Posted in canada, Life Travel, North America, Toronto City, travel, Yoga

My first February in Toronto

On Wednesday, 7th of March, I completed one month in this beautiful city of Toronto. It has been a journey overloaded with new thoughts, new tasks and new dimensions to look at the world.  Sharing a few observations that have kept me warm in this cold place.

I remember tales from back home that I used to hear about Canada; how it is also known as Mini Punjab. They say the sign boards in Canada are also in Punjabi. That you can easily locate a turbaned man in almost every place you go to. The kids have the option of selecting Punjabi language as a subject in school, the flights have a huge database of Punjabi movies, the local radio stations play Punjabi songs and you see people doing Bhangra on the road and that everyone you meet there have some family back home, either in Ludhiana or in Jalandhar.

All myths were busted when I landed a month ago in Canada. While I had come to believe that Canada would be more Punjabi than Punjab itself, I am glad that it isn’t. From the time I boarded the Air India flight to Toronto till today when I de-boarded the TTC Bus 134 outside Centennial College, I have seen an unimagined world of mixed cultures, variety of ethnicity and no right or wrong way of being human. And to this, Punjabis have made a significant contribution.

Back in India, Canada has always been synonymous with Punjabi, however, I have met more Gujratis, Tamilians and Lankans in the past one month. It is not a just Punjabi thing. I use public transit, visit public libraries and more often visit the newcomers’ services centers in my local region. I believe Canada has not branded itself as multi cultural out of no context. There are blacks and browns, orientals and Caucasians, short hair and extensions, bearded and bald, pierced and tattooed, with all their differences, they are all operating in the same air. The one thing that remains common across cultures is that they all wear snow boots and furry jackets. Yes, when the weather becomes harsh on Canadians, they say that the warmth within stays intact. The diversity of the city is also its pride that is seen loud & clear. Though I haven’t made many friends here, it looks like I have landed in the right place in my pursuit of becoming a true global citizen. It is a good way of knowing the world in one place.

By far, the public libraries have been one of the most exciting places to visit. There is access to new information, free wifi and free tourist passes. For each library card, on every Saturday, you can collect a free pass to visit the tourist attractions in the city like Toronto Zoo, Ontario Science Center, Bata Shoe Museum and many more places around the city. These places are also advisable to visit during the winter months as exploring outdoors is not an option for many.

It is true that technology has helped a great deal for me to maneuver around this new city. For the millennials, most of the information is also accessed by downloading an app for what is required. Weather Canada tops the list of must have apps in this city. Few Sunny days are mostly followed by a few flurry days, courtesy the lake effect. The TTC transit apps can help you to increase your mobility. TD bank incentivized me with 5$ to download their app and start using it. Kijiji has been useful in finding part time jobs and renting apartments. But the most interesting one so far has been Tinder. It truly reflects the multi cultural vibe of this city. However, for me, the most often used app is Meethi Mirchi, so I don’t miss Bollywood at all. I do miss the food delivery apps from time to time, the convenience of ordering warm Chinese food on a cold day was a bliss.

The past one month has been slow and steady and at the same time overwhelming with everything new and vibrant. My visit to Cliff-side with my Canadian cousins gave me a glimpse of the natural beauty around the place. My upcoming volunteering activities at YMCA as a Yoga Instructor look like a foundation step to my dream of owning a yoga studio one day. There is an excitement to learn the French language giving me hopes of new avenues.

But for now, it is a challenge to set myself up in this country and working towards building a career that I truly want. In a month, I have been able to fetch an interesting part time job for myself. I have to distribute flyers for a window cleaning guy in Downtown, who has agreed to pay me 15$ per hour. While I longed to become a waitress, this one will make me happy too; I get to see the city and get paid for it.  I guess a global citizen never says no to work.

I also played a ‘5 minutes’ quick Holi, visited Indian temples in foreign land and relished Kadi Chawal at the Scarborough Gurudwara.  While India still fills most of the spaces in my heart and probably always will, I can certainly say Toronto is that home away from home that doesn’t make me sick for my home.

Posted in Life Travel, travel

At Twenty Seven

Going back to my diary, to pen down down my gratitude for this time.

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Few days ago, facebook displayed the reel of year 2017 on my timeline. It was my whole of 2017 in the light of innumerous updates and uploads that I had done in this year. This memory reel however took me to an old piece, saved in my diary that I wrote at the beginning of 2017. At twenty six, as it is called, it took me back to time which doesn’t feel very far and yet feels like a lot has evolved since then. I now look back at my twenty seven, only to see how far I have made it this year.

