I contribute to various prominent publications on travel, culture, social trends and issues and personal narratives. Telling a great story is what I strive to achieve with my writing and I indulge most of my tale telling abilities in my blog - reemspeak.com - a humorous (usually) take on relationships, life and celebrating the extraordinary in the ordinary. There is no dearth of inspiration around me with my husband and dogs, friends, the bustling city of Delhi where I live, the choir that I sing with, my nomadic childhood or the places where I travel.
I have worked in marketing, PR and communication over 16 years. Writing has always been an integral part of my professional roles. Whether starting out as a content writer or packaging content for social media, writing press releases or pitching a story to the media.
For many middle- and upper-class Indians, help with household chores is deemed a necessity. When the country closed down to stem the spread of Covid-19, they were forced to reckon with the realities of cooking, cleaning and caring for their families.
Reem Khokhar Updated: May 13, 2020 13:10:42 IST Every evening, around 7:30 p.m., my phone screen lights up with the same message. "Do you want to dance?" It isn't code, or a bored prankster looking for inroads to "make friendship" with me. I respond by quickly tapping on the buttons to make a video call.
In this confusing and anxious time, cooking brings comfort, stability and connection.
On social media timelines, pictures and videos abound of home-cooked meals, indoor fitness routines, virtual soirees of friends in a video chat screenshot, and parents doing art and craft projects with their children. Working from home is a new experience for many Indians, carrying on their professional work within their personal space at this time of mandated social distancing.
"Why are those two dogs standing at our doorway?" asked Reem. Sid shrugged his shoulders, as the two pooches brushed past his legs, walking away from their apartment. Letting themselves in, they found me sitting on the sofa, my front paws soaking in a tub. "Oh you're home, hello!
Explore the world's longest cave systems. Scuba dive in pristine rivers. Waft through the clouds in a hot air balloon over lush terrain. Glamp in a plush tented colony within the forest. A peek into the lifestyle of the indigenous communities, an example in sustainable living.
Each page of the journey through this East Asian island, throws a whimsical twist
50 kilometres from Vienna, an elite range of horses pull in crowds from across the world, when they take centre stage at the annual Lipizzaner Gala. Read more on Nat Geo Traveller India.
Crowded around a polished wooden table, we peer closely at a teapot and tiny cups clustered by it. The young man opposite us deftly fills each cup with a pale gold brew, passing it around. It has a delicate taste, fragrant and light.
We disembark from our coach in sun-drenched Haddington. A cluster of beaming faces welcomes our choir group - The Capital City Minstrels. After the initial enquiries about our flight, a slightly awkward pause ensues. As if on cue, a bagpiper emerges, welcoming us with a lusty tune.
Virginia is home to several 18th and 19th-Century plantations, many of which are open to visitors to give them a glimpse into the life of Southern plantations, slavery and aristocratic landowners. One of the most famous estates, just 30 minutes from Washington DC, is Mount Vernon - George Washington's plantation house.
A guide to a girls vacay in Sitla, Uttarakhand
Murals and graffiti, bustling weekend markets and raucous pubs, home to the most famous television show in the world and the most famous ship that was, Belfast is fierce and fascinating
WORDS BY REEM KHOKHAR Neo-classical architecture, historic landmarks, quirky neighbourhoods, malls, museums, cultural cauldrons, and culinary hotspots... the capital of the United States of America is all things to all people. Conscious of its history and confident in its modernity, the city's identity as seat of political power is understated but omnipresent.
The beautiful and a touch of the bizarre in San Gimignano
A siren slices the evening air, stopping us in our tracks. Our host, Amish Sud, explains, "It signals the end of the work day in Shimla. 5 o'clock."
WORDS BY REEM KHOKHAR Two abandoned brick mansions rise up in a mustard field of green and gold. The light filters through the broken panes, dancing across the silent, empty hall, walls heavy with conversations long concluded. As the sun sets, it looks like a film location.
Losing your way in the bylanes of Florence is perhaps one of the most romantic things that could happen to you.
The Beatles are iconic. Any site associated with them is bound to draw fans and visitors. Rishikesh is where the band spent a few weeks in 1968 and 2018 marks 50 years of their visit. Rishikesh and Liverpool, their hometown, celebrate this significant period in the lives of The Beatles.
