Friday, December 30, 2016

Recap 2016: Through the Lens of My Yatra Diary...


I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day,
a fresh try, one more start,
with perhaps a bit of magic
waiting somewhere behind the morning.

- J. B. Priestly.


(Picture courtesy: desi Traveler)

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They say time flies.
Sometimes I wonder...
Where exactly does time fly?

That time... that makes up one moment, a minute, an hour, a day, a year... our life. Is it in the great mountains that loom large over us with their dark grey crevices and green patches in between or is it in the vast expanse of the horizons where darkness and light dissolve ever so perfectly to create something so precious and beautiful? The eternal traveller time... wherever it might fly, one thing I know for sure, it never stops, it is forever on the run, even now, when another year is all set to end and bid us goodbye.

The dusk of a paling 2016 is upon the horizon marking a wonderful moment in this journey of time to pause, ponder and reflect on the year going by… the memories made, the goodness cherished, the journeys embarked, the kindness encountered, the authenticity striven, the lessons learnt, the truths discovered … to the wonderful life that was, it's time to gratefully bid adieu and make way for the prospect of something fresh and new.

As the pinkish glow of 2017 pours over the twilight abyss of dark blue... youthful, radiant and bright – loaded with a tinkle of hope, goodness, cheer, optimism and faith in its character - inspiring a thrilling feeling of awe all around; My Yatra Diary… stands at the edge of stillness to turn back the pages... to see all that 2016 was for her and to hope for all that 2017 will be.

Presented below is a calendar recap of 12 posts from the 12 months gone by in the order: Month / Snippet / Picture / Post Link. Most of her posts also had quotes this year along with the write-ups so I doubly hope that you will like going through them.

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JANUARY

Wash me, cleanse me, purify my heart and set me free.

~ Psalm 51.

Shri Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameshwaram.



FEBRUARY

The sea is where I belong.
Meet me that place -
where the music meets the ocean.

Agni Teertham, Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu.



MARCH

I survived because the fire inside burned brighter than the fire around me.
~ Joshua Graham.

Holika Dahan ritual, Holi Festival in Parmarth Ashram, Rishikesh.



APRIL

And I learned what is obvious to a child.
That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time.
That each day should be spent finding beauty
in flowers and poetry and talking to animals.
That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.” 
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook.

Sunset boat ride in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu.



MAY

What about barren, abandoned, obsolete, uninhabited places is so intriguing to us?

Us… you as well as me. Is it simply the emotion of intense melancholy that we feel in those moments when we walk through such places, or is it the dive into an unknown mystery, of all that in life that is beyond visual comprehension, that which we call death or is it something else, something more?

Dhanushkodi beach in Rameshwaram.



JUNE

This little girl down here inspired me.
She didn't mind me clicking her picture.
In fact, did I even matter?
She was totally immersed,
how happy and joyful... in her own little world.
That world, where she sprinkled a handful of puffed rice in the water
And they would all be gone, less than a minute!

Rama Teertham, Rameshwaram.



JULY

“Why a widow, even if Mani were untouchable, or something worse,
she is still a gem of a woman for me.
We look for experienced people,
but when it comes to choosing life partner,
we don’t consider experience a good thing.
I am not one who would strangle justice.
No school can impart experience as adversity does.
The person who has a degree from this school
can easily be trusted with the reins of your life.
In my eyes, being a widow is not a sin for a woman…”

~ Munshi Premchand.

Munshi Ghat in Varanasi dedicated to Munshi Premchand.



AUGUST

As the blazing fire reduces wood to ashes,
similarly, the fire of Self-knowledge reduces all Karma to ashes.

Lord Krishna and Prabhu Nityananda at Lord Krishna and Prabhu Nityananda at ISKCON Temple, Chennai.



SEPTEMBER

It's the first day of one of the most awaited festivals of India and one of the most popular in Mumbai, Ganesh Chaturthi. The much loved elephant God, the cute and mischievous, and one of my favourites - Ganpati Bappa will be home soon, seated like a bosom friend, an intimate confidante, amid His favourite people - with you and me.

Ganesh Sthapana, Ganesh Chaturthi Festival, Mumbai



OCTOBER

She made broken look beautiful
and strong look invincible.
She walked with the Universe
on her shoulders and made it
look like a pair of wings.
― Ariana Dancu.

Navratri Special: She's A Woman.



NOVEMBER

The resting place of the mind is the heart.
The only thing the mind hears all day
is clanging bells and noise and argument,
and all it wants is quietude.
The only place the mind will ever find peace
is inside the silence of the heart.
That's where you need to go.
― Elizabeth Gilbert.

7 blogging years of My Yatra Diary...



DECEMBER

Who doesn't love to be beside the seaside?
There is something very beautiful about beaches and oceans.

