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. :)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Featured in 'The Asian Age', New Delhi

22 July, 2013: 

Yes, My Yatra Diary... got featured again. Featured in 'The Asian Age' Newspaper, New Delhi. Incidentally, the call for the story came to me just one day after I published my article, Inked in Print: The Hindu and the Maharashtra Times and boy, if I wasn't thrilled to hear about it! The story was regarding IndiBlogger’s Indian Blogger Awards (IBA) 2013, where bloggers from all over India are competing to win the coveted title of being the best in their respective blogging categories.

Today, the article has already gone live and I am so excited to share it with all of you. So, here it goes:

The Asian Age, New Delhi: 22 July, 2013

Asian Age, New Delhi Feature of IBA Awards, 2013

Appreciation is the biggest reward bloggers can get for all the hard work they put in ~ Arti

Help "My Yatra Diary..." win!

And, while we are on the subject, there is one small favor I need to request of you. If you like ‘My Yatra Diary...’ and appreciate my work, please do take some time out and recommend it (via FaceBook) here: By doing so, you will be pushing me one step closer to the coveted IBA best blogger title, for which I have nominated my blog in the Travel and spirituality categories. Thank you. :-)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Inked in Print: The Hindu and The Maharashtra Times

"Opportunities multiply as they are seized."

This is how the past couple of months have been for me. Opportunities have popped in... all of a sudden, from somewhere bringing with them a lot of surprise, joy, honor and pride. To be more precise, there have been 2 so far and I am highly thrilled to share both of them here, with you.

My Yatra Diary... in 'Print'

1. The Hindu: Sometime in the month of April, I was contacted for a few of my quotes on how bloggers are today playing brand ambassadors for companies and voila! The next thing I knew was that I had been featured in one of the leading national daily newspaper of India, The Hindu along with none other than IndiBlogger - my favorite!

Following is a small snippet from the article:

It’s all about trust, and banking on this very factor of ‘credibility’, brands are now seeking out bloggers to try their products and write about them. In short they are the new brand ambassadors.

Please read the complete article here - Blogger Brigade

2. Maharashtra Times: A couple of months into The Hindu and I received a surprise call again, this time from a senior blogger and columnist, Mr. Makarand Karkare requesting me for a few details needed for an article he was writing on the review of My Yatra Diary... in a leading Marathi newspaper based in Mumbai, The Maharashtra Times owned by the Times group.

Scanned image of the Maharastra Times,
My Yatra Diary... was featured along with two other prominent travel bloggers - Desi Traveler and Bhushavali.

Since the article is in Marathi language, please accept my apologies if you are unable to read it but what I can tell you is that Mr. Karkare has been very kind in all that he has written, even slipping in a mention for my little poem I had penned in honor of the Uttarakhand Jawans last month. The review is inspiring and highlights the soul of the blog in all its goodness stating why it was started, its purpose and why it should be read. I have no words to thank him enough for the kind appreciation.

Thank You!

It’s been a true delight and such a huge honor to see My Yatra Diary... taking its first baby steps in print during the past few months and all I can say is... I feel highly grateful and blessed about it. Thank you for all your continued love and blessings, which I trust and regard above anything and everything else to take me to places that have till now existed only in my dreams. Thank you... for helping me chisel my dreams into a reality.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Temples of Kerala: Local Shree Krishna Temple, Kannur

Our village walk peaked off with a visit to the local Shree Krishna Temple as suggested by our Kannur home stay host, Indu.

Nestled quietly, a little off the village roads of Kannur, was the Shree Krishna temple snuggled in a blanket of peace. A few minutes in the precincts of the temple and I heard the words of Indu ring true in my ears,

Overview of Shree Krishna temple in Kannur, Kerala

"... The temple is beautiful, do visit it."

The Shree Krishna Temple: Kannur, Kerala

A handful of people waited patiently outside as the temple gates were closed. Soon, the gates gave way to a radiant light of deepams (lamps) illuminating the deity along with a divine chorus of chants by the devotees accompanying it.

A backdoor glimpse of Shree Krishna temple in Kannur, Kerala
One of the back gates to the temple

A window to the lords room, Shree Krishna temple in Kannur, Kerala
A closed window to the Lord's room inside the temple

Morning prayers at Shree Krishna temple in Kannur, Kerala
The deity, the priest, the devotees... and, Faith

The chants (in the local language, Malyalam) were incomprehensible to me but the melody was striking. After offering my prayers and taking my share of warmth from the glow of the arti (prayer), we moved towards the other sub deities like Lord Ganesha, Shiva, etc. surrounding the main temple in the circumambulation path.