New Year resolutions and growing a year older almost comes hand in hand for me. I am one of those who pledges unreasonably on birthdays only to feel guilty about not keeping it by the next. Thankfully, 2017 was different; perhaps, because of the unique resolution that I found for myself. But, in other words, it was not only the resolution but also many other variables of triumph and failures that kept me going this year.

At twenty seven, I succumbed to the pressure of registering with instagram community, not realizing whether I will consume social media or will the social media consume me. At twenty seven, I pledged to travel more than what I had already been doing. I resolved to do at least one facebook check in every month from a different part of the earth. And I did it. I took journeys that were sometimes long and boring, sometimes they were ugly too but then there were also some which were extraordinarily rewarding. There was none which was not an experience.

At twenty seven, I was determined & confused at the same time. Determined to take life as it comes & confused about where my life was heading. There were slow realizations about how money completes the circle of life. There was a constant search for stability in thoughts. Movement was making me realize it even more and gradually it was also the movement that was becoming a deterrent to it. Duality always kept haunting me but it also made me bold. Bold enough to take decisions. At twenty seven, I decided to go back to my corporate career, go back to doing what I was good at and still be doing what I enjoyed doing the most – yoga!

At twenty seven, I realized that if I don’t have enough money, my travel plans will suffocate and lead to a slow death. I wasn’t ready for that. But I wasn’t ready for materialism either. And so, at twenty seven, I was experiencing life first hand. Joblessness taught me the value of my work; traveling taught me the outreach of my desires and yoga taught me the state of my thoughts.

My practice of yoga tried its best to keep me sane & sober. At twenty seven, my fitness schedule was my only constant in life. I religiously built up my strength to chase my next Himalayan goal, climb to the next altitude. At twenty seven, I touched 15,380 ft at the Rupin Pass. I was traversing bridges that led from one state to another, passed three different districts and interacted with three unique cultures within these mountain ranges. I was meditating on this long journey in my Himalayan abode. I was breaking old friendships and making new friendships; discovering that these friendships are journeys too. They come & go, make us strong, agile & receptive beyond our capacity. At twenty seven, I was reassuring myself, while the old ones might not need me anymore; the new ones have so much to share and yet there were some bonds that were growing stronger than before.

Travel bloomed all those wonderful stories into conversations & let my energy flow like a river. At twenty seven, I was unfurling new playlists, reconnecting with the magic of stars in this universe, trying to understand some fantasy fiction writers and also revisiting the Osho philosophy. There were new stories being created with great momentum.

While my facebook timeline was brimming with marriage updates of my peers, I was still limiting it to my travel updates. At twenty seven, I wasn’t getting married. In fact, I was moving cities. I moved to Bangalore as new opportunities knocked and I found my way to rediscover the South. This new kind of freedom movement gave a huge kick to my OCD of planning trips. The one that took up a lot of my mind space, it was growing stronger than ever, more so like an addiction giving me a natural high, extracting so much of my mental energy and yet giving me pleasure. It reached its tipping point towards the end of the year, when I was planning multiple trips simultaneously, only in the hope that at least one will be executed. And guess what, it always did. With my thoughts about my resolution going stronger, I was ticking some serious ‘before 30’ goals off my bucket list. At twenty seven, my passion passport looked glorious.

While there were a lot of good energies, there were also failures. I wasn’t writing or reading enough. I didn’t attend any live music concert. I attempted a content writing job with a fitness start-up & failed to enjoy it. I was rejecting boys and boys were rejecting me. The commitment & discipline that I hoped for was rather overridden by new age distractions and a lot of noisy thinking. At twenty seven, confusion still prevailed.

I looked back at twenty six and felt strong about myself. I wasn’t anxious, rather I felt empowered. At twenty seven, my independence became my first love. My heart was full of gratitude towards everything that I accomplished. I was thankful for all the kind words that I heard for myself this year. I was learning to prioritize the good, recede the bad and drop off the ugly. At twenty seven, I was balancing the dreamy me with the realistic me. I was decoding my own secrets, talking more to myself and learning to smile when it was expected the least. At twenty seven, I remember, I was a very happy girl.


