others. You can either take that or check Public Transport Victoria for other tram routes. The market is located a short walk away from the city center and is flanked by Peel, Franklin, Victoria and Elizabeth streets.

Previous stories from Melbourne: