Saturday, October 28, 2017

Soulie Saturday #28: Closing Thoughts And Posts From Instagram!

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The best love is the kind
that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more,
that plants a fire in our hearts
and brings peace to our minds.
And that's what you've given me.
That's what I'd hoped to give to you forever.
~ The Notebook

It's been a little over 6 months since I wrote the post Is The Camera A Tool Or A Barrier While Travelling? and took it as an inspiration to start the #Soulie project on My Yatra Diary... and today, the time has come when I have to call this project a break. With a new yatra to Varanasi coming up next week and a long backlog of travel posts (remember Pandharpur Yatra begins?!) eyeing me for their attention, I am finding neither the time nor energy to devote in my soulies on the blog, unfortunately.

Having said that however, something that I started spontaneously, almost on a whim, it feels so good to have enjoyed every minute of the journey of this project. Picking up a picture from my travels and pausing just a while, to write more about those moments, to touch something that is no longer existing except in a small still photograph... has been a very gratifying experience, both personally and professionally. It's been like a relationship, a nurturing one, one that has nourished me with love, love of the best kind as The Notebook says in the quote above and I hope somewhere at least, she has been able to give you the same as well.

I can't thank enough all the wonderfully inspiring people who have rallied behind the project, either with their work, encouragement, curiosity, creativity or support. A very BIG thank you to all of you!

As for now, I'd like to rest a while by closing the #Soulie chapter and keeping this particular part of the diary aside. Although I hope to continue it on Instagram but on the blog, I would want to focus on writing in depth on my yatras that have waited in the pipeline for pretty long to be blogged about. 

Before bidding goodbye however, today being the soulie sharing day, so thrilled to share a few marvellous posts that I have saved, as and when I had liked them. I hope you'll visit the profiles as always to cheer their talent along as they go along creating magic with their pictures. However, I would also like to add that this list is no way exhaustive. Going by the truckloads of fabulous posts that I see almost everyday on Instagram and the paltry number that I have saved from them, I can safely conclude that I am very lazy when it comes to clicking the save button on Instagram!

A post shared by Maika (@maiikaa26) on

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A post shared by Apoorva Mathur (@thisisapoorva) on

चलो कहीं दूर चलते हैं, नदिया के पार कहीं ... जहाँ सादगी हो , और निराशा का नामोनिशान न हो ... जहाँ अकेले  तो रहें। पर तन्हाई कोई नाम न हो ... चलो कहीं दूर चलते हैं , नदिया के पार कहीं .... #boat #river #lake #sunset #dusk #silhouette #kolkata #poem #hindi #phodus_competition #ig_calcutta #landscape #poetry #photographers #discover_india #travel #travelingram #storiesofindia #insta_photography #insta_photo #mypixeldiary #ngtindia #traveldiaries #westbengal #photographers_of_india #photographersofinstagram #postcard #indiaclicks #indiapictures #india_undiscovered
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एक मूर्ति बेचने वाले गरीब कलाकार के लिए किसी ने क्या खूब लिखा है ""गरीबो के बच्चे भी खाना खा सके त्योहारों में, तभी तो भगवान खुद बिक जाते है बाजारों में!.. ❤️ #_coi #streetphotographyindia #streetphotography #streetphotographers #streetlife_award #streetleaks #indianwriters #magnumphotos #people_infinity #silhoutte #natgeoyourshot #natgeotravellerindia #official_photography_hub #sunsetlover #photofie #phodus_competition #everydayindia #dslrofficial #desi_diaries #indiapictures #dawn #indianshutterbugs #photographers_of_india #i_hobbygraphy #mypixeldiary #mysimpleclick #indiaclicks
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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Soulie Saturday#27: Be Like Nature... She Understands. (Bhuleshwar Temple, Pune)

Somewhere in the midst of preparing for my Shirdi Yatra, I was hurriedly surfing through the picture folder of my Pune - Pandharpur yatra to publish my next soulie, when I came across this picture from Bhuleshwar temple and decided to pick it up. It reminded me of how spending any time in nature is cathartic. So beautifully cathartic. There are many lessons that we can come to realise in nature but the one that strikes me the most is how not to judge and just be. Not how not to judge others, but how to be less judgemental of my own self in the first place. Because more often than not, in our (and sometimes others) pursuit of perfectionism, we are most harsh on ourselves for all the mistakes that we think we make.

No matter what the case may be, turning to nature has been one of my best medicines of life. Nature just is and allows you the precious space to just be as well. By being in nature, I am reminded of the simple truth to judge less of myself, to be more kind, forgiving and accepting because it's only then that I may be more efficient in passing that same light of love and understanding to others. For in this understanding, doesn't there lie... the way to peace?

