Showing posts with label Indiblogger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indiblogger. Show all posts

Sunday, July 27, 2014

An Aromatic Ode to Rajasthan: The Earthy Beauty!

I met her rarely… mostly during my summer vacations. Still she never failed to do this to me. The moment I touched her sun kissed skin, it was as if an earthing absorbed all my worries and tensions away and put me in a state of eternal joy and bliss.

I always tried to find this out… what was it about her that did this to me? Was it because I was the child of her womb? Or it could be the chatter of the Rajasthani women – cloaked in a ghoonghat or was it the magic of the dancing dunes that mesmerized me while I wandered around. Or maybe it was the odd camel who (always!) smiled beatifically as he clip clopped his way past my window or was it something else - an aspect that I had never cared to discover about her?

That trip of 2007 to my ancestral village in Rajasthan changed my perspectives; the smells inspired me... revealing her in a way I had never seen her to be. Something about her was intensely and insanely gorgeous this time. Something that I never could figure out after all my encounters with her. Something that was not in no way like the tourist brochures always claimed it to be. May be in parts - yes, but certainly not entirely. Something… that was something more. A matter of the mind perhaps. An untapped, unclaimed territory neatly contained, revealed only to those who had the audacity to step further and the oddity to dig deeper.

I rolled down the windows of my car soon after it hit the red mud tarmac. A gust of chilly January breeze combed my hair, sweeping through a vast landscape of rolling dunes stretching into infinity. At first it smelled nothing. Then it smelled something. A tantalizing fragrance rising from the earth, one that was rustic, fresh and mystical – all at the same time; the fragrance invaded my soul and senses in no time.

This earthen, dusky beauty was immaculate, unsullied; it was intoxicating, almost addictive. I loved the scent of it. The best part – it chased me for the entire trip, no matter where I went.

Dadaji’s Haveli

I stayed in my Dadaji’s ancestral house where he had lovingly spent a few years of his life. A massive Banyan tree standing right beside the thick iron gates at the entrance invited me in. Huge cobwebs hanging from the ceiling bore the stamp of abandon. Rusted locks slept on many of the rooms inside, deserted and motionless to eerie silence around. The haveli had not been opened for around 3 years or so. A heavy grinding stone sat idle right across the 3 legged charpoy in another. But it was the Tulsi pot that caught my attention. The same pot which once bloomed with the sacred plant nurtured by my grandpa, today, was no more. It lay bare, naked with the words Ram randomly inscribed. Moving my palms around the pot in reverence, I offered a few drops of water and the soil soaked it up all in.

That same scent of earthiness again – I felt it entice the deepest corners of my heart.

The house resonated in an all encompassing silence and yet I heard him. I felt his presence and I heard his voice - He was speaking to me through a language which transcended corporeal boundaries of existence and extinction – fragrance of his mitti which he had nurtured with his love and which in turn had fostered his devotion all life.

House temple – no idol or picture. Just a coat of geru.

I offered my prayers at the mand – a small structure housing our family god - the ancestral temple dedicated to our lineage deity located on the open terrace. I squatted on the uneven floor and creaked open the pretty little temple door. There was no idol inside, not even a photo. But an image - hand painted with geru (wet mud) on the chuna coated walls.

A whiff of earthiness hit me, again.

Many strands of sacred red threads called moli in varying sizes and lengths decked the walls of the sanctum. As I closed my eyes and muttered a silent prayer for me and my near and dear ones, the one that I had learnt from dadiji as a kid, I felt the presence of a higher force. Perhaps I had been hallucinating, what with me having traveled nonstop for the last 16 hours. Or was it for real? - The power of a force higher than us - The God?

Perhaps the molis weren't as ordinary as they had initially seemed to be. After all, these were diffident bundles of faith and beliefs tied since hundreds of years ago, perhaps even more. I guess it were the same beliefs that cumulated as stories and legends which my grandma narrated to me in my summer vacations. Even today, I could hear her soft whispers swirling around bringing those stories alive. I closed my eyes and clasped my hands tighter. Beneath the deep blue skies beaming with a golden sunshine, the breeze permeated my senses.

I felt blessed.

Local bazaars: Surahi

I plunged lazily into the warren of the local bazaars where heaps of vegetables were set on display and piles of spices lay for sale. But it was the fragrance of wet mud wafting on the village breeze that drew me into a tiny pottery shop. Amid a sea of mutkas – decorated by colors red, golden, brown – I saw women immersed in coloring pots while men waiting for the customers. Brown colored surahis with their artistic lion shaped mouth and a narrow trunk bowled me over. There was a reason. The surahi would provide me with cool water all through the year, claimed the grizzled craftswoman as she prepared to hand it over with a smile so wide that it amplified the folds on her face. A testimony to the hardships she had borne all her life, isolated from the outside world. And yet her face glowed with a sense of rich contentment. And her face radiated in a smile that lit her eyes. And warmed my senses.

