Posted in Forests, Himalayan Getaways, Karnataka, Life Travel, mountains, road trips, south india, travel, Unforgettable Himachal

Lets’ Make a Plan

My travel timeline of 2017, as vibrant as my phone gallery. Travel that leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller, 

A millennial kid, as they say, is spoilt for choices. There is always so much to look at. A lot of us appear to be confused too; so much media to consume, so many career choices to explore and so much of thoughts & feelings to deal with, all at the same time. There is so much of glocalization happening that the fear of missing out is only obvious to happen. But one thing that stands true for all of us; there are so many places that we want to travel to. I am a millennial too and I have been bitten by the travel bug too. Twenty seventeen proved to be the tipping point of my years of addiction with travel and I patted my back as I literally lived my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Make a Plan, was my most often used expression in the last year. I pledged to travel at length, more than what I had already been doing. Make a plan, put it on top of the to-do list and see it happen. While I did not have a definite list of places I wanted to visit, I was sure that I wanted to do at least one new check-in every month on facebook and from as many different parts of the world. Seems like a fancy new-year resolution, seems so unlikely to keep up, but I believe I did it with just the right amount of grace and glow!

In #January, I took a train to Ajmer and Chittorgarh to celebrate one year of knowing my doppelganger, who I met at a lit fest in pink city of India. Though we are not sure, if we still manage to pull that look, we do end up doing similar things every now & then. And so, I boarded the Yoga Express to explore another heritage fort in Rajasthan.

#February arrived and took me to forests of Central India. A safari trip to Kanha National Park & a boat ride in between the white marble rocks of Bedaghat made the valentine month beautiful. The colossal white marble rocks shone under the sun and river Narmada kept the breeze cool as the oarsmen sang the tales of folklore to make this day one of its kind.

Soon #March made its way. I was starting to become the Yes Man of travel opportunities. I revisited my alma mater in Pune, throwback moment to the good old carefree days. Lesser wisdom but also lesser things to take care of, high on emotions but low on errands, I fondly think of that honeymoon period in life. I could sit by that window in my hostel room overlooking the golf course which had the best view of the rainbow during monsoon evenings or probably walk till the helipad and let my voice echo towards Pune city lights. Exploring my way further into Maharashtra, this year, I reached Baramati, a small town, only 100 kilometers away from Pune & walked through some green and growing vineyards. Ample farmland, good roads to ride the car and never ending supply of sugarcane juice on the way made it a perfect weekend getaway from the city. Rural India promises some exciting & authentic road trips.

Road trips continued in #April. Folks from Pune decided to accompany me to North and we were back to Delhi with a plan. The Golden Triangle, as it is popularly known, we took a road trip to Jaipur via Agra. What kicked off as a road experience on Taj Expressway, ended with a game of Uno with global citizens in Jaipur. Zostel took precedence in decision making & we were making plans on the way. Not what I usually do, because I plan my trip sitting on the couch at home, detour on the highway was a pleasant surprise for me as well. We booked our dormitory beds at the click of a button and zapped through the smooth roads of Rajasthan like the gypsies.

#May happened. While it’s the onset of monsoons in the south, it is also the peak of summers up in the North. The best month to trek in the Himalayas. Also the best month for indulging in mango savories. I found my way once again to a village in the mango capital of India, Uttar Pradesh. This time, it was for a research project. However, I made time to visit Lucknow and witness the combination of old world charm with the Nawabi grandeur. Bada Imambara and the rickshaw pullers encircling it, lucknowi chaat and lucknowi chicken and not to forget the tundey kababi, I experienced it all on one hot weekend of May.

By #June, I needed some chilly weather. The one where cotton like clouds are hanging in the backdrop a bright blue sky. A place where days are bright, and the nights are dark, but the air is always chilly. These places also usually have wooden cottages, roads that are not straight, birds chirping, rivers flowing, and flowers spreading out so wide that we can’t see the bed till the end. Basically, I was craving for some Himalayas. I found my spot to find all of it in a package by trekking to the Rupin Pass in Himachal Pradesh. I set myself at a new high by climbing 15,380 ft, I was overjoyed. With the trail, the view, the new bonds & the crew.