It's not everyday that one gets to be taken around Vienna by a Vienna choir boy! Rishan Bhatnagar is the 1st Indian in the renowned over-500-years-old choir and was our cheeky guide over a few days in the Austrian capital.
A first timer's overview of the International Yoga Festival, an annual week long event held in Rishikesh, India.
WORDS BY REEM KHOKHAR Shimla used to be firmly off my "places to visit" list - I'd heard of a concrete jungle spilling over the hillside, "tattu tourism" with grown men stuffed on ponies waddling around hairpin bends, and a riot of multi-cuisine restaurants serving Mughlai-Chinese.
Walking the gorgeous Cinque Terre
"If you see a leopard, just keep doing what you're doing. If you're singing, keep singing. If talking, keep talking...". Solid advice from long-time Sitla resident and owner of Sitla Estate, Vikram Maira, who patiently responds to my rather silly question on the sensible thing to do if one were to bump into the big cat.
Shekhawati is a cultural treasure trove with its frescoed havelis, because of which the area has been dubbed the "largest open air art gallery in the world"
A quaint mix of old and new, and filled with art and architecture, Liverpool makes for a great weekend break if you are in London.
A trip to Wales - utterly surprising and highly recommended.
Home of Mozart , the Sound of Music, grand architecture and a scenic landscape make for a charming visit to Salzburg
Childhood memories came rushing back on a trip to Ranikhet
Holi, one of India's vibrant festivals, features in this great guide to some of the world's biggest festivals and celebrations
Social trends and issues
Basit Manham was in his mid-teens when he first felt attracted to multiple partners. "Dating was not an option [then]," said Manham, "but I...had an emotional intimacy with several people." At 19, when he did begin to date, the thought of this simultaneous attraction lingered.
"Am I an antinatalist?" I thought out loud, after coming across the term in an article. My husband responded, "Antinationalist? Aren't we all supposedly antinationalist nowadays?" I corrected him-it is a philosophy that believes it's cruel to bring humans into this overburdened world-while continuing to think about the idea.
"Am I an antinatalist?" I thought out loud, after coming across the term in an article. My husband responded, "Antinationalist? Aren't we all supposedly antinationalist nowadays?" I corrected him - it is a philosophy that believes it's cruel to bring humans into this overburdened world - while continuing to think about the idea.
For Alakananda Bhattacharya, a 37-year-old freelance writer in Delhi, ageing is not a "favourite subject to think about." She avoids it fervidly, but when her thoughts do turn to the inevitable, they centre on "moving away from the city's pollution and crowds to somewhere with more nature and less concrete."
Aakash Malhotra has spent the better part of July and August travelling solo in Indonesia. His experiences were varied, from sighting Komodo dragons to scuba diving across some of the most challenging sites in Indonesia. He swam with manta rays and trekked up an active volcano, Mount Batur, to catch the spectacular sunrise from the peak.
Behind the gleaming buildings of Gurugram's Cyber City is a maze of roads flanked by commercial and residential structures, all in a jumbled sprawl. Three-storeyed builder floors jostle for space with neighbourhood grocery stores, and a couple of small hotels are squeezed in along with cafes and a local market.
Culture and lifestyle
"We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones who make a brighter day." Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie's iconic song from the 80s rang through a packed Kamani Auditorium in Delhi on Monday evening.
"One of the greatest charms of test-flying is that you can fly any aircraft!" says Group Captain Ajit Agtey (Retired), the pleasure behind his words palpable over the phone. He and my father were friends from the decades they spent in the Indian Air Force - both were fighter pilots - but also part of a smaller group of elite aviators.
Fifty years ago, in February 1968, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram in Rishikesh received its most famous visitors-The Beatles. They came looking for peace and quiet, and answers. But if it was not for one of the women in their lives, the Fab Four may never have visited India.
Rishan Bhatnagar is the first child from India to be in the over 500 year old Vienna Boys' Choir. After spending four years with the group, he is set to graduate in a few months and looks back at his extraordinary journey. "This last year has been different from the first few.
