Thinking about a career break? Here is my story...

When I decided to get married, I was living and working in the UK while my fiancĂ© lived and worked in the USA. So, I decided to take a career break to live with my husband and look for a new job once I joined him. I have seen many couples getting married yet continuing to stay in different cities (even different countries!) but neither we nor our parents wanted us to live separately immediately after our  marriage.

Soon after I joined my husband I applied for the necessary permits to start working and also started my job search, which was not a pleasant experience, of course and took a long time. I had many ups and downs during this time and finally after months of struggle I found a job. It was only a few months into my new job when we were required to move back to India. With a heavy-heart of leaving the job that I found after toiling so much, I started to pack. People told me, I would have a lot of opportunities in India since I had 2 overseas experiences in my CV! So, I was very hopeful when I started to look for a job in my country but I faced hardships here too.

The interview questionsWhile the problem with finding a job in the US was more about not having US-specific experience, the problem with finding a job in India was more about having taken a career break! During the interview process in US, when I told people that I took a career break post marriage, they would congratulate me and say that it was a great decision since marriage brings about so many changes and there was also a factor of moving to a different country. On the contrary, a few interviewers in India told me that I would need to provide a surety that I would not take another break soon! I found it amusing in the beginning but soon this became preposterous. I fail to understand what kind of a society we live in. On one hand, a woman is expected to be a perfect homemaker while on the other she is not even allowed time-off to balance her career and personal life. Some interviewers even considered my MBA (which I did in the UK after working for 5 years in India) as a career break, which  any sane person would consider  as a career progression.

Job search in a foreign country vs at homeMy job search in India ended up being more stressful than the one in US, despite having worked in India earlier. During this stressful time, I often wondered if my decision to take a career break at the time of our marriage was a right decision.

My advice to women who dared to take a career breakI have now found a job, but when I was going through troubled times, I thought of other women who might be in a similar situation. Here are my two cents for them:
  • Before your make a decision to quit, understand where you are going to stand once you decide to join the work force again – both geographically as well as industrially. Like some countries, some industries are also more open to such breaks compared to others. If you are based in India and thinking of a career break to settle in the new life post-marriage, good luck to you (unless you are engaged in one of the preferred industries!).
  • While on a break always keep yourself engaged in things other than the household work (which I agree is difficult as household work takes up more time than most people think). Develop hobbies. Try travelling. Try doing something new. There was a time when all I did was household work and I started losing my self-worth.
  • Talk about your feelings. Whenever I felt low or unimportant, I would talk to my husband and tell him exactly how I felt. He was always very supportive and listened patiently. It always important to have someone who would listen. Your spouse, your parents, your friends etc., anyone who you can trust with your actual feelings without needing to feel ashamed of saying ‘I think this career break was wrong decision’.
  • Whether or not you take a career break should be your decision. Never take a career break because you are being pressurized to do so by your family or your husband’s. I never blamed my husband for what I went through during this time because he never forced me or asked me to take a break. It was a well-thought of decision which was taken solely by me.
  • Finally, when you step back in the work place, be ready for remarks like, “oh! so you were on a break. What did you do in all the “free” time?” or “so, you were just chilling at home all this while”. Such people do not know that being a homemaker is no less a challenge than being employed! Forgive them! 
I rest my case here with good wishes to all the bold women who decide to take a break from their career to spend time with their family, whether post marriage or due to motherhood or cause of any other family requirements. 

What's in a name, err..... surname?

