On Setbacks & Silver Linings

Rainbow in the high altitude desert of Nubra Valley, Ladakh
Nubra Valley, Ladakh

It seems to have become the norm for me to have bad news to report every other December. Hoping this third time’s a ‘charm’ and will be the last.

I had a fall last week and fractured my jawbone. I managed to dislocate the right joint and have two hairline cracks on the left. I am in no pain currently and hope to have lost enough weight with my baby-food diet to rock it in a sari at the grand-niece’s wedding in Jan. While my jaw is immobilised and consuming liquids through wired teeth isn’t quite fun, I am immensely grateful for all that DIDN’T happen and for being alive and well enough to be writing this.

I am also grateful for the messages of concern and sympathy from friends and relatives and amused by those calling my husband to advice him not to “let me travel solo anymore”. Yes, ‘LET”! I have never allowed fear to rule my life and am not about to start anytime soon.

The images in this post are illustrative of that time, last year, when I overcame my fear and got to witness magic. Not the fear of the unknown that I crossed long back when I took my first independent solo trip, but a real fear for our health. We had both experienced slight symptoms of altitude sickness in Peru and have been wary of travelling to high elevations since. Ravi refused to take the risk, but I, with permission from the incredibly encouraging pulmonologist treating me for breathing issues at the time, decided not to wait for him any longer and battled my anxieties to head to the Himalayas for the first time. I took time to acclimatise and never felt a thing even sleeping at over 15000ft*. Now, Ravi is tempted to give it a try too.

Double Rainbow over the sand dunes of Nubra Valley
Nubra Valley, Ladakh

Fear is a strange thing. All consuming until we leave it behind. This past week, my country did just that. A considerable number of our students poured out into the streets to oppose a blatantly discriminatory citizenship bill.

One of our guides in Romania had expressed cynicism over the survival of democracy in a large and unwieldy nation such as ours. Most people outside of the country do not quite grasp the miracle that is India. This gaggle of disparate cultures, religions, languages and notoriously rule-breaking citizens who’ve managed to stay together despite some of the most corrupt & inefficient of systems anywhere. That diversity has been under threat these past few years by a not too subtle departure from our founding secular values. The silence has been a great source of personal despair. Last week, the apathy finally snapped.

However these ongoing protests end – the response has been brutal and I know the cost is going to be high particularly for our youth leading from the front – the fact that we were pushed to a point where we were forced to re-connect with our collective moral conscience is a huge deal. I am more hopeful for us than I have been in years. Silver linings are a thing.

Wishing you all a joyous holiday season and a year filled with whatever your hearts desire. And many silver linings.

*A disclaimer that altitude sickness is not to be taken lightly and can affect anyone regardless of age. Please research destinations and access to medical facilities and make choices that feel right for YOU.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

68 thoughts on “On Setbacks & Silver Linings

  1. Oh, Madhu! Another December issue… Wishing you a speedy recovery, and hoping you have some new interesting solo excursions in time… Sending seasonal good wishes Sue xx

  2. Hope you mend quickly. We are following events in India like the rest of the world and hope India doesn’t continue to follow in Lanka’s direction. When Modi is voted out . . .

    1. Thank you Mallee, and fingers crossed. Our tragedy, and that of many other countries, is the absence of a viable opposition.

  3. Thinking of you as you heal from this setback or “misadventure”, Madhu. Beautiful images of a surreal landscape hidden from the world, a perfect place for overcoming fear.
    There are silver linings and am glad you are ending the year filled with hope for a diverse and tolerant India. I wish I could say that for the US. Our senate needs to reconnect with its collective moral conscience.
    The best of everything to you this coming year.

    1. Thank you Lynne! Such a pleasure to see your Gravatar pop up. Have missed you, hope all is well with you? Wishing for a more peaceful, tolerant world for us all. Merry Christmas to you & Ron!

  4. So sorry about your accident, but had to chuckle at your silver lining. 😅 I’m sure you’ll rock that sari at the January wedding. Yes, altitude sickness isn’t pleasant at all. I had a slight bout of it in Peru, but the lashings of coca tea really helped. Love your beautiful photos as always. Wishing you and your family a happy festive season and only good health in the year to come. 😘

    1. Haha, the husband thinks I’ve hurt my head in the fall 🙂 Thank you for your wishes Sylvia. Warmest Christmas greetings to you and your entire family.