View from the climb to Bhuleshwar temple, Pune.

It's easy to judge.
It's more difficult to understand.
Understanding requires compassion, patience, and a willingness
to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods.
Through judging, we separate.
Through understanding, we grow.
- Doe Zantamata.


This post is part of an ongoing series called Soulie Saturday on My Yatra Diary..., a spiritual exploration of that which is Unseen and a celebration of that Ultimate sacred space we yearn for - within and without - and the riches we carry in our own hearts. Click on the preceding "Soulie Saturday" link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post that inspired me to start this series here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Soulie Saturday #26: Bathe in the Light of Love This Diwali (Mother River Gomti, Dwarka.)

Sunrise over Mother River Gomti, Dwarka, Gujarat

There is a light which cannot ever be extinguished.
It is inside of you. It is you.
Let your light so shine upon the world that the world will know
Who You Really Are --
and its people will know why they really are as well,
through the light of your example.
The darkness of our world awaits you --
not to engulf you,
but to be transformed by you.
During this Season of the Light,
be its Source for all those who search for Joy.

Neale Donald Walsch.


The placid waves busted with the joy of light reflected brilliantly under the wind in the shimmering rays of the dawn, bestowing a golden aura all over the Universe. Motionless, I stood in awe, basking in the solitude, nothingness and calm, breathing it all in, soaking every second of the moment, allowing the gift of life and living to deeply penetrate the depths of my core. Silence is golden, I marvelled, as the nascent rays, slowly trickling in one after the other, kissed the river, then my skin, and then my heart too. Soon, I felt the warmth radiating my entire being and my face beaming with the joy of a smile…

There was still some time for daybreak in Dwarka when I had slipped into my flip flops and set out for the ghats along the periphery of the sacred Gomti River. The night was still heavy with the light barely visible, the trees a mere silhouette against the sublime, blue black sky but that was in no way deterrent to the enthusiasm of the devotees. They walked in groups, sometimes alone, young, old, men and women with children in tow, people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs from all over the world to indulge in the various religious activities. After all, this were no ordinary journey – this was a journey to the ‘Land of Kaliyuga’, a journey to the heart of their beloved, a journey of a lifetime and it all began with paying their humble reverences to Mother River Gomti.

By the time I reached the Gomti Ghat, the veil of darkness lifted a little now revealing a band of straight orange red hue splashed across the horizon. The air was cool and ripe with the thought of blooming in a fresh original day. Melody sneaked her charm through, filling the air with a musical silence, clearly audible to the soul but completely missed by the ears.

As I looked around, most of the devouts went about mumbling or whispering their prayers, breaking just occasionally to squat, press their heads and kiss the sacred grounds. A sadhu in his saffron robe, stood on a stone in the middle of the river – eyes half closed, lost in meditative thoughts, a faint smile briefly crossing his face, perhaps transported in to a far-off realm as he remained oblivious to my presence a mere ten feet away. What was he, as all the other devouts, praying for?

I listened to them, I really did. All the prayers, floating as whispers in the air, they tolled in the same language as mine... a language that carried a meaning we all innately understand. Hidden in them were stories of pain, struggles, joy and gratefulness, a search for pure love, peace and the divine.

I removed my slippers, walking barefeet on the ground, feeling the energy of the earth that was preparing to march into a bright new day bringing forth a myriad of emotions. Far across in the expanding horizons above, the lilting sun was slowly waking up from its deep slumber, dancing with golden crimson hues on the infinitely stretching stage of the sky. Blushing and beaming in the surreal radiance of the light of the dawn was the Gomti River below, flowing gently and placidly through the town and past the bathing ghats, making its way over the occasional rock, also over the hundreds of hearts that crossed my line of vision.

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.

I bathed, not in her waters but in the warmth of My Mother, in a love so intense, a goodness so good that I felt a blessed child – I felt happy.


This soulie inspired by Diwali - one of the biggest festivals in the Hindu calendar, the festival of lights which is barely not even a week away - is my prayer for this festive season - May this Diwali light diyas of joy, peace and understanding into all our hearts as we navigate through the lanes of life banishing all traces of darkness of ignorance and evil from our living. May we be bold enough to invite the light of happiness into our spirits and meet life on an all new level, as an equal, as a child of God, enlightening our own selves as also the world around us with His loving guidance, our divine presence and unique radiance.