That scent of earthiness, again.

It was not only about the surahi, which was now mine. But also equally about the mitti that had gone into its making – the sweat of labor, the talent of the craftsmen, and a connection to their roots.

A cup of chai and a bear hug

I drank tea with the cow herders of the village and swapped stories with them. I was amused by the sight of the watered down cow dung cakes drying in the courtyard outside the brick mud thatched roofs. These dried to a smooth hard surface on which they would thrash the harvested grains. Just before parting, she grasped my shoulder to bring me closer, and I immediately sniffed the aroma arising from her henna decorated hands which had been freshly ground and prepared by her own self.

That same earthy beauty again.

She laughed heartily and hugged me like a bear. I never wanted to leave, I could spend hours in that balmy embrace but I realized this was the nature of a yatra. I bid farewell but not without taking something along that would never part my being – the scent of the earthy beauty, a concoction of her henna dyed hands and the dried cow dung cakes in the courtyard. A smell that was real, warm and humanizing in a certain way.

Evening times brought me back to the haveli courtyard where bonfires were lit up and strains of music regaled in the air. The village was a family and it humbled me to realize, I was a part of them. A temporary stove was put out with wood and bricks to cook the food in the open. It was a time to leave all the sorrows and disappointments behind. Instead it was a time of sharing, caring and bonding over daal baati choorma, jalebi and mangodi ki kadhi. The slow drifting air carried the music and the aroma of food billowing up from the huge heated cauldrons. Filled with love and the same earthiness that had now become my companion for the journey.

The fragrance just didn't stop in Rajasthan – the stories and the sights carrying it, many. It wafted out from the parched blistered skin of the earth, swiped across radiant smiles, seeped through the fables of lore and swirled around vast heating cauldrons. No matter where I went, this fragrance dogged my steps and stuck to my memory. I couldn't help but drool over a sense I could barely figure out – something I chose to label as earthy over time – it tickled my traveler’s senses. This earthy beauty was as much a part of the city as the rustic havelis and the rolling dunes – as it is now mine… a fragrance that swaddles copiously every time I think of her, even now, while I write this piece … cocooned in the concrete of my house enjoying the pitter patter on the tin roof outside.

Aromatic Earthy Memories: An Ode to Rajasthan ... A Photo Montage

Glossary words:

Chuna - Limestone
Dadaji - Grandfather
Dadiji - Grandmother
Geru - Red-ochre colored mud, generally considered pure, hence used to paint images of Lord
Ghoonghat - veil
Haveli - Ancestral house
Mand - Ancestral temple belonging to local lineage
Mitti - Mud
Moli - Red sacred thread

PS: This post is my entry for a contest held by IndiBlogger in association with Godrejaer - details here >>
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Friday, July 4, 2014

My experience with!

I heard about, a site for passionate car lovers, through IndiBlogger recently where we were asked to share our road trips in order to experience the site.

As I was thinking of a road trip that I could share, I never quite realized when my thoughts sparked off into a montage loop spinning a yard of memories of all those moments that I'd spent with her ......

The Ambassador. She was our unofficial yatra car (though hired, but we always took the same one!), pure white steely body, recently washed and a body so sturdy that could give any heavy weight wrestler a run for his money.

Boy, I still remember, how her mere mention would make the wings of my heart flutter! With the car came a practical sense of liberation. She introduced me to the world outside. And later taught me to be the person I really am: curious, cocooned yet free in spirit. 

I also remember how with liberation, came a host of other things. Like an urge to share my trips, stories and pictures. Trips that were waiting to be written. Stories that were waiting to be heard. Pictures that were waiting to be shared. With anyone and everyone who was in love with the wheels, the crackle of the engine and the breath of fresh air......

Ah, her memories! Sometimes I wish I had some sort of an outlet back then where I could have documented and framed all my car experiences so that my travel trips could have freed themselves from the dimensions of time and instead entered the realms of immortality.

This is where a site like Carconnect grabs my attention today, a site that is tapping this very cavernous space with ease. When I first heard about it, I was like, argh! not another one of those social media sites again! But then, I quickly realized this one was for me – simple, straightforward, cutting across all the time wasting traps that generally take place on other such sites, usually under the gab of networking, that come over loaded with features that I take ages to understand. The first look!

So what exactly makes Carconnect tick? Read on, I will let my experience speak.

First, let’s meet Car Connect!

Carconnect is a meeting hub for all things ‘car’ and for all people who are passionate about them. On Carconnect, you can share your car experiences whether it’s a road trip you had taken in one of your vacations from Mumbai to Mussorie by road or you can gather the latest news and gauge the qualified drift of your favorite cars.

When we speak of sharing, experiences can be anything as long as they are taken in a car and can be written in a way as if we were narrating them to our friends – all barriers of formal toning unplugged.