This post was originally published in Women's Web here.
A change of surname after marriage for women should be a choice, not mandatory. Our society and officialdom need to come to terms with this. 
A lot has been written about this topic in the past and the future will be no different.
Like most other girls preparing to tie the knot, I also debated with myself, while doing the wedding preps, if I should change by last name post-marriage. After putting in a lot of thought behind this and taking a lawyer’s opinion, I decided that I shall stick to my maiden name post-marriage.
The reason was simple. My maiden name was my identity for more than 25 years and I did not have the heart to adopt a new identity at this stage in my life.
My lawyer advised that in case I decide to change my last name, I would need to execute an affidavit of the change and would need to provide the affidavit wherever I submit documents with my maiden name on them, like all education certificates, PAN card, driving licence etc.
Alternatively, I could retain my maiden name and provide a copy of our marriage certificate whenever I needed to prove my marital status – e.g. visa, address proof work related, etc. Now, if I have to submit an additional document whether or not I change my name, I would obviously, choose to keep my name unchanged.
The decision was taken to retain my maiden name and my husband was in favour of the same more than I was. My husband lived in the USA at the time we got married and my visa formalities as well as joint bank account opening formalities went pretty smoothly. No eyes or eyebrows or fingers were raised!
A point to note here is that women do change their surnames post marriage in all parts of the world (but it is a completely personal choice). However, last year, when we moved back to India, I noticed, every time I spelt out my surname (which is different from my husband’s), people raise brows. It gets to me but I let it pass.
Recently I went to a bank to open a ‘single’ account in my name. I submitted all required documents relating to my identity as well as address (which have my maiden name on them). Despite every document being in order, I was asked to submit a declaration that I was married but I have chosen to retain my maiden name, along with a reason for this decision!
I said it is a personal choice but was advised that it was not an acceptable reason, though all my documents and certificates were in my maiden name. The Customer Service Manager (I have nothing against her as she was merely following procedure) asked me to declare that I retained my maiden name for tax filing purposes. I needed to open this account and hence, submitted the declaration but I still fail to understand why I was made to submit it!
Since it is not a compulsion for women to change their surname post wedding, I fail to fathom why question them when they don’t? Why does my identity need to change just because I am married? I have nothing against people who believe that women should change their surname post marriage but I believe that this is a personal choice and should not be forced onto someone.
Such related incidents in the past few months have raised a very important question in my mind, “why can’t we, as a society, let people make their own decisions and not be judgmental about such choices?”

Touring the 'Heart of India'

No other activity can rejuvenate me the way travel does especially if the destination is thrilling. Recently, my husband and I decided that we would visit all the tourist places in India in a structured manner, one State at a time. The first State that we picked was Madhya Pradesh (MP) - the heart of India, as per the MP tourism advertisements. There was no analysis behind choosing MP as the first State, my parents live in MP, so access is easier. So long, we have visited only a few places- Bhopal, Sanchi, Bhimbhetka Caves, Tawa Dam & Reservoir and Pachmarhi. 

Why did we like tourist locations more than the ones in other parts of India?
In a short & quick visit to my brother’s place in Bangalore, we made a quick call on Hampi, witnessing its multitude of temples & shrines, especially the Vittala Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What we noticed was that the tourist places in MP are pretty well maintained. There is security at each site and guards ensure that tourists do not misuse the sites in any way. We found no litter lying around and were absolutely surprised to see that no one had proclaimed their love on the rocks of Bhimbhetka caves or those of Pachmarhi. This is definitely an extreme rarity in India where young lovers do not even leave the walls of holy places or sites of historical importance, to proclaim their love! Even the temples in Pachmarhi were absolutely clean despite the flowing water which could have caused a lot of sludge.

A quick guide to each of the sites we visited

Bhopal- Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, is by far one of the most beautiful cities I have seen in India. It is an amalgam of scenic beauty, historical charm and urban lifestyle. The two lakes in Bhopal dominate the city and one can find ample greenery in the busiest of the areas of Bhopal. Bhopal’s cultural scene is pretty active too- almost every evening, you can walk in to Rabindra Bhawan/ Bharat Bhawan and the likes for free to enjoy a cultural performance. Bhopal is well connected to the rest of India via air, rail as well as road networks.

Sanchi- Sanchi is located approximately 46 kilometres north-east of Bhopal and is known for the Buddhist Stupas. On the way from Bhopal to Sanchi, one also crosses the Tropic of Cancer. The Stupas at Sanchi is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are well-maintained despite all the natural wear and tear. It is a good idea to hire a guide to see the Great Stupa.