Half of the year was over, and it was only beginning to get exciting. I was able to keep up with my new year resolution till this far and I was hopeful for the rest. #July was different kind of travel. I moved cities. I got back to my corporate stint with new opportunities in Bangalore. Break was over. But nothing disrupted me from planning new trips. I looked forward to exploring south of India once again. The best thing about July was not just the independent living but the perennially pleasant weather that seemed unbelievable from a distance. I never felt the need of a fan or an AC and even the monsoon was for real. I was overwhelmed that Kerala is only at an overnight distance from me and that there were unexplored weekend getaways only at a stone’s throw distance from me. I was happy.

By #August, I was again irking for a hike. I took the forest route from Munnar to Kodaikanal on one of the long weekend. It was a 30 kilometers hike, first downward and then climbing upwards. On a sunny day, it did add to the level of difficulty. Thankfully, we had added two days of chilling in kodai, after the trek. Unfortunately, couldn’t get to try the infamous kodai shrooms. But we did enjoy the mist from a distance, whiling away an unusual Monday morning at the aptly named Cloud Street Café.

I had no plans to take an off in #September. There weren’t any long weekends either. I felt like I am not going to have any travel plan this month. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. A research project at work took me to Indore on a Friday. I decided to use the weekend for my advantage. After finishing my work in Ujjain, I visited the old ruined town of Mandu, 95 kilometers from Indore. The local guide shared interesting romantic folklore from a long gone era and the day was spent in the rocky forts. The road from Indore to Mandu is a smooth ride that makes it a wholesome day trip. Speaking of day trips, the weekends of September were never short of it. I also took a self-drive trip to a sleepy quaint town in Karnataka, Agumbe. Only 350 kilometers away from Bangalore, I drove only to enjoy the road and the rains, something I used to miss a lot while in Delhi.

The onset of #October had set in the festive mood a bit sooner this time. Everyone was already eyeing on the Dussehra long weekend in the beginning of the month. I too was kicked about the Mysore Dussehra, its popularity had already begun to gain momentum. I made an early booking at the only hostel in Mysore city, The Mansion, 1907. An old house converted into a hostel, it was at a walkable distance from Mysore City palace. While I didn’t enjoy the procession because of the crowd, the lighting at the palace and the walking tour of the city did make it an eventful trip for me. The month of October gave me a lot more options to travel. My parents traveled down south during the Diwali break and we took a unique trip to Yercaud and Pondicherry. It was our only trip in which we experienced both, the hills & the sea. While it was still hot in Pondy, the cafes in White town and a day at Auroville made it quite a pleasant trip for us. But that is not where traveling in October ended. My brother, my Kerala buddy and I were still excited about the self-drive trip to Ooty. The Zostel experience at Lovedale was nothing short of romantic. The toy train ride from Lovedale to Coonoor, the location of the hostel amdist the tea gardens and the memories of our cycling trip, we made the most of the trip on the road.

#November was my last month in Bangalore. I was nearing the completion of my tenure in the South. There is never an enough time-period to be living in South India. I was feeling sad about still not visiting Kerala. In the last week of November, I took a solo trip to Fort Kochi. It was my personal yoga retreat with one of my teachers from the Ashram. I practiced yoga & meditation on a weekend, walked the streets of Mattancherry and enjoyed all the appam and fish that I could. From there on, the plan was to reach Goa via Konkan railways. The rail journey was green & gorgeous. The next few days were spent chilling & riding in Goa, in the true goan style. There was enough fish, beer & vitamin sea on the platter.

#December brought me back to Delhi. The winters were only beginning to set in. I was looking forward to my first winter trekking experience. This was also going to be the third trek of the year, something that I pulled off with not much effort. I went to Dayara Bugyal and spent sleepless nights in the yellow tents. Washing dishes at high altitude made me realize what negative temperatures would feel like, I expressed all my gratitude to the sun. The Zostel at Rishikesh was a perfect place to relax after week-long hardships.