Like for example, I shared one of my trips to the char dham in the Himalayas and uploaded a few pictures to go along!

My Road trip experience of char dham in the Himalayas.

The pictures align themselves towards the bottom of the post in a linear fashion, so instead of inane selfies and pretty sunsets, your focus remains on the actual travelogue, thus making reading an enriching experience. Most of the shared experiences have a lot of detailing and purpose ingrained like the model of the car used and the itineraries followed so that it helps a traveler gear their trips better.

My uploaded pictures for the trip.

And, that exactly is what I think is the best thing that I LOVE about Carconnect - its ability to help and inspire a swarm of travel and automobile enthusiasts to TRAVEL!

Experiences are grouped according to the places traveled or the cars used which are then listed as a cloud tag on the home page which basically acts as a searching index. I like how this tag feature is made to cover most of the home page so that it is the first thing to strike my eye – Carconnect connects us to the cars as soon as we are in. When I first logged in, Shirdi was the first tag I clicked and here is a snapshot of a few stories I liked reading.

You know, it’s been quite a while since I went there and these posts really made my travel feet itch, real bad!

What I like

Carconnect has a really simple interface — it’s easy, minimalist and clean – a must for me to get started. This allows you to really get down to what you would love doing best – connect with other car lovers around the globe.

Having said that, it packs in enough for its simple appearance.

The leaderboard badge scoring system for instance, is another feature that I liked about the site. And the reason for this is because I love perks – especially when they are also challenging and gratifying in nature. Carconnect integrates this aspect by awarding platinum, diamond, gold, silver and bronze badges - You unlock them by adding more experiences thereby gaining access to exclusive privileges for yourself.

Leaderboard postion: I know, I can do better!

Okay, I face it. But since this is not something to brag about, promise me you will keep this a secret! I possess a bronze badge for now, which simply means I am probably languishing somewhere behind in the leaderboard competition, which is not a very good thing I know but having a badge scoring system displayed on the home page and a dedicated leader board has honestly motivated me to share more road trips from my yatra bag. And I am sure I will be doing it soon. After all, one of the reasons I am here, is to inspire and features like these add just that extra zing to help do our job better.

What else do I love about Carconnect?

This was among the latter features I noticed, since this was filed under news, something I usually glance by. I can be termed a lazy newspaper surfer at best, so you can imagine. But a few pieces I read there caught my eye. Like this one: Hydrogen, a fuel which produces electricity but emits only water; can it be the fuel of the future? –

Car news: We can share our news too!

Whoa! Isn't that interesting? I never knew about it. Did you? 

Just next to the news tab, I happened to click the extensive ‘Compare Cars’ feature which gives you quality snapshots of the two cars that you wish to compare complete with web sourced constructive links and first hand user reviews. This is really valuable when you are looking to buy a brand new car for yourself but even without it, it definitely can increase your knowledge. Take me for example, I started comparing two of my favorite cars Tata Sumo Grande and Tata Safari Gronde and I was glad to know their relative strengths and weaknesses, an aspect I was completely oblivious to.

The brownie chip

No matter how good the concept is or how easy the navigation, there are times when I feel utterly lost and helpless in locating a piece of information on a site I am browsing. It's just that sometimes the information might get buried in a heap of other posts or at other times it's just me who is unable to uncover the information even though it is right out there, staring at me in my eyes.

My life saving tool in times like these is the search button, I don't remember how many times it's come to my rescue and each time it does, I give all due credits to the site developers for investing some thought towards tech nerds like me.

Carconnect checks this point thus scoring a brownie from me. It has a search button right up there, in the top right side of the window. The box is light, it’s handy and comes with a pretty neat drop down suggestion feature where you can search for anything, say, 'Jaipur' — and it gives you everything related by grouping it in relevant tabs, so we have 'All results' (anything mentioning Jaipur), long drive experience (road trips mentioning Jaipur) and car experiences (again trips mentioning Jaipur).

Search results for 'Jaipur'.

See, I told you, Carconnect is easy!

The drawback

My main drawback with Carconnect is that log-ins are only via FaceBook — that means you can’t step into Carconnect and try out any of its features unless you have a virtual identity on FB.

That annoyed me a bit — I am not any fan of FB and never built an identity around it but since I was still keen on trying out Carconnect, I had to make one especially for this purpose. I do have my blog FB page but I faced problems logging with it as well. I really wished Carconnect gave us more options to log in via other sources like twitter, Google plus et al so that non FB lovers like me would not feel left out instead could happily and easily enjoy this amazing portal. 

If you do have a personal FB profile though, the logging-in is pretty smooth and you should have no problem getting in.

Meet me @ Carconnect!

