Sunday, December 31, 2017

Calendar Recap 2017... And Welcoming 2018 With A Giveaway!


So, I close my eyes to old ends
and open my heart to new beginnings.
~ Nick Frederickson.


The last day of 2017 is upon us... As the sun sets down on yet another year, the time has come to draw the curtains on the year that was and close my eyes to everything old but not before turning a few pages of my dear diary, not before taking some time to pause and reflect on the moments that made the year, the year that was… Be it through an encounter with a not-so-perfect flower or a village girl with deep soulful eyes or a simple door rich in character or some contemplative moments by the Marine drive - these were moments that I remember where the more intensely I was able to pour of myself, the more I was able to draw from them enriching my gift of experiences in its wake.

Most of these posts were infused with my reflections from my yatras that justify the fact that travel indeed opens the heart in a myriad of ways that are sometimes difficult to fathom for the restricted confines of our mind thus making us more optimistic and aware of our own self in relation to the surroundings around us. In addition, let's not forget the innumerable heath benefits of travelling, all science-backed, that we are exposed to when we shake off our lethargy and get out of our beds to explore the wondrous beauty of the world around us.


Spiraled below is the calendar recap for My Yatra Diary… 2017 with one of my favorite posts picked up from each month along with an accompanying snippet and a picture. Looking back at all these posts today warmed my heart and reminded me to keep it open to new beginnings as I prepared to close my eyes on old ends. As you'll read them, I hope they’d do the same for you.

Also, to commemorate the New Year full of promise for a beautiful, healthy, happy and successful life – I have a giveaway organized at the end as my token of gratitude for all your love that you have continued to share generously on me and my diary, so make sure to scroll through the end and gift yourself a chance to win goodies worth Rs. 4000 in cash (or an equivalent $60 Amazon voucher). Happy New Year Everyone!

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J A N U A R Y

SILENCE

It's eloquent, powerful, beautiful, even dangerous.

To slow down, reflect and ponder
on how connected you are with life,
your own self, is priority here.



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F E B R U A R Y

As I roll my hands onto the engraved walls, I feel a strange sense of kinship with the people in these stories. Be it the epic war from the Mahabharata or the deceptive Sita haran (kidnapping of Sita by Ravana) – it seems like every stone here has an anecdote to share. There are sculptures of Hindu Gods seated in meditative pose and dancing apsaras with dhols making music – all in the richly pillared House of Lord Shiva. Sitting in the center, diagonally opposite the sanctum sanctorum is the majestic Nandi Bull closely guarding His Master.



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M A R C H

... Love ...
as childlike, playful and pure as Radha and Krishna
Shaded in a feeling rich and wholesome,
A flight as gentle as a dove



*************************************************

A P R I L

It is not the camera then that I believe but this attitude, this nonstop chattering in our mind, which says - I am going there with my camera; I want to capture this, I want to bring that back – which is the real barrier.

And therein lies the handicap, the real barrier that is asking to be crossed.

This leads me to a whole new perspective to the debate and one which resonates with me (the reason why I have still not ditched my camera) - How if we were to carry the camera without the greed, the urge to capture or hunt but just to see, to simply see?



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M A Y

As the sun’s light dimmed with each passing moment and the intensity of the night increased, I was overwhelmed with a profusion of balming serenity and a comforting guidance never experienced before. Even the setting sun became the veil, the aanchal,which she was drawing over all of her children present there, including me, to shield us from the noisy and frightening world outside.

In her arms, I felt safe.

I felt one with Mother, my own nature.



*************************************************

J U N E

O, traveller:
Here time ticks as a blessing
The earth joins in the caressing.
All the wounds open and heal
The Noor glows ---
beyond all the lurking shadows
the essence of His presence flows.
Our truth, this joy ---
no one can steal



*************************************************

J U L Y

I inhale a slice of the stillness as my vision is arrested by a 360 degree panoramic view of the endless amounts of space stretching seamlessly across my field of vision. A space where dreams are rooted in the waking world… where lines between the real and the surreal blur, where all the great worries wash away, where life acquires a new meaning, the magic of living in the moment comes alive, also the space every breath becomes a connect to the vibrant energy flowing through the Source from where we come and whence we will be gone.