Bhimbhetka caves- This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Madhya Pradesh. Located approximately 45 kilometres south of Bhopal, these pre-historic (more than 100.000 years old) rock shelters exhibit the earliest traces of human life in India. One can still see paintings and art on the rocks. Some of these paintings have eroded, so Archaeological Survey of India has used chemicals and wax to restore them.

Tawa Dam & Reservoir- Tawa Dam & Reservoir is a scenic escape from the busy city life. It is situated 35 kilometres from Itarsi (the nearest major rail-road junction). The views of the sunset and sunrise from the dam are enchanting. A boat ride of the lake reservoir, which takes one around the little islands dotting the reservoir and offer beautiful views of the Satpura range is a must-do here.

Pachmarhi- Pachmarhi is a hill station situated about 120 kilometres from Hoshangabad (the nearest major rail-road junction). It is also known as ‘Satpura ki Rani’. The name is believed to be derived from hindi words ‘panch’ meaning five and ‘marhi’ meaning cave. Pachmarhi has the famous Pandava caves, used by the Pandavas during their Agyaatvaas (exile in anonymity) and many other tourist attractions including water falls, caves, temples and scenic views.

The directions to the destinations are also marked on the highways so driving to them is not very difficult.  The upkeep of these tourist places is definitely paid attention to. I would like to believe that such initiative is also taken by other States in maintenance of their tourist attractions. Till then, I will go back to planning my next sojourn!

A 2-day trip to Boston

Boston: The capital and largest city of Massachusetts in USA. It is also one of the oldest cities the United States and has witnessed some of the key events of the American Revolution.

Places of interest: Freedom Trail – Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, Old State House, Site of Boston Massacre, Old North Church, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, USS Constitution, USS Casing Young, Old South Meeting Hall; Boston Tea Party, New England Aquarium, Trinity Church, Fenway Park, Prudential Tower Skywalk, Harvard University & MIT (both in Cambridge)- among others equally interesting and exciting places.

How to get there: Plenty of options depending on where you are coming from. Boston has an international airport, Amtrak connections from New York & some other places in Northeast Corridor as well as bus connections from many cities in the US. We drove from DC to Boston (approx. 10 hours journey including 3 stops).

Our visit: We visited Boston during the long-weekend of 4th of July (Interesting fact 1: Americans wish ‘Happy 4th of July’ on this day and not ‘Happy Independence Day’ like most other countries do on their independence day. Interesting fact 2: While a date is always mentioned in the month first format in America, 4th of July is (probably?) the only date which is mentioned in the date first format). We were told that Boston attracts a lot of crowds for this weekend and yes, there were a lot of people but that did not cause any problem to us. On our first day in Boston, we did a hop-on hop-off bus tour of Boston which covered most of the tourist attractions. In the evening we spent some time at Boston Common and explored the Freedom Trail. The next morning, we went for a whale watching cruise. We did not go to Cape Cod for this cruise and did it from Boston Harbor, which we think was a good decision (thanks to advice from people who had visited earlier!) as we avoided the unnecessary travel time to Cape Cod. We sighted 5 whales including a mother with her extremely playful calf. Later during the day, we visited the Harvard University.

Our ‘must see’ recommendations: Boston Tea Party, Whale watching cruise (this was the high point of our trip), Freedom Trail and Boston Common

India and feminism

A few months ago there were innumerable posts on social media, chain emails, whatsapp messages and protests about 'why India needs feminism'. Being a woman, I understand the sentiments behind each of these posts but I also noticed how over-rated the word 'feminism' has become. Feminism is defined as 'the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men'. It is not about male bashing or hating men. Are all the people giving reason for pro-feminism really following this definition? I guess not. 

I have seen 'funny' pictures where a girl is holding a placard saying she needs feminism because she does not need to learn cooking. I feel that in the current times, both men and women need to know how to cook- for survival. There is another one where someone said she needed feminism because she wanted to be able to sleep in a cab!  Really? Since when did it become safe for anyone (boy or girl) to sleep in a cab? There are many others like these.