Those waves in the ocean rising above in full furore, they march towards the shoreline, bubbling and tumbling with all their worth, as if with a thousand stories hidden carefully in their heart, opening it all at once as they kiss the shoreline, then gradually dissolving and dispersing in fragments, in peace, only to rise up again in the distance. There is birth, death and renewal, and love, hope and understanding between everyone involved - all in a matter of seconds.

Some of the best beaches in India.



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......... In the year 2017,

May everything we think, say and do (and write) ... we do it for the pure love of God.
May our life unfold magnificently for us and for all the others around us.
May the new year take us closer to our own selves in our hearts
bestowing on us an inner clarity, a loving nature, happiness, peace, success and simplicity.
May it reinforce our belief in the goodness of human nature,
and May it transform us in ways we may have never known.

......... In the year 2017,

May we always remember that...
there is magic waiting somewhere in the Universe...
and we just have to believe, hope and hold
that one day we shall cherish it for real.

Happy New Year!
Keep Loving and Keep Smiling!



Monday, December 26, 2016

Step by step guide for re-issue / renewal of old expired passport (My experience)

Recently, my father handed me our passports for renewal. They were all set to expire in about 10 months and he wanted me to get them renewed. As soon as I saw the passports, it reminded me of all the hassles we had gone through around 10 years back when we had applied for a new one. Though I don’t remember much of the process now, as dad had handled most of it at the time, but I do remember visiting the police station twice. First visit was mandatory and second, because of some document issue. I also remember the waiting times that had ensued on our arrival in the police station.

Passport renewal reissue guide
Reissue of Old passport.


So, with all these scenes flashing in my mind and with the passports in my hand, I dreaded the entire process as I knew absolutely nothing about it. And like every average Indian citizen, all those dreaded questions came rolling -

- Would there be a visit to the police station involved?
- Would the process be cumbersome?
- Would there be huge waiting lines to be crossed before I could get our new passports issued?
- Would I need someone’s help to do it (a paid mediator? / agent?? ) or am I capable to do it all by myself?

With so many queries running in my mind, I wondered – Damn. Why the passport was even expiring in the first place!

Anyway, that was before I renewed the passport. Thanks to the online procedure by the Ministry of External Affairs, today, I have a brand new passport that is all set to take me through the next ten years and hopefully some more newer places, countries and locales (The previous one took me to Japan and Melbourne). I am giving my experience about the passport renewal and the procedure below just in case anyone else comes here searching for help about the same. It’s really simple, so don’t worry, just start and make sure to follow the instructions right till the very end.

Step 1: Register on the passport seva portal.

First, log in to passportindia.gov.in and register as a new user by filling up all the basic details like name, surname, date of birth and passport office as per your current city of residence.

You will get an activation email in your registered email id – click that and voila – you are all set to proceed onto step 2!

Step 2: Fill in the required forms.

Click on the link 'Apply for Fresh Passport / Re-issue of Passport' and you will be presented with two alternatives:

Alternative 1 is where you download the soft copy of the form, fill it offline and upload it later.

And the second alternative is filling the application form online at that time itself. Note that choosing this alternative would require a good stable internet connection.

Step by step guide for Renewal of expired passport
Pick Alternative 1 and fill the form online.

The site recommends going for alternative 1 perhaps because many people don’t have the complete details required in the form available at hand which then proves to be a hassle. The recommendation sounded like a more viable option to me as well so I opted for that.

The form is pretty comprehensive and will require many details besides the regular name, surname, birth date, contact number and address, some of the important ones I am listing below:

- PAN, Voter ID and Aadhar Number.

- Visible distinguishing mark.

- Since when are you residing in your permanent residence?

- Name, address and telephone numbers of 2 references in case it is required for verification purposes. (Note here that I was instructed at the centre that the references HAVE to be that of your neighbours only and not your friends, co-workers, etc.).

Apart from these, details of your - about to expire passport will also be required, so make sure you have that handy.

Step 3: Upload the .XML file.


Step by step guide for Renewal of expired passport
Upload the .XML file.
Select No for Passport Seva SMS seervices.


After filling the downloaded e-form, come to the website again and enter the state and police district and click the 'Validate & Save' button. Save the XML file generated which is then required to be uploaded again in the system through the 'Upload e-Form' link.

Just below the Upload option, you will see 'Passport Seva SMS Services Enrolment' where you have to select Yes / No whether you wish to enrol for the services. While filling the form, I had selected Yes thinking that it might be useful for receiving updates on the progress of my passport. Later at the centre (B counter) I came to know that the enrolment came at a price of Rs. 40/- and the girl at the counter told me that it was not needed. Thanks to her, I unchecked the option there and she was right indeed!

Step 4: Pay and schedule an appointment.

Click on the 'View Saved / Submitted Applications' page on the left hand side to schedule your appointment at a Passport Seva Kendra. Select your application and click on 'Pay and Schedule Appointment'.