*************************************************

A U G U S T

... Bend down to whisper …
some words unspoken,
a few dreams cherished,
a prayer, conversations of the heart
In His eyes,
love is never absent
In His court,
no one is ever alone or forgotten ~



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S E P T E M B E R

Not one, not two but the light of a thousand souls jumped out from her gaze, adding another layer of beauty to her slightly demure character. We spoke nothing and yet, I felt everything...

What kind of world lay beneath her veil of precious lovely eyes?
What dreams did they harbour?
Had they been dyed in the sweet play of innocence
or had they been shrouded in the silent shoulder of responsibility?
Were those depths inked in wells of laughter
or were they resonant in pain and sorrow?



*************************************************

O C T O B E R

I folded my hands in prayer and closed my eyes, breathing in the spectacular gift of light that was drenching every inch of my being in new hopes and vibrant possibilities wiping away any and all the clutter of darkness. Silence glided into my soul while the chatter of the world died down in the ethereal glow of the rising sun. Time came to a staggering halt in the rhythmic melody of the ripples, breaking on the river bank, whispering a murmuring song as a mellifluous and joyful Gomti kept building, going somewhere, sanctifying the shores of the holy land… also the confines of my heart within.



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N O V E M B E R

It is only by some divine design that my blog sprang to life 8 years ago despite my incompetence in the arena and that I continue to feel empowered to fill the pages of my dear diary despite the rapidfire changes in the industry. Looking back at all these fragments today, I cannot help but wonder at the richness of life that has come to me by the grace of God. The confidence to embrace my vulnerability, to be sincere and authentic in my words that bind our hearts together, the joy of learning and to share my perspective and voice without apprehension has undoubtedly been some of my biggest achievements of my blogging journey.




*************************************************

D E C E M B E R

December being a month synonymous with gifts and goodies (yes, I am the one enchanted by the idea of Santa!), I decided to skip picking up a post for this month and instead continue the spirit of giving and joy by organizing a little giveaway for all my readers, friends and well wishers. The giveaway is a small token of my gratitude for all the love, support and blessings received throughout the year and to help aid people in their upcoming yatras.

WHAT TO DO TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY?

1. Read the posts in the calendar recap of My Yatra Diary above and leave a relevant comment* on any one (or more if you like) of your favorite posts.

2. Come back to this post and leave a comment here so that I know you are in. Even a simple comment like 'Count me in' will do.

* In case you have already commented on the post before, just let me know the name of the post in the comment section below and you're done.

For additional brownie points, follow me and share the post on Twitter / FaceBook / Instagram or any other social media and let me know you did.

WHAT ARE THE GIFTS?

TWO lucky winners will receive cash of Rs. 2000 each and in case the winner is not residing in India, the winner will receive $30 Amazon voucher.

The giveaway is open internationally and ends on the 20th of January 2018 midnight IST. Winners will be announced here itself, on the 22nd of January by the end of this month, in this post.

That’s all you got to do to enter, FOLLOW the rules and put your name in the virtual hat besides keeping your fingers crossed, who knows you could just be stepping in 2018 with some extra cash in your pockets to help you towards your upcoming yatras!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. All the best!

[30/01/2018: UPDATE]

WHO WON THE PRIZE?

I know you might have been waiting for me to declare the winners, so here I am. I hosted this giveaway on the last day of the last year to give something back, to the community as a token of my humble appreciation but I now know that I have received a lot more from it in the form of your love and support. There were 132 comments on this post out of which around 80 eligible ones went into the virtual hat. It kind of breaks my heart to pick just two winners from so many of you but there's only this much I can do. In the end, we can have only 2 lucky winners and...

THE WINNERS ARE:

.
.
.



1. DHEERAJ / AMRUTHA SHENOY AKA TEAM G SQUARE.

2. SHARADA GOPALAN FROM POSTCARDTALES.


Congratulations to both the winners, I hope you enjoy putting this cash to some good (read travel) use and pay it forward by sharing your fascinating stories with all of us through your blog posts.

I'm highly grateful to everyone who has walked with me on my journeys throughout the year in the form of likes, shares and wonderfully inspiring comments and to all of you who came here to share their love to My Yatra Diary's... New Year Giveaway and helped me in promoting it through their social media channels - A very BIG Thank You! I wish all of you well in all your future yatras and I hope they transform you in ways you may have never imagined before. Happy 2018!!

*Winners, please leave your email-id in the comment section or shoot me an email at 22arti@gmail.com so that I can connect with you.



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Step by Step Guide: How to Book Shirdi Darshan and Arti Online?