Posted in Life Travel, travel

At Twenty Six

Late post Alert. I wrote this piece towards the end of 2016, when I was about to turn twenty seven. I pulled it out of my diary a year later and reread it. 26 was a good year, I looked back, felt nostalgic and decided to share on my page. While some thoughts have evolved to a new stage, some of them remain fixed as it is.

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New Years are the most popular time for resolutions. In another way, introspections. Another year gone by and have I moved any further. How many items on my ‘to do’ list have I been able to tick mark this year, is the question we all answer silently to ourselves. During the retrospection, runs the reel of the past one year in our mind. For me, it is slightly more than just introspection. With each New Year I am gifted an epiphany of growing older. From an innocent teenager who had sleepless night before the birthday, I have turned into an analytical adult who is trying hard not to grow up so soon. But truth be told, we all are indeed growing old. Some of us are accepting it with grace, some of us are happily ignorant about it and there are a few who are managing to grow old with style.

While my twenty six had been very stylish, I wonder how my twenty seven would be. At twenty six, I did my first mountain biking expedition amidst the Nilgiris. I bumped into my doppelganger at a Literature Festival in the pink city of India. She is my most permanent humane love today, without a doubt. At twenty six, I happened to quit my well paying corporate job. At twenty six, I chopped off my hair. The major risks of life were already taken with these, and soon began the life of a hippie. I lived in an ashram for a month to become a certified Yoga Instructor. And with that I found yet another purpose, my thing; that I know I will stick to, for the rest of my life. Is that my calling? I still haven’t figured out, but that is my happy space, and it feels good to know that. Since then there have been long hours of sweating it out, breathing deeply and keeping calm. Oh! About the job and hair, people do ask me if I have any regrets and I answer with a smile, NO! At twenty six, I proved my hypothesis to be a theory — unless you do it, you don’t know it.

At twenty six, I ardently honed my travel planning skills by creating my very first Hop On Hop Off tour on the south western coast of India. In 20 days, I touched 10 new destinations. We call it the Epic South Trip of 2016. Its grandeur is etched within and will remain an inspiration forever. I brought back with me stories worth sharing. Stories of three friends who are now beyond the label of travel partners.

Half of 2016 had already passed by and I had still not visited my old folks in the Himalayas. My deodars and my pines. They were strong but I was craving for them. It is like cheating on myself not riding up north. After all it is a pact with self to spend at least 10 days every year with these old folks. At twenty six, I saved my pact. I walked over Guishaini and crossed the pass of Jalori, satiated my soul with the sight of serenity.

And then came along an unplanned twist; my first visit to Britain. I was flying over continents at twenty six. I love my life; grateful for every ounce of it. Old, undone dreams were fulfilled. I was exploring different cities and countries; not knowing what else would surprise me. Scotland happened. And then there was New Castle and Nottingham and London. I was all over the country, from North to South. I was biking in the country parks, meeting yogis and witnessing the Abbey Road studios. I was wondering and wandering. I was lost and found.

And at twenty six, I was also discovering how much I loved India. And how much I want to be here. The times when I saw Shankar Mahadevan perform live, or the humongous amount of street food that I consume to uplift my mood or the innumerous Indian Railways journeys that I took; happiness flows in my cells when I unfurl some Indian-ness within me. I was back to breathe in more of Indian air.

At twenty six, not everything was rosy and shiny. There were struggles of being jobless, challenges of a perfectly failed love story and the perpetual uncertainty of my vital position in the cosmos. Losing the mind was an easy bet, of course I did lose it many a times. Losing myself has been a constant fear. It would be unfair to call myself depressed but there I was, all anxious about everything. I wanted to write more, read more and discover more. But instead, my travel blog was not sizzling and my reading challenge was definitely not on the track. In short, I wasn’t soaring anywhere.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I was bereft, bedazzled and perennially confused. In fact, I still am. “Don’t know” is my most used expression. As I pen down all my thoughts here, I am trying to figure out what all this means. What is the real context of this tale! And this is where I say to myself; everything might not seem logical, but everything is an experience.

At twenty six, I haven’t discovered the whole bunch. There are people I don’t understand, there are goals I am unable to reach, and there are mistakes that I have committed. Many a times, I think a lot, it becomes very noisy inside my head and leaves me with no answer. Sometimes, I know it would be better to keep calm but I don’t because yelling is an instant help. Yet I shouldn’t. Learning to be patient and learning from my experiences have been the biggest lessons at twenty six.