What frustrates me more is the fact that whenever there is a crime against a woman, everyone starts forwarding messages, emails and posting on social media about the crime and pledging for violence against women/ women safety/ feminism. A few weeks later, when the news has moved to 2nd and 3rd pages of the newspapers, nobody bothers about feminism anymore. 

In my opinion, we do not need these placards to attain feminism in India. Women need to learn a few things before they step out and highlight why we need feminism. This learning, as any other learning, begins at home. 

Many highly educated girls who are earning well, and need feminism, accept that dowry is a 'ritual' that needs to be adhered to in marriages. I have heard atrocious reasons like, it increases the status of the bride in the new home, the couple will start a new life so all furniture and household items should be given to the bride (oh! so the groom will not sleep on that bed and nor will he use that sofa, TV, Refrigerator, Aircondtioner etc.). It is high time these sophisticated, well-educated women stand up for themselves and put their foot down the moment dowry is mentioned. That will be 'feminism'

Throughout India, there is an image of an ideal woman - the one who sacrifices herself for the benefit of others around her. If a woman fails to live up to this image, she is not the ideal woman.  When you try to explain to a mother that she does not need to sacrifice everytime for her family, she will proudly answer, "that is a trait of a good mother". Is that how we judge mothers? If she does not give her share of food to her children or husband, is she not a good mother or a good wife? Sometimes, the mothers who teach their daughters about sacrifices fail to teach their sons to be 'human' (Mom to her daughter: a boy whistled at you, you must have done something to attract his attention. Mom about her son: He has started whistling at girls, he is growing up. <wink, wink>) As a girl grows up, she sees her mother making these sacrifices and picks up the same. Where the mother fails to inculcate such behaviour in her daughter or the daughter refuses to follow this; she faces problems post-marriage. Her mother-in-law expects her to behave in such a way. I don't see a reason why women need to be taught this while men don't. Once, every woman starts treating her needs as important as that of her family, that will be 'feminism'.

We will achieve feminism the day the lady living next door stops judging you according to the time you return home or the number of boys you have in your friend circle. We will achieve feminism when women stop saying that rape is the fault of the victim - I fail to understand how a 6 month old baby commits the fault of being raped! We will achieve feminism when women stop judging other women by the way they dress or saying that women get raped because of their dresses- if that was so, crime against women would be the highest in the western world instead of India! 

We can achieve feminism only when the thinking of our women change. I can not say that this thinking can be changed by education as highly educated women are making these mistakes. The change has to come from within, from household setups. Next time put your foot down, don't always think of compromise, treat yourself as important as your husband/children, when another woman stares at you because of your dress, walk up to her and ask for a reason instead of twisting your mouth and looking the other way, when a woman in office says the rape was the girls fault ask her for her reasoning - I am sure there will be none! Walk together to achieve feminism by changing the way you think! 

Oh, and in no way am I saying that the state of affairs in the country is only due to the women. Men are equally responsible. My only claim is that lets correct ourselves first and then go on to change the world! Also, I am not claiming that the examples I have quoted are true for every Indian home; there maybe only a very few but what the change needs to come about in those few homes as well.

I hope one day, India will understand feminism- that day the Indian woman will be truly respected. 

Parents... our first teachers!

Parents... a child's first teachers, first friends, best guides, mentors, real confidantes, saviours and all that you ever need in life. With changing times, people are forgetting the importance of parents in their lives. The reason for a person's success has its roots in their parents.... I got hold of this picture somewhere and it describes best the contribution of parents in a person's success:

This is so aptly put! I chose Teachers' Day (5th September) to write about parents. Teachers' Day in India is celebrated on the birth anniversary of the second President of India, academic philosopher Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. 