Select the most convenient Passport Seva Kendra and a suited time slot from the options available. Once that is done, you will be taken to the payment page. After the payment, print the application receipt containing the Application Reference Number (ARN) / Appointment Number. Check if all the details are fine and keep it securely with yourself.

Step 5: What documents should I carry at the Passport Seva Kendra?

Please note here that the list of documents vary in case of change in address as printed in old passport or in case of addition of spouse name. For the complete list of documents to be carried with you, please check the Document Advisor for renewal / re-issue link on the home page, choose your relevant case and it will show the list of documents that you will need.

Since we had the same address as in our Old Passport, the list of documents to carry were pretty simple:

  •  Original Old Passport that is expiring or expired.
  • Photo copy our passport first page, last page and the page with ECNR info. We did self-attestation (our own signature) on all the pages.
  • Photocopy of Aadhar card (front and back side) self attested again.
  • Application receipt with the Application Reference Number (ARN)/Appointment Number.

Step 5: Grab your appointment at the Passport Seva Kendra.

Visit the Passport Seva Kendra where appointment has been taken, along with original documents atleast 15 minutes earlier than the allotted time slot.

We had booked for 8.30 AM in the morning. We reached the place at around 8 and stood in the well-organised queue outside the gate. At exactly the allotted time, we were taken in. The service executive at the front desk checked all our documents and handed a 'B class' token number.

My token for the B section was called on after about 30 minutes: the girl checked all my documents quickly and took my fingerprints and a fresh new photograph for uploading it on the renewed issue of the passport. While giving my photograph, I just smiled but later came to know that it’s perfectly okay to show some teeth as well!

After the B section was done with, I was issued a 'C class' token and was forwarded to a different room. Here, chairs were neatly lined and the room was finely air conditioned so that around 1 hour of my waiting period passed away in a jiffy.

Seating arrangement at Passpost Seva Kendra C counter
Seating facing the C counters.
The token numbers along with the counter numbers are displayed on the monitor.

The counter person just checked all the documents and it did not take much time at all.

Lastly, there was one more checking done at the last counter (Same token number - C section – part 2) before we were directed towards the exit door for the acknowledgement copy.

The entire process took around 2.5 hrs to 3 hrs and was a smooth experience owing to the discipline maintained by the staff in following the entire process.

The very next day, I received an SMS saying my passport had been dispatched along with the Speed Post tracking pin number. The passport came home successfully the day after, delivered right at my doorstep in my hands.

Tips and information for passport holders:

When should I go to Passport Seva Kendra?

If you have got a slot, go at that exact time or 15 min before, no need to go there and sweat. 

What if I forget one of my documents?

It's good to have all the original documents along as well. My brother forgot his adhaar card photocopy and had to get it done at the seva kendra itself. The seva kendra has a photocopy machine inside so that is not a problem but it does eat your precious time.

What if there is a mistake in the online form I filled?

No worries. The person at the B counter will be asking you to recheck all your details again, so you can tell them about any mistakes you may have made in the online form and they will correct the same.

What is the difference between Reissue and Renewal?

Passports are no longer renewed, they are reissued. Both the terms are used interchangeably as they both mean the same.


Friday, December 16, 2016

How Vivo V5 is aiming to capture the perfect moonlight selfie!

Moonlights are an ethereal time; when the moon wakes up and shoots a slender arrow of its soft and delicate beam cutting through the dark of the earth to reach mere mortals like us – there is some magic in the touch, is it not? Like a switch is suddenly pulled on - something within us is jolted to a wake to taste the infinite, enchanting and endearing possibilities contained in all the moments making up our life. It’s flattering enough to sit in the white fairy tale setting of the moonlit beauty and to feel whatever you feel… because moon it is said is the mother of emotions, our feelings and desires and it’s in this glow of the moonlight that we shine and find our real beautiful selves that sometimes often gets masked in the chaotic gamut of life and living outside.

Looks like someone behind the making of phones has been working on this philosophy as well. Someone from Vivo to be precise. Taking the latest selfie revolution to a whole new level is Vivo V5 with 20 MP front camera and moonlight glow flash that claims to give the user a #perfectselfie.

Meet the brand new Vivo V5 phone which promises a perfect moonlight selfie!


As Vivo likes to call it, the Vivo V5 is the perfect selfie smartphone which lets you take the best selfie irrespective of the lighting conditions or the dimly lit background with its latest feature technology of moonlight flash in the front end snapper that also sets it apart from its other competitors in the selfie circuit.

Picture the setting: Night time, natural vivid surroundings and a soft glow radiating your face in the obscure stillness of the night… you know that is the flash of the moon.

And that is also when you realize you are by yourself but your heart longs for the company of a beloved… why then, you could either crane your neck and look up to the twinkling stars, the companions of the moon, and try surrendering yourself to their friendly luminescence or you could simply zap out a Vivo V5 from your pocket to capture the moment with the most important person you are going to have with you for eternity – either way, you will be assured a song of joy… a feather from the book of life.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Namaste London: 5 reasons why I want to visit London now!



