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Admittedly, I knew very little about the power struggle over Kashmir before I read The Far Field. So I dug. Completing the book led me to this Al Jazeera video illustrating how the subcontinent of India has changed since 1947, the year India gained independence from Britain. Reading The Far Field also piqued my interest in watching the movie Viceroy’s House, currently on Netflix, about the final events leading up to Britain’s retreat from its colonies that year, and how religious conflict between Indians lead to partition, the event that would initially create Pakistan, for India’s Muslim minority. This decision would also cause the largest mass migration in history, according to the BBC. An internet search for more information about Kashmir results in reporting as recent as August 2019, describing frequent clashes in the area.

The Far Field is a lyrical historical fiction novel, and stories that string moving prose rooted in real events are my favorite. Narrated by a now 30-year-old Shalini, our protagonist, the book shifts between her privileged childhood, and adolescence. When the book opens, we meet our protagonist at home in Bangalore, who feels adrift following her mother’s death. She is barely an adult, working her first job out of college. 

She seems apathetic, and I’m not sure if it’s because our protagonist generally lacked ambition, or because young adults are generally unsure of themselves, or if her current state was a product of grief. We also sense distance between Shalini and her father, who is considering re-marrying. Amid the upheaval, as if Shalini were either running away from her issues, or conversely, confronting them directly, she sets off for Kashmir solo, seeking answers to her mother’s death.

Shalini’s childhood is set against the background of decades-old conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. When she decides to pursue her mother’s past, and specifically, the charismatic salesman who used to visit their home in Bangalore, Shalini finds herself caught up in tensions. Throughout the chapters, we wince at how her blinding lack of self-awareness and nuance cost the people around her much more than what she thought she had to lose.

Shalini’s present-day journey to Kashmir and her interactions with the people she engages with along the way illuminate India’s stark and complex social dynamics. Yet, what resonated with me the most were the familial scenes, the flashbacks to moments with her mother and her struggle to understand a woman who had the capacity to lift her up and destroy her in the same breath. In one instance, Shalini describes the power her mother had over others, “…she had an exquisite instinct for zooming in on his frailties.” To me, these moments, sprinkled throughout the book, felt psychologically exacting and, most unnervingly, eerily familiar.

Learn more about The Far Field.



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Ligaya Malones floating in pool at The Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs, California
Staycation vibes in Palm Springs, California (photo: Alina Mendoza)

When it comes to vacation planning, there is nothing like the attractive power of a best places to visit list. You know the ones: lists like New York Times’ annual 52 Places to Go, Travel+Leisure’s 50 Best Places to Travel, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel List and the like. For readers, these lists offers a curated snapshot into the trendiest destinations and a learning opportunity to discover the towns, cities and countries worth traveling for. They can be valuable travel planning tools, even for a travel writer like me, who finds herself in a new destination every month (see: Nashville in January, the Central Coast in April, North Carolina in May.) I enjoy skimming through best-of travel lists; I’ve always discovered several new-to-me destinations every year one of these lists publishes. I’ve also been curious about the process of putting together one of these lists, and more broadly, how does a lesser-known destination jump from obscurity to destination darling? Let’s take a look.

How Does a Destination Make a Best of Travel List?

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Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach, California
Solana Beach, California

Maybe you’ve noticed, but I think it’s safe to say that the concept of wellness and its expanded definition in modern times (as a verb, and more broadly and perhaps more recently, a social construct) has gone mainstream, beyond spa services and retreats. We now live in an age where wellness, also known as self-care, can mean everything from yoga, to the latest plant-derived face mask, meditation to dedicated no-tech time. Though wellness isn’t anything new—the commercialization of it is. According to one citing, the Global Wellness Institute traces wellness back to ancient civilizations, where traditions and rituals were just… part of life.

For all that today’s wellness opportunities offers, my version of wellness tends to fall into quiet, intimate moments; mostly surrounded by nature and my favorite humans. And I think that’s the point; to sift through the barrage of options and find what works for you. And in San Diego’s northern regions (and my home base), for example, there are numerous opportunities to define what wellness might mean for you. That said, call me a typical Millennial if you want, but I am one of those people drawn to seamless, approachable experiences like the ones I’ve highlighted below. Bonus points for personalization. I’ll plan to update my picks as I discover them, but for now, these are my go-to wellness activities in North County, San Diego.

My Wellness Picks in North County, San Diego

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