  5. Yowch. So sorry about your tumble but always glad to see your posts, always positive posts even when going through challenging times.

    Your voice is important, and we all share a great concern about the world-wide turbulence. It’s good to see the youth finding a voice, yet we also worry about the dangers they face. May this new year shine on the best side of man’s nature, and may you dance circles around everyone at that wedding!

    1. Amen to that Lisa, I so need those blessings. Thank you very much and hope you are enjoying a beautiful Christmas day.

  6. That must have been some tumble, Madhu. It might have knocked the stuffing out of you but never the spirit. 🤗 God bless and here’s to a trim and active 2020 💕

    1. Thank you dearest Jo. Those were my dentist’s exact words when she looked at my Xrays! Not being able to talk is harder than the diet 🙂 Hope you and Mike are enjoying a beautiful Christmas day. Seems special in Tavira.

  7. Year end greetings to you and a sincere wish year 2020 treats you more kindly 🙂 I’m very sorry to know of your unfortunate accident and trust you have a complete and soon recovery. I love the Himalayas, the Far Pavilions. Used to take annual vacation in the foothills that is Mussoorie and loved the view from there. The view from Nepal is equally as grand. Bharat Mata will always be a melting pot of many nations but the fact is it works in spite of the continuous tamasha and has come a long way since independence. LOL

    1. Tamasha it is! And amazing how we continue to plod along despite it 🙂 Thank you for your kind words Ian. Sending warmest Christmas wishes to you and your family.

  8. Madhu, it’s such a shame to hear about your fall though I am thankful that it wasn’t more serious – and also for the humor you’ve shown in the face of injury, a baby-food diet, and unwanted advice from concerned relatives. Surely the accident had nothing to do with traveling solo!

    I have been following the news out of India and am appalled at the wanton police brutality meted out on unarmed university students. It seems that 2019 will be remembered as the year of the global street protests, with so many countries and places experiencing some form of social unrest. Off the top of my head I can think of France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Spain (Catalonia), Lebanon, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Kashmir, and now the rest of India too.

    As you know from Facebook, I am in Hong Kong for the week to see my family and friends. It has been exactly 200 days since the protests kicked off in June. There is a strange veneer of normality: on the whole, things feel more or less the same, even if the signs of the protests are fairly obvious in the abundance of missing railings (used to build barricades) and painted-over graffiti. We’ve had something of a lull in weeks leading up to Christmas, though clashes broke out just last night between riot police and protesters in two locations. So my wish for a Christmas without tear gas went up in smoke.

    And it has been an exercise in tact to tiptoe around the topic or to gently counter misinformed relatives who seem to believe that family and church groups on WhatsApp are a reliable source of news! Much to my relief, I can discuss things openly with my own level-headed father, who puts the blame squarely on a government that listens only to Beijing and is hopelessly out of touch with ordinary people. Even in July he’d told me Carrie Lam and her inexperienced cronies had been missing every single opportunity to defuse the situation.

    I couldn’t post this comment without mentioning how these words jumped out for me: “This gaggle of disparate cultures, religions, languages and notoriously rule-breaking citizens who’ve managed to stay together despite some of the most corrupt & inefficient of systems anywhere.” You’ve described Indonesia as well, right down to a tee, and I’m very curious to see what you make of it when you and Ravi eventually visit.

    Wishing you a quick and painless recovery, good health, and many exhilarating journeys in 2020!

    1. The brutality has been truly appalling James. You will not believe how many here think Indian authorities are right in coming down hard on protesters but what’s happening in Hong Kong is bad because, well, China! The double standards are hilarious. The rest were silent partly out of misplaced optimism and partly out of fear. I am guilty of self censoring myself but have pulled out all the stops now, on Twitter at least. Have given up on Mangalorean friends and relatives on Facebook who prefer fake WhatsApp updates, just like yours 🙂

      Warmest Christmas wishes to you and your family once again. Have a feeling 2020 will be better for us all.

    1. No it isn’t…the bright side is I’m off my meds and allowed booze and ice cream 😀
      Happy Holidays Col.

  9. Wish you the best for 2020. It is very easy to take sides in what is happeneing in India but not everything is black and white. There are shdes of gray and as educated balanaced people we should be able to differentiate.

    1. Thank you Indira, a wonderful new year to you too!

      I agree with you about every issue having shades of gray, but it is what is clear as day that has us concerned citizens deeply worried. You do not need much formal education to sort right from wrong, really. And when the highest authorities who are supposed to make things clear lie through their teeth it makes it more bothersome still.