The year has now come to an end, I have turned twenty seven. For one more time, I look back at my twenty six and I see there are unforgettable moments and lessons learnt that I must carry forward. Twenty Six has been my age of casting confusions and meaningful insights, my confidence building and shattering, that sense of achievement and yet that feeling of helplessness taking over from time to time, to be able to live my dreams and yet immerse in doubt.

There isn’t a consistent graph to life and thank goodness there isn’t because at twenty six, I am unraveling the secrets of my physical being, deep diving into my mental space and demystifying the truths of my spiritual presence and I guess I am doing just fine.


Posted in Forests, Rail Journeys, road trips, travel

Bedaghat, the phenomenal beauty of white marble rocks

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Nature around us is mostly about the mountains, seas and forests. We think of nature and most naturally one of these imageries is created. Their abundance around us makes it even more obvious. We think of the altitudes from where we atop the whole world, we think of the oceans and sink deep into an inner world and we think of forests and start forgetting about the rest of the world. There is a harmony that we recreate every time we get close to the nature.

But nature sometimes is different. It is more than its harmony and its beauty. It is astonishing, bewildering and charismatic. It is beyond the definition of uniqueness. It is some form of natural phenomenon whose existence widens our eyes and expands our horizon. We are simply left with an expression “Wow, does this exist in real? “

The white marble rocks of Bedaghat in the heart of India is one such natural phenomenon. Having extensively traveled in India, I have a fair idea of the topography of different regions, but Bedaghat was a lot more than a surprise. What is even more surprising is that despite the extraordinary beauty, it is still one of the unconventional and untouched tourist destinations. It may look like a picnic spot for the local tourists & it is yet not placed eminently on the global tourist map.

So what is Bedaghat really? What makes it a natural phenomenon worth visiting? And why should you be visiting this place at a particular time of the year?

Bedaghat is a tiny tourist destination, about an hour’s drive away from the city of Jabalpur in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Nauka Vihar, as they call it is on the banks of river Narmada which has the unique view of the river that manages to flow between the gorges formed between the giant white marble rocks that have been in this place since forever. The history of these rocks go beyond the history of mankind and the depth of the river here is yet unknown to mankind. What is amazingly unique about these rocks is that they are white and they shine bright on the moonlit nights.

These rocks are huge enough to be categorized into hills but they are essentially made out of marble and you can see the carvings in many places which now also have mythological attuning. The best and the only way to explore the grandeur of these rocks is to hop on one of the wooden & rustic rowing boats and take a ride with the local oarsman. What is more surprising than the view is the creativity of these guys who know all about these rocks. With their song and the view of these rocks, this one hour of boat ride will be an entertainer. They do the narration in Hindi, so you would enjoy only if you know the language. Else, the serenity of these rocks will keep you wonderstruck anyway.

There is also a display of bravery in this place. The local kids climb up the cliff and jump into the river fearlessly. What is risk for us is an adventure for them; a quick, unthoughtful and silly adventure done for a small amount of money. At times, this is what India is made up of – poverty and strength.

The breeze through the gorge caresses you even on the sunny days.  The water is still but the ripples keep coming as they row the boat. The sky is clear and bright blue, but now I am curious how it would be on a full moon night; pretty romantic and soulful. The foreplay of clouds and the moon is always more attractive than that with the sun. The darkness will disappear as these rocks would illuminate under the moonlight. The experience of nature in that setting would elate the soul, I can already imagine.

Though there is no visible end to this gorge, it finally meets the Dhuadhar waterfall which is a few kilometers away from Nauka Vihar. The tourists can access only a small part of this gorge, where many of the eighties Bollywood scenes have also been shot.

The trip to Jabalpur can be easily summoned in a day, where you should not forget to try the local street food of Jabalpur.

Posted in Rajasthan, travel

Zostel? – For a GenZ travel experience!

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I have been traveling around my country since 14 years now. I often find myself in places that would either be extra ordinary or out of the ordinary.  India is a beautiful country and the people here are all the more beautiful, anyone who has been here will vouch for that. We are the perfect example of hospitality and not just traditional but also blend it with a pinch of modernity. If there was one thing that I had to pick up about India from a travelers’ perspective, I’d say, we are naturally hippie!

We are the messengers of peace and brotherhood, propagators of love and warmth. We open our hearts and let everyone in. And we like it that way, we are proud of our hospitality, of all those small and big things that we not only care about but also share. I sometimes dream of another life where I am born in another world and I am drawn to this country and get amazed as I see these cultures like an outsider. Yet again I fall in love with this land.