“You are now
In London, that great sea, whose ebb and flow
At once is deaf and loud, and on the shore
Vomits its wrecks, and still howls on for more.
Yet in its depth what treasures!”

― Percy Bysshe Shelley

The capital city of England and the United Kingdom, London is one of the most exciting and fascinating cities to visit in the world for it has so much on its platter; whether it’s the beautiful architecture, wonderful art or a great music scene – when in London you are never far from iconic places, landmarks, and captivating sights, smells and sounds - never far from your heart’s desire. London is a city that throws in a little bit of everything for everyone making it one of the most wanted destinations of the world.

If there is anything that holds people back then is its pricey costs and expenditure but fear not - UK / London is so much cheaper post the exchange rate gains that this makes it one of the best times to travel to London NOW!

I have never been to London but I wish I will some day... thinking of how London might be right now makes me all starry eyed with bright fairy lights all around and shops decked up in Christmas and New Year’s festivities. The tickets shouldn’t cost me so much of a bomb too as British Airways is introducing their low economical fares. Truly then, there couldn’t have been a better time to visit London or in my case, to dream about it.

So here I pack my very own bag of 5 reasons of why I would want to visit London right now sketching my fantasy version of the city. Check it out and do not forget to add yours in the comment section below!

1. LISTENING TO THE CHRISTMAS CAROLS AT ST. PAULS CATHEDRAL.

The first on my list has to be the majestic St. Paul’s Cathedral. One of Europe's largest cathedrals and one of England’s best loved treasures, St. Pauls Cathedral is a great monument that has not only dominated the city skyline for many long years but also captivated every travelers heart with its magnificent size, architectural beauty and profound history causing it to be a continuing icon for the city of London.


I would love to venture by the Ludgate Hill and pause at the highest point of the City of London especially during Christmas time; and spend a few quiet moments of introspection, reflection and calm, away from the demands and the chaos and madness bubbling in the streets outside. Kneeling down before Mother Mary, saying a little prayer, listening to the carols, basking in the festivities and lighting a candle for hope and peace in front of the awe inspiring altar would provide a perfect energetic start for my London trip.

2. GETTING SPOOKED AT LONDON TOWER 'S TWILIGHT TOURS.

I love history and so there’s no way I will gonna be missing one of these royal Tower of London’s Twilight tours. Conducted by Yeoman Warders, these twilight tours allow access to the visitors in their royal palaces and follow the stories of some of the Tower's infamous residents.


The tours start at 7 in the evening when the light is turning from twilight to dark and lasts for an entire 90 minutes offering along the course an atmospheric experience of the building's main points of interest which also includes an odd ghost story here and there!

Why, what is so spooky in there, this would be one tale I would so love to live and tell about!

3. STALKING THE HOUSE OF THE FAMOUS DETECTIVE SHERLOCK HOLMES.

Speaking of history, to step into one of London's most famous address - 221B Baker Street - the fictional home of the famous literary detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend, Dr. John Watson would be like stepping foot into fantasy – well literally!


Inspired by the adventures of Holmes and Watson between 1881 – 1904 according to the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, their London flat today is a cherished museum protected by the Government for its "special architectural and historical interest" and a must visit attraction of the city.

Being a huge fan of the BBC Sherlock series and Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes, I would love to sit on Holmes chair and see all his possessions and artefacts depicting him as a real person – for real – no greater thrill than seeing one of your favourite works of fiction come alive!

4. EXPLORING THE SHOPPING SCENE AT CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR'S.

London is a unique shopping city with hipster boutiques to secret vintage shops, this is one place where you find everything from luxe to high street and vintage to cutting-edge, and it would be interesting to get a taste of just how well London mixes its fashion, food and furnishings.


The infamous Brick Lane in Eastern London sounds like a wonderfully quirky place to head to – particularly on a Sunday. There are fewer better ways I imagine to spend an evening or two than wandering its many markets, peeping into some of the spanking New Year’s delights and may be finding myself a good steal at one of the unique fashionable treasure troves dotting the area. Breaking the ice by bumping into the vibrant and highly talented street artistes and performers and saying my Namaste would be something I look forward to as well.

I hear British Airways is also offering exclusive shopping offers and discounts to its customers as well – wait, did someone say exclusive discounts? Well that would be something to dig into!

5. SIPPING AFTERNOON TEA AT THE RIVER THAMES ON CHRISTMAS.

Easily one of the most pleasant ways to spend an afternoon in London would be to head to the River Thames and take a sightseeing cruise along with the traditional teas.

I have always loved river cruises and this 1.5 hour cruise would be a perfect way to get acquainted with some of the most renowned treasures of London as Percy says in the opening quote in this post including Christmas and New Year fireworks on the river Thames.


The cruise starts at London's Thames River and passes through a medley of the capital’s big sights like the London Eye, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the famous Tower of London, juxtaposed against the modern buildings of the city's Square Mile, and the Shard — Western Europe's tallest building — together with captivating views of street performers and tourists strolling down the vibrant South Bank.