When he became the President, some of his students and friends requested him to allow them to celebrate his birthday. He replied, "Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if 5 September is observed as Teachers' Day"
His birthday has since been celebrated as Teachers' Day in India - Wikipedia

Parents are our first teachers. They are there for us though thick and thin... then a day comes when they grow old... they need us. I believe this time is the test of one's character. People usually forget what their parents went through to bring them up... some people pass it as 'it was the parents' duty, we dint ask them to bring us in this world'. These same people expect their children to take care of them when they grow old. A person with real character will never disrespect one's parents, will love them all the more when they grow old and will treat them as one's child as they age. 

India is progressing but the family values are deteriorating... 'Padhega India tabhi to badhega India' (India will progress if India is educated) ... a tagline being used a little too often sounds hollow when I look at the state of the old people (not all but a large number!). I believe education should build your character, should enrich you with values and make you more empathetic. In contrast, the educated youth (again... not all but a large number!) take false pride in being educated and think anyone else who is not as educated (or not as educated as they are) is inferior to them... be it their parents! They forget that it is their parents who provided for their education. Such people are always complaining that their parents did not provide for something or the other during their childhood and they would provide a better upbringing to their children. I pity such educated people!

I wish more people realised this!!
I wish we continued to believe in building character rather than wealth. 

Oh! and for all those who believe that parents can't be your friends, remember when you could not even speak, your mother played peek-a-boo with you. When you grew up a little, your father played stupid games with you when he returned from a hectic day at work. When you started going to school, they listened to endless repeated stories about your school and teachers and friends. Those were your first friends and probably the only ones who will last!

Our new apartment

Everyone agrees that moving to a new apartment is a big task! All the packing, unpacking and setting up becomes so tiresome that one tends to avoid. 

Recently, we were subjected to this task. Dev was living in a one-bedroom apartment which was quite small, suitable for his bachelor days. With me joining him, the wardrobe seemed to be overflowing. The dresser was no different and I was always hitting some furniture while walking from one room to another. Bottom line, we needed a bigger apartment! 

Hence, the search for an apartment began. We did this in a very organised way - making a checklist of everything we needed in our new apartment and tallying it with the available amenities every time we visited an apartment. It was tedious but finally we did find an apartment we liked!

We were moving from a furnished apartment to an unfurnished one. This was good news plus bad news - good because I had full control on the style of the furniture and bad because we had to put in a lot of effort selecting and ordering the furniture. I chose to take it as good news. Then came the packing, moving, unpacking and setting up. It took us about a month to finally set up the whole apartment to our liking. 

Now that we are settled, I really love the place. My favourite place in the apartment is our balcony where I can spend hours. Just sitting and reading or writing. In the evening, when Dev comes home, we sit in the balcony and sip tea - sometimes a cold coffee. On Saturday nights - our Biryani night when we are home - we have dinner in the balcony. 

Our cold coffee party 

I keep looking up for ideas to decorate the walls of the apartment. I have used some mirror work and photographs to decorate the living room walls and am planning on using some wall art for the bedrooms. 

Though the whole exercise was tiresome, Dev and I are really enjoying our new abode! Welcome home!! 

Pursuing hobbies

Two things always amazed me: tasty food and life-like photographs!

First, the food. I am not too much of a foodie so when my Mom asks me to name the dishes I want to eat when I am home next time, I am at a loss of words, in contrast to my brother who would name them without taking a moment's break. Despite not being a foodie, I loved what my Mom cooked. How does she do it??? I would often wonder! How can someone make the simple ingredients taste so good! 

Going on to my history in cooking, Mom tells me when I was 10, I once prepared food for the entire family as she was unwell. I do not remember this incident but since she is sure, she must be right. I have enjoyed baking and making continental food since I was 16. However, I could not imagine myself making delicious Indian food ever. During our pre-marriage conversations about food and my motivation for cooking, my husband was almost sure that he would have to continue to cook post-marriage. Even I was pretty sure that I would probably cook once or twice a week! 