Owing to the massive crowds in Shirdi Sai Baba Mandir, especially during weekends or festivals, the time it can take for the darshan or to get a glimpse of Sai Baba’s Samadhi after reaching the temple can be long (as long as upto 3 to 5 hours). Keeping in mind this fact, we decided to go for online Shirdi Darshan booking this time as we were visiting the temple on the following days of Diwali and were keen to avoid any associated rush that could come with it.

The entire process of darshan booking online, I must say, is a breeze thanks to the brilliant efforts of the managing committee of the Sai Baba Trust to facilitate the same via a simple process for all the devotees through their official website. All you need to do is register on the website, fill a form and pay for the services requested. Initially for the uninitiated though, the registration form might come across as a bit daunting – but be rest assured, it is NOT. It’s one of the easiest online bookings I’ve ever done for all its worth and with this step by step guide at your disposal now, I am sure you will also feel the same. So without wasting any more time, let’s get down to booking your darshan.

STEP 1: Log onto online.sai.org.in and click on ‘Register Here’ right beside ‘Don’t have an account’ since you are a new user.

Please note here that you can access the contents of the website even without registering but without registration, you can ONLY find out availability of Darshan and accommodation. You will NOT be able to make any payments or bookings.

Sai Baba Online darshan - Registration

After clicking on the registration link, you will be directed to a form where you will need to fill in a few personal details. You will see a question prompt as ‘Do you have a devotee number?’ where you can choose the relevant option. Since we didn’t have any such number, we chose the option ‘No’. As soon as you click on No, the registration form will appear on the same page below.

Registration details in the form - Sai Baba Online darshan

  • Type in your email id and password that you will be using henceforth to log in into your account.
  • Fill in your name, address and contact number.
  • Upload a recent photo (not more than 250 KB in size). Most of the image file formats are accepted.Type the number of any one of your Photo IDs – Adhar card, Pan Card, Ration Card, Passport, Driving License, Voter ID. Please note here that you DO NOT have to upload any image of the ID’s but just have to provide the number. It is advisable to provide your Pan card number here so that all donations you make are eligible for the IT exemptions.
  • Filling the second Identification number is optional and not really required. So I left it blank.
  • Choose a security question in case you lose your password, the question will be helpful for recovery of your account.
After completing the form, click on the Proceed button. You will be sent a link to your registered email id, click on that link to finally complete your registration process and log into the website.

STEP 2: After logging in, click on Darshan.

Sai Baba Online Trust - Click Darshan on Home Page

STEP 3: From the drop down box, select the type of Darshan that you want – Normal Darshan or Arti.

Select the date of your visit to the temple. Please note that the dates are colored in blue, red or yellow. The red and the yellow ones are not clickable as they are already booked or not applicable. The only ones that are of our interest here are the blue ones as these are available for booking.

One suggestion here is to make your booking as soon as possible to increase your chances of getting your desired date and time slot without any unnecessary anxieties. Especially true for ‘Arti’ as it is the more sought after type of Darshan by the devotees.

Sai Baba Online darshan - Fill the Details.png

There are 4 types of Arti starting from the morning Kakad Arti to the Night Shej Arti while there are 11 regular darshan timings that you can choose from starting from the earliest at 6.45 AM to the latest at night 9 PM.

We went for Normal darshan for the morning time slot of 6.45 AM.

Once you choose the darshan Type, you will be allotted a time slot for the darshan which you will be required to adhere to on the day of your visit.

Fill in the number of people who will be accompanying you; male, female and children.

Please note that with this one account, you can book the darshan for ONLY 10 people including you. Should you require booking the darshan for more than 10, you will need to register another account. Since we were four, registering with one account was enough to get all our darshan passes.

After filling in all the details, check the total amount of the passes (Rs. 200 per person) and click on ‘Confirm Service’.

Sai Baba Online darshan - Fill the Details.png

You will not be able to make any changes in the timings after this step, so check everything once again and click OK on the popped question prompt.

STEP 4: Once you click OK, the darshan page will open once again. Leave everything blank this time and click on ‘Proceed Payment’.

Here, an overview of all your selected facilities will be provided, verify everything once again and if you do not wish to avail any other facilities click on ‘Proceed to Payment’.

STEP 5: Here, you will be given various payment options to make your payment. I made my payment through Net Banking but you can also make it with credit / debit cards of VISA, Master card, Maestro card (issued by any bank).