Whether born as an Indian or not, the heart is forever Indian. And I witness how men and women from the west are attracted to the east. We welcome them, sometimes be one of them and let them be one of us. We celebrate being together, and spread the joy that comes from wandering.

It is during these wandering tours that I end up meeting people who love India. Whether it is tent pitched under the stars on a lonely hill, a chamber hall behind a popular temple where you can spend the night for free, a verandah of the only school in the village, a 150 year old traditional house in the forest or a bunk bed shared dormitory, I have tried them all. Life actually happens in all of these interesting and not so luxurious accommodations.

One such exhilarating experience came from a recent stay at a Hostel in Rajasthan. Though the state is known for its luxurious homecomings, there is space for the traveler on road. At Pushkar and Udaipur, I booked myself a shared dormitory bed at Zostel. An upcoming and expanding chain of hostels across India, this brand is catching up fast with its must have presence in must go places.

For me, it was the first time that I stayed at a traveler’s hostel and within no time I could see how it was adding value to my solo trip. First things first, it was very economical, commendably clean and a fantasy perk for the eyes. The moment you enter, you see those big cushions lined up across the wall with a low bedding, and all you want to do is jump on them. The hanging bulbs from the ceiling and the mythological graffiti on the walls were making it look very attractive. The house has the local aesthetics, the people have local warmth and the cuisine has local taste, all that a global traveler needs.

The rooftop restaurants besides the ‘cook your own food’ facility is also the chilling zone and the heart of these Zostels. Great food is accompanied by great music, a fantastic view and an amazing company. Friendships strike over everything here – be it your book, your collection of country music, a drag of your light or simply a lemonade. There is a breeze of stories, mild as well as wild, that gives a great vibe to this place. I spent a soothing afternoon at Zostel Pushkar and a chirpy talkative evening at Zostel Udaipur. When conversations get a view, they sound more intimate and the comfort zone builds up flawlessly at Zostel.

Apart from the relaxing and chilled out scenes at this traveler’s hostel, they also offer other travel related services like ticket booking, travel inquiries and nearby offbeat day trips. Another add on is the wifi service which enables a ‘work on the go!’ which is a booster for many who travel. If you are not looking for something formal and can adjust to the free spirit, then I am sure, Zostel is your hideout.

The next on my mind is Zostel @ Varanasi, it is a city that is said that every Hindu should visit once in their life.


Posted in Life Travel, Rajasthan, shiva, travel

Is Pushkar the new Hampi ?

I have been to Pushkar a long time ago and I vaguely remember the colorful bazaars and the saffronized Ghats of the Pushkar Lake. However, I distinctly remember the Brahma temple, the only Brahma temple in the world, making Pushkar a uniquely important spot for the followers of Hinduism. The atmosphere here is very spiritual, there are stories about the cursed creator, which almost everyone lives by and there is a lake in the desert that amazes everyone. Despite its relevance in the religious circles of India, it has managed to remain a tiny town with no real projection of its own. This perhaps, brings Pushkar on the world tourist map, especially for the ones who wish to disconnect. And this is precisely what I wanted for myself. I have been following the social media posts for Pushkar lately and I wonder what attracts the young to this undeveloped and undisturbed town that sees almost no action all day long.

The town of Pushkar is spread within a few kilometers only. The road from Ajmer that leads to Pushkar is a hilly terrain with some simple curves. The hills that you would be turning around are dusty, rugged and uprooted; they are rather rocky than tall making themselves very distinct from the skyline, they look vulnerable, dry and dead. They are not yet parched by the sun for the summer heat will snatch away any of the life left in them. They are spread far and wide, commonly also known as the Pushkar Tirathgarh Forest. There is an enticing route leading in that you would come across on the way. If only I was not sitting in the bus and had a bike to ride inside, it would have been an adventurous day.

Nevertheless more adventures were waiting for me up ahead. In no time, I reached the Pushkar bus stand. I had already made my bookings with Zostel, one of the most upcoming hostel chains in India. A GenZ concept, this one had all the cues of a cool and free spirited stay. A bunk bed cleanly prepared, just next to a rooftop restaurant, sharing the dormitory with travelers across the globe, bean bags and floor beddings everywhere, creative graffiti and posters, the ambience was just right to spend the day.