Savouring the British tradition of the afternoon tea with cakes and sandwiches and cream and jam on the Thames during a 1.5-hour river sightseeing cruise would be the real bonus – presenting the city in a flavour never to be duplicated again.

How I wish my dreams had wings so that I could fly over to London right now...

To London, diving into that great sea,
whose ebb and flow,

... would allow me to go deeper into the chambers of her heart and feel the real her... where kindness would be everlasting as I walk through the streets of her land, where smiles would be a permanent resident diminishing the icy frosts of my sadness away, where hope would be just a moment away in the illumination of a thousand candles lighting my pathway... where I would be one of her own even though I come from miles away.

That London I so wanna see,
Oh how I wish... to fly with British Airways one day.
And come back feeling full
with my bag of treasures laden away!


Monday, December 5, 2016

Beside The Seaside: Celebrating Beach Holidays!


Who doesn't love to be beside the seaside?

Me at the Kannur beach.

There is something very beautiful about beaches and oceans.

Those waves in the ocean rising above in full furore, they march towards the shoreline, bubbling and tumbling with all their worth, as if with a thousand stories hidden carefully in their heart, opening it all at once as they kiss the shoreline, then gradually dissolving and dispersing in fragments, in peace, only to rise up again in the distance. There is birth, death and renewal, and love, hope and understanding between everyone involved - all in a matter of seconds.

There is something about beaches. They are so inspiring and mesmerising just by being who they are. I have always loved sitting by the shore, on the warm sands or walking by them and staring into the sea, often blankly, into the faraway skies, feeling the mood - the chattering happy people slipping by, feeling my spirit beating in headlong exhilaration on those pure moments of freedom as if descending from a place where happiness is so easy to touch by.

Beaches, like nature, speak to us about the many shades and magic of life in their own language to all who are willing to hear.

Many pilgrimages in India and teerthas and temples are located close to beaches and rivers. I have been fortunate to have visited quite a few of them through my yatras. I thought of compiling a list of a few of the beaches that I have been to in the recent years and those that I have digital pictures of to put up here. So come along, remove your flip-flops and shoes, and breathe in the fresh sea air! Let's bask in the bounty of nature and revel in the beauty of some of these best beaches in India.

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DHANUSHKODI BEACH, RAMESHWARAM:

Around 25 kms. from the epic temple of Lord Shiva in Rameshwaram lies one of the most spectacularly scenic stretches of Tamil Nadu – the Dhanushkodi beach where I’d savoured the rough and angry Indian ocean merging with the calm and serene waters of the Bay of Bengal. The desolated town once left in ruins and abandoned by an enormously furious cyclone that hit the area in 1964 today grabs eyeballs from all over the world for being the elusive 'ghost town' as piped by guidebooks and travel enthusiasts.

Ghost town beach from Dhanushkodi, Rameswaram

If you are visiting the revered site of Rameshwaram, make it a point to visit this place, mysterious and mythical both at the same time. A place where Lord Ram had once commenced his journey to Sri Lanka, today the striking beach lies mostly isolated except a few hutments of fishermen folk who continue to make a living by catching fish from the ocean.


DWARKA BEACH, GUJARAT:

Located along the Kathiawad coast in Gujarat, there are some excellent beach shores in the Hindu pilgrim city of Lord Krishna’s town Dwarka. Even though the beach is adjacent to the famous Dwarkadhish temple which remains crowded the year round owing to the lakhs of pilgrims who visit the place, if you leisurely roam around you can find yourself great spots spotlessly clean and devoid of touristy crowds to experience the richness of nature coupled with a shot of tranquillity that these long stretches have on platter.

Rich coral world from Dwarka, Gujarat.
Here’s, one such stretch I found in Dwarka.

The gorgeous beach with crystal clear aquamarine water and coral reefs reflecting an azure blue sky and backed by dramatic cliffs with a lighthouse in the distance is quite a treat to the eyes.


ELLIOT BEACH, CHENNAI:

Chennai, along with a host of architecturally significant ancient temples, boasts of some lovely sandy beaches strewn all around anchoring the city to both the locals and the trippers alike.

Sun going down at Elliot Beach or Bessie's in Chennai.

Continuing from where the Marina Beach ends, the Elliot Beach (also known as Bessie’s) shore carries a historical legacy from the British era as it was the place where the former governors would frequent for their royal bathing and other relaxation activities. We visited the beach after bowing down our heads in the Ashtalakshmi Kovil which is just a stone’s throw away from the sea. The beach area was quiet, wasn’t very crowded and except for some plastic strewn around, it was pretty clean to spend a beautiful evening.

Among the tourist attractions nearby besides the Ashtalakshmi Kovil, is the Velankanni Church both easily accessible from the beach area and there are a host of restaurants lining the sandy stretch to keep you satisfied.