My two cents

I love the concept of Car Connect, I find it extremely dynamic with new stories coming in regularly, and it has been a delight to discover the site and share one of my car experiences as well — it works for me but only you can decide if it’s for you. My suggestion? Give it a try and see how you like it.

As far as I go, I liked using it. Simply because the stories I came across felt less of stories and more of heartfelt conversations. Think of friendly chats with your neighborhood friend. Plus, it’s incredibly easy so that you can start exploring in a matter of a few clicks. So, for me, this community ticks, is a ‘thumbs up’ for me.

Carconnect at this point, though still growing (scuffling a few technical snags), is pretty compact and quite engaging — useful information and interesting experiences containing friendly tips and trending news outnumber senseless prattle. In that sense, it helps the internet friendly general masses to make some very important decisions, like when choosing our next destination for our impending travel holiday or buying our dream car which we had an eye on for a very long time, and I hope that it stays this way going forward. People are certainly enticed to share their best work, as Carconnect periodically curates the content for their Top experiences and Most popular experiences.

Top experiences highlighted on the home page

The thing to keep in mind is that Carconnect is free of spammers and even though the log in is via FB – it in no way invades your private space. You have the liberty to build your own Carconnect profile which is then displayed throughout the site, and that can be good in many ways.

In such a scenario, I look forward to using Carconnect throughout my travels, whether I’m looking for a weekend getaway inspiration to escape the chaos of my city (already started planning for Shirdi!) or dreaming of a new car! (Yeah, can’t afford one right now, am that light in my pockets).

Take a look at Carconnect and let me know what you think! If you do join, leave a word here, and I’ll see you there.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

From Your Daughter, With Love...

... Hush me in your arms, Ma ...
Press a soft kiss on my cheeks,
And tap my lil head,
Put me off to sleep;

Tell me, Ma, what should I do?
But I want to be 'just' like you!
Your unmitigated blessings pull out on all my life’s holds,
And, all the beauty I seek in the outside world,
 I discover, in your loving folds.

So, hush me in your arms, Ma;
put me off to sleep.
Coz, that's my haven,
that place ... where all my treasures keep.


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PS: This post was In(di)Spired by a prompt chosen by IndiBloggers:

"Post a picture of your mom from her younger days and write a brief personal note to her. It could be anything that you wish to say.. don't worry about things like length, grammar, etc. these mean little to her. Just pour your heart out. #LoveYouMa"
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Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Story of a Girl ...

A couple of weeks back, British Airways launched their new advert on you tube touching the pulse of newly weds in a traditional Indian family setup:

The tagline did resonate in me, at a slightly different level may be, but yes, it did.

So when a similar question was put up by IndiBlogger: How far would you go to get closer to someone you love? as part of their contest in collaboration with British Airways, it got me thinking...

So how far could I go for someone I loved and who would that be?

.. Mom, dad, family, or friends… or… ?

Aha, check this video for the answers, my very first, and yes. Please don’t forget to tell me your feedback about it.

Here I go, I hope you will like it.

Going further beyond, getting closer within.

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For all those who can't view the video on this page, please try this direct You Tube link:

If you liked watching this video and if you are an IndiBlogger, please vote for it here or else simply send in your good wishes for me. Thank you. :)

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Quest To Winning

I am a looser. Two drops of tears roll down my cheeks as I take stock of the situation. It’s no use crying now. I have lost. My dreams have crashed. Everything is over. Was all my hard work not worth any recognition? But alas! Nothing can be changed now. Someone out there has been selected; someone out there has an edge.

 I am a looser. Or Am I?

I had given my best. I had given it my heart, given it my true self.

Excitedly I used to get up early every day and sit down with my pen and papers. The clarity in the morning hours opened me up and its silence would encourage my thoughts. The hanging chill in the air seemed to laud. I would spend hours immersed with my diary. I was in love. I loved the sense of tender touch when my pen would start to move, I loved the sense of movement when I began to write. I loved my inner voice, it would tell a writer, a raw writer like me: You know something; you are not bad at all!

Isn't winning working hard, trying your best
and believing that you can do it?

Inspired, I would soon find myself in a world of my own, soaked in my own sweet self, gaining momentum with every inch covered in my flight of fantasy. I didn't bother of any rules, nor of anybody existing, non existing, in this world. For me, what mattered was me, my thoughts and my inspiration. This was my world. Here, there were no restrictions, no barriers, and no bondages holding me back. I was free, I was happy and so was every written word of mine. Delighted I would stop to inspect it every now and then: My piece was gaining meat.

Isn't winning giving birth to something -- anything
unique and original?

Yes. Today, I feel low. The same things seem to be mocking.  There is chaos all around. The same breeze which once comforted me seems to rapidly slap my face. I shout and cry. I am ashamed. My tears are the proof of my failure. My world is in turmoil, it has turned upside down. I love it no more. It is not even bright anymore. The day is over. Pitch darkness looms large. Outside as well as within.