As I spent the breezy afternoon, lazing on a yellow bean bag, listening to some psychedelic music, I suspended myself to this carefree atmosphere of Pushkar. With no one around and no thoughts on mind either; I was smiling for being there. Sometimes, these simplest of experiences become the most precious of all. Being alone and yet not lonely counts as one of the richest moments of life.

The evening was spent exploring the town of Pushkar which spreads in only a few kilometers. As I walked out of my hostel towards the main bazaar, I kept revisiting my time in Hampi.

Is Pushkar the new Hampi? I wondered.

Amidst all its innocence and ignorance, Pushkar boasts of significant global attractions, a culture of peace, a carefree attitude towards life and no signs of fast paced urban development making it a hotspot for the hippie tourists. I could see another Hampi in its streets. Randomly spread rocks, unfinished houses, cows everywhere, open drains, selfless people, command over various languages, a sun that bakes the place during summer but keeps the sky bright, the hindu trails, a long treasured history, all those small yet noticeable things were coming to my mind. These places refuse to accept the urban phenomenon but happily embrace the humans of the world.

While Hampi has more historic signs, Pushkar is witness to the spiritual signs of life. There is a sincere sense of devotion towards the Hindu Gods, there are sadhus who withdraw from the conventional life and accept the beggars’ lifestyle and there are tourists, both Indian and foreign who want to be a part of it.

These long bearded Sadhus are found at every nook and corner of the town. Many immersed in high spirits most of the time, they keep a possession of their own delusions, it never seems like they have any kind of connection left with the rest of the world and yet they are pretty much a part of the Hindu clan. They are the true wanderers of our planet; they are the ones without motives and plans.

The Chota Bazaar of Pushkar that also leads to the Pushkar Lake and further to the Brahma Temple is the major attraction of Pushkar. I entered the colorful Bazaar and reminisced the last time I came to this vibrant corner of the world. It is only the name that calls this place small, actually the market stretches a long way and makes way for 52 possible ways to reach to the lake. Varaha Ghat, one of the most sacred spots, appears suddenly on the way inside the market and gives a wide angle view of the Pushkar Lake set in the valley. From the steps that lead down to the waters, one can see the far end of the lake, and the sun that seems to set in the forest beyond.

The Chota Bazaar of Pushkar that also leads to the Pushkar Lake and further to the Brahma Temple is the major attraction of Pushkar. I entered the colorful Bazaar and reminisced the last time I came to this vibrant corner of the world. It is only the name that calls this place small, actually the market stretches a long way and makes way for 52 possible ways to reach to the lake. Varaha Ghat, one of the most sacred spots, appears suddenly on the way inside the market and gives a wide angle view of the Pushkar Lake set in the valley. From the steps that lead down to the waters, one can see the far end of the lake, and the sun that seems to set in the forest beyond.

Mythological tales of this lake suddenly appearing in this deserted region makes it all the more significant. Endless stories of Lord Brahma and his encounters with his angry wife, the falling of the two lotus flowers and the lake that appeared overnight, every being here has grown up knowing these facts and the belief is stern. It is the strong faith that people live by, keeps the spiritual fire alive.

The Brahma Temple in Pushkar is the only Brahma Temple in this world. The God of creation is praised, adored and shown reverence in this otherwise insignificant town of Pushkar. Not only is there a Brahma temple to be visited here, as I checked the map of this place I also happened to come across a mosque and a sikh dham (Gurudwara) in the vicinity.

The beauty of Pushkar, and even Ajmer for that matter is the coexistence of and the attitude of sharing the space with other religions, despite the stronghold of one of them.  This was a trip dedicated to witnessing the spiritual symbolism, only differentiated from one another by means of culture and old established religions. Starting my trip by visiting the dargah, followed by the visit to Brahma temple and ending the journey in the warmth of Gurudwara, it became a kaleidoscopic journey into the rituals of peace.

I concluded this solo voyage at the bazaar of Pushkar, brimming with colorful vibes that is so in tune with Rajasthan. The picture postcards, the loosely hung bags with glass and thread works on them, the usual handprints on the modern designs of clothes, all of them make this bazaar a concoction of new and the old. There are newly opened cafes serving world cuisines that typically reminded of Hampi and how the remotest of places in India are accepting the farthest of cultures.