Verify the details once again and click the box ‘I accept the terms and Conditions for payment’. Then click the ‘Proceed’ button.


STEP 6: Fill in the relevant details of the payment method selected. While doing so, do not press the back / refresh buttons anywhere in the process to prevent any errors.

Sai Baba Online darshan - Confirm the details.png

The first time I tried my payment with SBI debit card but received an error on the final step. The amount was deducted but our darshan passes were not confirmed. I called at the helpline number that was flashing at the bottom of the page and spoke to a person who spoke kindly and informed that the amount will be refunded back (which was as informed duly refunded later). He further suggested to try Internet Explorer browser instead of Chrome. When even that did not help out, I eventually decided to pay it via Net Banking and got through with my passes. 

STEP 7: The issued pass will be sent to your email id and will also be available in your account on the website. Take a print out of the pass before reaching the temple on the selected date and time. Take the Photo-ID of the account holder along. Entry won’t be allowed without either the print out or the photo  ID.

STEP 8: Reach the temple with the print out of the pass and the photo id of the account holder at the selected date and time. We reached 15 minutes early of the allotted time slot and went through the gate meant for online booking darshan line (it's different from the gate meant for the regular line) and reached Sai Baba’s Samadhi within 10 minutes of joining the line.

NOTE: For any queries with the booking at any time, you can write to Sai Baba Trust at their Customer Support: support@sai.org.in or contact them at 02423-258956, 02423-258963, 7720077203.

Or

You can also leave a comment here. If I can, I will help!


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Shirdi Yatra: Where to Stay in Shirdi? (MTDC's The Pilgrims' Inn)

Shirdi is a major pilgrim place, hugely significant in Maharashtra and known throughout the world. Once a forest shrouded in plantation and trees, thanks to the burst in travel and tourism, today the place seems to be bustling with hotels and rental homes gawking at you from every nook and corner. Though I am not sure if that makes for a very pretty sight, but almost at every step of your way, you will find a hotel inviting you in.

Shirdi town is spread in a small area, the Samadhi temple being the center of the hub. When it comes to choosing a hotel, go for the ones that are closer to the temple and at a walking distance. If you are planning to book the hotel through the internet, be aware to double check the prices on the deals page and the booking page just before making a payment.

MTDC Shirdi The Pilgrim's Inn


Dad suggested MTDC’s Pilgrim’s Inn Resort, a suggestion I seconded as it is good place we have stayed earlier as well. Pilgrim’s Inn can be booked online from their official site but when we checked, the rooms were full. So we decided to take a chance and try it on the spot. But it is wise to book a hotel in Shirdi beforehand to avoid rush and crowds.

What this disappointment meant is that we reached Shirdi without any prior reservations, hoping to get a room at MTDC’s Resort in Shirdi on the spot and we did! What a relief!

WHERE TO STAY IN SHIRDI: BOOKING IN MTDC PILGRIM’S INN.

MTDC Shirdi The Pilgrim's Inn Hotel


  • Spacious and a stone’s throw from Baba’s Samadhi Mandir, Hotel Pilgrim’s Inn is run by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). We payed Rs. 2500/- for one family suite and stayed there for a day.
  • We have stayed there earlier and personally, I can vouch for it being one of the best hotels that you can get in Shirdi. Not only does it provide good value for money, the location being just a few steps from the temple, is very good.

MTDC Shirdi The Pilgrim's Inn Family room

  • The room was big and wide enough for all 4 of us to accommodate and was clean and well maintained. The staff was polite and courteous as well.
  • Another plus point for the hotel is their in house restaurant, Neem which serves delicious and fresh local vegetarian food options that you can try.

MTDC Shirdi The Pilgrim's Inn Neem Maharashtrian Thali
My Maharashtrian Thali - Well worth an order!

  • The parking space is ample and the hotel tariffs are reasonable so you can be sure that you will not return burning a hole in your pocket! Overall, an excellent place to stay.

Address: Pimpalwadi Road, Opposite Neetha Hotel,, Shirdi, Maharashtra 423109
Phone number: 02423 255 194


HOW TO REACH SHIRDI?

Shirdi is well connected to most major cities by railway and roads. From Mumbai, the distance is around 240 KM and it takes around 5 hours to reach the place via Ghoti. The drive takes you through the Western Ghats mountain range while the Sahyadri mountains in the distance with the rolling meadows doubling up as nature’s blanket keep you engaged.

