On The Road…For A Hat Full Of Sky

I was wondering what random thoughts I would write about now on my blog as I was talking to my man one night. I asked him and he said travel. That caught my attention…I do follow a couple of travel blogs and I find them fascinating. The writers pour their heart into their writings and manage to transport me to their world.   Travel 1

Travel has always fascinated and interested me. It fulfils a deep yearning of the wanderlust in me. The sheer joy of going to a different place, meeting new people, exploring the culture, the cuisine and the countryside…all give me an adrenalin rush. The traveller sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he wants to see. It’s a very profound statement that GK Chesterton made. And this only people who are travellers will understand. A mere vacation person will never know the pleasure of travelling to a destination to enjoy the travail. I know I may sound arrogant when I say something like that…however, I have experienced check list vacations and have hated every minute of it. I realised that I enjoy my travails more than quick holidays.

This prompted me to go down memory lane and think about all the travelling I have done and enjoyed. I have done my fair bit of domestic and international travel. What strikes me while the international travel has been fun, I want to share with all of you out there some of the places I have visited in India that have left a deep impact on me in terms of beauty and culture. I don’t think I will ever forget those experiences.

1. Sonamarg, Kashmir

The whole state of Jammu & Kashmir has been described as “heaven on earth”. I particularly fell in love with two places. Sonamarg or Sonamargliterally “meadow of gold” is one such place. Sonamarg is backed by the might Himalayas and the lovely Sindh river meanders through the valley. My first impression of Sonamarg was during autumn and the all the hues of the season against a bright cerulean sky, with fluffy white clouds…I will never forget!!! The crisp mountain air would keep me outdoors most of the day and I would love walking through the valley exploring different things locally. Many a times I had some food packed for me, with a couple of books and my music, I have spent blissful hours reading, gazing at Mother Nature’s marvels and just…day dreaming.

 

 

2. Ladakh, Kashmir

Two thing that struck me about Ladakh were – stark and crystal clear. The desert landscape is so stark that it touches your soul deep down yak-ladakhsomewhere and forces you to introspect about so many things in life. My first trip to Ladakh was a bikers trip with friends and the pristine beauty of the place left me wanting more. Which obviously meant I was going back for more…

My second trip was trekking and camping and discovering the place on foot…again with some friends. Ten days through Hemis, Latza Kongmaru, Tilut Sumdo and finally arriving at Padum through Zangla not only helped us bond as better human beings, but, also brought about clarity in so many things that I was doing in life. You see, while communing with nature, I had nothing to do but think of myself and my life :). It’s funny how the noise and pace of the city life keeps you superficially connected with yourself…one trip at 11,000 feet is enough to get you to listen to your heart more than your mind.

 

3. Pondicherry

What is that feeling when you are driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? That was the feeling I had when I left Shrikant and his family after my travail into Pondicherry. My first visit to this lovely state was purely business and theHotel Pondy Pondy first evening when I set out on foot to explore the city of Pondicherry I fell in love. So, I went back again…

I fell in love with the slice of France that co exists with varied slices of India. The time that I spent there was indeed “gimme a break” time and my friend Shrikant and his lovely wife Sharada, helped me take that break. The French part of the town, with its boulevards, white and ochre buildings, clean roads and inhabitants on cycles…all reminded me of my trip to the villages of Southern France. Auroville, the area where Aurobindo Ashram is situated is such a peaceful place. The silence and quiet calm of the Ashram once again plucked at my heart strings for this was the final resting place of a great soul who was not only a freedom fighter, but also a spiritual guru – Shree Aurobindo Ghosh.

 

4. Shivas, Cliffs & Kapu Beach Lighthouse, Karnataka

On a visit to Mangalore for my company’s recruitment drive, I met Prasanna Shetty who introduced me to the virgin coastline of Karnataka. His description of the 40 odd kilometres of drive along the Bhatkal coast piqued my curiosity enough to plan my exploration in that region. And I did not regret.

Kiran surfingThe three places I have mentioned, Shivas, Cliffs and Kapu Beach Lighthouse are relatively unheard of for a regular tourist or vacation person. I also discovered that these three places are a surfer’s paradise in India. I know, I know…a lot of people will say…”surfing? here?”. It’s true…I got to meet surfers from France, US & UK while I was beach combing for crabs, shells and other oddities that you can find only in such places.

The small town of Maravanthe where I stayed at a homestay, has one stretch of the beach where a two lane highway runs parallel to the ocean within 15 meters of the water’s edge and on the opposite side of the highway is a big fresh water lake. In the lake are several islands with villages on them and there is an ancient 2,000 year old temple. The entire stretch along the sea reminded me of one of my favourite book series – Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. The five friends who go from cove to cove, discover adventures and solve mysteries…while I didnt solve any mysteries, I went from cove to cove, discovered white sand beaches, stretches of water that made me realise what a small place I occupy in the world.