Happy Diwali, Everyone!
Don't forget to SHINE ON!


This post is part of an ongoing series called Soulie Saturday on My Yatra Diary..., a spiritual exploration of that which is Unseen and a celebration of that Ultimate sacred space we yearn for - within and without - and the riches we carry in our own hearts. Click on the preceding "Soulie Saturday" link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post that inspired me to start this series here.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Soulie Saturday #25: An Old House in Pandharpur... A Door To Life.

Old colorful house in the lanes of Pandharpur, Maharashtra
A rich vibrant colorful gate in the narrow lanes of Pandharpur.

Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road
that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road
that leads to life, and only a few find it.
~ Matthew 7:13-14.


Two guards, clad in colourful attire, looked at each other as I readied myself to click a picture. I wondered if they were contemplating whether I could be trusted what with my intruding eyes and the deadly weapon in my hand - the camera! After all they were positioned there, at the door, not only to welcome visitors but also to watch out and keep the trespassers at bay.

I was heading out towards the main market of Pandharpur through one of the narrow lanes, making my way along the uneven stone paved path that meandered though the periphery of the Pandharpur temple - disheartened. Disheartened… as my attempt to place my head on the feet of Vithoba through the Padsparsha darshan entrance in the coveted Vithhal Rakhumai temple had just been foiled owing to the humongous queue of people inside.

This is just SO not done, I ramblingly complained to Him, my heart seething in sadness and pain.

The lane was lined with a series of houses standing close together. As I was tracing my steps back from the coveted Padsparsha to the common Mukhdarshan entrance, this door, half open, half closed had caught my eye.

There was no one near the door. A colourful rangoli pattern resembling the image of a flower decorated the floor of the entrance. Above, an equally colourful traditional string known as toran or bandanwar hung at the entrance to appease the Gods and the guests alike. To the right of the door was painted Suswagatham which means ‘Welcome’ in English.

The door itself wasn’t much, seemed normal enough and nothing out of the regular. No doubt it was old but it looked like the door had recently been painted fresh. The rich creamy tones punctuated in brown strips of wood caused it to stand out with the two durbans or guards staring at each other.

It was richly vivid and hid within itself a sea of stories oblivious to the ordinary human eye. The door drew me; I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I peeped in through the opening, which looked large enough for two children or one large person to pass through. An entire life peeped back through it: an empty chair as if saying - you are invited and a tiny light from the ornately decorated temple altar tried to grab my attention.

There was nothing fancy about the scene, nothing that could be deemed extraordinary and yet it shone as a bright ray of light piercing through the windows in my heart… here was a world replete with simplicity, rich vibrant culture and old ways of life and living. I peeped in again, the chuna coated white washed walls seemed to be peeling substantially but they gleamed and still looked gorgeous in the warmth that radiated in an aura of contentment and joy. My mind wandered to the thoughts of the people living inside...

How was the state of their life?
Were they happy with it?
Had they ever been out of Pandharpur?
Were all their desires and wishes being fulfilled?
Did they whine or complain in resentment?
Or were they simply content with whatever their beloved, Vithoba gave them?
... in His own time and in His own way?

The questions got me curious but I saw no one there except the two guards who still looked at each other. I looked at them, and it was now, in this moment of clarity, that I actually saw them... weren't they sporting a pleasing smile? Yes! they were and before I parted, I decided to borrow them. Soon, I was walking my way again towards the Mukhdarshan entrance but this time, with a renewed spring in my step, a radiant joy flickering in the temple of my heart and an enthusiastic smile rising on my lips.

Vitthala Vitthala!


This post is part of an ongoing series called Soulie Saturday on My Yatra Diary..., a spiritual exploration of that which is Unseen and a celebration of that Ultimate sacred space we yearn for - within and without - and the riches we carry in our own hearts. Click on the preceding "Soulie Saturday" link to view all posts in the series, or visit the initial overview post that inspired me to start this series here.

Friday, October 6, 2017

9 Reasons Why I Fell in Love With Japan!

A couple of days back, JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organisation) came up with an exciting contest on FaceBook that made me sit up and take notice. The contest called How to be Japanese 101 under the campaign #JapanGyan had the following question prompt: How well do you know Japan?

As I tapped the play button and started watching the video, I couldn’t help but find myself slipping by in a pool of memories, all so very beautiful. As you know, Japan, as my first international trip for 6 days in 2012, was a dream-come-true for me.

At that time, I did not know anything about the country except that I was very very excited at the prospect of being the fortunate one to be going there! The country, to its credit, was full of charm too – so that when I came back, my cup of happiness and joy was overflowing in its down-to-earth warmth and delightful wonder.