Sunset on the Mumbai to Nashik-Shirdi highway
Sunset somewhere on the way from Mumbai to Nashik.

A major good news is that Shirdi now has its own airport so that reaching the town has now become a bit easier. Located 15 km from the main Sai Baba Samadhi temple in the Kakadi village, the airport is operating flights from Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad in its initial stages. Located 15 km from the main Sai Baba Samadhi temple in the Kakadi village, the airport is operating flights from Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad in its initial stages. With so many deals by the aeroplane carriers these days, do some search for cheap air tickets before booking your trip, who knows you might just be end up flying to Shirdi. Plans to ply dedicated buses and taxis from the airport to Shirdi town are also in the pipeline.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Consider Traveling in the Most Peaceful Countries.

No matter if you’re an experienced traveler or just started traveling, you should always think about your safety before choosing to travel to a certain destination. Many countries in the world are perfectly safe, but not all of them, unfortunately.

Consider travelling in the most Peaceful Countries

In some countries, a combination of poverty and a different political system can lead to the higher crime rate, which can be potentially dangerous not only for locals but also for tourists and travellers. Therefore, it’s always recommended to check properly the current political and economic situation of the country you’re planning to visit in order to avoid potential trouble and risk.

Luckily, the majority of world countries are pretty safe to visit and you’ll probably never face the situation where your life is endangered. In this article, Agness and Cez will highlight the most peaceful countries everyone should put on their bucket list. Also, these etramping bloggers will share some travel advice on how to make sure a certain country is safe to travel around or not.

How to Check Level of Peace in Countries

Before each trip, we highly recommend you to check the peace level of the country you’re planning to visit. You can do it easily and effectively by using a Global Peace Index Map. That is an interactive map where you can navigate the country you plan to visit and start your safety research from there.

Go on! But not before checking the peace index.
Let's Go! But not before checking the peace index!

A great thing about this interactive map is that if you click on a given country, you will be provided with detailed statistics covering each aspect that has an impact on a country’s safety. In this way, you will be familiar with the current situation in the country you desire to travel to and based on that you can decide if this is a safe or unsafe country for you. It’s a great starting point but try not to stop your research here.

Based on our experience and the Global Peace Index Map research, we came up with top 5 most peaceful travel destinations you can visit without putting yourself at risk. We bet you’ve heard of them before and can’t wait to visit, if you haven’t done it yet.

#1. ICELAND.

The safest country to visit is Iceland. It has the highest level of peace due to its democratic system, good economic situation, gender equality and low to now incarceration. What is more, its educational system is perfectly organized and free for foreign students so you can not only travel to Iceland for your holiday but also stay there a bit longer and study at the university.

Gorgeous mountain, gorge, ravine landscape of Iceland
Gorgeous mountain, gorge, ravine landscape of Iceland

Iceland is a Nordic state located in the Atlantic Ocean. The whole island is thinly populated which leaves the majority of stunning nature untouched. You will enjoy spending time outside and exploring the island. Depending on your preferences, Iceland offers many things to do and experience. You should try out their natural spas, watch Northern Lights, try their healthy cuisine and observe Geysers. Travelers who are passionate about outdoor activities will enjoy their time in this most peaceful country in the world.

#2. NEW ZEALAND.

New Zealand is an attractive travel destination for millions of people who want to start out a new life. It has a world-class educational system, a great healthcare, low crime rate and outstanding social progress which makes it a perfect place to visit, live and study.

Aoraki Mount Cook Mountain New Zealand
Aoraki Mount Cook mountain range in New Zealand.

Also, New Zealand is an ideal country for active travelers who love nature. There are many hiking trails out there (check out Wai-O-Tapu) that will lead you to the stunning volcanic craters that are often placed on the list of most surreal places in the world. For adventurous travelers, there are many activities to do like bungy jumping, swimming with dolphins, rafting and hiking that will provide you with breathtaking views of nature. Some of the most adventurous travelers should definitely try skydive in Abel Tasman which will give them an overview of both islands of New Zealand.

#3. PORTUGAL.