Isn't winning feeling that prick when
you lose out on something that you worked really hard for?
Isn't failure an important step towards winning?

Suddenly, I see a golden hue. A faint ray of light trickles in through the creak of my window and dips me aglow. I can hear people congratulating me. The claps are getting louder. I am smiling, there is a twinkle in my eyes, my heart is brimming with joy.

Suddenly the hue is gone and I am back to my senses. A gust of breeze sweeps in tossing a few pages of my diary in a ruffle. The pen rolls to and fro. There is stillness around. A new dawn is here. I feel the urge to start writing again.

Isn't winning dusting off disappointments
and forging ahead in hope?

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A few months later:

Two drops of tears roll down my cheeks as I take stock of the situation. My dreams have soared like a kite flying high. Everything is a new. Everything has changed. I am more confident. I am filled with pride. I am making my own destiny. I am making history. I am drenched in an ecstatic overwhelming feeling, one that can never be described only felt. I am personally satisfied. I am a winner. I am happy.

India Today Conclave - What does winning mean to you?
Winning is scripting your success story -- your style!

Hesitant and nervous, I start giving my winning speech.

"What can I say? Just like me, in this conclave today, there are innumerable winners, perhaps far more talented and better than me. This win is not mine alone. I salute all those who are dedicated, inspired and motivated to put their best foot forward in order to achieve personal satisfaction and happiness in all that they are doing. I salute all of you. You all are inspirational. You all are winners for me. And I bow my head in great humility before all of you."

Bowing thus, silently, I thank my Master, thank my blessings, and thank my inner voice as I feel grateful to my winning quest; it has today changed my perception of winning (and loosing!). Winning is not about acing medals or counting trophies but a lot more... It is about happiness you sense at an individual level, it is a feeling more personal. I make a little note in my diary. I have found my answer.

I was never a looser; a winner all along.

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PS: This post is my entry to a contest being held by IndiBlogger in association with India Today conclave 2014 under the topic - "What does winning mean to you?" Please wish me luck. :-)

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Yatra Diary... Goes Melbourne!

“The chance which seems lost may present itself at the last moment"
– Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days

From where should I start this piece? It’s difficult to catch a reference point for some articles, some days. Hmm... let me try.

It’s been one whole entire year to get to where I am now. Since winning the coveted all expenses paid vacation trip to Melbourne hosted by IndiBlogger and Tourism Victoria on 18th October last year to actually going there on the 20th October this year, it’s been quite a journey.

Will the trip happen? Should the trip happen? Yes, No, May be?

Melbourne winner

Results declared: October 18, 2012

The road to ‘My Melbourne Dreams’ so far has been a blur... I have laughed like a little kid and I have cried like one too, I have found my mornings shattered in hopes one day and I have found them shining in the same the next day, I have blamed my misfortunes at one point of time only to count the same as good fortunes later... so many twists and turns, so many hoops and bends and they have all been there and they have all come in “My Packet to Melbourne.”


And, guess where all this started from?

Long before I actually won the trip, it was your wonderful comments and heartfelt wishes that made sure I already felt like one! What prize can be greater than the feeling of being loved and praised for your humble efforts by everyone? Thanks to all your gracious admiration towards my lame attempts at sketching, you made me humbly believe that I have a talent in sketching and what’s more amusing is that now I keep bragging about it to people. Even though, in reality, all I can only do is scribble and scrawl. Hah!

Humbled by your love!
Humbled by your love: Some feelings are priceless!

But such is the power of love... when showered in abundance, it makes you believe, believe in things that perhaps do not even exist and above all it makes you believe in your own self.

Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart for all the blessings that you bestow upon me. This trip is all your’s. Just like Japan. And my only wish and prayer is that I am able to do proper justice to it by bringing back the true beauty of Melbourne, something that we all will cherish and appreciate – together, long after my return.

Thank You, IndiBlogger!

Talking about this journey wouldn’t be complete without thanking IndiBlogger, an Indian blogger family headed by a bunch of cheerful, quick witted and good-hearted folks who have added all sorts of colors in My Melbourne Memories... in Monochrome and have made all the difference.

Proud to be an IndiBlogger!
Proud to be an IndiBlogger!

They have been through my thick and thin, my tantrums and wisdom, my sanity and vanity. They have stood up and fought for me when I was all set to quit and say goodbye, they have always been available to answer my calls or go through my lengthy (maybe, even pointless!) e-mails. They are the ones who have taught me lessons, knowingly or unknowingly, and inspired me to be what I am; I owe a lot of myself, as a blogger and also as a person, to them.

I feel very blessed to have them in my life, and whether I say it or not, IndiBlogger – I like you, I love you and I am so proud to exist within you. Thank you.