        1. Agree with you again about the deception. What’s that Lincoln quote again? “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” Quite possibly the reason why they are rushing around deleting old Tweets and videos. Unfortunately for them, this is an age of archives and screenshots.

          No one stopping you from expressing your understanding. On your blog. Please don’t continue to insult the intelligence of so many young people – of ALL faiths – standing up against hate and bigotry.

  10. I was so glad to see a post from you again, Madhu, and about one of my favorite things, silver linings! But then I read about your horror. I am so glad you are safe and having a sense of humor about it all (and for no current pain!). Take good, good care.

    1. Thank you dear Riba. Yes, grateful for the absence of pain. Just went in for a review and am assured the wires will be off in a week. Could have been so much worse.

      Seasons greetings my friend, and all best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

  11. Oh, nooooooo, I’m so sorry to hear that, my friend! [Falls seem to be a December thing …personal experience! 😉 ] May you heal very very soon [great to hear you’re in no pain] and may you have nothing but joy from now on!!!! Love and many hugs xoxoxoxoxo

    1. Haha good to know we aren’t the only family of Calamity Janes every year end! forgot to mention that the bride was bitten in the face by her dog – a stray she brought home several months ago! So kind of going with the flow.

      Thank you for your wishes dear friend. Wishing you a fabulously creative year!

  12. Very sorry for your fall Maddhu. Wine is all right though. 😊🍷even with clenched teeth. And i’m sure you will rock at the next wedding.
    Protests? I’ve shut off most news since the summer (and not the worst for wear) but there are protests everywhere. France Latin America. Hk. Now India. Something will come out of it. I read the ministry of utmost happiness this year. Took me maybe closer to the current complexity of India. Ot should i say the eternal complexity? Again the unrest is worldwide. Shows how the system(s) is cracking at the seams. (Good thing about saris. No seams) you take care pf yourself my dear. Happy new year.

    1. Hahaha India IS complexity! See, humour is the only way to keep sane in this world today😄 Thank you Brian, happy new year to you too!

        1. Good question! I would normally insert the English word if I were speaking in Hindi.
          The right term is apparently ‘jatilata’.

  13. So sorry Madhu to hear about your jaw! I hope it’s healing well. WTG with going to the Himalayas and facing the challenges of altitude. Don and I did it in the Andes and know how challenging it can be. I agree that protests are a sign of hope. People will arise when they’ve had enough as we’re seeing with the worldwide climate marches. I certainly am hopeful. I agree silver linings are a thing! I love your country and am so happy to be returning for a fourth time in February.
    BTW did you know we lived in Tiruvannamalai for 3 months a few years back?

  14. Oh no, I’m so sorry for what happened to you. ☹ Wishing you a speedy recovery, Madhu.

    Regarding to what’s happening in India (and many other places around the world, including Hong Kong and to some extent Indonesia), it’s been a tough time for democracy and human rights. Ultranationalists seem to be on the rise. But the fight young people are putting up against them is encouraging, indeed. In Indonesia, they managed to force the parliament to drop a proposed revision to the country’s criminal code which, if passed, would have been a lot stricter than what the Dutch colonialists imposed on us.

  15. I hope you are much better soon! What an awful thing to happen.
    We can’t let fear stop us doing anything otherwise we might never leave our houses. That would be a pity when there is so much wonder in the world.
    Have a great 2020.

  16. Goodness me! I hope you are recovering well and keeping out of any more trouble! A belated Merry Christmas to you – and I do hope 2020 brings you ‘better’ fortune!

  17. Commiserations my friend. A broken jaw is no fun. Your ruminations about fear were salutary for me at the moment, as we’re your ruminations on India, and your sense of hope in reclaiming moral compass. You made me pause in my outrage about my government’s attitude to climate change, refugees and transparency. Enjoy ice cream and booze – and may 2020 lead to a next December free of bad news!

  18. Synchronicity is also a thing … so strange … I was just looking at treks in Ladakh for next summer, then sent a message on another blog that had a mention of going to Ladakh in 2020, then clicked over to your post, and … there was Ladakh and the Nubra Valley. I think I am meant to go!