AGNI TEERTHAM, RAMESHWARAM:

To the eastern side of Ramanathaswamy temple is the Agni Teertham, a beach and one of the 64 sacred teerthams of Rameshwaram. It remains generally crowded with pilgrims all over the year who flock from all around the world to bathe in the sacred teertham with the belief that a dip here will absolve them of all their sins. The crowd is especially huge on full moon and no moon days as they are considered auspicious bathing days.


Wandering on the shores of Agni Teertham.

Owing to the religious significance, the mood on the beach resembles a spiritual mela with priests chanting mantras, devouts offering their prayers and the faithfuls performing various rites and rituals.

For the best experience of the beach devoid of the tourists, drift a little away from the main Agni teertham area towards the jetty side from where boats ply. Evenings and mornings are the best time to go for a walk here.


THOTTADA BEACH, KANNUR, KERALA:

A beautiful 800 meter long stretch of sand and surf in northern Kerala is Kannur’s desolated and pristine Thottada beach where you can head for a truly resting and relaxing time to unwind in nature and connect with your inner self. Shaded by swinging palm trees and clear skies above, this beautiful beach with golden sand and sun-kissed waters remains secluded and striking enough to take your breath away.

Magnificient sunset at Thotadda beach in Kannur.

Relatively untouched by urban expansion, the beach provides a buffer isolating the worldly from the peaceful. There is an instantly likeable village feel with homestay options right on the beach itself.

With nothing else to do, the beach is a perfect getaway to simply curl yourself up with a great book, watch the sunrise or the sunset, chill out on the warm sands, tune in to the melody of nature or strike a conversation with the locals and the tourists alike.


GANPATI PHULE BEACH, RATNAGIRI:

Ensconced by coconut trees kissing the canopy of the overhead azure blue of the sky, the beautiful beach in Ganpati Phule stretches along the Konkan coast in front of the 400 year old Swayumbhu (self manisfested) Ganesha temple in the town of Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. Essentially a temple town, the white sands of the beach are a favourite place where pilgrims throng to relax and rejuvenate in the lap of nature after paying their respects in the temple.

Peace at the beach in Ganpatiphule, Maharashtra.

MTDC hotel is a good hotel to stay in (which is where we had stayed) as it is just a stone’s throw away from the beach. The beach is dotted with shacks and small shops and apart from that you can find camels lazing around inviting you for a quick ride.

For the best experience however, I suggest you to get away to one of the sand trails away from the main temple area. That’s where the crowds are relatively thinner and therefore, peace here is at its maximum.


AARE WARE BEACH, RATNAGIRI:

Located at a distance of about 15 kms. from Ganpatipule town, lies a virgin beach, untouched and pristine, the Aare Ware beach. Connected by the Sakhartar Bridge, the Aare Beach is on Ganpatipule - Ratnagiri route through Bhandapule. The entire 7 km. stretch of the road accompanying the beach is heavenly with a 100 odd feet high cliff face jetting out above from the viciously lapping waters below calling for your attention.

Stunning Aare Ware Beach in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra

There are no amenities available as it’s relatively less known and lesser frequented but the view that one gets here is one of its kind.

For the best experience, chose your points well, let the breeze ruffle your hair, close your digicam and DSLR’s for some time and let the music of the waves seep in your senses.


MARINE DRIVE, MUMBAI:

An elegant ‘C’ stretch of 3 kms. long promenade in South Mumbai, Marine drive is THE place in Mumbai where people head to drown all their worries and stresses away in the roaring waters of the Arabian sea.

There is a seating area all along to sit and stare into the contrasting views of the faraway horizon on one side and the taller concrete structures on the other. Observing people from all walks of life converge into this melting kaleidoscope of the sea is also refreshing and an interesting way to spend time here.

Marine Drive promenade in the city of dreams, Mumbai!

Best time to visit the place is anytime during the day because every moment here is so deeply personal that it leaves you in awe. As the soft light fades away into dusk and twilight turns into night, the views become surreal with the entire circle glowing in a pearl-like luminescence of a queen.

If you keep walking up north, further from the Marine Drive, you reach the Girgaum Chowpatty, another famous landmark of Mumbai beaming with people and lined with snack and chaat shacks right on the sands.


BHATYE BEACH, RATNAGIRI:

A great way to spend an evening in the district of Ratnagiri in the Konkan coast of Maharashtra is by heading out to the cool and magnificent Bhatye Beach which is 2 kms. from the main town.

To get to the beach, one has to pass through the shady canopy of pine trees or ‘suru’ trees as they are referred locally. The beach attracts a lot of diverse people from Ratnagiri owing to its proximity to the town and hence sports a picnic jibe – there are food chaat stalls, coconut water shacks, bugee horse rides and other knick knacks to keep one engrossed and entertained. The clear blue waters stretching along the silvery sands coupled with the Sahyadri mountains in the distance and a lively atmosphere makes this place a must visit when in Ratnagiri.