 

5. Harsil, Uttarakhandharsil-sunrise

Situated in the lap of the Himalayas, on the banks of the river Bhagirathi, I discovered Harsil on my way to Gangotri. While the world hears of Gangotri as a one of the pilgrimage and tourist attractions in Uttarakhand, Harsil is the poor but beautiful cousin no one has heard of.

The place is a nature lover’s paradise, with dense deodar forests, chirping birds, gushing waters of the river, salubrious & serene environment. It also offers innumerable trekking routes that allow you to explore the mountainside and experience beauty like never before. I fell in love with the state of Uttarakhand…but Harsil remains a never ending passion. During the 70 odd kilometres of drive from Uttarkashi to Harsil, the green mountains were dotted with an occasional spot of orange. I later realised that these trees were called flames ofHarsil bridge the forest. The roads are dotted with apple trees and during the harvesting season the air is heavy with the smell of apples – quite intoxicating is all I can say.

An unexplored territory, Harsil was however featured in a Bollywood movie I was told by the locals…a movie called Ram Teri Ganga Maili!  I thought to myself a career as a location hunter in a movie production house is a good option if it allows me to travel, discover & explore.

 

6. Forts in MaharashtraJanjira

I love history…I love the romance associated with the stories of yore. A road journey to some of the lovely forts in Maharashtra allowed me to soak in Maratha history in such a way that no classroom had done in all those years of studying the subject. Maharashtra alone boasts of 350 forts of varied sizes…a treasure house I can say. I haven’t visited all of them…the ones I have, left me with echoes of the past and the impact it has had on generations after.

Starting with Shivner Fort, the place of  the Maratha emperoor Shivaji’s birth, we travelled to Sinhagad Fort where he lost is trusted and most brave commander in chief, Tanaji. Purandar Fort, the capital of the Maratha kingdom has a quaint charm of its own and is about 40 kilometres from Pune, the culture capital of Maharshtra. Shivneri

The twin forts of Sindhudurg and Vijaydurg off the coast of Mumbai were built by Shivaji in the 1660s to protect the land from coastal invasion. The Mumbai Fort is also part of the same vintage and today has only parts remaining in the business district of Colaba in Mumbai.

The fort of Murud Janjira, near the small fishing town of Alibaug was also constructed for the same reason by the rulers of Ahemdnagar. Ahemndnagar itself boasts of a lovely fort, which falls into the old fort category – more than 600 years old. Our journey then took us to Lohagad and Visapur Forts, near Malavalli, Pune. These two forts that are separated by a ridge are relatively newer – constructed in mid 18th century.

Sometime in the future I will write about some of the other places I have travelled to in India. To me India is a cornucopia of delight where you Travel 2discover something new every minute, at every turn and bend and never get disappointed with what you discover!!! My restless roaming spirit does not allow me to stay home very long…a wanderlust at heart. I realise that the best journeys answer the questions that in the beginning you don’t even think to ask. I want to travel far & wide and one day when I sit and recount my travails to people around me, I would like to say “I have left my heart print on the world map”

The icing on the cake is when you have a family that loves to travel as much as you do. I am lucky that way. The man in my life loves it as much as I do…if not more! In fact, one of the things that keeps our relationship going is our love for discovering new places, new experiences. That the children love to indulge in this with us is an added joy. The one thing I keep sharing with him is,”I want to make memories with you all over the world”…and do that we will!

 

 

 

The Last Few Weeks…

That’s exactly what I want to write about…the last few weeks. Three different cities and myriad experiences…:)

My first stop was Delhi…a city that has always fascinated me with its colour, cultures, food, energy, zest for living the good life,jugaad approach. I love Delhi!!!

This time I traveled by the metro as my friends recommended. Was I glad or what! It saved me time…am glad I wasn’t on the roads in the crazy monsoon and even crazier traffic. I’m not writing to complain about what we all know and experience in different cities. I’m writing to share my experience of the metro. I absolutely loved it. For the first time in my life I felt safe as a female commuter in Delhi…no pushing, no pulling. On all the metro rides I had, which were during peak hours, I was given a seat by the men who were chivalrous enough to get up the moment they saw ladies :):):)

Last but not the least, the cleanliness at all stations made me so proud! I thought to myself, “what is it that we can’t do if we put our minds to it”

Thank you Delhi Metro for a wonderful experience and for making me feel safe and proud!!!

The second part of my journey took me to vibrant Punjab…a state that always makes me sing and dance. My daughters and my parents traveled with me and we were at a regimental get together for three days. The joy of meeting old friends and making new ones…the pleasure of meeting family friends who have seen you grow…and now they see you with grown up kids. Did that change the equation between us? Absolutely not..they still treated me like a ten year old 🙂 and I could kid around with all the old uncles and aunties the way I did thirty years ago :):):). As a result of those bonds, my children found it very easy to make new friends in the regiment.