    SO sorry to hear about your fall and your jaw! That sounds like a frightening accident, but I’m glad you’e doing OK and even seeing a silver lining in the almost-liquid diet! When I was a little girl, I bit off the end of my tongue while chasing friends in the woods and had to have it stitched back on. Everyone was freaked out (obviously; it was pretty gross), but all I remember was getting to drink chocolate milkshakes through a straw for weeks!

  19. You command an eclectic blend of the art of storytelling and the craft of capturing the facets in your journey that makes the narration indeed so intriguing to read. You have literally created a virtual space for all of us as travelers of life, it is indeed a wonderful destination of place and people we all need to meet, learn and explore. Wishing you a speedy recovery and a year full of health and happiness.

    Wishing you a wonderful 2020 Happy New Year!!!
    Signing Off 2019 from wondering “Makeup & Breakup.”

  20. Wishing you a very speedy recovery, Madhu! And that double rainbow IS magic! Wow! Love it when life rewards fearlessness in equal measure. Happy New Year!

  21. Dearest Madhu,
    In the excitement of December events, including a family reunion and our son prpposing to.his lady love, I missed this post – a thought-provoking one.

    So sorry to learn about your jaw this late. You are probably prancing around in a sari at yr niece’s wedding even as I type. Hope your jaw is good as new by now.

    Congrats on your grit and determination in conquering a little slice of the mighty Himalayas.

  22. Landed on your wonderful and enriching blog after very long. I do not blog much but do visit blogs of my friends to enjoy their creativity and adventures. Bye for now Madhu and regards.

  23. It’s been such a long time Madhu. I hope you and Ravi are okay during these strange times. I’m “stealing” some of your words for my soon to be published post on Rishikesh. We were there for a month this year Feb8-Mar10.
    I see your tweets now and then so figure you must be ok. I hope we meet one day!

    1. Hello Alison, delighted that you liked my description enough to ‘steal’ it…you are most welcome. I enjoyed your Rishikesh post very much.

      What a pity we missed each other. I had reviews for my fracture through early Feb and then we – bravely – set off for Chile on the 27th. We had to cut short our trip by a few days and just beat the border shutdown by a whisker! I hope too that we get to meet someday. Stay well

  24. So sorry to read about your injury and hope that you recover soon and can eat some Mani Puri as quickly as possible. I can’t imagine seeing that and not being able to eat it.

    I follow you on Instagram but not sure why I have not found your blog before (I don’t think) and it is lovely to read you and get a birdseye view into your perspective of your home country. Your eloquent writing is captivating and we continue to be amazed and enthralled by every aspect of your magnificent country… complex always and heart wrenching often.

    The photo of the double rainbow is magnificent. Good for you for conquering your fears. I too suffered from altitude sickness in Cusco, but I think I learnt my lesson and in the future should I be at such high altitudes again, I will really go slow, as is advised.

    A pleasure to read you.


    1. Peta, so sorry to have missed this. Thank you for finding my blog and taking the time to share your thoughts. Your Mexico updates on Instagram are such a delight. Look forward to connecting more often. Stay well.

    1. All well except for my hastily patched up teeth that still need some work. I’m too scared to go to a dentist under the current circumstances 🙂 Thanks Brian.

      1. Understandably so. We didn’t go to the dentist for 18 months. And not until we got our two shots. (Did you?) and only with a trustworthy dentist.

        1. Yes, we’ve been fully vaccinated since mid May. I doubt I can push my temporary fillings much longer 🙂

        2. Might as well do it soon. Especially with a broken jaw, your teeth might have got misaligned. (Plus, don’t spread the news but the vax validity may be short. Our MD daughter was vaccinated in january and caught it – again – in July. So might be talking 6 months validity…)

  25. It is great to be able to catch up with you and see the beautiful photo you have left us with ~ but so sorry and sad to hear about your fall, although I hope you are fully recovered over the past nine months. You did make me smile with your comment that you got to “rock it in a sari at the grand-niece’s wedding…” here is to you who can always look at the bright side of things 🙂

    This year has been a very strange one, but I hope you are doing well and from the occasional posts on Instagram I see, you’ve still got the magic with the camera. Wishing the best for you and your family. Take care ~

    1. Much belated thanks for your lovely comment dear Randall. And huge apologies for the late response. I have recovered from the fractures but need work on my teeth that were hastily patched up before our trip to Chile. Too scared of going to the dentist so far 🙂 Hoping the world is on its way to near normalcy. Stay well my friend.

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