Magnificinet twilight at Bhatye Beach, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.

Continue walking on the Bhatye beach and one reaches the Zari Vinayak temple at the end. If you are looking to rest your heels for the night, MTDC is a good option, also consider visiting the Mandvi beach which is just next to Bhatye, separated by a creek.


Which of these beaches have you been to?
Which are the other beaches that you would like to add to this list?



Monday, November 21, 2016

... And Therefore I Blog: 7th Blogging Anniversary of My Yatra Diary...


The resting place of the mind is the heart.
The only thing the mind hears all day
is clanging bells and noise and argument,
and all it wants is quietude.
The only place the mind will ever find peace
is inside the silence of the heart.
That's where you need to go.
― Elizabeth Gilbert.


7  years back, sometime during this particular day… I had excitedly plonked myself near the computer to type the words I had written in my diary and hit the publish button.

Yes, 7 years back on this day, that’s 2557 days. As contrived as this may sound, but I can’t believe that I have lived (and survived) so many years in this wonderful space. It’s a feeling that undoubtedly feels gracious and blessed but the magnanimity of it all just refuses to sink in as I sit down to pen down my thoughts today. But then, maybe it’s not that magnanimous as I am making it to be at all!

Looking back at this journey of mine, I feel that God has been very kind to His child to have opened new horizons and paved fresh paths in ways that were not even remotely imaginable for her. Writing, creating, expressing on the canvas of a blank paper has since been a thing of joy that is difficult to be described in words. Especially for a raw writer like me.

What is blogging for me?

It’s been such a great privilege to engage in something that benefits both me and the world at large. To be able to write freely, to share the necessary information on my travels, to sit down with my emotions about a particular place and go deeper into them and perhaps embrace them in the process… I am not sure if I can call My Yatra Diary… just a blog today.  She has been there as a true confidante and a friend who has given me the space to live my life my way and empowered me to dive deeper into issues that matter to me and channel my mind in a way that serves right for me.


When I work, and in my art, I hold hands with God.
- Robert Mapplethorpe.


They say work is worship, and I feel grateful to be living this phrase. Blogging for me is my sweetest communion with God, my purest form of self expression where I look forward to pick up my pen, look within and enter a cavernous soft silent space as if delicately unwrapping a gift I have got from the Supreme Almighty and offering it back in His feet in my own unique way.

What and how much do I earn from blogging?

Oddly enough though, as work and success today is often perceived in the society, for me, my blog has never been about fame, followers, popularity or money (though I do earn from it). It’s always been something I have derived joy from and a better and intimate understanding into myself.

Though the money earned is substantial but the real fulfilment has been in the decision of giving back to the society whatever I had as a pure gift through this blog.


Open your eyes, look within.
Are you satisfied with
the life you’re living?
 – Bob Marley.


After 7 years of blogging, I may not have many huge achievements to brag about but I can certainly say that I feel like I have changed for the better with shift in perspectives and values of living. There are riches of the heart to be accounted for that are much more valuable and priceless than any material treasures, not always visible to the naked human eye.

... And Therefore I Blog.

I am so happy for, through this journey of mine, my faith in The Father (both heavenly and earthly) has grown over the years in the most beautiful way. Though I confess I haven’t had the courage to really be open to many people outside my little circle and a bit lazy also when it comes to socialising especially in the recent years but I take solace in the fact that I always try my best.

Where my blog was a new entrant in my life at one point of time, I realise it’s a sacred part of me now. She is my identity, my voice, my experiences, my hope and my freedom – the start of a long journey whose destination is unclear and uncertain. And yet, I am excited to be walking the way.


All I can do is be me, whoever that is. 
- Bob Dylan.


Having a glimpse of 'who you are' is priceless and there really can be no grasping value attached to it. The derived feeling of content, ecstasy and happiness after creating something on my own is my strength and my motivating factor to continue doing what I do here.

Thank you for coming along, your company matters to me!

I feel incredibly lucky and blessed in my journey to have come across some wonderful people along the way who have loved me for who I am and what I do without any preconceived judgements or philosophies.

Thank you for listening to all that I have had to say, for reading my posts on my blog, taking the time to comment on them, promoting them on Indivine, and liking them on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram. I thank you for subscribing to my blog and following my stories by being such a support everywhere that you can be. Thank you for sharing all the inspirational content that you share and for making this virtual world alive for me. Nothing would have been possible without you.

I just want to say that your good wishes are the blessings that string the pages of this little diary together. Your comments are my autographs from people that I lovingly cherish and admire in my heart. Thank you for coming along, My Yatra Diary... is so much more happier with all of you.








Thursday, November 17, 2016

Places to visit / Teerthas in Rameshwaram: Villoondi Teertham.