Italian food was on my mind since morning and I was affirmative to get it. I looked at the pale blue evening sky as I relished olives, jalapenos, mushrooms all wrapped in the molten cheese over a thin crust. I walked back happy, though a bit confused about the way back as there are too many forky ways that dissect and are hard to identify after dusk.

If unwinding is a part of your plan, then let Pushkar be on your list. You can be with the wind and your own thoughts at just the pace that you want to be in. If you are a solo female traveler, you can leave behind the safety related worries and have the peace in your mind.

Posted in Rail Journeys, Rajasthan, travel

On a winter morning, At Ajmer Sharif Dargah



Are you a solo traveler in India? Are you a female solo traveler in India? More so, are you a female solo traveler paving your way towards Ajmer? Here are a few generic insights culled out from my recent trip to Dargah Sharif, where was laid the foundation stone of Islam.

The distance to Ajmer can be set in an overnight train from Delhi, if you are a loner, prefer booking your berth in the AC coach for a few logical reasons. The co passengers are more trustworthy, you can trust them with the luggage in case you want to use the loo. If it is a wintery night, you get clean bedding that makes your night journey more comfortable.

Once you reach Ajmer, use the G-maps to find out the way. Dargah is at a walkable distance from the railway station as well as the bus stop. Beware of the rickshaw-walas who might want to charge you a hefty amount knowing that you are a tourist in their city.

There are different gates to reach the Dargah. The Laxmi Bazaar entrance is the nearest from the station. It is absolutely safe to cross check your way with the locals there but make sure you ask at least a handful of people to get a confirmation on the way. There are quite a few twists and turns on the way; the bazaar lanes branch out into a multitude of routes which the G-map might not be able to identify.

Once you are closer to the Dargah, you would be approached by many shop owners to buy items that you can donate at the Dargah. Be very conscious of buying, in case you do not want to donate, do not be bothered by their constant nagging. In case you change your mind later, there are shops within the Dargah as well. Many of them will also trick you into removing the shoes and keeping it in their shop; make sure you do not fall for one of those. There are proper facilities available within the Dargah and it is best to use them. They are safe and closest to what you can get.

If you are one of those tourists who like to spend a lot of time understanding the history and architecture of the monument, or if you are one of those who like to immerse in the spiritual vibe of the shrine, or even if you are one of those who like to spend a comfortable time with the God within the shrine, make sure you carry minimum luggage with you and in fact nothing significant. Ajmer Sharif Dargah is usually a very crowded spot, owing to its significance in the religious history of India. Even though luggage deposit services are available, it is hard sometimes to manage everything manually, which can lead to an increased probability of losing the stuff. The crowd is immense during the Urs and other Islamic festivals. A high alert level should come in handy at a place like this.

Usually one tends to be immersed in the sufi vibe of this place but being a solo visitor can make you lose the carefree vibe. While it is important to enjoy the peace of the place, it becomes equally important to not lose the peace of our own mind. Personally, I chose a mundane Monday morning to visit the Dargah; it was not surprising to find a lot of walking space and yet witness the sincere dedication and offerings of the faithful.

There is a tint of green in everything you see inside the Dargah. The old monument is intact and holds the history of many generations within. Many emperors have witnessed the rise of Islam through this very land. A faith of many centuries is visible and strongly held in the practices followed even in this modern age.  Some of the archaic traditions are still in practice. From invocations to blessings, many there have something to seek from Allah; many also are searching for themselves, within their soul. It is a common sight to see humans rolling themselves on the floor, crying out loud, just so the God hears them, accepts them and give them what they want. Some of these traditions seem to be unnerving in today’s age.  But then there is also the most natural, and always within range, the sufi music, which is soothing and soul touching. It has the shine of the sun and the depth of the ocean. It has the divinity which not only reaches for the clear conscience but also touches the surreal depths of the heart. If I had more time and no further travel plan, I would have waited in the shrine to see, hear and absorb more of this music that fills the air.

I was getting somewhat conscious being alone there and was not up to the highest mark of my carefree capabilities. I decided to take an early bus to Pushkar, 15 kilometers from Ajmer, where I was looking forward to explore some of the more unique pilgrimages of India.

As I found out my way out from the Dargah, the first thing I saw was a Hindu temple and a little further, on the main road, was a church. It fills me with wonderment every time I see these tiny yet significant examples of the national integration and harmony. In a pro-Islamic area, there is space and an open heart for the other cultures to co-exist. This is the true India that the world needs to see!