I am wobbling in a mixed pool of feelings... that of a childlike delight, a wonder that is laced with an incredible curiosity of a new world, new people, new food, new sights, new sounds – an unknown anxiety, of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, of a dream coming true – all stirring up a whirlwind of emotions... all at once - making ME.

Today: My VISA is approved, ticket issued, a tight budget set, a rough itinerary prepared and bags almost packed.

And, Now: In a couple of hours, with high soaring dreams in its wings and a spring in its steps – My Yatra Diary... is all set to fly off to Melbourne!

A girl dreaming of Melbourne
Hey. That's ME!

This is only her second international trip after Japan (till a couple of years back, even a first seemed impossible!) and she can’t be more grateful for all her blessings, for all the grace that has been.

Please do wish her luck along with your goodbye, she is incredibly nervous right now, and she really needs them. Tell you something -- Your wishes are magic. She has lived them once already, so she knows.

Any suggestions for Melbourne?

And finally, if you have any suggestions or tips on how to go about sightseeing in Melbourne or what colorful memories you expect me to bring back from Melbourne for all of us to cherish, please do let me know in the comments section.


Guess, that much for today... will be back very very soon,

Until next time then,

Goodbye and Keep Smiling. :-)
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Monday, September 9, 2013

'My Happiest Yatra' in My Frame

So here’s the latest of the IndiBlogger challenges that has got me thinking:

If I could take my friends to any place on the planet,
where would that be and how would I make it the happiest one ever?

First things first. Let’s face it. There is no magic wand that ensures happiness. Happiness has to be created in order to be enjoyed. And isn’t it true for all the things in our life? And, those things include travel too. I consider myself fortunate to have learnt this from my Yatras that I have taken with my family over all these years. My happiest Yatra memories are never of rosy beds or of fantasy islands or fairy-tale castles. But more of finding out that my ticket is booked for an AC III tier instead of the “dusty” sleeper class or knowing that I will be spending the hot summer night in an AC room instead of the regular one. Simple memories these, yet so full of joy and delight and these, I owe it all to the pampering of my family.

This time, however, the onus is on me. And, therein lays the challenge. From ‘happy’ I have to figure out my way to the ‘happiest’. Right now, I am sitting with a map in my hand and trying my best to pin a place as our destination. And let me tell you, it is not an easy task. So, skipping this part for now, let’s move to part two: how will I make it the happiest one ever. For this, I have decided to create ‘My Happiest Trip Plan’. I believe it will work. Every time, everywhere. Let me share with you my formula:

#1. Forget the camera:

“But a few photos as reminders don’t hurt?” If I didn’t hear my brother just protest!

True. But not when you are on your happiest trip ever. These digital equipments sometimes act as barriers to our most memorable moments. Picture this: You are talking to a local, you don’t understand each other’s language but hearty smiles are being exchanged and warm memories created. Suddenly, you pull out that camera and you spoil that moment, one which you will never have again.

After a warm interaction with a Japanese local

I will take care this does not happen in my happiest trip. No cameras would mean no more fussing over the settings or the angles or the light. It would also mean more interactions, more eyes, the natural God-given camera and more visual treats to savor and store in the chip of our hearts. Heart is one place where it would never get erased or corrupt. Not even by chance.

#2. Book a hotel:

Hotels can make or mar a trip, isn’t it essentially a home away from home? In that sense, the staff make up for your extended family till the time you are with them. It’s very important to pick a hotel that has been researched by you. Recommendations help and it works best when you map that with your own needs and wants.

It’s something very basic but in the hullabullo of a trip, many a times hotel booking takes a backseat and nitty gritty details are forgotten. Is there a geyser in the room, a shower? And is our family room spacious enough for us to throw our baggage around? And what about the window? Since we love to catch the rising sun the first thing in the morning, we would need a window that opens in the right direction. Although not everything might be possible to have in a single room, still I would be looking out to check as many as possible in my happiest trip ever. What works for us are rooms with a nice wide window so that we can catch the rising sun on the horizon, the first thing after opening our eyes in the morning or a large space enough for us to throw our baggage around. After all, a hotel is a home away from home and so much depends on where you are put, isn’t it?

#3. Check list for Mom:

Almost every mom is a supermom but even then, there’s only so much she can do. She is not a machine. She can't remember each and every detail of yours for you. This is one of the major complain at my house and I am guilty of being one of her greatest offenders. To set things in perspective, everyone would make a list of things-to-do well in advance and then cross it out before we leave.

Make a checklist

Like packing that toothbrush on the last day or switching off the mains or tucking in the house keys. Happiness on the face of the mom reflects in the happiness on the face of the family. Because she is the ultimate boss, the quintessential manager who knows just about how every situation can be dealt with, in the right manner. She can turn those wrongs into rights and her intuitions seldom go wrong. And she is one person who truly deserves all the happiness of the world.