The end of the year was a perfect time to reflect on my journeys. Its hard to say which one was my favorite, because all of them brought with them the feeling of Joy. They were all very different from one another and made my 2017 one of the best I could ever ask for. While the year was getting over, my plans were not.

January 2018 was my last month in India. I celebrated my birthday at the Golden Temple with friends, family and a lot of ritualistic phone calls. My last travel in India happened with my dad. A perfect one to bid goodbye to this country for a short while now, we went to Kolkata & Sunderbans; the home to the royal Bengal tigers and world’s largest delta. I have had the time of my life, striking off these before thirty goals and gladly adding new ones to my list.

On a sunny morning at a public library in Toronto, I sit back and recollect all these wonderful memories from back home, which only makes me miss my home.

But for some time now, Canada is home for this traveler.

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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 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 European Trips, Life Travel, road trips, travel, UK Dairies

10 things that crossed my mind, in Nottingham

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Nottingham happened long after my Scottish holiday. I was mostly sauntering at the Rising Sun Country Park in New Castle, because it was the most accessible and the most peaceful around my home stay there. I conversed with the strong, gusty winds if I should do the next leg of the trip. There was a lot more to see and experience in this town but the south of England was luring too. The winds convinced me that it was yet another chance to be on the road, meet a few people out there you haven’t seen in a long time and no one really knows when will be the next chance to do so. A large wave of thoughts swept my mind and this led to book my tickets. I was ready to see the next high street, Next River and most importantly the next deck of hills, but this time more residential than solitary.

It was a short stay at Nottingham; life here was a bit fast paced than New Castle. At first sight, it appeared to be a hub of the Asian community, a bit too crowded and a bit too untidy. There were lesser countrymen and more immigrants visible. Very soon it also started appearing to be a student city, not just because of the display advertisements of the colleges in the city but also because of the part time jobbers who fill up the supermarkets and food joints. Many a things that I was observing around were regular, daily bits of life for them and yet appeared to be so different and sometimes strange for an outsider.

Here are a few things that I took note of in Nottingham, however, I wouldn’t hesitate in saying that they pretty much define the life around this country.  Though they are common in the West, I wish the East, especially India picked them up.

  • World Radio Frequency – Radio never fails to surprise me. It is a forever young idea to listen to a song that pops up on the radio out of nowhere. What was even more surprising was to catch a bollywood number on an international frequency. It was probably the last thing that I would expect in a foreign land but made me the happiest of all. Radio, the communication stream that can never go out of fashion, and carries these little bundles of joy. I was happy to hear a Shahrukh Khan’s movie song playing here in Nottingham and what would be equally interesting will be to catch the latest Ed Sheeran’s song reaching out to me when I reach back home.

 

  • Skateboarding – The kids live by their boards, no matter where they go, they want to be on their own two wheels, even if it means an extra luggage to carry around. The feeling of being able to fly, of being on their own and the one of being unstoppable, all come in a package. The fun lies in being able to twist and swipe through the herds and yet not losing the speed. English kids have certainly mastered the skill.

 

  • Cycling – A city without a defined cycling path is a city that needs restructuring. A city with a cycling path is the one that never turns old. Cycling, in my opinion, is the most natural expression of freedom and independence. Whether you are competing with the wind or you are slyly moving the wheels and singing along, the joy of riding was visible around the city of Nottingham. Besides, there is never an age for it; it is something that everyone here loves to do. As I see the rising number of cyclists back home, I only wish there were safer paths.

 

  • Running – Runners need no set paths; they only need destinations and clean air for their lungs. It is a sport without props; all that I saw in people here was the motivation to run.