I loved Japan! Loved it without any expectations, pre conceived notions or inhibitions. Ah, true love or something like that they call it, don’t they? Everything about the country felt so right even though we differed so much in our mannerisms, habits and appearances. The architectural sights, the vegetarian food, the friendly people, the zen full culture — it was a journey travelled on the road of no expectations, only curiosity and wonder!

So what exactly made Japan so exceptional that I fell head over heels for it, and how well do I know Japan, let me count the reasons in My Yatra Diary...:

Peace at the Zen Temples.

Japan is home to numerous beautiful temples and shrines; I loved them all. Steeped in history and antiquity, they resonate peace and tranquillity in their spacious precincts, rock and zen gardens, and the immensely huge torii gates really do lead you unto a different world.

Hi Tech Technology in Vending machines and Toilets.

Japan’s automation and innovativeness left me speechless from the moment I was introduced to it through their technological marvels. Their vending machines serves all kinds of things – from food to drinks, from the mundane to the weird – you can find it all in there for a few bucks and button taps. Another marvel is their high-tech fully automated toilet seats that you perhaps won’t find elsewhere in the world.

Bullet Trains.

It’s almost impossible to not fall in love with bullet train or Shinkansen, the long standing symbol of high-tech Japan. It cuts the travel time by 2 hours and has an impressive record for safety too. Eagerly looking forward and can’t wait to see its Indian version in action, now that the project is rolled on the floor.

Tokyo Subway trains.

After the bullet train, Japan scores another high with its complex efficient network of subway trains. Not only are they cost effective but also a highly preferred mode of transportation by more than half of the local population. Fewer things beat the joy of discovering a new country than travelling the local way and Japan certainly got this figured this well.

Bliss walking through the aesthetic gardens.

The love for all things nature reflects in the aesthetic and well maintained gardens in Japan. The sight of the blooming flowers against the backdrop of high towering skyscrapers in the background is not just a sight but a style statement that reflects the character of the city. And why only gardens, taking a walk by the streets is like soaking my senses in bliss therapy too – what with most of the pavements in Tokyo lined by pretty little flowers and neatly trimmed foliage.

If gorgeous nature is what you enjoy the most, you'll be happy to know there are many tours in Japan which will take you to the most blissful places.

Tea Ceremony.
‘One time, one meeting’

With every sip of my tea that I took in the tea ceremony, these words by my host-friend reverberated deep in my heart – this meeting of ours is unique and it’s not going to recur again in this lifetime. So cherish every sip, every moment of it. And I do, with whole of my heart, cherish every moment of that ceremony, the essence of it, till date!

Vegetable Sushi.

You can’t go to Japan and not have Sushi! Even if you are a hard core vegetarian. After all, Japan and sushi are two things that go hand in hand. And imagine my joy when I found a vegetarian one for myself on the first day itself – thanks to the wonderful staff of Expedia. The rice, the flavours, the visual appeal of the presentation – ah, my sushi experience was truly mouth watering!

Helpfulness and Friendliness.

Sumimasen, can you help me locate this place?

One line was all it took and there it came rushing – always. Help. No matter how trivial our queries might have been but help and kindness was something that we could always trust to be by our side when in Japan. The man who left his own train to help me catch mine, that man who had no idea of what we were searching for but left no stone upturned to help us find our hotel, the officer who left her seat to help us buy a train ticket, all my blogger friends who welcomed me with big wide smiles and open hearts – it’s literally impossible to list down kindness in numbers, that’s the beauty of it and how blessed am I that my Japan yatra was full of it!

Playing with the deers “Messengers of God”.

The deers of Nara are not just any deers but cherished as a national treasure and messengers of God. Feeding the docile playful creatures with deer crackers or shika seinbei, stroking their furry back and spending time with them rekindled the joy of being a child again, the simple innocence of my very being… the very message of God.

With so many reasons to fall for, Japan surely knew how to win my heart. What’s more, Japan saved one of its best reasons for the last. As I filed out of this exotic country bidding it a heartfelt farewell, I was greeted by the sight of majestically towering Mount Fuji from my airplane window. They say it’s a blessing to get a glimpse of this sacred mountain and I couldn’t agree more. The sight stamped my small little Japan story with a seal of love. A story I hope I can continue someday. Till then, sayonara!

And... don't forget to participate in the 'How to be Japanese 101' video contest and put your #JapanGyan to the test:

Visit their FaceBook Page to know more and put your knowledge to test: All the best!