#4. Anticipate:

Now that everything is packed and the hard work done, everyone should get down to thinking of the trip. This is the first step to happiness. Think of all the good things that will happen and they will happen.

#5. Share the same bread:

Eating diverse is one thing but eating separate is another. In this trip, everyone eats together, shares the same table and bites from the same bread. What and how we make our holidays can lay a strong foundation for many a life values. Sharing is definitely one.

Bite the same bread

#6. Keep cool:

This is especially true when traveling with family. You are so close to them that you expect them to do certain things in a certain way. Failing which, moods go astray and tempers fly. That’s what will not happen in this trip of ours.  This trip will only have smiling faces and cheerful smiles. All along.

#7. Go with the flow:

Which simply means that you can’t plan everything and have to leave certain things for them to happen by themselves. There is only so much you can do. And any good trip should be like that. So, this would be no different and we would all go with the flow. 

Go where the roads take you

There will be moments of great joy and happiness, and also inevitable moments of sorrow and frustration, for that’s the nature of life, and travel is a part of it. Not everything can be controlled, not everything has to be in order to look beautiful. Sometimes, the most beautiful things come out of unexpected situations and that is what makes a travel memory become our happiest then what it might be otherwise.

#8. Enjoy the journey, forget the destination:

Why? Because happiness lies there. Yes. Happiness does emerge from places, even from crisp little notes, and from our interactions with other people. But, in majority, it comes from YOUR own self and only you and what you make out of your journey. I am grateful to my family for teaching me this invaluable lesson. I will always be. This is what sums up my Yatras. And the joy in them.

Happiness in OUR Frame!

So the final question now. Where will I take my family to? What is my happiest destination ever?

Thailand, Singapore, Goa.. or ... ?

Guess, I will just let them figure it out. Because that’s what happiest trips are made of. In them, there is never a destination. The journey is the destination.

PS: This post is my entry to 'Creating Happy Travellers!' contest conducted by IndiBlogger and Yatra under the topic: If you could take your family or friends to any place on the planet, where would that be and how would you make your trip the happiest one ever? If you enjoyed reading the post and if you are an IndiBlogger, please vote for it here - Else simply send in your best wishes for me. Thank you. :)
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Friday, July 26, 2013

The Perfect Road Trip... And, A Lost Treasure

Tall trees and low hanging clouds... acres of meadows punctuated with farm houses and shimmering lakes, high towering mountains and craggy cliffs... colorful rainbows, warm hospitality, unforgettable meals... Before I could gather anything, my mind had already started dreaming of a fairy tale land of its own. That’s when; I decided, I should pen this down:

What would my perfect road trip be like, how would it be, what all things would I do? So, what is my idea of a Perfect Road Trip?

Here’s what I found...

Tripping by the heart: Traveling solo

Having never ever traveled solo, I imagine this trip to be my first solo trip ever, a trip solely for my little naughty heart. Mind you, this is not to say that I don’t love traveling with my family, I simply adore them and I will miss them for sure but I would want this, just this one trip to be an exception. Just to try and step out of my comfort zone, for once in my lifetime, and see how it goes. For now, I believe it will be a perfect one. Because, I promise myself to be sporty and take everything with a healthy pinch of curiosity and excitement rather than act weak and drown myself in all kinds of unwarranted fears that are never meant to happen.

Planning: The car

Once the mind is set to the trip, I will get down to planning my resources starting with the mode of transport, my car. Taking all liberties and driving my imagination wild, I would like to choose a vintage car as my companion for this trip: one which is light, sporty and compact!

Vintage car sketch
Vroooooom: My Vintage Ferrari!

And, where will I drive my vintage to? I fancy driving it on the roads of the whole of India, with no fixed routes or destination... wherever the roads take me, wherever my heart leads me... no limitations, no bindings, no latch locks: I fancy the road to be my flute while my heart dances to its melody.

The Start: Searching for hardships

What is a road trip without a few road blocks, some scary moments and little challenges strewn here and there? In other words, I fancy my perfect road trip to be filled with imperfections. A lot of them. So many, that people would pity me once I am back with my stories. Like riding along trails that are fine up to a point but then, abandoned to nature, have deteriorated making them more challenging – and appealing, both at the same time. Like losing my way in an untouched forest across a wild habitat and not having a clue of where to go, only to find the map nothing but a wasteful resource of time or experiencing a feeling of home-sickness so strong and powerful that taking a U-Turn at that point and returning back home would seem like the only option left:

A girl travelling sketch
Feeling lost

I would, of course, not be running away from any of it though. These baby steps would be there to make me stronger and wiser, preparing me for my journey ahead, on the road as well in life, paving my way for a better tomorrow.