Cyclonic seas at Villondi Teertham, Rameshwaram


And once the storm is over,
you won’t remember how you made it through,
how you managed to survive.
You won’t even be sure,
whether the storm is really over.
But one thing is certain.
When you come out of the storm,
you won’t be the same person who walked in.
That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami.

                  ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Has this ever happened to you?

You recognise the point where you are standing and yet you feel lost. Alone. Aloof. Confused. There is darkness all around and it swells you up like there’s no tomorrow. You look towards nature for peace and comfort but the clouds weep and the waves roar. You look deeper, searching for that silver lining they all talk about but all you get is an angry lash by the breeze - it whips your face. So hard as if, the entire being is going to be cracked into two. You can’t figure out a thing, the road seems broken, you don’t know where it’s leading and where it’s taking you, it’s difficult to trust your own footsteps.

Has this ever happened to you? What do you do then amid all the chaos? How do you quench your thirst for peace?

..
..
..

This has happened to me.

Even before I read the board, I feel the landscape: The troubled waters of the blue green ocean, the complementing sky and an enduring horizon marked by a growling wind.

Sideways glance of Villondi Teertham, Rameshwaram
Villondi Teertham beach, Rameshwaram
Rough seas at Villondi Teertham, Rameshwaram
Can you feel the landscape?

A short curve from the main road to here had changed the scene from concrete to marine and it looked like I was finally at a place which I could call mine for some time at least. It was a good relief to have some respite from the rains so that wandering around would be easier.

A bike stares at Villondi Teertham, Rameshwaram
Beach at the Villondi Teertham, Rameshwaram
Welcome to Villoondi Teertham!

This is Villoondi Teertham, says the board in green, the same place where Lord Rama had shot an arrow to quench the thirst of His beloved, Goddess Sita with the sweet nectar that flowed. A well containing sweet water stands in the centre of a long bridge that takes you to the center of the ocean – as testimony to the token of His love.

Villondi Teertham Legend, Rameshwaram
A board tells the history of Villoondi Teertham.

Soon, I hear sweet music lingering from the ringing of temple bells. It distracts my attention. I turn around the board to see a quaint little temple standing by the edge of the sea cliff. Its walls are peeling; there is a Nandi bull seated outside. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is perhaps standing here since decades. It’s dark inside but right in front of the Nandi bull, I can see the ShivLingam in black stone. I bow my head in prayer; as I get a glimpse of the tiny yellow light of the diya swirling in ecstasy. It is time for the Lord’s afternoon arti.

Ancient Shiva Temple, Villondi Teertham, Rameshwaram
Shiva temple at Villoondi Teertham at Rameshwaram.

The lilt of the arti hasn’t yet died down, but it’s getting fainter and fainter with each step that I take towards the mythical ‘well’ converging right in the heart of the ocean.

Way to the sweet water well at Villondi Teertham, Rameshwaram
Villondi Teertham and the mythical well, Rameshwaram
This well is said to contain sweet water.

I gaze down through a wired maze into the well that has been here since the age of the Ramayana, born out of a sacred bow that was hit by Lord Rama. It’s deep; a pale of water dangles loosely above the surface of the calm placid water.

Sweet water well at Villondi Teertham, Rameshwaram
Water... all still, contented and placid.

What strikes me is the contrasting natures of the water: inside and outside. Out in the big wild world, the waters look uncomfortable playing in the sea today.

Turbulent waters at Villondi Teertham, Rameshwaram
Raging furious water of the sea.

The sky is broken in rapture and the seas are wild in rage. I take a few moments for myself, admiring the daunting beauty in the darkness all around, winds brush my hair.

..
..
..

I recognise the point where I am standing, this is Villoondi Teertham in Rameshwaram and yet, yet I feel lost. Why this storm, this maddening chaos all around that is gripping me, my mind, my body with every minute that it rises: It’s terribly cloudy day so there has to be a silver lining somewhere atleast as they say, I counter... but where?

Rough seas at Villondi Teertham, Rameshwaram
Where do you think is the silver lining in the storm?

For all the time I stood there, I searched and searched for the silver lining but found none. She was still elusive even as I tracked my steps back to my car. But deep within my heart, I knew, she is there. Somewhere. And that she will come. Maybe not now, but when she had to... maybe not today when I wanted to, but... in her own time and in her own way. Someday.


How to get there?

Address: Thangachi madam, Rameswaram - 623526, Tamilnadu, Thangachimadam, Tamil Nadu 623526.

Other Posts From Rameshwaram:

DAY 1: How to reach, where to stay in Rameshwaram | DAY 2: Ramnathaswamy Temple DarshanAgni TeerthamSunset boat ride | DAY 3: Places to see / Teerthas of Rameshwaram: Gandhamadana Parvatham (Rama Padam)Ghost Town: DhanushkodiRama TeerthamPanchmukhi Hanuman Temple, Lakshmana TeerthamEXTRAS: Rameshwaram Food GuideSweeping Healers of Rameshwaram Sea.


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