 

  • A central river – Though it is a natural historic phenomena that cities in their early days developed around the source of water, in modern days, many cities are losing the sheen and shine of their rivers. That however is not the case with Nottingham. Trent River flows through the center of the city, the embankment is well covered with the greener shades and the river is put to use for some really interesting activities. As I walked along the embankment, I saw some houseboats, which I was told were the permanent houses of the families living within them. They, apparently, loved the idea of being on water rather than being on earth. I even feel, it is a great idea to have a home which is just easily movable. Apart from these floating families, there were rowers, speedily rowing across the length of the river. They caught my attention for a really long time. They were fast, moving in an organized way, synergized in their actions. All their energies were put in just one act and whosoever did it the best was always ahead. It may be too much to demand for developing this sport back home but it would not be wrong to demand for the redevelopment of the central river of my city again.

 

  • Country Parks – Country Parks are the proof that we are able to maintain the natural habitat of our area and that we are still closely connected to nature. While we may not be able to go on adventure holidays all the time, we would not mind to get a glimpse of dense, forest-like, natural trails around the house. The green cover of Nottingham is worth the attention it gets from its people.

 

  • Pet-walking – Talk about dogs, cats and rabbits and there is none you will not find here in Nottingham. While some need hand holding, some others are sincerely obedient. There are not just dog lovers around the city but also bird lovers and animal lovers. From horses to rabbits, everyone is pettable. The love for animals is unavoidable here; there is a pie of cuteness in every living being here. My favorite was a rabbit named Jessica, who is fond of strawberries and can chew on them all day long.

 

  • Old Age Enthusiasm – It is not just the animals that are being cared for, everyone who needs attention are entertained here. I happened to witness some feeble, old souls with a very strong heart and a desire to live. Their spirit of life, their will to keep going, their bodily incapability being supported mechanically and the ever shining bright smile that they never forget to carry is evidence that the city never ceases on hope and happiness.

 

 

  • Intended Politeness – This is the one I wish I could pack in my bag and take along with me. What they taught us in our childhood, is practiced all their lives. The mannerism, the amiability, the expressions that kills the ego, they have it all in abundance. It is totally harmless here to be polite; in fact it is a bit negative to be mean and arrogant. It is very easily assumed here that you too will maintain the politeness, but what wrong does it do! It is one of those things that they say speaks aloud of your character.

 

  • Public Display of Affection – And this one is my most favorite. This is the one that brings a wide smile to me. If only love was more acceptable in everybody’s eyes, would there be lesser hatred around. I see it as a sign of hope, as a sign that we all need a little bit of expression in our lives. And an expression of love is also an expression of freedom. The more we can feel it around, the better we are.

Nottingham is the quiet kind of place where I sat and observed. The home stay where I was staying was situated on the hill top, the one that descended downwards and with each descend spread out far and wide, with little houses built in this expanse where the people who carried these small acts each and every day lived. The window of this room opened to the whole city, the city that was vibrant yet simple. No matter how much I was enjoying the simple acts of life here, many of them making the mundane life interesting, I had already started missing my kaleidoscope; my plethora of cultures, food and people. But hey! Not so soon! The Kaleidoscope of England; the city of London was still undone. And that is where I was going to bunk for the next few nights.

Posted in Himalayan Getaways, Life Travel, mountains, travel

Mussorie Library

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Sometimes the most conventional places manage to surprise us, Mussorie was one such spot for me. They call it the cliche hill station now, but I saw the most iconic structure there… The Mussorie Library!

Those who have been reading this page since some time now would have figured it out that mountains are my first love! Every time the four-wheeled vehicle takes the uphill road, my eyes sparkle and the smile widens, leading to at least one dimple visible on my face. If it is an undone route, I wonder what magic awaits me, and if it is an explored one, I am surprised with what was missed earlier.

Believe it or not, but the road to Mussorie was still an undone route for me, until the last weekend of February. Call it a shame or just ironic, but I, in my twenty six years of living in India had not yet witnessed the charisma of the queen of the hills. While the Brits must have whiled away their summers peacefully on this hill top, the town now hustles and bustles with all sorts of eateries and other shops, bringing it off the list of offbeat destinations around Delhi. Yet if someone was to come up with a list of summer vacation destinations around Delhi, Mussorie will top it without an iota of doubt.