The European tour wouldn’t be completed without visiting a culture-rich Portugal. This country has showed a significant improvement of its peace level in the last ten years. Low cost of living, good relationships with neighbouring countries, perfect climate and friendly people - all of these make Portugal very interesting country to visit. Travelers who love adventures will definitely find Portugal a great spot for many outdoor activities. Did you know that Portugal is the most famous destination in Europe for water activities? If you’re into surfing, then you will definitely enjoy the waves and vibe in Portugal.

Street Performers Lisbon Portugal
Street Performers in Lisbon Portugal

Furthermore, Portugal’s rich culture and history will make you wanna come back here and learn more about this country.

#4. AUSTRIA.

Austria is one of the richest countries in the world, well-known for its low crime rate and strict recycling laws. It’s located in the central Europe so reaching Austria from Slovenia, Switzerland or Hungary is very easy.

Austria belvedre Vienna night
The Stunning Belvedre Palace in Austria, Vienna at night.

Austria will definitely amaze you with its great architecture, various castles, great cafes and delicious chocolate, obviously. If you love skiing and other winter sports, then you should definitely visit Austria’s beautiful mountains this winter!

#5. DENMARK.

Denmark records a shallow corruption level and it is always placed high on the list of happiest countries in the world. Both health and education system are advanced and free for its residents so it’s a very desirable country to live in and study.

Boats in Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Boats in Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark.

On top of that, Denmark has a very low crime rate and quite a good political situation, thus it is currently considered as one of the most peaceful and tourist friendly countries in the world.

We recommend you to visit Copenhagen - the city where the majority of people ride bikes to the school and work, you will be exposed to remarkable architecture and friendly vibe all around. Fun fact at the end: it is planned that Copenhagen will be carbon-neutral by the 2025!

Which peaceful countries did you visit?
What are your recommendations?



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

8 Years of Goodness And THAT Blog Named 'My Yatra Diary...'

Arti at My Yatra Diary...

Wisdom begins in wonder.

~ Socrates.
............................................................................................................

We are 8 today. Me and My Yatra Diary… As I sit down to type the post, I realize it’s not easy to put words to my thoughts today. How to get across an impact which is more transformational in nature by weaving everything into a single blog post? Everything… thoughts, feelings, emotions… one life!? In honor of what I have learnt from this journey, I am still going to give this a try but not without making an upfront confession: Right now, behind the curtain of my eyes, it’s all becoming a bit of a blur…

THE START: COMMITTING TO A PURPOSE.

'Let's name this Padchinna' (Padchinna is Footsteps in English). No, retorted my brother enthusiastically, My Yatra Diary is better! (Now you know, I was SEO-ically retarded right from the word go). How does it matter anyway…? I thought as I gave in to his zest, after all it was his idea of starting this thing called travel blog and he was the jumping jack on a hot tin roof – not me.


Writing my thoughts puts things in perspective

So, it's not gonna be easy.
It's gonna be really hard.
We're gonna have to work at this every day,
but I want to do that because I want you.
I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.
~ Nicholas Sparks.

There was no way I could possibly know at that time… this wasn’t a mere idea, but a huge blessing in disguise coming to me. There was no way I could possibly know at that time… that by pushing me onto an unknown path all my pre-existing beliefs of a ‘perfect secure life’ (I am having a strong urge to sneak in the word 'ideal' in there as well) were to be called into question. And that, I was setting foot on a momentous journey that was to change me and transform me in ways we both could never have imagined before.

STEPPING INTO INDIBLOGGER (IB): FINDING MY OWN FEET.

IB groomed me. What’s more, their way of grooming was unlike the ones you’d find in any so called success strategy lists that we have today: it was much more simple and one that instantly resonated with me. At IB, everyone simply, purely celebrated everyone else – the quirkiness, the madness, the friendliness, the stubbornness, the goofiness – everything was embraced wholeheartedly, as it was, in all its totality, no questions asked, no eyebrows raised. IB was far more than just a place, it was a community, a culture, a family, a family that was founded in a kind of humble, sincere love that made us believe in ourselves and then in our dreams as well.

I fondly remember winning trips to Japan and Melbourne and some more prizes as part of various contests held by IB. For someone who stepped into the community as a nobody, carrying a blank pen and paper in hand, with eyes twinkling in buoyancy, and no prior inclination towards the writing medium or reading, such appreciation and acknowledgement of my most tiny, nondescript efforts filled me such an euphoric feeling that life and living itself felt like nothing shot of a beautiful dream. The entire phase proved to be a very humbling experience for me, expanding my blob of confidence and swelling my heart in abundant gratitude.