And then, marriage happened! Marriage brought a lot of change in my life. Since I decided to join my husband, Dev, in another country, I quit my job and took a career break. I had quite a bit of 'me' time in which, I read, watched documentaries & movies and decorated our apartment. But there was much more I could do. I started to experiment in the kitchen. And viola, we were both in for a pleasant surprise. I started to enjoy cooking! It is so satisfying to experience how the ingredients turn into a tasty surprise. 

Next, the photography. Came spring and the world became colourful. Starting from the Cherry Blossom festival, I found various opportunities to practice photography. I would click pictures of flowers from various angles and then analyse them. This helped me click better pictures. Dev, who is not very fond of getting pictures clicked had to become my subject at various instances. I started enjoying it, especially capturing natural landscapes, flora and fauna. I used my iPhone camera as well as my point and shoot. Seeing my passion, Dev gifted me a DSLR recently. Last Sunday was my first day out with my DSLR and I thoroughly enjoyed playing with it. Slowly I will learn and hope some day I will have captured shots that are worth sharing with the world!!!

Countdown to the wedding...

Well countdown to my wedding has begun… a little less than 6 months to go. I can proudly say about 60% of my wedding preparations are done. Like always, there are still some little things left but I can say more or less done.

I am a Bhopal bride and it was really difficult to find things around as my parents have recently moved to Bhopal while I have been living in UK for last few years. So, none of us really knew our way around. I am starting this blog with the hope to help future Bhopal brides with some planning…and to create memories of my journey to the D-day

The details:

My groom is a Bengali from Kolkata. We are not Bengalis and the wedding will be a mix of both traditions. So while the Wedding will happen in Bhopal (mainly following our customs), there will be a Bengali style Reception (Bou Bhaat) in Kolkata.

Things to plan:
  1. Wedding venue and decorations
  2. Functions – Sangeet, Mehendi, Reception etc.
  3. Outfit for each of the functions
  4. Trousseau including accessories and footwear
  5. Make-up Artist and Mehendi artist
  6. Guest list
  7. Stay arrangements for Baraat as well as relatives & friends
  8. Invitations
  9. Photographer and videographer
  10. Food menu
  11. Transport
  12. Gifts for in-laws
  13. Vidaai gifts for guests
Not necessarily in that order though!
Keep checking this blog as I share my journey here.

Search for the Venue

Though Bhopal is full of venues, our requirements put a lot of constraints on the available venues. We are a large family and I being the youngest girl in both my father’s and my mother’s sides of the family, there is a lot of excitement attached to my wedding, which means stay arrangements for about 200 or more people and guest list of 600 or more people…

After a lot of ifs and buts, selections and rejections, we have finalised Vrindavan Garden as the wedding venue.

Before we finalised the venue, we checked out many others. Here are my views on them (click on the venue names to visit their website):

Vrindavan Garden
The two venues -Vrindavan Garden and Vrindavan Palace - are next to each other. While Vrindavan Garden has an ethnic look  while Vrindavan Palace in white marble (?) looks more modern. I like ethnic and so, Vrindavan Garden was the chosen one for me. It has a nice stage and a large lawn for seating arrangements. It also has a small indoor stage for ring ceremony or sangeet. The rooms are large and there is a dormitory as well… good enough to accommodate all the guests.

Update (27th March, 2014): I am really happy about having chosen this venue. Everything was so well arranged, the food was very tasty, mandap was beautiful and the management readily helped with everything we needed, be it milk for the children or mid-night tea for the elders. The jaimaala, reception and food was arranged in the lawn outside while the mandap was put up in the hall inside- a perfect arrangement as we did not want to freeze while the wedding ceremonies were going on. We had requested for a projector for the Sangeet, it was readily arranged and we did not experience any technical glitches in any electronic equipment. Thumbs up to this place.... though they do not claim to be wedding planners, they will happily provide you with a DJ, Shehnai person, Band, contacts for transport providers (cars/ charter buses for picking up and dropping guests)... anything and everything, you just need to ask! The arrangements at the wedding were praised by everyone who attended - the credit ofcourse goes to my family, my cousins who ran from one end of the city to the other just to pick up relatives and friends who provided support in case of last minute requirements; but I can not ignore the contribution of the management at Vrindavan Garden for their wonderful arrangement and service!