Other deities in Shree Krishna temple in Kannur, Kerala
A sub deity inside the temple compound

Unlike its bigger and more famous counterparts, I found this local temple less nosiy and much more laidback than some of the other prominent ones I’d visited the previous day (read: Shree Muthappan Temple and the Shree Rajarajeshwara Temple). This temple was rooted in simplicity that clearly reflected in its basic make and relaxed atmosphere, in a way accentuating the very essence of the village it resided in.

Tips and other information for travelers:

1. Photography is partially prohibited inside the temple. Which means that you can carry a camera inside by depositing a fee of Rs. 50 but not otherwise.

2. The dress code of Mundu is relaxed in the temple.

3. Location: Somewhere in the quaint hamlet of Thottada Village, Kannur, Kerala

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Roads Untravelled: My Village Walk in Kannur, Kerala

The day after the temple tour, while discussing the day’s plans over our early morning breakfast, Indu (Blue Mermaid homestay host) came up with something completely offbeat from Kerela’s much-hyped regular charms like the temples and the beaches – A simple nature walk to explore the nearby area, including a village set amidst palm trees on the periphery of the Thottada beach in Kannur.

A nature walk?

Yes, and there is a local Shree Krishna Temple also a little down the town,
do visit that, it is beautiful. (next diary entry)

A few more minutes and I found myself walking down the long and narrow winding roads of Thottada village devoid of any maddening crowds. A perfect tonic to get rejuvenated in God’s own country, I thought and so it was, in the end... leaving me wanting for more. I spent around an hour or so assimilating all that I could in the haven of peace and have today brought back some memories presented below as a few striking highlights from my walk, have a look!

A Photo Essay from the Thottada village in Kannur, Kerala:

1. People:

Free from the urban trappings of monotony and not chained to cell phones, computers, internet, etc. life of the people here is simple revolving around the everyday chores of life...

Daily life in the village of Kannur, Kerala
A man goes about with his work

Yet, they manage to break themselves from the frustrating shackles of daily drudgery.

A family in the village of Kannur, Kerala
Inside a house: Spot the smiling couple towards the extreme of the picture.
I was busy in capturing the little lad but he seemed least interested in me.

Step in their routine and you will be welcomed with a fresh heart and a warm smile; in spite of a visibly stark language barrier between you and them, that is. I did manage to get a healthy dose of their warmth each time I had an opportunity to strike an interaction. Be it the bunch of girls who couldn’t stop giggling while I struggled to draw water from the well or the toothless granny who never shied away even a bit from flashing a wide grin when I asked the way to the Krishna Temple...

A well in the village of Kannur, Kerala
Hear the echo of the girl's giggling

I found the people of the village deeply inspiring in their own unique ways leaving subtle imprints on my heart to be cherished for today... tomorrow, forever.

2. Houses:

Houses rooted in a cozy earthy demeanor and ensconced in a cluster of greens constitute a major part in making the village what it is, simple, humble and inviting.

Traditional house in the village of Kannur, Kerala
A traditional house in the village of Kannur, Kerala
Houses, traditional and earthy

Cow dung fence, village of Kannur, Kerala
A stone and mud fence

3. Hushed silences:

Here, tranquility is supreme. Traffic is almost nil, both vehicular and pedestrian. The equations reduce; it’s you and nature.

Village trail of Kannur, Kerala
Village track of Kannur, Kerala

Roads untravelled

Your soft steps maneuvering the untravelled roads dotted with palm trees, the whispers of the wind ripping the grasses open, the gurgling of the sea and the chirping of the birds are in perfect rhythmic harmony. But for these sounds, the village is quiet... so quiet that the quiet is almost disquieting especially for an urban dweller like me. And yet, you never feel lonely here.

Waves in the village walk of Kannur, Kerala

The company of Nature is enough for you.

Travel Tips:

An impromptu village walk is something that guide books or tour operators rarely recommend yet it is an activity that promises satisfaction for all those who truly seek. So, go for it, get away from the humdrum and take a breather close to nature and your roots. Many a times, simple journeys like these make for beautiful moments worth remembering.