The Trip…

Indulging in a little self romance

With a road trip, comes the gift of pampering and indulging yourself in a fairy tale romance, just the way you always liked it to be: with nature, meeting nobody, being totally self-sufficient, away from the routine and happy in the simple joys of life. I imagine snaking my car through dramatic crossings and being amply compensated by the colorful profusion of nature views outside. This morning would be my perfect morning blessed with a perfect weather after a night long shower. The mist wrapped landscape would glisten to life as soon as it is touched by the morning sun. And then, there would be a faint drizzle. Adolescent clouds would gleefully tear the horizon to burst out in full glory. All would be quiet but for the occasional drip-drop of water that would roll down the panes of my speeding (whatever that means for a vintage!) car window... tickling my face.

Joys of simple life, anture sketch
From my car window: Taking delight in the natural joys of life

After soaking myself in an exalted feeling of nothingness, every nature lover’s dream, I'd get down and jump in the little puddles formed alongside the roads reveling in the now thundering roars of the rain drops drenched to the bone, bask in the blanket of the grey clouds above and take in the fresh scent of the wet mud and the blooming flowers, float paper boats in the little pools of iridescent blue and green and take delight when they bobble while a brilliant blue haze precedes the sky itself.

Jungle camp sketch
Night camp: Wrapped in a blanket of a starry sky

... Drenched and driving again, I'd watch the sun go down behind the cloak of towering mountains in the gathering dusk. It would get dark well before I reached somewhere and it would be an adventure to find the camp site for the night. An eerie situation to drive in the night, yes, yet this would form one of the major highlights of my trip: Camping in, staring at the twinkling skies hoping to catch them for real some day before retiring for the night only to wake up very early to the surprise of another gorgeous sunrise and a day of expedition.

Divulging in the unknown

Another thing synonymous with a road trip is freedom. And uncertainty. With road trips, you never know for sure, what you will encounter on the next bend or what turn might surprise you with a sudden bump. I would love to experience this very thrill of the unknown: Like driving alongside a gurgling river, past an old temple or two and fields of marsh marigolds melting into dense forests, twinkling streams lined with sunflowers and steep climbs with mountains looming large on one side and large flat plains on the other. And then, I would pull up my car. Where? At places seldom visited and where someone would least expect me to and then take a detour to places not marked on the map or never heard before; anytime, anywhere.

Village life woman sketch
Village Life: Living an era gone by

Perhaps, it could be an excursion to a far-flung island... less well-known, eerily deserted, dangerous and intimidating yet so beautiful, charming and oddly calming that I would never want to leave. Or it could be a walk in a village, still inhabited yet caught in beautiful time warp, experiencing first-hand a life of an era swept away in the dust of time, an era we have long wished goodbye... culminating it with hot kulhars (earthen glasses) of chai and warm stories of villagers that keep travelers alive. 

Small moments of surprise

It is hard to imagine exactly what those moments would be right now. But I am sure to have them; it is supposed to be my perfect road trip after all. And a perfect one can never be complete without those small little moments of surprise that jump at you right out of nowhere.

Surprise moments in a road trip sketch
Sudden surprises on the go

Getting stranded in the middle of a road and finding a Samaritan help you out, getting invited to a villager’s humble cottage: cramped in space but abundant in love and warmth and having your dinner in dim oil lantern or simply finding a bunch of enthusiastic kids run behind your wobbling vintage only to stop you and get you out to play marbles with them. 50 years down the line, when all my hair turn white and my teeth drop, this is how I want to remember my trip, through these small little moments of surprise that had turned my escapade from being just a perfect road trip to being a perfectly memorable one.

The final destination: My lost treasure

Final Destination: Would there be one?

Well, I really can't decide for sure. But even if there is, it wouldn't be a place, for sure. Just like the idea of Henry Miller: One's destination is never a place but a new way of looking at things... so is my idea of a perfect destination.

The day when I'd be different... a lot lighter, happier, innocent and younger, the day... when I'd laugh at my own self and also find a joy in it, the day... when I'd step out of my self imposed shells and appreciate my own self for what I am and not for what people say, the day... when I'd have the guts to scream at the top of my voice not caring of what the world around thinks of me,

The day... when the beauty that I sought through my travels the world over,
I find that beauty... nowhere but in ME,

बचपन की वो अमीरी न जाने कहाँ खो गई ...
वर्ना कभी बारिश के पानी में, हमारे भी जहाज़ चला करते थे .. ~ Rumi Jaffery

[ Translation: Oh, where have I lost the treasure of my childhood...
When my ships would also sail in rain waters? ]

... That day ... will be my perfect destination.
Because, that day... I will be a child again.

PS: This post is my entry to 'The Perfect Road trip' contest conducted by IndiBlogger and Ambi Pur under the topic: Describe your idea of a perfect road trip. You can choose your car, your companions, the route and the destination. The most memorable road trip wins! If you enjoyed reading the post and if you are an IndiBlogger, please vote for it here - Else simply send in your best wishes for me. Thank you. :)
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