Feather on the shore

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched -
they must be felt with the heart.
~ Helen Keller.

They say, be patient... God brings you everything at the right time. Perhaps, it was time for the shy girl to come out of her shell, make some noise and find her own feet find her own wings and fly. I still struggle to step out of my shell sometimes and speak my heart even after all these years but I am a learner and a patient one at that – I'm confident I'm getting there with every passing day.

GETTING PUBLISHED: RELISHING FRUITS OF LABOR.

'We will see you here one day' he said pointing towards the article printed in the Explore section of the Speaking Tree newspaper. 'But my writings are nowhere as good to appear here.' I tried to convince him.

You write beautiful, I always look forward to reading your blogs.

For as far as I can remember, my family has held dreams for me when I was too young or unconscious to hold them on my own, my dad being the pioneer among them all. Not the one to lavish expensive gifts on her daughter, the best one that he did give me was having believed in me and My Yatra Diary. The only credit I can take upon myself is that I believed in him and whatever he told me. So, yes, may be I did in fact write beautiful if HE loved reading them. And may be, just may be, I could one day appear in The Speaking Tree as well.

Published in Speaking Tree

Just remember, you can do anything you set your mind to,
but it takes action, perseverance, and facing your fears. ~ Gillian Anderson

This happened during one of our breakfast sessions, around 4 to 5 years back. After a few failed attempts to get through, I was delighted when I finally made him proud this year. Not one but two of my articles from Soulie Series were accepted to be published in the newspaper subsequently. To taste the sweetness of print, to reach a benchmark envisioned, after all the hard work of many long years felt like tasting nectar. I also got interviewed on Radio One 94.3 for a quick travel chat and just recently, one of my articles appeared in Life Positive magazine this month, a magazine both, me and father, have loved reading for a few years now.

THE POWER OF LOVE: BIGGEST WONDER OF LIFE.

My blogging yatra does not come without its ups and downs, without its own hiccups and speedbreakers and rough days but what has made the journey so far so easy is the genuine joy I feel while holding the pen or tapping the computer keys to create something I can call my own. I feel like I am an extension of my diary and she is an extension of me. A kind of fit which is incredibly rare and highly liberating. And did I mention magical? Honestly, I can ask for no other blessing.


Bird in free flight

O, do not pray for easy lives.
Pray to be stronger men!
Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers.
Pray for powers equal to your tasks!
Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle.
But you shall be a miracle.
Every day you shall wonder at yourself,
at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.
~ Phillips Brooks.

It is only by some divine design that my blog sprang to life 8 years ago despite my incompetence in the arena and that I continue to feel empowered to fill the pages of my dear diary despite the rapidfire changes in the industry. Looking back at all these fragments today, I cannot help but wonder at the richness of life that has come to me by the grace of God. The confidence to embrace my vulnerability, to be sincere and authentic in my words that bind our hearts together, the joy of learning and to share my perspective and voice without apprehension has undoubtedly been some of my biggest achievements of my blogging journey.

Anniversary card for blog by Mohini


I don't cry because we've been separated by distance,
and for a matter of years. Why?
Because for as long as we share the same sky and breathe the same air,
we're still together.
~Donna Lynn Hope


Surely, one of the greatest gifts of this little space of mine is to have been surrounded by all you kindred spirits in my life. Your beautiful comments, encouraging support and appreciative feedback have seen my heart through the good, bad and beautiful and have been my biggest motivation through all these years telling me all my labour is not in vain. Over the past many years, all of you have left an indelible mark on me and enriched my life in more ways than you can possibly imagine enhancing my path of curiosity, growth and learning.

Thank you, Friends.

It's not the length of time we know someone that makes them so special.
It's what they brought into our lives.
~ Sandra Kring.

And all this has been possible for me only because of that one someone… My Yatra Diary.  She has been my teacher, my friend, my mentor, my everything rolled into one. She has given me the breathing space and the freedom to just be besides so many wonderful experiences for which I have no words to thank her for. All I can do is pray to always be able to give my best to her.

There is still a lot that remains to be shared but as I said, it's not easy... as much as I am trying to hold on to all these feelings right now, I understand the best way to treasure them is still to let them all go... free... so that they can fly, and be, just like me.


Canoe on a river in Allahabad

8 years back I took a leap of faith and started a yatra.
8 years hence, that yatra continues…
is life.