So, as my car took rounds of the mountain and started gaining altitude, I wondered what would greet me. Would there be monkeys hopping on the handful of Deodars, would there be too many similar faces on the Mall, would the Mall still have those ancient buildings reminding of the magnificence of the Great British Raj, I could not stop wondering. And as the last curve on the road was conquered, the gears were relaxed for a bit, the Magic of Mussorie cast its spell on me.

It came to me in the most literary form and shape and was extremely pulling from the very first sight. The Mussorie Library, situated right on the cross roads of the Library Chowk left me bedazzled. A public library on a hilltop is like nothing less than cherry on the cake. Though I have always dreamt of books in the woods, this time it appeared in front of me for real.  I had no clue about any such structure in this hill station. In fact the building had an air of mystery to itself.

Once again I started to ponder to myself; is it still functional, is it even a public library, does Ruskin Bond ever find his way here, would they let the visitors sit inside. The answers to all these unbridled questions were there inside the mysterious building which I decided to explore.

Mussorie Library stands tall at one of the ends of the Mall which makes it appear like an extension of a shopping arcade. The complex on the ground floor has a lot of showrooms making it difficult to figure out the way to the first floor. Facing towards the arcade, on the right hand side corner you would spot the stairway to heaven.

As I got butterflies in my stomach while climbing up, I also got a bit saddened by looking at the notice on the entrance door which read “For Members Only”. Anyhow determination took me up the wooden stairs. The sound of silence was at its peak. The only sound I heard was that of someone walking towards the entrance. She came out and told me the same once again, ‘the library is for the use of members only.’ I wanted to question her but I dared not. Since my days in Mussorie were numbered, I decided to let it go. As I told her that I am just a visitor in the town and only wish to take a look, she nodded approvingly but at the same time cautioned me not to click any pictures. I assured her of that and because I did not even carry any camera along, she trusted me better.

As I stepped inside the huge entrance door, I saw the wooden cupboards evenly spread across the length and breadth of the room. Some of them were embedded into the wall like the one that used to be in almost every Indian household till some about two decades ago. All of these loosely locked cupboards had books, books that represented an era. The cover pages of many of these books were fading, like a memory being lost. They were not covered with dust, giving it the vibe of an uncared national museum. The titles were unheard. May be my grandfather would have heard some of them. Or they were perhaps older pieces of literature representing the times when Indians were not well versed with the English language.

I moved forward with a focused glance, reading the name of almost every book. The subjects seemed to be interlinked. I wondered if all this literature has become obsolete in today’s age and time. I am not sure; it is still a good reference point for comparison between the generations; the comparison of now and then. The cataloguing was also manual. In fact it felt good to not see any of the modern materials around this place. The belonging to books seems deeper when men use their own sense of arranging and rearranging.

On my right hand side, I could see tiny rooms full of almirahs and yet space for one to sit. The solitude in these spaces was soothing. It was rustic as well as attractive. For some, it would be addictive; an addiction to the aroma of the pages, that have not met a reader since long. Everything here has a vintage look, whether it is the hard wood table, the cloth of the floral print around the seating, the photographs of the royal men and women, everything looks antique. Through the window of these reading rooms, the view is restricted and offers the sight of only a tall mountain, home to many of the chirpy sounds. Once in a while, they would visit, say hello and break the silence.

Even with so much cold and shrill, the Mussorie library is a warm place. I started a word with the only other soul in the building. I asked her about the procedure for procuring membership to which she replied with pride, ‘it is available only for the locals of Mussorie’. At present there are only seventy members, Ruskin Bond is one of them, though he does not visit Mussorie often.

While most books are preserved from the pre independence era, some new material does arrive once every year. The membership fee is nominal and allows users to borrow the books; however, rarely anyone pays a visit. Neither a tourist attraction, nor a regular spot for members, my heart ached at the thought of losing touch with this paradise. I longed to stay there and possess the treasure but all I had an informal permission to look at it from a safe distance. I extended my hand forward towards them in a friendly way but it was futile and my connection with them was only to gape at them with all the awe.  Thirty minutes of staring at books would not quench any readers’ thirst but will only reassure that books have always been man’s best friend. They are a reassurance well created by the man and for the man.