Turmeric wafts through the audience, hanging in an amber cloud around the woman on stage. In a purple sari, hair in a fierce swirl around her shoulders, she breathes heavily, eyes wide with defiance. A rousing applause begins. Actor Smita Tambe has just performed, through narration and dance, a tale called Jogwa, about a young girl who dreams of becoming a dancer.
Udaipur Tales is an international storytelling festival that brings together storytellers and performers from all over the world
An ancient text. One of the great masters of Western classical music. An Indian choir. A celebrated Kathak dancer. An orchestra from Austria. What do they have in common? This is a unique artistic alliance that will culminate in a staging of Franz Schubert's opera, Shakuntala, in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata this October.
Rishan Bhatnagar is the first child from India to be a part of the 500 year old Vienna Boys Choir. The ensemble is a renowned group of young male choristers who are an Austrian institution, performing in Vienna and across the world.
Music has always been an integral part of my life. I was an abysmally poor clarinet player, a reasonably good dancer, and a singer with a choir. I was a chorister for five years in school and another five with the Capital City Minstrels (CCM) in Delhi and have been performing in India and abroad for 22 years, with members from across the world.
Corporate culture/Business features
The idea of deep work, or working smarter rather than longer, is slowly catching on among corporates and startups, as employers and employees realize that they’re capable only of a few hours of really focused work
Sameer Guha keeps his social media accounts free from work connections. But after ignoring friend requests from few colleagues, he realized some of them had taken offence at his dismissal. "I sent out messages explaining my preference after a senior colleague got upset and was passively hostile," says Guha, who works as general counsel (India and the Indian subcontinent) for Mars, a global FMCG company.
Tired of questions that followed whenever she introduced herself-"Neha what? No last name?"- a five-year-old replied, "Only Neha", when the local butcher asked her name. He found her response very amusing, and three decades later Neha's family in Bengaluru still jokes about calling from "Only Neha's house" when they order from the butcher.
Those who are committed to a passion will make time for it despite a hectic work schedule.Having something in your life which is just for you, which isn't geared towards paying the bills or getting a promotion, brings you joy
Jonathan Marques' Instagram page is filled with photographs of his recent holiday to South Africa, an annual break, which he plans along with a few shorter getaways through the year. Marques, 32, is a business and research analyst with a global accounting firm, and like many in corporate India, has a demanding work schedule.
For Alakananda Bhattacharya, a 37-year-old freelance writer in Delhi, ageing is not a "favourite subject to think about". She avoids it fervidly, but when her thoughts do turn to the inevitable, they centre on "moving away from the city's pollution and crowds to somewhere with more nature and less concrete".
"What's going on here?" asked Reem, walking in through the front door. "Where are the dogs? I'm used to almost breaking my neck each time I come in because of the whirl of fur at my ankles." "I heard some sounds from the bedroom. I'd rather not know."
"What are you two doing?" chirped Reem, bouncing into the room. I winced at the high decibel level, the egg nog from the night before still glugging in my bloodstream. Everything seemed much too bright and loud this morning. "We are making the naughty and nice lists so that we can plan our Christmas shopping lists accordingly."
"What is this brown sludge?" I growled, pushing away the bowl placed in front of me. "Don't fuss, Mia!" scolded Reem, shoving the bowl back towards me, "It's a wholesome nutritious bowl of ragi porridge with lashings of dahi and just a drizzle of honey. It's delicious, now don't be fussy."
"Where have you two been?" shrieked Reem, opening the front door for us. We trooped in with our backpacks and suitcases, allowing ourselves to be petted and kissed and hugged and squeezed. "We thought you went missing! Sid and I have been looking all over for you.
"Look at that street dog lapping water out of a slimy puddle," I said, my snout wrinkled in disdain, whiskers grazing the window pane. Taking a long sip of chilled cucumber water, I sprinkled a few drops on the head of the white and brown dog sprawled next to me in a cool air-conditioned reverie.
Personal Narratives and Blog
My dad's handwriting reminds me of a more personal, connected, and handcrafted time.
My blog, which is a humorous (mostly) take on relationships, life and celebrating the ordinary in the extraordinary. Mostly featuring my husband, Siddharth, and my dogs, as muses, the posts also include some travel pieces, interviews, and tribute pieces to my wonderful father who I miss every day.