Hotel Amer Palace
Their largest banquet hall- Jhoomar- has a capacity for 400 people (though I would differ!). Did not find the banquet hall good enough as a wedding venue, though I thought it could be used for smaller functions like tilak, sangeet, etc. The rooms were well maintained but seemed closed and claustrophobic- a deluxe room we saw had no windows!

The Residency
The manager’s behaviour was irritating.  He behaved as if he had to run the show for the wedding and started telling my parents what to do and not to do! The banquet halls in the basement were a complete put off. These were across from each other with the swimming pool in between, the sizes were small and the ceiling is too low making them look like boxes. They have a roof-top restaurant which the manager said could be closed and converted into a wedding venue. That was a good option but again, for the number of guests I will have for the wedding, it seemed small. The rooms were very standard but very expensive. The only good thing was the roof-top that can be converted into a venue…it has an ethnic setting to it and would be good for holding function for up to 100-150 guests I think.

Rajhans Regency
This hotel is a little difficult to find at first, due to the various constructions going on around the hotel, I believe. The banquet hall is standard. However, they have another banquet hall on the terrace with the terrace attached to it. The room and the terrace combined would make a good venue for up to 200 guests, in my opinion. The rooms are quite nice…spacious and with large windows to allow ample sunlight into the rooms.

Kwality Motel Shiraz
There are two lawns opposite each other. A good location and if both lawns are used- one for reception and the other for food- this is an ideal location. Their package also includes a cottage for the bride when you book the lawns. The cottage however, is dated and the furniture is old. The rooms (both deluxe and standard) are even worse. The rooms smelled musty, the bathroom stank and there were some broken windows (with make-shift wooden planks to cover the broken part). When we went to visit, the new manager had just taken over. There was an business event going on at the time and the manager came to see us only after a wait of about half an hour. My father had attended another wedding at this venue a few days back and began his conversation with the manager by praising the venue. The Manager did not even hear my father out completely and said that he was not interested in knowing what happened there before he took over! If you do not need stay arrangements, the lawns make a good venue. Good luck with the manager though!

Hindi Bhavan
A very good wedding venue. Lots of space; both outdoors and indoors. However, you will need to arrange for your own decorator as well as caterer. They do have some rooms as well as halls. The stairway to the halls was very dirty. The rooms are ok but dated and obviously very basic. If you only need a venue and are confident of getting good decorators, this is a good venue for a large guest list.

Hotel Imperial Sabre
Did not see the rooms here. The venue is very attractive. There was a wedding there when we went to visit and the place was beautifully decorated. The stage is high up with water flowing down from the middle and stairs on each side to go up to the stage. A beautiful setting with the view of the lake. However, with many elderly people in the guest list, the climbing up and down the stairs for the pictures would be very difficult and hence we rejected the venue despite it being very beautiful.

Hotel Ashoka Lake View
The banquet hall here was like most others and small for our requirements. Some of the rooms have lake view and they were awesome. When we walked into one, it felt like the lake started right at the window. However, the corridors smelled musty and were dirty.

We did not check out Noor-us-Sabah and Jehan Numa Palace, though they are the popular venues. If you want a lake-side wedding, these would be the best places. People planning your weddings in the winter, please remember that the lake-side will be quite cold. 

Update (June 24, 2015):
Surendra Vilas Palace
We used the their banquet hall for my brother's wedding reception in May and the rooms for a few guests. The rooms are nice and spacious. Since we had about 300 guests, they combined their 3 banquet halls (two were used for food). The halls are at the basement but there is an elevator for elderly and for people with disability. The decorations and flower arrangements were good and so was the food. 

Another location that we considered was Courtyard Marriott. Would have been good for a larger guest list.