After three days of winning and dining and socialising, we were off to Amritsar. An evening at Wagah Border stirred something deep for my daughters, as it was their first experience. I relived it with them! The emotional high of being right next to your neighboring country, waving at the local population on the other side of the border, talking to the border security guards…I cannot explain…I only pray a lot of Indians get an opportunity to experience it!

How can one miss the gastronomic delights offered by Amritsar? So, the five of us indulged in the locally made”chole kulche”, “aloo tikki” & my all time favorite, “gol gappas”.

All good things need not come to an end…so the good times continue in Bangalore now. See you all soon when I come back with more!!!

Till then…continue leading the fantastic life you deserve to lead :):):)

Life…a result of intentional habits!

I am back to writing…after a long hiatus. I don’t even know why I stopped in between…life happened I guess!!! Though that is no excuse for anything 🙂

What inspired me to get back was a series of articles I read off late about travelling and my own travels to different cities the last couple of months. 

As a teenager, I was always fascinated by young people from different countries who would travel without parents for months together. I always wondered how is it that they could just leave everything they were doing and travel…there was also an element of envy, that, initially I did not travel that way! Yes you guessed right…I love to travel!

Eventually I understood that while my structured education process (read school and college) gave me a lot of information and therefore knowledge, travelling just widened my horizon and my  understanding of a lot of things 🙂 :). Travel just became an educational process by itself.

I have had people who ask me…why do you travel so much? What gives me the “kick”? It got me thinking about why I love travel so much…I was at Abu Dhabi airport waiting for my flight to be announced and this young lady sitting next to me started a conversation. She asked, in due course, “Do you think I should go to graduate school or move to Vietnam?”

I told her “Vietnam”…not that she was really asking me…if you know what I mean. She was thinking out loud. Her response was, “Yeah…but…”. Three alphabets that can kill everything in life…BUT.

BUT is lethal. It makes it sound like we have the best of intentions, when really we are just too scared to do what we should. Most people I know who waited to travel the world never did it. Conversely, plenty of people who waited for grad school or a steady job still did those things after they traveled.

I am thankful that I got opportunities to travel widely in my teenage years…some opportunities I created for myself. Very often I heard some grown up say to me, “It’s great that you’re doing this … while you’re still young.” To me it sounded like vicarious longing and mid-life regret. Often I have responded saying, “It’s not about this being great while I’m still young! It’s great for the rest of my life!” And it’s true – what I learnt or still learn during my travel is something that has stayed with me…it is an intrinsic part of my life, of who I am. 

I realized as we get older, life can just sort of happen to us. Whatever we end up doing, we often end up with more responsibilities, more burdens, more obligations. This is not always bad. However it also takes away from some of our dreams, experiences that could have shaped who we become. 

Youth is a time of total empowerment. You get to do what you want. As you mature and gain new responsibilities, you have to be very intentional about making sure you don’t lose sight of what’s important. The best way to do that is to make investments in your life so that you can have an effect on who you are in your later years.

Travel allowed me this luxury…the luxury of learning, experiencing and of discovering the beauty of life — to remember that I am not complete.

How can I put in words what it means to walk the streets of old Delhi on a cold December morning smelling some great Indian food, cycling on narrow country roads of Southern France and soaking in the beauty of the mellow countryside, walking across the moors in Scotland smelling the earth, the majestic beauty of the Himalayan range as seen from Nepal…words cannot describe these experiences. The only way you will relate to them is by experiencing them yourself. 

While you’re young, you should travel. You should take the time to see the world and taste the fullness of life. Spend an afternoon sitting in front of the Michelangelo. Walk the streets of Paris. Climb Kilimanjaro. Hike the Valley of Flowers. See the Great Wall of China. Get your heart broken by the “killing fields” of Cambodia. Swim through the Great Barrier Reef. These are the moments that define the rest of your life; they’re the experiences that stick with you forever.

Traveling will change you like little else does. It forces you to think about issues that are bigger than you…I realized that the world is both, very large and very small!!! I have a new found respect for pain and suffering, having seen that two-thirds of humanity struggle to simply get a meal each day. 

Its an amazing way to learn about the world as a magnificent place of art. The people that fill this world contribute so much to it…shaping it…building a kaleidoscopic culture. Soak that culture while you are still young. It can change your life forever. It did mine!

Invest your time wisely…for your future depends on where and what you invest your time in. A lesson that comes back to me repeatedly… life is a result of intentional habits. Whatever you sow, you will eventually reap. The habits you form in this season will stick with you for the rest of your life. So choose those habits wisely :):) 

And for those who feel youth has gone by…fret not. You can still travel…I know a lot of senior people who still enjoy their travails and do not hesitate to live life kingsize. I am learning from them also…so go out there and explore the world with all it’s infinite opportunities!!! ImageImageImageImage